For us, the story of the Base all began in the spring of 2018 when we spotted the Twitter profile picture of a shadowy neo-Nazi who went by the alias ‘Norman Spear.’ The photo was eye catching: He looked severe, with a strong brow and a bushy beard, and tweeted about guerilla warfare and the tactics of insurgency.
At the time, Spear also had the attention of some serious operators in the domestic terror space: On Twitter he was followed by and following an assortment of well known, online, far-right militants. We saw members of Atomwaffen Division—a Nazi terror group that was already connected to murders and a chilling plot to bomb a nuclear power plant—and right-wing trolls alike, some of which were gaining the attentions of federal authorities that worried about another Oklahoma City bombing, all linked to Spear.
Then Spear started tweeting about what was one of the most ambitious plots coming out of the American far-right movement to date: funnelling all the disparate worlds of extremists, activists, and trolls festering all over social media after the election of President Trump in 2016, into one trained and networked, IRL coalition fighting for a “race war”. What he started as a WordPress site and an entrance application, Spear grew into ‘the Base;’ a bonafide terror group, with over 50 members, operating both in the real world at paramilitary camps, and online using encrypted apps like Wire and Riot.
Eventually, by January 2020, the Base would make chilling news: An assassination plot, plans to shoot up a political rally, and a national campaign to vandalize synagogues. In the end, the FBI deployed an undercover into the Base and undertook a nationwide crackdown on the group raiding apartments and homes in Delaware, Marylan, Georgia, Wisconsin and New Jersey, nabbing 9 members. But Spear, who was revealed to be a 47 year-old American and ex-Pentagon contractor (who worked with the special forces) named Rinaldo Nazzaro, never went to jail. Instead, he continues to allegedly live in Russia, where he is suspected of being a Kremlin asset.
In a two-part series for CYBER—using secret recordings, sources coming from inside the group, and never before heard materials—we’ll dive deep into the birth and demise of what became one of the most prominent and dangerous American far-right organizations in the modern era.
This is the story of the Base.