This article originally appeared on VICE US.
January was a spectacularly bad month for The Base.
A nationwide FBI crackdown dismantled the neo-Nazi terror group, resulting in multiple arrests of its members for things as sinister as assassination plots and plans to shoot up a protest and as peculiar as animal sacrifice and the production of DMT. Then its leader was exposed by the Guardian as a 46-year-old New Jersey native and former private school kid named Rinaldo Nazzarro, who lives in Russia and is a possible Kremlin asset.
The shocking flurry of events catapulted The Base into the pages of the New York Times. Here was a white supremacist terror group that looked more like ISIS than the Klan, operating all over America.
After the arrests, Nazzarro went dark and the organization seemed to all but disappear. While many of its members await trial on charges that could see them serving lengthy prison sentences, or deal with having been outed by the BBC, others have covertly slipped back into society without a trace.
Tipped by U.S. based terrorism watchdog the Counter Extremism Project, VICE News has obtained a strange, illuminating memoir seeking to explain the appeal of the organization, written in the aftermath of the FBI raids by someone who claims to be a former member. It details some of the very crimes that led to mass arrests. It also describes a bizarre ritual involving slaughtering a ram, drinking its blood, and then dropping acid after a day of paramilitary training.
The text offers a glimpse into the mind of the sort of domestic terrorist authorities are currently trying to thwart amidst a burgeoning antigovernment movement seeking to incite a Second Civil War—exactly what The Base wanted to occur in America.
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After being tracked down on Telegram, the author refused to provide more details about his membership in The Base.
“I don't think it's a very tactical decision on my part to provide further evidence that I am a former member of a group that has been declared a neo Nazi terrorist organization,” he told VICE News in an encrypted exchange. “My memoir has all of the details that I am comfortable releasing.”
The nearly 3,000-word memoir, which references internal details that would only be known to members who operated inside The Base and had access to its internal communications network, appeared in an encrypted chat thread used by neo-Nazis earlier this year and was vetted by VICE News.
“In the course of history men have always found themselves dissatisfied with their current political situation,” the author writes. He blames the rise of liberalism for social decay, which leads to he and his compatriots thinking, as he has it, “The only way to truly change society was to rape society.” He then describes how some neo-Nazis believe the collapse of society is nigh and that the only way forward is to either hasten the fall, prepare for it, or both, which leads to them meeting up in person to “materialize out of the internet and into the world.” (This is what Nazzarro intended when he first established The Base: The aim was to corral internet neo-Nazis and make them into a real-world insurgency.)
The writer of the memoir says that his generation of neo-Nazis is collectively driven by vicious prejudice and the difficulties of being a “young man during an age of ever progressive liberal ideologies," and added that he felt alienated by modern society.
“In 2019 I found myself in The Base, which at the time I found to be a delightful organization full of like minded individuals preparing for what we considered the inevitable… The impending collapse of our social order and the nation as we know it.”
Following closely on James Mason’s Siege—an insurgency manual considered scripture to many militant neo-Nazis—The Base metastasized its worldview: A race war was coming and they needed to be ready to strike. Their preparations, in his telling, involved creating cells across the country, with armed, paramilitary training camps getting members, some of whom were former servicemen, ready for the violent struggle that would ensue after the fall of the U.S. government. At that point, the group could enact its bloodlust: Out of the smoldering rubble of America, it could take over a swath of land and make a white ethnostate.
However fantastical those ambitions were, the preparations and training were enough for this particular member to feel satisfied with the direction of The Base. To other members, however, it didn’t go far enough. They didn’t want to sit around for society to crumble; they wanted to hasten that fall with terrorism. “But there were always those who wanted more. Those who felt like preparation wasn't enough,” he writes. “And so as the group became more and more radical I was farther and farther detached.”
While the writer begins setting the stage for his exit from The Base, he attends one more infamous “meet-up”—or paramilitary training weekend—at a farm in rural Georgia with other members in late October 2019. This same meet-up was, according to authorities, attended by fugitive Canadian soldier Patrik Mathews, who was arrested in January and now faces years in jail for terrorism-related charges, as well as an undercover FBI agent.
“I attended a meet up in Rome, Georgia on Halloween night,” he writes. “We spent the weekend camping and doing shooting drills and also participated in a pagan ritual orchestrated by my close friend.”
He refers to the close friend by an alias of William Bilborough IV, a man now sitting in a Maryland jail on charges connected to planning a mass shooting at a Virginia gun rally with two other members of The Base, which includes Mathews. (This alias has yet to be released to the public or disclosed in court documents.) According to the writer, Bilbrough and he were part of a three-man team that stole a ram from a local farm, which the group eventually slaughtered in a moment they used for a propaganda photo of The Base, showing a collection of masked and armed members holding the head of a dismembered ram.
“We were all three dressed in the trademark Flecktarn camouflage and wearing balaclavas and or skull masks to conceal our face,” he writes, referring to masks that are known to be worn by adherents of Siege. “We pulled up outside a house on a side street and the truck drove away as we hopped out of the bed. We ran into the yard of the house where there was a sheep pen in the back 30 meters or so from the house.”
At that point, as the writer describes it, he was appointed as the lookout, while Bilborough and the other member ran into the pen and stole the ram, something that puts them in close contact with the owner of the farm.
“At some point a dog had taken notice of them and began to bark. A very small dog but its bark was persistent. The owner took notice and walked outside wielding a flashlight trying to pierce the darkness that began where his porchlight's ray ended. What happened next was the longest few minutes of my entire life,” writes the member. “We're directly in the open. But what felt like an eternity passed and he went inside leaving us to our task at hand.”
The three members of The Base, with the ram in hand, returned to the campsite, victorious and ready to perform their pseudo-pagan sacrifice.
“Closer to midnight we approached the hallowed ground on which the ceremony would be held. We killed and skinned the sheep in what I did and still do consider to be a respectful manner,” he writes, “[then] drank a sip of his blood from a cup around the dim glow of our torches as a ritual bringing us closer together as brothers. Some of us also took LSD to celebrate the holiday and the event, which had taken place.”
(Robert Bonsib, the attorney representing Bilbrough in Maryland, told VICE News, “This is not a matter for which comment outside the courtroom is appropriate at this time.”)
Satanism and pagan rituals were discussed in The Base's internal chat rooms, and Satanism more generally has become wildly popular among militant neo-Nazis. Recently, a U.S. solider was charged with plotting to ambush his own unit, and tied to Order of the Nine Angles, a Satantic neo-Nazi group with links to the notorious Atomwaffen Division.
The theft and murder of the ram would eventually lead to charges being filed against alleged members of the terror group in Georgia, who are currently behind bars for an assassination plot agains two antifascist activists. During all of this bizarre “Norse-pagan ritual,” as it would later be described by a Georgia district attorney, the FBI had an agent logging all of the events.
“One of the attendees," the memoirist writes, "was an undercover FBI agent. "As I stated earlier people had been becoming more and more extreme and distanced from reality and society all together.
"I also still hold no animosity towards the undercover FBI agent who infiltrated my cell of The Base… I don't look upon my enemies with disdain. But with mutual respect... I find it rather courageous he spent his time infiltrating an armed neo-Nazi terrorist cell in the small foothills of the Appalachian mountains in western Georgia.”
At this point in the memoir it’s clear the writer is distancing himself from the crimes many of his former colleagues would be charged with, and describes the various plots ultimately leading to the demise of The Base.
“As I stated earlier people had been becoming more and more extreme and distanced from reality and society all together,” he writes, detailing the two alleged criminal schemes that took the group down. “In the southeast members were planning a murder plot agaisnt a local antifa couple. And in the northeast members were planning to incite a mass shooting at a second amendment rally.”
Following that Halloween weekend, in his telling, the member discovered something that completely changed his perception of the group and ultimately led to his exit.
“In late 2019 it was revealed to me the leader of The Base who at the time we only knew as Norman Spear or Roman Wolf was living in St. Petersburg, Russia. Through my own risk analysis assessment I decided he was likely to be working for foreign intelligence.”
And with that, he abandoned the group entirely, leaving behind people he describes as “best friends” who would eventually be arrested by the FBI—among them William Bilbrough IV.
Amarnath Amarasingam, an expert on ISIS and assistant professor at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, reviewed the memoir and said it bears the trademark feelings typical of former members of jihadist terrorist organizations.
“The individual fits into the border category of ‘formers’ who I’ve often called ‘disengaged but not disillusioned,’" Amarsingam said. "These are individuals that have, for a variety of non-movement related reasons, left the group that they were part of, but remain wholeheartedly committed to the broader cause.”
According to Amarasingam, the feeling of betrayal the member writes about as he discovers his leader could be playing the entire group as a pawn in a broader geopolitical struggle by a hostile nation like Russia is something he’s seen many times.
“I’ve encountered this on the ISIS side as well as the far-right side. As the memoir makes clear, this does not necessarily mean they abandon the broader cause, but they may come to believe that the group that was pushing the cause is inauthentic and wasting everyone’s time. They remain committed to the purity of the broader cause because they come to understand, in hindsight, that the group was not a great champion of the cause to begin with.”