A white supremacist group struggles
A huge leak of a white supremacist group's communications reveals the struggles they face in recruitment and retention.
Recently, a reader sent me this link regarding a white supremacist group called Patriot Front. It turns out they’re having a lot of trouble growing their group and managing it. Similarly, Fox News’ numbers are shrinking as well, as are those of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It’s really tough to be the leader of any horrible group of people, these days, it seems. That said, a recent huge release of leaks really shows us the inner machinations of the leaders of Patriot Front — and their ongoing struggles to manage the group they actually have and draw in more members.
How we learned about a white supremacist group
Unicorn Riot is a nonprofit independent, liberal media outfit that operates mostly in the United States, but also in some international areas. One major part of their activities centers around what they call “Far-Right Investigations.” Once they obtain their information, they publish all of it. This information then becomes important data for researchers and journalists.
Recently, they focused on RocketChat usage by white supremacist leaders.
According to a G2 review, RocketChat is a social platform that’s supposed to have “high standards of data protection.” The company making it claims to have “tens of millions of users” around the world. Their customers include official American military organizations like the US Navy, as well as international banking concerns like Credit Suisse.
The white supremacist group we’re discussing today, Patriot Front, utilized RocketChat to maintain their secrecy and privacy.
It didn’t work.
Leaks reveal sub-optimal leadership strategies
On January 21, 2022, Unicorn Riot published 500 gigabytes (GB) of data leaked from Patriot Front communications. The data comprises a full 55,249 messages sent between the group’s white supremacist leaders and members.
The members of this group thought they were secure. However, multiple leaks provided Unicorn Riot with all kinds of screencaps, audio recordings, even chat extracts. Just to clarify, a leak isn’t a hack. When info is leaked, it’s voluntarily transmitted from someone who gathered that information first-hand, then sent it to another person.
Of course, the leaks primarily reveal that Patriot Front conducts a number of illegal activities. That shouldn’t surprise anybody.
Here, though, I want to focus on what the leaks show us about the group’s own internal workings. They’re all but a case study in inept leadership and the failings of authoritarianism.
A white supremacist group’s struggles, defined
Overall, these leaks reveal an authoritarian group that’s struggling hard in many different ways. The Guardian thoughtfully summarized these struggles:
- Leaders struggled to maintain the group’s size. For a long time, Patriot Front stagnated at around 200 members. They had trouble drawing in more people. In the leaks, I notice they officially required members to be at least 17.5 years old. In reality, though, they struggled so hard that sub-leaders got permission to recruit younger than that.
- Naturally, the group required its (exclusively-male) members to maintain exercise and fitness standards. But hilariously, leaders also “regularly reprimand” members for failing to meet that requirement.
- The guy at the very top of the roster, Thomas Rousseau, also required “mandatory action” quotas. In practice, this includes: vandalism, participation in demonstrations, and buying his merch. Members complained about that last bit. (To me, this requirement sounds a lot like a multi-level marketing scheme’s pay to play purchases.)
In the Unicorn Riot writeup, I notice as well that leaders have a lot of trouble with treating members like the volunteers they really are. I’ve seen game owners do the same with staff on free games, and pastors with church volunteers.
In short, Rousseau definitely ain’t paying any of his soldiers enough to put up with his extreme demands. In turn, his soldiers bristle and grumble about those demands — and plenty of them end up leaving the group over it.
It’s nice to hear that awful groups are struggling
In a world that seems closer by the day to a global slate wipe, it’s nice to hear that maybe there’s a little good news on the horizon. White supremacist groups are struggling hard to attract and keep members. They also struggle hard to maintain secrecy and cohesion in the face of leaks.
Most of these groups’ problems seem to center around their leaders’ extreme demands of members and volunteers.
As I mentioned earlier, I see many of the same problems in other similar groups. When leaders get too authoritarian, their group members suddenly remember that they’re not getting paid enough to put up with this.
When group leaders refuse to pay members enough (or at all), they can only lead about as far as those members are willing to follow.
Today’s good news
Despite clear evidence of the damage authoritarian policies wreak on groups, I don’t expect Patriot Front leaders to take that lesson to heart.
Authoritarians don’t understand anything that requires them to be less authoritarian. Their emotional paychecks (and often their real ones, in Thomas Rousseau’s case) depend upon them not understanding anything that might interfere with payday.
So when anything seems wrong with authoritarian leaders’ groups, the answer will always be to add more authoritarianism. When that fails to fix the problem, the answer will still be to add more authoritarianism.
So today’s good news is this:
Awful people are their own worst and biggest problem.