“Our Tradition is Revolution”: Patriot Front and the Future of Far-Right Extremism

“Our Tradition is Revolution”: Patriot Front and the Future of Far-Right Extremism
The Patriot Front Flag. Source: Wikimedia Commons. This image is available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

The restructuring of the U.S.’s far right landscape over recent years has resulted in the rise of a chimera-like extremist organization: Patriot Front. Eschewing both centrally directed violence and the pitfalls of other far-right groups, Patriot Front seeks to repackage its racist, fascist beliefs in a way that appeals to a broader swath of the discontented right wing. Patriot Front’s focus on more subtle right-wing iconography,“big-tent” fascism, and explicitly appealing to young males suggest that this group will persist where others have failed, in building an extremist far-right movement for the next generation. 

In early December 2021, roughly one hundred identically-clothed and -masked men bearing plastic shields and American flags marched through downtown Washington, D.C. to the beat of a snare drum. At the front of the column, two men carried a banner reading “Reclaim America.” The ominous march proceeded from the Capitol to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and ended at the Arlington Memorial Bridge. Although watched by police in riot gear, the march concluded peacefully with the mysterious marchers dispersing into the night. 

The marchers were members of Patriot Front, a far-right group founded in 2017 following the dissolution of its predecessor Vanguard America. Since then, the group’s myriad activities have included distributing propaganda, marching in rallies, vandalizing progressive murals, mountain climbing, and performing community service. So far, the group has mostly avoided overt acts of violence. Despite this, the truth is that Patriot Front is an extremely dangerous fascist movement that has fused the most effective elements of previous far-right groups to build an extremist movement for the future. 

Iconography and Public Image

Without any context on the organization, much of its propaganda would appear innocuous to most conservatives and a good number of liberals. Sayings like “America First,” “Better Dead than Red,” or “America is Not for Sale,” adorned with American flag iconography. Even “Not Stolen, Conquered” (referring to European colonization) and “One Nation Against Invasion,” (referring to illegal immigration) while certainly right-wing, are not far outside of mainstream conservative discourse.  

The Patriot Front manifesto is adorned with quotes from historical Americans as diverse as George Washington, George Patton, Henry Ford, and Alexander Hamilton. The group’s propagandizing is meant to appear innocuous; there are no burning crosses or swastikas here. Patriot Front’s ideology is apparently meant to soften the “rough edges” of the far-right by appealing to conservatives dissatisfied with the state of mainstream politics now, and worry about inculcating the more radical beliefs later on. 


Patriot Front is explicitly white supremacist and fascist. The group’s public social media has been both racist and anti-Semitic, including the common white supremacist references to the “14 words” (“we must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”) and “88” (numeric code for “Heil Hitler”). Members often chant the Nazi phrase “blood and soil” at marches, and Mussolini’s Doctrine of Fascism is required reading. Patriot Front rails against the “Zionist Occupied Government” and states that non-white immigrants will never be true Americans. 

What is revolutionary about Patriot Front is how it packages those beliefs. Unlike groups like the Atomwaffen Division or The Base, Patriot Front does not explicitly speak of the United States as an enemy or commit violence to accelerate its downfall. Unlike the Ku Klux Klan or the League of the South, Patriot Front doesn’t tie itself to regional identity or fetishize the Confederacy; Robert E. Lee is referenced in the group’s manifesto, but simply as one of many great Americans. The group also doesn’t appear to hold prejudice against Catholics or descendants of different European nationalities (like Italians or Irish). 

This approach seems to make Patriot Front much more palatable to discontented conservatives who are verging on the far-right, those Americans who hold traditional values and beliefs, but feel that both parties have left them behind that liberalism and conservatism are but two sides of the same coin – a coin that they believe does not represent them. For many of these Americans who – not entirely without justification – believe themselves abandoned by mainstream politics, the racial, nationalist politics of the far-right promise a seductive (if reprehensible) explanation for their suffering and resentment, and, more importantly, what they believe is a path to escape from it. While it may be hard, for example, for a racist but patriotic American to support Atomwaffen’s manifesto of total war on the U.S., almost every white supremacist can find something to like in Patriot Front’s “big tent” fascism. 

This threat becomes especially pernicious with the approach of the U.S. midterm elections in November, with Homeland Security Today assesssing far-right midterm election violence as one of the top terrorism trends for 2022. The far-right’s rebranding of arrested 2021 Capitol rioters as “political prisoners” suggests a widening acceptance of anti-democratic violence on the fringe right. Similarly, a CBS News poll from December 2021 showed that roughly one in two Republicans see the Capitol riot as “patriotism” (47%) and as “defending freedom” (56%). The CBS poll also shows that younger Americans – those under 30 (25%) and 30-45 (20%) – were the most likely demographic to support the attack. These two statistics prove a volatile combination from which Patriot Front is likely to benefit: a number of conservatives are no longer dedicated to the ideals of American liberal democracy, and those who support violence are younger – the two key demographics Patriot Front seeks to recruit.  

Recruitment and Personnel

Appealing to the younger generation is key to Patriot Front’s mission. The “join” section of the group’s website asks for age, with the only choices listed from eighteen to thirty-five. The group’s founder and leader, Thomas Rousseau, is currently twenty-four years old and was eighteen when the group was founded. Much of the group’s propaganda distribution efforts occur on college campuses. The group has become extremely effective at propagandizing: the Anti-Defamation League found that in 2020 Patriot Front was responsible for 80% of far-right propaganda distributed nationwide. 

Obviously, the strategy is working: a ProPublica investigation found that the average Patriot Front member is twenty-five. He (the group is only open to males) is likely a gamer, may work as either a blue-collar worker or as a tech “geek,” and is unlikely to have a romantic relationship. Patriot Front is uninterested in recruiting older individuals who perhaps hold romantic memories of Jim Crow segregation or apartheid South Africa; it’s one thing for middle-aged men to preach the virtues of white supremacy, it’s quite another to regularly attend boot-camp style trainings, travel across the country to attend rallies at the drop of a hat, and devise propaganda designed to relate to young people. Patriot Front is interested in building a white supremacist movement from the ground up, entirely populated by the next generation of radicals.

Our Tradition is Revolution. Is Our Future?

The Patriot Front has seen much further than other far-right organizations. Under pressure from law enforcement and civil society, white supremacist groups old and new are dying out. The ideology itself is not. 

Patriot Front has shrewdly positioned itself as the benefactor of this shift change. It is extremely likely that Patriot Front, and groups modeled on it, will be the future of white supremacy. Wearing white robes and meeting in the woods at night doesn’t cut it anymore, the next generation white supremacist apparently needs to be young, shrewd, and subtle. As security forces crack down on violent far-right movements, it is likely many white supremacists will defect to Patriot Front. 

Just because Patriot Front has mostly eschewed high profile and organizationally directed acts of violence does not diminish its threat; on the contrary, it has ensured longevity by depriving the U.S. government of a casus belli for the group’s destruction. This has worked out well for the group, so it is likely Patriot Front will continue to avoid directing violence. 

Based on Patriot Front’s careful encouragement of extremism without explicitly endorsing violence, it is probable that members will take the initiative to commit acts of terror against the far-right’s enemies in a self-directed manner. Patriot Front is composed of physically fit, indoctrinated young men largely without strong community ties. They’re full of visceral bigoted rage against non-whites, Jews, immigrants, and liberals. Many are heavily armed. Eventually, vandalism and placing flyers will likely lose its appeal, and the rage will be directed at those whom Patriot Front has indoctrinated its members to hate. The group likely won’t direct the violence, but it will be unquestionably responsible. 

Categories: North America, Politics

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