Illustration: Jim Cooke (GMG)

The deadly white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville marked a turning point for fascist organizing. Hundreds of neo-Nazis and white supremacists made their way to the Southern city in August 2017, hoping to unite their efforts into a far-right show of force. The violence of the day culminated in the murder of anti-racist protester Heather Heyer, and physically and emotionally injured many others.

Antifascists took accountability efforts into their own hands after Charlottesville, organizing doxxing campaigns against the far-right. Some fascists lost their jobs as a result. Antifascists have repeatedly shown up to counter fascist groups in the streets, and to deny them speaking platforms. Some groups have also been financially cut off from online payment processors, including PayPal and Patreon.

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While some fascist groups have fallen apart as a result, a newly leaked cache of communications shows how one group—Identity Evropa, whose members were involved in planning Unite the Right—is trying to rebrand itself as a respectable white nationalist organization in an attempt to mainstream its racist ideology.

More than 235,000 logs on the chat platform Discord show users claiming to be members of the group Identity Evropa openly discussing their desire to infiltrate and take over the GOP. The logs were collected by an anonymous group of antifascists and are being released today by Unicorn Riot, a decentralized non-profit media collective; Splinter was provided with an advance copy of the logs prior to their release. Discord is the preferred chatting platform for fascist groups, and its servers have been leaked on Unicorn Riot multiple times since 2017.

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Splinter has reached out to Identity Evropa and the GOP for comment and will update if we hear back.

The logs, which exist on a server called “Nice Respectable People Group,” include conversations that took place between September 2017 and February 2019.

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Identity Evropa is a far-right white nationalist group founded in 2016 by Iraq war veteran Nathan Damigo. The group and its founder have been named defendants in a civil rights lawsuit following the Charlottesville rally. In an effort to distance itself from the so-called “bad optics” of Unite the Right, Identity Evropa has changed its leadership and attempted to clean up its image. The group, now led by Patrick Casey (who has been a member of the group since its early days and previously used the name Reinhard Wolff), currently focuses its efforts on recruiting white college-aged men through campus flyering campaigns and banner drops, and specifically chooses to brand itself as a pro-white, “identitarian” organization. (Last year, the Anti-Defamation League released data showing that white supremacist propaganda campaigns on college campuses more than tripled in 2017. In just the fall semester, incidents of fascist propaganda were up 258 percent compared to the same period the prior year.)

Because of this, antifascists criticized NBC’s Today when it lent its 4.8 million-viewer platform to Patrick Casey last fall, as various news outlets reported on the group’s intent to infiltrate and take over the GOP. During the segment, Peter Alexander commented on Casey’s “clean-cut” appearance. But no one should be fooled.

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Despite their desire to appear more respectable, the more than 800 members on the Discord server often engage in predictably anti-Semitic and racist, homophobic, ableist, and misogynistic discussion. Members frequently use the word “sperg” as an insult, referring to people or behaviors they associate with Aspergers, and engage in frequent discussion about whiteness. One user, while discussing an uncomfortable run-in with a co-worker, said the lesson they learned was “don’t talk to black people.”

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The logs also show server members discussing their plans to infiltrate College and Young Republicans groups, and local GOP offices, on at least 48 separate dates. One person last February invited members to help build a national College Republicans Discord server, which would be run by Identity Evropa members, who were told not to use “overtly alt right usernames of profile pics.” Some members said they were either current lawyers or plan to attend law schools in an effort to provide legal support to the group, while at least a dozen people said they are currently or formerly in the military. One member asked, “What are our long range goals? Other than taking over the GOP and spreading white identity? What is the end goal for IE?”

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“Steven Bennet” appears to be the name Casey uses on the Identity Evropa Discord server. In a message to members in November 2017, Bennet said: “I am honored to announce that I, Patrick Casey (otherwise known as Reinhard Wolff), have accepted the position of Chief Executive Officer of Identity Evropa.”

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Identity Evropa’s leader discussed plans to shift the country further right through infiltrating U.S. institutions as early as October 2017, just months after Unite the Right, the Discord logs show.

In an announcement message that month, “Bennet” encouraged members to get involved in local politics. “Today I decided to get involved with my county’s Republican party,” he said, adding, “The GOP is essentially the White man’s party at this point (it gets Whiter every election cycle), so it makes far more sense for us to subvert it than to create our own party...if you’re unable to do activism for various reasons, I’d like to encourage you to join your local Republican party. Present as a Trump supporter/nationalist. No need to broadcast your radical views.”

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The Republican Party hasn’t exactly made itself hostile to white supremacists. President Trump has repeatedly presented himself as an ally to white nationalist organizing. Speaking about the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides.” More than a year later, during a speech in Texas last October, the president referred to himself as a “nationalist,” terminology that, in recent years, has been connected to the upsurge in white supremacist organizing under his administration. Just last week, CPAC Chairman Matt Schlapp embraced the concept of nationalism in a Fox News appearance, in which he said “there’s nothing wrong with” it. (Some white nationalists were turned away from the 2019 CPAC conference nonetheless.)

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While some fascists aren’t quite as enthused by Trump as they once were, they see him as a catalyst for their growing movements. In one conversation from February 2019, a member of the server said that while they weren’t happy with Trump’s “inaction,” specifically in the context of his proposed border wall, “He’s sparked a (peaceful) revolution across the white world.”

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Members in various other conversations praised Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and joked that Iowa Rep. Steve King is the “head of [the] White Birthrate Taskforce.” One person referred to King in November as “the closest thing we have to /ourguy/ in govt right now.”

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The logs also show members being encouraged to infiltrate college groups to “convert” their conservative members, as they say. One member from Delaware said they were an “officer” of their college GOP group, an elected leadership position within the organization, and that they were making rules for their chapter “based on the IE guidelines.” In an earlier conversation, the same person said: “It’s easy to infiltrate low level GOP stuff if you just show up.”

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White nationalists have been emboldened under Trump to run campaigns for public office. At least eight white nationalists ran for state and federal office last year.

One person involved with both IE and College Republicans had relative success making his way through the ranks of his county GOP—though he was promptly ejected.

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Last summer, James Allsup, a white nationalist YouTuber who was filmed marching with Identity Evropa at Unite the Right, was elected a precinct committee officer in the Whitman County Republican Party in Washington after running unopposed. Allsup started as the head of the Washington State University College Republicans, where he helped build a “Trump Wall” on campus, but was later ousted over his involvement at Unite the Right. The 22-year-old was removed from his elected position earlier this year.

Nonetheless, Allsup set a precedent for other members of IE. As one member of the Discord server said in an October 2018 conversation: “Once I graduate I plan to infiltrate my local GOP Allsup style.”

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The logs also show at least a dozen users who, from their conversations, appear to have either been involved in or have expressed interest in enlisting in the military. Members of the server are aware they might face consequences for their involvement in a hate group, as a member warned in October 2018: “if you’re in the military or join up keep IE close to the chest.”

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In 2017, Splinter wrote about the military’s white nationalism problem after a confidential online survey of more than 1,000 active-duty troops conducted by Army Times found that one in four respondents had witnessed instances of white nationalism among their own ranks. (The military changed its recruiting standards in 2006 following a shortage of recruits willing to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, making it easier for far-right racists to enlist, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

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While server members in the logs appear to be tied to various branches of the military, including the Marines and the Navy, one member said in November that they were considering enlisting in the Air Force following the group’s national conference. “I’m thinking I am going to try and enlist after the National Conference is over so I can make it and then get into basic training,” the member said.

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Members cited Trump’s fearmongering over a fake national immigration crisis as motivation to enlist in or return to the military. “I would consider re-enlisting to go guard the boarder [sic],” one member, also a veteran, said in October.

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One member said last fall that they were looking into applying for a position with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while members in other conversations bragged about reporting undocumented people to the rogue agency.

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In another conversation about Army recruitment and gaming in January 2019, one person suggested pushing anti-immigrant rhetoric among gamers, writing: “push gamers to feel immigration is most important political issue, military recruits gamers, military is on /our side/.”

The overlap between far-right organizing online and gaming has been well-documented, particularly in connection with the Gamergate movement.

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There is also a lengthy history of law enforcement supporting white nationalism, and a ProPublica investigation last year found that several members of the violent neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division were serving in the U.S. military.

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One of Identity Evropa’s members said that they plan to go to law school in the fall, as the group aims to build up another line of defense with allies in the legal system. “Trying to uphold the obligation,” the member said. Another added: “Lawyers are a good thing to recruit.”

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What the IE logs show—a far-right, white nationalist group talking openly about its attempts to infiltrate one of the two major political parties in the United States—should be shocking. But this is America, and the Republican Party, in 2019. The GOP is the party of Steve King and Donald Trump. In many ways, Identity Evropa is kicking at an open door. The real question is not whether the far-right will continue to try and make the GOP their new home. Of course they will. The question is whether the GOP will stop seeming like such an inviting place for them to go.

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Update, 6:14 p.m.: A GOP official, in response to a request for comment, pointed Splinter to a Republican National Committee resolution condemning racism and white supremacy, as well as RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel’s criticism of white supremacists in past TV interviews and online.