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Your Quick Reference Guide to the Absolute Wrongdoers in American Politics

Far-right militants in the United States can appear to be a hodgepodge of militias and revolutionaries, neo-fascists, and white supremacists.

While all militant groups have a love of weapons and a dislike of liberals, not all have the same methods, goals, or trigger points.

What sets an Oath Keeper militant apart from a Proud Boy brawler or a Boogaloo Boi from the Patriot Front? We’ve got your back.

Here’s a look at some of the most dangerous right-wing organisations, their goals, what makes them special — and why they fight.

“Looking at their narratives of justified violence is the best approach to discern between these groups,” says Matt Kriner, a senior research scholar at the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism.


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Gavin McInnes, who previously helped start Vice Media, founded the company in 2016. “Proud Boys began as a gang of street fighters who aspired to be real-life shitposters,” adds Kriner. “They aspired to be the street’s edgelords.”

Core beliefs: According to Kriner, the Proud Boys identify as “Western chauvinists,” which is “a fancy way of expressing white racists or white nationalists.”

Despite their denials of prejudice on the surface, the Proud Boys have served as a conduit for the alt-right. They’re a “vehicle to deepen the red pilling” of disgruntled men, according to Kriner.

They feature a hipster style, testosterone-fetishizing mores (eschewing masturbation, for example), and violent initiation rites, such as suffering blows until recruits can name five sugar bowls of cereal.

The Proud Boys are enraged by “the left,” whom they accuse of eroding Western civilization.

The Proud Boys take figurative culture battles and turn them into actual ones: They’re brawlers on the streets who frequently conflict with anti-fascist counterprotesters, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

“They’re more focused on defeating the left than the federal government,” according to Alex Friedfeld, an investigative researcher at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

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Unlike the Oath Keepers and other militias, the Proud Boys do not tangle themselves up in knots trying to find moral or legalistic justifications for violence.

“They’re fascists,” Kriner declares. “They aren’t following a constitutional framework.” ‘We’re here to muck shit up,’ they’re saying.

Top Proud Boys are facing federal charges after storming the Capitol on January 6. Jason Kessler, a well-known Proud Boy, was involved in the tragic “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

(Kessler was expelled from the Proud Boys late.) Joe Biden challenged then-President Trump to denounce the Proud Boys at a 2020 debate. “Stand back and stand by,” Trump ordered the Proud Boys, because “somebody’s gotta do something about Antifa and the left.”


WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: Oathkeepers members in military tactical gear attend the “Stop the Steal” event in Washington, DC on January 06, 2021.

To protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election, Trump supporters stormed the security surrounding the US Capitol. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Robert Nickelsberg) )

On January 6, 2021, men from the Oathkeepers join the “Stop the Steal” event in Washington, DC, dressed in military tactical gear.

Getty Images/Robert Nickelsberg

Stewart Rhodes, a former Army paratrooper and Yale Law-educated attorney who lost his eye in a firearm accident founded the organisation in 2009. During Obama’s presidency, the group’s membership swelled to tens of thousands.

The Oath Keepers pride themselves on being defenders of the constitutional order against what they see as encroaching government tyranny. They actively recruit veterans and law enforcement officers, citing their pledge to defend the country against “all enemies foreign and domestic.”

According to Kriner, the organisation has a “highly conspiratorial viewpoint.” Its multipart oath contains feverish promises to protect cities from becoming internment camps.

“We will not obey any command detaining American citizens as ‘unlawful enemy combatants,’ or subjecting them to military tribunals,” reads another.

On the surface, the Oath Keepers’ attitude toward violence is defensive, even though many members are eager for a fight. “They’ll try to take the moral high ground and say, ‘We were pushed to a point where we couldn’t avoid violence,'” Kriner adds.

Many sheriffs, police officers, and even some elected officials signed up for the group, according to a leaked list of 38,000 Oath Keepers.

Key moments: At the 2014 Bundy Ranch confrontation in southern Nevada, Oath Keepers stepped up in force to defend a known anti-government cattleman who refused to pay federal grazing fees. They also manned rooftops in Missouri during the 2014 Ferguson revolt, ostensibly to defend property owners from looters.


Many Oath Keepers have been charged with assaulting the Capitol in tactical gear to disrupt the Electoral College’s tally on January 6.

Rhodes and over a dozen other Oath Keepers have been charged with plotting to prevent the peaceful transfer of power through force. On Jan. 6, these Oath Keepers allegedly stored weapons across the river in Virginia, anticipating Donald Trump’s invocation of the Insurrection Act and summoning them to a “bloody” war against the president’s foes.

PHOENIX, AZ – JANUARY 17: “GA,” a member of the Boogaloo Boys, stands in front of the Arizona State Capitol building with his assault rifle on January 17, 2021, in Phoenix, Arizona.

Today, supporters of President Donald Trump gathered at state capitol buildings across the country to protest the presidential election results and President-elect Joe Biden’s forthcoming inauguration. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Sandy Huffaker)

On January 17, 2021, in Phoenix, Arizona, “GA,” a member of the Boogaloo Boys, stands in front of the Arizona State Capitol building with his assault rifle.

Founded: The Boogaloo movement began in far-right online forums such as 4chan over the last decade, spreading through memes and shitposting, until spilling over into real-life protests and acts of violence around 2020.

The name Boogaloo comes from a well-remembered film sequel, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.

The militants are looking for their own sequel, a new civil war, dubbed the ‘Boogaloo,’ that they regard as both imminent and necessary.

The Boogaloo Bois are disorganised and without a leader, and their doctrine, while based on violent revolution, is fluid.

Some Bois are openly racists who want to establish a white ethnostate. Others are more anarchic in outlook, preferring to spread power to a strongly armed citizenry.

The Boogaloo formed partly in response to traditional militias associating themselves with Trump’s government — “a venue for purists who think the militia movement sold out,” according to Friedfeld. With irony and dark humour, Boogaloo Bois converts.

The movement’s de facto uniform, Hawaiian shirts, and the comical symbolism – a revolutionary flag with a large igloo — hide their aggressive objective. Unlike the Oath Keepers, who respect law enforcement, the Boogaloo Bois despise it:

A Big Luau (a rough homonym for “Boogaloo”) that unmistakably involves roasting “pigs” is referred to as “Boogaloo culture.”

The way he approaches violence is blatantly offensive. “They believe the point of no return has already been reached,” Kriner says. Friedfeld continues, “Violence underpins all they do.”

“The notion is essentially predicated on a future civil war,” says the author. Individual Boogaloo Bois has been accused of plotting to firebomb a power plant, foment riots, possess machine guns, and throw Molotov cocktails against cops, among other things.

Moments to remember A terrorist who pled guilty to federal charges in connection with a plot to abduct Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer believed the act would kick-start the Boogaloo.

In March, a self-described “Boojahideen” was sentenced to 36 months in prison for conspiring to provide material support to Hamas militants.

Members of the Patriot Front, a right-wing group, prepare to march alongside anti-abortion protestors during the 49th annual March for Life on Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC on Friday, January 21, 2022.

Founded: In 2017, after attending the fatal “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, by Thomas Rousseau, a former Boy Scout and Trump supporter.

Patriot Front is a hate group that revives Italian fascist emblems and Nazi phrases like “blood and soil,” according to Friedfeld, but it projects itself under a red-white-and-blue flag of “extreme patriotism.”

Patriot Front targets disgruntled youths, whereas the Proud Boys target males in their twenties and thirties.

Its recruits wear khakis, blue windbreakers, baseball caps, and white neck gaiters pulled up to their sunglasses, like preppy storm troopers.

They form flash mobs and deface public murals praising diversity or LGBTQ pride with graffiti.

The group uses the modern right’s America First imagery, but Kriner believes that “it’s profoundly fascistic, deeply anti-Semitic, very racist, and they don’t conceal it” beneath the surface.

(Racist and prejudiced Americans such as Robert E. Lee, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and Andrew Jackson are honoured on the group’s website.)

However, overtly patriotic garb “provides people with a comfortable foundation from which to ultimately jump into the larger pool of extremism,” according to Kriner.

When it comes to violence, there’s a lot of bark and very little bite. Direct acts and propaganda of the Patriot Front are intended to intimidate, but the group is not known for overt violence.

“This is a group of youngsters who have had quite easy lives,” Kriner explains. “As soon as they’re confronted, they tend to flee.”

Moments to remember: In June, members of the Patriot Front were detained in a U-Haul for plotting to riot during an LGBTQ Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Patriot Front destroyed a mural honouring George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmad Arbery in Portland, Oregon, in July 2021.

It was far from a one-off occurrence. Patriot Front was responsible for 82 per cent of the over 5,000 public hate markings catalogued by the ADL in 2021.

Friedfeld explains, “They’re tremendously aggressive in covering places with posters and graffiti that lean into the patriot aspect of the philosophy — but drive interested parties to their white-supremacy materials.”

“If you’re not repulsed and they have your attention, they can start peeling people off into their ranks at that point.”


Atomwaffen Division, also known as the Nationalist Socialist Order, was founded in 2015 and proclaimed its existence on Iron March, a major neo-Nazi website at the time. The organisation vowed to go beyond “internet warriorism” to achieve a “final uncompromising victory.” The term Atomwaffen is a play on words from the German word “atomic weapons.” The Waffen were a feared division of Hitler’s SS. Atomwaffen is a small group that has spread across the globe.

“National Socialism is the only solution to recover sovereignty over what belongs to us,” they declare. Many white supremacist organisations try to soften their poisonous ideas to gain new members, but Atomwaffen is for die-hard haters. (They’re also trolls who place “Join Your Local Nazis” stickers all over campuses.)

Atomwaffen members are disciples of American neo-Nazi James Mason, who was a devotee of Charles Manson, who advocated a racial war between whites and blacks (and whom Mason wanted to make the American Hitler). They think that democratic society is irredeemable and that a race war should be escalated to eliminate the “Jewish oligarchies and globalist bankers” responsible for “racial displacement… of the white race.”

Terroristic approach to violence. Atomwaffen is inspired by Al Qaeda and idolises mass murderers like Charles Manson, Dylann Roof, and Timothy McVeigh. The gang prefers to work in small groups and has been linked to murders, bomb schemes, and other heists.

After Arthurs reportedly murdered the duo’s other two housemates, Rolling Stone highlighted 21-year-old founder Brandon Russell and fellow Atomwaffen member Devon Arthurs. Russell was sentenced to five years in prison for possessing bomb-making tools on federal charges. Arthurs, who had spent time in and out of mental facilities, was just recently found fit to stand trial.

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Moments to remember: The Atomwaffen have a habit of getting arrested. Mason announced the disbandment of the Atomwaffen in March 2020, shortly after the FBI detained five Atomwaffen on conspiracy charges. However, it appears to have fragmented, with many cells retreating underground.

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