“Hundreds of illegal immigrants from the Congo are showing up on the streets of Texas. Jewish organizations have instructed them on how to fly to Ecuador & how to travel to the U.S. and how to claim asylum.”
Those words appeared in an online chat room for members of the “American Identity Movement.” That’s the new name of Identity Evropa, a white nationalist group that co-organized the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville.
Despite the rebranding efforts of its president, Patrick Casey, and its new innocuous-sounding name, American Identity Movement is still a hate group rife with anti-Semitism, racism and Islamophobia.
Jew-hatred plays an important role in its potentially violent worldview, which it propagates on college campuses more than any other group, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Many of those efforts involve placing flyers that say things like “defend America” and “embrace your identity,” often with a link to their website for those intrigued by their seemingly innocuous messaging
Material leaked by the independent media collective Unicorn Riot revealed an internal conversation still rife with anti-Semitism and other hate ideologies. Unicorn Riot made screenshots of the chat available to the public. The leaked material includes member chats, official documents, and recordings of Casey’s weekly addresses, dated from May-July 2019.
Casey declined to comment on this story on the grounds that his ideas wouldn’t get a fair hearing in the Forward.
The American Identity Movement publicly instructs its members to refrain from terrorism, but University of Chicago professor Kathleen Belew, author of “Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America,” warned that the lines between such groups and the individuals who engage in white nationalist violence have always been blurry.
“The historical archive would indicate that we should expect these big, public-facing groups that are attempting to make claims at neutrality,” she said, “to also be involved in this violent underground.”
Donald Trump’s candidacy inspired and mobilized countless white supremacists, and white supremacist activity, including leaflet distribution, rallies and hate crimes, have increased dramatically under his presidency.
Identity Evropa and other groups organized the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, buoyed by what they saw as a new political moment – “There is no question that Charlottesville wouldn’t have occurred without Trump,” Richard Spencer told The Atlantic in May. Hundreds of white supremacists, many wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats, took leave of their chatrooms and convened in the flesh. They marched through the streets, bearing torches and guns, harassing Jewish worshippers, chanting racist slogans, and murdering civil rights activist Heather Heyer.
After the very public violence of the Charlottesville rally, some white supremacists reconsidered their tactics, for both legal and strategic reasons. Without altering its core ideology or values, Identity Evropa adjusted its outreach strategy: less shock-and-awe and big rallies, more focused on gaining access to mainstream conservative institutions. The man who led that effort was Casey.
One possible reason for Identity Evropa’s rebranding is that the group is at risk of being destroyed by a lawsuit filed by the group Integrity First for America over its involvement in the Charlottesville violence, said Chris Schiano, who wrote the Unicorn Riot article accompanying the most recent leak.
At the same time, Casey’s group has an interest in appearing “more relatable to a somewhat more mainstream audience,” said Unicorn Riot co-founder Daniel Feidt. “It’s a Trojan horse-inspired maneuver.”
By appearing more moderate than other white supremacist groups, the American Identity Movement might be more successful with mainstream audiences like College Republicans clubs and the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“It’s the same alt-right, neo-Nazi ideology, it’s just that they actually really care about presentation,” said Schiano.
Indeed, Casey announced the founding of AIM at an Identity Evropa conference and invited all members in good standing to join the “new” group, ADL senior investigative researcher Carla Hill pointed out. Unicorn Riot has even shared paperwork that Casey submitted on behalf of AIM’s “Foundation for American Society,” which listed an email address at identityevropa.com.
On the group’s general chat channel on the platform Discord, complaints about supposed Jewish domination of the media and concerns that Jews were “anti-Christian or anti-white” stood unchallenged. Participants wrote that the “Israel lobby” was subverting the Trump administration and the United States in general.
And many members shared their beliefs in the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, which posits that Jews are seeking to harm whites by encouraging minorities to immigrate to the United States. According to AIM members, school integration is a Jewish plot, and African and Arab immigrants are flooding America as a result of a secret Jewish initiative.
Anti-Semitism is also prevalent in official organization documents. The group’s handbook declares that their mission is “reclaiming America from the clutches of hostile, globalist elites.”
“’Hostile globalist elites,’ throughout the 20th Century, is always either Jewish people or attached to Jewish people,” Belew explained. “I don’t think there’s any doubt at all.”
That reference, Belew elaborated, is part of a longer anti-Semitic tradition. “It’s a very conspiratorial ideology,” she said. “Jewish people are often cast as the conspirators, or as the puppet masters behind the curtain, and this, of course, we can trace all the way from the ‘Elders of Zion’ forward.”
To be sure, the American Identity Movement is not solely anti-Semitic. Much of the leaked material focused on promoting anti-black racism, misogyny, transphobia, and other kinds of hatred. What emerges from the material is a unified vision of white, male, cisgender, heterosexual supremacy and fascism.
The organization has defined itself as “Identitarian,” a term that some white supremacist groups have adopted because fewer Americans recognize its racist connotations, Hill said. But “there’s not a group in the United States that is identitarian that is not part of the alt-right,” and the alt-right is, in turn, a “subculture of the broader white supremacist movement,” she explained.
But “Identitarianism” also holds a unique place in the history of the American white power movement. “When we hear ‘identity’ or ‘identitarian,’ it’s always a reference to this earlier history of the Christian Identity movement,” which describes white supremacists as “foot soldiers of God” in a war against minorities to stop white racial extinction, Belew explained.
Despite its extremism, AIM may continue to attract some support from disaffected whites who are first exposed to them via their innocent-seeming flyers.
“The white power movement is always interested in two spheres of organizing,” Belew said. One sphere is legal, recruitment-focused, and concerned with promoting a cultivated public image. The other is “a massive underground and violent organization.”
Benjamin Gladstone is an intern at the Forward. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @bensgladstone
Benjamin Gladstone is an intern at the Forward