Inside the Base, a Secret Neo-Nazi Group

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S1: Hey, this is what next producer Mary Wilson chiming in briefly here before the show to talk to my colleague Jim Newell, senior politics writer for Slate, about the primary in New Hampshire. Hey, Jim. Hey, Mary. Let’s talk results. We’ve got Bernie Sanders, the winner with nine delegates, people to judge. Coming in a close second with also nine delegates and club chair Amy Klobuchar getting six delegates. Is there anything surprising in there for you about who got which slot?

S2: Yeah, I think if you look at the top three, so at least as of now, the percentages were, Bernie, at 26 percent, boobage with 24 and Amy with 20 percent. And the big surprise there, although it’s not the headline of the night, the headline there is still that Bernie Sanders won. Is that Amy Klobuchar got that 20 percent. Because in the polling average leading into the night, she had been in about 11 percent. So I think she had a really good debate Friday night. And I think maybe just with the way Joe Biden was sinking, I think she may have won some of his voters and maybe taken a few away from P. Bush judge as well.

S1: Would you would you call it her clÉment? She really seized the climate.

S2: I mean, you can call it the the club, a charge or the comment that that debate will rage on for four weeks going on as we speak.

S1: Warren is 10 points behind club h.R. And Biden is also behind Warren. And neither of them scored enough votes to win any of the available delegates in New Hampshire. But they’re going to stick around. Right.

S3: Yeah. They’re not going anywhere. I mean, it’s it’s disastrous for both of them, honestly, for Joe Biden. You’ve now gone fourth and fifth in the first two contests after, you know, proclaiming yourself the the guy who can beat Trump and you can’t even win a primary or caucus. And there are different contests, but still, that’s the impression that people will take away. It’s also horrific for Warren because Iowa and New Hampshire, where she’s now gone third and fourth in a row. These are good states for her. These are not good states for Biden. But I think that fluidity of the field is also what’s keeping a lot of them in. Even though Sanders is off to a great start and is the clear frontrunner right now, they still think that he’s a little bit soft. And each of them also thinks the rest of their opponents are soft. So that’s keeping everyone in the race.

S1: Yeah. You know, there’s so much we could keep talking about. But I want to just quickly get to who’s dropping out at this point. And there are we’ve got three names. We’ve got two names and a maybe. Is that right?

S3: Yes. Andrew Yang, who you know, I think that’s the biggest one of the night. He was never really in contention for anything, but he introduced the really discreet idea for the universal basic income into the race. So I think his his loss will be felt a little bit, even if he wasn’t really ever in contention. Michael Bennett, the senator from Colorado, he also dropped out. His support tonight was negligible. He had fallen out of the debates a long time ago. And then the maybe is Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts. He entered the race late. He was hoping he could do well in New Hampshire and then take that to South Carolina. So there has been conflicting reports about whether he’ll drop out, but it’s just a matter of days, I assume.

S1: Got it. Jim Newell, we’re gonna get back to the rest of the show with Lizzie O’Leary. But thank you so much for recapping the results for us. Thank you, Mary.

S4: I guess first things first, I am just sort of curious. What’s your day job like, what do you do every day?

S5: Technically, my title is general assignment reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press.

S4: That’s Canadian reporter Ryan Thorp.

S5: Predominately, though, I’m a crime reporter.

S6: I cover a lot of homicides, violent crime, things like that.

S4: And this past summer, while Ryan was doing his job, some frightening posters started appearing around Winnipeg.

S5: It started with a news tip is someone who knows. A colleague of mine at the free press was walking through the St. James area of Winnipeg and came across this recruitment poster for what they figured was a white nationalist organization. They took a photo of it on their cell phone and then tore down the poster and they sent it to their friend.

S4: That friend passed the tip along to the paper and ultimately it landed on Ryan’s desk. He’d done a little work covering right wing extremism in the past.

S7: So he took a look at the posters.

S8: They would usually have at least one, if not multiple people that were decked out in military equipment holding, you know, what would look like an assault rifle or something like that.

S7: And written across the poster was a slogan, Save your race, join the base. That’s the name of the group, the base. Ryan wanted to figure out who was behind all of this, so he brought his editor two ideas. One, he could approach this like a straight news story, right. About the posters talked to law enforcement. Call some academics who study white nationalism. Or he could try to meet these guys, pretend he was one of them and go undercover.

S4: When you brought your editor, the idea of going undercover and trying to join, what did they say?

S6: Thankfully, they just got it. We have this very gruff city desk editor at at the free press. And he kind of leaned back in his chair for a bit and he just kind of went quiet for maybe, I don’t know, 20 seconds or something. Is that all right? Reach out to them. You know, he wasn’t given me. Yeah. Yeah, it was it was very quick, you know. But I think the thing to point out is, at that point, I wasn’t given the green light to do like a month long undercover investigation. It was like I was given the green light to take the first step.

S4: Good luck, kid. Yeah, give it a shot. I guess so. And so he did. Starting with a throwaway email account, then a fake persona that led to filling out a questionnaire and texting in an encrypted group chat.

S6: Meanwhile, throat all this process I’m having to do like simultaneous research so I can correctly parrot back white nationalist talking points and I’m kind of like frantically googling things and like reading these bizarre texts that are influential in certain neo-Nazi circles.

S4: Then one night, the base’s founder asked him to join a phone call with several other members.

S9: The phone call came in. I put it on speaker phone and ran my audio recorder during the song.

S10: So I recorded the entire thing and we went back and forth for about an hour.

S11: As far as officially, the base is their criteria.

S9: The guys on the call asked him to describe his worldview and I presented myself as a white nationalist and that almost wasn’t extreme enough for them. Really? Oh, absolutely. Yeah. This is a is about, you know, academics who track this stuff. Well, we’ll say groups like the base represent the most radical violent fringes of the far right hate movement today. This is about as hardcore as it gets. So like when they heard I was a white nationalist, they were like, we don’t know if this guy’s serious enough.

S12: You know, these type of people look at someone like Richard Spencer and think he’s a joke.

S13: Ryan’s performance on the phone was convincing. The next day, he got a message from the founder saying he’d done well and it was time to meet a local recruiter in person.

S14: But Ryan didn’t know then was that the man he would meet would become a target of law enforcement in two countries? Someone prosecutors say was planning attacks here in the U.S. and who would later be arrested with a houseful of supplies. Today on the show, inside the base, an international group of white supremacists obsessed with violence. I’m Lizzie O’Leary, in for Mary Harris. And you’re listening to what next.

S13: Stay with us.

S4: Meeting a recruiter in person was the most dangerous step. Brian had taken in his investigation. He wanted somewhere public and suggested a bar. But the guy said no. So they settled on a local park.

S6: I’m kind of just waiting there and there’s some people around and, you know, everyone who’s who’s going by. I’m like, oh, is this the person? You know, everyone walking past me is like a potential neo-Nazi. But then finally, this guy approaches me. He’s about 5 foot 10. He’s got this really big bushy beard wearing a backpack and he’s got hair that’s kind of longer on top and kind of push back on his head and then kind of clipped closer at its sides. And he comes up and we start talking and very quickly we establish, yes, this you know, he’s there to meet me and I’m there to meet him. And, yeah, we began talking.

S4: What did you talk about?

S6: I forget what he said. At first we were just feeling each other out. We were kind of going back and forth, almost like exchanging pleasantries in some sense. Maybe like about ten minutes into the conversation, though. And I think this was this individual’s, you know, fatal mistake was. He said, okay, well, we’re gonna be working very closely with one another moving forward. So if you want to drop the, you know, online pseudonyms that we’ve been using and just use our real first names, we can do that. And that caught me off guard. And I think I thought about it for a split second. And then I was just like, all right, well, my name’s Ryan. I held up my hand and he said, okay, my name’s Patrick. And he shook it. And then we.

S15: It’s a quite a big park where we’re meeting. So we went and went for a walk and we started going towards all the secluded area so we could talk more openly. And the conversation turned incredibly disturbing.

S16: He told me that he was a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, trained as a combat engineer. What’s an issue about that is combat engineers are particularly like the bread and butter of the field as explosives work. As we’re walking, there’s like a a rail line that runs parallel to the park. And you pointed that out and started talking about how he would go about derailing a train. He started talking about committing violence against anti-fascist activists. He told me that he had been going to the United States to engage in these paramilitary training events called hate camps.

S4: He was really in it.

S6: Oh, yeah. He was a fanatic. That’s that’s the only that’s the only word I can think to properly describe him that day in the park was the last time Ryan would see Patrick.

S4: But those details, his real first name, military background, were crucial because they let Ryan and his paper to uncover the man’s identity. He was Patrick Matthews, a master corporal in the Canadian Armed Forces over several years. Matthews had become radicalized, moving from libertarianism to fascism to identifying as a neo-Nazi.

S7: So what is the base? How would you describe it in the universe of white nationalist organizations?

S8: It’s on the outer fringes of the white nationalist world. I guess you could say the base was founded in 2018 in the United States. It’s a relatively new organization. Its stated aims right now are to establish two to three man cells in his many regions of the world as possible. They’ve expanded pretty quickly given the fact that they are so young. They’re proponent of a theory called acceleration ism in particular.

S17: They’re incredibly influenced by this very bizarre American neo-Nazi named James Mason. Mason used to be affiliated with the American Nazi Party, but eventually he came to the conclusion that trying to change things through mass political parties or through the traditional political process like the American Nazi Party once tried to do, was essentially a fool’s game and that a a better strategy had actually been pioneered by Charles Manson.

S18: Yeah, well, as as with all of us, my first awareness, Manson came in 1969.

S17: This is an incredibly bizarre world view. Mason pioneered a synthesis between traditional Naziism and kind of a veneration of serial killers like Charles Manson.

S18: And those of my involvement and intensity with with National Socialist Movement continued and grew. We all know all of us, but some of us, certainly my quarter were more and more radical, more and more extreme. Manson moving in to work better and better.

S17: He believes that the best thing these neo-Nazi radicals can do is to engage in terror attacks and targeted assassinations and random murders in order to to sow chaos and create as much destabilisation in society, that it will hasten the demise of, you know, Western liberal democracies and hopefully spark a race war. And from this race war, these individuals hope to be able to forge a white ethno state.

S4: You mentioned in your reporting that. On the encrypted chat, these guys venerated people like Timothy McVeigh. They called them St..

S17: That’s correct. Yeah. That’s the term they use for terrorists and mass murderers. We’re talking about folks like Tim McVeigh who did the Oklahoma City bombing. Brenton Tarrant, who did the New Zealand mall shooting. They explicitly cheered these events on when they happen. They want more of them to happen. They hope to carry them out themselves. And they explicitly call for high body counts. I remember one person saying McVeigh and Tarrant are the gold standards, you know, high casualties or stay home.

S4: Patrick Matthews, the master corporal in the Canadian Armed Forces, believed in all of this. He even recorded videos calling for violent revolution. After Ryan Thorpe and the Winnipeg Free Press printed his name, Matthews home was raided by Canadian authorities. Later, he was let go and fled the country, leaving his truck at the U.S. border. So Matthews essentially goes dark at the end of August. What happens then?

S6: We don’t know where he’s at for a number of months. We don’t know where he went, exactly who he might be with, what he might be planning as there’s a lot up in the air at that point. But then, you know, jump forward to January 16th, 2020.

S19: And news breaks that Matthews has been arrested in Delaware four months after Patrick Matthews disappeared at the Manitoba border.

S20: He lived in the shadows.

S21: New arrests, investigators say, are tied to what authorities describe as a neo-Nazi group. Court documents describing them as a racially motivated, violent extremist organization.

S22: A few weeks ago, prosecutors released a series of documents that detail what Matthews was doing in the U.S..

S20: Now we’ve been able to fill in the gaps in terms of where he went, who he was with, what he was up to. So after Matthews fled into the United States, two other alleged members of the base drove more than 600 miles from Maryland into Michigan to pick him up.

S17: They then essentially helped provide him safe harbor in the U.S. while he was there illegally. And eventually they go down to Georgia, where there’s a member of the base that has this sprawling large property and they host two paramilitary training events. While Matthews and some of his comrades are down there, Matthews starts talking about me, saying that what I’ve done should carry the death penalty.

S4: And by that, he means naming Matthews publicly.

S6: They also begin hatching a double murder plot to take out a married couple that they view as anti-fascist activists. What they didn’t realize was that there was an undercover FBI agent in their mix that he had successfully infiltrated. This organization, was keeping track of what they were, what plots they were hatching and what they were saying. Eventually, Matthews goes back to Delaware, where he’s living in this apartment with another member and they start ordering firearms parts. And over the course of a month, they manufacture a fully automatic assault rifle.

S17: They stockpile more than 1650 rounds of ammunition. They get their hands on body armor. And they begin talking about going down to a gun rights rally in Richmond, Virginia, that was held on January 20th to open up. Open fire on the crowd from multiple angles. Matthews at one point literally start talking about, quote unquote, hunting people.

S6: So they were there gearing up to some very serious things, at least according to these court documents and affidavits from FBI agents.

S4: There was also this really weird sideline that comes out in the court documents where two other base members get suspicious if Matthews and they discuss murdering him. And to me, those details sort of showed the extent of the paranoia and the violence within this group. And I guess I wonder when you think about it now, does it make you think, oh, well, these guys are even more dangerous than I first thought?

S6: I think that there is kind of a documented history in kind of revolutionary movements, I guess. And this could be on the far left to the far right where, you know, revolutions in some sense eat their own children. I also think that there’s something of a nihilistic strain running through this ideology and just a disregard for human life.

S17: So it wasn’t even necessarily a surprise that all of a sudden, you know, it’s like a circular firing squad that these people start turning on each other in terms of this, you know, weird little subplot to all this. And it is it is weird. Matthews was originally involved with hatching this double murder plot in Georgia. He was one of kind of the ringleaders of this, but eventually goes back to to Delaware. And the main person in this Georgia cell sours on Matthews and thinks, well, if we carry out this crime with him, we’re all going to get busted because I don’t think he’s up for it. And so now he was presented with a problem. They could cut Matthews out of the plot and just carry it out on their own. But Matthews was aware of it. And so he would be able to link them to the crime after the fact. And he was also worried the Matthews was going to begin running his mouth and telling other members about the murder plot. And so the solution to them was, OK, well, we’re gonna drive to Delaware, we’re gonna murder Matthews and his roommate and we’re gonna go back to Georgia. We’re going to break into the home of this married couple.

S6: We’re going to shoot them dead and then we’re gonna burn the place to the ground. And so in this bizarre twist, Matthews finds himself in the crosshairs of the murder plot that he helped to hatch.

S4: Ultimately, neither the murder plot nor. Double crossing ever happened, and when Ryan got the news of Patrick Matthews arrest, he could think for the first time about how many other frightening things were averted.

S17: I was very concerned that this was going to have a violent end. But but what became apparent from these court documents was that the base was under a very intense investigation by not only the FBI, but also the ATF. They were deploying some of the most sophisticated counterterrorism techniques in their disposal. Ultimately, Matthews was taken into custody and originally charged with two felony firearm offenses. But later, after a grand jury was convened, he was slapped with a number of additional charges. All told, he’s facing 20 years in U.S. federal prison and 40 years in state prison.

S4: You came to the U.S. to do some follow up reporting on Matthews. You saw him in court. What was that like?

S6: It was quite the moment I when I knew that there was a detention hearing coming up. I intend to continue to report this story out to its end. And in some sense, I feel a bit possessive of it, you know. And so, you know, there’s no way I was missing this hearing. So I flew into Washington, D.C., and then I drove down to Greenbelt, Maryland. I went to the federal courthouse. And at one point, I’m kind of just sitting in the courtroom waiting for the proceeding to begin. And then the side door to the courtroom swings open and I can hear like shackles jangling.

S23: And so I figured someone’s about to be let in. And then sure enough, around the corner comes Patrick Matthews. And as he’s being led in, he’s, you know, is Canadian armed forces uniform has been traded in for like the orange jumpsuit of a U.S. federal prisoner. And he is heads just on a swivel and he’s kind of scanning the faces in the crowd. And then, you know, we lock eyes and it’s clear to me that he immediately recognizes me and his eyes just like narrow slits. And he just begins glaring at me. What was striking to me was that after we exposed him, he had shaved off his beard and shaved his head in order to kind of disguise his identity. But that beard was back and that the longer hair was back. So his immediately was like, I’m looking at the same person I met in that park five months ago.

S6: And we hold each other’s gaze for a couple of seconds, and then I kind of dropped my eyes down to my notebook and start scribbling some notes about this, you know, this moment. And then by the time I look up, he’s, you know, he’s seated and facing the front of the court.

S4: You know, Patrick Matthews is one guy, but you’ve been talking about the base as this kind of sprawling movement with small cells and lots of different places. What did you learn about the extent of this network as you were reporting these stories?

S6: Yeah, this is an organization that has taken a hit recently because I think it’s a total of eight members have been busted in recent months and a number kind of different incidents. But having said that, there’s plenty of other members still out there. This is an organization that I think some people look at and they’ll look at the small membership figure and let’s say, well, that’s not much to worry about then. But this group doesn’t want a big membership. They’re interested in what they view as quality over quantity. They’re not throwing open their doors to anyone.

S17: They’re only trying to get the most extreme and hardcore of individuals, people who are willing to commit violence. And the other thing I would say is that we’ve consistently seen that it only takes one lone actor motivated by a hateful ideology to cause significant bloodshed.

S4: Then there’s this other part of the story that Ryan thinks we should pay more attention to.

S17: The other thing that’s worth pointing out is the connection with the military. One of Matthew’s co-accused in his case is a former member of the U.S. military. You know, Matthews was obviously a member of the military in Canada. This group is either seeking to recruit people that have military training or are trying to take their members and push them into the military. So they go get that training and then can come back and share it with everyone else. The military in Canada produced a report in 2013 that identified I think there’s 53 individuals over several years that had either been bonafide members of hate groups or they had, you know, expressed extremist sympathies. At the same time this report was being produced, Patrick Matthews was flying under the radar. And that’s a problem. We need to know how many folks with extremist views are in the military, in Canada and in the U.S. because they’re getting trained by some of the best military officials in the world. And they shouldn’t be able to take that and then try and use it to attack the state.

S4: Reporting on this, talking about it both feels vital and that it kind of puts it even more out there into international consciousness. I wonder how you think about that.

S17: I think in some sense it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. I suppose it depends on what we view as as the lesser of two evils in some sense. Of course, we don’t want to signal boost these people. We don’t want to aid in their their recruitment efforts. But I truly believe that sunlight is the best disinfectant and that we effectively need to shine spotlights on these people so that they can’t operate in the shadows. You know, when these people are operating without any sort of scrutiny, I think that they’re able to actually be more effective in terms of not only what they’re organizing and what they might be planning, but also their recruitment efforts. And so while I understand that concern and certainly something that, you know, I’ve wrestled with and tried to be conscious of, I think ultimately what we need to do is keep an eye on these folks because because they are dangerous and we need to know what they’re up to.

S24: Ryan Thorp, thank you so much. Thank you for the invitation.

S25: Ryan Thorp is a reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press. And that’s the show. What next is produced by Jason Dillion, Mary Wilson, Mara Silvers and Danielle Hewitt alongside what next TBD producer Ethan Brooks. And if you were into today’s show, be sure to read it. Reviews on Apple podcasts and tell your friends about it. I’m Lizzie O’Leary, filling in for Mary Harris. And back with more what next tomorrow?