In past columns, I have explored the psychology of conspiracy theories and extremism, as well as focusing on extremist groups such as the Boogaloo Boys and QAnon. This month, I wanted to explore the transnational extremist group, known as the Active Club. In September 2023, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) referred to them as a racist group “hiding in plain sight”. The Active Club network in Canada is, in part, a recruiting front for the Hammerskins, a racist skinhead gang with a decades-long history of violence.
At first glance, an Active Club is just a combat sports network, and that is what they want to portray to avoid detection from law enforcement. The real purpose is to create a reserve ‘army’ that can have members deployed to support large scale right-wing operations when required—consider the January 2021 assault on the United States Capital.
The founders of the Active Club, Robert Paul Rundo, a U.S. citizen, and Denis Kasputin, a Russian who has lived in Germany for many years and is a neo-Nazi, have discussed on their podcast that the failing of the assault on Jan. 6 was the fact that the protesters were not well organized or experienced in violence.
Structured to be decentralized and a brand, rather than a hierarchical organization, the Active Club is a reinvention of the Rise Above Movement (RAM) – a violent fascist group of street thugs. Presented as an alternative to the conservative suit and tie culture Alt-Right movement, RAM and now the Active Club would form the tip of the spear for what its founders call white nationalism 3.0, with 1.0 being the racist skinhead culture that spawned the Hammerskin Nation and 2.0 being the Alt-Right.
The underlying philosophy of the Active Club is known as the “White Supremacy/Nationalism 3.0 strategy.” The strategy is to train the members in combat sports. They envision having a stand-by army, with an increasing membership that is ready for violence and will support a nationalist army who are convinced that the “white race” is under threat and will be replaced. Once deployed, the Active Club will also serve to delay and lessen the response of law enforcement.
Although the great replacement theory (or the white genocide theory) has its origins in Europe, it is a cornerstone of right-wing philosophy in the United States. “We will not be replaced” is frequently chanted at right-wing extremist marches. A less violent version became mainstream among Trump supporters.
Who do they fear being replaced by? Immigrants, refugees, Blacks, Asians, Jews and LGBTQ2.
Over the past five years, there have been individuals who have committed mass murders due to their belief in the great replacement theory. Examples of these violent attacks include the Tree of Life synagogue shootings in 2018 by a believer of the white genocide theory (11 killed); the El Paso Walmart shooting (23 killed) in what has been the largest mass killing of Latinos in modern American history; the Tops Friendly Markets supermarket killings in Buffalo, last year, was perpetrated by an individual who was upset, in part, because Afro-Americans were replacing whites (10 killed).
Once deployed, the Active Club will also serve to delay and lessen the response of law enforcement.
Another principle of the Active Club is to put a friendly face on their activities, emphasizing fitness, fun, community, and music for white males. This approach is used in their recruiting. According to a recent intelligence briefing from the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), Active Clubs are also asked to focus on aesthetics and art and appear at art shows. When recruiting, Active Club members are instructed not to talk about “the Jews and history”. Instead, the focus in public should be on “positive things and activities,” for example brotherhood, community, fitness and self-defence.
Rundo focuses on the importance of being sociable and that Active Club events need to be fun, and to show that in videos posted online. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) states that, in a BitChute interview in April 2021, Rundo highlighted this strategy. “Your skin is your uniform,” he said. “You don’t need to be super explicit. You don’t need to be edgy, trust me. Think of your image.”
On Sep. 6, 2023, the Active Club Canada Telegram channel announced an official strategy, in response to their perceived loosening of restrictions on Twitter/X by Elon Musk. In this communication, they stated that “the goal of pro-White messaging should always be the growth of pro-White communities in the real world.” This is what Active Club Canada and Active Clubs internationally are focused on. They regard Active Club as a healthy and positive packaging of Nationalist worldview for presentation to the public, “and as such we believe it is the duty of Active Clubs around the Western world to take advantage of this opportunity and create a Twitter/X account in order to help spread our worldview, which will in turn grow our communities in the real world.”
According to the Countering Extremism Program brief, as of Nov. 6, 2023, the following Active Clubs in Canada are: Vancouver/Vancouver Island AC, Kelowna AC, Calgary AC, Edmonton AC, Saskatchewan AC, Frontenac County AC, Hamilton AC, Lambton-Middlesex County AC, Ottawa AC, and Maritimes AC. In addition, there is a nationwide women’s club which is atypical for most countries that have Active Clubs, except for France. Elsewhere, the Active Clubs are solely male and there is no role for women. The Canadian women’s group, in part, is made up of wives, girlfriends and children of Active Club members.
In conclusion, the Active Club network is a newer variant of existing white supremacy groups but warrant scrutiny and are a potential threat to Canadian society. It is a rebranding of hate.
- Ritzmann, Alexander. (2023). Hiding in Plain Sight – The Transnational Right-Wing Extremist Active Club Network. Countering Extremism Project.
- “Active Club Network.” Anti-Defamation League. Accessed at https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounder/active-club-network.
Peter Collins is the operational forensic psychiatrist with the Ontario Provincial Police’s Criminal Behaviour Analysis Section. He is also a member of the crisis/hostage negotiation team of the Toronto Police Service Emergency Task Force. Dr. Collins’ opinions are his own. Contact him at email@example.com.
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