Former New Guard insider reveals neo-Nazi group's recruitment tactics

ABC News, Australia/April 1, 2021

By Alex Mann and Kevin Nguyen

A former insider has detailed how Australian far-right organisations methodically identify, radicalise and recruit young people into white supremacist movements.

George*, who spoke to Background Briefing on condition of anonymity, was a senior member of fascist group the New Guard with intimate knowledge of its recruitment strategies.

He once bought into the New Guard's racist beliefs about "white genocide" and believed "that immigration was going to ruin our country" but said he has since left the movement.

"It seemed like an existential crisis, like the white race really was going to die out and that all the so-called achievements of European people were going to [disappear]," he said.

Between 2015 and 2018, senior members of the New Guard and other right-wing groups, monitored "moderately right-wing" public groups and online forums for people whose vitriolic views could be exploited.

"People who were in the more extreme groups would be monitoring the comments section, keeping track of who's really engaging with more edgy memes," he said.

After identifying a prospective member, a recruiter would message them and invite them for a meet up, where they could be vetted.

If they passed, they would be allowed access to increasingly hardcore organisations, setting them on a path of further radicalisation.

A 'little pioneer Europa'

The New Guard was a closed Australian fascist Facebook group whose members used the group to organise and discuss plans for influencing mainstream politics and institutions.

Their tactics included creating propaganda, building wealth by opening businesses and amassing property, and helping to elect state and federal parliamentarians.

Background Briefing gained access to the group before it was shut down in late 2018 and exposed an attempt by some of its members to seize control of the NSW Young Nationals.

The party expelled 22 members as a result, banning them for life.

While there were efforts to use online forums to normalise extreme views in mainstream politics, George revealed the New Guard also had plans to take the movement offline.

"There were ideas about trying to move everyone to a small town and set up a ... little pioneer Europa," he said.

"Everyone moving to a specific place; flood it with people who were sympathetic with their world view and then electing a mayor who would represent our ideas and from there being able to spread further into other towns."

The New Guard saw hobby groups and universities as fertile recruiting grounds.

Strategies were devised to foster "scholarly soldier mentalities", where they would present themselves as "self-improvement" groups and capitalise on a perceived "masculinity crisis".

The New Guard was particularly interested in young recruits, George said.

"People who do vetting interviews are typically looking firstly [at] the age bracket, so people who are younger, usually are much more trustworthy," he said.

"We would be looking for people who are open to the more extreme sort of ideology — people who could be easily swayed.

"That slow process of marinating different people with those memes to ... them being open to these new ideas about, say, white genocide or needing to protect European identity, started becoming more normalised and [they] started to accept those ideas."

George said several existing fascist groups still in operation, many with thousands of followers, are using these same radicalisation and recruitment strategies today.

Using memes to push young people into ideological extremes or as a pathway to radicalisation is not exclusive to the New Guard.

Last week, Background Briefing revealed how US-based neo-Nazi group The Base attempted to recruit six Australian men to train and ultimately fight in a "race war".

Some followed similar pathways to those George described.

'Red pilled' as a teenager

The youngest Australian candidate for The Base was a 17-year-old Canberra schoolboy who went by the pseudonym Sherman.

In his November, 2019, vetting interview Sherman said he had been "red pilled", a term used to describe misogyny and racism as a form of enlightenment, online.

"I went from just the typical person who was apolitical and things like that ... through a conservative libertarian phase, then to a 4chan phase and then to where I am now," Sherman said.

Members of The Base with guns.

Acquaintances and former friends of the prospective Australian candidates for The Base told Background Briefing they observed increased vitriolic behaviour over time.

One of Sherman's former school mates, who did not wish to be identified, said his peer's radicalisation process was not subtle.

Another friend said Sherman became alienated from his friends group as he became more outspoken at school, at one point falling foul of his teachers after writing "multiculturalism is white genocide" on a library whiteboard.

For Kyle*, it was towards the end of 2017 when he finally realised how far down the rabbit hole Sherman had gone.

"He expressed a keen interest in learning German, nothing against learning German, it can be a very beautiful language," the now 18-year-old Kyle said.

"But he specifically wanted to learn more fascist Hitler Youth kind of phrases."

By the last year of high school, Kyle said he didn't recognise his former friend anymore and "felt scared in his presence".

"I feel sorry for the person that he was, not so much for the person that he is," he said.

"The person that he is currently ... he's sort of lost any pity from me."

Sherman's phone number was disconnected after he was contacted by Background Briefing, and he did not respond to questions sent on other messaging platforms.

*Name has been changed to protect anonymity.

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