Four young racists from California -- far less pleasant than four young lads from Liverpool -- were arrested Tuesday on charges of traveling cross-country to Charlottesville, Virginia, last year for the express purpose of inciting a riot and causing violence at Richard Spencer's white supremacist Woodstock. This is the same event where Nazi sympathizer James Alex Fields killed Heather Heyer and injured 19 others after driving his car into a crowd of non-Nazis. In the aftermath of Charlottesville, Donald Trump claimed there were "very fine people" on both sides, including apparently the Nazi one. Let's see if these four fit Trump's glowing LinkedIn testimonial.

Benjamin Drake Daley, 25, Thomas Walter Gillen, 34, Michael Paul Miselis, 29, and Cole Evan White, 24, are members of the so-called Rise Above Movement, a white supremacist group based in Southern California, where Tony! Toni! Tone! informs me it never rains. The group promotes anti-Semitism and "clean living." That's not as crazy a combination as you might think. A 1937 New York Times profile of Adolf Hitler that reads like something from the Sunday Styles section and is literally called "At Home with the Fuhrer" glowingly describes the genocidal monster's dietary habits.

"It is well known that Hitler is a vegetarian and does not drink or smoke. His lunch and dinner consist, therefore, for the most part of soup, eggs, vegetables and mineral water, although he occasionally relishes a slice of ham and relieves the tediousness of his diet with such delicacies as caviar..."

The Fascist Four regularly met in public parks to train in "physical fitness, including boxing and other street-fighting techniques," according to an affidavit written by an FBI agent who investigated their Kooky Killer Krossfit. Thomas Cullen, US attorney for the Western District of Virginia, described the men as "serial rioters," who came to Charlottesville with the deliberate intent to cause violence. How did he know? Some clues: They taped their fists in advance of the rally "in the manner of boxers or MMA-style fighters," the affidavit said. Photos and video footage reveal them using their "skills" to "punch and head-butt" counterprotesters, including a black man, two women, and a minister wearing clerical robes.

Each Hitler lover has been charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the federal riots statute and one count of violating the federal riots statute. Prosecutors say the men could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. They've reportedly also been involved in acts of violence at political rallies in Huntington Beach, Berkeley, and San Bernardino.

Miselis's attorney, Angel Navarro, quoted Trump's "good people on both sides" nonsense when arguing for bail, which was flatly denied. Navarro claimed Miselis was a "normal person, who's lived a normal life" until recently. The FBI found in Miselis's home smoke bombs, flares, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, mostly for assault weapons, which is not "normal." His taste in interior design was also outside the mainstream: He had a wall hanging that read "88," a common abbreviation for "Heil Hitler."

Cullen, the US attorney, was careful to stress that arresting the four was in no way an infringement on their legal First Amendment rights. Everyone's so afraid that if we don't enable fascism by supporting its "free expression," we'll become the true fascists. We have to make clear that Nazis are welcome to their ideology as long as they don't hurt anyone, which is the whole point of their ideology. I guess it's possible to have a belief system and fail utterly to implement it, but white supremacists aren't the Green Party.

RAM is a relatively small group with 20 members who are active online and through social media. Daley, listed as the group's leader, has capitalized on his free speech rights to actively recruit new members. He pushes anti-Semitic cartoons and conspiracy theories on social media, all likely protected as part of a "robust debate."

Joanna Mendelson, a senior investigative researcher with the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, describes RAM as a "white supremacist organization that operates like an alt-right fight club... They romanticize themselves as these foot soldiers to fend off against the elements that threaten their white existence."

The 1999 movie Fight Club depicts what is essentially an "alt-right" terrorist group. The anti-consumerist message can overshadow the violent appeals to fascism and the less-than-subtle misogyny, both of which are major elements of the alt-right. The anger and frustrated entitlement is also what leads many men to white nationalism. Regardless of whether this is a bug and not a feature of the film and book upon which it's based, it wouldn't surprise me if Fight Club is must-see viewing for Spencer and the members of RAM.

Cullen says he doesn't rule out future arrests, so someone should tell Trump that a lot of his "very fine people" are in big trouble.

[LA Times/ CBS News ]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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