Commentary

What Does Al-Qaeda Tell Us About The Base?

Homegrown terrorism has been a security concern in the United States for many years, focusing primarily on affiliates of al-Qaeda and ISIS. Threats from these groups continue, and the prospects of an attack are worrisome.

However, equally troubling is the rapid growth and vocal intensity of white, racially motivated violent extremist groups that prioritize and engage in domestic terrorism.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the number of white nationalist groups in the US has increased 55 percent for the last three years and that white nationalism poses a serious threat to national security and pluralistic democracy.

The Anti-Defamation League reported that the “white supremacists have committed 78 percent of right-wing extremist-related murders” over the last 10 years and that the right-wing extremists were responsible for 90 percent of domestic extremist-related murders. White supremacists, in particular, were responsible for 81 percent of extremist killings in 2019 alone.

Terrorist Organizations’ Ideologies

Among these groups is The Base, a fairly new organization that warrants scrutiny. Perhaps by coincidence or by clever calculation, the group’s name is the English translation of the Arabic word al-Qaeda, which also is the name of a Salafi jihadist terrorist organization.

Terrorist organizations, regardless of their ideology or goals, share the same apartment. Their ideologies represent different floors in the same building. While they seem to follow different pathways, their methods, tactics, and strategies for communicating with their target audiences are almost identical to those of their so-called adversaries.

In the United States, The Base exists to target Jews, Muslims, and anyone the group views as the “other,” including Westerners who indulge immigrants, Muslims, and Jews. Similarly, al-Qaeda’s archenemies are Jews, Westerners, infidels or nonbelievers, and Muslims who embrace Western values.If one compares the narratives, the main themes and justification for violence espoused in Norwegian white supremacist Anders Behring Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto 2083: A European Declaration of Independence published in 2011 and Osama bin Laden’s 1996 Declaration of War, one might think that the same person could have written both pieces.

Bin Laden’s narrative about the Muslim world being invaded by “the Jewish-Christian alliance and their collaborators” echoes Breivik’s call for the execution of traitors, a war against non-whites and the deportation of all Muslims from Europe.

At first glance, al-Qaeda’s Salafi jihadist ideology and Breivik’s white-supremacist ideology may seem opposite to each other, but they are actually twins. Both harbor a violent extremist ideology.

Parallels Between The Base and Al-Qaeda

Similar parallels can be drawn between the English “The Base” and the Arabic “The Base – al-Qaeda.”

The Base, a white supremacist neo-Nazi group, was formed in 2018 by an American, Rinaldo Nazzaro, who uses the pseudonyms Norman Spear and Roman Wolf. He allegedly lives in Russia, where he covertly leads The Base as it plots and carries out criminal acts. Just like its namesake al-Qaeda, The Base is in a quest for a race war that pits a supreme white race against the “others.”

A second parallel is the process of radicalization. Both groups rely on indoctrination, the dehumanization of the “other,” and the legitimation of violence. A sense of being under constant attack and overwhelmed by the “other-enemy” motivates these groups to engage in extremely violent attacks on perceived enemies.

A third similarity is an autonomous or loosely connected hierarchical structure marked by leaderless resistance, self-motivated attacks, self-radicalization, a self-trained lone-wolf style of attacks, and the effective use of social media and encrypted messaging.

The final resemblance is the pursuit of an apocalyptic ideology. Both Salafi jihadists and white supremacists believe in a savior of their own version and that they are “destined” to prepare “the groundwork” for their savior. Both al-Qaeda and The Base also call for a change in the existing order and are motivated to engage in indiscriminate killing to achieve their desired change.

Members of The Base, therefore, embrace survivalism and accelerationism. While survivalism refers to being prepared for apocalyptic destruction of society and catastrophe, accelerationism requires a desire for violence of any kind that can accelerate society’s collapse and create chaos. Accordingly, members of The Base stockpile resources, including weapons and ammunition, and engage in acts of violence and terror believed to be essential for achieving the group’s goals.

Terrorist Activities and Attacks

Looking at the number of terrorist activities and attacks, The Base is a relatively insignificant group in terms of its capacity to engage in major terrorist attacks. However, its loosely connected and autonomous structure enables the group to engage in activities ranging from vandalism to self-initiated lone-wolf attacks and possibly the orchestration of massive ISIS-like attacks, such as those in Paris in 2015.

These groups are small, which makes them difficult to detect. Members of such groups can be in multiple locations while they plan attacks as lone actors. In late September 2019, for example, a member of The Base in New Jersey recruited two individuals and persuaded them to vandalize two synagogues in two different states on two consecutive days.

Judging the threat from The Base and other racially motivated violent extremist groups as a lesser evil than al-Qaeda or ISIS would be a catastrophic mistake. Adherence to the concept of leaderless resistance helps these groups to avoid detection and early intervention by the intelligence agents and law enforcement officers.

Given the surge in The Base’s recruitment activities and participation in terrorist attacks in the United States, white racially motivated violent extremist groups should be taken very seriously. These groups may be even more of a threat than some Salafi jihadist groups as most of these groups are based and operate in the US.

It is essential to be alert and ready, both tactically and strategically, to thwart the growing number and malicious efforts of white racially motivated violent extremist groups as earnestly as we do when it comes to Salafi jihadi groups.


Zakir Gul, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in Criminal Justice at State University of New York in Plattsburgh. His research and teaching focus on terrorism, cyberterrorism, homeland security, intelligence, and policing.

Suleyman Ozeren, Ph.D., is adjunct faculty and a research scholar at George Mason University. His research and teaching focus include terrorism and counterterrorism, countering violent extremism (CVE), conflict resolution, and the Kurdish issue.

Ismail Dincer Gunes, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Homeland Security & Criminal Justice at Sul Ross State University. His research and teaching focus on security studies including terrorism, homeland security, and policing.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The Defense Post.

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