Dangerous Organizations and Bad Actors: The Active Club Network
| by CTEC
Active Clubs make up a decentralized network of individually-formed organizations that are centered around the premise of a white supremacist fraternal brotherhood. First introduced in December of 2020 by Robert Rundo, the leader of the white supremacist Rise Above Movement (R.A.M), Active Clubs are intended to preserve and defend the white population and traditional European culture from a perceived global genocide by non-white ethnic and racial groups.
Rundo was inspired to create the Active Club network—something he referred to as “white nationalism 3.0”—in response to the numerous arrests of R.A.M. members made in 2018. He wanted to create an organization that would be less perceptible to law enforcement, and thus less susceptible to disruption or destruction. From this, Active Clubs were born—small, decentralized organizations that would focus recruitment efforts on localized areas and thus garner less attention than traditional white nationalist organizations. This structure would also ensure that Active Clubs were not reliant on a particular physical entity or leadership figure for survival.
Active Clubs provide like-minded white men with physical spaces where they can train in mixed martial arts in preparation for war against their perceived enemies. Ideologically, Active Clubs adhere to neofascist and accelerationist principles, with the promotion of violence comprising a key theme in Active Club communication and propaganda. Located across the United States and in several countries transnationally, the Active Club network ensures that groups of men devoted to training for battle are available for mobilization in multiple locations across Western countries.
Active Clubs mirror R.A.M.’s neofascist and accelerationist adherences. Members strongly promote white supremacist and pan-Aryan principles, including the central belief that the modern world, which they perceive to be degenerating as a result of Jewish and immigrant influences, poses an existential threat to the white race and its associated “European nation.” This belief is representative of the core conspiracy theories that members adhere to, including the Great Replacement theory and the white genocide conspiracy theory. Each of these conspiracy theories proclaim that a global attack on the white race is being perpetrated by the Jewish population and non-white immigrants. Active Club adherents believe that this attack manifests not only in physical violence against white people but in mainstream media smear campaigns, which are perceived to villainize the white race and traditional European values using falsified narratives. Accordingly, Active Club adherents believe that the survival of the white race and traditional European culture is dependent on their ability to publicly resist and overpower their enemies, both online through countercultural media appearances and physically in the form of violence. Thus, Active Clubs strongly emphasize the necessity for both the correction of perceived anti-white narratives as well as extensive physical fitness training in preparation for battle against perceived upholders of an anti-white system.
Among Active Club adherents, frequent references are made to the importance of reviving the “warrior spirit” and elevating the “white racial consciousness” of white men. Such rhetoric references the mental, rather than just the physical, conditioning required of men who are preparing for battle against perceived enemies of the white race. In accelerationist circles, however, these references take on an additional spiritual and metaphysical undertone. Popularized by fascist and Traditionalist authors like Julius Evola and Savitri Devi, the concept of the “warrior spirit” refers to a transcendental state of human consciousness that is reached when an individual—typically male—experiences a spiritual revelation that he is fighting a war on two fronts: physically, against a threat to his people’s race, honor, and glory; and metaphysically, against the enemy within himself which prevents him from spiritually ascending. When an individual obtains this “warrior spirit,” he transcends from a human force to an all-powerful and divine force. It is this metaphysical power that Active Club adherents aspire to unlock within themselves through a combination of exhaustive mental and physical training; the power is believed to be the solution to their societal ails.
Like R.A.M., Active Club members adhere to Evola’s belief that humanity currently exists within the Kali Yuga, or end times. As described by H.E. Upchurch,
“The Traditionalist concept of the Kali Yuga is derived from an idiosyncratic interpretation of the Hindu doctrine of the cycle of the four ages. In the first age, the Satya Yuga, humanity lives in harmony with the divine, but over the course of the rest of the cycle, human civilization is corrupted until in the last age, the Kali Yuga, humanity is completely corrupt and no longer has any contact with the gods. The Kali Yuga comes to an end in a cataclysm that wipes the slate clean and restores the harmonious relationship between humanity and the divine. In most Hindu philosophies, each age in the cycle is believed to be hundreds of thousands of years long. Traditionalists posit that they are much shorter, at most a few thousand years each.”
Consequently, this metaphysical framework is where the accelerationism component of Active Club activities derive. In Active Club circles, the concept of the “warrior spirit,” the Kali Yuga, and Evola’s literary works are not often discussed in the full context of preparing oneself for spiritual warfare through mental preparation. Instead, emphasis is typically placed on the physical preparation for upcoming battle, particularly in Active Club propaganda. For instance, while images circulated in Active Club-associated platforms often reference the “warrior spirit,” the associated image will be of a man undergoing (or having undergone) physical preparation for battle rather than mental preparation. Nonetheless, the undertone of spiritual preparation for warfare is visible in the associated rhetoric.
Although Active Clubs are decentralized in structure, they are largely influenced by Robert Rundo and the broader brand campaign he has developed. Rundo plays a key role in the network’s propaganda and messaging, with frequent appearances made in videos to provide centralized messages for individual Active Clubs to adhere to. Such messaging includes the promotion of diligence in physical fitness, activism, and disseminating propaganda. In this sense, Rundo can be seen as the figurehead of the transnational Active Club network.
The most sought-after recruits for Active Clubs are young white men, especially those expressing a strong connection to a European heritage and a desire for self-improvement and fraternity. Active Club propaganda also emphasizes the desirability of members who have an extra skill to offer their comrades, whether it be in physical training, media production, photography, journalism, or graphic arts. Together, Active Club members train in mixed martial arts, engage in physical combat with one another, create digital propaganda products, and disseminate physical propaganda around their geographical locations.
Active Clubs, especially larger ones, typically enforce a vetting process for potential recruits. This is often done via Telegram, with an Active Club either designating a single member to assess the desirability and capabilities of each recruit, or designating a specific Telegram channel to message in order to initiate the recruitment process.
In the United States, Active Clubs are physically present in at least 25 states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. Outside of the United States, Active Clubs are present in Australia, Canada, France, and a number of other countries. The average number of Active Club members varies largely from one location to another, though the minimum number of members is typically about three people. Some Active Clubs have online followings of hundreds of individuals.
The Active Club network is closely affiliated with Patriot Front, a United States-based white nationalist and accelerationist organization. The Active Club network has expanded its partnership with Patriot Front in recent years, with the two entities frequently collaborating on propaganda, public appearances, and formal events. Active Club-affiliated websites and media platforms have uploaded several propaganda-style videos to various platforms, each of which heavily feature Patriot Front members or leadership. In turn, Patriot Front’s online activity and rhetoric, particularly on Telegram, similarly indicates the organization’s support of the Active Club network. The two organizations’ propaganda is also found in close proximity to each other, indicating potential joint propaganda-spreading activity. Additionally, Patriot Front and Active Clubs meet and collaborate for joint public appearances and formal events, with Patriot Front members visible in Active Club-affiliated merchandise. Such events range from joint protests to boxing tournaments featuring fighters from both regional Active Clubs and Patriot Front.
Active Clubs are also affiliated with the White Lives Matter (WLM) network, which frequently partakes in white supremacist-associated activism. Ideologically, Active Clubs and WLM are quite similar, with both networks adhering to comparable levels of white supremacist principles. The link between the two networks is most visible in their emphasis on activism, with several Active Clubs designing and physically disseminating WLM propaganda alongside their own in public locations. Active Clubs also collaborate with WLM for joint propaganda dissemination as well as physical fitness and training sessions. In various geographic locations, the membership between regional Active Clubs and regional WLM chapters can become obscured due to the level of enmeshment between the two. Online, this trend continues, with Active Club members frequently disseminating and identifying with WLM propaganda.
In some instances, where geographic presences align, Active Club members gather in physical locations with both Patriot Front members and WLM members to network, collaborate in-person on various propaganda production and dissemination, and physically train. This is indicative of the extent to which Active Clubs has become a ubiquitous brand within the far-right in the United States. While not pictured, similar dynamics can be observed in various European countries.
Active Club propaganda frequently mirrors its own ideological emphasis on the preservation of the white male and traditional European culture, physical and spiritual preparedness for upcoming war, and speaking truth to power. Associated propaganda typically emphasizes three core necessities: to expose (and oppose) a corrupt mainstream media through an influx of “truthful” Active Club coverage of violent events, to maintain a strict physical fitness regimen, and to awaken the “warrior spirit” within. Notably, this messaging is in line with Active Clubs’ evolving communication tactics; one Active Club-affiliated website explains:
“The outdated tactic of grabbing as many headlines as possible has proven to be a hindrance on today’s propaganda battlefield, accomplishing nothing but providing ammunition for those who want to define our movement as something antagonistic to decent White people.”
Thus, Active Club messaging typically makes appeals for the truth and encourages physical fitness without associating the content with explicit dog-whistles of extremist adherence. Such messaging is frequently conveyed in the form of video content ranging from a few seconds long to more than 30 minutes in total, and ranging from heavily edited and filtered content to raw footage of public events. In creating this video propaganda, Active Club adherents occasionally collaborate with other organizations, including the National Justice Party, and news publications, including National Justice. This is likely done in an effort to legitimize themselves as part of a larger white nationalist network and bolster their perception as a beacon of truth in a deceitful world. In addition to this video propaganda, Active Clubs also disseminate propaganda in the form of still images, each paralleling the core messages espoused in their video content:
Propaganda associated with the Active Club network is spread across a number of platforms, though its largest presence can be found on the Media2Rise website—an Active Club-operated media outlet created to “counter the leftist-controlled media and the narrative that is used to degrade the efforts of nationalist movements and personalities.” The site is run in large part by Robert Rundo, though others with videographer and producer roles are credited as important upholders of the site’s continued operation. Media2Rise predominantly houses Active Club propaganda videos, although it was also the primary host of an Active Club podcast started by Robert Rundo and Denis Nikitin in January of 2021. Presently, however, the podcast is no longer viewable on the platform and can only be accessed on lesser-known Active Club platforms and on archival sites. Media2Rise is connected to a related Active Club website known as Will2Rise—a retail shopping site where Active Club adherents can buy associated training gear and other Active Club-affiliated merchandise. Such items are often visible in Active Club propaganda. Other Active Club websites take a different approach, using written articles in lieu of videos, digital art, or retail options to spread propaganda, though the core narratives remain ideologically identical.
In addition to utilizing websites to spread propaganda, Active Club adherents also disseminate propaganda on video-sharing media platforms, including Bitchute and Odysee, as well as on messaging platforms like Telegram and Gab. Large Active Club accounts have been banned from mainstream social media platforms, including Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, though less popular accounts still gain small amounts of traction on these platforms. Such propaganda can take the form of videos, images, links to articles, and white nationalist music. Additionally, the tactic of co-opting other groups under its brand campaign allows third party entities like Patriot Front and lesser known networks to serve as proxy for Active Club propaganda dissemination.
Across all online platforms used for propaganda dissemination, the overall narratives, along with the content itself, appear to be quite consistent. Oftentimes, videos uploaded to the Media2Rise website are also posted to all other Active Club-associated video-sharing and social media platform accounts. In other instances, the rhetoric used to communicate particular ideas is nearly identical across platforms. However, the Media2Rise Telegram account appears to emphasize Active Clubs’ adherence to accelerationist principles more explicitly than on other platforms, with an increase in references to the necessary revival of the “warrior spirit” in Aryan men. This increase in overt accelerationist messaging on Telegram may be due in part to the fact that the Active Club network largely existed on Telegram prior to expanding its presence to other social media platforms and websites and establishing physical presences, though the added anonymity of Telegram as a platform likely also plays a role.
Importantly, Active Clubs also place significant emphasis on the dissemination of propaganda in person. Such activism is understood to be the most effective way of spreading Active Club ideals to the largest possible population, while also functioning as a method of proving oneself as a dutiful Active Club member. Active Club-associated flyers, posters, stickers, and other memorabilia are often placed in public places, often to cover up more liberal signs or stickers and often in locations that receive significant traffic, such as a large banner over a well-traveled freeway. This propaganda is often inflammatory, likely in an effort to attract attention and incite conversation and argument.
Arrests corresponding with the Active Club network are consigned to associated groups, such as Patriot Front, and past iterations of R.A.M.
At the core of understanding the dominance of the Active Club network across the contemporary far-right and militant accelerationist milieus is the reality that Rundo has created a compelling brand campaign which offers an alternative to the white nationalist brands of before. His “white nationalism 3.0” model, and in particular its decentralized structure and its emphasis on in-group physical training as opposed to preemptive violence against an out-group, grants members additional protection from law enforcement and allows for increased plausible deniability in the face of questioning. By adopting a branding forward effort, Active Clubs have avoided a large portion of the ego-driven fragility that has plagued the far-right’s history of mass organization and mobilization. Tactically, a brand forward approach lowers the barriers to entry and makes the structure of Active Clubs more malleable and flexible in a prosocial manner that effectively meets recruits where they are and offering to empower them, rather than forcing them adapt to a clandestine association in order to be a member.
Additionally, Active Clubs’ strong affiliation with extremist entities like Patriot Front and the WLM network illustrate its strong adaptability to the goals, narratives, and branding of outside organizations, further ensuring their survival across time. Moreover, the network’s prioritization of propaganda creation and dissemination allows for increased consumption of Active Clubs content both online and offline, potentially resulting in heightened support of and membership within the network. The inherent adaptability of Rundo’s brand campaign not only strengthens the resilience of the Active Club network, but also serves as a tactical model for other accelerationist organizations who have been targeted by law enforcement to emulate in the future.