Although Trump and his supporters are often described as fascists or fascist sympathizers, Trumpism has a lot in common with an American movement that pre-dates fascism: the Know-Nothings. Members of this 19th century organization (officially if ironically named the “Native American Party”) would answer “I Know Nothing” to any question about the group’s activities. In the movie “Gangs of New York,” the gang leader Bill the Butcher is a Know-Nothing boss.
The Know-Nothing strain in American politics is defined by hatred and fear of immigrants, shrill expressions of patriotism and idealization of the American Revolution and its historic symbols. All of these elements pre-date fascism as such, but modern Know-Nothings are closely aligned with the fascist Right, as this article will demonstrate.
The American Guard is one of the newest Far Right cadres, formed on February 1, 2017 with active chapters in Indiana and North Carolina and members in Illinois, Missouri and New Hampshire.
The crossed cleavers in the American Guard’s logo are a tribute to Bill the Butcher from “Gangs of New York.” The AG seems to be fascinated with Bill the Butcher, and several members have stills from the movie on their Facebook profiles. The cannon and the slogan “Come and Take It” refer to an incident in the Texas Revolution, when slave-holding white Texans refused to surrender a cannon to the Mexican army.
The crossed cleavers and cannon appear in other images created by AG members, such as this version used by members in New Hampshire:
The group also favors images of Uncle Sam making a fist or brandishing weapons.
According to the AG’s mission statement:
We have come together as like-minded individuals and created this brotherhood for the general purpose of voluntary community protection, activism, and service based around the ideals of American Constitutional Nationalism and the preservation of western culture…
Specific political and social positions:
- We are “America first” Nationalists.
- We support and defend western culture. Most specifically American traditional western culture.
- We encourage Americans of any race, class, or faith to participate with us in these beliefs.
- We support Constitutional Nationalist government.
- We support Constitutional Nationalist Law enforcement.
- We are against globalism in any form that degrades the American economy, American safety, or American sovereignty. This puts us against any and all foreign aid, immigration, trade deals, and other treaties and programs that are not strategically beneficial to the United States. We also stand in favor of any policy that benefits the United States without regard to other nations or entities.
It may appear from this statement that the AG is not explicitly racist, but their White Supremacist links are not exactly subtle. This image, featuring the familiar White Power cross, is from the Facebook profile of Indiana chapter president Jim Walters:
The image not only identifies this AG chapter president as an open white supremacist, it also clearly identifies him as a heathen or Odinist. This image, also from Walter’s FB profile, confirms the link:
Despite the AG’s obsession with imagery from American history, it appears they are also linked with folkish heathenry.
The VB’s slogan of “Faith, Family, Folk” was a slogan of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and also appears on current Traditionalist Worker Party propaganda.
The American Guard also has extensive links with the Islamophobic “Soldiers of Odin” movement. New Hampshire member David Mielke can be seen here (to the right of the flag) at a picnic for the New England Soldiers of Odin Chapter:
Mielke’s social media “friends” list includes members of the SOO from Finland, demonstrating direct links with the original European SOO movement.
The other known member of the American Guard from New Hampshire, who goes by the likely pseudonym Robert Rogers (the name of a historical figure from the French and Indian War), identifies himself as a “3-percenter” and also appears to also identify with the White Power “bonehead” tradition based on his picture:
Brien James, another member of the American Guard’s Indiana chapter, owns a clothing line called “American Vikings.” The fascist and folkish heathen ideology of many AG members is openly expressed on the American Vikings website:
Havamalism is a style or a particular set of ideas and deeply held convictions based on the old Nordic Heathen beliefs. These beliefs are commonly referred to as Odinism or Asatru in modern times…
Valhalla means what you know it means deep down. It means that you will most likely have to break the law someday unless you die in battle for your countries military. It means you will most likely have to say goodbye to your loved ones and leave home knowing you may never return. It means that you will pledge not to leave the world in peace on a comfortable death bed knowing that your children and grandchildren will have it worse than you had it. Valhalla is not figurative. Its not for people who die of disease because they “fought” the disease. It is not for people who die in car wrecks or accidents because they were “warriors” all of their lives. It is for the man who chooses to cut his life short and die violently at the hands of his enemies in an attempt to right the many wrongs of this modern world.
This open embrace of violence and fascism is not at all untypical of American Guard members. Indiana chapter president Jim Walters poses with a rifle in his social media profile picture:
This image was recently replaced by another portraying an armored, gun-toting Pepe the Frog. This is not the only link between the AG and the Alt-Right. After the recent battle in Berkeley between Antifa and Trumpist fighters, AG members did jail support and raised bail money for Kyle Chapman, aka “Based Stickman” or “The Alt-Knight,” the man fighting (incompetently) with a stick and shield in videos of the encounter.
The AG’s fanatic support for Trump is also clear from this photo of their Indiana chapter:
Nostalgic Americana, Know-Nothingism, folkish heathenry and the Alt-Right make for quite a mixed stew of ideas and images: any combination of Bill the Butcher, crossed cleavers and the “Come and Take It” cannon combined with incongruous references to Odin, Vikings, the Havamal and Pepe the Frog could indicate involvement with the American Guard.
Although the AG is a very new organization, its rapid growth and unambiguous embrace of violence should put all antifascists on full alert. This group is likely to be an ongoing threat.
ADDENDUM: Chad Hidler contacted us to say he no longer associates with AG and SOO. This post has been edited to reflect that fact.
This article was researched and written by members of Solidarity, a network of people resisting fascism and white supremacy.