As the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR)—which first reported the Telegram post on Twitter—noted, the post features Patriot Front’s logo, complete with the fasces the group consistently uses to symbolize its explicitly fascist ideology. A link below the logo takes readers to a website called the “Hyphen-Report,” which on its “About” page describes itself as “an assault on jewish (sic) sensibilities.” The logo also appears in a post from a couple of hours earlier, with text reading: “A patriot group worth supporting.”
The official channel for the podcast, which has 84,000 followers, is almost entirely dedicated to posting videos from the program. The “unofficial” page for the podcast—which lists “@steve_bannon” as the owner—describes itself as “The Original War Room Pandemic telegram channel. Run by genuine deplorables.” It is primarily dedicated to amplifying Bannon’s podcasts, with political memes and messages apparently intended to complement the show’s content.
It also has a history of promoting Patriot Front. As IREHR points out, the channel promoted Patriot Front’s fascist-propaganda activities (which include draping banners and posting fliers with white-nationalist slogans) in October, as well as last February (with a post hailing the group: “Good job by Patriot Front, we need more groups like them.”)
That’s not the only explicitly white-nationalist content on the channel. As IREHR notes, the same “unofficial” channel promoted content from the neo-Nazi National Justice Party last January. It also promoted content from the NJP’s Joseph “Eric Stryker” Jordan, including on the same day it posted the Patriot Front material.
Bannon’s relationship to the “unofficial” site is unclear; he has never even acknowledged its existence, despite its substantial following, let alone disavowed it or distanced himself from it. What is clear, however, is that the channel reflects the worldview of his devoted and rabid following; its content is nothing but posts promoting Bannon, his talking points on the War Room podcast and his appearances on other programs, and other far-right figures like Mike “My Pillow” Lindell.
IREHR came under furious attack for its tweets exposing the channel from none other than notorious white nationalist Jack Posobiec, who (inaccurately) claimed on Twitter that “@IREHR is defaming War Room and Steve Bannon by claiming posts from a fake account are his,” adding: “This is willful malice and a complete hoax.” [In fact, IREHR made clear that the posts in question were from the “unofficial” account, tartly observing: “If Bannon is concerned about this channel, he could address this with Telegram or publicly denounce the other channel that promoting his show and using his name, likeness and logo.”]
Besides claiming Bannon’s name as the channel’s owner, there’s no particular indication the “unofficial” account is “fake”—that is, operated by trolls intent on undermining Bannon or siphoning off his agenda. (What also sets the channel apart is the size of its 65K-strong following: There are other Bannon-related Telegram channels—including a “Steve Bannon Official” page with 23,000 followers—but most of them are plainly fakes with followers in the 1K-5K range.) Rather, its claim to be the “original” channel suggests it was created before the official site, and the entirety of its content is pure Bannon fandom, revolving around amplifying Bannon’s podcast and his political agenda. It’s also much livelier than the stolid, video-only official War Room channel. The turn to adding white-nationalist propaganda to that content is not a bug but a feature.
Some of Posobiec’s Twitter followers even questioned whether Patriot Front is actually fascist or white nationalist—indicating how well its propaganda operations have succeeded. In fact, Patriot Front has been explicit in its embrace of fascism, including its stickers proclaiming “Fascism: The Next Step for America,” its regular use of the hashtag “#AmericanFascism” in its early (now deleted) Twitter posts, and its ongoing use of “bloodandsoil.org” for its website.
The most obvious visual symbol of its embrace of fascism is the centrality of the fasces—the ancient Roman symbol appropriated by Mussolini’s fascist movement—to its visual propaganda. It not only is the centerpiece of the organization’s logo, but it also appears in place of the stars in their version of the American flag with which they have now marched through Washington’s Capitol Mall on three occasions.
Most of all, as the Anti-Defamation League explains, its fascist politics are manifested in its agenda and tactics:
It’s also borne out in its real-world activism, which includes attacking an encampment of leftist protesters in Texas, as well as vandalizing a monument to George Floyd in New York City. Its carefully organized marches, intended to impress the public with their audaciousness and discipline, have not always ended well, such as their July appearance in Philadelphia that culminated in a violent confrontation as the marchers attempted to flee in rented trucks.
The language used by the “unofficial” War Room channel—calling them “a patriot group worth supporting”—also underscores how successful Patriot Front’s branding efforts have been. As we’ve explained recently, the word “patriot” in the right-wing context has come to signify the Trumpian affiliation with the ideology of the far-right “Patriot Movement”—and its generic quality invites its adoption by a wide range of antidemocratic, pro-Trump factions, particularly white nationalists and neo-Nazis.
As I explained back in 2017, Patriot Front’s founders chose that name for their organization largely because “Patriot” conveys a congeniality to far-right conspiracism, providing a recruitment bridge to “fence-sitters” in militia groups and street-brawling “Proud Boys” who already identify with the term.
“The new name was carefully chosen, as it serves several purposes,” explained founder Thomas Rosseau. “It can help inspire sympathy among those more inclined to fence-sitting, and can easily be used to justify our worldview.”
This dynamic is how Trumpism has continued to march towards authoritarian rule, with Machiavellian schemers like Bannon gradually advancing their agenda a step at a time. And his army of followers is marching with him, even if they get out in front of the “official” talking points.
In a recent interview with NBC News, Bannon described a meeting with Republican leaders urging them to be prepared to “reconfigure the government” once the GOP resumed the reins of power.
“If you’re going to take over the administrative state and deconstruct it, then you have to have shock troops prepared to take it over immediately,” Bannon told NBC. “I gave ’em fire and brimstone.”
Those troops have clearly been listening and preparing.