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White nationalist Patriot Front members sue for being exposed for who they are | Opinion

Five people affiliated with white nationalist hate group Patriot Front are suing a Seattle-area man who they say infiltrated the group and disclosed their identities online, leading them to lose their jobs and face harassment, according to The Seattle Times.

What they’re really upset about is suffering the consequences of their abhorrent views — views that they feel so strongly about, they don’t want anyone to know.

The suit accuses David Alan Capito, 37, also known as Vyacheslav Arkhangelskiy, of using a false name in late July 2021 to convince Patriot Front to accept him as a member.

Once inside the group, Capito took pictures at its get-togethers in the Pacific Northwest, surreptitiously recorded members’ license plates and used hidden microphones to record conversations, according to the lawsuit.

The suit also accuses Capito of using another group to hack into online chat rooms, further exposing members’ appalling views.

We don’t condone doxxing, or searching for and publishing private or identifying information about an individual on the internet, typically with malicious intent. We are not weighing in on whether this lawsuit has merit and we certainly don’t condone breaking the law, which might be what’s found to have happened here, as the members claim.

What’s most interesting about this suit is that the Patriot Front members are complaining that their hideous, “unpopular” beliefs have consequences.

The five plaintiffs say they were fired from their jobs, have been threatened at their homes and have had their tires slashed, among other things, according to the lawsuit. While those latter two things certainly go way across the line, the first is a result of actions having consequences.

“This complaint seeks to vindicate the rule of law and basic principles of free expression for persons who espouse unpopular opinions,” according to the lawsuit.

It’s a warped view of freedom of expression when Patriot Front members attempt to completely conceal their ownership of said expression.

Their views are so detestable, they wear masks in public and use pseudonyms online to disguise their identities.

Idahoans are perhaps most familiar with the Patriot Front from a 2022 incident in which members piled into the back of U-Haul truck to try to disrupt an LGBTQ+ Pride celebration in Coeur d’Alene. More than two dozen men were arrested and charged with planning to riot.

Two of the three plaintiffs in this case — Colton Brown, 33, who led the Washington state’s Patriot Front chapter, and James Julius Johnson, 37, from Skagit County in Washington — were among the 31 people arrested, according to The Seattle Times. Johnson and four other men were convicted of misdemeanor conspiracy to riot and sentenced last month to a week in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The Patriot Front suit does not attempt to hide its racist ideology and its mission to “reforge … our people, born to this nation of our European race … as a new collective capable of asserting our right to cultural independence.” It describes the group’s actions as “provocative” but “nonviolent.”

In the Pacific Northwest, the group has defaced civil rights and Pride murals, and monuments and signs that promote equality, a tactic it employs nationally, according to the Counter Extremism Project, The Seattle Times reported.

Stephen Piggott, of the Western States Center, which tracks right-wing extremist groups, told the newspaper that the group has morphed its tactics in recent years, moving from defacing murals and placing stickers in the middle of the night to more confrontational public flash demonstrations. “You have this uptick in activity, and the activity is getting more and more violent,” he said.

Since 2019, Patriot Front has been responsible for the vast majority of white supremacist propaganda distributed in the United States, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

And the members own their abhorrent opinions by trying to keep their identities a secret. They seem to be most upset that Capito was trying to hold them up to public scrutiny like the rest of us.

Hiding behind anonymity has become an all-too-common feature of white nationalist and extremist trolls who lurk in the shadows of social media, hiding behind bogus accounts and fake avatars, spewing hate, sowing division, and threatening and intimidating others.

It’s that anonymity that allows their putrescent views to grow and spread like a flesh-eating bacteria — except in this case, it’s more like a brain-eating disease.

The fact the Patriot Front members’ main complaint is that they’ve suffered for being associated with these views is telling. The fact that employers — even their own relatives, in the case of Brown — want nothing to do with them tells you all you need to know.

If Patriot Front members believe that they are right and just, why not attach their names to their beliefs and putrid goals?

Otherwise, they’re just behaving in a cowardly fashion, hiding behind ridiculous masks, fake social media accounts and in the darkness of the back of a U-Haul van.

Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board. Board members are opinion editor Scott McIntosh, opinion writer Bryan Clark, editor Chadd Cripe, newsroom editors Dana Oland and Jim Keyser and community members Mary Rohlfing and Patricia Nilsson.

This story was originally published August 10, 2023, 5:00 AM.

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