- Active Clubs are a nationwide network of localized white supremacist crews who are largely inspired by Robert Rundo’s white supremacist Rise Above Movement (R.A.M.)
- Active Club members see themselves as fighters training for an ongoing war against a system that they claim is deliberately plotting against the white race.
- Active Clubs distribute white supremacist propaganda, participate in small-scale demonstrations, and often gather privately for training events such as sparring, hiking or book/flag burning.
- Active Club subculture is inspired by European mixed martial arts (MMA) white supremacist groups. Active Clubs have organized similar MMA-style events in the United States.
- Active Clubs often promote fraternity and white “warrior spirit.” They have increasingly collaborated with a variety of white supremacist groups.
- The Active Club network has continued to grow since its formation in January 2021, maintaining an active presence in at least 25 states and with multiple chapters abroad.
Robert Rundo, the leader of the Rise Above Movement (R.A.M.), a white supremacist group originally based in Southern California whose members refer to themselves as the “premier MMA (mixed martial arts) club of the Alt-Right,” first introduced the idea of “Active Clubs” in late December 2020. In early January 2021, Rundo and Denis Kapustin (aka Denis Nikitin), a German neo-Nazi and founder of the white nationalist clothing brand “White Rex,” began co-hosting a podcast titled “Active Club Podcast.” Together, the two men focused on inspiring supporters to create their own local “Active Clubs,” intending to revive the “spirit of the warrior” through mixed martial arts (MMA) training and the "preservation of European heritage."
As a result of the arrests of key R.A.M. members in 2018, Rundo shifted his focus toward developing a decentralized fraternal white brotherhood, what he called “white nationalism 3.0.” In a December 2020 essay, Rundo explained that groups that were part of what he considered “white nationalism 2.0” were large—upwards of 50 members—and were active on mainstream media, making it easy for researchers and law enforcement to find them. What made “white nationalism 3.0” different was that Active Clubs would be formed. They’d be smaller than typical white supremacist organizations and more careful about their online image. Active Clubs would focus on localized recruitment, making it more difficult for researchers and law enforcement to identify them and shut down operations. The formation of Active Clubs also helped ensure that Rundo could not be potentially tied to any one group’s illicit activity.
Rundo describes these “Active Clubs” as “small-styled local clubs [that] combine fitness and nationalist activism, building camaraderie, and developing team-building skills. Simultaneously creating an alternative to the toxic left-wing culture and providing a model for others to follow.” Noticeably missing from this description is emphasis on the innate white supremacist, anti-LGBTQ+, and/or neo-Nazi ideologies that unites these geographically disparate clubs. Rundo continues to serve as an influential figure in Active Club culture. He shares videos online where he provides advice on how to avoid no-fly lists and gives tips on how to make graffiti and avoid encounters with law enforcement. He also profits from the sales of R.A.M. and Active Club-related gear through an online store.
Rhetoric and Ideology:
Active Clubs promote a white supremacist worldview, advocating for raising “white racial consciousness.” They view themselves as patriotic crusaders and advocates of a victimized white population. The network’s overarching goals are to restore "European-American culture" to America by embracing white identity and “traditional Christian” values. Like other white supremacist groups, Active Clubs actively promote “The Great Replacement” theory, a conspiracy about the impending destruction of the white race also referred to as “white genocide,” stating in an April 2022 Active Club blog, “our direct predecessors have handed us a dying race. If we do not stand now and capitulate our rightful place in this world, we will hand to our children a world in which they have no place at all.”
The Active Club network is heavily focused on white “warrior spirit” and physical training. Rundo states in an April 2021 video titled “Starting Your Own Crew” that the concept of R.A.M. and Active Clubs was largely influenced by his time living in Eastern Europe and inspired by European MMA-ultranationalist groups including White REX, Confident Hooligan, and Generation Identity. Rundo asserts in the same video that the Active Club network is meant to “fill the gap” within the American white supremacist scene by focusing on “physical training” and by creating MMA-styled athletic clubs that would force the predominantly online alt-right “keyboard warriors” toward real-world engagement. The group’s focus on physical training is directly rooted in fighting against a perceived enemy, whether physically or culturally. One active club blog states “If you do not train, you cannot fight” and that weakness is a “disgrace to your [white] bloodline.”
A central focus of the Active Club network is “fraternity” and the crafting of a white fraternal brotherhood, united by a common goal and ideology. One Active Club blog states, “Every white man should be Tribing Up [sic] and Training Up [sic] daily. Do not neglect to meet with those who share your worldview, and don’t be slack in recruiting others to our cause.” The Active Club network often encourages individuals to create their own localized clubs and openly advertises for each other online, either on the national Active Club Telegram channel that has over 3,200 subscribers or on individual channels created for local Active Clubs. Individuals in these channels are urged to avoid the in-fighting that was present in “white nationalism 2.0.” In an April 2021 interview, Rundo stated that the lesson to avoid in-fighting was learned from the white supremacist in-fighting during and in the aftermath of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017. He said: “Charlottesville was a disaster because of ego…don’t let ego get in the way of networking, don’t let your ego get in the way of working together.”
A Decentralized Evolving Network:
Rundo appears to be acutely aware of the benefits of Active Clubs operating as small, localized cells, stating in a Media2Rise BitChute interview, “Imagine if you had small athletic club in every city, they could all connect… this could be a full network… saving people from getting the blanket of the government, wrapping you up and trying to smash you out.” As a result, the Active Club network reflects a larger trend driving the current white supremacist movement: the shift from formalized organizations with formal members to an affiliated model, where local regional crews carry out R.A.M.’s core ideological goals while simultaneously pursuing their own local objectives. As of December 2022, Active Clubs have formed in at least 25 states and have grown to include multiple chapters abroad. Some of the states that house Active Clubs include Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Montana, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
As Rundo intended, the Active Club idea and blueprint has inspired a range of groups to emerge across the United States, but their size, longevity, and tactics have differed drastically. Most often, groups have formed as a direct response to R.A.M.-affiliated propaganda outlets or in direct response to the activity of other Active Clubs, often taking place on opposite sides of the country. In some cases, a single Active Club may only last a few months before dissolving or evolving into another extremist group, like the White Lives Matter network, or another neo-Nazi or white supremacist group. In many cases, Active Clubs change their names, propaganda, and tactics to better appeal to their local communities. Yet, in other instances, some Active Clubs have managed to survive since their inception and remain R.A.M.-affiliated organizations.
Active Clubs typically start out with a single individual or a small group (between 1-3 members) in a previously unrepresented region and begin real-world activity shortly thereafter. Nearly all Active Clubs distribute R.A.M. and/or White Lives Matter (WLM)-affiliated propaganda as soon as they are established and most continue to do so throughout their lifespan. R.A.M. content and ideology are simultaneously distributed both physically and online. Once a group establishes a large enough membership, crews begin hosting in-person events which can include MMA tournaments, training sessions, counterprotests, and get-togethers where they create regional-specific propaganda, graffiti and banners.
Information about the "Active Club lifestyle,” coined and promoted by Rundo, continues to be disseminated throughout the Active Club community online and beyond, demonstrating how the Active Club network has allowed Rundo to maintain relevance in the white supremacist sphere as well as monetize its ideology. For example, merchandise produced by R.A.M., including clothes, stickers, banners and flags, often also makes an appearance in photos or videos spread by the Active Club community. Well-known members such as No-Face-Nate and a myriad of equally divisive R.A.M.-affiliated artists produce racially and politically charged music, which is often promoted in Active Club forums or appears in their own propaganda. Members frequently buy CDs from the R.A.M. merchandising arm, Will2Rise.
The tactics employed by Active Clubs to spread their extremist ideologies can differ widely between groups; however, optics remain critically important to these clubs. In a BitChute interview on April 2, 2021, Rundo highlighted this strategy. “Your skin is your uniform,” he said. “You don’t need to be super explicit. You don’t need to be edgy, trust me...Think of your image.” A core facet of promoting their extremist beliefs is the distribution of propaganda online through their social media channels, largely for the purpose of gathering a larger following and thus a larger active membership via recruitment. This online activity can be mostly found in the form of self-written diatribes, the posting and re-posting of articles about perceived enemies, the sharing of materials from other like-minded white supremacist groups, and the online celebration of controversial historic extremist figures such as Corneliu Codreanu, Adolf Hitler, and others.
Within the physical sphere, tactics employed by Active Clubs can vary wildly and often evolve as a group gains a larger following and membership. In most cases, early forms of participation start as sticker-posting in public venues to drum up support online and in public, often beginning with RAM-affiliated propaganda and quickly evolving into regional-specific Active Club materials containing contact information. From there, each group develops a semi-unique brand of physical tactics, including the dissemination of controversial books in public libraries, the burning of “enemy” books, flags, or materials, white supremacist graffiti or counter-graffiti, fight nights or hiking, banner drops, protesting and counterprotesting, and the targeting of local businesses. The promotion of this activity online can influence the activity of other clubs, inspiring them to mimic the activity across the Active Club network.
Overlap with other white supremacist groups:
Prominent leaders and members in R.A.M. and the Active Club network collaborate with a range of extremist individuals and groups in the United States and abroad. A large focus in the network is to recruit and unite individuals from across the white supremacist movement, regardless of ideological difference.
White Lives Matter
Active Clubs have repeatedly collaborated with the White Lives Matter (WLM) network, a white supremacist group that engages in “pro-white activism” on a designated day each month. The core ideological beliefs of the WLM Movement are highly compatible with the ideologies espoused by the Active Club community and nearly all Active Clubs maintain a basic relationship with the WLM Movement by posting WLM propaganda online. Many Active Clubs have demonstrated closer ties to the WLM movement by physically creating and distributing WLM propaganda in various neighborhoods.
However, a handful of groups have a much more direct relationship with the WLM organization and its regional chapters. Several Active Clubs showcase their direct and continued cooperation and activity with WLM regional chapters, often taking the form of group-distribution of propaganda, training sessions, and other forms of political activity carried out in close collaboration.
In the more extreme cases, particular Active Clubs are so closely attached to their regional WLM counterparts that it is difficult to distinguish the membership and spheres of influence between the two groups. There has been an identifiable increase in collaboration between these distinct networks and their various subgroups since the creation of Active Clubs in January 2021.
R.A.M. and Active Clubs have a long history of collaborating with and celebrating the group Patriot Front, one of the most active white supremacist groups in the United States. As early as April 2021, Rundo pronounced his admiration for the group, stating in a video titled “Starting Your Own Crew,” “[They are] doing amazing things, really big supporter.” Often R.A.M. and Active Club affiliated channels share and promote Patriot Front events and propaganda and reference the group as one to emulate. Since July 2021, well-known figures in the Active Club community have met with and collaborated with Patriot Front. For example, Lucca Corgiat, a prominent member of R.A.M. and Media2Rise, the media production arm of R.A.M., has released at least seven episodes featuring Patriot Front or its leader Thomas Rousseau.
Active Clubs have also attended joint events hosted by Patriot Front, such as the August 2022 fight night in San Diego, California that was organized by Patriot Front and SoCal Active Club (this event is explored further in the activities section). Often Active Club and Patriot Front propaganda are found near each other and Patriot Front members are shown at events wearing Active Club merchandise, demonstrating this close collaboration both at the membership level as well as within leadership. For example, on November 13, 2022, members of both Patriot Front and a Tennessee-based Active Club held a joint protest at a drag brunch in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Outside of propaganda distribution, the most frequent real-life activities of Active Clubs include fight nights, physical sparring events, and MMA-style events. These events not only allow individuals to fraternize and recruit, but also serve as a way for members to physically prepare for potential conflict with their perceived enemies.
Historically, Active Club’s sparring and MMA-styled fight nights were localized, only attracting small numbers of between 4-12 individuals; however, there is evidence suggesting the network is evolving to host large-scale fight tournaments, attracting a range of white supremacist groups. For example, on December 3, 2022, a California-based Active Club and Washington-based Active club co-hosted an MMA fight titled “Martyrs Day Rumble” in Pasco, Washington that was attended by approximately a dozen white supremacists, allegedly traveling from as far away as Tennessee and New York.
On August 20, 2022, a variety of Active Clubs traveled from across the United States to participate in a fight night in San Diego, California. The event was allegedly a joint event organized between a Southern California-based Active Club and Patriot Front. Approximately 50 individuals attended the fight, including members of Patriot Front, R.A.M., various Active Clubs, and allegedly the Hammerskins. People traveled from as far away as Florida, Washington, D.C., Texas, and Alabama. One white supremacist media source wrote, “Every fighter and attendee understood that they were participating in a historical first and that, like Charlottesville and the Battle of Berkeley, a man could be proud of being there for years to come.” Prominent leaders in the movement have since stated that this event will serve as the foundation for similar tournaments moving forward.