Neo-Nazi gyms body-shame new recruits into extremism: report

Neo-Nazis have found a new way to recruit men to their cause – body-shaming them into joining extremist workout clubs, reported VICE News.

The article profiled one such group, called "Rundo's Spot" — named after a neo-Nazi who fled the United States in 2017 to avoid being prosecuted on riot charges. One user, who goes by the name of "Fascist Jumping Spider," posts images of himself on its Telegram channel tearing into raw steak with his teeth, gives "updates about his extreme weight-loss efforts, sends pictures of his lunches and goes on rants about his struggle with body image — sometimes to the annoyance of the rest of the group."

"'Rundo’s Spot' is part of a growing network of neo-Nazi men’s groups operating under the guise of fitness or martial arts that have become one of the most important recruitment tools for white nationalists in the United States, the report states.

"Euphemistically referred to by their members as 'active clubs,' the network now has at least 30 groups in 17 states and 60 Telegram channels. To appeal to disaffected, young, white men, these groups tone down their overt racism and sexism, at least initially, in favor of messages of self-improvement and brotherhood. Rundo, who dreamed up the idea, refers to the clubs as part of 'white nationalism 3.0' — a class of cleaner-cut neo-Nazis with a more palatable image, as opposed to the skinheads of the ‘80s and other, more recent terrorist groups."

According to the report, these groups — which collectively may have some 500 members — routinely get together either at a member's house or a public park, where they will lift weights and train in martial arts, led by the most experienced member since neo-Nazis can't easily hire a professional coach. "The groups also hold large tournaments where neo-Nazis travel cross-country to fight, network, and participate in creating propaganda."

The report notes that these groups' members have been spotted at far-right events to protest and intimidate LGBTQ events, like drag shows. Such clashes have happened around the country and sometimes led to standoffs with armed counterprotesters.

"The leaders of these active clubs also maintain connections with several pre-existing far-right groups, some of whom have perpetrated hate crimes," said the report. "'Violence is the underlying feature of all of this,' said Joshua Fisher-Birch, an analyst for the Counter Extremism Project, a non-profit that combats extremist groups. 'If you're training people in combat sports in this capacity, it seems like a matter of time before someone is going to use that against someone else.'"