At some point in recent days, a sign was posted on a pole in Riverhead’s Polish Town that reads: “Better dead than red.” Under the banner is the web address for the group behind the sign: PATRIOTFRONT.US.
Patriot Front, said to have been formed by a teenager named Thomas Rousseau, is an offshoot of a group called Vanguard America, whose members were active in the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
That’s the rally where Nazi lovers paraded around with tiki torches, their right arms extended, shouting such things as “Jews will not replace us” as they tried their best to mimic the huge Nazi rallies in Nuremberg, Germany, in the 1930s that they presumably watched and admired on YouTube.
There is nothing murky or unclear about Patriot Front and what its members believe in and want for this country. They are upfront in their beliefs. They are not hiding in this time of ugly political rhetoric, particularly about immigration, where our southern border is said by President Trump to be under threat of invasion by caravans of men, women and children from countries such as Honduras.
Patriot Front has somehow found a toehold, however small it might be, and some member or follower of the group felt emboldened enough to tack that sign up at the intersection of Pulaski Street and Hamilton Avenue. And there it sat unmolested until a Riverhead police officer pulled it down Monday afternoon.
Patriot Front is a white supremacist group that espouses Nazi ideology. On its website is a manifesto stating the beliefs that American democracy is a failure and that immigration of nonwhites is an existential threat to the country. The group advocates the creation of a white-only “ethnostate.”
The group speaks of a “Zionist Occupied Government,” meaning a government where Jews play a prominent role. It’s among the group’s ugliest conspiracy theories. Its members shout phrases such as “blood and soil,” a slogan used by the Nazis after they came to power in Germany in 1933.
For some Americans in these contentious times, history is something to be forgotten, manipulated or simply ignored. After the Nazis took power in Germany, they organized the mass extermination of Jews and members of other groups they hated. They killed tens of thousands of people they considered mentally deficient, who thus didn’t fit their view of a superior race.
By 1945, the Germans had exterminated more than 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million children. Supporters of Patriot Front and other groups like it either don’t know any of this or are hoping and wishing to pull off something similar in America.
For some Americans today, this past, this history, means nothing at all.