British Army guide for spotting far-right extremism fits behavior of some US conservatives

Trump alone ticks off many of the boxes.

UK military guide for spotting far-right extremism fits behavior of many mainstream US conservatives -- including Trump
A U.K. military guide for spotting far-right extremism fits the behavior of many mainstream US conservatives -- including Trump. (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

A leaked British Army document designed to help officers spot potential “extreme right-wing” behavior in the ranks includes warning signs that mimic the language and behavior of many mainstream conservatives in the United States — including President Donald Trump.

The 20-box chart, first reported by BuzzFeed News, warns officers to be on the lookout for individuals with a range of behaviors including describing themselves as “patriots” and their political opponents as “traitors,” using fake news to demonize immigrants, railing against the supposed dangers of multicultural towns and cities, and threatening violence when losing an argument.

The British Army confirmed to ThinkProgress that the document was genuine, but a spokesperson stressed that the document was not meant for general circulation. Rather it was drawn up in response to a specific incident — the arrest of four soldiers in 2017 for being part of the banned neo-Nazi group National Action — to provide guidelines for the chain of command, in hopes of preventing any similar instances in the future.

While the document is not a guide for determining far-right extremism in the United States — if it was, it likely would not have used “Describe themselves as ‘Patriots'” as an indicator, bearing in mind how popular the term is across the country — read broadly, it does match many current mainstream U.S. conservative tropes and demonstrates how often right-wing conservatism overlaps with more troubling behaviors.


The document, for instance, warns about the use of “blatantly untruthful or incorrect references to immigrants.” Both Trump and his allies, such as Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz (R), have falsely claimed that migrant caravans in Central America are funded by George Soros and pushed other debunked talking points to rile up the president’s base.

The guide also warns against individuals who “become increasingly angry at perceived injustices or threats to so-called ‘National Identity.'” Both Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, who host programs on the president’s preferred news network, Fox News, have argued that immigrants are “replacing” Americans, an indirect reference to the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, which claims “white culture” is being overtaken by nonwhite immigrants and notably helped radicalize the alleged far-right shooter who attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand earlier this year.

Trump alone ticks off many of the boxes included in the army guide.

Among them is “threaten[ing] violence when losing an argument, although claiming that XRW (Extreme Right-Wing) groups protest peacefully.” Trump regularly stokes violence against his political opponents at campaign rallies and has claimed on more than one occasion that violent white nationalist protesters at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia — where one counter-protester was killed — were simply there to peacefully protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Another, “refer[s] to political correctness as some left-wing or communist plot,” is among Trump’s favorite phrases. The president often blasts those advocating for fair treatment of women, LGBTQ individuals, and immigrant communities as “politically correct,” even lamenting last month that he’d been unfairly criticized for calling Mexicans “rapists” in his campaign announcement years earlier.


One particularly notable indicator listed as a warning sign is use of the phrase “traitors” to describe opponents. Trump frequently labels anyone with whom he disagrees politically — as well as anyone involved in investigating his administration — as a “traitor” and threat to the country. He regularly claims that his critics are committing “treason” for not following his will blindly.

More broadly, the Trump administration has repeatedly fanned the flames of the far-right, promoting conspiracy theories like “White Genocide” in South Africa and advocating for far-right English activist Tommy Robinson whose group, the English Defense League, has organized several violent, anti-immigrant demonstrations over the years.

Over the last two years, a series of incidents within the British Army have forced it to confront the problem of far-right extremism within the ranks. In addition to the National Action incident, a group of Army soldiers were recently investigated after a video emerged in April that featured them using posters of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for target practice. Last month, the investigative news outlet The Ferret revealed that police and counter-terrorism teams from the Home Office were also working to spot far-right extremism within the British Army ranks.

The U.S. military is far from immune from this sort of radicalization. In a 2018 poll, around one in five members of the military said they’d seen signs of racist ideology or white nationalism within the ranks. And in February, federal agents arrested a Coast Guard lieutenant who had allegedly drawn up a hit list of prominent journalists and politicians. He is currently being detained pending trial.