A new group of religious extremists in the United States seeks to promote and defend an ultra-conservative view of Mormon belief and harass suspected opponents of these beliefs, who are often racist and bigotry or encourage violence.
The conduct of the so-called “Desert Nationalists” or “DezNats” has raised questions about how the Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is responding to the movement, whose members are harassing others. Mormons, including those who work. at church-sponsored institutions such as Brigham Young University (BYU).
Some who identify as DezNats take far-right positions on gender, sexuality and race. Others describing themselves as Deseret nationalists argued for a separatist white Mormon-ruled ethno-state located in the Grand Bassin area briefly claimed by the LDS Church in the mid-19th century.
The recent Guardian exposure of a deputy attorney general in Alaska – who posted racist and violent tweets on a DezNat Twitter account – led the official to resign from his post. But it also raised concerns about the number of DezNat supporters in positions of authority in the United States.
Last weekend, an anonymous anti-fascist collective called “DezNat Exposed” published a blog post alleging that a prominent DezNat account, @extradeadjcb, an associated Substack newsletter and a former suspended account, @jcbonthedl, was under the control of Kevin Dolan.
Dolan, who claims on his LinkedIn profile to have a US government security clearance, had been employed since January by consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton as a senior data scientist. The company has extensive contracts with US military and intelligence agencies and has been labeled “The most profitable spy organization in the world”.
the blog post Dolan’s identification details not only the racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic posts posted from the Twitter accounts, but the links between him and the accounts, which include archived posts from previous incarnations from his blogs and Twitter accounts, which link to his personal Facebook and Twitter pages.
Dolan did not immediately respond to repeated requests for comment on the blog, sent to both his business and private email accounts.
A spokesperson for Booz Allen Hamilton issued a statement saying that company policy precludes any specific employee discussion, but that âBooz Allen is guided by the purpose and values ââof our company and keeps all of our employees on. these same principles â.
The statement added: âBooz Allen strongly condemns supremacy groups of all kinds. “
The spokesperson did not immediately respond to further questions about Dolan’s employment status and the nature of his security clearance.
The most recent identification has helped create the feeling that the DezNat movement, whose members often champion the hashtag associated with the group as a mere marker of orthodox LDS belief, is in fact a rallying cry for activists – including some occupy real positions. global influence – seeking to merge conservative Mormonism with white nationalism and other strands of far-right doctrine.
Last month Matthias Cicotte, after being identified by the Guardian as the operator of leading Twitter account DezNat @JReubenCIark, quit his job at the Alaska Department of Law (DoL) after more than nine years of work there, most recently as Chief Corrections Counsel.
The Guardian’s investigation showed that the Twitter account, under Cicotte’s control, had advocated anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, anti-Black and anti-Latino biases, and anti-feminist and anti-LGBTQ sentiments.
In an emailed statement to reporters, DoL chief and Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor – himself a member of the LDS Church – said that “although we cannot talk about personnel matters , we don’t want the values ââand policies of the law department to be overshadowed by an individual’s conduct â.
Earlier, between the first revelations on Cicotte and his departure from the DoL, Taylor sent an email to all staff saying that he did not “share or endorse the personal opinions expressed by the subject on Twitter or in other messages using #Deznat “.
Amy Chapman, a researcher at Teachers College at Columbia University who has researched the hashtag DezNat and the movement surrounding it, said that while the movement was not as big as other extreme groups more secular right, it had a broad âreal world effectsâ on those the movement targeted.
The movement and the Twitter hashtag DezNat brings together a loose collection of ultra-conservative Mormon activists.
In the past, as well as on public social media platforms, members of the movement have would have gathered in a private chat via the Discord service, where members freely exchanged “violent, racist, homophobic and sexist remarks”.
Some DezNats have denied that the movement harbors prejudice, including Gregory Smith, candidate for Ogden, Utah city council, would have has sympathies with the DezNat movement and has repeatedly used the hashtag.
But Chapman said she had long observed the account now revealed as Cicotte’s, and “what struck me most about the account was its negative attitude towards women and LGBTQ people,” adding that the misogyny, homophobia and transphobia are recurring motifs in DezNat’s discourse. .
Often, DezNat accounts claim to defend the LDS church against advances in the status of women and LGBTQ people in secular society, the effects of which they see as corrupt.
This has led to harassment campaigns against perceived adversaries, the vast majority of whom are either former church members or those perceived to be members with progressive social attitudes.
In particular, their anger has been directed at perceived progressives who hold positions in church-run institutions such as BYU sponsored by LDS, and are often viewed as apostates by DezNats.
A BYU faculty member whose identity is protected for reasons of personal security told The Guardian that DezNats armed elements of Mormon doctrine in an attempt to harass and threaten the employment of people who worked in the field. ‘university.
This harassment had gone beyond social media harassment and efforts to have people fired, and turned into direct in-person action. An activist aligned with DezNat visited the BYU campus in Salt Lake City to leave photographs of aborted fetuses at the doors of the teachers.
This incident led to the involvement of the BYU Police Department.
The victims of these campaigns, along with other Mormons opposed to the far-right principles of DezNat activists, called on the LDS church to disown the movement.
In response to questions about the DezNats and the church’s willingness to disown them, Douglas Anderson, the church’s media spokesperson, wrote in an email that the group was “neither affiliated nor endorsed. by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints â.
Anderson added that âin recent months, church leaders have spoken directly on issues such as condemning the recent violence in Washington DC and the anarchic behavior, the misdeeds of racism … and peacefully accept the results of political electionsâ.
Anderson’s statement concluded that “anything that encourages or incites violence is contrary to recent instructions given by church leaders.”