How do we get the “right” people? How do we block the bad actors from getting in? As I mentioned in the class last night, recruiting — or at least, HOW you recruit — is one of the most critical parts of having a group, but not in the way you think.
There are certain principles to recruiting that make people crabby. They don’t like to hear these principles, because these ideas go against what people think recruiting is, and they go against what people naturally want to do. The principles, however, represent the ideal; you can certainly choose to deviate from them, but then you need to have a mitigation plan for the additional risk that you’re choosing to take on.
Principle 1: Stop Recruiting
You might be thinking, “What? I thought this was an article on how to recruit!” It is, and that’s why you need to stop doing what you’re doing.
The act of recruiting, at least the way most groups do it, generally means one or even all of the following:
1. Actively advertising that your group exists.
2. Actively, openly seeking members.
3. Vetting by Facebook or other social media, with maybe a cursory background check and a few conversations.
4. A current member “vouching” for them.
This formula nearly guarantees that you will not only be wide open to infiltration and/or leverage, but you will also be ineffective, suffer internal drama, divided loyalty, and worse.
As I explain in classes, imagine your group all standing in a circle facing each other. Your adversaries are walking around outside of your circle, looking for a gap, an open door. By actively accepting applications from people who approach you, your group is essentially stepping aside and letting the threat in.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need some nationwide affiliation to get things done, and you don’t need to advertise. In fact, if you are advertising, you’re basically saying one of two things:
- We need/want attention for our patriot stuff.
- We are vulnerable.
That’s an uncomfortable thing for a lot of folks who literally wear their patriot group patch on their sleeve, but that’s the reality. Adversaries cannot target what they don’t know exists, or cannot find.
Even if they know your group exists, if they can’t pin down who any of the members are, you’re still ahead of the game. Everyone knew about the resistance in World War II; their handiwork was everywhere. But who, exactly, were they? That was a lot harder to ascertain.
The problem, of course, comes down to two words that you will hear over and over here at AP: Core motivator. People need to feel important, needed. They need the validation, the perceived support system of being part of a big thing. Sure, they’ll brag about being the proud and chosen few, or talk about how “true patriots” are so far and few in between, but if they really believed that, why are they part of a national group? By their own logic, not everyone in their national group is actually on board. So what are the rest doing? And what are those members doing with them?
Openly Seeking Members
The more, the merrier, right? Wrong. The first mistake is having a group that is publicly known. The second mistake is taking applications from the public. Your vetting process, however strict you feel it is, will fail up against a trained infiltrator if you are accepting applications from off the street.
In fact, I’ll go one step further and say that the more people you have in a group, the higher the chances of problems. Each individual brings their own baggage to the table, which is exacerbated by group dynamics. A group with 3 guys in it is not going to have the same issues as a group of 7. If you’re above 7 (or, depending on your function and goals, 10 at the absolute max), you have too many people. Don’t worry, though, there’s a formula you can use to cull the ones that need to go…or better yet, you can leave the one you’re in and start fresh the right way.
An infiltration process always begins with a Research and Emplace phase. That’s when your adversary — whether they’re Antifa, anti-gun activists, a “journalist,” or a federal agent — spends a lot of time and energy understanding who you are, who your group members are, and how to best leverage you and get into the group. The more information that is available about those things, the more they have to work with — and the more effective they’ll be.
Vetting by Facebook
People have told me that “I checked out Jack’s Facebook page and he’s a good guy. He’s always posting stuff and talking about liberty.”
What’s the problem here? It should go without saying, but anyone can make a Facebook page look like anything they want. On the flip side, even if you assume everything posted on a given account is a true and real representation of what that prospective member thinks and believes, now you have someone who may still be a liability, depending on what they’re posting.
Think about it: how often do you see various posts asking “Let’s see pics of your long-range weapon” with over 100 comments of people obliging? What about the “Everyone sound off with their zone and position”? Maybe you’ve seen the “What’s your everyday carry setup?”
If someone is willing to be that careless with their own info, do you really think they will protect the group? In fact, by default, their carelessness with information about themselves is a liability to your group. Loyalty is everything, and by making themselves a target, they are making your entire group one.
Also beware of the guy who tells you that “the Left needs to see that we are strong in numbers.” No, what that guy really believes is that HE needs to feel as though he has the backing of a large group. That signals lack of commitment to character, and possibly cowardice.
Current Member Vouching
This is a pretty common occurrence among many groups. The problem is that your friend or fellow group member vouching for someone means nothing. I covered that here, and I won’t belabor that point further in this article.
Principle 2: Close the Doors
When I talk about closing doors, what I’m referring to are the openings in yourself and your group that offer a foothold, or open door, to a bad actor. For more information on the type of analysis you have to do, look at what I’ve already written on core motivators here and here.
If you do not understand yourself to the point of being honest about weaknesses and vulnerabilities, then you’re wide open for infiltration or worse.
Closing the doors also means getting rid of problem children, and that’s a hard thing for a lot of folks — especially if they come to the realization that they’re the problem child, and they need to change their behavior and/or mindset.
As I mentioned earlier, you’re welcome to disregard anything here you don’t find palatable; just make sure you have a mitigation plan for that additional risk you’re taking on.
Principle 3: Understand Your Goals
Before you go get a single person, look at your group and decide what exactly it is you want/plan/hope to accomplish. Not in a “save the nation” abstract way, but in an actionable, right-here-and-now kind of way. What is your group’s point?
If you’re basically a glorified shooting club, then your processes are going to be different than a group that is engaged in other activities. If you are training for neighborhood watch/defense or disaster relief, you will need a different kind of person than the group who likes to sit on social media and do roll calls.
As with any other part of this process, honesty is key.
Principle 4: Vet Before Approach, Not After
If you choose to follow the principles correctly, you could spend literally months vetting a potential group member, and they would have no idea you’re doing it.
What are you looking for? Here’s a sample.
- How do they handle stress?
- How do they handle being corrected or even insulted?
- How’s their temper? Do they run their mouth?
- What vices do they have?
- What’s their home life like? How do they treat their spouse? (Equally as important is how their spouse treats them.)
- How are their finances? Are they behind on bills or obligations?
- How interested are they in learning new skills?
- What ties do they have to other groups and/or ideas?
- Do they have long-term friendships and relationships that show an ability to maintain loyalty over time?
- What are they motivated by?
- What do they want?
You might be asking why you should care about anything on this list (or the many other points that I didn’t list), because none of that has to do with liberty. I would argue that if your prospect fails at the above, it won’t matter if they “believe in freedom” because they’ll still be a liability.
Ideally, your “recruiting” should consist of simply noticing people that you meet. Spending time with them. Having conversations with them in which you let them do most of the talking. Hanging out with them in a variety of situations that give you the best view of how they react in different scenarios. Throughout this process, you don’t tell them you’re in a group. You don’t mention anything about your activities. You simply get to know them.
Maybe after a few months you might introduce him to your “hunting/fishing” buddies. In this way, he gets to hang out with your group in a non-threatening way, and get evaluated. During that time, you’re still talking to him. You’re still eliciting information about who he is and what he’s about. You’re analyzing what he’s saying; not just for deception, but for profiling purposes as well.
After about a year — yes, it should take that long and even longer depending on your group’s function — then you can approach. You don’t do this unless 1) you’re certain of their answer and 2) certain of their loyalty. The last thing you need is to offer need-to-know knowledge to someone who decides to throw a curve ball and decline the invite, effectively rendering themselves a NON need-to-know person who now has information they should not.
Principle 5: Event Cred Isn’t Real Cred
Do not, ever, use attendance at rallies, events, or other incidents as a factor for determining credibility or loyalty. I cannot stress this enough. It does not matter if you see the same face at every thing you attend for a year straight. It doesn’t matter if you “know” them because you were both at some event or big standoff thing. In fact, if you have seen them in “the scene at various events,” you will want to strongly consider two things:
- You need to stop being so public yourself.
- You don’t want that guy.
If your group is not known or advertised, you may be able to dodge a lot of negative things, including idiots, criminals, feds and arrogant fools trying to get into your group. You won’t, however, accomplish a whole lot if you keep recruiting the stereotypical “public patriot.”
There are more principles, but this will get you started. Once you’re done reading all the links, do some real soul searching. Be honest with yourself, ABOUT yourself, and about your group. You may find you need to make some changes.