During last month’s violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, one of the men marching with the white supremacists was a Swedish man named Patrik Hermansson. He was an undercover infiltrator who had spent a year getting video of what these people said to each other away from the spotlight. What he recorded is predictably appalling.
One thing he found was that the white supremacists are obsessed with mainstreaming their ideas, with getting them off the fringe and into “respectable” politics.
In Britain, Mr. Hermansson attended a private dinner of extremists where Greg Johnson, a reclusive leading American far-right figure who is editor in chief of Counter-Currents Publishing, explained the need to “mainstream this stuff — or, more precisely, we need to bring the mainstream towards us.”
Mr. Johnson later expressed confidence that this process is working. “I see the upward curve in web traffic, and the upward trend in quality and quantity of younger people getting involved,” he told Mr. Hermansson in conversation captured on hidden-camera footage. (During that same chat, he said he believed in ethnic homelands and favored telling Jews, “You need to go to Israel or we’re going to freeze you out of our society.”)
This goal of mainstreaming is an abiding fixation of the far right, whose members are well aware of the problems their movement has had with attracting young people in recent decades. At one point in Mr. Hermansson’s footage, Colin Robertson, a far-right YouTube personality who goes by the name Millennial Woes, explained to an older extremist the importance of putting forward a friendly, accessible face: “If we don’t appear like angry misfits, then we will end up making friendships with people who don’t agree with us,” he said.
I and many others have long argued that “alt right” is a euphemism for white supremacist, an attempt to sanitize and mainstream what is, at essence, the neo-Nazi ideology. And Johnson is right that it’s working, which is terrifying. Not only have they managed to bring their hateful ideology into the mainstream through the use of euphemisms and media-friendly rhetoric, their reach goes all the way to the White House. They were a big part of the coalition that put Trump there. Steve Bannon famously said that Breitbart was the platform of the alt-right and that is undeniably true. Between him, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller, they have had enormous influence over Trump and they have shared a bigoted, nativist, anti-immigrant agenda with the KKK and other white supremacist groups.
And privately, when they don’t think the cameras are watching, the masks come off — or rather, the hoods and the swastikas go on — and they are quite blunt about what they really want to happen:
Some of Mr. Hermansson’s most arresting footage comes from a June meeting with Jason Reza Jorjani, a founder, along with the American white nationalist Richard Spencer and others, of the AltRight Corporation, an organization established to foster cooperation and coordination among alt-right groups in Europe and North America.
Mr. Hermansson and Mr. Jorjani met at an Irish pub near the Empire State Building, where the baby-faced Mr. Jorjani imagined a near future in which, thanks to liberal complacency over the migration crisis, Europe re-embraces fascism: “We will have a Europe, in 2050, where the bank notes have Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great. And Hitler will be seen like that: like Napoleon, like Alexander, not like some weird monster who is unique in his own category — no, he is just going to be seen as a great European leader.”
More shockingly, Mr. Jorjani bragged about his contacts in the American government. “We had connections in the Trump administration — we were going to do things!” he said at one point. “I had contacts with the Trump administration,” he said at another.
“Our original vision was the alt-right would become like a policy group for the Trump administration,” he explained, and the administration figure “who was the interface was Steve Bannon.”
And there it is, plain as day, both the nature of the “alt-right” itself as a neo-Nazi ideology and the connection to the White House through Bannon, who may not be in his position any longer but who still talks to Trump and has some influence over him. If this doesn’t terrify you, you should ask yourself why. This is where our nation has now gone, down the rabbit hole of racism and fascism. It isn’t too late to turn back, but the longer this goes on before we shove these people back under their rock, as has happened with earlier incarnations of the same phenomenon (please read Richard Hofstadter), the more damage it will do to the country and the world.
And make no mistake, this is not limited to the United States. Similar movements have risen up all over the Western world. Russia is, for all practical purposes, already a fascist country. There are neo-Nazi political parties like France’s National Front all over Europe having varying degrees of success. And they are fueled by hatred, especially of immigrants, and even more especially of Muslim and Arab (those are not the same thing) immigration. We must not let them win, ever or anywhere.