So a quick definition of terms as to who these groups such as Identity Evuropa, National Policy Institute, and their fellow snake-eaters such as Unity and Security for America really are and what they represent.
They are not racists.
They are not fascists.
They are not Klansmen or neo-Nazis.
They are nationalists.
They do believe in the separation of ethnicities.
They do believe in identity politics.
They do embody a worldview pushed by Russian thinkers.
They do genuinely hate the idea of America.
They do view Christianity as the opposite of the ethno-national state.
Welcome to the ideology that supplanted communism in the post-Soviet era; a union of three distinct thinkers — Rene Guenon, Julius Evola, and Ivan Ilyin — pushed through the filter of the French nouvelle droite and who have found a crystalization in Russian the works of Moscow State professor Alexsandr Dugin, who has weaponized this right-wing traditionalist sentiment into something called Eurasianism.
It is this worldview that is driving Russian sentiment in the wake of the Maidan Revolution in the Ukraine, propagated over social media through a form of meme warfare (narrative warfare) and active measures (disinformatzya) that has fueled not only the consolidation of the United Russia Party, and not only has financed European far-right parties such as France’s Front National, Hungary’s Jobbik, Austria’s Freedom Party, Germany’s AfD, Holland’s Party for Freedom, and the Britain’s UKIP.
Back in January 2017, an article on Motherboard went through the actual practice of how meme warfare (narrative warfare) actually worked in the wake of the last 2-3 years — uncovering the dirty little secrets of public affairs firms, the Ukrainian experience in 2014-15 and the arrival of “little green men” in the Donbass region, organizations such as Soros-funded Avaar in the wake of the “Arab Spring” and the rise of the European alt-right and its disproportionate influence in the U.S. presidential elections.
Memes appear to function like the IEDs of information warfare. They are natural tools of an insurgency; great for blowing things up, but likely to sabotage the desired effects when handled by the larger actor in an asymmetric conflict. Just think back to the NYPD’s hashtag boondoggle for an example of how quickly things can go wrong when big institutions try to control messaging on the internet. That doesn’t mean research should be abandoned or memes disposed of altogether, but as the NYPD case and other examples show, the establishment isn’t really built for meme warfare.
The article in and of itself is an eye opener. Jeff Giesea — a prominent alt-right fixture — was writing up white papers on how to conduct narrative warfare campaigns in early 2015. Theories of narrative warfare have been employed with varying degrees of success over the past decade, with the primary goal of “influencing the influencers” being the mantra of many a public affairs division.
The core of the Motherboard article is a 2011 DARPA-commissioned study on how narrative warfare actually works. I won’t bore you with the entire 152-page presentation, but I will interest you in just one slide:
Now why is that number important? Why 150 supporters? More accurately, why were the promoters of the event very keen to remind folks that indeed — there were 150 people there to protest that day?
— Jason Kessler (@TheMadDimension) May 13, 2017
One suspects that they were advertising to others that they had indeed aggregated the number of individuals — recruited, in the words of Richard Spencer at his dinner that Saturday — in order to enter into a separate phase of their operation.
Two more slides:
The importance of this chart is simple — it demonstrates the longevity of an idea. This post, for instance, will more than likely reach a Level 4 and have a relevancy of one year, reach 10,000 people over its lifetime, and took me about an hour (maybe a bit longer) to write and tens if not hundreds of hours of experience to aggregate and express clearly.
In short, this is an investment that is rather heavy on the content creator. A “meme” that is shorter — say, a picture or a tweet, takes a fraction of that energy to utilize… trading experience for timing and opting for a memetic swarm to counterbalance a single idea or narrative:
The effectiveness of any idea is based on four qualities: persistence, entropy, impact, and propagation. Preserve the quality of any of the three, and you lose the match.
The problem with this article? It’s too long.
The advantage of a tweet? It’s very short.
Therefore, in order to propagate an idea, it has to have (1) an army willing consistently hammer a common theme, (2) have an idea easy enough to share, (3) have a desired impact or outcome objective and (4) actually be shared by those motivated to do so.
Sebastian Junger’s book Tribes outlines why 150 people is the most effective grouping of human beings. In short, we are genetically predisposed to operate in tribes of about 150-200 people. Consider your own circle of close friends and family. If you get to a number of actual people in your “tribe” and wrote down the folks with whom you identified and interacted? It would be close to 150-200 intimates.
That is the seduction of the identitarian movement.
Identitarianism in America
Let’s talk a bit about identity politics in America and what the alt-right actually believes.
If you listen to Richard Spencer’s talk in Charlottesville at Lee Park, you’ll notice a few themes:
- There is a very specific biological determinism within the identitarian right. In essence, they believe that we all have a certain genetic makeup — a tribal one — that modern and post-modern society has eroded through materialism and multiculturalism.
- Civilizations are created by people of similar ethnic background. In short, Western Civilization works best for Westerners. China for the Chinese. Russia for the Russians. France for the French.
- Multiculturalism, as a consequence, leads to a degeneration of social cohesion. Here is where the identitarian has a “one up” over your average, run of the mill racist sitting on the front porch halfway through his cube of lite beer. While racism argues for a form of social or cultural domination over the other, the identitarian deliberately — and honestly — eschews that for a different justification… namely:
- Therefore, ethno-national communities are best for ethnicities. If you have ever heard a politician say to an immigrant “We love you, but we love you over there!” then congratulations — you have heard the identitarian philosophy in a nutshell. Not racist (in a sense) because it doesn’t assert racial superiority in the slightest. All it says is that an ethnic tribe is genetically hardwired to live in a community of interest defined by their ethnic background.
What these guys are at the end of the day are ethno-nationalists. This is the very real distinction that a group of us in Charlottesville — Coy Barefoot, Jackson Landers, and Rick Sincere — have discussed as something separate and distinct from mere racism on-air at WPVC. Nazis and racists don’t chant “Russia is our friend” at an event designed to show off their aggregate 150 member tribe to an international audience.
So who was that audience? Who inspires identitarian thought — and who has leveraged it to their interest over the past 2-3 years as populist sentiment has ravaged Europe and America?
Eurasianism and National Bolshevism: The Rise of Alexsandr Dugin
Alexsandr Dugin is an odd duck. Never quite getting his education in philosophy, Dugin has been very covetous of hanging the appropriate paperwork to get his PhD and to advance his corpus of work — starting initially with a sojourn with thinkers among the French nouvelle droite before settling in on a revivification of an old Leninist idea — National Bolshevism.
What is interesting about the concept is the very deep pan-Slavic and pan-Russian idea within the concept championed by Dugin in the 1990s before his assimilation into Putin’s apparatus.
After the Russian Revolution, it was this concept — National Bolshevism — that welded together the White Russian nationalists with the Red Russian cadres that were at the time completely incapable of running either the economy or the government. In short, the nationalists cut a deal — subsuming themselves into a system run by a familiar name: Joseph Stalin.
The idea is simple: Russia has a supranational character that includes many nations within it. Lenin wanted to make sure that these national characters stayed put within a pan-Russian system. His solution? Ban all national communist parties and ensure that the Communist Party was the only one permitted anywhere. Thus the bolshevik character of the revolution was maintained, and the nationalist character of the White Revolution adopted in the sense that the Bolsheviks — though communists — at least held the national idea of Russia together as a whole.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia looked back to is nationalist past to find ways to keep what remained of the Russian orbit together. As NATO and the EU began to gobble up Eastern European countries and finally the Baltic States, those in power — Boris Yeltsin — found themselves under siege by men such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky and his Liberal Democrats (neither liberal nor democratic) and a resurgent Communist Party.
Western style markets and democracy — you see — was failing Mother Russia.
Dugin’s recently published Fourth Political Theory outlines the very basics of his version of Russian traditionalism. Fascism failed, socialism failed, liberalism is failing… and only traditionalism can save Russia from this cyclical theory of regression (see: Guevon and Evola) and see Russia through to its grand destiny — a pan-Slavic, pan-Orthodox restoration of Russia’s traditional Byzantine role.
Standing opposite of this great task? America.
Where Dugin sees Russia as spiritual and traditional, he sees America as rational and materialistic. Where Dugin sees the Slavic character as unique (ethno-nationalism), he sees America as mongrelized. Where Dugin sees a nationalist Eurasian community built on “traditionalist” faiths such as Orthodoxy and Islam, he sees in the United States an “Atlanticist” perspective that is alien to continental Europe — which makes the EU not just suspect in Dugin’s eyes, but an object to be destroyed. Where Dugin sees Russia as desiring this separation of peoples, he sees America at the head of a “new world order” as a source of total hegemonic rule.
His evidence for this hegemony? Broken promises to Gorbachev on NATO expansion. Serbia in 1999. Afghanistan in 2001. Iraq in 2003. Georgia leading up to 2008. The Arab Spring in 2011. The Syrian Civil War.
All of this came to a point with the fall of the pro-Russian government in the Ukraine, where depending on which version of events one cares to believe; either American active measures helped dethrone a duly elected Ukrainian president in direct contravention of the rule of law (Russian edition), or a peaceful “democratic uprising” of millions of free Ukrainians threw off the shackles of Russian oligarchy and took their place among the free nations of Europe (NATO edition).
This distinction on narrative is critically important, for two reasons:
FIRST, Dugin teaches (as all good postmodern philosophers do) that truth is a relative construct — a sheer power relation. As Dugin states (and argues emphatically with the BBC reporter here), truth is something that is crafted by power relations in order to drive home narratives… nothing more.
SECOND, in the combat of ideas and perceptions, Russian disinformatzya or active measures took on a radically new form in the post-Maidan world. It was at this moment that the alt-right in the United States took form — leveraging “friends” among the already pre-existing identitarian sets in the United States.
Best of all, it didn’t even have to be true… all Russian disinformatzya had to do was divide and conquer — in short, play to our tribal DNA and convince us not to trust American institutions such as the media, the government, the intelligence community… maybe find a useful foil such as tearing down Confederate statues.
Organizations such as VDARE, a host of anti-immigrant groups affiliated with John Tanton such as FAIR and Numbers USA kicked into gear from out of nowhere in 2014, boosted by ghost resources and a troll army of ghost accounts that quite suddenly engulfed the European and American political scenes. All the while? Steve Bannon’s Breitbart echoed their line — even giving a talk echoing Julius Evola’s ideas to a crowd who probably never knew that Evola thought that the Catholic Church was the precise opposite of everything traditionalism stood for.
Then organizations such as the National Policy Institute came to the fore. Three Percenters. Identity Evropa. The Traditionalist Workers Party led by (former?) members of the separatist League of the South.
What’s most interesting about them all? All of them — to a person — preach the traditionalist ethno-nationalist line.
When you start looking at the flow of Russian loans to European political parties — to UKIP and the National Front specifically — one really has to wonder… how well did that flow of cash lift all boats? What fraction of that found its way to the United States? Cui bono?
It is probably important to note at this rate that there are a few things that separate Dugin’s Eurasianism from European traditionalist thinkers such as Evola — namely that while Dugin believes in a sort of pan-Slavic project, the European traditionalists see themselves as the restorers of a culture of nobility based on the old ethno-states and duchies of old — absent Christianity but preserving what was best about the Teutonic traditions and gods of old (i.e. when you hear Spencer talk about “tearing down our gods” when referring to Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee statue, this is what he means).
In short, the European traditionalists want a Christendom without a Christ. But even then, Dugin’s Eurasianism and Evola’s traditionalism don’t quite mesh into American politics. After all, we aren’t dealing with any sort of imperial collapse where Texas is in the hands of the Mexican government and a “democratic uprising” has occurred in Boston. Nor do we have a history of lords and ladies of the realm here — the idea of a handful of people being born booted and spurred to ride the rest of us dying with Alexander Hamilton… or at least, so we thought.
So what does mesh with this Russian ideological narrative? You have probably guessed the answer: American populism.
…and that’s how they find candidates willing to carry their water here in the United States.
The support isn’t direct (most of the time) — but it’s indirect. Positive stories, blog posts, memetic warfare (and narrative warfare). All the old school public relations firm strategies weaponized by vast resources and those willing to pay.
I mean, look at this guy smiling into the camera. He knows he has this guy dancing to his tune. I don’t blame Kessler for manipulating Stewart. I blame Stewart for being so fundamentally weak in character that he has to kneel to such human beings.
Of course these guys are willing to give help to the lowest bidder. If you’re a politician? The first taste seems OK when you accept Predicate A (protect the Lee Statue). But when those Venn diagrams overlap and you accept Predicate B (go after Wes Bellamy — any black guy will do), then C (let’s all take a picture together)… and suddenly your on to P (suspending your campaign) and Q (embarrassing yourself by caving in) and R (denouncing everyone but your ethno-nationalist friends)?
“Oh but you’re leading a movement…” — for whom?
And that’s why they chose Charlottesville for a reason. That’s how you get this:
This is all linked, folks.
In a certain sense, they are worse than racists, and even worse than fascists. This idea of ethno-nationalist nativism — the precise sort I warned about infiltrating the Republican Party back in 2014 — is pernicious, real, and has a number of acolytes in the United States and Europe.
Ethno-nationalist identitarians are snake-eaters of the worst sort. They are an evil that can stand on their own two feet.
Let’s not make the mistake of condensing them with your run of the mill racists or Klansmen… and be careful about contempt (though that’s the correct emotion). These guys are fighting with ideas, and they are fighting smart. More concerning? They are gaining ground…