Fascists and their enablers never miss a trick. They have displayed a remarkable knack for worming their way into virtually every corner of modern life, from our video games to our scientific pursuits. They seek out fresh recruits in every potential corner—including among radicalized and disgruntled leftists, where they often form so-called “red-brown” alliances.
The environment and its associated issues, in fact, have proven to be a fertile entry point for white supremacists over many years. Remember when white nationalists attempted to take over the Sierra Club, only to be rejected by a national campaign that exposed their surreptitious plan? That was 15 years ago. It hasn’t stopped.
If anything, it has stepped up. These alliances are reaching a kind of zenith right now, largely thanks to the general surge in white-nationalist radicalization that’s been occurring online, inspiring multiple acts of domestic terrorism. Both the Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque shooter and the zealot who murdered 21 in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart described environmental issues as components of their hateful, eliminationist racism in their respective manifestos.
Josh Kovensky at Talking Points Memo just published a solid in-depth look at how eco-fascism is becoming the new entry point for white nationalist bigotry. As he explains, climate change is being accompanied by an apocalyptic discourse that reaches a fever pitch when white nationalists begin circulating claims of a “Great Replacement” of white people by hordes of brown-skinned invaders.
What’s noteworthy is how cleverly white nationalists have positioned the outcomes of climate change—depicting them as so catastrophic that mass death is inevitable, with hordes of fleeing immigrants arriving on shores of majority-white nations.
Two leading voices on the white nationalist right—41-year-old Richard Spencer and 68-year-old Jared Taylor—have staked out positions on the issue in ways that highlight the distinction between younger racists, who eagerly incorporate climate catastrophe into their worldview, and an older generation of white nationalists who remain skeptical.
When asked by TPM about his views, Spencer described a vision of the future in which global populations began to move en masse, doubting that “everyone” would be able “to come north, in the sense that everyone is going to live in Western and central Europe and North America.”
He went on to claims of potential climate migration to the situation that came after the “unintended wave” of migrants to Europe following Arab Spring, saying that he did not want the U.S. to become “the refugee camp for the world.”
John Tanton, the guru of anti-immigrant environmentalism who was one of the would-be masterminds of the Sierra Club takeover attempt, died only weeks before the El Paso massacre, but his legacy was woven into that tragedy.
“So population reduction is almost the low-hanging fruit, the simple solution to the crisis of climate change. That’s the argument that a lot of anti-immigrant environmentalists have made,” John Hultgren, a Bennington College environmental politics professor and author of Border Walls Gone Green: Nature and Anti-immigrant Politics in America, told Mother Jones. “We’re seeing the far right really take up ecological arguments again,” Hultgren added. “The rise of eco-fascism, I think, is very real.”
A New Statesman report on the trend captured the kind of online chatter in which these beliefs spread:
“I believe that both the state and the state’s citizens have the right to use all means necessary to save the environment, including murder and sabotage,” one user wrote. “Murder is okay in this case, as combating climate change is sure to save more lives than it could ever hypothetically destroy.”
“To be fair, the Third Reich was one of the earliest governments to make conservationism a major focus,” wrote another.
They prefer to use billowy, benign language to describe their beliefs: “[Eco-fascists] have put the well-being of our earth, nature and animal on the forefront of their ideology,” a self-described eco-fascist named Dan told the New Statesman. “It’s someone who has also turned away from industrial and urbanite society, seeking a more close to earth way of life.”
It’s meant to disguise an ideology that at its root is the same old genocidal hatemongering, embracing “Blood and Soil” chants and other classic Nazi tropes, notably lebensraum (“living space”), Hitler’s concept that led to the Holocaust.
The modern eco-fascists prefer the term “deep ecology,” as Luke Darby explained in GQ, which is “the idea that the only way to preserve life on Earth is to dramatically—forcefully, if necessary—reduce the human population. It's best summed up by ‘lifeboat ethics,’ as eco-fascist and radical ecologist Pentti Linkola put it: ‘When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship’s axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides.’ ”
As Jason Wilson at The Guardian explained, a revival of interest in Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski has helped spur some of the eco-fascist tendencies of angry environmentalists, in no small part due to Kaczynski’s own philo-fascist musings in his writings. “Kaczynski’s apocalyptic account of a doomed, destructive civilization—further expounded in his voluminous prison writings—and his willingness to act as a self-appointed executioner of his adversaries is a central inspiration for the would-be terrorists in the eco-fascist movement,” Wilson notes.
Eco-fascism is also a powerful undercurrent among neo-Nazi paramilitary outfits such as The Base, which recently began planning training operations in rural Washington state. Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, told Vice that The Base's propaganda poses a major threat to public safety, because it “encourages individuals toward the terroristic so-called ‘lone wolf’ or terror cell-oriented mentality” and leads followers to “prepare themselves to, in fact, become potential threats to public safety.”
“The Base clearly hopes to capitalize on powerful social media platforms in order spread this mindset—which is to say, this virus will only infect a small number of individuals, or carriers, but those carriers could manifest catastrophic violence,” she added.