Official Extinction Rebellion accounts on Twitter denounced the fliers and the tweets in short order. “We completely disassociate ourselves and the entire #ExtinctionRebellion movement from their abhorrent tweets and fly poser images,” read a tweet from the XR Midlands account. “We ask all XR groups to unfollow this account and to report it to Twitter.”
It shortly emerged that the people behind the fliers were an eco-fascist faction called the Hundred-Handers, who have a history of impersonating legitimate environmental advocates to promote a hateful white supremacist agenda. The tweets were soon deleted and the account suspended.
Taking their name from monstrous giants of Greek mythology, the Hundred-Handers had previously put up faux-Extinction Rebellion stickers in locales across the U.K. featuring the XR logo and such slogans as “Save the Environment / Stop Mass Immigration,” “House the World / Destroy the Environment,” and “Only White People Care About the Environment.” A particularly notorious one reading “Drive a Car? You Are a Nazi,” was widely shared by credulous critics of Extinction Rebellion.
The Hundred-Handers’ strategy calls for would-be followers—who are known as “Hands”—to take designs for fliers and stickers sent to them by “Heads,” print them out, and begin distributing them by plastering them surreptitiously in public places.
Last year, someone from the same movement attracted the wrath of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who launched an investigation after the stickers were plastered around the city of Troy, New York, in July 2018. Bearing such slogans as "Multiculturalism kills" and "You are disrespected. You are white. Strike back," the fliers and stickers were just as quickly removed by local residents.
This week’s incident in the U.K. is in many ways just the latest example of how the radical right seizes on literally any issue at hand to promote its causes, now by weaponizing the current coronavirus pandemic—both literally and metaphorically. Eco-fascists in particular—for whom the ecological dimensions of the pandemic are almost tailor-made—have seized on the moment to bolster their nihilistic, pro-genocide agenda.
Eco-fascists have also been busy spreading memes and fake news stories related to the coronavirus purporting to show environmental damage suddenly reversing itself because of the cessation of human activity, such as dolphins and swans returning to the canals of Venice, and elephants cavorting among tea trees. Of course, none of these events were real:
The swans in the viral posts regularly appear in the canals of Burano, a small island in the greater Venice metropolitan area, where the photos were taken. The “Venetian” dolphins were filmed at a port in Sardinia, in the Mediterranean Sea, hundreds of miles away. No one has figured out where the drunken elephant photos came from, but a Chinese news report debunked the viral posts: While elephants did recently come through a village in Yunnan Province, China, their presence isn’t out of the norm, they aren’t the elephants in the viral photos, and they didn’t get drunk and pass out in a tea field.
The message of these memes, spread often by devoted eco-fascists, is that humans are contaminants and the pandemic is a good thing. This is wholly reflective of the underlying “accelerationism” of eco-fascism: the doomsday-loving embrace of the end of civilization fueled by a misanthropic contempt for humankind. Mostly, it’s about sowing the chaos they see as key to bringing about an end to modern civilization.
In eco-fascism, white nationalists have cleverly 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. 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.’”
Eco-fascism is also a powerful undercurrent among neo-Nazi paramilitary outfits such as The Base, which last year began paramilitary training operations in rural Washington state, and several of whose members were arrested by the FBI in January for allegedly plotting a domestic-terrorist attack in Richmond, Virginia. Some of the same faction, according to the FBI, have recently discussed the deliberate spread of the coronavirus as a bioweapon.
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