The prominent Swedish Nazi, ex Waffen SS soldier and founder of the “Sweden Democrats” Gustav Ekström in 1988 said: “Förneka alltid att ni är nazister. Men var trogna Ledaren.” (Always deny that you are nazis. But be faithful to the Leader)
There was a time when knowing that was trivia.
These days though, it shines a little light on something that’s worth hearing.
Ethnic nationalism, also known as ethno-nationalism, is the idea that the “nation” is defined in terms of ethnicity rather than geographic borders or by constitutional law. Beginning with the creation of the European Union, far right movements rose in opposition to the perceived threat to national identities that sharing open borders across Europe represented. What made Italy Italian, or Sweden Swedish, if Italians could move to Sweden in droves, in search of opportunity, not speaking or looking Swedish and making meatballs wrong. What would being Swedish mean if it was not predominantly populated by ethnic Swedes? In Germany, and Hungary, and much of Scandanavia, these questions prompted anxiety among their Ethnic Nationalist parties. By the turn of the millennium, these worries coincided with a sharp uptick in migrant labor across Europe as refugees fled famine and civil wars in Africa and the U.S. War on Terror sent further waves of immigrants in from the middle east. Now, the immigrants who were arriving made Italians seem familiar by comparison. Did these people even “share our values?” For the first time in generations, the ideological descendants of the Nazi diaspora, scattered after World War II, found receptive new recruits for their ideas, in far-right immigrant-suspicious movements all across Northern and Eastern Europe.
In the course of reaching out to new demographics, and in the face of a public that was strongly opposed to the word Nazi, but had mostly forgotten what – besides a flair for invading Poland and gassing captive gays and Jews and Roma – had made the Nazis oh-so-special. They put years into rebranding, re-contextualizing their ideas as Western Traditionalism, European Nationalism, NeoReaction, and a dozen other not-quite-Nazi brands. They all diverged in one or two key ways from Nazism, proper, so they each got to deny association and look down on anyone who made comparisons between them.
It had everything. Deniability, some ideological cover, and a host of brands that rotated which Nazi-derived ideas each one omitted. This allowed these groups to mainstream parts of the entire package, without asking each individual recruit to love all parts of Nazi doctrine. Don’t like the racism, but love the Law&Order talk? They have a brand for you, that’s especially suspicious of the dangers of mob-rule and strong on national border enforcement because a disrespect for authority is disloyal. If you’re not a racist, but the idea of the U.S.A. ceasing to become a WASP-majority nation still makes you uncomfortable, try Ethno-Nationalism, that merely begs the question, “Should the people of a nation not be able to decide who is and isn’t allowed in?” How about people who don’t love the fact that institutions more powerful than them control their destiny and shape the world they live in – the world they’re currently not massively successful in, despite being told by leftists that they have it even easier than other ethnic groups due to some problems they don’t face to the same degrees as their minority countrymen… For those people, they’d need the infiltration of the groups those people already identify with. They would need to seed ideas of theirs into American Far Right “patriot” groups, who have outsized online engagement, widely brand themselves as more orthodox Right by the Republicans at large, and find areas of common interest. Hate the idea of the government telling people what who they need to tolerate and work with, and legally mandate equal rights for minorities and “deviants” no matter what the business owner believes? Brand it as “Cultural Marxism,” let them google back to all the other sites that use that verbiage to figure out what it means. Build a campaign of multi-layered interlocking individually-palatable ideologies, and aim them at a country.
Then, after giving those ideas the chance to accrete communities around them, provide them all a common enemy, a straw-man of the Left, that wants to Undermine national identity, Promote minority interests over whites, End the cultural hegemony of whites ‘who built this country,’ Eradicate the morals that had made the country great in favor of some nebulous wishy-washy weakling ideology of tolerance, while behaving intolerantly only toward whites and whiteness, and either Sell the nation out to foreign powers, or so-weaken it that foreign enemies can out-compete it with superior tolerance to do the ruthless things that need doing in order to keep a nation strong, united, and ethnically pure. You saw where that bit went right at the end. They never say that part. Not outside of the spaces all these feeder-groups link back to, if you find things there you like and follow further down the holes. If you don’t? Hey you still vote with them, so in the end you’re helping. Plus, what this technique has given them is the greatest gift of all. Strong voting blocks in a dozen nations, passionately supportive of their view of what a nation-state should look like, who don’t even know or understand themselves as being on the team.
They’ve got people who’ve been radicalized against state institutions that could stand as checks and balances against the things they’ll someday want to do in their host-nations.
They’ve got other people still who have been radicalized to see defenders of the poor and marginalized as enemies of the state, who’ll tirelessly work to tear down the people who’ll vote in political opposition to them when they eventually come out in the open.
They’ve built a human shield of normal folks around them who are innocent of everything they guard, who’re only frustrated like 1930’s Germans about lacks of opportunity, they’ve taught to blame the state and different scapegoats, all depending on the human shields in question.
They don’t need you to be Nazis. Not by name. They only need you to be people who will make the nation ready, in your own individual ways, and make your country unwilling or unable to oppose them when they step into the light. They’ve tried to weaponize your disenfranchisement and use your own legitimate anxieties to build a population frustrated and desperate for a savior; feeling cornered and upset by an encroaching threatening world, structures of power that outgun them, and domestic traitors living right next door. They’ve painted quite a picture, sampled from colors and motifs already present in the world. They’ve only tweaked their minor details so that people will respond to them in more convenient ways.
Here’s where I fit into this picture.
If you’re reading this and saying, “Yeah I’ve seen this! This is awful.” You’re not wrong. The fact is, brilliant people with a track record of stellar propaganda have made a hash of what the Right in Western countries used to be. They’ve taken ideas like promoting values central to the Christians, and turned them toward a cultural war against enemies of the faith. Crusader iconography is all over a number of their brands. They’re not trying to take countries now. They’re trying to erode the institutions that can stop them when they rise. That means ideological poison, turning good things into bad, that tie deep into your intrinsic sense of self and who you are. And if you’re reading this, you’re probably not a victim of their ploy, but I would be that you each know people who are.
There is another kind of Nazi currently active on the board. They’re the folks I mentioned way back at the top, who lurk among us wearing smug denials like a badge, and think the rest of us don’t notice. They’re the ones who frame the message that their innocent recruits distribute for them. They know that you’ll reject them if they admit what they are. They know you’re actually Americans, and no amount of tribalism, scapegoating or PR can make you sign up for an arm-band of your own. They only sell you the components of the virus. Just inert bits that are dormant ’til they meet the rest online. These guys:
“Förneka alltid att ni är nazister. Men var trogna Ledaren.”
And for them I have a message.
You can call attempts to root you out, from among your human shields, a witch hunt all you want. I call it a duck hunt. And anything that walks like a duck and quacks like a duck is duck-like enough for me that it doesn’t need a swastika on the armband of its heil-saluting arm for me to recognize an ethno-nationalist antisemitic antidemocratic platform when it’s right there in front of me. These things have definitions. It’s not a slur. The words are in the dictionary. It’s not a witch-hunt to say “waitaminute, your entire facebook timeline basically describes this bit from Websters on the Reich.” Your lack of armbands isn’t fooling anybody. You must think we’re all morons if you guessed we wouldn’t notice that for all your “I’m no Nazi” protestations, you espouse the lion’s share of what the furher’s boys were selling, with a different coat of paint.
So sure – you’re not a Nazi. You just happen to share with them 83% of what makes Nazis something humans shouldn’t be. You haven’t technically begun the ethnic cleansing program yet, though facebook leads me to believe you wouldn’t mind it if it happened, so I’m giving you that one for now.
Just don’t ask me to mince words about the issue. Or stop walking like a duck.