Sanjiv Bhattacharya reports: It’s not every day that a brown journalist gets to sit in on a white-nationalist strategy meeting. But these are strange times. Racism is trending. Like Brexit, Trump has normalised views that were once beyond the pale, and groups like the AFP have grown bold. Their man’s stubby orange fingers are within reach of actual power, so maybe it’s time to emerge from the shadows at last.
I first met [William] Johnson [the chairman of the white nationalist American Freedom Party (AFP)] in May after he signed up as a Trump delegate before being swiftly struck off by the campaign when the press found out. He’s a surprising figure. An avid environmentalist, fluent in Japanese and, in person, not the bitter old racist I’d expected but rather a jolly Mormon grandfather, bright eyed and chuckling, a Wind in the Willows character. Eric is even more unexpected. Tall and impassioned, he came to racism via hypnotherapy, of all things. He sells solar panels for a living and practises yoga. Together with his friends Matt and Nathan, who are also here at lunch, he runs an alt-right fraternity in Manhattan Beach – “a beer and barbecues thing”. They’re called the Beach Goys. “We’re starting a parody band,” he beams. “We’ve found a drummer!”
Between them they represent two poles of a racist spectrum, young and old. And judging from this lunch, it’s the millennials who are the more extreme. Johnson wants white nationalists to appear less mean and he finds the “JQ”, the Jewish Question, archaic. But Eric loves the meanness of the alt right. “We’re the troll army!” he says. “We’re here to win. We’re savage!” And antisemitism is non-negotiable. In fact, he’d like to clear up a misnomer about the alt right, propagated by the Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopoulos, who is often described, mistakenly, as the movement’s leader. Milo casts the alt right as principally a trolling enterprise, dedicated to attacking liberal shibboleths for the “lulz”– there’s precious little actual bigotry. But Eric insists otherwise. Yes, they like to joke, they have memes, they’re just as funny as liberals – have I heard of their satirical news podcasts, the Daily Shoah and Fash the Nation? But make no mistake, the racism is real. Eric especially enjoys The Daily Stormer, a leading alt-right news site, which is unashamedly pro-Hitler. [Continue reading…]