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Ericson: Dinner with Hitler

Actual Nazis have become depressingly relevant.
Image by Ava Weinreis

There are certain lines that we don’t expect anyone in American public life to cross. Even the most radical, extreme and erratic personalities that inhabit our media sphere will avoid endorsing some ideas, out of a sense of self-preservation if nothing else.

One of those ideas is support for Adolf Hitler.

But Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, is used to crossing lines. And if like me, you’re a long-time fan of his music, and you’re used to cringing at his erratic statements, which are likely exacerbated but in no way excused by his mental health struggles. Ye truly reached a new low on Dec. 1.

On conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s show, Ye declared, “I like Hitler.” This is just one part of his recent descent into blatant, disgusting antisemitism.

Of course, on Nov. 22 — and after his open anti-Semitism began — Ye had dinner at Mar-a-Lago with none other than former president Donald Trump. The Donald is no stranger to antisemitism but so far he’s managed to avoid praising the Führer of the Third Reich.

However, this was not true of another guest at Mar-a-Lago that night: a smug young man by the name of Nick Fuentes. In addition to palling around with members of Congress, Fuentes is known for denying the Holocaust, being racist and misogynistic and appearing at the infamous 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a woman died after a white supremacist hit her with his car.

To get a better idea of who Fuentes is and how he fits into the broader white nationalist movement, I talked to Daniel Harper. Harper co-hosts a podcast about white supremacy called “I Don’t Speak German.”

According to Harper, Fuentes got his start hosting a current events radio program at his high school. In college, Fuentes would go on to host a talk show on a right-wing, pro-Trump online network. However, he was fired after he attended the Charlottesville rally.

Harper said around the time Fuentes attended Unite the Right, he began co-hosting a show with James Allsup, another far-right commentator, which is how Harper first became aware of Fuentes.

Harper said the young fascist’s voice was deceiving. “I thought he was like, 45 years old,” he said.

Plus, Harper said that at the time, Fuentes didn’t seem like he was going to make waves. 

“Honestly, the thing I got the wrongest of anything that I’ve ever said on ‘I Don’t Speak German’ was when” he underestimated Fuentes, Harper said. “I’m like, Nick Fuentes is going to basically disappear because he’s not hardcore enough. And boy, that was a real failure on my part. Like, a failure of imagination. Because he’s just kind of kept his nose to the grindstone.”

But wait: isn’t this guy an actual fascist who denies the Holocaust and is constantly saying all kinds of blatantly racist and misogynistic stuff? This is the guy who’s not hardcore enough?

That’s because, while they agree with each other ideologically, the white nationalist movement is deeply divided on tactics.

Ben Lorber is a research analyst who studies white nationalism at Political Research Associates, a left-wing think tank. After Charlottesville, he said, “the movement kind of split into two camps.”

“At that point, it congealed into two separate tendencies,” Lorber said. On the one hand, you had radicals who “embraced either neo-Nazi imagery or accelerationist acts of terror. Basically, they were the ones who gave up all hope of transforming the GOP or working in mainstream politics.”

On the other hand, you had those who tried to cultivate a friendlier image to mask their supremacist views. 

“Nick Fuentes was kind of, like, the leader of this tendency,” Lorber said. “They maintained hope in working within the Trump revolution, within the MAGA movement, to carve out a space for explicit white nationalist politics.”

Indeed, Fuentes was a key participant in the so-called “Groyper War,” in which he and other young far-right activists pestered more mainstream conservative figures with questions about antisemitic conspiracy theories. They cast themselves as agents of authentic conservatism against the “Conservatism Inc.” represented by figures like Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA.

Their goal, Lorber said, was to “sidle up as close as they could to the mainstream. They knew that they weren’t going to be working for Mitch McConnell or anything like that…and so that’s why they’ve been really cultivating relationships with Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene. You know, people on the hard fringe of the MAGA movement, but who still have mainstream influence.”

Gosar and Greene both spoke at a conference put on by Fuentes earlier this year. During a speech by Fuentes at that conference, the crowd cheered for Vladimir Putin and Hitler. Greene has since denounced Fuentes. For his part, Trump has condemned neither Fuentes nor Ye, his other Hitler-loving dinner guest.

But there are also those within the white nationalist movement who view Fuentes as a contemptuous sellout. “The full-on Nazis hate this guy,” Harper said. “They hate him for being the optician, for being buddy-buddy with the Republican party.”

Matthew Feldman is a professor at the University of York in England who studies fascist ideology and has served as an expert witness in terrorism cases. The opposite of Fuentes’s attempts at all-American imagery, Feldman said, are the Nazis who say, “we will never be accepted by these people, no matter what.” 

The most extreme of these groups is the Order of Nine Angles, a theistic Satanist neo-Nazi ideology that promotes terrorism and pedophilia.

“They said, we are self-consciously evil, and we’re gonna give you evil, and we think that fits what Naizsm really is,” Feldman said. People linked to both the Order of Nine Angles and non-Satanist Nazi ideologies have committed murder and other heinous crimes.

These extremists have become depressingly relevant. Some of them murder, while others curry favor in the political system. Either way, they’re dangerous, and it’s important to understand what they’re doing.

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