Trump and the Nazis: Our troll-in-chief has a deep affinity with the alt-right — and with their ancestors

After the outrage in Charlottesville, Donald Trump emerges as the leading alt-right troll, a Hitler of lulz

Published August 20, 2017 10:00AM (EDT)

President Donald Trump and Armed Forces Day in Nuremberg, 1935 (Getty Images/Hulton Archive/ Drew Angerer)
President Donald Trump and Armed Forces Day in Nuremberg, 1935 (Getty Images/Hulton Archive/ Drew Angerer)

It must, over and over again, be pointed out to the adherents of the movement and in a broader sense to the whole people that the Jew and his newspapers always lie and that even an occasional truth is only intended to cover a bigger falsification and is therefore itself in turn a deliberate untruth. The Jew is the great master in lying, and lies and deception are his weapons in struggle.

— Adolf Hitler, “Mein Kampf”

I like real news, not fake news. You’re fake news.
— Donald Trump, to CNN reporter Jim Acosta

Our president is something more than an alt-right sympathizer. And he isn’t just propped up by alt-right allies and apparent white nationalists in the White House, like Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka and the just-dismissed Steve Bannon. The reality is that all along Donald Trump has been the biggest alt-right troll of them all, feeding and encouraging the various personalities whom we variously describe as the alt-right, the far right, white nationalists, white supremacists or neo-Nazis. He has not only given them fuel and motivation, he has helped them crystallize their plan of action, the strategic path whose next step we saw unfold in Charlottesville.

At this point, this is the only way to make sense of Trump and all that he says and does: His alt-right trolling (which has fatal real-life consequences) treats us all, the vast American public with diverse ethical philosophies, as an undifferentiated mass -- the ultimate “lolcows” whom he subjects to thrice-daily torture with his endless proliferating memes -- and the means to advance his fascistic agenda.

For many months I have been inhabiting the virtual cesspool created by the alt-right. To understand the president (our homegrown would-be Führer), one must listen to what the alt-right says and then look for resemblances, echoes, and outright identification in Trump's statements and signals. Of course the president, at least for now, cannot go as far as alt-righters do, particularly in expressing genocidal intent toward certain populations. But the similarities of articulation and motivation are such as to leave little doubt that he belongs to the same family from which these reprehensible individuals originate. I’ve provided some examples of these comparisons. Based on these, it seems clear to me that Trump is the alt-right’s troll-in-chief.

I think it’s important to be exposed to the thoughts of the Nazis among us, so that we can study them closely and astutely, instead of censoring them or hiding away from their repulsive thoughts. Libraries often do not carry the works of well-known American Nazis, which I think is a big mistake. For me, the Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin’s chronicle of daily fulminations has been an indispensable guide to the contemporary Nazi mind. Anglin has carefully noted at the Daily Stormer that he does not advocate violence, as though everything he propagated didn’t imply violence on a planetary scale.

Watch these two clips carefully for resemblances:

Andrew Anglin, London speech, 2014\


Donald Trump, Warsaw speech, July 6, 2017

Before I say a bit more about the alt-right personalities we must know about, let me try to distill the alt-right’s philosophy in as few words as I can. These are my words, and not everyone described as alt-right necessarily shares all these views, but I believe them this to be an accurate general summary:

It is axiomatic that members of each race feel comfortable interacting only with their own race. The Jews’ globalist agenda, abetted by their degenerate art and philosophy, brings about race dilution, particularly by way of mass migration. The Jews have successfully induced racial self-hatred amongst whites, hence political correctness and multiculturalism (“cultural Marxism”), the instruments of this guilt, must be overcome at all costs. America must be secured as a white ethno-state, an exclusivist homeland, while all other races must be sent on their way. Only the white race is capable of great achievements in science, the arts and politics, and its preservation can only be brought about by eliminating the cultural virus that the Jews and other degenerate cosmopolitans (“cuckservatives”) spread amongst unsuspecting whites.

Of course Donald Trump does not articulate that entire spectrum of ideas in any given speech. But if we take each of Trump’s speeches and utterances and put them together, the cumulative picture — minus the explicit Jew-baiting, though he came close to that during his campaign — is remarkably evocative of Anglin’s paranoid worldview. Whenever Trump talks about carnage in America’s inner cities, for example he is tapping into the discourse Anglin and his fellow alt-right leaders engage in, when they dehumanize African-Americans as living a subhuman, primitive, “jungle” existence that whites must have nothing to do with. The dehumanization is the first stage in the process of radical separation — ethnic cleansing, if you will.

As far as Trump’s other ideas in the Warsaw speech, I would say that it has little in common with the speeches on American exceptionalism any president, from Reagan to Obama, might have delivered in Europe. This is qualitatively beyond anything even George W. Bush ever attempted there. Rather than a call for communism or authoritarianism to retreat, or a paean on behalf of individualism over collectivism, Trump is explicitly calling for a defense of Western (read white northern European) civilization against the barbarian hordes around the world, as though we were already in the midst of this tumultuous civilizational conflict, with the invading refugees only the least of the visible manifestations he must cure. Superficial resemblances notwithstanding, no American leader has ever made this kind of speech before.

Let me put this plainly: The ultimate intention of many on the alt-right is to instigate racial conflict on a global scale, after which America will be great again (purified and limited to “Northern Europeans”), as will Europe, cleansed of the filth of Muslim barbarians. An event like Charlottesville is a small but significant advance in making what the most extreme white supremacists call RaHoWa (Racial Holy War) a reality. If you keep this perspective in mind, Trump and his core team’s international provocations start making a lot of sense. We’re no longer talking about invading some poor little country to seize its oil or other resources, or to warn off the worldwide communist conspiracy, but a crusade meant to reshuffle the world order, to bring about a new reality in favor of the white race.

Jared Taylor 2015 speech


Milo Yiannopoulos on how to defeat the alt-right

Donald Trump speech to Long Island police officers

Viewing these clips, do you detect any daylight between Yiannopoulos and Trump on Muslim immigration? Trump overtly dehumanizes immigrants — equating them to drug dealers, rapists, terrorists who snuff out “beautiful young lives … little girls” on Long Island — in order to expel what he calls “criminal aliens,” while encouraging police to be “rough” with them. If Yiannopoulos' book contract with Simon & Schuster can be canceled, if he’s no longer welcome on college campuses, why is Trump still permitted a voice?

In more than 15 years of writing about the changing dynamics of American fascism, I have been extremely careful in applying the terminology and in noting nuances and differences. Fifteen years ago when I asked whether America was becoming fascist, I noted the numerous elements, despite the early authoritarian breakthroughs of George W. Bush, that were still missing, particularly the absence of a charismatic leader and a fascist militia. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, as I updated the fascist dynamic for Obama’s early years, I noted the many ways in which the fascist fever seemed to have abated. During the early part of Trump’s campaign, I was again careful not to call him an outright fascist, and thought he seemed more like an authoritarian populist, with fascistic tendencies that needed to be closely watched. Even after he was elected, I mentioned both the differences and similarities between his and Mussolini’s style.

Now, however, after a period of time in which he has shown his true colors, I have no doubt about his ideological provenance. And this is my goal here, to identify those who explicitly articulate Nazi ideology in America today, and then to ask you to start listening to Trump with those views in mind.

For me, the conclusions are clear enough. You, the reader, will have to draw your own conclusions about the extent to which my claims about Trump’s true motivations are supported by the evidence I provide here. I invite you to do your own research by watching or listening to the plentiful alt-right source material available online, to decide for yourself the extent to which the president’s vocabulary about race, immigration, poverty, sexuality, law and order, the inner cities and our relations with Europe and the rest of the world synchronizes with the alt-right playbook.  

My personal list for the leading alt-righters would include:

Andrew Anglin, whose Daily Stormer website was banned by both GoDaddy and Google after Charlottesville, and who, to my mind, most closely echoes Trump’s particular blend of desperate insecurity and barely disguised fondness for violence;

Richard Spencer, the man who coined the term “alt-right,” who runs the National Policy Institute, and to whom the liberal media defers as some sort of intellectual powerhouse;

Matthew Heimbach, an inheritor of 1980s and 1990s style American neo-Nazism, embodied in such figures as William Pierce, Ben Klassen, and Richard Butler, and leader of the Traditionalist Youth Network;

Jared Taylor, who, like David Duke, has tried to give racism, or what he calls “race realism,” a respectable cover throughout his career, by harping on genetic and IQ differentials, as in his 1992 book "Paved With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America," published by Carroll & Graf no less.

Such a list cannot be complete without mentioning two transcendent figures — Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones — who both vociferously deny being part of the alt-right, but who have been godfathers illuminating the way for the entire movement. Yiannopoulos was exiled from Breitbart News, but may have done more than anyone to popularize the alt-right's themes and concepts, particularly on his "Dangerous Faggot" campus tour where he took on “political correctness" and sparked numerous disturbances. Early in 2016 he wrote, with Allum Bokhari, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the alt-Right,” for Breitbart News.

Yiannopoulos' favorite tactic is to dismiss his outrageous conduct as being “just for fun,” or for the sake of transgression — in the manner of the 4chan trolls. If you’re not having “fun” by mocking Muslims and immigrants and genetically inferior people, or loudly clamoring for a nationalist revival, then you’re an old fogey no longer relevant to the scene. His signature move is to articulate how to defeat the alt-right, as in the clip above, by bringing about the most important things the alt-right desires, such as “no more immigration” — all while claiming a plausible distance from the movement. Trump’s post-Charlottesville strategy has been similar: Create artificial divisions between the “alt-right” and mere “patriots” and "very fine people," where no such clear boundary may exist in reality. Whenever Trump suffers a backlash for his outrageous trolling, like Yiannopoulos he dismisses it for what it is, blaming us for not getting the joke.

In the same vein, Alex Jones’ deranged conspiracy theories are acutely reflected in Trump’s worldview as well as those of the others mentioned here. Without his enabling apparatus, the alt-right could not have established popular appeal.

Then there are a number of other figures one should follow — Sargon, Stefan Molyneux, Lauren Southern, Vox Day, Mike Cernovich, Paul Joseph Watson (of Alex Jones’s radio network) — in order to sharpen the picture about what they believe and how they plan to go about achieving their Nazi-like ambitions.

Of course there are raging disputes among them as to who is “alt-right” versus who is “alt-lite” and who is neither. Spencer likes to think of himself as the undisputed ideological master, and has little patience for anyone who dares to encroach upon his “intellectual” territory — though he has a soft spot for Taylor, who has worked tirelessly all his life to mainstream racism. Among themselves they argue endlessly about the biology and physicality of their own leaders, whether they are pure enough to speak for a northern European ascendancy, whether they are Jewish or of mixed blood or homosexual: Does Anglin, that alien-looking specimen, consort with young Filipino girls? Is Spencer gay? What about Yiannopoulos, who scores negatively on so many counts? Many on the alt-right get twisted into pretzels trying to reconcile what they consider the undoubted intellectual ability of Asians compared to African-Americans and Hispanics, given their hatred of all non-white people. 

But without Trump, this neo-Nazi constellation would never have reached as far as it has. Many of these online provocateurs, who spout unvarnished Hitlerian propaganda, wouldn’t even have gotten started. The importance of Trump is that he serves to dissolve all differences, to the extent that a charismatic leader can do so. Even when they don’t agree with him — when they think, for example, that he’s too soft on immigration — they know he is their only hope, so they’re devoted to him even in their anger. Trump, likewise, derives energy and motivation from their existence and emulation.

In the very first video from Charlottesville I happened to see, I noted the presence of Matthew Heimbach, whom we mentioned in an earlier roundtable on white supremacy in these pages. Later, of course, I saw in the Charlottesville footage Richard Spencer and several others well-known on the white supremacy circuit. These individuals live in a close-knit world and travel to each other’s events around the country. When they get in trouble with the law, or if they just want a sympathetic audience, they seem to find solace in the festering pools of Eastern European fascism, where they indulge in their dream of a pan-Atlantic ethno-state, the white nationalist homeland to which Trump and many in his inner circle seem by their words and signals to be dedicated.

But here is a crucial point: The actual number of hardcore Nazis or white supremacists who might show up at an event like Charlottesville is minuscule compared to our total population. There are of course many passive sympathizers, and many frustrated, economically marginalized whites at different positions on the far right spectrum. I also noted the presence of David Duke -- who hasn’t been relevant to the white supremacy scene, just as the KKK hasn’t, for some decades. But the Charlottesville provocation showed how small the actual count of Nazis is. Local anti-fascist activists far outnumbered the Nazis who’d showed up in response to a widespread call.

YouTube videos put out by Nazis such as Anglin and Heimbach find a tiny viewership. (Within Nazi circles there is a raging debate about who gets the most YouTube views.) Even if you take account of the various sites that have proliferated in response to the Trump phenomenon — such as Red Ice, Millennial Woes, VDare, Rebel Media, etc. — it's an open question how many  actual blackshirts are willing to storm out on the streets, as opposed to anonymous people venting their frustrations online.

In large part, the Trump presidency seems to serve as a performative vehicle to distort and magnify the reality of white supremacist or neo-Nazi sentiment among white Americans, and then to project that sentiment wherever whites live in the world. The small-scale template for that is Charlottesville, which might give the impression that there is a raging Nazi population in this country and that civil war is just around the corner. To the extent the alt-right has created that impression, its Charlottesville propaganda effort, which came at the cost of an innocent life, has wildly succeeded. It appearsemboldened to try for more — especially as there have been no real consequences, with the president of the United States apparently in their corner.



Richard Spencer at National Policy Institute


Donald Trump at Boy Scout Jamboree, July 24, 2017

Many in the alt-right want to nationalize the white masses, which in turn means to militarize them. Trump is playing the same game. His otherwise bizarre speech to the Boy Scouts, which addressed them as adults who would know about sexuality, business oneupmanship, hardcore competition and all the assorted realities of life (including Obamacare, fake news and the “swamp”) only makes sense as a charismatic leader upending the standards of what we expect from privileged Americans of a certain age.

It is all about hardening the masses, getting the whites prepared for war, instilling a martial spirit in them from the beginning, in contrast to the lazier races who do not, apparently, have recourse to this martiality. In Trump’s case, he can envision no greater outburst of the vital, organic, folkish spirit than competition in the business arena, so that was his relentless focus in the Boy Scouts speech — the next best thing he has to Mussolini’s Balilla or the Hitler Youth. Anyway, it is not about converting the actual Boy Scouts into instant warriors, but about diverting the discourse from the traditional virtues of cooperation to mortal competition.

Similarly, when at his historic press conference on Aug. 15 the president defended the “very fine people” who attended Charlottesville Nazi rally, he was legitimizing by way of myth the one-third to one-half of the country who are undoubtedly behind him, despite or because of his racist provocations. He was telling them, "You’re not Nazis, you’re not the alt-right, you’re not morally reprehensible, you have nothing to answer for." He was, in effect, creating an ambiguous moral classification for those of his supporters, the vast majority of them, who will not take the logical next step of identifying themselves as Nazis.

Therefore — despite the fact that most of those who came to cause trouble in Charlottesville were Nazis of one sort or another — his supporters with racist inclinations can now consider themselves among the ranks of the fine people. After all, as Trump so disingenuously challenged at the press conference, “When you say the alt-right, define alt-right to me.” In the wake of Charlottesville, he is now trying to define Nazism, and alt-rightism, to a minute transparency, to the degree where no one can pinpoint it, no one can call it out. With the full force of visibility, he is trying to make Nazism disappear.

I want to briefly note some points about the degree to which the alt-right stems from online imageboard culture, or what has been called the “chan world,” of which 4chan, particularly its /b/ board, the best-known example. Studying the alt-right leaders I have mentioned, it seems to me that too much has been made of the alt-right’s obeisance to online troll culture. The alt-right’s leaders are actually Nazis of a very simplified sort, minus even the complexities and nuances one might have found in the neo-Nazi leaders of the 1970s through the 1990s, i.e., Butler, Pierce, Klassen, Carto, et al.

Even the hundred years of esoteric elaboration of Nazism, from Satanism to Nordic religions, has been jettisoned, in favor of the singular focus on immigration around which all the Nazi concerns coalesce. Hitler astutely taught that “all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and [the movement] must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.” That is a principle that Trump, Anglin, Heimbach, Spencer, Taylor and other alt-righters have fully assimilated, so that every conversation ultimately turns around to criminal immigrants.

The alt-right has latched onto some of the protocols of the chan universe, using some of the trendy vocabulary (one has been red-pilled, a reference to the  "Matrix" universe; those outside the Nazi cult are “normies,” which evokes troll culture’s reference to “NORPs,” and which reminds us of nothing so much as the Harry Potter world’s “muggles”), and fed off the misogyny, frustration and resentment so prevalent in the chan world’s “anonymous” culture.

I believe the alt-right is ultimately a radical simplification of the 20th century’s vast corpus of fascist thought, distilled to a few essentials for easy consumption by their own constituents, whom their leaders think of as nothing but rubes susceptible to the most elemental propaganda. As though the vast literature of 20th-century fascism didn’t exist, the alt-right trolls keep going back to Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” and most of their ideas are taken directly from that guidebook.

Matthew Heimbach speech


Donald Trump's inaugural address

Any analysis of the aesthetic, visual and philosophical style of the current alt-right leaders, compared to 20th-century forerunners such as Oswald Spengler, Carl Schmitt, Lothrop Stoddard and others (not to mention more recent American neo-Nazis such as George Lincoln Rockwell and William Pierce) is the subject for a later essay. But let me note here that there is nothing “alt” about the right and nothing “neo” about the Nazis we’re talking about. From Hitler, they have adopted his race philosophy in toto, borrowing his particular animus toward Jews, who are often replaced in the alt-right imagination with Muslims, as representing everything they find abhorrent about contemporary race-mixing, nomadism, degeneracy and cosmopolitanism. This is not to say that they have taken attention off the Jews; it’s just that they find Muslims and immigrants in general a target far more likely, at the present moment, to gain traction among those inclined to racism.   

While Spencer has been discussed in liberal publications as some kind of intellectual behemoth, my takeaway from months of immersion in alt-right culture is the incredible shallowness of its ideas, even compared to their immediate Nazi forerunners.

The Nazi legal theorist Carl Schmitt, for example, is an unmistakable influence on all succeeding Nazis, and certainly on Trump. Alhough Trump is likely incapable of reading or comprehending Schmitt, he has intuitively absorbed the gist of Schmitt’s thought process. Schmitt, to reduce him to a few words, wanted the return of the “political,” by which he meant the friend-enemy distinction, as opposed to the parliamentary, representative form of government, to which he was opposed. The friend-enemy calculus would bring back “decisionism” (which Trump might call executive will) into the political realm. If you look at Trump’s views on authority, and those of his alt-right coreligionists, one senses an incredible impoverishment of Schmitt’s ideas.

Likewise, Lothrop Stoddard, popular in the early 20th century, has been a huge influence on American neo-Nazis in the century since, particularly through his 1920 book “The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy.” In reading Stoddard’s 1921 book “The New World of Islam,” one is struck by the degree to which even an undisputed racist like Stoddard was fair and honest about the Islamic world in the wake of its modernist reformist efforts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries — I mean relatively balanced compared to Spencer or Trump or anyone of that ilk, who share nothing of Stoddard’s feint toward historical literacy.

The alt-right, in my view, is not, a more sophisticated version of Nazism; it jumps back to “Mein Kampf,” and mostly that, in the crudest way possible. It doesn’t even have room for what we might call the more sophisticated spectrum of conspiracy theory, from the concern with the Freemasons to the more recent ZOG (Zionist Occupation Government), which marked the late 20th-century American neo-Nazis. Rather, alt-right discourse is oriented to a Fox News level of comprehension, focused on Muslim immigration and substituting singular animus against them with almost the exact language Hitler uses in “Mein Kampf.”

The alt-right, our new generation of borderline or wannabe Nazis, including President Trump, also run into an insurmountable problem when it comes to what version of culture they should use to mobilize the inert masses — Hitler would call them the “feminine” mass. Should it be individualist or communal? Hedonistic or puritanical? Christian or agnostic? Anglin runs into all sorts of problems on this issue of degeneracy versus purity in the clip posted above, and you will note this conundrum in every expression of the alt-right’s views.

Consider another staple of Nazi thinking for a century, Oswald Spengler’s “The Decline of the West,” which was immensely popular at the peak of eugenicist thinking in the 1920s. When I read Spengler again, I notice the same effect, the absolute vulgarization and simplification at the hands of the alt-right’s Spencer, Anglin, Heimbach and Trump, a disrespect for cultures other than white that Spengler did not feel and was not capable of feeling, dressed as he was in the regalia of German scholarship.

What we have seen with the Trump presidency is a blurring of often artificial distinctions. Alt-lite and alt-right are indistinguishable now, but they are distractions with which the alt-right leaders keep their followers busy.

So how does one out-troll a troll? By engaging with them, by ignoring them and not showing up or by exerting brute power over them? If the Daily Stormer can be kicked off the internet, then why not the Daily Shoah — or Spencer’s Alternative Right and Radix, or Taylor’s American Renaissance? Anglin’s instigating act is that he wrote vile filth about Heather Heyer (the victim at Charlottesville), but what about the numerous other websites and video channels uttering far greater profanities or raw incitements to mass murder? You can find those on any of the sites I mentioned above. Anglin is a lone individual with little power, but what about the president of the United States, who constantly engages in racist and (as I would classify it now) Nazi-like behavior online? If the Daily Stormer, a site with a minuscule readership, is deemed enough of a threat to be banned, will Twitter close the president's account? If not, why not?

What, if any, is the difference between what Trump says about Muslims and immigrants and what Anglin, Spencer, Heimbach and others say? What is the difference between the Breitbart network and the other alt-right protagonists I’ve mentioned? When it comes to immigrants and Muslims, I would say none at all. Yet Breitbart is not classified as a hate network, and is not likely to be.

Clearly, in dealing with the boilerplate of troll culture that the alt-right has disingenuously adopted, we have much work and much thinking to do, lest we become unwitting lolcows, with all the lulz coming at our expense.

Charlottesville was an attempt by the Nazi coalition, the alt-righters, to go from anonymous to visible — hence, no masks, no attempt to hide their identities. Actually, the alt-right has never been anonymous, it is a canard that it shares that fundamental aspect of online troll culture. Hitler said in “Mein Kampf” that he had “ceased to be a weak-kneed cosmopolitan and become an anti-Semite,” while Stephen Miller, Trump’s most outspoken white nationalist aide in the White House, recently attacked CNN’s Jim Acosta for his “cosmopolitan bias” at an event announcing the initiative to drastically reduce legal immigration — a resentment Trump openly shares. After all, the most visible and least anonymous troll of all inhabits the Oval Office.

I have paired particular Trump clips with particular alt-right clips, but many other examples are available. You can take almost any Trump speech, pair it with almost any alt-righter’s speech, and start analyzing for similarities. I believe the comparisons I have provided demonstrate the degree to which Trump embraces the gamut of alt-right thought, from the conviction about the primitive lives of black people to the necessity of expelling Muslims to ranking women along the physical spectrum in a way that polite society has not done for a long time. Faced with such a personage, we need to think seriously about the philosophy of trolling. What is a troll? How does he trap us in his vicious cycle of diminishment? What is the way out of his snares?

Although I have described the convergence of the alt-right with President Trump, in the end I do not believe any of this has an independent reality — despite the actual horrific consequences, such as we saw in Charlottesville — outside the logic of neoliberal capitalism. That, not Nazism, remains our ruling ideology; we live in a neoliberal world, in everything from housing, education and health care to our intimate relationships, not in a renewed Nazi world. It is still entirely to the benefit of neoliberalism that these opposing sides stand off against each other in the way they have, while neoliberalism becomes ever stronger. So to take on Nazism directly does not resolve anything. The problem lies elsewhere.

By Anis Shivani