Codebreaking the Alt Right: “Russia is Our Friend!”

Map of the Russian Empire, 1820

Martin Shkreli, the infamous “pharma-bro” who first came to attention by endangering people’s lives by raising the cost of an Aids drug by 800% is back in the news. Shkreli, who obviously wasn’t hugged enough as a child, was convicted of securities fraud and is now being forced to part with some of his one-of-kind possessions.  The one that is getting the most headlines is the single copy of the Wu Tang  album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. Shkreli bought the album just so no one else could hear it because he’s that kind of guy. I hope his prison stay is unpleasant.

Also among those possessions is an Enigma machine, a cryptography device most famous for Alan Turing’s work with it that help break Nazi codes during World War II.  Today’s Alt Right also likes to use codes, but rather than hiding troop movements they do so in order to enjoy a smirking frat-boy (and I do mean boy) “joke” at the expense of the rest of us. And the codes change all the time; Pepe the Frog is out, Groyper is in. A “reporter” for the Gateway Pundit (aka Jim Hoft, aka “the stupidest man on the internet”) recently gave a speech entitled “Its OK to Be White” that was chock full of such coded language to signal to the Alt Right that he was one of the cool kidz. This included drinking milk during the speech as a way of showing off his superior Nordic genes. Then he allegedly attacked a woman. Like I said, the Alt Right has a problem with women.

One of the chants we can hear when the Alt Right marches is “Russia is our friend!”  David Neiwert explains that:

The alt-right has been unabashed in its open admiration of Russia’s authoritarian strongman president, Vladimir Putin, and the nationalist agenda he has promoted both in Europe and in the United States. A number of alt-right figures, including Spencer, have well-documented connections to the Russian regime, which also has played a major role in underwriting far-right movements in Europe. It later emerged after the 2016 election that Russia’s propaganda machine had a powerfully symbiotic relationship with the alt-right in spreading its ideology and memes through social media during the campaign.

Neiwert has it right, as usual, but there is a deeper history here. To really understand “Russia is our friend” we must understand a mysterious man named Francis Parker Yockey.

Francis Parker Yockey (1917-1960) was an American attorney who was sent to Europe after World War II to help prosecute Nazi war crimes. Sometime during that process, Yockey became convinced that the United States was on the wrong side of the Nazi issue and threw his lot in with the Nazis and fascists. He disappeared and his life after World War II was like a spy thriller: living underground, supported by fascist benefactors and writing great big books on his ideas about racial purity and the racial basis of civilization. American authorities finally caught up with Yockey in 1960 when he tried to enter the United States with a suitcase filled with fake passports under a variety of assumed names. There was a minor stir in the local papers: “3 Passports Jail Mystery Visitor Here,” and “Mystery Surrounds Man Seized with Fake Passports.” The mystery deepened when Yockey committed suicide with a cyanide capsule in his jail cell: “Mystery Man Suicide” and “Neo-Nazi’s Jail Death Poses New Mystery.” Authorities did not know how he got the cyanide capsule but the last person who visited him was Willis Carto, who went on to be America’s leading antisemitic organizer for the next half century. Carto’s own newspaper, Right, knew the cause of Yockey’s death: the Jews, specifically the Anti-Defamation League:

Headline of RIGHT newspaper:

Carto, through his Noontide Press, rescued Yockey’s masterwork Imperium: The Philosophy and History of Politics from obscurity. Yockey had originally published a few hundred copies of it in 1948 under the pseudo-Viking pen-name, “Ulrick Varange.”   I remember buying a copy sometime in the early 1990s having found it in a used bookstore.  At the register, the bookseller looked at me with suspicion, “Kind of a controversial book.”  I knew the tone, having used it myself: “I don’t want any trouble if you think this is a good or correct book–you might be into this stuff, but I want you to know that I know what it is.”  I assured him that I was a historian interested in the far-right, this was for research.  He looked relieved.

Sign reading: "Russia"

Like Julius Evola, Yockey’s theories were mystical and spiritual–he wasn’t the scientific Nazi interested in the genetic superiority of the Aryan. He was the mystical “race soul” Nazi; the kind who would have believed in the Ark of the Covenant and eventually had his face melted. I highly recommend Kevin Coogan’s magisterial biography of Yockey if you want a comprehensive treatment. You’ve never heard of him but the racist right absolutely loves  him. Of particular importance for us right now is Yockey’s view of Russia.

Yockey was a proponent of an obscure ideology called “Eurasianism.” Yockey saw culture and spirit, rather than politics and economics, as the real underpinnings of civilization. The Russian soul was “primitive, Asiatic, instinctive” which meant the Communist revolution was alien to it, particularly because the Jews, whom Yockey called “culture distorters” were behind it. Yockey wrote of, “assumption of the leadership of this revolt by the Jewish Culture-Nation-State-Race. The necessary financing was procured in New York from members of the Culture-distorting group in America” (p. 580). The upshot of Yockey’s position was that a Russian occupation of Europe would be less harmful than what he saw as the present-day American occupation. The Russian, because a primitive barbarian who cannot understand true European culture Yockey thought a Russian conquest of Europe would result:

Instead of the Russification of Europe…would result the Europeanization of Russia once again, and this time in far stronger degree. This would occur from pure historical necessity, since this is the Age of Absolute Politics and Europe is politically shrewd whereas barbarian Russia is formless and politically inept, fluctuating between senseless vehemence and inner doubt. Not even the most brilliant statesmen in Russia could use this barbarian material to subjugate Europe in this Imperialist stage of its Destiny. An attempt by Russia to integrate Europe into its power- accumulation peacefully would eventually result in the rise of a new Symbiosis: Europe-Russia. Its final form would be that of a European Imperium.

Hence, Russia is our friend for the Alt Right not only because it embraces the kind of authoritarian politics they love, but because they believe that the current sweep of events, including the reborn Russian imperialism were all predicted by Yockey decades ago. embraced by the Alt Right and the Now, Yockey’s theories were a hodge-podge of antisemitism, his own, possibly unbalanced, mind, and reactionary, anti-liberal politics.

That last bit, about the reactionary politics should worry us. As Coogan showed, there is a genealogy to this line of thought that includes Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, the German writer who in the nineteen-twenties coined the term later made famous by Hitler: “The Third Reich.” But the idea of Eurasianism has made a strong comeback in Putin’s Russia with the work of Alexander Dugin who has the ear of Putin and spreads the gospel of a Russian Empire far and wide. Dugin has been given a respectful hearing, not just from American followers of Yockey, but also from conspiracy monger, Alex Jones, who, need I remind you, has an avid follower in our President. Which is why Eurasianism is important for understanding why Russia wanted to hack our election.

We don’t need to wait, however, for the establishment of a Russian empire in Europe to begin worrying about Yockey’s influence on the Alt Right.  In 1998, when he was 23 years old, John William King and two friends beat an African-American man, James Byrd, Jr., behind a convenience store. King was the one who used a baseball bat. They then chained Mr. Byrd behind their truck and dragged him for 3 miles. The pathologist report, once they had reassembled the 81 pieces of Mr. Byrd’s body, told the court that the evidence indicated Mr. Byrd was alive for most of the dragging since the remains indicated he tried desperately to protect himself.  John William King, and his friends, were found guilty. At his sentencing, King issued a statement:

Though I remain adamant about my innocence, it’s been obvious from the beginning that this community would get what they desire; so I’ll close with the words of Francis Yockey: “The promise of success is with the man who is determined to die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly.”

His statement at his sentencing probably mystified anyone who heard it. Dina Temple-Raston’s terrific book on the lynching gives us the statement but does not explore it. Just  a crazy statement by a hate-filled and hateful man. Who was inspired by the same man as people now chanting “Russia it our friend!”

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4 thoughts on “Codebreaking the Alt Right: “Russia is Our Friend!”

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