The Troubling Rise of Eco-fascism

August 29th, 2019 - by Bill Berkowitz / The Smirking Chimp

Eco-fascism Burgeoning in White Nationalist Circles

Bill Berkowitz / The Smirking Chimp

(August 28, 2019) — For years, environmentalism has mostly been associated with progressives and leftists. On numerous social media platforms, however, an ultra-violent breed of white nationalists are talking ecological themes; blending save-the-planet-from-impending-doom tenets, with classic Nazi genocidal solutions.

In Charlottesville, Virginia, two years ago, tiki-torch bearing white nationalists chanted the notorious Nazi slogan, “blood and soil,” while also chanting “Jews will not replace us.” According to The Guardian’s Jason Wilson, while the phenomenon of eco-fascism has been around for quite some time, it “is currently undergoing a revival in the fetid culture of the contemporary extremist right.”

For several years, Alexandra Minna Stern, Professor of American Culture, History, and Women’s Studies, at the University of Michigan, has been studying white nationalists around the world that are “appropriating the language of environmentalism.” In a recent post titled White nationalists’ extreme solution to the coming environmental apocalypse, Stern pointed out that eco-fascism is becoming “a core ideology of contemporary white nationalism.”’s Cory Doctorow recently wrote that “The short version of eco-fascism is that it’s the belief that our planet has a ‘carrying capacity’ that has been exceeded by the humans alive today and that we must embrace ‘de-growth’ in the form of mass extermination of billions of humans, in order to reduce our population to a ‘sustainable’ level.”

Both the Christchurch, New Zealand and El Paso, Texas shootings appear to have at least one common theme: eco-fascism. The shooter, who killed 52 in March in Christchurch, New Zealand, “called himself a ‘eco-fascist’ who believes there is no ‘nationalism without environmentalism,’” Stern noted. The El Paso shooter that murdered 22 people and wounded dozens more posted a manifesto/rant on the chat-room 8chan, titled “An Inconvenient Truth,” “apparently in reference to Al Gore’s 2006 documentary warning about the dangers of climate change.”

The Guardian’s Jason Wilson pointed out that “Eco-fascists have lamented the despoliation of nature, which they associate with modernity and an industrial society which they feel has diminished the connections between race and territory. One of their principal concerns tends to be what they see as human overpopulation, and the tendency of migration and multiculturalism to move races out of their homelands.”

In their 1995 book, Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience, Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier wrote that “Nazi ‘ecologists’ … made organic farming, vegetarianism, nature worship, and related themes into key elements not only in their ideology but in their governmental policies. Moreover, Nazi ‘ecological’ ideology was used to justify the destruction of European Jewry. 

According to Alexandra Minna Stern, “The prominence of environmental themes in these manifestos is not an oddity. Instead, it signals the rise of eco-fascism as a core ideology of contemporary white nationalism, a trend I uncovered when conducting research for my recent book, Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate: How the Alt-Right Is Warping the American Imagination.”

In her post at The Conversation, Stern wrote: “There is a long thread that ties xenophobia to right-wing environmentalism. In the U.S., strains of eco-fascism appeared in the incipient environmental movement, espoused by racialists like Madison Grant, who in the 1920s championed the preservation of native flora including California’s redwood trees, while demonizing nonwhite immigrants. 

“After World War II, in the name of protecting forests and rivers, nativist organizations opposed to arrivals from non-European countries stoked fears of overpopulation and rampant immigration. 

“A meme popular online among the far-right and eco-fascists is ‘save the trees, not refugees.’ Often eco-fascist memes take the form of emojis like the popular Norse rune known as Algiz, or the ‘life’ rune. This rune, favored by Heinrich Himmler and the SS, is one of many alternative symbols to swastikas that circulate online to dog whistle neo-Nazism allegiances.”

White nationalists also look to the work of Finnish eco-fascist Pentti Linkola, who advocates for stringent immigration restriction, “the reversion to pre-industrial life ways, and authoritarian measures to keep human life within strict limits,” Stern wrote.

In his mid-March Guardian story titled Eco-fascism is undergoing a revival in the fetid culture of the extreme right, Jason Wilson noted that “Nazism and a twisted version of ecological thinking are joined in the minds of a share of rightwing extremists. In social media and the more secretive spaces of the online far right, eco-fascists are proselytizing for genocidal solutions to environmental problems.

Madison Grant’s ideas about limiting immigration to white people, was recently echoed by Ken Cuccinelli, current Acting Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services. As Cory Doctorow pointed out, “Today, the eco-fascist movement is closely aligned with the Trump administration, through links to Steven Miller and Jeff Sessions. … Ann Coulter demands that Americans choose between either ‘greening or browning’ their future. Richard Spencer wraps white nationalism in green rhetoric, and Gavin McInnes has directly linked environmentalism to anti-immigration ideology.”

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His Conservative Watch columns document the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.

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