The video is called “Best Wishes to North Korea”. In it, a twenty-something Youtuber and political activist praises the DPRK, hailing it as a bulwark against globalism and a counterbalance against a U.S. which insists on playing the world policeman.
But this isn’t a video put together by the small, if dedicated, pro-North Korean communists who are out there, the Korean Friendship Association, or “tankies” as they’re called by frustrated fellow travelers on the left.
No, this is an episode of a web series called “The Daily Traditionalist”, hosted by Matthew Heimbach, chairman of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a fan of the Confederacy, and a man described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a key figure in “a new generation of white nationalists”.
Heimbach has called for people in mixed-race relationships to be sent to “re-education centers,” described LGBT people as “degenerate,” and described himself as being engaged in a struggle against “International Jewry.”
The comments, it seems, agree – or are at least taken with the idea of white nationalist solidarity with the DPRK.
“Agreed,” one writes, in a comment consistent with many of their fellow travelers. “The real war is between Nationalism and Globalism.”
“Globalism goes against all that is normal and natural. Nationalism always has and will win the future – God and Nature have ordained this to be – We Nationalists will win.”
Heimbach is affiliated with what’s become known as the “alt-right”, a very loosely affiliated online movement of white nationalists, paleo-conservatives, and nihilists who have emerged from the shadows to tie their fortunes to what might be the strangest and most unpredictable candidate in history: Donald Trump.
Heimbach is not affiliated with Donald Trump – indeed, he did not officially endorse him – but he welcomed his election, as did many of his fellow travelers.
The election of Donald J. Trump as President in November last year came as shock to almost everyone, not least the U.S. liberal media establishment. Convinced that President Clinton looked set to be ordained as commander-in-chief, many were, understandably, upset when a brash former reality TV star and billionaire emerged triumphant.
But while experts insist that, at least in the short term, Korea policy is not set to change dramatically in the first few months of the new administration, many have found themselves scrambling to understand how the man will use American power in Asia.
The President-elect himself has had words of praise for the DPRK. While stipulating that Kim Jong Un is a “maniac,” Trump saw plenty to admire in the North Korean leader’s swift ascent to power in late 2011.
“You know, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it,” he told a crowd in Iowa in January last year. “How does he do that? Even though it is a culture and it’s a cultural thing, he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss. It’s incredible.”
The President-elect himself has had words of praise for the DPRK
“LET CHINA TAKE CARE OF IT”
But as Trump has grown closer to the White House, his position has become a little more muddled. At various times, the President-elect has suggested that China should intervene against the DPRK, suggested that U.S. troops could be withdrawn from South Korea, and expressed support for the nuclearization of Japan and South Korea.
Indeed, the messages from the Trump camp, or at least those associated with it, have been mixed.
In November, the New York Times reported that the President-elect’s nominee for National Security Advisor – a critical role in the White House formerly held by Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, to name a few – Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn had some rather off-the-wall opinions about the DPRK.
North Korea, he argued in his February book “The Field of Fight”, was part of a global alliance with China and radical “Islamist” movements to undermine the United States.
“The war is on,” he writes. “We face a working coalition that extends from North Korea and China to Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua. We are under attack, not only from nation-states directly, but also from Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, ISIS and countless other terrorist groups.”
“Suffice to say, the same sort of cooperation binds together jihadis, Communists and garden-variety tyrants.”
But as is the case with Heimbach, the further you go into Trump’s more fringe sympathizers the more likely you are to find more unconventional views on North Korea.
Nationalist culture ✓
Policies for racial purity ✓
Opposes Globalism ✓
Happy Independence Day North Korea! pic.twitter.com/y7qY1UzAgv
— Matthew Heimbach (@MatthewHeimbach) September 9, 2016
Heimbach’s Twitter account has since been suspended
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
NK News has previously covered the odd connections and ideological sympathies that have linked the American far-right to North Korea, united in a contempt for the globalist world order and the supposed decadence of liberal democratic systems of government.
It’s a strange network of political allegiances that has seen members of the British far-right express support for the late-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and seen North Korea send arms to the Islamic separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philipines. As Heimbach says, in the 21st century, it’s not about ideology so much as opposition to the liberal democratic world order.
The further you go into Trump’s more fringe supporters the more likely you are to find more unconventional views on North Korea
An expert on these worldviews, in which it’s essential to contextualize support for North Korea among some members of the alt-right, is George Michael, a professor of criminal justice at Westfield State University and an expert on extremism.
“Generally speaking, the far right has been quite strident in rejecting measures that might lead to a resumption of the Cold War,” he says, pointing to the well-documented connections between Donald Trump and the Kremlin.
“The far right sees Putin as a strong, nationalist leader who threatens the New World Order which they despise. Moreover, as a largely white country, the far right sees Russia as one of the few remaining white great powers in the world today.”
But more often than not these sympathizers in the United States have seemed confused: praising North Korea one minute, converting to Islam and praising Al Qaeda the next. That their worldviews would have any connection to the White House would be laughable.
But this is no longer the case.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that people who identify with the alt-right were some of Trump’s most enthusiastic, loyal, and hard-working foot soldiers in the primaries and general election,” says Michael.
In the 21st century, it’s not about ideology so much as opposition to the liberal democratic world order
CLOSE TO THE WHITE HOUSE
The alt-right is not inconsequential. Some of the largest groups of supporters of the President-elect’s campaign were – until it seems to have been shut down – the Reddit forum r/thedonald, which boasted tens of millions of page views a day and Breitbart, the bible of the movement, which received up to 85 million views a month in the weeks leading up to the U.S. election.
Breitbart now has a man in the White House: Trump’s highly controversial pick for head of strategy in the brave new White House was Steven Bannon, who described the site, for which he was CEO, as “the platform for the alt-right”.
NK News reached out to Richard Spencer, leader of the white nationalist National Policy Institute, and a leading figure in the alt-right.
Spencer describes himself as an “identitarian”, but the SPLC reports he has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing” and describes him as “a radical white separatist”. He is also the man behind the phrase “alt-right”, at least that’s what he claims.
Since then, he’s been cited as the presentable face of an online movement which, once confined to darker corners of the internet, has taken its brand of rage to the national stage.
The alt-right is not inconsequential
Spencer was known by many during Trump’s campaign, but it was a video released a week after his election to the presidency which gained him international notoriety. In the video, he attacks critics of his movement as “Cucks” (a common alt-right epithet for opponents), and “Golem” (a reference to a Jewish myth about a monster conjured to defend communities from anti-semitic attacks).
What caught most people’s attention, however, was his declaration of “Hail Trump, hail our people!” as members of the crowd performed fascist salutes – an incident Spencer later described as “clearly done in a spirit of irony and exuberance.”
Trump quickly disavowed these supporters.
Speaking to NK News over email, Spencer said he was concerned that Trump was filling his White House team with too many throwbacks to the Bush years, but argues that recent appointments, such as those of Steve Bannon and ultraconservative Senator Jeff Sessions were “daring”.
And what of North Korea?
“My perspective on North Korea is two-fold,” he argues. “I would advocate a gradual but unequivocal withdrawal of U.S. troops from the peninsula and a declaration of an end to hostilities.”
“I would then advocate a process of ‘off-shoring’ the North Korea Question: China, South Korea, and Japan are much better suited to dealing with the threat of North Korea—or even a potential Korean reunification—than the United States. It’s not our problem.”
Some are less concerned about North Korea. Jared Taylor, editor of the “race realist” American Renaissance and a man once described as the “intellectual godfather” of the alt-right, told NK News, through an assistant over email, that he has “has no particular views on North Korea”.
Apathetic or not, this is certainly not the traditional position of the American hard-right, which has historically seen North Korea as a bastion of Soviet-style Communism and a branch of the “Evil Empire” in East Asia. But times are changing, and under Trump, the more nationalist and isolationist tendencies in conservatism have returned to the fore.
THE CLEANEST RACE?
Matthew Heimbach, when contacted by NK News, is happy to discuss his views on North Korea, which go beyond simply advocating a non-interventionist approach and venture into sympathy for the country’s politics.
“The DPRK has been lied about for decades in the Western press to justify crushing sanctions and a hostile Western orientation against North Korea,” he says in an email. “The West hates North Korea because it is an independent nation that has resisted globalism and the international banking system.”
“As nations like Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya have all fallen to globalist ‘regime changes’ in recent years, the DPRK has remained free and independent.”
This is certainly not the traditional position of the American hard-right
While Cold Warriors might maintain that North Korea remains a throwback threat to the United States, Heimbach argues that the real conflict of the 21st Century is not between capitalism and communism, but between globalism and nationalism.
“Many American nationalists are still stuck in the 20th or even 19th century paleo-colonial mindset,” he says. “A lifetime of fierce anti-Communist indoctrination is difficult for many older folks to shake off.”
“Since the end of the Cold War, the far right has been quite isolationist, criticizing intervention in the Middle East and meddling in Russian affairs,” explains Michael. “The noted conservative columnist, Pat Buchanan, has long called for a retrenchment of U.S. intervention around the world.”
“Donald Trump’s outlook on global affairs seems to reflect much of this sentiment, as evidenced for example, by his reluctance to fully embrace NATO for fiscal reasons and fears of possible entanglement in European regional conflicts.”
Surprisingly, Heimbach, as do many of the commenters who agreed with his pro-North sympathies, have done their homework. Many cite “The Cleanest Race” by North Korea scholar B.R. Myers (an occasional NK News contributor), as evidence the DPRK is an ally, not an enemy.
“Since the end of the Cold War, the far right has been quite isolationist”
For those who haven’t read it, Myers’ argument is an interesting one: that North Korea’s political system, because of its roots in the Japanese Imperial Occupation of the Korean peninsula, is less comparable to a traditional communist, Marxist-Leninist state, but rather a fascist one. Look at the country’s militarism, Myers argues, or its fixation on racial purity: this isn’t a communist society.
“It almost sounds like you want to know why far-right people like a far-right state!” says Myers in an email, when contacted by NK News to find out how a Green Party-supporting Vegan feels about his work being cited by the far-right.
“The philosophy of Juche is a nationalist set of principles that is a form of Social Nationalism for the Korean people and culture,” says Heimbach. “The DPRK is not a Communist State, having removed all references to Marxism in their 2008 Constitution. Instead it is a nationalist state with strong elements of socialism.”
“Something astonishing has happened,” Don Advo, a prominent alt-right figure and a contributor to the highly racist Daily Stormer (named for the Nazi Party of Germany’s Der Stürmer), announced on the radio show of David Duke, the notorious former Ku Klux Klan leader, former Louisiana state representative, and one-time Republican candidate for governor of the state. “We appear to have taken over the Republican Party.”
Duke is another white nationalist and vocal supporter of Trump who’s defended North Korea in the past.
In a 2014 article on his website, Duke argues that while North Korea is “obviously a repressive state”, its human rights record is nothing in comparison to the State of Israel, and argues the DPRK has been a victim of a smear campaign by the “Zio media.”
“It almost sounds like you want to know why far-right people like a far-right state!”
“The American government’s continuous hostility towards North Korea is based on the same reason as the U.S.’s hostility towards Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Basheer Assad in Syria, and the Iranian state—namely, that all those nations are hostile to Israel.”
“Viewed in this light, it becomes obvious why the U.S. government—controlled as it is by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Jewish campaign funding, and directed by the Jewish Supremacist-controlled mass media—is so hostile to North Korea.”
The alt-right is not a monolithic movement. Those affiliated with it range from the moderate to hardcore racists and fascists. There’s a broad scope of opinion, needless to say, with the unifying factor being support for their “God Emperor” Donald Trump.
Any influence the movement as a whole will have on the Trump White House is unclear for now. But the alt-right is now, much to the joy of its supporters, at least tipped to play a small role in the new administration.
With the appointment of Steve Bannon (who once allegedly said he didn’t want his children to go to school with “whiny” Jews), they have hardly been excluded from the government that will run the most powerful nation in the world.
Bannon’s website, after all, praised Richard Spencer as “dangerously bright” and described comparisons to Neo-Nazis as “idiotic.”
And, while Trump has talked of his intention to have a hamburger with Kim Jong Un, Heimbach goes even further.
“If I had an invitation to visit the DPRK, I would happily accept that invitation to represent the Traditionalist Worker Party and show unity with a fellow nationalist movement,” he says.
Whether the North Koreans would be willing to welcome Heimbach and his burly comrades to Pyongyang is another question.
Additional reporting: Benjamin R. Young
Featured image: SPLC