Before I talk about Nazis today, I wanted to bring up an unrelated issue. Regular readers will remember that last month, a team of scientists concluded that the hypothesis of a comet hitting the Earth during the Ice Age and thus starting and/or ending the Younger Dryas period could not be supported because the evidence put forward for it, the existence of nanodiamonds in a particular layer associated with the comet, could not be confirmed. Graham Hancock ignored these findings, but on Facebook this week he’s praising two new papers that argue in favor of a cosmic impact around 10,800 BCE. The first claims that features known as the Carolina Bays were caused by a cosmic impact, and the second argues that a thin layer of platinum dating to the same period is evidence of a cosmic impact. I don’t know enough about geology to have any opinion on the evidence, but what I do know is that regardless of whether a comet hit, it implies absolutely nothing about the existence of Atlantis. None of the scientists involved in the research has claimed that the comet smashed into Atlantis or destroyed a technologically advanced human civilization.
Anyway, on to Nazis…
Fringe history has done a lot to normalize Nazism again. We’ve seen evidence of this time and again. Some fringe historians are or were themselves affiliated with Nazism, from Jacques de Mahieu, a Vichy collaborator and head of a Neo-Nazi party, to Frank Joseph, once the head of an American Nazi party. Others have endorsed the work done by Nazi pseudoscientists and pseudo-historians, such as Scott Wolter, who praised de Mahieu’s racial research into the Caucasian conquest of medieval America. Still others have embraced Neo-Nazis, wittingly or not, as when Giorgio Tsoukalos’s H2 program In Search of Aliens praised and endorsed the anti-Semitic work of Jan Van Helsing, an Esoteric Hitlerism conspiracy theorist. The History Channel has happily broadcast several episodes of shows like America Unearthed that followed the same lines of “research” that Joseph undertakes as a hyperdiffusion theorist.
And that doesn’t even begin to explore the explicit fascination fringe history has with esoteric Nazism. Much of this traces back to Jacques Bergier’s and Louis Pauwel’s efforts to tie Hitler to a secret revelation from otherworldly intelligences in The Morning of the Magicians, claims they seem to have meant as a kind of high-end satire, but which later fringe researchers took literally. You can’t sit through a History Channel “aliens” or “lost civilization” program without encountering Nazis, who TV producers darkly hint had some kind of secret knowledge that the rest of us don’t.
I mention this because there were yet more revelations this week that the conspiracy theorists in the Trump White House are more or less cut from the same cloth as the vanguard of kooks who populate the cable TV landscape and served as the advance units for colonizing Washington with conspiracies. According to media reports, Trump’s counterterrorism advisor, Sebastian Gorka, turns out to have been affiliated with a Hungarian Nazi collaboration party and to have pledged fealty to it, writing for the party’s anti-Semitic newspaper and proudly wearing a Hungarian medal associated with Nazi collaboration. Gorka denied the claims and said that the Nazi collaborationist medal was meant to honor his anti-Communist father. Not everyone bought the denial, mostly because at this point, connections to ultra-nationalist, racist, or anti-Semitic groups and causes has become something of a pattern.
But that’s hardly the worst of it. In yet another in a series of depressing revelations about White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, news accounts found him praising a racist French Nazi collaborator. This is not to be confused with his previous praise of a racist French novel, The Camp of the Saints (praise echoed by controversial congressman Steve King), that described non-white immigrants as filthy rapists who will drown the Caucasian race in their “semen.” This time, Bannon praised Charles Maurras, an anti-Semitic convicted Nazi collaborator in Vichy France. Maurras, who was actually a monarchist, tended to play both sides, and he also opposed the Nazis during the Occupation, much to their ire, and he blamed France for not adopting a more anti-Semitic policy to appease Nazis before the invasion. Maurras was a conspiracy theorist who imagined that a cabal of Jews and Freemasons had taken control of the Third Republic and were secretly undermining French society. (Sound familiar?) In his newspaper, he published the names and addresses of Jews, making it easier to engage in anti-Semitic activity.
While news accounts focused on the Nazi connection to Maurras, the more pointed one is the conspiracy theory Maurras developed that the ethno-nation was under fire from four related forces, which he called the “four confederate states of Protestants, Jews, Freemasons and foreigners.” (The last term was literally mixed-blood.) It is the bizarre obsession with Freemasonry that brings Maurras into our orbit here, joining with other extremists in imagining nefarious, powerful secret cabals. He considered the Masons to be Satanic and a force opposed to his beloved Catholic religion, parroting Habsburg propaganda created during the French Revolution, which is rather ironic in a French Catholic nationalist.
According to media accounts, Bannon praised Maurras’s distinction between the “real” nation, meaning those identified as passing some sort of nationalist purity test, and the “legal” state, made up officials, whom Maurras identified with foreigners and Jews. This distinction is a simplified (and racist) version of the tension between the two halves of the word “nation-state.” Modern countries promote the idea that state and nation are identical, but they are not. As the story of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries showed, focusing on the nation over the state leads to ethnocentrism and worse.
It's hard not to think that the people who aid and abet the infiltration of our culture by such ideas are to blame. Fringe history was, as I have said before, the canary in the coal mine, showing us what the elite New York media decided that Middle America wanted to see and would respond to. And more often than not it was white ethno-nationalism and conspiracies about how the Other is secretly in charge of the U.S. government, a claim that it takes no genius to see as related to the fears of white ethno-nationalists that they have lost power. Companies like the History Channel and all the book publishers who have pushed these Nazi, Neo-Nazi, and Nazi-adjacent conspiracy theories in the name of profit clearly don’t blame themselves. I doubt many of them even recognize what they have done. I mean, how many times did the History Channel broadcast a show that implied that white people were the secret font of all civilization, or were responsible for some other culture’s accomplishments? They probably just thought they were flattering their audience. But when the gatekeeper function of the media breaks down so much that it becomes acceptable to market these kinds of ideas for cash without concern for the consequences, something is deeply broken in our culture. Steve Bannon, a former Breitbart executive, is pretty much the fungus sprouting from a media culture rotten with decay.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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