When the far-right Iowa Rep. Steve King quoted an Islamophobic tweet by Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders and commented that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” Americans were shocked. But anyone who is familiar with King knows that he’s long been an extreme immigration opponent and a fringe figure even within the very conservative Republican party of today.
King's tweet earned glowing praise from neo-Nazi “alt-right” leader Richard Spencer, neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer and former KKK grand wizard David Duke. Some Republican politicians rebuked King for his tweet. Two days after the tweet, White House press secretary Sean Spicer finally commented, issuing mild criticism. “This is not a point of view [Donald Trump] shares,” said Spicer in a press briefing. “He believes he is the president for all Americans.” One day earlier, Spicer had no answer to a question about the tweet.
What's different about yet another offensive King tweet isn't its content. It's that King's nativist, white nationalist views are shared by powerful members of Donald Trump's new administration, and seemingly by Trump himself, who called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” during his campaign. Hardline nationalists including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, White House advisers Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, and national security official Michael Anton, paired with a pliable, anti-immigration president, are trying to create an America they've always dreamed of: a country of white people rooted in “European traditions” and intolerant of any other culture, language or non-Western religion. And they're allying themselves with far-right nationalist movements in Europe in the process.
One interesting detail in King's tweet is his use of the first person plural when referencing a European country. “We can't restore our civilization” is a clear statement: white America, descended from white Europeans, is still part of the same civilization the Dutch, and presumably white people across Europe, are part of. The next day, King defended his tweet on CNN and added, “We need to get our birth rates up or Europe will be entirely transformed within a half century or a little more.” For King, it's white people versus everyone else.
“Western civilization [is] a superior civilization,” he said. “I'd like to see an America that's just so homogenous that we look a lot the same, from that perspective.”
In a September 2016 tweet, King posted a photo of himself with Wilders and Frauke Petry, the far-right, xenophobic nationalist who leads the anti-immigrant and anti-European Union party, Alternative for Germany (AfD). He wished Petry a “successful vote” and added, “Cultural suicide by demographic transformation must end.”
Petry has said that, if necessary, German police may use their firearms to “prevent illegal border crossings.” Formed in 2013, AfD saw its support grow two years later when Germany admitted nearly one million refugees, many from war-torn Syria, and the party became a loud voice against harboring migrants. As it attacked immigration and Islam, AfD raked in supporters from the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party, according to Newsweek.
Petry’s claims sound almost identical to those of King and Wilders. Muslims arrive in Germany “with attitudes that are so way out of our sort of common behavior and European attitudes,” she said. “It’s simply a lie by the government that these migrants will fit into our society.” And Petry, who has five children, wants her government to provide incentives for Germans to increase their birth rate and “preserve their national identity.”
It’s pretty obvious what descriptors like “national,” “cultural” and “traditional” really mean to people like Petry, Wilders and King: white.
Wilders is the Dutch leader of the far-right Party of Freedom who wants to close all mosques and ban the Koran from the Netherlands. He has described Moroccan immigrants as “scum” endangering Dutch society. Wilders’ comments and policy proposals are even more extreme than those of Trump, someone he praises and has tried to emulate in recent months.
King invited Wilders to speak before Congress in 2015, and he remarked after Wilders spoke, “We are a superior culture, and I’m very glad to hear that said.”
The Iowa representative’s “cultural suicide” phrase appears to mimic the common white nationalist refrain of “white genocide.” The 2016 presidential candidate of the white nationalist American Freedom Party used the phrase prominently on his campaign website. The homepage reads:
‘Diversity’ is a CODEWORD for White Genocide
The party’s PAC sponsored robocalls for Trump during the GOP primary, and nominee Bob Whitaker resigned from the ticket and ran as an independent.
The calls repeat a yarn quite familiar to politicians like King and Wilders. “The white race is dying out in America and Europe because we are afraid to be called ‘racist,’” said one of the calls. “Don’t vote for a Cuban. Vote for Donald Trump.”
A holy war
Whether it’s our president’s chief adviser, an obscure white nationalist candidate, a racist congressman or a far-right European nationalist, the mantra is the same. These frightened white people think diversity will ultimately crush their warped idea of some intercontinental white culture. Currently, they target Islam and refugees from majority-Muslim countries, but don’t think their racial animus is limited to one group of non-white people.
The worldview of these various bigots can be summed up by the French, deeply racist 1973 novel, The Camp of the Saints, praised by Steve Bannon and King and something of a bible for the alt-right. Paul Blumenthal of The Huffington Post exposed the novel, and Bannon’s admiration of it, which describes brown migrants—portrayed as poor, stinky, hyper-sexual “turd-eaters” and monsters—who flood the shores of Europe and kill off white people, sparking a global movement: a “white genocide.” Bannon calls today’s refugee crisis both a “Muslim invasion” and a “Camp of the Saints.”
Like King, Bannon and Trump have formed relationships with far-right nationalists in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria (with a party that was actually founded by Nazis), as well as with the far-right Marine Le Pen in France and Brexit champion Nigel Farage in the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Bannon’s white nationalist Breitbart News, which he left in August to join the Trump campaign, has a London office and will soon open branches in Paris and Berlin, where the publication hopes to influence elections and policy in the same way it did in the United States and likely in Britain. It’s hard to imagine that Bannon isn’t still steering the content of Breitbart, which has been a de facto propaganda arm of the Trump administration with the recent exception of its coverage of the sad GOP attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare. But even that scenario—with the president supporting the legislation and Breitbart attacking it and, in particular, its leading proponent, House Speaker Paul Ryan—could be a plot by Bannon, who for years has salivated over taking down the Wisconsin representative.
Bannon says that Western society is at war with Islam. And in a war, you always need allies. Presumably, Bannon and the other white nationalists in the White House think that if they can unite with and aid nationalist movements all around Europe, there’s a chance that they can eventually eradicate all Muslims from the Western world and save their treasured, homogenous, white, Christian society. Support from other countries with nationalist governments such as Russia and Israel could help their effort. Apparently anti-Semites like Bannon and Sebastian Gorka have swallowed their personal views on Jews in order to support the far-right Israeli government, which runs a de facto apartheid regime targeting Palestinians.
Bannon, Trump’s war-obsessed and Islam-hating top adviser is in good company at the White House. AG Jeff Sessions, a man with a proven racist track record who was recently considered the most conservative member of the Senate, has campaigned against unauthorized and even legal immigration for some time. Bannon credits him with laying the groundwork for the modern American nationalist movement. Another white nationalist (who is Jewish), Stephen Miller, was Sessions’ aide in Washington, helping mastermind the takedown of immigration reform, and is now one of Trump’s most influential advisers. The president’s deputy assistant Gorka, also an Islamophobe, has disturbing ties to nationalist Nazi-affiliated groups in Hungary. And Michael Anton, now a senior national security official in the White House, has railed against “the ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners” and Islam, which he sees as “incompatible with the modern West.”
But white nationalists’ Holy War against Islam has hit a few bumps in the road. A neo-Nazi Austrian presidential candidate went down in December. Wilders suffered an unexpected defeat in the Dutch elections on March 15, with his party coming in a distant second. On the same day, a federal court in Hawaii struck down Trump’s second attempt at a Muslim ban, which more than half of American voters already oppose, according to a poll by conservative Fox News.
Still, the threat against Muslims keeps growing, and Americans who believe in real religious freedom—not to mention compassion, diversity, and basic human rights—need to resist the white nationalist Trump cohort as much as they can.