Earlier this week, Lauren Southern and Brittany Pettibone, two North American YouTubers popular with the alt-right met, with Aleksandr Dugin, a well-known Russian geopolitical theorist on the radical right. Dugin’s thinking “draws heavily on the post-war attempts to recover the fascist project,” in particular appropriating three themes “familiar” to this intellectual lineage: the organic nature of Russian society; his opposition to ‘Atlantic’ liberalism; and his mysticism (Ingram 2001, 1045-1046). Dugin’s critique of liberalism, globalisation, and his interest in the occult takes some inspiration from the radical right Nouvelle Droite[New Right],and has recently resonated with some in Western Europe.
That Southern and Pettibone would jet off to interview Aleksandr Dugin comes as little surprise. Southern is still in the process of releasing videos of their interview with him. What this episode clarifies is something more interesting about the ways in which the North American radical right is building international connections with like-minded thinkers in Europe.
Dugin’s trenchant anti-liberalism is surely of interest to the alt-right. Dugin sees ‘Atlantic’ liberalism as the opponent of conservatism and traditionalism, which he centres in Eurasia. He believes that individualism and materialism are fundamental to liberal societies, and must be resisted. He argues that they are forces degrading cultural traditions which are otherwise organic products of their environment.
As central personalities in radical right circles, Southern and Pettibone have the ability to introduce American alt-right audiences to the New Right in a more digestible way than via the philosophical tracts produced by Alain de Benoist – the Nouvelle Droite’sleading ideologue – and Dugin (among others, of course). With this interview, Southern and Pettibone are clearly attempting to elevate their position as translators of European New Right ideology to North American audiences.
To date, English translations of Dugin’s work have been published by Arktos Media Ltd., currently located in Hungary. Arktos’s CEO and co-founder Daniel Friberg is an editor of AltRight.com alongside Richard Spencer. The Swedish businessman and publisher is very close to the growing Generation Identity (GI) movement, lending their imprint to the movement’s literature by Markus Wellinger. For its part, Generation Identity’s goal is to engage in a metapolitical struggle (to use de Benoist’s terminology) that affects “political and socio-economic activity in an effort to preserve racial, ethnic, and cultural identity.”
Southern and Pettibone, moreover, are close to Generation Identity as well. Marcus Sellner – the Austrian radical right activist often seen as a spokesperson for GI – is Pettibone’s partner. Both Southern and Pettibone joined Sellner on recent GI actions, including renting a boat to disrupt NGOs rescuing migrants at risk of drowning in the Mediterranean. Together, all three were recently prevented from entering the UK on the grounds that they might stir up racial hatred. Southern and Pettibone have live-streamed these actions and have been increasingly bridging North American and European radical right digital subcultures.
For some time now, both Southern and Pettibone have been drumming up a sense in their North American audiences that Europe is facing a ‘great replacement’ (a reference to the myth that liberal sympathy for refugees and migrants will eventually replace white European culture). To do so, they have been producing videos of recent terrorist attacks in London and Paris, alongside coverage of Generation Identity actions.
Southern and Pettibone’s trip to Russia represents an attempt at building more intellectual connections between the European and North American radical right. A whole set of emotional connections have already been built through their consistent framing of European women – who are allegedly in constant fear of sexual assault from migrants – as well as the ‘Londonistan’ canard represented by Sadiq Khan, in addition to the “crackdown” on “legitimate” free speech by British authorities on people like Tommy Robinson. North American audience, particularly those who are situated in right wing media circuits, have been well prepared for a voice like Dugin’s, who ideologically situates the ‘erasure’ they apprehend as first and foremost a problem of centristconservatism and liberalism.
I suspect Southern and Pettibone are getting played. Putin’s record of outreach to radical right parties in Western Europe has been a matter of mainstream Russian foreign policy for some time, as Anton Shekhovtsov argues in Russia and the Far Right: Tango Noir. Dugin seeks to hasten the end of ‘Atlantic’ global hegemony and return collective identity, tradition, and rooted culture back into mainstream European and North American politics. It is very much in Dugin’s interest as a geopolitician to use their platforms in order to introduce a broader audience of the North American radical right to his work.
In a video reflecting on the interview, Southern states: “He [Dugin] kind of crumbled away all of my 100% confirmation that individualism is the best and kind of put some cracks in it…maybe your [liberal] obsession with the individual is what is hurting your society as a whole and is what is causing you to lose your identity”. If anything, it seems, Dugin has ‘red-pilled’ Southern on modernity itself.
Pettibone responded in similar fashion in the same video: “It was fascinating just how blatantly and confidently he was able to talk about things as identity or returning to traditional roots or the great replacement; things that if you mention these in America or Canada it’s like—whoa—suddenly it’s like too spicy…”
Southern and Pettibone—like most of those on the radical right—instinctively take to those voices that are seen as too controversial or have been censored. In her video introducing the interview, Southern claims that he is a “pariah”; that studying Dugin has “ended intellectual careers”. She also asserts that posting these videos could even end her own. She admits this was only encouragement for her to engage with Dugin: “playing it safe has never been my style, I’m banned from one country—might as well go for them all”.
While they both make much pomp and circumstance about listening to ‘alternative views’ and judging individual voices for themselves, they selected a thinker that simply confirms, more than challenges, their radical perspective. Looking forward, it is fair to expect that the self-interest of radical right personalities will remain an opportunity that Russian foreign policy actors will utilise.
Dr Bharath Ganesh is a Senior Fellow at CARR, and a Researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. See his profile here.
© Bharath Ganesh. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors’ and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).