Eco-fascism and mass killings

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TWH – The Buffalo mass shooter, Payton Gendron posted a manifesto online that reflected white nationalist beliefs. That belief harkens back to the Nazi belief in a mystical union between “blood and soil.” In Nazi ideology, the soil and blood or “race” (Blut und Boden) must be protected from “pollution.”

This vision of nature and the environment differs greatly from that of most Pagans. In his manifesto, Gendron used the image of the Black Sun. Other mass killers before Gendron have reflected white nationalist ideology and used rhetoric linked to folkish Heathenry, including references to Valhalla.

Eco-fascism has been used to describe this type of ideologically-driven violent behavior.

The New York Times reported that Gendron’s 180-page manifesto specifically referenced “racial replacement” and “white genocide.”

Some mass shooters have used rhetoric and symbols from Norse culture and religion. As of press time, no evidence exists that any of them were part of any known Heathen religious community. Loners do tend to avoid organizations. No evidence exists that any folkish Heathen groups had anything to do with these mass killings.

CNN reported that Gendron self-identified as a “fascist, a White supremacist and an anti-Semite.”

Recently, white nationalists have become obsessed with declining white birthrates. In his manifesto, Gendron blames this decline on “the destruction of the traditional family unit.” He attacks “hedonistic, nihilistic individualism.” Gendron argues that mass immigration has narrowed the window for restoring White birth rates.

He went on, “Mass immigration will disenfranchise us, subvert our nations, destroy our communities, destroy our ethnic ties, destroy our cultures, destroy our peoples. Long before low fertility levels [of White people] ever could.”

He further argues, “We must crush immigration and deport those invaders already living on our soil. It is not just a matter of our prosperity, but the very survival of our people.”

Memorial for Christchurch mass shooting victims – Image credit: Natecull – CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77446306

Gendron’s manifesto echoes that of Brandon Tarrant. He opened fire in mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. “The Great Replacement” belief motivated both Gendron and Tarrant. That belief holes that People of Color are “replacing” White people.

Eco-fascism vs. Environmental justice

held from April 27 through April 30, had a panel on eco-fascism. On that panel, Deja Newton spoke on “The History of Eco-Fascism and Its Spirituality.” Her presentation can help understand eco-fascism.

Newton has studied the connections between white supremacy, environmental activism, and eco-fascism. She studies at the University of San Francisco.

Newton defined eco-fascism as “the marriage between environmentalism and white supremacy.” To understand, eco-fascism, it helps to contrast it with environmental justice to demonstrate how the two differ.

Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice provide a simple and clear definition of the environmental justice concept.

They define it as the reality “that certain groups in society bear unequal environmental and economic burdens like poor air and water quality, as well as unhealthy living conditions resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations and/or federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and policies.”

This contrasts with a central argument of eco-fascism: overpopulation. One faction of environmentalism focuses on the population as driving environmental crises. Overpopulation viewed through a white supremacist lens sees those races considered as undesirable as driving the environmental crises at the global level. Unrestricted immigration viewed through that same white supremacist lens applies the same ideology to the environmental crises at the national level.

The overpopulation argument has a certain intuitive appeal. The Earth does have finite resources. When people use too many of those resources an environmental crisis begins. The flaw in that line of reasoning involves inequality in access to resources and power.

Distinct groups of people use different amounts of resources. People in wealthier and more developed countries use significantly more resources than those in impoverished and less developed countries.

Those in more developed countries produce a larger carbon footprint, while people in poorer countries are already enduring the worst environmental destruction. Those who benefit the least from an ecologically irresponsible, if not criminal, system, suffer the most from its consequences.

Environmental Justice recognizes these unequal power relationships. It outlines possible political coalitions to combat that inequality. Parts of West Virginia provide an example of inequality. Those with the least amount of wealth in the state are living near environmental toxins from mining. They are suffering the consequences of long-lasting mining toxins.

Newton argued that eco-fascism attributes environmental degradation to “industrialization, overpopulation, and immigration.” It requires people to sacrifice themselves be sacrificed for the good of the planet.

Eco-Fascism over the last Century
Madison Grant

Newton traced the beginning of eco-fascism to the 1916 book, The Passing of the Great Race or the Racial Basis of European History. Madison Grant, a conservationist and “scientific” racist, wrote that book.

An article in The New Yorker contained an extensive discussion of Madison Grant’s (1865- 1937) career.

That article argued that Grant helped to build the U.S. conservation movement. Grant, a member of the American Bison Society (ABS), helped to save the buffalo, and also ran the Bronx Zoo in New York City. Like Theodore Roosevelt, Grant enjoyed big-game hunting. Grant idealized nature without Native Americans. He wanted nature to be his “hunting preserve and contemplative retreat.”

This view of nature differs drastically from how most modern Pagans view nature.

In The Passing of the Great Race, Grant argued for the superiority of the “Nordic race.” Hitler read it, and then wrote to Grant to tell him, that Grant’s book had become “his Bible.”

Grant wrote another book about how “Nordics” had conquered North America. He sent copies to leading Nazis. He holds the dubious distinction of coining the phrase, “the Master Race.” He advocated the sterilization of “worthless individuals.”

Grant successfully lobbied for the passage of the restrictive Immigration Act of 1924. He described lobbying  for the Act as “one of the great achievements of his life.” Grant was not exactly a fringe figure. Charles Scribner had published many of his major books.

Grant was also a director of the American Eugenics Society and argued for the centrality of eugenics within the environmental movement.

The Population Bomb

In 1968, Paul R. and Anne Ehrlich co-wrote The Population Bomb. The publisher, Ian Ballantine of Ballantine Books, insisted that only one name, Paul’s, appear on the cover.

The Ehrlichs charged that overpopulation was driving ecological disaster. According to Paul and Anne Ehrlich, David Browder of the mainstream Sierra Club and Ian Ballantine of Ballantine Books, had suggested that they write the book. They argued that “overpopulation” and not socio-economic systems drove environmental crises.

More recent history of eco-fascism

Newton argued that Pentti Linkola (1932-2020), a Finnish Deep Ecologist, continued that tradition. Linkola argued that people on a lifeboat should use oars and axes to keep others off their boat.

Evangelos D. Protopapadakis described Linkola’s approach as “the epitome of Eco-fascism.” Protopapadakis argued that ecofascists “are eager to reject democracy, the idea of progress in its entirety, as well as industrialization and urbanization. They also seem to be hostile towards individual autonomy and free will.”

He described eco-fascists as prioritizing the “moral value of the ecosphere, while, at the same time, they almost entirely devalue species and individuals.”

The Great Replacement

Fears of global overpopulation have declined as population growth rates declined. Fears of national overpopulation through immigration have increased. This anxiety about changing demographics has fueled the growth of the populist right in both Europe and the U.S.

In 2011, Renaud Camus (1946-) published Le Grand Remplacement (The Great Replacement). In that book, he argued that the number of white births in France was declining. The immigration of Muslims into France was increasing. These two trends result in a gradual decline in the percentage of the European French. Hence Arab Muslims would be replacing the white French.

Global white nationalists have embraced and further developed that belief, and added an anti-Semitic strain. Belief in the ideology of The Great Replacement led directly to people chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” They did so while defending a Confederate statue in Charlotteville, VA. In White nationalist “logic,” Jews occupy an unstable position.

Belief in The Great Replacement has motivated several lone mass murderers. Clearly not all mass shooters are motivated by that ideology. Nor does the belief in The Great Replacement ideology motivate all attacks on People of Color, but some mass killers do act on that belief.

Eco-fascists and mass killings

In March 2009, Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian White supremacist, shot and killed 77 people. The New York Times discussed his 74-page manifesto in an opinion piece. He referred to past attempts of Muslim Empires attempts to conquer Europe. While this pre-dates Renaud Camus’ book, it draws on the same “othering.” Later believers in The Great Replacement and mass killers claim Breivik as an ancestor.

Newton reported that Breivik in his manifesto also praised Grant.

In October 2018, Robert Bowers killed eleven people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg. He wounded six others. Bowers did not directly reference The Great Replacement ideology. CNN reported that Bowers had posted on the social media platform GAB that, “Jews were helping transport members of the migrant caravans.” That statement is consistent with that ideology.

Memorial for victims of the Tree of Life mass shooting – Image credit: Dmitry Brant – CC BY-SA 4.0 

In March 2019, Brenton Tarrant killed 51 people in mosques in Christchurch. He injured another 40. The New York Times reported that the Buffalo shooter, Gendron considered Tarrant as his biggest influence. Gendron said, “Brenton’s livestream started everything you see here.” Both Tarrant and Gendron believe in the ideology of The Great Replacement. Other mass shooters have aligned their actions with Tarrant.

CNN reported that Tarrant said Breivik inspired him.

In August 2019, Patrick Wood Crusius killed 23 people in a Walmart store in El Paso. The New York Times reported that Crusius wrote a manifesto. The irony-challenged Crusius said he acted in “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” He praised Tarrant, and his belief in The Great Replacement ideology motivated Crusius.

The New York Times reported in April 2019, John Earnest, killed one person at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California. Earnest wounded three others. He also appears to have posted on the online 8chan platform his admiration for Tarrant and linked his cause to that of Tarrant’s.

On May 14, 2022, Payton Gendron killed 10 people in a supermarket in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo. He wounded three others.

The New York Times further reported that fear of White extinction has become a common theme in White supremacist conversation. That theme did not appear in the past. This indicates that belief in the Great Replacement has gained a strong foothold among White nationalists.

Blood and soil ideology

Newton reported that eco-fascists believe in a racialized, mystical organic union between people and their land. She linked this belief to Blut und Boden.

That slogan refers to a belief that people have an organic, mystical link to the land of their ancestors. This mystical link may have originated with the bodies of their ancestors becoming part of the soil.

In Nazi ideology then, the soil then becomes a manifestation of the “Master Race” in another form. Just as the “Master Race” in human form, the “Master Race” in physical form as the soil must be kept free from pollution. In that ideology, “inferior” races represent a particularly “virulent” form of “pollution.” This belief fuels the most murderous hostility.

It takes tortured logical gymnastics, if not utter delusionality, to apply the “blood and soil” model to settler-colonial societies like the U.S. which has its own issues of racism,  colonialism, and oppression.  But It does, however, give verbal expression to demographic anxieties about the U.S. soon becoming a majority-minority country.

Newton argued that eco-fascists avoid blaming corporations and capitalism for environmental degradation. Instead, they blame demographic groups, other than their own. She argued that eco-fascists lack a shared vision of humanity.

The belief in The Great Replacement ideology requires our community’s attention.  That theory perverts two areas of concern to Pagan communities: Nature and Heathenry. Moreover, the ideology’s obsession with falling white birth rates threatens rights to abortion, contraception, and non-procreative sexual activities. Though few people self-identify as eco-fascists, the death toll from just the murders mentioned in this article amount to 173.


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