This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Nine minutes before the Christchurch shooter entered the Al Noor Mosque and murdered 50 people, he emailed a so-called manifesto to more than 30 different recipients—including the office of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. In the 74-page document, he explained his motivations for the attack, referencing an apparent “white genocide,” naming “Oswald Mosley” as the person who most influenced him, and labeling his Muslim victims as a “large group of invaders.” Less remarked upon, the 28-year-old shooter described himself as an “eco-fascist.”
It’s not a term that many will have heard of. Eco-friendly, environmentalist politics tend to be linked with the ideas of the left, not fused with the oppressive politics of fascism. But that’s exactly what eco-fascism is: a twisted blend of authoritarianism, white supremacy, ethnonationalism, and a misguided concern for the care of planet earth.
The origins of the movement stretch back to the 1930s, to Hitler’s Germany and the infamous Nazi slogan, “Blood and Soil.” Blut und boden, as it’s written in German, represented the idea that a racially-defined body of people (blood) have an innate connection to the land on which they live (soil). That may not sound so different from modern-day nationalist rhetoric (just look at how the white cliffs of Dover are used in English nationalism), but it actually went much further than just admiring the beauty of a landscape. It emphasized a deep-rooted, mystical connection between the German people and their land that fed into the idea of an Aryan master race. It’s this kind of mythical, puritanical take on the human relationship to earth that eco-fascists are so fond of.
Since climate change has become a major global issue and the alt-right has grown, a modern interpretation of eco-fascism has emerged. The current movement remains relatively small and mostly online. They make up just one strand of the broader alt-right, where climate change denial is still far more popular than environmentalism.
A casual scroll across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram reveal a smattering of eco-fascist communities. Some post hashtags like #EcoFash and #MakeEcologyDeepAgain. Some post anti-semitic memes featuring rolling hills and nordic runes. Some upload videos of bearded men weightlifting, swinging axes, and chopping up meat—or vegetables, as many are vegan. Eco-fascists come across as a bunch of angry young men obsessed with brazen displays of masculinity, Viking aesthetics, misogynistic family values, racial purity, and a rejection of technology.
On 8Chan—the vicious message board on which the Christchurch shooter live streamed his attack —a number of threads praise eco-fascism. Horrifyingly, some of these pay homage to the shooter’s actions, with one dedicated solely to positive memes about him, and another thanking the makers’ “Brother” for his “contribution to the cause.”
On 4chan, you can find further examples of eco-fascist discourse. One section of the site contains a mock online parliament named the 4chan Assembly. Users can create and join fictional political parties and then “discuss real world international politics.” The aim is to “organize the anons so that we can more effectively concentrate our force and influence.” The term anons refers to anonymous 4chan users.
One of the Assembly’s parties is The Eco-fascism Party. While some seem to have been created in jest (like the Labour Party led by “jezza corbachev”), The Eco-fascism Party appears to be a serious attempt at persuading others of its ideas, and comes with an in-depth manifesto dating from November 2018. The manifesto advocates eugenics, the “complete destruction” of the LGBTQ movement, the prohibition of abortion, and the “repatriation” of minorities. “If they resist repatriation, the people will be forced to cull them,” the manifesto concludes.
One name frequently cited by the #Ecofash is that of Ted Kaczynski; or as they affectionately name him, “Uncle Ted.” Otherwise known as The Unabomber, Kaczynski was a math-teacher-turned-terrorist who went on an 18-year bombing spree around the US between 1978 and 1996, killing three people and injuring 23 others. Kaczynski was radicalized after the land around his woodland cabin was bought by property developers. He saw himself as a Neo-luddite, fighting against the corporate world in favor of a more primitive lifestyle.
Kaczynski gained a cult following among the #EcoFash after a fictionalized Netflix series aired in August 2017 about the hunt to capture him. Despite the fact that much of the show is factually wrong and somewhat diminishes the severity of Kaczynski’s actions by hinting that he was mentally ill, its simple explanation of his politics became a kind of gateway for some eco-fascists.
Another key thinker on eco-fascism is the 86-year-old Finnish polemicist Pentti Linkola. A fisherman by trade, he believes that democracy doesn’t function and that the only way to prevent ecological collapse is to impose dictatorships that could force humans to be green. This would involve killing people en masse so as to avoid overpopulation—which he labels as the main cause behind the degradation of the planet. His ideology is summed up pretty well by the following quote:
"What to do, when a ship carrying a hundred passengers suddenly capsizes and there is only one lifeboat? When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship's axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides."
The unnecessarily bloodthirsty image of hands being axed off the boat is a pretty good representation of Linkola’s work as a whole, and the way in which he essentially argues for genocide is a terrifying glimpse into how the far-right could react to climate change.
In this curious blend of almost-spiritual Nazi ideology, Finnish authoritarian idealism and the swashbuckling, hyper-masculine, pop-culture appeal of Ted Kaczynski, the alt-right eco-fascists have formed a new, twisted sub-culture. Buoyed by an undercurrent of anti-establishment rhetoric peddled by the wider alt-right, and garnished with the aesthetic charm of facial hair, pine trees, and nordic runes, #EcoFash is in reality little more than genocidal authoritarianism with a hippie-ish gloss.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.
Follow Tom Bennett on Twitter.