'The most well-organized campaign in the history of the alt-right' is targeting H.R. McMaster — with help from Russia
The far right's crusade against national security adviser H.R. McMaster reached new heights last week, intensifying as Infowars founder Alex Jones invited the ultra-nationalist Russian political philosopher Aleksandr Dugin on his radio show to discuss "globalist" threats to the president's agenda.
Jones interviewed Dugin — who has been linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has close ties to Russian fascists and nationalists — as part of a segment attacking McMaster, who has come under fire from President Donald Trump's nationalist base for firing three National Security Council officials who had been appointed by former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
"He is purging anybody who does not want to have, basically, a war with Russia," Jones said of McMaster.
Click through images of H.R. McMaster here:
Dugin agreed. He said "globalists" like McMaster have made Russia "enemy No. 1" because they need a battle that will distract the public while they pursue their "Satanic" plans and "destroy humanity."
Casey Michel, a journalist who has written extensively about Russia's support for ideologically fringe groups in the US and western Europe, disputed the common characterization of Dugin as "Putin's Rasputin," noting that there is no evidence that the bearded ultra-nationalist has been whispering in the Russian president's ear.
"But Dugin's ideas have certainly become an ideological rallying cry for the Western far-right," Michel said.
Dugin's interview with Jones highlighted the extent to which the US far right has found a natural ally in Russia's current zeitgeist, which perceives the US as an imperialist power working on behalf of liberal elites to destroy traditional Christian values. And it exemplified how far Trump's nationalist base is going to stomp out a perceived threat to Trump's nationalist agenda.
That base has long harbored suspicions about McMaster, who persuaded Trump to stay away from the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" in a speech to Middle Eastern leaders in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.
But McMaster's recent firings of NSC officials Derek Harvey, Rich Higgins, and Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who were seen as sympathetic to Trump's "America First" agenda, has triggered a new wave of fury against the three-star general.
Administration officials speaking anonymously to conservative-leaning news outlets have accused McMaster of being "anti-Israel" and opposing "everything the president wants to do." And a new Twitter campaign launched last week to #FireMcMaster quickly turned into one of the most "well-organized" initiatives in the history of the alt-right, according to the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensics Research Lab.
The stories about McMaster being anti-Israel and the viral success of the hashtag — both of which were aggressively pushed by Breitbart, the outlet once run by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon — likely pressured Trump into releasing a statement late last Friday reaffirming his support for his embattled national security adviser.
The campaign to oust McMaster has had help from Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations, too.
According to a newly launched website that aims to track Russian propaganda efforts in real time, #FireMcMaster was among the accounts' most used hashtag last week. And shares of a Breitbart story titled "NSC Purge: McMaster 'Deeply Hostile to Israel and to Trump'" increased by 2,300% over 48 hours.
Lee Stranahan, an alt-right commentator who co-hosts a show on the Russian-owned media outlet Sputnik, also helped the #FireMcMaster campaign go viral, the Atlantic Council found.
Stranahan used the hashtag 25 times over four days, twice as much as he used the hashtag for the name of his own show, and recorded at least four separate videos urging his followers to demand that the White House fire McMaster.
In his interview with Jones, Dugin described both Putin and Trump as ideologically aligned only because they are both "obstacles" to globalists.
"They are on the same side of the battle," Dugin said. "Putin plays here the role of defender — of Christian civilization, of traditional society, and of human nature ... we, as well, have a Russian 'swamp.'"
The resurgence of the US's "alt-right" as a crusade against elitism and establishment politics coincided with the rise of Trump. But it has also taken cues from Russia, where Putin has sanctioned "traditional" Christian values and anti-globalism in an effort to galvanize anti-Western sentiment and consolidate power.
"I really believe that Russia is the leader of the free world right now," self-described white nationalist Matthew Heimbach told Business Insider late last year. "Putin is supporting nationalists around the world and building an anti-globalist alliance, while promoting traditional values and self-determination."
Dugin recorded a speech titled "To My American Friends in Our Common Struggle" for a nationalist conference organized by Heimbach in 2015.
"We have a common enemy," Dugin said, "whose name is liberal, globalist elitism."