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I went undercover in Seattle’s white nationalist group

caption: Patrik Hermansson, a Swedish activist, spent time with the Northwest Forum in June.
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Patrik Hermansson, a Swedish activist, spent time with the Northwest Forum in June.
Courtesy of HOPE not hate

For the past year, Patrik Hermansson, a young, gay, anti-racist activist from Sweden has been undercover inside white nationalist — also known as ‘alt-right’ — groups for HOPE not hate, a UK group. One of his assignments took him to Seattle. This is an excerpt from his report.

For almost a year I’ve been at the heart of a world of extreme racism, anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, esoteric Nazi rituals and wild conspiracy theories. What I found was a movement that sometimes glorifies Nazi Germany, openly supports genocidal ideas and is unrelentingly racist, sexist and homophobic.

Read the entire report.

Becoming part of the London Forum, the UK’s most important far-right ‘think-tank,’ was not as difficult as its reputation would suggest. I got my foot in the door by claiming to be a disillusioned Swede curious about the alt-right movement in the UK. I said I came to London inspired by Brexit and to get away from the “cultural Marxism” (a favorite phrase for conspiracy-minded, far-right activists) of Swedish universities.

If you want to get to the very heart of the alt-right, all roads lead to America. While Europe has produced its fair share of prominent alt-right activists and big names from America regularly visit, it was clear that if I was to better understand the alt-right movement, the emerging split and generally to get closer to the big names, I would have to head across the Atlantic.

American alt-right figure Greg Johnson admired the London Forum so much that he replicated the concept in New York and Seattle with closed conferences of hard-core activists addressed by leading speakers from the far right.

One sunny Saturday in June, I joined the list of speakers at one of these forums in Seattle. I had intended to attend as a guest but one week before the event Johnson contacted me and asked me to give the opening address, removing any doubt in my mind that I was now accepted as part of this movement.

The Northwest Forum is smaller than those in London but, having started just a couple of months ago, people tell me that it has grown considerably since. It’s organized together with a group called Cascadia, named after the mountain range that lies south-east of Seattle. It’s run by a group of young men who call themselves a “tribe” and to become a member you need to be white.

Jeffrey, one of their leaders, says that they’ve put the limit at 1/8th, meaning that you cannot have more than one-eighth “non-white blood” to be considered for membership and even claim that they require recruits to take a DNA test to prove it.

The day before the forum I’m invited to an exclusive barbecue in a suburb of Seattle at the house of Charles Krafft, the infamous Nazi ceramicist. His home is a temple to National Socialism. Swastikas cover the walls and Mein Kampf sits on the bookshelf, alongside works by Mussolini, Evola and WWII paraphernalia.

Most of the people there are men between 17 and 25 and most carry guns. “We’re all about the 14 words” a guy called Kato tells me when I ask about Cascadia, referencing the infamous white supremacist slogan (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”). “Whites are going to be a minority in this country by 2040,” he adds before telling me about the impending “race war”.

The ultimate goal of Cascadia is to create a completely separate society where members interact with each other socially, economically and, should more women join, then romantically as well. It’s a way to preserve the white race (relationships with non-whites are not allowed) as well as a way of avoiding the backlash from “cultural Marxism”, a threat that they think increasingly permeates all aspects of American life.

Inspired by the Völkish movement in early 20th century Germany, they take a monthly fee from their members and plan to buy land somewhere in the eastern part of the state in order to create a separate, completely white society.

Visceral anti-Semitism permeates everything, as does homophobia and sexism. “Throw them in the oven” is a common joke throughout the night as are violent threats towards “race traitors.” For the first time, I’m genuinely afraid of being discovered.

Conscious of every gesture I make, I am sure they will notice that I don’t fit in. I try asking about their guns and begin to speak English with an even heavier Swedish accent than usual, hoping it will make them more forgiving. But it’s too late to back out now, so I take a deep breath, smile, sip my drink and laugh along as they joke about the mass murder of Jews.

Editor's note, 9/29/2017: At the time of publication, there are several social and political groups that use Cascadia in their name. Author Patrik Hermansson embedded with white nationalists who refer to themselves as Cascadia but own various web properties where they are called True Cascadia. Members of CascadiaNow!, a nonprofit that describes itself as “helping promote diversity, inclusivity, and resilience in the Cascadia bioregion,” would like readers to know they are not the white nationalists in Hermansson’s story.

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