When white nationalists chant their weird slogans, what do they mean?
Explaining ‘You Will Not Replace Us,’ ‘Blood and Soil,’ ‘Russia is Our Friend,’ and other catchphrases from torch-bearing marchers in Charlottesville.
Torch-bearing white nationalists led by racist "alt-right" figure Richard Spencer once again marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, in a repeat of their appearance on August 11, when a similar polo-shirt-bedecked crowd carried tiki torches to the University of Virginia, chanting a variety of slogans and far-right catchphrases.
“You Will Not Replace Us!” they shouted in unison Saturday. Later, they sang a rendition of the adopted Confederate anthem, “Dixie,” and also chanted, “Russia is Our Friend!” and “The South Will Rise Again!”
The chants even included an odd attack on a fantasy fiction character: “Harry Potter is Not Real!”
The rally occurred eight weeks after the August “Unite the Right” event that turned into a murderous melee the next day when an alt-right protester rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person and maiming numerous others.
Unlike the earlier torch-bearing rally, however, which saw an estimated 1,000 marchers with torches marching through the city, Saturday’s event only drew an estimated 40 to 50 participants.
As with the earlier rally, however, the marching white nationalists shouted a variety of chants, all of them with very particular meanings to their movement. They enjoy wide circulation within the alt-right movement, particularly at online white-nationalist forums as well as chat sites like 4chan, but are unfamiliar to most of the general public.
Here’s what they mean, beginning with the chants from the August 11 march on the Virginia campus:
- “You Will Not Replace Us!” This slogan was coined from a statement by Nathan Damigo, founder of the white-nationalist campus group Identity Evropa, who retorted to an anti-Donald Trump “He will not divide us” campaign by actor Shia LeBeouf on social media: “Shia LeBeouf, you will not replace us with your globalism.” The chant is closely related to the white-nationalist “White Genocide” meme, reflective of their fears that white people and white culture are under attack from multiculturalism and nonwhite races. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the slogan began appearing on white-nationalist flyers and banners in May, and has spread widely since then. (At times during the first Charlottesville march, the chant morphed into “Jews Will Not Replace Us!”)
- “Blood and Soil!” Possibly the most disturbing of all the chants heard in Charlottesville, this is the English rendition of Nazi Germany’s most fervent chant, “Blut und Boden!” Originally devised as a slogan of 19th-century German nationalists and popularized by Nazi ideologue Richard Walter Darre, the phrase is intended to invoke patriotic identification with native national identity, and built on a foundation of virulent anti-Semitism and racism. It later became a key component of Adolf Hitler’s “Lebensraum” program, seeking to expand territories occupied by Germans, that was a major factor in the Holocaust. The slogan has been adopted by the alt-right, particularly its openly neo-Nazi element, to emphasize its own nativist and eliminationist agenda.
- “White Lives Matter!” Ostensibly a retort to the anti-police-violence movement Black Lives Matter, this catchphrase very quickly morphed into both a slogan and the name of an outright white-supremacist movement aimed at attacking black civil rights, ostensibly “dedicated to promotion of the white race and taking positive action as a united voice against issues facing our race.” Numerous neo-Nazi groups around the country have reshaped themselves under the “WLM” banner, and the movement was designated a hate group in 2017.
- “Hail Trump!” This catchphrase needs little explanation, but its presence as a marching chant is significant. Donald Trump is a hero to the alt-right, where some leading figures refer to him as “Glorious Leader” and similar superlatives, in large part because he mimics their agenda and talking points, and has on numerous occasions shied away from denouncing white nationalists, including after Charlottesville. Many of the Charlottesville marchers have also worn Trump’s trademark “Make America Great Again” ball caps.
At Saturday’s rally, the gathering again chanted “You Will Not Replace Us.” The rallygoers also joined together in singing a rendition of “Dixie”, the unofficial anthem of the Confederacy, reflecting their affiliations with the far-right neo-Confederate movement (as well as the fact that the rally occurred at the base of the statue of General Robert E. Lee, slated for removal by Charlottesville city officials, the focus of the alt-right protests). Soon a variety of other chants were heard:
- “Russia Is Our Friend!” The alt-right has been unabashed in its open admiration of Russia’s authoritarian strongman president, Vladimir Putin, and the nationalist agenda he has promoted both in Europe and in the United States. A number of alt-right figures, including Spencer, have well-documented connections to the Russian regime, which also has played a major role in underwriting far-right movements in Europe. It later emerged after the 2016 election that Russia’s propaganda machine had a powerfully symbiotic relationship with the alt-right in spreading its ideology and memes through social media during the campaign.
- “The South Will Rise Again!” Again reflective of the alt-right’s neo-Confederate sympathies, this slogan dates back to the post-Civil War period, when the apologist “Lost Cause” revision of the war’s history was in full swing, leading to the widespread (and incorrect) belief that the war was primarily about “states rights” rather than slavery; that same movement, mostly at the turn of the 19th century, also was responsible for the construction of many of the same Confederate monuments that are now the focus of much of the alt-right recent agitation. The “Lost Cause” ideology remains popular with neo-Confederates.
- “Harry Potter Isn’t Real!” This seemingly odd chant, which in many ways reflects the alt-right’s fluency in popular culture, is directed at white nationalists’ enmity towards multiculturalism, since the underlying thesis of J.K. Rowling’s massively popular youth-fantasy series is about combating prejudice, racial and otherwise. The Potter books are frequently attacked at alt-right online forums and castigated for ostensibly brainwashing schoolchildren. Moreover, Rowling herself has been notably active on social media, attacking both the alt-right and politicians associated with it, including Donald Trump.
- “We Will Be Back!” Another fairly self-explanatory chant — and possibly the most chilling of them all.