As Russia tries to insinuate itself more and more into the fabric of the American political right wing, it may be getting an unusual ally.
The Alabama-based League of the South and the group’s founder, Michael Hill, are putting together a Russian language page in an attempt to forge an alliance with activists in the Eastern European nation.
“A firm and resolute understanding and commitment to cooperation between the Russian people and the people of the South could indeed be the foundation for a better world in which our peoples thrive and prosper far into the future,” Hill wrote in a July 17 blog post.
The outreach comes just days after President Donald Trump’s much-maligned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland and as there are more criminal charges and public revelations about how Russian intelligence used operatives to try and impact American political life.
Bradley Dean Griffin, a League of the South spokesman posting as “Hunter Wallace” on the Occidental Dissent website, said the alliance is necessary after United States-based tech firms have cracked down on racist groups and hate speech on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
“Why wouldn’t the League of the South open a Russian language section on its website?,” Griffin asked. “We have to rely on a Russian based social media and fundraising platform due to political censorship in the United States.”
In the blog post, Hill, whose neo-Confederate group envisions a predominantly white country in the southern United States, outlines what he believes are the natural ties between Russians and the American South including ancestors that “come from the same general gene pool.” Among those potential ties are a belief in societies based on “real, organic factors such as shared blood, culture, and religion” and as well as a joint antipathy toward globalism.
“But should we fail to take advantage of the climate of increasing trust and friendship between us, there are forces that would like to pit us against one another, ever as far as open war,” Hill wrote. “We must oppose those forces with a combined will and commitment to peace and cooperation between our two peoples.”
Trump echoed that last comment on July 19, when discussing the coverage of the meeting with Putin.
“The Fake News Media wants so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia, even a confrontation that could lead to war,” the president wrote on Twitter.
The comments marked the latest example of Trump using language similar to or exactly the same as neo-Nazis, white supremacists and white nationalists. Previously, Trump had referred to how immigrants “infest” America and Trump has talked about how Europe is “losing your culture” to immigration. Both comments are popular among the alt-right and anti-immigration movements.
The League of the South in particular and the racist "alt-right" generally have long been seen as potential collaborators with Russian activists.
Hill, a former history professor at historically black Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has made overtures to Russian activists before. In 2014, Hill spoke by Skype at the Anti-Globalist Movement’s international conference in Moscow.
In 2015, the World National-Conservative Movement invited the League of the South to a conference in St. Petersburg, Russia. The plan never took off, but the move was more evidence of ties between the alt-right, American racist movement and Russian activists.
Alt-right speaker and self-described “dissident intellectual” Richard B. Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and godfather of the modern racist movement David Duke have both expressed admiration for Putin.
Duke spent several years in Russia and eastern Europe while avoiding a charge of filing a false tax return in the United States (he later pleaded guilty and spent 15 months in federal prison). Duke received a ph.D in history from Ukrainian private university Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (MAUP), an institution that has been described by the Anti-Defamation League as a "University of Hate." He has repeatedly praised Russia in public and on social media.
Spencer has praised Russia as the “sole white power in the world.” He also helped lead the chant “Russia Is Our Friend!” during the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.
And, after the 2016 presidential election, it became public that Russia’s army of media influencers, trolls and social media bots promoted and pushed far-right narratives in the United States as part of Russia’s influence campaign aimed at hurting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and aiding Trump.
For Hill, the Russian language section will be "first step." But, whether it is a step in the right direction remains to be seen.
Photo illustration by Southern Poverty Law Center