- REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
National security adviser H.R. McMaster has become the target of far-right media outlets and activists who see him as a threat to the president’s nationalist agenda. The Russian nationalist Aleksandr Dugin joined Infowars founder Alex Jones to slam McMaster and “globalists” in an interview last week. Russian bots and trolls have helped spread the #FireMcMaster Twitter campaign, which was initiated by far-right accounts last week and quickly went viral.
The far right’s crusade against national security adviser H.R. McMaster reached new heights last week, intensifying as Infowars founder Alex Jones invited an ultranationalist Russian political philosopher on his radio show to discuss “globalist” threats to US President Donald Trump’s agenda.
Jones interviewed Aleksandr 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 Trump’s nationalist base for firing three National Security Council officials appointed by Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser.
“He is purging anybody who does not want to have, basically, a war with Russia,” Jones said of McMaster.
Dugin agreed. “Globalists” like McMaster have made Russia “enemy No. 1,” he said, because they need a battle to 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 fringe ideological 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 ultranationalist has been whispering in Putin’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’s far right had 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 was 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 firing of the 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 Twitter campaign launched last week to fire McMaster turned quickly into “the most well-organized campaign in the history of the alt-right,” according to the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.
The stories about McMaster being anti-Israel and the viral success of the #FireMcMaster hashtag – both of which were aggressively pushed by Breitbart, the outlet once run by Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist – most likely pressured Trump into releasing a statement late on Friday reaffirming his support for his embattled national security adviser.
The statement also came amid reports that McMaster and Bannon had butt heads over the administration’s Afghanistan policy. The New York Times reported last week that Trump was at one point considering sending McMaster to replace Gen. John Nicholson as the top commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
- Carlos Barria/Reuters
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'” had increased by 2,300% over two days.
Lee Stranahan, a far-right commentator who hosts a show on the Russian-owned media outlet Sputnik, also helped the Twitter campaign go viral, the Atlantic Council found.
Stranahan used the hashtag 25 times over four days, twice as much as he used one with the name of his show, and recorded at least four videos urging his followers to demand that the White House fire McMaster.
In his interview with Jones, Dugin described Putin and Trump as ideologically aligned only because they were 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 so-called 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,” Matthew Heimbach, a self-described white nationalist, 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.”