An alt-right leader boasted about his links to the Trump administration to an anti-racism activist who spent a year undercover exposing the growing networks of influence of far-right groups in Britain and the U.S.
Swedish activist Patrick Hermansson infiltrated alt-right groups in Europe and the U.S. for the U.K.-based Hope not Hate anti-racism charity. Earlier in the year, he claims he met with alt-right Iranian-American academic Jason Reza Jorjani in a New York.
An associate of alt-right provocateur Richard Spencer, Jorjani is the co-founder of the AltRight Corporation which seeks to unify European and U.S. alt-right enterprises, and former editor-in-chief of Arktos Media, the alt-right’s publishing wing.
In the wake of Trump's November victory, Jorjani spoke at a notorious rally held by Spencer in Washington D.C. where supporters raised their arms in Nazi salutes and declared "hail Trump."
Jorjani has been accused of racism and anti-Semitism, and at the meeting reportedly claimed that bank notes would soon be "adorned with images of Hitler." Jorjani denies accusations of racism.
At the meeting, Jorjani boasted of his ties to Breitbart chief and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.
In the Hope not Hate report, Hermansson writes about meeting Jorjani: "I ask about AltRight Corporation and its aims and objectives and he explains how it is a “government in waiting.” But then, out of nowhere, as though it was no big deal, he says: “We had connections in the Trump administration, we were going to do things!”
“I lean forward, praying that the camera I have hidden in one of my shirt buttons captured what he had just said. I can hardly believe it.
“In this small Irish bar in Manhattan, I am sat opposite one of the most prominent alt-right figures in the world—from the extreme racial nationalist end of the movement—as he explains to me that he was “the link man” with the Trump administration via Steve Bannon, former head of Breitbart News Network and, until recently, Trump’s chief strategist.”
Speaking to the New York Times, Jorjani said that by "connections," he meant he had spoken with people with a direct line to President Trump. He did not disclose their names. He said that the ousting of former national security adviser Michael Flynn in February and Steve Bannon in August spelt the end of the alt-right's campaign to carve out influence in the White House.
Asked to comment, a White House spokeswoman told the Times, “We have no knowledge of any conversations or contact with this person.”
Civil rights groups have accused the Trump administration of stoking racism and division, after the president failed to single out white nationalists for criticism in the wake of the Charlottesville rally in August, in which anti-racism activist Heather Heyer was killed.
Bannon, who was fired as chief strategist shortly after Charlottesville, has claimed Breitbart is the home of the alt-right. His appointment as Trump's election chief in 2016 was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League, and its CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said Bannon was "hostile to core American values."
In the wake of the Charlottesville rally, Jorjani announced he was "resigning" from the alt-right to form an organization devoted to the Aryan overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Bannon has denied ties to white nationalists, calling them “clowns” in the wake of the Charlottesville rally.
Newsweek has reached out for comment from Bannon and Jorjani on the Hope not Hate report.
As part of his year with alt-right groups, Hermkansson also spent time with alt-right ideologue Greg Johnson, and attended a Seattle barbecue at the home of Nazi ceramicist Charles Kraft and members of the Cascadia far-right group.
He writes that at the barbecue, armed members of the group discussed plans to buy land and create a white supremacist community modeled on Nazi Germany, and joked about the “mass murder of Jews.”
Johnson called Hermansson a "rat" who had "violated" his trust in a posting on the website of the Counter-Currents publishers Wednesday, He claimed that Hope not Hate had selectively edited videos to make Jorjani seem like a "genocidal maniac."
Hermansson’s journey culminated in Charlottesville, where he witnessed the death of anti-racism activist Heather Heyer, who was killed when a white nationalist plowed a car into a group of counter-protesters.
"Over the last year, I had got used to some pretty extreme racism but on that sweaty day in Charlottesville, Virginia I was taken aback. People spoke of sending all Jews to Israel and then nuking it and how they were “looking forward to bathing in n****r blood,” he writes.
After the main protest was over, he headed into town to see a counter-protest that had formed.
"That’s when I saw it: a car ploughing at high speed into a crowd of people. I saw someone’s shoes fly through the air. The panicked gathering began to disperse and I started to run, still unsure what exactly had happened.
“When the emergency services arrived, I saw the paramedics pumping the chest of a woman before loading her into the back of an ambulance. Earlier that day I had been on the demonstration, just yards from the murderer, now I was stood in shock as his victims were driven away to a cacophony of bellowing sirens,” he writes.
In the report Hermansson claims alt-right groups are engaged in an ambitious attempt "to become all-encompassing organisations that go far beyond politics, into art, religion and social life making them incredibly difficult to leave."
And Hermansson’s main lesson from spending a year with some of the world’s most dangerous and influential racists? The danger of complacency.
“Allowing these hateful ideas to go unchallenged allows them to become normal. It brings about the creeping acceptance of alt-right and far-right ideas in the mainstream,” he writes.
“Just look at Donald Trump’s failure to properly condemn the bloody events in Charlottesville. If we don’t stand up every time we see racism, sexism, homophobia or oppression of any type, we run the risk of it becoming seen as normal.”