IN A PHOTOGRAPH POSTED to Facebook in 2011, an American man named John Morgan stands on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi, wearing a white dhoti. He smiles, and holds a small bag in his hand. The sun is setting over the river, into which, just moments earlier, he had scattered the ashes of his beloved cat. When the photo was taken, Morgan had been living in India for two years.
Several of his friends commented on the photo. “I didn’t know that you are inclined towards Sahajiya Vaishnavism. Traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism sorts that path better,” one wrote.
“I’m interested in everything Vedic,” Morgan replied. “I’m not even certain that I’m really a Gaudiya Vaishnava, since I find the Sri Vaishnavas and even Advaita Vedanta fascinating.”
A few comments down, he responded to a friend’s speculation that he may be a Saivite, a worshipper of the Hindu god Shiva. “Mahaprasade govinde nama brahmani vaishnava…” Morgan wrote, invoking a prayer typically sung by the Hare Krishnas. “I chanted that as I read it,” his friend replied.
At first glance, Morgan may have seemed like any number of Western tourists, travelling in India and trying on different styles of spiritualism. But Morgan was not just another tourist. He is a co-founder, and until recently, was the editor-in-chief, of Arktos—the world’s largest and most influential publishing house for the “alt-right.”
The alt-right—a loose affiliation of white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-monarchists, masculinists, reactionaries, conspiracists, neo-paganists and social-media trolls—has come to define a new, extreme-right political discourse emboldened by Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election. Obsessed with white identity and perceived threats to it, the alt-right in the United States and Europe generally yearns for the coming of a golden age—though the nature of that golden age is internally disputed. For some, it is a 1950s America of strict gender roles and a racially divided society before the expansion of civil rights for non-whites. For others it is a resurrected Roman Empire, and for others still a resurrected Persian Empire.
All of these longed-for ages, among various others, are models for a supposed white utopia, either with tolerated cohabitation with subordinate “non-Aryans,” or a territory cleansed of those undesirables. Although such ideologies are clearly fascistic and Nazi-like, most alt-righters categorically reject such taxonomy, preferring euphemisms such as “identitarian,” “traditionalist” and “alt-right” itself. An amorphous and factional group prone to territorial infighting, the alt-right has nevertheless materialised in internet memes, street violence and rallies designed to intimidate minorities. The far-right broadly has a long-standing history of violence and terrorism, but the alt-right claims to be different, and attempts to distance itself from extremism. Yet one alt-right rally, in the US city of Charlottesville in August 2017, resulted in the death of a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, and the injury of dozens, when an alt-right demonstrator plowed his car into a crowd of peaceful counterprotestors. White supremacists at the rally chanted “Jews will not replace us!” and carried torches that harkened back to Ku Klux Klan lynching rallies around the turn of the twentieth century.
Arktos was incorporated in November 2009, and was among the first to translate and publish many of the international texts that have formed the alt-right canon. The works it prints or resells have also begun to creep into the mainstream, as right-wing politicians across Europe and the United States adopt them. In January 2017, just days before Trump’s inauguration, the company officially partnered with the de-facto face of the alt-right, the neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, to found the “Alt-Right Corporation”—an organisation created to foment, as Spencer was quoted as saying in The Atlantic magazine, “a total integration of the European New Right and the US alt-right.” Arktos is now based in Hungary, and represents the European wing of the corporatised alt-right. It has published in nearly every European language, and has produced, according to the US-based non-profit the Southern Poverty Law Center, nearly 180 unique titles.
But before all that, Arktos’s first home was India. The publishing house’s presence in the country was no coincidence. Although Morgan and his Swedish co-founder Daniel Friberg have both stated this was purely for the sake of keeping operational costs down, evidence suggests otherwise. Arktos has displayed a surprising affinity for religious systems and philosophies rooted in India. The publishing house seems to be inspired by certain strains of Hindu thought, although it often refers to “Vedism” instead of “Hinduism,” and conceives of the ideas it venerates as more “Aryan” than South Asian.
Arktos has also fostered direct connections with Indian politicians, holding meetings with prominent members of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, at least twice—though both meetings occurred several months before the BJP came to power under Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2014. On another occasion, Morgan has said, Arktos coordinated a meeting between BJP officials and members of the far-right, anti-immigrant Hungarian party Jobbík. Friberg claims to have conducted over a hundred meetings with influential figures in India, including politicians, religious leaders and publishers.
Beyond its first-hand connections with the BJP and Jobbík, as well as the far-right Sweden Democrats, Arktos has links to the National Front of France, the National Democratic Party of Germany, Ukraine’s Svoboda, Greece’s Golden Dawn, the British National Party, Italy’s Lega Nord, and others. Arktos has also bragged about its connections to the Trump administration via Steve Bannon, the executive chair of the alt-right media outlet Breitbart News, who served as Trump’s chief strategist until August 2017. Though it is unclear what concrete results, if any, have come from these links betweeen Arktos and global politicians, it seems obvious that the publisher is intent on forging ties with radical right-wingers across the world.
White-supremacist interest in India is not unique to Arktos. Lengthy essays dedicated to South Asian religious texts appear on prominent alt-right blogs. American Vanguard, an organisation that coordinated the deadly Charlottesville rally in August, sold T-shirts with a Nazi skull-and-crossbones wearing sunglasses and the slogan “Surf the Kali Yuga” printed boldly below, referring to the Hindu notion that we are currently living in a dark epoch. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, following the Charlottesville rally, the group Identity Evropa—which was one of the event’s organisers—teamed up with Arktos to “promote identitarian literature with university students.” Eli Mosley Kline, Identity Evropa’s CEO at the time, had been previously photographed wearing Vanguard America’s “Kali Yuga” shirt.
Just before the US election, as Trump was about to enter a final presidential debate, Richard Spencer tweeted—referencing the avatar of Vishnu who, it is believed, will appear at the end of the Kali Yuga to battle evil forces—“Hopefully, Trump as Kalki the destroyer will end them.”
I FIRST REACHED OUT to Morgan via email in September 2016, just a day after Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the US presidential race, brought discussion of the alt-right into the public sphere by famously calling its acolytes a “basket of deplorables.” We spoke in an unrecorded Skype interview, and he declined to speak with me further after I questioned him on how close his beliefs were to Nazism.
I later interviewed Morgan in person, in January 2017, in Budapest, where he lives. I met him in a small Hungarian restaurant near the US embassy in the city. Soft-faced and sometimes sporting a thin goatee, Morgan does not consider himself a hate-monger, although he has acknowledged in public speeches and interviews that there are hate-mongers present within his immediate circle. A nasal voice and tendency to defer to authors or scholarship to explain his views seem to have made him a largely unknown figure within the “alt-right,” and he prefers to avoid the intensity and visibility of activism. He told me that he has always been drawn to right-wing values through his “love of ideas” rather than any innate prejudice.
Born in 1973 to upper-middle-class parents and raised on Long Island, near New York City, Morgan is bookish, with a scepticism towards the modern world. “I always had a sense very early on that there was something wrong with society and culture in general, but I could never really put my finger on it,” he said in a 2014 interview, published in the Journal for the Study of Radicalism. Morgan said he briefly flirted with leftist ideas before drifting to the right. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in literature in 1997.
In 1998, Morgan came across the book Hitler’s Priestess, a biography of the esoteric Hitlerian Savitri Devi, written by the historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. A European woman, born in France as Maximiani Portas, Devi spent her life blending Hindu spiritualism and nationalism with Nazism. “Savitri Devi herself was an interesting, if problematic figure,” Morgan said in the 2014 interview. But what really interested him in that book, he added, were the author’s passing mentions of other writers, whom Morgan called “the traditionalists”—Julius Evola, René Guénon, and “all these figures who I had never heard of before that time, or maybe had just heard referenced, but didn’t know anything about them.”
In 2006, bored by his job as a “low-level administrator” at his alma mater, Morgan became involved with a publishing house called Integral Tradition Publishing with “some friends”—Patrick Boch and Jacob Christiansen Senholt—while maintaining his day job at the university. ITP was designed as a platform for “traditionalist” writers such as Evola, who is now widely regarded as one of the most influential racial fascists of the twentieth century. When I interviewed Morgan, he told me that he was also drawn to ideas of the transcendent and the spiritual, and even “flirted with Sufism for a little while.”
In November 2008, Barack Obama was elected as US president, following George W Bush. Morgan disliked both of them. Fed up with politics in the United States, he decided to relocate to India to work on ITP full time. He had never left the United States except to go to Canada. In February 2009, he joined Boch at an ashram in Mumbai that was affiliated with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, or ISKCON: an organisation of the devotees of AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, commonly known as “Hare Krishnas.” Morgan began working full-time on ITP and, that year, published the first English-language edition of an autobiography of Evola.
Boch had just graduated from the University of Buckingham’s law school in 2006 when he helped start ITP. When Arktos was registered in the United Kingdom, Boch had provided an address in the Powai neighbourhood of Mumbai as his own. He was listed as a director of the company until 2010. Friberg recently said that Boch still lives in India and is a practising Hare Krishna.
Eventually, Morgan made his way to a remote ashram in Salem, Tamil Nadu, run by a controversial right-wing guru called Bhakti Vikasa Swami. A white man who was raised in the United Kingdom, and joined ISKCON at the age of 18, Vikasa Swami is known within ISKCON as a highly conservative interpreter of scripture. He has been banned from at least five temples in the United States, and has written a book that was banned by the ISKCON Governing Body Commission, titled Women: Masters or Mothers? The book proposes that girls should be married as children, no girl should receive an education beyond cooking and cleaning, women must never divorce, even if their husband is abusing them, and that it is stri dharma—womanly duty—for women to essentially be slaves to their husbands. In an interview with one devotee whose husband beat her, he advised, “Follow your stri-dharma as far as possible. When he beats you a lot go and live with your brother and then return. But you should follow stri-dharma in spite of all circumstances.”
In India, Morgan lived the ascetic life typical of ashram existence. He woke up at 4 am to pray, meditate and have breakfast, did Arktos-related work throughout the day, and in the evening did work for the ashram.
In a 2016 interview with the white-nationalist radio programme Red Ice, Morgan recounted how, on a tour of South Asian holy sites, while chanting mantras and waiting for a swami to speak, he saw a “short, dark homeless guy” who was muttering to himself. “He walked up to me, and, without saying a word, he knelt down in front of me and started pressing his forehead against my feet,” Morgan recounted. “In south India, they have these myths that white Gods would come across the ocean and bring wisdom, and some people hold to these myths.”
Henrik Palmgren, the show’s host—and currently a partner in Friberg’s Alt-Right Corporation—laughed, “Aryan! You have come to save me!” Morgan laughed along.
Morgan left India in 2013, though he continued to refer to himself as a Vaishnava Hindu in interviews, on web forums and on internet message boards for several years afterwards. More recently, however, he has said that he has abandoned ISKCON.
Eventually, Morgan and his partners at ITP connected with NFSE-Media AB, a wide-ranging media project integral to several far-right cultural websites, such as Metapedia, a far-right online enyclopaedia, which declares that its mission is to counter “semantic distortion worldwide.” Its entry on the Holocaust, for example, opens with “The Holocaust is according to politically correct history a deliberate genocide by National Socialist Germany in which approximately six million Jews were killed.” The bulk of the entry contains a rundown of revisionist and Holocaust-denialist perspectives.
Another initiative of NFSE-Media AB is Nordisk.nu, a popular neo-Nazi forum frequented by the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, who was responsible for a massacre at a youth summer camp in 2011 that killed 77 people, many of them under the age of 18. (Breivik, in a 1,500-page manifesto, praised Hindu nationalists as his allies, urging them to fight alongside him and other white nationalists. This led some Hindu leaders to deny any ideological connections with Breivik; the RSS’s Ram Madhav called the manifesto “motivated propaganda.”)
Through NFSE-Media, Morgan connected with Daniel Friberg, one of the co-founders of Metapedia. A Swedish skinhead who has grown out his hair, traded in his jackboots for brogues, and is often seen wearing a suit, Friberg has garnered support within the extreme right with his well-coiffed appearance, and attempts to cultivate a genteel persona.
But where Morgan’s demeanour is milquetoast, Friberg relishes aggression. He has trouble maintaining eye-contact and his mannerisms are stiff. He thinks hard before he tells a joke, and his punchlines are nearly always insults. On 31 December 2016, I attended a New Year’s party that Friberg threw in his apartment, where I met him and many others who are a part of the alt-right. I had declined to drink that night, which led him to question if I was “a prude,” to which I responded with uncomfortable laughter. Friberg countered that, since I was laughing, I must be “a whore.” When I did not laugh at his other jokes, he called me “autistic.”
A few days later, when I met Friberg for an interview, he told me to meet him in the Kempinski Hotel lobby in the city centre—a modernist construction of glass and steel, where he conducts all his press interviews.
He told me he grew up in an upper-middle-class household with two highly educated parents, both linguists. His father had a PhD in linguistics and his mother, he said, “spent way too much time at the university, studying all sorts of useless crap,” including eight languages, among them Persian, Arabic and Greek. He described where he grew up, outside of Gothenburg, as a “nice, homogenous” town that was “tranquil.” He considered himself an anti-racist, listened to rap music and was “a liberal” until he was 13, when he met migrant schoolmates, whom he saw as corrupting delinquents. He said he soon came to terms with being a nationalist, although he has vehemently claimed he never has been a “neo-Nazi,” bristling at the term’s historical weight.
In his youth, Friberg was a member of a group originally called Swedish Young National Socialists (National Socialism, or Nationalsocializumus, was the official ideology of the Third Reich), and police records show he was arrested for several violent crimes, including throwing a rock through the window of a Muslim man’s home, and having a stolen gun hidden under his bed—an AK4, a type of automatic rifle exclusively used by the Swedish army.
In the early 2000s, Friberg attended Gothenburg University. He never graduated, although he has lied about this, widely claiming that he holds an MBA from there. University records show that Friberg was a mediocre student. When I asked Friberg about this via an emailed questionnaire, he responded that he “never claimed” to hold an MBA, despite countless examples where he does, including in a blog post he wrote in response to a report I published in The Atlantic. (After I emailed him, he changed the line where he claims to have earned an MBA to a claim that he has a “degree in economics,” but his university records indicate that although he completed some credits, he truncated his studies before completing the requirements for any sort of master’s degree. I also telephoned the university, in June, and spoke with an administrator, who confirmed that Friberg does not have a degree from Gothenburg University.)
Friberg worked until 2016 as the CEO of Wiking Mineral, a mining company founded by Patrik Brinkmann, a Swedish businessman and far-right political funder. He also has significant ties to the Sweden Democrats, a nationalist, anti-immigration party. Erik Almqvist, a politician and former Sweden Democrat, invested 600,000 kroner—nearly $75,000—in Friberg’s Wiking Mineral, acquiring approximately 2.5 percent of the company’s shares. He, like Friberg, has relocated to Budapest. Patrick Ehn, once a prominent Sweden Democrat from Gothenberg, was kicked out of the party for being too closely connected to neo-Nazis. This past September, Arktos hired Ehn as its “Assistant Art Director.”
Friberg and Morgan formally connected soon after Morgan relocated to India. Arktos absorbed ITP in 2009, and Friberg—who was named the CEO of Arktos—joined Morgan in India in 2010.
Over the next three years, Arktos became the leading publisher of translated and original materials of anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian and anti-liberal writers. In that time, it had offices in several locations in India, including Mumbai, Bengaluru and Goa.
Arktos has sought to avoid categorisation, claiming, on its website, that its project is to “provide the resources for individuals of many different inclinations to find alternatives to the onslaught of modernity.” The publishing house has released books on topics such as Hindu spiritualism and European paganism. Morgan has insisted that Arktos is neither of the left nor the right, but moves beyond those categories to intimate a deeper truth.
Friberg has always maintained that he is a publisher, not a politician, concerned with “metapolitics” over party politics. In a book he wrote called The Real Right Returns, Friberg explained, “Metapolitics is the prerequisite of politics—the dynamic of power, as it is manifested on the street and computer screen and up to the government and parliament … In short, in all the channels which communicate values perceived on an individual and collective level.” Friberg and others of the alt-right hope to shift what they often refer to as the “Overton window”—a concept of what type of discourse is socially acceptable—to the right.
The account of how Morgan and Friberg ended up in India has changed over the years. In a speech delivered in Stockholm in 2015, at the “Identitarian Ideas” yearly conference funded by Friberg’s think tank Motpol (which means “antithesis” in Swedish), Morgan said, “In the case of India, where we were based for the first five years of our corporate existence, the short answer is simply that we needed to be in a place where we could afford to operate with the meagre funds we had at our disposal in our early days. Although at the same time it was good to be in a place where daily life is still for the most part an expression of the traditional spirit rather than a liberal one.”
THE COVER OF ARKTOS’S 2011 edition of The Arctic Home of the Vedas, by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, shows a clear, rippling arctic sky against jagged black mountain edges, which does little to suggest its content. The book, first published in 1903, theorises that the North Pole was home to an original Aryan race some 10,000 years ago. Tilak, dubbed the “father of Indian unrest” for his advocacy of violent tactics against British colonialists and inspiration to later Indian Hindu nationalists, drew from Vedic hymns and Zoroastrian texts to support his theory.
The BJP and RSS have taken many cues from Tilak. For example, in 1939, the RSS leader MS Golwalkar, in his book We Or Our Nationhood Defined, posited his own theory of Aryan racial origin. His view does not challenge Tilak’s, in that it maintains that Aryans came from the North Pole. But, Golwalkar added, at the time of the Aryans’ origin, the North Pole was actually in India, located somewhere near Odisha and Bihar. The book also reads Hindu texts as transmitting historical fact, and says that India’s is the world’s most ancient civilisation.
Morgan and Friberg were inspired by Tilak’s Arctic theory as well, although they interpreted it, and its implications, differently than Golwalkar did. They chose Arktos’s name to evoke, according to Morgan, “European tradition and ‘northernness.’” The term recalls the myth of an Aryan arctic homeland now lost in snow and tundra—a genesis theory of the white race as distinct from and superior to the rest of humanity. It was briefly a popular intellectual curiosity in the early twentieth century, and was later championed by Nazi esoterics and mystics.
Take, for example, Kristian “Varg” Vikernes, a Norwegian heavy-metal musician whose books Arktos has sold. Vikernes believes that a superior race came from Scandinavia, which he refers to as “Hyperborea.” His book, according to Arktos’s web page, “explains the meaning of the Norse-Germanic myths and elaborates on their importance today and their impact on the Indo-European folksoul.” Convicted of burning several churches in the 1990s in Norway, Vikernes explained his acts as paganist revenge against Christianity. He also, in 1993, fatally stabbed a rival musician 23 times. Arktos did mention his criminal record on its website, but only barely, saying that Vikernes was “sentenced to prison in the early 1990s in connection with his involvement with the black metal scene”—which it defined as a subculture that, gently put, “carried a rebellion against the mainstream.” Vikernes served 16 years in prison and was arrested again in 2013 by French authorities on suspicion of planning “a large terrorist act” after he was found with large weapons stockpiles, and to have penned a letter to the convicted mass-murderer Anders Breivik, chiding him for killing ethnic Norwegians instead of going after Jews and foreigners. Arktos no longer sells Vikernes’s books.
Vikernes identifies as an “Odinist,” a worshipper of the Nordic god Odin. He rejects pan-Aryanism that includes South Asia, but there are others who connect his Odinist worldview with Vedic texts, often citing archaic, widely discredited race-science.
At his New Year’s party, Friberg asked me about my heritage.
“European, I guess. German, French. I’m not totally sure,” I responded.
The conversation quickly moved on to Aryan features, and suddenly Friberg’s fingers were running against the back of my skull. He said he was conducting a phrenological experiment, feeling for a ridge above my neck, just at the base of my cranium. If I have that ridge, he said, then I must be “Indo-European,” and therefore not a Jew. I passed the test.
Arktos and Morgan are far from the first to have interests in both right-wing political ideology and Eastern spirituality. Adolf Hitler’s appropriation of the swastika as an Aryan symbol is one particularly visible example, and many members of his core leadership had an affinity for Eastern religions. Heinrich Himmler, who is generally regarded as the architect of the Nazi party’s “final solution,” is perhaps the most frequently cited such example; he was rumoured to have always carried a copy of the Gita, calling it a “high Aryan canto.” He also formed the SS-Ahnenerbe, a Nazi project tasked with finding polar evidence for the origins of the Aryan race, echoing theories that Tilak proposed at the turn of the century.
But as Blake Smith, a scholar of European orientalism, noted in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the alt-right’s allusions to Hinduism are less inherited from the Third Reich than they are from other esotericist thinkers sympathetic to twentieth-century fascism and national socialism. These thinkers, Smith argues, observed the Axis’s loss and came to view it as merely a battle in a greater war—one that was being waged for the spirit of the world.
This idea was strongly championed by Savitri Devi and Julius Evola, both of whom Arktos have prominently featured. Devi had little personal experience within the Third Reich, though she venerated Hitler, and considered him an avatar of Vishnu.
Devi first travelled to India in 1932, in search of a living pagan, Aryan culture. A key figure in post-war Nazism, she connected with high-level Nazi leaders in hiding, such as Otto Skorzeny and Hans-Ulrich Rudel. Her works enjoyed numerous revivals by neo-Nazi publishers. In 1982, for a reprinted edition of her 1958 book The Lighting and the Sun, the neo-Nazi publishing house Samisdat Publishers mailed out a notice, reading: “THE HITLER CULT REVEALED. Discovered alive in India: Hitler’s guru!”
“Decipher now the encoded workings of the Nazi mind,” the notice read. “Perceive how Hitler saw the workings of the universe through: Human sacrifice. Vegetarianism. Aryanism. The cyclic view of history. The children of violence. The will to survive and to conquer. The seat of truth. Gods on earth. Kalki, the avenger.”
Devi died soon after the notice was published, living out her last days in an apartment on the outskirts of Delhi, surrounded by her cats.
Her book Impeachment of Man was reprinted in 1991 by the far-right publishing house Noontide, run by the American Holocaust-denier Willis Carto. Over two decades later, it is being sold again by Arktos. Four of her works were republished between 2012 and 2013 by Counter-Currents, a white-nationalist outlet and publisher that is partially based in Hungary. Excerpts from her books also appear on the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi site whose name plays on that of the Nazi publication Der Stürmer. Devi’s ashes are interred in Wisconsin next to the body of George Lincoln Rockwell, an American Nazi Party leader.
According to Goodrick-Clarke’s book, Devi’s ideas were “representative of a section of high-caste Brahmin that hated the Raj,” and hoped for an alliance between India and Hitler in the struggle against British imperial power. However, these ideas, “so foreign to the actuality of National Socialism,” would likely fail to find support in the West. Devi cited Tilak at length, and saw in India a paganism in which dark-skinned Indians subordinated themselves to a strict caste system, and light-skinned “Aryan” Brahmins ruled. Devi’s version of Nazi-Aryan ideology, which attempted to transcend the parochialism of German nationalism, gave the post-war far-right a struggle of “cosmic significance,” Goodrick-Clarke wrote.
Devi’s periodic reintroduction to far-right literature points to a recruitment tactic of enticing those whose primary concern is a disgust and disillusionment with modernity rather than an adulation of Hitler or a hatred of non-Aryans. Her invocation of Eastern religions as sources of ancient wisdom, uncorrupted by a degenerate and alienating modernity, appeals to many aspects of the New Age movement. And her elevation of an “Indo-European” paganism that is neither uniquely Indian nor European, but Aryan, is an appeal to those seeking a singular, prophetic vision of history.
Arktos no longer sells books by Devi, although other publishing houses closely affiliated with Arktos do.
Arktos has also published five books by the Hindu godman Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, whom it describes as a “humanitarian spiritual leader” whose books “provide powerful tools to eliminate stress and improve well-being.” Arktos’s website explains that “Sri Sri has rekindled the traditions of yoga and meditation and has offered them in a form that works in the 21st century.”
I emailed the godman’s company, the Art of Living, and received the response: “Wanted to share that we have not published anything with Arktos.” I responded with links to Sri Sri’s books’ listings on Arktos’s website. A search on WorldCat—a comprehensive resource on published books—also confirmed that Arktos has published the godman’s books. The Art of Living did not respond.
Arktos has also published several other books related to Hinduism and India, such as Hare Krishna in the Modern World: Reflections by Distinguished Academics and Scholarly Devotees, edited by Graham Dwyer and Richard J Cole, the “secretary of ISKCON’s communication department” at Bhaktivedanta Manor, the largest ISKCON centre in the United Kingdom. According to its website, but not any public records, Arktos also published Return of the Swastika: Hate and Hysteria versus Hindu Sanity by Koenraad Elst, a book that, as reported in a 2008 piece in Outlook magazine, was much appreciated by the BJP leader LK Advani for its polemic against critiques of Hindu nationalism. Besides these, the books Arktos at one point sold include the Gita, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, six books by ISKCON’s Prabhupada, and a book called Searching for Vedic India, which, according to the description, “presents evidence that, contrary to mainstream opinion, the Vedic civilization was a highly advanced culture which encompassed the globe.”
The publishing house has also released The Saga of the Aryan Race, written by Porus Homi Havewala, a technology professional and “Zoroastrian Parsi native to Mumbai.” Arktos has also published books by Steven J Rosen—“also known as Satyaraja Dasa,” according to Arktos’s description—who wrote The Agni and the Ecstasy, a book of essays about Hinduism, and Jedi In The Lotus: Star Wars and the Hindu Tradition, “which discusses the many connections between the world of George Lucas’ Star Wars films and Hindu myth, history and metaphysics.”
But Arktos most consistently focusses on Julius Evola, who, like Devi, finds the modern condition to be degenerate and hails Eastern spiritualism as an antidote. In October 2017, Arktos launched a campaign to raise enough funds to translate another five books of his into English.
Little is known about Evola’s life, other than that he was born in 1898 in Rome, to an aristocratic Sicilian family, and that he was a baron. In his writing, he argues that humanism and democracy are deformations which transgress against a transcendental, perennial law. His writings contain defences of both Italian fascism and German national socialism, although he often noted that both were too compromising in making populist appeals to the middle class.
Although Evola at times dismissed Nazism’s obsession with genetic purity, these dismissals were shallow at best. He often sidestepped biological racism by using phrases such as “aristocracy of the soul,” superficially advocating a type of meritocracy, but, at the same time, used the “caste system” as a means of explaining “natural law” and hierarchy. In what is widely considered his magnum opus, Revolt Against the Modern World, he wrote that, contrary to the belief that a caste system reproduces a hierarchy that condemns each member of society to a predetermined fate, “hierarchy was not a device of the human will but a law of nature.”
The caste system, for Evola, was not uniquely Indian, or even South Asian at all. “The caste system is one of the main expressions of the traditional sociopolitical order,” he wrote in a chapter called “The Doctrine of the Castes” in Revolt. Caste, he held, is a feature of all “traditional civilizations” of “Indo-Aryans.” In “the Hindu civilization of historical times, we find a play of forms and meanings that can be reduced respectively to the Aryan, boreal spirituality,” he wrote. Evola, like Devi, envisioned an India in which whiteness placed one within a natural, immutable hierarchy, where dark-skinned people constituted a naturally servile class. “India,” as he saw it, was an “Aryan India,” or the “Aryan East,” an entity separate from its dark-skinned inhabitants.
European and American far-right political leaders, including Steve Bannon, have cited Evola as well. In “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right,” a piece published on Bannon’s outlet Breitbart News, Evola is cited as one of the thinkers from whose ideas the alt-right sprang. The piece was written by the infamous conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, and—as an exposé on Buzzfeed revealed this October—was line-edited by some of the alt-right’s most openly extremist elements.
Morgan and Arktos have borrowed enormously from Evola. Prior to 2017, when Arktos’s advertisements began adopting the term “alt-right,” the publisher avoided any clear label by which to define itself. But, as Morgan said in Stockholm in 2015, if he had to pick a label for Arktos’s political designation, “I would borrow the term ‘true right,’ which was first coined by the Italian traditionalist philosopher Julius Evola, who defined it as ‘those principles which were accepted and seen as normal by every well-born person everywhere in the world prior to 1789’”—the start of the French Revolution.
Among Arktos’s fans, many seem to claim to have softer, more socially acceptable reasons for supporting the publisher. I reached out to Phil Reddall, who had “liked” posts about books by Tilak and Evola on Arktos’s Facebook page, with questions about what drew him to them. “I would like you to consider whether, despite great advances in technology, we are happy in the west,” he replied to me over email.
Reddall also referred to consonances between different philosophies. Hindus “refer to our present age as the Kali Yuga; an age of spiritual and moral decline,” he said. “Northern Europeans use the term Wolf Age to describe the same thing.” South Asian texts or religions, to Reddall, seem to be divorced from the culture they were born from in place of a mythical, non-historical past: “The Vedas are helpful to us as a part of our study alongside other texts such as the Eddas,” he wrote, referring to medieval Icelandic texts and the main sources of Norse mythology.
The interest in India for many of the readers and authors of Arktos’s books seems to have little to do with South Asia and everything to do with what Evola called the “Aryan East,” framing South Asian culture as not anything of its own making, but rather an offshoot of a vast Aryan racial civilisation.
The Kali Yuga, and other references from Hinduism, have also become minor memes on the internet of the alt-right. Arktos has participated in this as well, including in an advertisement for the publishing house uploaded to Facebook that used the slogan “Preparing you for the end of the Kali Yuga.” Some bloggers have even tried to explain the hierarchy of the alt-right movement via the caste system. In one example, the “Brahmins” of the alt-right are the “thought leaders,” a category which includes people who work for publishers such as Arktos, the “Kshatriyas” are the “faceless troll armies,” the “Vaishyas” are the “alt-lite” (those who are typically anti-immigration but do not cross the line into open racism or anti-Semitism), the “Shudras” are the “listeners, readers” and finally the “Dalits” are the dreaded “untouchable normies”—people who do not identify with the alt-right at all.
IN A 78-PAGE SCREED called “A Normie’s Guide to the Alt Right,” released on the Daily Stormer in August 2016, Andrew Anglin, the site’s webmaster, wrote, “The Alt-Right views the struggle for the continued existence of the White race as a global battle between Whites and the Jews. The internet has allowed for us to connect globally with as much ease as we can connect to someone down the street or in the next room, and this has fostered a sense of worldwide unity of cause for White people.”
Friberg and Morgan, however, have shown that this “worldwide unity” does not merely play out online, in forums and chatrooms, but also in real political partnerships between powerful players—including ones in India.
According to a post on Arktos’s Facebook page, on 26 October 2013, a “delegation” from Arktos, comprising Friberg and the former Swedish politician Patrick Ehn, paid an official visit to the BJP’s Bengaluru headquarters. Ehn had been ousted from the far-right Sweden Democrats party just five months earlier, for his neo-Nazi connections, and was now Arktos’s “director of marketing.”
In Bengaluru, they were greeted by Aravind Limbavali, the BJP’s general secretary for Karnataka, who, according to the Karnataka BJP’s website, has been an RSS worker for 35 years. The Facebook post said that Friberg and Ehn were welcomed with “flowers and gifts,” and that they discussed “possibilities for cooperation between traditionalist and conservative movements in Europe and Asia, as well as potential strategies to counter liberal globalist hegemony, and of course, future book projects.”
Two months after meeting Limbavali, Friberg and Ehn travelled to Delhi and, according to another Facebook post, from 18 December, had “successful meetings” with Ram Madhav, who was then a spokesman for the “grassroots Hindu nationalist organization RSS,” and Ravi Shankar Prasad, who was then the deputy leader of the BJP. The post discusses how the BJP is “expected by many analysts to take power in the coming 2014 national elections.”
In the years since they met leaders of Arktos, both Madhav and Prasad have risen to some of the highest positions in the ruling government. Madhav, now the BJP’s national general secretary, is one of the most powerful members of the RSS due to his proximity to the prime minister—he has been called Modi’s “ambassador at large,” and is widely considered one of the most influential men in India. Prasad is a union minister who holds two prestigious portfolios: law and justice, as well as electronics and information technology.
On the same Delhi trip, the post claims, Arktos also “met with the manager of the Voice of India, a Hindu nationalist publishing company, with the purpose of negotiating new and exciting book contracts.” Voice of India has frequently published Koenraad Elst as well as other “out of India” migration theorists such as David Frawley. I called VOI and spoke with its editor, Aditya Goel, who confirmed that VOI had met with Arktos, but said that there was no follow-up or collaboration after the meeting.
Friberg and Ehn also met with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at his “Art of Living” centre in Bengaluru. A photograph of Sri Sri welcoming them by gifting them sashes is uploaded to a Facebook album on Friberg’s page called “Bangalore 2013,” which also includes images of his room at Sri Sri’s Art of Living ashram, where he wrote that he stayed for a few days, and a visit that he made to an Art of Living-run school. Also included is a photograph of the interior of a colonial-style restaurant, which Friberg captioned: “Revisiting my favorite restaurant from last year in Bangalore, a colonial style restaurant in the form of a train. ‘Here Sahibs and Memsahibs are still treated as royalty’”—“Sahibs” and “Memsahibs” are colonial-era terms for white men and women. Friberg’s caption continues: “‘At Sahib Sindh Sultan, very little has changed since 1853.’ (I.e. everything is as it should be.)”
Just half a year after Arktos’s two documented meetings with Hindu-nationalist politicians, the BJP, led by Narendra Modi, became India’s ruling party, winning the May 2014 general election in a landslide. Internationally, the rise of the BJP sparked concerns from human-rights organisations in view of persistent questions about Modi’s culpability in the state’s 2002 riots, classified by numerous scholars, researchers and journalists as state-sponsored pogroms against Muslims. More than 20,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed in the violence, leaving some 200,000 people displaced. Official numbers put the death toll at around 1,000, while unofficial reports place it closer to 2,000.
Modi, as Gujarat’s chief minister at the time, was widely implicated in organising attacks on Muslims. Later, a sting operation by Tehelka magazine further implicated high-level BJP and Gujarat government officials working under Modi. In 2005, the United States went so far as to impose a visa ban on Modi for his role in the riots, and high-ranking Western officials would not meet with him for nearly a decade.
On the fifteenth anniversary of the Gujarat riots, this past March, an RSS leader boasted: “You killed 56, we sent 2,000 to the graveyard.” Meanwhile, Madhav has praised Modi for making a “riot-free India,” despite ongoing religious tensions and violence throughout the nation.
Despite multiple phone calls and emails to the offices of Limbavali, Madhav and Prasad, none responded to my request for comment on Arktos.
I emailed Morgan, Ehn and Friberg for comment as well. Morgan never responded; Ehn said he would get back to me, though he never did; but Friberg answered the specific questions I emailed him. When asked about his two meetings with BJP politicians in India, Friberg said that those meetings “are really just the tip of the iceberg. I met with over a hundred different politicians, gurus, publishers, authors, journalists and other influencers during my time in India.”
By the time the BJP came to power, Friberg and Morgan had both relocated to Budapest. There, they have continued to meet with far-right politicians, making connections with Hungary’s Jobbík, which is widely recognised as a neo-Nazi party.
In fact, Arktos has orchestrated a meeting between far-right players in India and Hungary. In Morgan’s 2015 speech in Stockholm, he stated, “In 2013, while we were still in India, we facilitated a meeting between representatives from Jobbík and the BJP.” Friberg, in his response to my email, claimed that this was “not an accurate depiction of events,” but did not offer further details. I emailed Marton Gyöngyösi, a leading Jobbík politician who has met with Morgan and Friberg on multiple occasions, and who is known internationally for his comments urging the Hungarian government to “tally up people of Jewish ancestry” who live in the country. When I asked him about the meeting with BJP politicians, he responded, “As the meeting was informal, I do not wish to comment.” But, he added, “as an opposition MP of a small country I would any time gladly fly around the world to meet informally some influential MPs of one of the largest countries of the worlds—especially if they are bound to win the next elections.”
Jobbík, like the BJP, has its own history of complicity in violence against minorities—in their case, often Jews and Roma. Although Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, is not from Jobbík, he is also from a right-wing party, and the country has proclaimed itself an “illiberal state” under his rule, routinely engaging in a campaign of xenophobia against refugees in the country, most of whom are Muslim.
Arktos was welcomed to Hungary with a tour of the country’s parliament by the Jobbík leader Gabor Vona, and Vona also wrote the introduction to Arktos’s edition of Evola’s A Handbook for Right-Wing Youth. Friberg has also been photographed having a candlelit dinner with Gyöngyösi. In interviews with me, both Arktos leaders and the politicians mentioned have either dismissed or downplayed their relationships to each other as unremarkable and unworthy of scrutiny, despite numerous examples of collaboration and contact.
In August 2007, the Magyar Gárda, a paramilitary wing of Jobbík, was founded. In the 18 months after that, over a dozen Roma homes were burned with Molotov cocktails. In February 2009, a Roma man and his four-year-old son were gunned down as they fled their firebombed home. Two months later, a 54-year-old grandfather was shot on his doorstep as he was on his way to his nearby factory job. Jobbík and the Gárda denied involvement in the violence and deaths. The international European Court of Human Rights found the Gárda to be illegal in 2009, but that did not stop copycat groups from forming.
The question of violence is one that often elicits from Jobbík leaders a stern look and disavowal, followed by an eliding grin and reiterations of who the “true violent criminals” are, namely “gypsies” (a racial slur for Roma) or “Jewish globalists.” In an official statement after the evacuation of Gyöngyöspata, when neo-Nazi groups widely thought to be connected to Jobbík held several Roma settlements essentially under siege for three months, Jobbík said that the portrayal of Roma “living in fear due to the aggressive attitude of the majority population” was “misleading,” and continued on to say that “members of the Gipsy minority are becoming more and more frequently responsible for killing innocent, lonely elderly people in the countryside.”
Islamophobia, like racism, is also at the heart of the alt-right’s ideology. This is most visible in its opportunistic treatment of the recent “refugee crisis”—the influx of refugees, many of them Muslim, into Europe from west Asia and Africa. Riding this wave of xenophobia, many once-fringe groups, including Jobbík, have slithered out of relative obscurity and into mainstream debates about immigration. “From my point of view we’ve had a migrant crisis for 30 years,” Friberg said to me when I interviewed him in January 2017. He went on to explain how it was anti-immigrant prejudice that drew him into the alt-right in the first place. “Being against immigration got me interested,” he said.
The BJP and RSS also often peddle anti-Islam ideology, portraying Muslims as invaders and colonisers, and therefore illegitimate Indian citizens. In RSS-supported historical revisionism, the Mughal dynasty, which ruled India from 1526 until the arrival of the British colonialists, is increasingly omitted from school textbooks, with the justification that its leaders were tyrants or “invaders.”
“History is critical to the creation of an ideology,” Aditya Mukherjee, a professor of history and social sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said when I interviewed him in December. The RSS and other Hindu-nationalist players, he said, “want to project distorted history in order to validate their current politics.”
Mukherjee also spoke about the connections between Hindu nationalism and the types of Western ideologies being celebrated by the alt-right. “The link between the BJP-RSS thought and the fascist thought that arose in Europe is very similar,” he said. “It is an aggressive nationalism, it is a homogenising nationalism, it is an identity-based nationalism.”
In his 2015 Stockholm speech, Morgan said, “If we are to defeat our liberal globalist enemy, we ourselves must adopt an alternative form of globalism, seeking alliances and common ground with individuals and groups who share our desires everywhere, even outside of Europe. … The narrow, ethnocentric viewpoint is a relic of the past. Only together, by working with nationalists and traditionalists everywhere, can we succeed. Toward this end, Arktos seeks to represent as many of these facets of the struggle as possible, which is one reason why we have published several books pertaining to the traditions of India, for example.”
In a New Year’s Facebook post to their followers, rounding out 2013 and rolling into 2014, Arktos wrote that it “intends to become the Indian Right’s gateway to the Western world.” This would be, they hoped, “fruitful for our friends in India” and their friends worldwide.
I ARRIVED AT Friberg’s apartment for his birthday party in January 2017, several days after his New Year’s party. He snickered when he opened the door. “Oh, it’s you,” he said. “I almost forgot about you. Well, I’m glad the entertainment for the evening has arrived.”
The party guests came from all over: France, Sweden, the United States. Morgan was there, and next to him was Matt Forney, a notorious misogynist and white-nationalist who had built a modest following online by writing articles with headlines such as “How to Beat Your Girlfriend or Wife and Get Away With It,” or “The Case Against Female Self-Esteem.” Under a pseudonym, in an essay titled “The Necessity of Domestic Violence,” he wrote that women “should be terrorized by their men; it’s the only thing that makes them behave better than chimps.”
That night, Forney recounted a story about taunting a homeless black man in Chicago, pulling out a five-dollar bill and throwing it on the subway train tracks, only to laugh at the expression of humiliation and desperation on the man’s face. Morgan laughed along at this anecdote.
At this point, recently relocated from Chicago, Forney had only been in Hungary for three days, but had long-term plans to stay.
“What do you think of Hungary so far?” I asked, changing the subject.
“Oh I love it. No kikes, spics or dindus,” Forney responded, using slurs to refer to Jews and Latinos. I did not recognise the last word.
“What’s a dindu?”
Forney and Morgan exchanged a glance and laughed. “It’s another word for ‘nigger,’” Morgan explained.
“Yeah, like ‘didn’t do nuffin,’” Forney clarified.
“Why not just say ‘nigger,’ then?”
Forney seemed to fumble and he and Morgan exchanged glances. “More polite in mixed company, I guess.”
Throughout the evening, Friberg kept pulling me aside or interrupting my conversations to relay commands to me. When his friend spilled a drink on my hand, Friberg told his friend to pat my breasts as the drink must have spilled there as well. The hors d’oeuvres for the evening were slices of brie wrapped in prosciutto. “Eat ten of those! Prove you’re not a Jew,” he told me.
Tor Westman, Arktos’s marketing director, reassured me, “Don’t worry, we already all think you’re a Jew,” citing my German last name and saying that “real Germans all changed their names when they went to America.”
At one point, Friberg pulled me down by my shoulder to sit next to him on the couch. A music video by Emily Youcis, a young woman who was a well-known food vendor at a baseball stadium in Philadelphia, but who was fired for her white-nationalist politics, was playing. It was a cover of the classic song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” with a far-right twist.
Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a Reich that I’ve heard of
Once in a lullaby…
“This is a real independent woman for you to admire,” Friberg said to me. He grasped the back of my neck to turn my head towards the television. “Pay attention.”
Somewhere, over the rainbow
There’s no Jews…
As I squirmed under his grip, his fingers touched the back of my skull, this time not looking for a ridge to confirm my race.
Someday I’ll wish upon the sun
And wake up when the race war’s done
“Stop,” I said, pulling away. His grip tightened. I repeated the word louder, and then yelled it. In response, Friberg tugged my hair so hard that I screamed in pain.
Hitler flew over the rainbow,
Why, oh, why can’t I?
The room looked over, and Friberg laughed. I excused myself to the restroom, and soon attempted to make a polite exit.
Markus, a red-haired Swede, eyed me as I was trying to leave. “Are you triggered?” he asked.
My blood finally boiled. “Fuck you,” I snarled.
He stared back at me with simmering hatred. “What are you going to do, are you going to cry?”
Enraged, I lifted the corners of the coffee table he was sitting at, but held back enough to not flip it over. Some long-stemmed candles fell on the carpet.
Friberg came over to me to tell me that I was overreacting. I asked him why he hurt me. “Will you cry rape?” he asked. “It was only a joke, I only did it lightly.”
“Oh!” I laughed. “Then I should play along?” I reached up to his gelled hair and yanked hard.
He called me a “deranged liberal bitch” and ordered me out of his apartment.
Friberg followed up with articles and podcast commentary about the events of that evening, with the help of Matt Forney, who said that I “nearly start[ed] a fire and [left] burn marks on an $800 rug.” In the blog post Friberg wrote following the report I published in The Atlantic, he repeated those claims, saying that I “almost set fire” to his apartment. But in a response to a commenter who asked Friberg why he did not choose to press charges, he stated that the damage was little more than “a few burn marks on the carpet.”
Several comments on Friberg’s blog post about me, however, criticised him for being too “defensive” on the question of his extremism. “The Atlantic is obsessed with the alt right and they’ve given us a lot of coverage,” one commenter wrote. “In addition so far every article they’ve written on the movement seemed quite favorable to anyone who isn’t weighed down by words like ‘racist’ and ‘bigot.’” Another person wrote, “The Alt Right is most certainly extremist. Who tf is Daniel Frieberg and why does he sound like a scared rabbit when he gets called a Nazi?”
THE DHARMA MANIFESTO, a 2013 publication, is one potent example of a book that Arktos has published that uses Hindu ideas and symbols to riff on themes popular among the alt-right. Written by a white American man named Frank Morales, who goes by the Sanskrit name “Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya,” and sometimes refers to himself as “Acharya-ji,” the book proposes a nationalism built on the concept of dharma, which Morales calls “dharma nationalism.”
The book is legion in inconsistency and contradiction. Morales praises the values of the American Revolution, but rejects the European Enlightenment that bore it. He wants limited government, but draconian punishment for “crime,” especially “treason against the nation.” He yearns for meritocracy and the valuation of women, yet disdains “neo-Hindu obsessions with eliminating ‘caste’” and “eliminating sati,” the custom of widows immolating themselves on their husband’s funeral pyres. He argues for distinct nations’ right to self-governance, yet envisions a global dictatorial suprastructure based on a singular and immutable “dharma.”
But there is one sentiment that remains consistent throughout the text—despair at the supposed decay of American culture. In a chapter titled “The Crisis of Modernity,” for example, he writes:
Despite [America] being the wealthiest and arguably most powerful nation the world has ever known … it is now an undebatable fact that our culture has been purposefully and systematically infested with degeneracy, moral ugliness and a trash-laden culture by a secretive cabal of powerful elites who control our nation (and much of the world) from behind the scenes. We are in a crisis.
“Dharma nationalism” is not a widely referenced concept in the alt-right. It does not appear in memes or blog posts beyond the author’s. There are no copies of the book available in any university or public library, according to WorldCat’s records. Morales has appeared in interviews with white nationalists, including with Robert Stark of Counter-Currents, but beyond that, he and his work remain obscure. Still, his view of the world in a crisis of rot, marionetted by a cabalistic elite (a thinly veiled anti-Jewish jibe), and the promise of an imminent rectifying cataclysm is engraved into the alt-right.
In a YouTube interview on 19 March 2017, the author claims that he is “close to people who are close” to Donald Trump, and that several of the president’s advisors own a copy of The Dharma Manifesto. “If you look at the policy section of my book, and precisely what it is that Trump is doing, they are practically synonymous. … That is not 100 percent by accident,” he said. “That was done by design.”
Amid lengthy quotes from Morales’s book and other promotional material, the Facebook page for The Dharma Manifesto is essentially a fan site to various European and American far-right leaders. It includes posts about the leader of France’s National Front, Marine Le Pen; Frauke Petry of Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland; Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party; and, of course, Donald Trump. Morales endorsed the accused paedophile Roy Moore in a recent contentious battle for an Alabama Senate seat. In a Facebook album titled “Leaders of the Resistance,” he praised Modi as well as Yogi Adityanath, the BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and leader of the far-right Hindu Yuva Vahini.
Born in New York City to Catholic parents and raised in Brooklyn, Morales has said in multiple interviews that he began reading the Gita when he was ten years old. He was ordained in India as an orthodox Vedic brahmana in 1986, and earned a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002. He had a brief and unremarkable stint as an adjunct academic, and eventually left to teach Hinduism, or, as he prefers to refer to it, Sanatana Dharma.
He was the leading scholar of a Hindu temple in Omaha, Nebraska, from 2007 through 2009. His departure from the temple is shrouded in mystery. I called both priests of the temple, as well as the temple leader, and each declined to comment on why and how he left. Morales now runs the International Sanatana Dharma Society in Omaha, which, on its website, claims to be a “global spiritual movement dedicated to practicing and teaching the ancient Vedic religious tradition in its fully authentic and unaltered form.”
Morales declares that his “dharma nationalism” is not a reiteration of the “Hindu nationalism” of the BJP and the RSS. But his only apparent gripe with Hindutva is reminiscent of Evola’s disparaging critiques of German Nazism and Italian fascism—Morales argues in his book that Hindutva is too compromising in its appeals to “Muslims, Christians, pseudo-secularists, and other non-Hindu Indians by merely presenting themselves as patriotic Indians.” This is why, he theorises, the BJP lost the general election in 2004. The Dharma Manifesto was, however, published before the BJP won in 2014, so his views on the party may have since changed. I reached out to Morales to request an interview several times, via Facebook, his website, and even through some of his devotees, but he never responded.
Often, Morales’s writings and speeches drift into strange territory. In one of his more popular YouTube videos, with over 85,000 views, called “Ancient Vedic Aliens,” Morales explains that UFOs are literal manifestations of beings from “hellish” and “heavenly” realms. Nordics, he says, are examples of “heavenly” aliens. “You’ve heard of Nordic aliens,” he casually says. “The Nordics are human beings but they are definitely more advanced than us, both spiritually but also technologically in the good sense. They’re almost between us and the devas.”
His writings have, according to his website, attracted the attention of a number of high-profile Hindu leaders. He posed for pictures with the outspoken BJP politician Subramanian Swamy at a “Hindu Unity Day” celebration in New York City. According to Morales’s website, the prominent alternative-medicine advocate Deepak Chopra has said his work is “phenomenal,” and that it teaches “the pure essence of Yoga.” The website also cites accolades from the writer Rajiv Malhotra, who apparently praised Morales as a “great public champion of Hinduism.” Both Morales and Malhotra have been cited together as critics of “radical universalism”—an idea, which they describe as a Hindu one, that all religions are similar paths to the ultimate goal of realising divine potential. Malhotra has built his career around attacking Hindu progressives as colonial imposters. Modi himself has reportedly praised Malhotra as “glorifying our priceless heritage.” A piece on Scroll refers to him as “the philosopher-in-chief of Internet Hindutva”—a leader to “swarms of angry right-wing bloggers, chat-room lurkers and Twitter trolls.”
I reached out to Swamy, Chopra and Malhotra to ask them about their supposed interactions with Morales, but none of them responded to my requests for comment.
The Dharma Manifesto also includes critiques of Christianity in a larger polemic against “Abrahamic religions,” but is far less critical of Christianity than Islam. “Islam is an alien, inherently oppressive, violent and hateful religious ideology,” Morales writes. “The amount of destruction wrought upon so many hundreds of Dharmic cultures that was experienced at the hands of Islam, ranging from the Middle East and Persia to India and Indonesia, boggles human comprehension.” He is equally critical of Judaism and Marxism—which he includes as an Abrahamic religion, as it is “the antithesis of Dharmic law.” (This is, again, another instance of anti-Jewish prejudice, as he closely associates Marxism with Jews.)
Morales rejects the term “Hinduism” in favor of “Vedism,” which he argues more accurately reflects his interpretation of Hinduism as being a branch of European paganism. “Vedic culture and the pre-Christian European religions are not merely spiritual cousins; they are one and the same worldview,” he said in an interview with Counter-Currents. This European paganism, according to Morales, includes Odinism—like that of Varg Vikernes—as well as Celtic and Slavic pantheisms.
Morales’s view that modern, Western life is degenerate gives way, as much of Arktos’s literature does, to expectations for an end of days. In this way, even for those on the alt-right who do not identify as closely with Hinduism as Morales does, the Kali Yuga and its end function as ancient signifiers of what the alt-right sees as a society in which white power, in a shifting and increasingly global world, is threatened. As Morgan said in the 2014 interview for the Journal for the Study of Radicalism, “there’s a lot of talk in our circles about what is usually termed ‘the collapse.’ A lot of people are talking about this on the Left as well. It’s the idea that this civilization we have now, and especially American society, is unsustainable in the long term, and that sometime in the not-too-distant future, it’s all going to come to a head and fall apart.”
Blake Smith, in the Los Angeles Review of Books, argues that the idea of the Kali Yuga anchors “the alt-right in a historical movement that extends beyond the Third Reich, whose collapse remains a troubling explanandum for neo-Nazi movements … Citing the Manusmriti or the Puranas suggests that by attacking ‘degeneracy,’ the alt-right speaks for a millennia-old moral consensus shared by many societies and only recently perverted in our own.”
In a short video released on his Facebook page the day after Trump’s inauguration, Morales preaches that 2017 will be “the beginning of the golden age.” But, he adds, “there are two distinct routes that the world can now take. One, in which the forces of evil simply relinquish and surrender. Or one, in which they make the very stupid mistake of trying to retain power. If they do the latter, 2017 has the potential to be one of, if not the most, violent years in history, going back to the Mahabharata war.”
He pauses, then continues. “It’s still the beginning of the golden age. Because the forces of good will win.”
THE RUSSIAN PHILOSOPHER Alexander Dugin is one of Arktos’s most popular writers. Arktos’s 2012 publication of a translation of Dugin was the first of his full texts to be translated into English.
Dugin is also an influential political figure, although the extent of his power is widely debated among Russianists. Nevertheless, his connections with nearly every European far-right political party and extremist group seem to have opened up strategic corridors for Arktos. Variously cited as “Putin’s Brain” and “Putin’s Rasputin,” Dugin has been credited with being a leading ideological force in the Kremlin as Putin’s former “geopolitical advisor.” Dugin, too, is an intellectual heir of Evola (whom he has translated into Russian) and the French New Right, also widely published by Arktos. He has reportedly called for a “genuine, true, radically revolutionary, and consistently fascist fascism,” and seeks to “hasten the ‘end of times’ with all out war.” As the first provider of Dugin texts in English, Arktos is patient zero for the spread of these ideas across Europe and beyond.
Dugin regularly interacts with Friberg and Morgan on social media, and visited them several times in India. On one of these trips, in Delhi in February 2012, Dugin gave an interview to Morgan and Friberg, now hosted on Counter-Currents. In it, he said, “we must create strategic alliances to overthrow the present order of things, of which the core could be described as human rights, anti-hierarchy, and political correctness—everything that is the face of the Beast, the anti-Christ or, in other terms, Kali Yuga.”
Credited as a central figure in the rise of several European far-right groups, Dugin influences political parties such as Germany’s National Democratic Party, the British National Party, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Hungary’s Jobbík and France’s National Front. His reach has arguably been perceptible in the White House as well, through Bannon, who was widely perceived to be Trump’s very own Dugin. Bannon has portrayed Putin as championing both nationalism and conservative cultural values. Reciprocally, Dugin has said that he is Bannon’s “ideological ally.”
In Dugin’s geopolitical vision, Western liberalism has attempted to colonise and subordinate the globe, bending white nations to its will through a campaign of sabotage against ethnic tradition via “multiculturalism.” This liberalism, to Dugin, is a destructive force that will render the white race obsolete. This is a key tenet of white-nationalism—that whites must prevent their own racial dissolution wrought by interracial societies, for fear of genetic “pollution,” or “white genocide.”
Some believe Arktos is part of a larger covert geopolitical strategy by Russia. In January 2017, I met Andras Dezsö, a national-security and organised-crime reporter for the Hungarian digital-news site Index.hu, at his office on the outskirts of Budapest. He is a specialist on Russian connections to far-right organisations. Dezsö described Arktos and its “metapolitical” project as an example of “active measures,” or aktivniye meropriyatiye. A KGB tactic of disinformation and Cold War psychological warfare, “active measures” were designed to subvert “Western community alliances of all sorts … and thus to prepare ground in case the war really occurs,” according to the retired KGB General Oleg Kalugin. Researchers have argued that some of the most famous Cold War conspiracy theories, from John F Kennedy’s assassination as an inside government job to AIDS as a CIA invention, were planted by Soviets in accordance with this tactic. (Dezsö did not cite any specific evidence of the Kremlin’s involvement in Arktos, however. And, even if the publisher is an instance of Russian active measures, its fan base, along with the rest of the alt-right, seems to largely be comprised of genuine supporters.)
The term “active measures” has been resurrected from Cold War vocabulary in the wake of Trump’s victory, to describe cultural subversion in the form of fake news and disinformation campaigns amid allegations of collusion between the Trump election team and Russia. It has made its way into several government public hearings, including the fallen FBI director James Comey’s testimony, in which he described Russia’s influence in the 2016 US election as a part of “active measures.”
Dezsö said that Arktos’s prior location in India only provided more proof that Russia is executing active measures through it. Third countries are often used, he said, as a diversionary tactic and a means of weakening any claims of covert Russian operations. He pointed out that India was a centre for Russian intelligence services in the 1970s and 1980s.
Now, Dezsö said, Eastern European countries such as Hungary are becoming these third countries of covert activity. “Friberg can do freely what he wants to do here, and active measures get a green light,” he said. Arktos and its friends, he continued, “are dangerous, because it’s a cultural war, also.”
Dezsö continued, “I think the superpowers and the powers that think about war, they think about arms and bombs, but it’s a very, very important field, the cultural field.” He added: “There is already a war, and the soldiers are guys like Friberg.”
FRIBERG AND MORGAN are both still in Hungary. But Morgan left Arktos in March 2017, due to a personal split with Friberg. In retaliatory blog posts in June 2017, Friberg accused Morgan of attempting a coup in the company, and Morgan accused Friberg of embezzlement. Friberg’s post called ISKCON a cult, “famous around the world for its panhandling and hokey moralizing,” and mocked Morgan’s involvement with it, along with that of Patrick Boch—the former employee of Arktos who is still a Hare Krishna devotee. Friberg also added that Boch is married “to a woman of dark complexion” in India. Morgan is now an editor for Counter-Currents.
Friberg remains the CEO of Arktos and a partner in the Alt-Right Corporation, alongside Richard Spencer. Friberg flew from Europe specifically to attend the Charlottesville rally this past August.
Recently, Arktos has claimed that it is expanding. In September, its website announced several new hires to account for a growing influx of manuscripts.
Arktos has also bragged about its connections to the White House. Jason Jorjani, a co-founder of the Alt-Right Corporation, along with Friberg and Spencer, was caught on video claiming that Steve Bannon was to be the interface between the Alt-Right Corporation and Donald Trump. (Jorjani has since left Arktos and the Alt-Right Corporation.)
Of course, none of the fascination with the implications of Hindu spirituality has stopped far-right violence against Indians in the United States. Indeed, the contempt Friberg expressed for Hare Krishnas and Boch’s wife is much more representative of the sentiments of most racist Americans.
Nevertheless, Trump has made overtures to the Hindu American community. At a Bollywood-themed benefit concert for “victims of terror” a few months before the election, he spoke to a crowd of “Hindus for Trump” in Edison, New Jersey. Posters for the event showed Trump sitting in a red-white-and-blue lotus, holding a yoga pose, and flyers showed a demonic Hillary Clinton and Sonia Gandhi rallying to “Get Modi!” and frame him for the Gujarat riots. The highlight of the evening was a performance in which Indian dancers were attacked by terrorists on stage. They were saved by the US Army, after which they held their hands over their hearts during the American national anthem, followed by Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born in the USA.” Trump later came on stage to proclaim “I am a big fan of Hindu,” and that the United States and India would be “best friends” if he were elected.
Yet, just weeks after Trump’s inauguration, in early February, an Indian man in Colorado awoke to find his house defaced with faeces and racist slogans. Two weeks later, in Kansas, a white man shot two Indian men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, killing Kuchibhotla. The shooter reportedly yelled “Get out of my country!” before firing. Trump only addressed the death a week later to comment on “the divisiveness in our country.”
All the while, the alt-right, on its message boards and its blogs, has continued to eagerly await the end of the Kali Yuga.
Carol Schaeffer is an independent writer and journalist covering the rise of the far-right around the globe. She has been based in New York, Belgrade, London and Paris, and can be found on Twitter as @ThenCarolSaid.