In 1979, French writer and academic Renaud Camus published Tricks, “a sexual odyssey” detailing a young gay Frenchman’s 25 brief sexual encounters from Paris and the French Riviera to Milan, New York, and San Francisco. Noted literary queer Allen Ginsberg called Camus’ world “completely that of a new urban homosexual; at ease in half a dozen countries.”
Tricks is the only of Camus’ dozens and dozens of books to be translated into English, but he is most famous, or infamous, for the book he published more than 30 years later which has been widely adopted by white supremacists, most recently in New Zealand where a shooter delivered a manifesto heavily influenced by Camus before murdering 50 people in the city of Christchurch.
Published in 2012, Le Grand Remplacement posits the conspiracy theory that Europe’s white majority is in danger of being replaced by Muslim and darker skinned immigrants from North and Sub-Saharan Africa. “The great replacement is very simple,” Camus said of his doctrine. “You have one people, and in the space of a generation you have a different people.”
The great replacement soon became the raison d’être for white supremacists: The New Zealand shooter named his manifesto after Camus’ book, and before that, angry, tiki torch-wielding white nationalists chanted, “Jews will not replace us!” in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a Unite the Right rally, which resulted in the death of Heather Heyer. White supremacy is now the most dangerous and insidious form of terrorism, with considerable thanks to three gay men.
When reached by The Washington Post for comment in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, Camus claimed he condemns violence, but at the same time he supports how his conspiracy theory has been interpreted, which has and will continue to lead to increased violence in the name of some alleged “white genocide.” That Camus once advocated for open borders, at least when it came to the sexual tourism of the modern gay man, and he now desires a xenophobic, ethnically pure France may come as a surprise, but he’s hardly the first, or last, homosexual to willfully become a instrument in the spread of white supremacy.
It’s Ernst, Herr Röhm If You’re Nazi
After serving in World War I, Ernst Röhm became one of the earliest defectors to the Nazi Party, where he became close friends and political allies with Adolf Hitler. Their friendship has often stoked rumors that Hitler, himself, was gay.
Initially founded to counter communism in post-war Germany, the Nazi Party rose to power in the early 1920s using an agenda bolstered by pseudo-science and propaganda around the idea of a German master race. In order to achieve racial purity, the party began systematically targeting “inferior” races, most notoriously Jews.
Hitler assumed leadership of the party in 1921 and after he was briefly imprisoned in 1923, appointed Röhm to take charge of the SA, the Nazi’s militia. In 1925, Hitler and Röhm had a falling out that prompted the latter to find self-imposed exile in Bolivia. Then, in 1930, Hitler telephoned Röhm to tell him that he needed him back in Germany to serve as the SA Chief of Staff.
Under Röhm, the SA grew into a feared and powerful presence, facilitating the growth of the Nazi Party. Still, the homosexuality of Röhm and other SA officers, such as his deputy Edmund Heines, remained a liability to the party—a Socialist Democratic newspaper published a letter from Röhm to a friend spilling the tea on his gay affairs in 1931. Though Hitler was aware of Röhm’s sexuality, he didn’t seem to have a problem as long as the SA was strong-arming him into power.
Röhm was among the more radical in the Nazi Party leadership and soon rumbles began that he was a threat to Hitler’s power. The SA, with its more than 3 million members, was unruly and unpredictable, and the moral character of Röhm and others within its ranks [read: the gay thing] led to dissent. Hitler tried to weaken the militia and reduce its numbers, but Röhm objected. Party conservatives, no fan of “the gay thing,” worried more about his political aspirations and feared he would eventually try a coup against Hitler. Threatened with martial law and the loss of power, Hitler finally decided to oust Röhm.
On June 30, 1934, Hitler and his SS, the group that had effectively replaced the SA, arrived at the Hanselbauer Hotel near Munich, where Röhm and his supporters were staying. Hitler’s forces surprised the sleeping men in a purge known as the Night of the Long Knives. Heines, Röhm’s deputy, was caught in bed with an unidentified 18-year-old; they were both taken outside and shot.
Hitler, still hesitant to send Röhm off to execution, had him arrested and afforded him the opportunity to commit suicide instead. When two senior Nazi officers handed the SA leader a loaded pistol and gave him 10 minutes to do the deed, he refused, saying, “If I am to be killed, let Adolf do it himself.”
The officers shot Röhm and the Nazis attempted to expunge him from its official history, along with the thousands of homosexual men and the millions of Jews they imprisoned and killed in concentration camps out of some factless idea of racial purity. Röhm, however, would prove an inspiration—and yet, somehow, not a warning—for the gay man credited with the 21st century’s alt-right movement.
Within a series of emails BuzzFeed obtained in its lengthy exposé on the mainstreaming of the white nationalist movement, Milo Yiannopoulos—then-tech editor of far right troll factory Breitbart—shares his password with a colleague: “LongKnives1290.” The Long Knives in reference to the purge that killed the undesirable Nazis, 1290 referring to the year King Edward I expelled the Jews from England. Yiannopoulos and Breitbart had often and vehemently, amid the threat of litigation, denied that he was a racist or a white nationalist. With the exposé, however, that cover, tenuous at best, was blown.
For several years, Yiannopoulos—emboldened and groomed by Breitbart co-founder Steve Bannon—had played a coy game of First Amendment tag with the media, making vile comments about Muslims, women, gays, and basically anyone he hoped to get a rise out of, while blithely defending his freedom of speech and coating his act in the unconvincing veneer of satire. He built a large following online, frequently testing the limits of Twitter before he was permanently banned in July 2016.
By then, Yiannopoulos had proven himself a useful recruitment tool to the alt-right ideology, his ghostwritten article “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right” serving as a Le Grand Remplacement for bros. As a gay man spouting white nationalist rhetoric, he positioned himself as some sort of chimerical neo-Nazi mascot, like if Ernst Röhm had a bad dye job and a Twitter account. Yiannopoulos took his sadistic show on the road with The Dangerous Faggot Tour, darkening the doorsteps of campuses around the United States and United Kingdom. Everywhere he went, Yiannopoulos was greeted by protest, which was entirely the point. He successfully whipped up controversy and the Breitbart brand only got stronger, and Yiannopooulos became its polarizing star.
With Breitbart, Yiannopoulos and Bannon tapped into a lingering resentment over the PC, inclusive, “love-is-love” Obama era and weaponized it into a movement encompassing the greatest hits of white male grievance, from anarchism all the way down to xenophobia. The “Jews will not replace us” folks. The Blue Lives Matter, men’s rights, white genocide folks. And, most tellingly, the “Make America Great Again” folks. With the election of Donald Trump, the alt-right went from being an online menace to a political and social force to be reckoned with, but Yiannopoulos soon found himself on the outs.
According to the emails BuzzFeed retrieved, Yiannopoulos had some lingering resentment over not being able to pontificate at the Republican National Convention in July 2016—an opportunity afforded to noted evil gay billionaire Peter Thiel. “No gays rule doesn’t apply to Thiel apparently,” he complained. Ironic, isn’t it, how people like Röhm, Heines, and Yiannopoulos can actively participate in a group that despises who they are, blatantly uses them to justify its own ends, and just as blatantly discard them once they’ve outlived their purpose? No, ironic isn’t the word for it—sad, pathetic, insane. One of those seems more fitting.
For Yiannopoulos, the beginning of the end came when he made some favorable comments about pedophilia in January 2016 that came back to haunt him a year later as he was readying to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference—where the “gay” rules were apparently a bit more lenient. Yiannopoulos was sabotaged by—surprise, surprise—a conservative website, which unearthed the damning interview and within days he had been forced to resign from Breitbart. At least publicly. He would lurk about in the shadows, gradually fading into the Breitbart ether as 2017 wore on and he became even more of a caricature of himself.
In his wake, Yiannopoulos left the the alt-right—this ginned up section of American life that dresses up white supremacy in respectability and academia, like that of Renaud Camus. But just what they believe in and just what they’re so angry about can be confusing, to say the least.
What Has White Nationalism Done for You Lately?
White nationalism is based on the idea that whiteness is a race, and that’s where things already get hairy. What is whiteness? Blackness is easy: Race is just some shit white folks came up with to justify slavery. Between Us and Them, We are superior and They are inferior because that’s the way God wants it. Black was a label forced onto a people, white was just the alternative to distinguish against them.
Whiteness is a question of time and place and opinion. Are you white if your daddy’s white and your daddy’s daddy is white, and your daddy’s daddy, but his daddy came over from Ireland and was basically considered a nigger until the blacks started getting uppity? Are you white because you say you are? Because the world perceives you as such? Ta-Nehisi Coates refers to “the people who believe they are white.” But regardless of the interpretation, “whiteness” is under attack, according to those people so terrified of being “replaced.”
In truth, whiteness isn’t under attack so much as it’s going out of style. A report last year found that deaths now outnumber births among white people in 26 of the 50 U.S. states and white folks are expected to be the minority by 2044. In fact, the entire world is getting generally browner. Coupled with the growing importance of racial equity and gender parity, the world is just balancing itself out after a certain group of people had its thumb on the scale for a few centuries. Besides, with all these DIY genealogy kits, white folks are discovering all sorts of colors and ethnicities in their backgrounds—in short, that the world isn’t just black and white.
Camus, ostensibly, rejects the race question, instead focusing on his Frenchness, which is even more vague than whiteness. Camus has no problem offering his castle—yes, he’s the kind of man who has a castle—to the black journalist with the French wife and interracial kids who interviewed him for The New Yorker in 2017. “There is nothing more French than an American in Paris!” he replied. The very idea of what is French, then, is subjective. For white American nativists, what is American? Is it country music, which has roots in the British Isles and among African slaves?
Conservatives always decry the liberals and their confounded identity politics, but white nationalism is just that: Whiteness politicized. It’s what elected Donald Trump, it’s what’s filling the courts nationwide, it’s what’s becoming the biggest terror threat not just in America, but as the deadly shootings in New Zealand painfully shows, the world at large.
“The very essence of modernity is the fact that everything—and really everything—can be replaced by something else,” Camus has said, “which is absolutely monstrous.”
That’s not modernity but life itself. It is evolution. Homo sapiens replaced the Neanderthals who replaced Homo erectus who replaced Homo habilis. What Camus and so many of his ilk are railing against isn’t modernity but time, of which modernity is only a product. But where the rise of the Homo sapiens is a case of one species replacing another, we’re all part of the same species and this is what evolution looks like within our species. Of course, if you don’t believe in evolution, that’s a whole other argument. One that I can’t believe we’re still having in 2019.
Equally confounding: Gays for Trump. They’re no Ernst Röhms or Edmund Heineses or Milo Yiannopoulos, but they do have something in common. It’s not self-loathing, which people often attribute to people who seem to go against their own interests. Rather, I think, it’s just selfishness. It’s putting oneself above all else, even when it’s to the detriment of others, of millions, or more. It’s seeing one’s humanity as greater and more important than someone else’s. It has nothing to do with white supremacy, it’s a general sense of supremacy and the belief in one’s whiteness is either the scapegoat or the catalyst.
And out of that belief, they lay your chips with the winning team—the one that’s had its thumb on the scale all these centuries. It can be as simple as supporting Trump after getting snubbed by Hillary. Or going all-in at Breitbart because someone terrible believed you were terrible, too. Or railing against the passage of time as some form of white genocide. Or just everything Ernst Röhm did. Though they may claim some higher purpose, that purpose is always self-aggrandizing, at all costs.