Daniel Friberg
Arktos Media CEO Daniel FribergArktos

As hipsters partied in Stockholm's liberal Sodermalm district on Saturday (25 February) night, a secret venue was hosting a meeting for some of the leading figures of the alt-right white nationalist movement.

Billed as the largest alt-right event in the world, the mood was triumphant, with 374 guests gathered to hear speakers celebrating the election of US president Donald Trump, and mark what they claim is an historic opportunity to spread their ideas and consolidate their influence.

"I believe we have some momentum right now we should not waste, so need to step up our game and be more active," event organiser Daniel Friberg tells IBTimes UK over the telephone, and boasts about holding the event under the nose of leftists who he said had forced him to cancel four previous venues.

He says that at the meeting a "momentous" alliance was formed between the European "new right", a self-consciously scholarly white nationalist movement, and the US alt-right, the Trump-loving US provocateurs.

"I believe it is a time to come together and bring these different qualities together under one single umbrella," he says. In his book The Real Right Returns he declares: "After more than a century of retreat, marginalisation and constant concessions to an ever more aggressive and demanding left, the true European right is returning with a vengeance."

Friberg is virtually unknown in his native Sweden, but is regarded by experts at Searchlight anti-racism group as one of the most influential figures in the global far right.

The well-spoken entrepreneur and mining executive has created websites, founded publishing houses and started think tanks that have become among the most important institutions in the movement.

Friberg sees his project as one removed from the day-to-day drudgery of party politics and activism. He wants to effect a revolution at a deeper level – ideas, values, and culture – to overcome liberal taboos and reassert nationalist values.

"There are a lot of parties doing a good job, and politicians, it has never really been appealing to me to get into party politics – it is a little too dirty – I prefer the world of ideas, it is more pure," he says.

Neo-Nazi past

In his youth, Friberg had his head shaved, hung out with members of neo-Nazi group the Swedish Resistance, and had several run-ins with the law, spending time in prison for crimes including weapons offences.

In contrast with the clichéd image of the angry young man from a deprived background drawn to neo-Nazi subculture, Friberg is well-educated and comes from a middle-class, left-wing family, writes US musicologist Benjamin Teitelbaum in his book Lions of the North. Friberg claimed he was drawn to the far right after witnessing immigrant children targeting whites at a multicultural school where he was educated.

Right-wing extremists clash with members of an anti-Nazism demonstration in the Stockholm suburb of Karrtorp December 15, 2013.
Right-wing extremists clash with members of an anti-Nazism demonstration in the Stockholm suburb of Karrtorp December 15, 2013Reuters Pics

His CV is that of a successful young European executive. He earned an MBA from Gothenburg University in 2006, working in finance and management consultancy before becoming CEO of Wiking Mineral, a precious metals mining company.

Since his early 20s Friberg has distanced himself from the thuggish image of neo-Nazi subculture, replacing boots and crew cut with expensive suits. He has devoted his efforts to detoxifying and revitilising far-right ideology, and spreading it among a young, educated and elite audience.

He has adopted the Marxist concept of "metapolitics", which he defines as a "a war of social transformation, fought on the level of worldview, thought, and culture". He wants to oust the so-called "cultural Marxists" who he claims have infiltrated culture with left-wing ideology.

"He wants to create a generation of educated, well-dressed, upstanding nationalists and leaders," says Teitelbaum, who knows Friberg personally. "It is about the view that you can't change politics at the polling booth, you have to change the culture, you have to have people who can write, speak and produce art and media to go out and change culture before you have a political movement. That is what he wanted to do."

Friberg's renewed bid to spread white nationalism comes with Sweden and much of Europe engaged in fierce debate about mass immigration and its consequences. Long a bastion of liberal values, Sweden has in recent years seen a surge in support for the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, as immigration rose to record levels in 2013 and the country accepted hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers.

Friberg has claimed in an interview that the Sweden Democrats can pave the way for a more radical position he calls identitarianism, which he argues is about defending the rights of whites to form their own communities and embrace their own culture. He insists that his is not a vision of an exclusively white Sweden and Europe.

"I'm not an absolutist in that regard. It is not part of our ideology to make all of our countries 100% white," he says.

"I'm advocating for functioning societies – and as we have seen over the past few decades, that can't be multicultural. That doesn't mean we can't have a normal level of immigration – all European countries had a number of immigrants come to their countries before – this new concept of mass migration is harming our societies."

'Rebranding fascism'

For critics though, Friberg's identitarian project is simply an attempt to rebrand fascism for a new generation.

"The new right is very much about the idea that Italian fascism or German National Socialism are not presentable as something new and radical now, they need rebranding, they need repackaging," says Jonathan Leman, from Sweden's anti-racism magazine Expo.

"The key factors are anti-liberal democracy as we know it, and to create a homogenous Sweden and Europe which is white – and that is compatible with the views of neo-Nazis," he says.

In previous interviews Friberg has expressed his belief in the key importance of ethnicity. "The identitarian point of view is centered around ethnicity rather than culture and underscores the evident link between culture and biology," he told Swedish far-right news site Fria Tider in 2013.

When pressed, Friberg says that he is not actually a so-called "cultural nationalist", who believes that people from any race can be integrated into Sweden, "because I do believe that ethnicity is important".

He continues: "I don't believe in integration, I do believe in assimilation – that is how it has always worked."

He goes on to claim he supports the right of Muslim women to wear headscarves in Sweden, highlighting the strange tension between his belief in homogenised societies, and his attempt to present a vision of a sanitised nationalism in which all traditions are respected.

Red Ice and anti-Semitism

Friberg has created a close-knit network, with publishing house Arktos disseminating ideas, think tank Motpol providing a forum where they are discussed, and a media network popularising them in slickly produced viral videos.

Saturday's conference was livestreamed by Red Ice, a key member of Friberg's alt-right media network. The video and radio streaming service is geared to an audience of media-savvy millennials in the US and Europe. Its two hosts, Henrik Palmgren and Lena Lokteff, provide a heady mix of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and white nationalist ideology, alongside bizarre features on traditional Nordic crafts and cookery.

Lana Lokteff addresses the Stockholm conference
Lana Lokteff addresses the Stockholm conferenceScreengrab

When asked about about notorious Holocaust denier Michael Hoffman being interviewed on the channel, and of the presence of US alt-right video blogger Paul Ray Ramsey (aka Ramzpaul) at Saturday's event, who has questioned why one should feel sorrow for the victims of the Holocaust, Friberg pleads ignorance.

He says he does not get time to watch all Red Ice programmes, and was not aware of Ramsey's anti-Semitism. "I don't think the Holocaust has a special privileged place in this tragedy [of WWII]. The whole thing is awful, it was the worst thing that happened in Europe last century", he says, citing German and Ukrainian victims of Soviet violence.

Friberg was also closely involved with setting up Nordisk.ru, a messaging board that attracted nationalists and far-right supporters from throughout Scandinavia, including Norwegian far-right mass killer Anders Breivik, who murdered 77 people, most of them children, in a series of attacks on 2 July 2011. Breivik claimed he was targeting "cultural Marxists" undermining white identity in the attack.

He claims that Breivik only logged into the site once and immediately informed the Swedish secret service when news of the atrocity broke. Friberg maintains that far-right ideology had nothing to do with the killings. "In every given society you have some insane people and it is wrong to blame an ideology for that unless that ideology explicitly promotes violence and terrorism. We have done exactly the opposite. I don't feel any guilt, in fact what we do may have had a positive impact," he argues. He goes on to claim that incidents such as the Breivik killings are something that only happens "once every 100 years", whereas Islamist killings are frequent.

In fact, Sweden has been subjected to both Islamist plots and far-right violence in recent years, with 21-year-old Anton Lundin Pettersson murdering two teachers and a student in a racially motivated attack on a Trollhättan school in 2015, while four were injured in a neo-Nazi bomb attack on a refugee centre in Gothenburg in January.

Political mission

In early 2016, Friberg reportedly quit as Wiking Mineral CEO, a seeming declaration of his intent to devote himself to his political mission.

He has in recent months published his book, created the alt-right.com website with notorious alt-right ideologue Richard Spencer, published key alt-right figures at his publishing house Arktos Media and organised conferences where European and US right-wing radicals appear side by side.

Teitelbaum tells me that though the young Friberg is already a veteran of the white nationalist scene, having played a key role in its transformation, and is well-placed to supervise its renewed bid for power.

"He's one of the few people in Sweden who grew up in the decade of the skinhead movement and made a career out of it, stayed afloat. I mean it destroyed the lives of so many people, that subculture. His is a noteworthy figure, he really is," he explains.