Recovering the ‘Aryan worldview’: the Western Australian book publisher under scrutiny over far-right texts | Far right

Recovering the ‘Aryan worldview’: the Western Australian book publisher under scrutiny over far-right texts | Far right

At least one Australian-based online bookstore is reviewing works from a publisher that describes itself as the “the classics department of the dissident right”, including essay collections edited by an Australian white nationalist.

Booktopia said on Wednesday it would remove several titles published by Imperium Press from its website “pending further review”. The publisher is part of an international ecosystem of publishers that sell repackaged public domain titles, often from the “western canon” such as Shakespeare, the Iliad and the counter-Enlightenment philosopher Joseph de Maistre, as well as explicitly reactionary right or pro-white works.

Imperium titles are still available through Amazon’s Australian arm and Dymocks, among other sites.

A YouTube trailer promoting Imperium Press includes soaring drone shots of European cities, Italian Renaissance sculpture and centuries-old libraries, but the press is owned by a Canadian-born man in the suburbs of Perth.

Business records show the sole owner of Imperium is Michael Edward Maxwell. In a 2022 podcast interview with Mark Collett, the founder of the UK white nationalist group Patriotic Alternative, Maxwell said his company had not published titles that were “shall we say, too spicy”.

“We haven’t published Mein Kampf or anything like that,” he said. “Nothing that you read by us is going to set off too many alarm bells, and yet the establishment has made it very clear they don’t like what we’re doing.”

Imperium Press told Guardian Australia the worldview found in its publications was the “historical default position”.

“Imperium Press is not ‘cultivating a worldview’ in conjunction with figures on the right or elsewhere,” it said in a statement.

“The worldview found in our books is simply that held by the greatest thinkers of all time until very recently. It is the historical default position and we are not so much cultivating it as recovering it from the core of the West’s intellectual tradition.”

In its online newsletter, however, Imperium Press has said the worldview of its project is one of “folkishness” rooted in concepts of ancestor worship and nationalism, or “what Houston Stewart Chamberlain has called the Aryan worldview”.

“You have been gaslit into thinking that these words – Aryan, right-wing, reactionary – are evil and abhorrent. For the first 99.98% of history people like us were the good guys, and in the near future and forever more we will again be on the ‘right side of history’,” it stated in April 2023.

As well as classic texts such as the epic poem Beowulf and folktales a genre described on Imperium’s Telegram channel as a “redpill” for children Imperium’s catalogues have included George Fitzhugh’s 1854 defence of slavery, Sociology for the South, and the work of the British German political philosopher Chamberlain, who proclaimed the superiority of “Aryans”.

An Imperium Press journal, which calls itself “the vanguard of dissident right-wing thought”, has published essays by the Australian neo-Nazi Joel Davis, who is cited as “editor-in-chief”. Davis writes what he calls “White Identity Polemics” on his own newsletter and livestreams with the European Australian Movement’s Thomas Sewell, who has also shared Imperium content on Telegram.

The 2021 volume includes an article that cites the Institute for Historical Review, a thinktank notorious for Holocaust denial. The journal was available online from Dymocks, Amazon, Booktopia and other online booksellers, as well as on Imperium’s own website this week.

It appeared to have been removed from the website on Friday.

Imperium Press said the journal was now defunct and that it was not involved in “running the journal, selections, or anything else – we acted as solely the publisher”.

“We have discontinued these titles as of 2024.”

In response to questions about some Imperium titles, Booktopia said it would remove them from its website and work with the distributor to determine whether the publisher will be able to continue to use their platform.

“Booktopia receives multiple feeds from a number of domestic and international publishers which include millions of books across thousands of product categories,” a spokesperson said. “We work in the best interests of our customers to ensure we provide access to a safe and legal selection of books and any product that falls outside of that, will be removed once identified and reviewed.”

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A spokesperson for Amazon pointed to the company’s guidelines, which prohibit offensive content such as hate speech, and said it would “promptly investigate any book when a concern is raised”.

Dymocks declined to comment, but appears to have removed the 2021 journal edition from its site.

‘A respectable intellectual face’

Hannah Gais, a senior researcher with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in the US, said publishers had historically played an important role in promoting “far-right, reactionary” perspectives.

“It’s helping cultivate a worldview,” Gais said. “It also gives these guys an opportunity to be in dialogue with one another: to write about one another’s ‘thought’ in a way that you really couldn’t on mainstream presses.”

Jordan McSwiney, a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra, said the texts published by Imperium provided “inspiration, ideological sustenance and legitimation”.

“Publishers provide a respectable intellectual face for the movement.”

Imperium is also involved in creating podcasts and videos. Maxwell has hosted a podcast with Davis, and has appeared in interviews and livestreams with figures such as the Irish white nationalist Keith Woods and Patriot Front founder Thomas Rousseau, among other figures of the online far-right content creation ecosystem.

Interviewed alongside Maxwell on the Imperium Art YouTube podcast in 2021, Davis said he was throwing his weight “behind Imperium Press and what Mike’s doing, because if I’m creating an intellectual movement, having a good relationship with a publisher is vital”.

Imperium Press said: “We have not been associated with Joel Davis for about two years now since our joint podcast ended. We parted ways at that time due to significant ideological disagreements.”

It did not respond to questions as to whether it endorsed the views of Woods, Rousseau or other figures Maxwell has appeared alongside.

Blair Cottrell, who was convicted of inciting hatred, contempt and ridicule of Muslims in 2017, claimed on his Telegram channel in 2023 to be completing a “fitness manual” for Imperium. The publisher did not confirm the project.

Imperium Press has also used its online platforms such as Telegram to promote other brands and activists. One of the more well known is Antelope Hill Publishing, which made a name for itself translating works from Hitler and the Nazi collaborator Leon Degrelle, according to the SPLC, as well as contemporary members of far-right movements.

Antelope in turn spotlights Imperium’s titles and merchandise. It promoted Imperium Press titles on sale for “White Wednesday” in November 2023, and in 2021 threatened to take its Twitter account private after Imperium Press was “censored and banned” from the platform.

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