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Blake Masters’ provocations reach back to his college days

In an essay published in an obscure libertarian publication and unearthed by JI, the Arizona Republican Senate hopeful quotes Goering and a noted conspiracy theorist who espouses antisemitic views

Gage Skidmore

Blake Masters

Blake Masters, a leading candidate in Arizona’s Republican Senate primary, has gained national prominence thanks in part to a series of defiantly controversial online ads in which he has brandished a menacing short-barreled rifle, argued that “psychopaths are running the country” and pushed the false election narrative that former President Donald Trump “won in 2020.”

The self-proclaimed “anti-progressive” seems to revel in such starkly worded provocations. Since launching his campaign last July, he has also described Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore who was seen as an authoritarian if visionary leader, as one of his favorite historical figures, and — more recently — expressed admiration for the Unabomber’s anti-tech manifesto.

Even as his actual positions remain somewhat hard to decipher, Masters, a 35-year-old venture capitalist and Peter Thiel protégé, has quickly staked a claim as one of the most high-profile figures in a nascent but growing coalition of populist right-wing ideologues affiliated with the so-called “national conservative” movement.

The political newcomer has long espoused divisive views that, however authentic, seem designed to stir outrage. In fact, a tendentious essay written when Masters was a 19-year-old undergraduate student at Stanford University — recently unearthed by Jewish Insider — may provide insight into his thinking as well as a possible throughline from his college years to today.

In 2006, Masters penned an article for an obscure libertarian publication in which he referenced a “poignant quotation” from Nazi leader Hermann Goering, while citing a noted conspiracy theorist who has suggested that an infamous antisemitic tract “accurately” describes “much of what is happening in our world.”

The essay was published on the eponymous website of a controversial libertarian author and think tank leader named Lew Rockwell, who is alleged to have ghostwritten a series of bigoted newsletters for former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) in the late 1980s and early ’90s. The site, founded in 1999, describes itself as “anti-state,” “anti-war” and “pro-market.”

Masters now describes himself as a former libertarian who is fully supportive of Trump’s agenda, but at the time of the essay, he appears to have been deeply embroiled in libertarian thought. The essay’s brash rhetoric and somewhat paranoid insinuations, however, are reminiscent of his current approach, though he now appears to have shied away from Nazi allusions. 

The emphatically titled piece, “The Lusitania Is Down! (or How to Sell a War),” examines the U.S. entry into World War I to illustrate what Masters notes is his “primary message” — that “government creates war for no good reason.”

Among his main “sources,” Masters says in a parenthetical at the beginning of the piece, is G. Edward Griffin’s The Creature from Jekyll Island, a conspiracy-laden polemic — published in 1994 and widely revered in die-hard libertarian circles — that calls for the abolishment of the Federal Reserve. The book, whose title alludes to the location of a secret meeting off the coast of Georgia that led to the Fed’s creation, argues that the central banking system “has become an accomplice in the support of totalitarian regimes throughout the world.”

Now 90, Griffin is known for espousing a wide range of dubious beliefs on cancer treatments, chemtrails, the assassination of John F. Kennedy Jr. and the Sept. 11 attacks, among other things. 

Griffin has, additionally, been accused of propagating antisemitic conspiracy theories, including the suggestion that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion — a fabricated Russian document, first published in 1903, that describes a Jewish plan for world domination — bears some truth. “There is no doubt that the Protocols accurately describe much of what is happening in our world today,” Griffin once wrote of the text, which has long been discredited. 

While Griffin has acknowledged that “there is considerable evidence that the Protocols are a forgery,” he has also charged that “present-day political Zionists are promoting the New World Order.”

In his best-selling book on the Federal Reserve, Griffin invokes another classic antisemitic trope in describing a nefarious financial plot that is engineered, he theorizes, by a prominent Jewish banking family. The “Rothschild Formula,” as Griffin puts it, is a scheme “in which the world’s money cabal deliberately encourages war as a means of stimulating the profitable production of armaments and of keeping nations perpetually in debt. This is not profit seeking, it is genocide.”

Despite such assertions, Griffin has denied accusations that he is antisemitic.

Masters, who mentioned the Rothschild family in his essay, relies heavily on Griffin’s work to support his suppositions — most notably, that the sinking of the R.M.S. Lusitania by a German U-boat in 1915 was used as a pretext for America’s entry into World War I the following year. The U.S. government — in the interest of safeguarding U.S. banking interests and securing America’s position on the international stage — deliberately misrepresented the attack, Masters contends, through a “massive” propaganda campaign “designed to demonize Germany and drum up support for American involvement in ‘protecting democracy.’”

“This example shows that wars really are manufactured by government, often at the request or benefit of third party special interests,” Masters writes. “Wars can, and are, sold to the public through propaganda and murder. Unjust wars (and the U.S. hasn’t been involved in a just war in over 140 years) always benefit certain groups and ultimately serve the aspirations of the political class in general at the expense of thousands and millions of lives.”

Masters goes on to suggest that this line of thought may also extend to World World II.

“I’ll stop just short of claiming that FDR knew about Pearl Harbor, etc.,” Masters elaborates. “But clearly, we have seen here that blindly accepting the official historical account as absolute truth can be (and usually is) a grave and ignorant mistake. Are we really to believe the hackneyed paradigm of the gentle and peaceful America that contentedly minds its own business until some anti-democratic foreign band of lunatics inexplicably attacks us? That America only flexes its military might when the security of world peace or democracy itself are in jeopardy? I need not connect the dots and illustrate the obvious parallels with the current American wars and foreign policy.”

Unexpectedly, Masters concludes his article with what he describes as a “particularly representative and poignant quotation” from Goering, a high-ranking Nazi official who was known as Adolf Hitler’s right-hand man: “Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Goering made the assertion to American psychologist Gustave M. Gilbert during the Nuremberg trials. The Nazi war criminal committed suicide in 1946 just hours before he was to be hanged.

In a combative statement to JI, Masters defended what he described as the essay’s “anti-war” sentiments while acknowledging that he had gone “too far” in suggesting that America’s involvement in most armed conflicts had been unjustified.

“Guilt by association is a cheap journalist tactic and I reject it. If an essay I wrote in 2006 cites an author, that doesn’t mean I endorse all of his views,” he argued. “As for the anti-war statement, I was 19, writing in opposition to the Iraq War — a stance that turned out to be prescient. I went too far and stated that no recent American wars have been just. In this race, I have been called sexist for saying you should be able to raise a family on one income, racist for taking a stance against crime and believing we should fund our police, and xenophobic for arguing a real country must have real borders. Looks like the journalist class is running out of content… I suppose it was only a matter of time before I got called anti-semitic for criticizing wartime propaganda in an essay I wrote as a teenager.”

Masters had no response when asked to explain his decision to include the Goering quotation, nor did he directly address a question about Griffin’s alleged antisemitic statements.

While the article was published more than 15 years ago, its thesis seems to align with what Masters now characterizes as a non-interventionist foreign policy outlook that is highly skeptical of providing international aid to most countries.

Such views, while hardly anomalous within the Republican Party, have raised concerns among Jewish leaders in Arizona who have questioned, among other things, whether Masters will support the continuation of U.S. security assistance to Israel if he is elected to the Senate. Masters has insisted that he is in favor of such aid, noting that the U.S. and Israel have a “special relationship.”

“My model here is President Trump,” he said in an interview with JI a few months ago. “It’s like, be wise about entangling, never-ending, dumb conflicts, but again, I think there’s a way to do that where you’re actually strong, not weak, where you’re actually assertive, not passive, and where you’re actually pro-Israel, and not just, like, pretending that Israel is just one of many countries in the world, because I think it’s different and special, and we have a special relationship.”

But at least one instance of past social media activity suggests that Masters may previously have held different views about America’s long-standing relationship with Israel. In 2010, he shared an article on Facebook that criticized Israel as “the North Korea of the Middle East” and argued that the Gaza Strip “has been made a modern concentration camp.” 

The article — written by Karen Kiatkowski, a former Pentagon officer — was published on LewRockwell.com.

Masters did not respond to a question from JI asking whether he was endorsing the views expressed in the article when he shared the piece. 

That such questions exist, however, underscore some possible tensions in Masters’ foreign policy platform as he has strained to balance an overwhelmingly isolationist worldview with what seems, at times, like an otherwise aggressive approach.

Earlier this month, at a Senate candidate forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition in Scottsdale, Masters announced that he would “partner” with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) in opposing the Iran nuclear deal, according to a recording of his remarks obtained by JI. By aligning himself with the Arkansas Republican, Masters was suggesting that he is in favor of an unusually hawkish approach: Cotton has long been among the most vocal advocates of bombing Iran.

“The Iranians, they’re paying attention. They see the weakness, they see the embarrassing debacle in Afghanistan, they smell blood in the water just like Xi and Putin do,” Masters said at the RJC event, referring to Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “And so it’s important to remember that when we stumble, that has consequences not just for America but for friends and allies abroad.”

“And the antisemitism problem, by the way, obviously not just confined to Iran, right?” Masters went on. “I mean, look what’s happening in France. It’s in our own Congress. It’s in the Squad. Look at, you know, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. These women have been very clear about how they feel about Israel.”

On other issues of international concern, Masters has advocated for a more hands-off approach, including American support for Ukraine amid a sustained Russian assault. While Masters has argued that there is “no reason to provoke” Russia “over NATO expansion and Bush-era regime change mania,” he has also said the conflict is difficult to read because “so much of what you see is propaganda and emotionalism all the way down.”

In an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson last month, Masters doubled down on that argument, noting more broadly that “there is an awful lot of” disinformation and propaganda “coming from the White House.” 

Days later, a clip of the segment was recirculated on Russian state television.

Masters is among at least three leading candidates who are competing in Arizona’s crowded Republican primary this August, including Attorney General Mark Brnovich and energy executive Jim Lamon. The victor is expected to go up against Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), who is viewed as vulnerable, in the general election.

While Masters does not appear to have spoken publicly about Griffin’s work since publishing his essay years ago, he has otherwise more recently expressed support for another polarizing figure: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). The freshman congresswoman has frequently been accused of invoking antisemitic tropes, including social media comments in which she speculated that California wildfires were caused by a space laser controlled by “Rothschild Inc, international investment banking firm.”

“I’d love her endorsement,” Masters said, of Greene, in the interview with JI a few months ago. “I think she’s just really impressive.”