It’s been a funny week, this week. Yesterday was the official coronation ceremony held for Charles III, the new king of Britain, and as a consequence of that we have had to deal with absurd, obsequious displays of servility to the royal family. In fact, we’re actually at a point where it’s getting repressive. Anti-monarchist protesters seem to have had their signs confiscated and been arrested by police, anti-monarchist groups seem to have received threatening letters from the Home Office, the government keeps making plans to crack down on protests while claiming to support freedom of speech, and it’s even been said that there were plans to compel everyone watching the coronation ceremony at home to publicly swear allegiance to the King, which were ultimately walked back. And of course, the BBC can’t even give you the whole story about Charles III’s coronation without facing censorship from the monarchy. Mind you this isn’t new at all. On September 12th last year, a man named Paul Powlesland was told by police officers that if he wrote “Not My King” on a blank paper sign then he would be arrested under the Public Order Act, for daring to protest the succession of Charles III.
You might wonder, is this Russia? Is this Belarus? Is this North Korea? We should be so lucky! It’s “the theatre of being British”. A miserable pageant of oppression, deceit, and waste. Oh sure, the government may not knock on everyone’s doors and make everyone bow before the King, but from what I understand that’s what they were hoping to do. There’s certainly a cult of personality around the royals that is frequently enforced and upheld by state violence. You should see the absurd depths of corruption to which the worshippers of the King descend. They are so thoroughly spiritually attached to the monarchy, that they sometimes decide that simply calling someone a racist is worse than being a paedophile. I wish I could say this was an exaggeration. Why the monarchy deserves this kind of universal deference, let alone the violence required to stop people from voicing their conscientious objection, is almost beyond comprehension. At least that’s true for me anyway, as someone who has always opposed the existence of the monarchy.
Don’t let me make bones about it. I do not question whether the monarchy can maintain its social legitimacy in the year 2023, rather I deny the right of the monarchy to exist as an insitution entirely. I do not believe, as many other young adults do, that the monarchy is simply stodgy and outdated. No, I believe that the monarchy should not have existed to start with. If one were to propose that justice exists at all, I would say the existence of monarchy is inherently unjust. It should be dissolved, their land and their wealth redistributed, and all the nations (if we still entertain the concept of nations at all) still bound to the royal commonwealth should renounce the British monarchy as free republics.
We keep talking about the “modernity” of the new king’s reign, but this is a facade. Our notion of this “modernity” consists of nothing more than the inclusion of interfaith participation in what is still an explicitly Christian ceremony, made what is still a Christian king, still sworn to the Christian God. Bear all of those basic facts in mind when you hear anyone insist that we are somehow a secular nation, despite our contrasting reality of a nation whose official head of state is also the leader of the Church of England. It is the idea that the appearance of diverse representation within the institution of monarchy will allow it to somehow transcend its conservative role in the present and its historic basis in colonial rule. “Modernity” for the monarchy is as if to say that the same royal family that presided over colonial repression and genocide against Africans is entering a new era because it includes BAME priests and interfaith leaders. Or as if the same royal family that hoards millions and millions of pounds on its own pomp and circumstance could ever be a beacon of hope for people living through a protracted cost of living crisis. As long as this is what we mean when we talk about “modernity”, then “modernity” is just a joke.
And yet this is only a pathetic progressive cover for why people here really want the monarchy: they desire the stability of power. Indeed you can see it in the way people contrast the instability of the last year of British politics, shifting between three Prime Ministers (at least two of which we didn’t even elect!) and the supposed stability of the monarchy, as if to reassert the role of the monarchy as the guarantor of order. No matter how “progressive” the monarch, monarchy is the single most conservative institution in the entirety of British political life. It is also the one institution that manages to retain official or tacit reverence, even if the British public at large increasingly either does not believe in the monarchy or simply doubts its contemporary relevance. The previous monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, become queen in 1952 and was coronated in 1953, and until her death last year her reign lasted for 70 years. For most of the British masses, this meant that Elizabeth II could be thought as someone who was “always there” in British life. For some people, her reign may have encompassed their whole lifetimes; many people might have lived and died while Elizabeth II was still queen. Her death was seen as the loss of that quasi-spiritual sense of stability, but the coronation of Charles III is seen as the renewal and continuitiy of that promise.
It’s bewildering seeing people in British media talk about the value of the monarchy as sincerely as they do. One journalist talked about how, in a world of artificial intelligence, democratic backsliding, climate change, and all manner of destabilizing changes to the world, Charles III will be working to make the case for the British monarchy as a force of “stability” in the world. There is something inherently reactionary about all of this. Think about it: the response to widespread social change (good or bad) is to cling on to the vestiges of feudal power, to the institution of uncontestable hereditary authority, and to the power of the church. But more to the point, it’s a lie. The King can do nothing in the face of the world that our media presents him as facing. Charles III cannot save liberal democracy from collapsing in on itself, he can do nothing regarding AI, he can do nothing about the United States racing towards totalitarianism, he will have absolutely no role to play in stopping the wars that are happening, and, much as I know he would like to try, he will not lead the world to a resolution of our anthropogenic ecological crisis. All King Charles III can do is keep the British masses comfortable, and therefore weak, by inculcating us with some false sense of stability and from there a false sense of hope. Politically speaking, he is only there to keep us thinking “the King is with us, God is with us”, while his goons in the British government repress anyone who openly challenges the insitution of the monarchy in civil protest.
But then we also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that all of this is tied to the Traditionalist agenda that Charles III has always had, and which is once more the will of the White Lodge. Charles III has always been very explicit about his belief that the problem with modernity is that for him the modern world is out of sorts with what he takes to be the divine order (that is to say the order of God). Modernity to him as that which is cut off from “transcendence”, from some immutable principle of divine truth that is supposed to govern all things. Thus, in the face of the “chaos” of modenity, we are called to return to the “order” of God. That is the real substance of the “stability” that Charles III is supposed to embody. It is an attempt by the White Lodge, by those acolytes of the Right Hand Path, to realign the world with (as they at least imagine) the will of God, or the universal spirit of order (it really doesn’t matter what they call it, or even if they call it anything Christian).
Yes, we are indeed to remember that the White Lodge is at work again, once more striving to bring the world under their control. And in the meantime, every conceit of British society, including its reverence for the monarchy, will inexorably lead it to totalitarianism of some kind. There are many who point to a development towards fascism, and we can definitely see signs that the UK is on track to becoming something like Hungary under Viktor Orban, or even Russia under Vladimir Putin. I also seem to remember many times when the ruling Conservative Party would propose ideas that sound like the policies of Marxist-Leninist dictatorships. For example, the Welsh Conservative Party leader Andrew R T Davies called for public broadcasters to play “God Save The Queen” on TV every day. Believe it or not, something similar was actually done in the Soviet Union, where every night TV channels would shut off broadcasting and sign off with the national anthem. It’s interesting to think of the kind of culture the Conservatives seem to want.
But all the more fitting. Mark me when I say that Britain is not a free country. We never have been. And we never will be until we discard the institutions upon which we base British society, and never look back.
The hits just keep on coming for the start of 2023. First Andrew Tate gets arrested because he decided to tip himself off to Romanian authorities, then Benedict XVI dies, and now The Satanic Temple has once again lost their primary case against the Queer Satanic collective.
Yesterday, the United States District Court for the State of Washington in Seattle granted a motion to dismiss the claims made by The Satanic Temple, and its parent LLC the United Federation of Churches, against four queer Satanist activists collectively referred to as Queer Satanic. This is apparently the second time in the entire history of The Satanic Temple’s three year legal campaign against Queer Satanic where TST has had their case dismissed in court, which certainly does not bode well for TST’s attempts to silence their critics or their larger litigation record. In 2020, the United Federation of Churches and the leadership of The Satanic Temple accused the Queer Satanic activists of taking over their social media for the purpose of defamation as well as absurd charges of cyberpiracy, computer hacking, unfair competition, and tortious interference with business expetancy, and served them papers for a lawsuit. The case was originally dismissed in court in 2021, but TST re-filed it in order to finanically drain the defendants, no doubt hoping to demoralize them into submission. I would expect that these efforts have failed, at least for now. It remains to be seen what The Satanic Temple will do next.
The documented court ruling outlines that the plaintiff’s case was lacking in numerous regards. The US District Court seems to more or less accept the defendant’s argument that the case lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, which would necessarily mean the case being dismissed, as well as noting the absence of facts establishing an amount in controversy that would be required for the case. In simple terms, TST’s case was dismissed because it appeared to consist of nothing.
This ruling constitutes a major defeat for The Satanic Temple in that they had hoped to suppress activist dissent against the organisation. Indeed, it would add another failure to their long list of failures, which I will present below for reference:
I can already see, however, that this case is not getting much coverage. There has been no media coverage of this court ruling and its outcome for TST. The most recent media coverage of The Satanic Temple that I can see is an article from The Guardian, written by Adam Gabbatt, which largely lionizes The Satanic Temple and its official leader Douglas Misicko (or rather “Lucien Greaves” as he prefers to be called) as fighters against the religious right – no mention is given, of course, to Douglas’ public defense of Church Militant. The Satanic Temple itself appears to have no comment on the latest court ruling, and the same appears to go for their leadership and membership. It would seem that TST’s supporters can do nothing but sit in silence at this failure. Or perhaps they will regard it as a minor incident, irrelevant to the broader mission and priorities of the Temple. It would be a weak position, though, in view of how the “larger priorities” have been shaping up for them. The media is no doubt uninterested in this case, perhaps because it does not matter to them or perhaps because it interferes with the progressive reputation they mean to construct around The Satanic Temple as a pre-eminent countercultural adversary to American conservatism. Perhaps the Temple itself will continue to try and extend their SLAPP suit after dismissal, just as they had before, or perhaps they will find themselves facing the upper limit of their legal options before long.
But regardless, this remains an important victory against The Satanic Temple for queer, anti-fascist activists that have been fighting against the SLAPP suit. The Satanic Temple cannot maintain its litigious campaing forever, and the financial drain has clearly not destroyed the cause, as Queer Satanic continues to raise the funds necessary to continue fighting TST’s campaign against them. Freedom of speech has been upheld. TST’s case remains decrepit and stands in ruins while their hypocrisy lay bare, though perhaps a sympathetic media might see to it that this last part remain obfuscated.
The struggle against oppression can never truly be defeated, and it is without end. The minions of the Demiurge who impersonate the legacy of Satanism will not win, and will either be scattered to the wind or collapse on their own. The black flame will continue to burn in spite of The Satanic Temple, while the fighters of the black flame forever persevere.
As of September 8th 2022, Queen Elizabeth II is dead. That means the man we called Prince Charles is now King Charles III. I’m not going to talk too much about whether it’s “the end of an era” for us in the UK. Mostly because I don’t give too much of a shit. But there’s one thing that interests me about what the reign of Charles III might mean. I speak, of course, about his support for Traditionalism; specifically the philosophy of one René Guénon.
Now, some people stumbling onto this article might well wonder, who is René Guénon? René Guénon was a French esotericist and religious philosopher who is perhaps best known as an early proponent, or perhaps arguably the founder, of a school of thought known as Traditionalism. Traditionalism in this setting refers to the belief that all major religions are founded upon a single shared set of primordial metaphysical “truths” referred to as “perennial philosophy”. “Perennial philosophy”, otherwise referred to as “Absolute Truth”, is to be understood as a set of axioms that are to be intuited through a “divine intellect” that is also their source, believed to be latent in the souls of all humans. Traditionalists also tend to believe that adherence to “perennial philosophy”, through one of the major world religions based upon it, is the sole foundation of all genuine esoteric practice. Unsurprisingly, proponents of Traditionalism believe that the “truth” of “perennial philosophy” has been “lost” in modernity, seemingly having been obscured by modernism, secularism, “The Enlightenment” and similar philosophical tendencies, and that we must therefore abandon modernist ways of thought and life in order to reaffirm the”unchanging truth” that is “Tradition”. In practice, this tends to mean embracing a certain set of oppressive hierarchical relationships deemed to be in alignment with that perennial “Tradition”. René Guénon, for his part, opposed democracy in favour of a rigid caste system ruled by spiritual elites.
While Guénon is one of the earliest proponents of this concept of Traditionalism, other notable proponents include Frithjof Schuon, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Martin Lings, Titus Burckhardt, and Charles Upton, to name just a few. The fascist philosopher Julius Evola was also, in his own way, a Traditionalist, though he apparently developed certain ideas about Traditionalism that differed from Guénon’s original thought. Traditionalism in turn has been massively influential on not only modern far-right and fascist politics but also certain segments of modern conservatism. Evola’s Traditionalism became part of the broad ideology of Italian neo-fascism as well as the broader European “New Right”. For that matter, Evola himself attempted and failed to influence the Italian Fascist and Nazi German regimes. The ideas of both René Guénon and Julius Evola form a major part of the ideology of Aleksandr Dugin, one of Vladimir Putin’s most important advisors and the creator of the Russian Eurasianist movement. Guénon’s ideas also seem to have been influential on Steven Bannon, the former advisor to Donald Trump, as well as a major interest for Olavo de Carvalho, a Brazilian political philosopher, conspiracy theorist and apparent advisor to Jair Bolsonaro. In Argetina, Guénon’s ideas were widely read in (and had a major impact on) the bourgeoning fascist movement in the country during the 1920s and 30s. To this day Traditionalism is also a current in contemporary esotericism. Nigel Jackson, after having abandoned the Luciferian witchcraft of Michael Howard (which he would go on to completely denounce), took up the Guénon’s Traditionalism as his new esoteric path.
The basic throughline of Guénon’s Traditionalism is obviously a recollection of a much older idea found within the “humanist” tradition of the Christian Renaissance, in which it was often argued that all religions contained some aspect of a larger divine mystery. In this argument, the divine mystery means the hidden teaching of Christianity, which was said to have been spoken by Jesus in parables to all except his disciples and hidden in all religions preceding Christianity through poetic language and esoteric symbolism. Renaissance humanist philosophers such as Giovanni Pico della Mirandola argued that this idea was confirmed Dionysius the Areopagite and supported by Augustine of Hippo’s statement that “What we now call the Christian religion existed amongst the ancients, and was from the beginning of the human race, until Christ Himself came in the flesh; from which time the already existing true religion began to be styled Christian”.
In the context of the time, this humanist thesis probably emerged as a way of reconciling Christianity with the ancient pre-Christian Greco-Roman philosophy and culture that had been rediscovered at the time, not to mention some Christian encounters with Jewish mysticism (Mirandola in particular is considered the father of what’s called Christian Kabbalah), but it has persisted over the centuries and can be found in certain variations within not only Traditionalism but also Theosophy and certain New Age and spiritualist circles. In fact, you’ve probably heard about the concept of “perennial philosophy” from the work of Aldous Huxley, who despite not being a Traditionalist in the strict sense definitely adhered to his own concept of perennial philosophy, for which he titled a book about mysticism. The irony of this, of course, is that the Renaissance is sometimes cited in Traditionalist narratives as the beginning of the current stage of humanity’s supposed spiritual decline. Even more ironic is the fact that the very term “perennial philosophy” itself was actually coined in 1540 by Agostino Stueco, an Italian Renaissance humanist.
Of a certain relevance to Satanists and travellers of the Left Hand Path as well as the subject of Satanic Panic is Guénon’s denunctions of what he considered to be “Satanism” and “Luciferianism”. Guénon believed that, just as surely as there existed a great perennial philosophy and tradition, there existed forces of “counter-tradition” or “counter-initiation” in the world, which thus opposed tradition. “Counter-initiation”, he said, involves “true Satanism” which “overturns the sacred” by way of “degradation until the most extreme degree”. For Guénon, such forces of “counter-initiation” included occultists such as Theodor Reuss, Aleister Crowley, Jean Bricaud, Charles Detre, G. I. Gurdjieff, R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, and possibly Giuliano Kremmerz – no doubt all of them occultists who Guénon disagreed with or detested for whatever reason. Guénon also included Freemasons in his network of “counter-tradition”, as well as Mormons and practitioners of ancient Egyptian magic (the latter of which he believed consisted only of “dangerous” and “inferior” magic dedicated to Set or Typhon). Guénon also frequently claimed to be the victim of attacks by “counter-initiates” against him. To Guénon, the difference between Satanism and Luciferianism was simply a matter of consciousness – Luciferianism meant rebellion against tradition in the name of the idea that Satan was actually an angel of light named Lucifer or simply a form of “unconscious Satanism”, while Satanism per se meant the conscious subversion and degradation of tradition in itself. For Guénon, “unconscious Satanism” meant practically any theory that he believed “disfigured” the concept of God, including the “limited God” theory and the idea of an evolving God, which he thus attributed to thinkers like Baruch Spinoza, G. W. F. Hegel, and William James.
It cannot be overstated how important Guénon is to the imagination of right-wing and fascist conspiracism. In fact, I consider my precise lack of discussion of Guénon in my previous article on Satanic Panic to be a gross oversight. If you consider right-wing conspiracy theories with Guénon in mind, you can easily imagine all of the major villains of the right-wing imagination as “agents of counter-initiation”. That angle is essentially the idea of many of the original anti-Masonic and anti-Illuminati conspiracy theories in that the premise was that shadowy organisations were fomenting revolution in order to destroy the Catholic Church (thus, “Tradition”). From this standpoint, right-wing conspiracism itself emerges as an emergent, organic expression of what is essentially traditionalist ideology, and thus the growth of the far-right also means the growth of traditionalism at large.
So, having established all of this, how do we go from René Guénon to the new King of the United Kingdom? What does Charles III have to do with Guénon and his Traditionalism? The short answer is this: Charles III is a Traditionalist, in the sense that he is a student of René Guénon’s spiritual ideology.
When it comes to discussions of Charles III’s quasi-activist role in British politics and its public discourse, most people focus on either his tendency to talk about environmentalism, his apparent interest in homeopathy, or his prolific opposition to genetically modified crops. But if we take note of the fact that Charles buttresses those latter two concerns in a generalized appeal to “traditional” knowledge and ways of life, it is not hard to realize – and I think not even many critics of Charles’ political activism notice this – the way that Traditionalist ideology plays a role in even this particular form of nuisance politics.
Charles III is a patron of an organisation called the Temenos Academy, which asserts itself to be “dedicated to the teaching and dissemination of the perennial wisdom”, which they regard as “the ground of every civilisation”. This is very much an explicit statement of Guénon’s ideology of Traditionalism. Charles III, who has been a patron of the Temenos Academy since it was founded in 1991, seems to have held the work of the Academy in high regard, saying that the organisation was committed to “fostering a wider awareness of the great spiritual traditions we have inherited from the past”, which he asserted “form the basis of mankind’s most civilised values and have been handed down to us over many centuries”. Charles III also seems to have been a close friend of one of the Academy’s founders, Keith Critchlow, who apparently travelled with Charles for 30 years and taught both Charles and Prince Harry the art of “sacred geometry”. This friendship probably began while Charles was busy campaigning against “inappropriate architecture” (presumably meaning the “monstrous carbuncles” of “modern” architecture) in 1984, at which time Critchlow had come up with the idea behind the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, which Charles later founded in 2005. In 1986, Charles established the Prince’s School of Architecture, which then incorporated Critchlow’s Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts department into its cirriculum, which in turn was later transferred to the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts when it was founded. Critchlow himself was also acquianted with Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a Traditionalist intellectual who was also a scholar of Sufi Islam.
The connection to Islam is somewhat fascinating, considering the nature of British conservative politics and its tendency towards Islamophobia, and so merits considerable attention. In fact, Charles III has something of a reputation as an unexpected advocate for the merits of Islam. In 1993, Charles III gave a speech at the Sheldonian Theatre in which he urged greater understanding between Islam and “the West”, arguing that Islam and Christianity share the same tradition of ethical monotheism, that sharia law is misunderstood by the public because of Western media, and, most importantly, that Islam, unlike modern Christianity, “has preserved a metaphysical and unified view of ourselves and the world around us”. In 1996, he spoke at the Foreign Office Conference Centre to encourage the teaching of Islamic pedagogy and philosophy to young Britons, in 2010 he gave a speech to the Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies arguing that the Quran teaches that “there are limits to the abundance of Nature” established by God and that “we cannot exist on our own without the intricately balanced web of life around us”, and according to his 2018 biography, Charles At Seventy: Thoughts, Hopes, and Dreams written by Robert Jobson, it is recounted that Charles studied the Quran and that he argued that Christianity needs to learn from Islam as well as Judaism, and thus rediscover “universal truths that dwell at the heart of these religions” in order to secure the future.
Such a worldview can be interpreted as an appeal to tolerance or even multiculturalism, and it has certainly endeared him to Muslims around the world. Indeed, if his biography is to be believed, Charles III actually opposed the US invasion of Iraq, disagreed with banning the niqab, and even argued that a political solution for Palestine was necessary to resolve the enmity that he felt was at the root of international terrorism. However, his particular appreciation of Islam may also have brought him on the side of reactionary religious authoritarianism. In 1989, when Ayatollah Khomeini issued the infamous death fatwa against Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, Charles III refused to give any public support for Rushdie’s right to freedom of expression. According to Martin Amis, who had an argument with Charles III over this subject, Charles seemed to suggest that no one had the right to insult “someone else’s deepest convictions”, which by implication means that he may have supported Khomeini on this issue. He also seems to have made the same argument much later in response to the publication of Danish cartoons that mocked the Prophet Muhammad.
In view of the broader context of Traditionalism, any connection to Islam is probably not an accident. Islam, or rather Sufi Islam in particular, is one of the religions that Traditionalists believe contains the perennial philosophy. In fact, Traditionalists also often believe that, whereas in “the West” this perennial philosophy is almost entirely lost or forgotten, in “the East” it has been preserved in doctrines such as Sufi Islam and Advaita Vedanta. Moreover, René Guénon himself converted to Islam in 1912, later moved to Egypt in 1930 in order to be initiated in a Sufi order and then study, practice, and preach Islam, and apparently the last word he uttered before he died in 1951 was “Allah”. This perhaps also explains the fact of Guénon’s work having spread and become as influential as it did in the Islamic world, at least if Seyyed Hossein Nasr is to be believed. In Iran, three out of seven members of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution organised by Ayatollah Khomeini were influenced by Guénon’s Traditionalism, and meanwhile Guénon’s work was widely read and discussed among the Iranian intelligentsia during the 1960s and 70s. Likewise, in Pakistan, Guénon’s ideas seem to have inspired the famed author Hasan Askari, as well as A. K. Brohi, the intellectual politician who served in the regime of Zia ul-Haq, and apparently Muhammad Shafi Deobandi, the father of Deobandi Islam.
For all of that, however, while Charles III has been presented as an inveterate anti-Western Islamophile and even a possible Islamic convert by sections of the British establishment and the Transatlantic right-wing press eager to present his appreciation of Islam as a rejection of Christianity and a possible threat to the British nation, Islam is not the only religion that Charles has a special appreciation for. Charles III has also been notable for a similarly intense interest in the Eastern Orthodox Church, which I have to assume has not come at the expense of his appreciation of Islam. In 1997, soon after the death of Princess Diana, Charles III visited Mount Athos, the famous autonomous Greek Orthodox monastic community, presumably seeking to find solace in the mountain’s cloisters. Charles has since made multiple visits to Mount Athos over the years, and in 2004 he offered to assist the Greek and Serbian governments in restoring the Monastery of Chelandari, which was damaged by fire. Around this time he also became a member of an organisation called Friends of Mount Athos, which was set up to raise funds for the Monastery of Chelandari. Close friends said that Charles adorned a section of his Highgrove home with Byzantine icons, possibly originally from Mount Athos, and Athonite monks were convinced that Charles was “Orthodox in his heart”. Charles has also made numerous visits to Orthodox churches not only in Greece but also Serbia, Romania, and elsewhere.
You might be wondering how to make sense of this. Charles III is definitely not a Muslim or a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church in any official capacity. He is a member of the Church of England, and for him to convert to Islam or Eastern Orthodoxy he would have had to give up the right to succeed the throne. Rather, it seems more likely to be the case that Charles admires both Islam and the Eastern Orthodox Church as doctrines in which he sees survivals of what he believes to be the “traditional worldview”. There’s a way that I believe makes more sense of this as it relates to Charles’ affinity for Mount Athos. Abbot Ephraim of the Vatopedi Monastery once said that Athonite monasticism is both “a signpost to heaven” and “a bridge over which pass true spiritual provisions for the world”. From this perspective, we might suppose that Charles III looks at Mount Athos as a worldly link to the universal order of life, a place where “traditional wisdom”, or “perennial philosophy”, and its “blessings” are passed from heaven to earth.
It is worth noting that Charles has also offered some praise to religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, though this praise seems to be mostly in connection to his much larger appraisal of Islam, and his opinion of all three of those religions is connected to his belief that they reject the idea of Man being separate from Nature, religion from science, or mind from matter. Charles III has also praised the principles of Sikhism ahead of his visit to India in 2019. However, it seems clear to me that much of his focus is on the three “Abrahamic” religions, or rather at least two of them: Christianity and Islam. As for Judaism, I haven’t been able to find any extensive discussion of Judaism from Charles, or at least nowhere near as much as Islam or Christianity. That said, Charles was apparently circumcised as an infant by Rabbi Jacob Snowman in a Jewish ceremony, maintained a close friendship with Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and it has often been said that he had a special relationship with the Jewish community. At the same time, however, in 1986 Charles blamed unrest in the Middle East on “an influx of foreign Jews” and called for the United States government to “take on the Jewish lobby” in a letter addressed to his friend Laurens van der Post.
In a much broader sense, Charles III has been rather consistent in his advocacy of Traditionalism as an ideology. As Hannah Gais points out in her article for The Baffler, Charles suggested in an essay in 2006 that “so much discarded and derided tradition is not the enemy of modernity, but is its inevitable future precisely because of the balance that needs to be struck”. In a 2000 address before the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Charles proclaimed that “our secular age” runs the risk of “ignoring, or forgetting, all knowledge of the sacred and spiritual”. In his 2010 book, Harmony: A New Way of Looking At Our World, Charles argued that all the major crises of the modern world comprise a “crisis of perception”, in that humanity no longer knows how to live in harmony with the planet because it has lost sight of the sacred principles that it embodies. In his lectures, Charles III often references the work of Seyyed Hossein Nasr, who let’s once again establish is an intellectual devotee of René Guénon. In fact, I should also note that, in a 2008 issue of Sophia, a journal published by the Foundation for Traditional Studies, a speech from Charles III about humanity’s relationship to the environment, alongside a similar discussion by none other than Seyyed Hossein Nasr, can be found among its content.
Charles III is also a contributor to an organisation called The Matheson Trust, a think tank on comparative religion that was founded by Donald Macleod Matheson in 1974. The Matheson Trust seems to be interested in spreading works of traditionalist scholarship in order to promote the idea of the underlying metaphysical unity of all religions. Charles III has an essay titled A Sense of the Sacred: Building Bridges Between East and West published in Volume 13 of Sacred Web in 2004. Charles also gave an introductory speech for The Matheson Trust’s Sacred Web Conference in 2006. In fact, both the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts and the Temenos Academy are listed as “academic contacts” on The Matheson Trust’s website, suggesting a solid connection between these organisations. Donald Macleod Matheson himself, by the way, in addition to being an active part of the Traditionalist School, having translated the works of Traditionalist authors such as Frithjof Schuon and Titus Burckhardt, was also the Secretary to the National Trust, for which he received appointment as Commander of the Order of the British Empire. That’s quite a prestigious honour, at least when you consider who else has received it.
Perhaps the smoking gun in all this is the fact that Charles III, even if he may not publicly call himself a Traditionalist, is clearly aware of his own connection to the Traditionalist School and its broad movement. The proof of this is that, in that 2006 introductory speech for The Matheson Trust’s Sacred Web Conference I previously referenced, Charles explained that the mission of both the Temenos Academy and Sacred Web is to explore the role of “Tradition” in the modern world while critiquing “the false premises of Modernity”. Charles refers to this critique as the same critique that was set out by none other than René Guénon, or more specifically in Guénon’s book The Reign of Quantity. Thus we see that Charles III, in an audience of Traditionalists, hosted by a Traditionalist organisation, directly acknowledges his ideological and cultural mission as being based on the ideas of René Guénon.
Understand now that it is the Traditionalism of René Guénon that is at the root of many of Charles III’s political involvements. He is a Traditionalist in the sense that he adheres to the basic form of René Guénon’s ideology, albeit in his own distinct way, and he takes that ideology seriously. He genuinely believes in Traditionalism as something that confronts what he believes to be the dominant ideology of modernity, and he defends Traditionalism from the charge of nostalgia by claiming that it seeks not so much the past as much as “the sacred”, and reveres the past only because it consisted of “the sacred”. There are many conservatives across the Atlantic who fail to understand this and so prefer to think of Charles III as little more than a freewheeling liberal dilettante for his inclinations, but no such prejudice could be further from the truth.
Think about why Charles expressed an interest in being called “Defender of Faith”, referencing religion at large, rather than the traditional “Defender of the Faith”, referencing specifically the Church of England to which he is royally bound. To most people it sounds like just an expression of liberal pluralism or multiculturalism, which some may find noble and high-minded while others deem it to be a bewildering eccentricity. But in reality, what appears to the conservative and liberal alike as an expression of multiculturalism is actually based on the Traditionalist premise that all major religions share an underlying metaphysical unity in the form of perennial philosophy.
Or how about Charles’ environmentalism? Most people assume that this is, again, just fashionable liberal politics, and in turn despised by many a conservative. But while environmentalism may be its own ideological interest for Charles, it is for him rather neatly blended with his overall Traditionalist worldview, or indeed may ultimately derive its core premise from that Traditionalism. His basic argument in Harmony is apparently that “Modernity”, in the sense of our purported move away from the metaphysical order and unity of the world, is the primary cause of our lack of harmony with the planet, which in turn is the supposed cause of the present ecological crisis, and all other social crises. Indeed, I think that Charles’ ideology might make for an curious template for what to expect of “conservative environmentalism”, or “traditionalist environmentalism”, in the future as the bourgeoisie continues to scramble for strategies on how to respond to climate change.
Even Charles’ prolific interest in homeopathy or “alternative medicine”, and further prolific opposition to genetically modified crops, is best understood through his adherence to the Traditionalism of René Guénon. Charles’ argument in defense of homeopathic/”alternative” medicine, as was given during his inauguration speech as President of the British Medical Association in 1982, is that according to him “folk healers” have over the centuries practiced a form of medicine that he believes to be “guided by traditional wisdom”, which, he claims, “sees illness as a disorder of the whole person, involving not only the patient’s body, but his mind, his self-image, his dependence on the physical and social environment, as well as his relation to the cosmos”. It sounds like it’s just airy nonsense – though I would contend that actual indigenous people using their particular medicinal arts probably weren’t as hopelessly inadequate as the modern “skeptic” would have you believe – but even this is an expression of Traditionalism in Guénon’s sense. What is “traditional wisdom” for Charles if not a name for perennial philosophy? Indeed, that holistic worldview he discusses is basically the same as that which he attributes to Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and to some extent Christianity. As for GM crops? Well, his objection that it involves meddling with “realms that belong to God and God alone” can probably be contextualized in his views on “Tradition”, which he most certainly assumes to be “God-given”.
And so we understand that Charles III, the new King of the United Kingdom, is a Traditionalist, and in all likelihood has been a Traditionalist for much of his life. Charles has undeniably studied Traditionalism, is familiar with the work of René Guénon and other Traditionalist authors such as Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and all of his political activism has been on behalf of his Traditionalist ideology. That’s why Charles granted patronage to homeopathic organisations, religious organisations, Islamic studies courses, and of course Traditionalist think tanks. That’s also why he lobbied for Tony Blair to give official state support for “alternative medicines”, it’s why he has devoted such personal and official effort to opening up dialogue between Christianity and Islam, and it’s also part of why he goes on visits to places such as Mount Athos and the Middle East.
Now, what does this all mean now that Charles III is the king of Britain? At this early stage of his reign it’s not easy to get a reliable picture of how his reign could turn. There is a general speculation that Charles III could be somewhat more interventionist than his predecessor. I suspect that this means he will actively lobby on behalf of his personal political priorities, not unlike his attempts to lobby Tony Blair’s government to endorse homeopathy. Perhaps we could expect royal diplomatic ventures in the Middle East? That depends, because the British government has already barred Prince William from getting involved in Israeli and Palestinian politics, though perhaps Charles III could order that bar to be lifted if he saw fit. Charles III has been publicly endorsing homeopathy for decades, it’s come up fairly recently as well, and it’s probably going to come up again, which means he may lobby the government on this again. It’s possible that Charles III may try to establish himself as a tangible world leader in the global effort to combat man-made climate change, which would contrast him with the fact that the ruling Conservative government is currently staffed with inveterate climate change deniers. I suspect that his particular ideological inclinations may actually put him at odds with those of the Conservative Party, whose conservatism is based essentially on the ideology of classical liberalism and its belief in “free market” capitalism, although we should be clear that Charles III obviously has no interest in the abolition of capitalism in any form whatsoever. Hannah Gais is probably on to something when she speculates that any solution Charles puts forward will involve elite management.
But whatever Charles III does, insofar as he takes any concrete actions as the official head of the British state, you could expect all of it to be guided by Charles’ particular form of Traditionalist ideology. If you follow through the connections I’ve presented thus far, this fact becomes obvious. That means Charles III being King means we now have a committed Traditionalist as the head of state. Don’t make any mistakes about what this might mean. While the British commentariat and much of the public currently assumes that Charles’ stances will bring more of a liberal-progressive social agenda into focus, the reality is that behind all of that is a deeply conservative and reactionary ideology that is just as much a part of the growing reactionary tide as any of the right-wing populists vying for power – not to mention, was part of the original primordial soup of reaction from which fascism as we know it emerged. No, Charles III won’t be somebody like Viktor Orban or Donald Trump (just for anyone who might be getting the wrong idea), but he will use his power to fulfill the agenda of Traditionalism as much as he can. That could be a major political victory for the Traditionalist movement, and in that sense a victory for global reaction.
And yes, make no mistake, Traditionalism is an enemy. The institution of the monarchy is itself already one of the eternal champions of authority against freedom, but Traditionalism is likewise such a vanguard, and all the more insidious. I believe that, if you study Traditionalist ideology from a critical perspective, you will be able to see aspects of its ideology across the major developments of global reaction, esoterica, and in the subtle, often barely noticeable contours of reactionary online discourse. Once that happens, it might just transform the way you look at politics and its intersection with culture.
In esoteric terms, Traditionalism is one of the clearest expressions of the Right Hand Path you will find in Western esotericism/occultism. Its premise is that the purpose of life is to live in harmony with a metaphysical order of truth that underlies everything, and esoteric attainment on Traditionalist terms requires participation in “orthodox” religions. René Guénon indeed positioned himself as the defender of traditional religion and esotericism, which set him against many other contemporary occultists that he deemed “counter-traditional”, and he established regular Masonic lodges, such as La Grande Triade (which currently still exists under the Grande Loge de France). The occultists that Guénon opposed include neo-Gnostics, the founder of Thelema, irregular Masonic rites/lodges and their members, syncretic practitioners, Egyptian magicians, to name a few, and he names Enlightenment-era rationalist, pantheist, and empiricist philosophers as “unconscious Satanists”. To my mind, this recalls the way that Enlightenment ideology and its exponents were invoked as a “Satanic” adversary against the Catholic Church. Conspiracy against the order of Christianity thus feeds the trope of conspiracy of counter-initiation against metaphysical tradition. Insofar as Guénon hit out against the arguably “counter-cultural” forms of occultism in his day while elevating regular Masonry and “orthodox” religions, Guénon can be thought of as, ultimately, a champion of The Establishment, in the sense that we mean the religious and esoteric establishment of his day, true to the will of the Right Hand Path.
Charles III is also The Establishment in modern Britain. Indeed, now that he is King of the United Kingdom, he is officially at the maximum possible level of being The Establishment that you can be in this country. And as a committed Traditionalist he thus stands as an almost conscious representative of the Right Hand Path. But on that note, I can’t allow myself to wrap up this article without discussing the fact that Charles III is not the only man of power to have convened at Mount Athos. It may surprise you to know that Mount Athos has, for decades, served as a place where world leaders and powerful people got together, ostensibly for the purpose of spiritual contemplation.
According to an article found on The Seattle Times written by A. Craig Copetas (apparently originally for Bloomberg News), thousands of politicians and elite businessmen have visited a private pilgrimage site at Mount Athos as a sort of spiritual retreat before travelling to Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum at Davos. According to Copetas these men include not only Charles III but also Silvio Berlusconi, Juan Carlos, Jimmy Carter, George Karaplis, George H. W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, Peter Armitage, the Aga Khan, and even Fidel Castro. That sounds like quite a lot of names, and it does seem strange that they would all go to such a place. But I double-checked; at least a few of these aren’t solely off of Copetas’ reporting. George H. W. Bush appears to have visited Mount Athos in 1995 and attended a ceremony there, seemingly as part of a weekend trip to Greece where the shipping tycoon Yiannis Latsis presented a luxury yacht to the Bush family. Vladimir Putin has made multiple pilgrimages to Mount Athos over the years, the earliest I can find being at around 2005. Peter Armitage, who ran a company called Capital International, has visited Mount Athos, and in fact he seems to have taken an interest in Christianity and Buddhism some time after he left the company. Fidel Castro visted Mount Athos in 2004, after having invited Patriarch Bartholomew to attend the inauguration of Cuba’s first Orthodox Church. Apparently, in 1998, Mount Athos was visited by the exiled Bulgarian king Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, the fourth Aga Khan Shah Karim al-Husayni, and Vladimir Romanov, apparently to create a “Club for Friends of Byzantium”. In 2018, Abbot Ephraim met with Eugene Fishel, from the US State Department, along with Wess Mitchell and George Kent, at the Vatopedi Monastery in Mount Athos to discuss the Orthodox Church and apparently also the persecution of Christians in parts of the world. In fact, The Guardian noted in 2004 that Mount Athos has been seen as an ideal “detox trip” for the European bourgeoisie.
With these facts established, not to the mention the original Bloomberg article, I have to assume Copetas is on to something legitimate. So we can take as granted that George Karaplis, the former chief financial officer for the OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation), has in fact visited Mount Athos, apparently having made up to 70 pilgrimages since 1991, and has even described Vatopedi Monastery as “the original World Economic Forum”. He even claims to have accompanied senior executives from Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley. Apparently Mount Athos was considered a highly fashionable retreat for world leaders, and according to the local Athonite monks businessmen come to the Vatopedi Monastery all the time. Father Irenaios has said that he has spent hours listening to professionals, politicians, and businessmen talk about their lack of focus in life, while Father Germanos has said that businessmen regularly come to Mount Athos with “a great emptiness”. According to Copetas in his book, Mona Lisa’s Pajamas: Diverting Dispatches from a Roving Reporter, businessmen, politicians, and monarchs have been making visits to Mount Athos since as far back as 985 AD, when three rich merchants built the Vatopedi Monastery with their fortunes, and since then the monastery has been visited by the likes of the Medicis, the King of Spain, and wealthy brokers such as Ciriaco d’Ancona. You wouldn’t know it too much today, though, since meetings with businessmen typically aren’t publicized. The visits are treated as private moments, and are apparently usually kept secret. This secrecy also goes for royalty, with both Charles and Harry having visited the Vatopedi Monastery in secret.
This is all fascinating especially when your mind turns to certain conspiracy theories about how the bourgeoisie are all godless devil-worshippers. I mean, you could argue that it doesn’t have much meaning, but think about it: if you have the money to go anywhere in the world to find yourself, why the holiest Orthodox site in the world? Is it because Vatopedi Monastery, in addition to being a place of monastic contemplation, also happens to be a historical place of financial influence? Or do they happen to find some vague meaning in Christianity in particular? That wouldn’t be too surprising. Despite decades of conspiracy theory there’s simply no way that the bourgeoisie consists of Satanists. Even things like the Bohemian Grove or that one Surrealism-themed party aren’t “Satanic rituals” in any sense. If they were Satanists, why the hell would they go to Mount Athos, which is an immensely holy place for Christianity – and they go there in private I might add! If nothing else it’s more proof of how Christianity is still to this day bound up in the dominant capitalist system, which is quite the problem for those on “the Left” who keep trying to appeal to some fanciful socialist Christianity. But in a broader sense, you should understand the ruling class not as godless nihilists or devil worshippers, but as faithful servants of the White Lodge, just as eager for the stamp of heaven as any poor worker fearfully humbling themselves before God. Thousands of businessmen, probably many more, and multiple politicians and heads of state, have all gathered at the Vatopedi Monastery at Mount Athos, and perhaps they seek some aspect of what Charles III was looking for. They go there for solace, contemplation, meaning, “heavenly provisions” etc.
King Charles III, and his Traditionalist inclinations together with his history of going to the Vatopedi Monastery, can be thought of as a symbol of the elite progress of the Right Hand Path. At least, if he indeed is as much of an “activist monarch” as we might suspect. He’s certainly much more concerted about any coherent spiritual project than almost anyone in the British ruling class that I can think of, almost impressively so. He should be observed in tandem with the continuing progress of global social reaction. The White Lodge is on the move. I wonder what will follow.
Initially I was unsure as to whether or not I wanted to do a whole article about this, but then it seemed like it made sense for me to do it given the penchant I have for writing about conspiracy theories and similar weirdness, and there’s a fair bit of nuance to get into anyway that I don’t want to be lost. But as for the main event, on July 6th, the famous (or arguably infamous) Georgia Guidestones were demolished; first one of the Guidestones was destroyed by an explosion, and then the rest was ultimately dismantled by local authorities for “safety reasons”.
We don’t know yet who is responsible for the explosion that blew up part of the Guidestones initially, but hardcore Christian conservatives and conspiracy theorists are convinced that the destruction was somehow an “act of God” against a “Satanic” monument. This, of course, is nothing new, given that up to this point the Guidestones were previously and repeatedly vandalised by conspiracy theorists, who have always regarded the Guidestones as the proclamation of a Satanic ideology supposedly held by the ruling elite. In fact, before the Guidestones were destroyed, Republican Georgian gubernatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor publicly denounced the Georgia Guidestones and listed their demolition as one of her campaign pledges (or rather “executive orders”) in an advert for her gubernatorial run, which may suggest that she influenced an act of stochastic terrorism.
At this point I think I should get the obvious out of the way: no, the Georgia Guidestones are not a “Satanic” monument. There is no evidence that the creator of the Georgia Guidestones was a Satanist, and there is nothing inherently “Satanic” about their overall message. In fact, I should think that genuine Satanists would not put too much stock in the commandments of the Guidestones, particularly not “Balance personal rights with social duties”, at least knowing what these “duties” actually are.
Very little is known about who actually created the Guidestones, but Robert C. Christian is the alias of the man thought to have commissioned their construction. Christian was assumed to have been “a nut”, but he claimed to represent a small group of Americans who “seek the Age of Reason”. The Elbert County Chamber of Commerce claims that the monument was funded by a “small group of loyal Americans who believe in God”. We don’t know who exactly these Americans are, but it’s been claimed in a 2015 documentary titled Dark Clouds Over Elberton that the Guidestones were actually designed and financed by Herbert Hinzie Kersten, who, according to the documentary, is a white supremacist and a supporter of David Duke. This claim was then discussed and amplified on HBO’s Last Week Tonight. However, it is not 100% certain that Robert C. Christian is in fact Herbert Hinzie Kersten, and I would point out that Dark Clouds Over Elberton was made by a born again Christian fundamentalist and conspiracy theorist named Chris Pinto, whose other works include such illuminating pieces as Megiddo: The March to Armageddon (which argues that the “New World Order” trying to destroy the world through revolution) and Secret Mysteries of America’s Beginnings (which suggests that secret societies modelled America after the lost city of Atlantis).
What we know about the Guidestones consists in its famous message, which is inscribed in twelve different languages, including four ancient languages. The ten “commandments”, if you will, of the Georgia Guidestones are inscribed as follows:
Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
Unite humanity with a living new language.
Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
Balance personal rights with social duties.
Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
Be not a cancer on the Earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.
It all seems like the sort of thing that perhaps might be conducive to whatever “Age of Reason” that Robert C. Christian and his mysterious backers might have had in mind, and to be frank it’s quite obviously a utopian vision. But don’t ever lose sight of the eugenicist content that comes packaged with this vision, beginning and ending the inscriptions. The Guidestones set out a society in which all of humanity is united under international rationalistic governance and a single shared language, all nations are arbitrated by a single international court, and governments direct human reproduction with the aim of curating the “fitness” and “diversity” of their populations as well as managing their numbers to maintain a sense of homeostatic “balance” with nature. Such a utopian project is certainly not without its detractors, and definitely not without its admirers either. The usual conspiracy theorists not only oppose it but they also regard it as the “Satanic” vision of some godless elites, while some figures such as Yoko Ono have praised it as a “stirring call to rational thinking”. Most Americans, however, regard the Guidestones as essentially just a tourist attraction with a mystery. It has been speculated that the Guidestones were built to serve as a guide for human civilizations to manage affairs after a major catastrophe or apocalypse, and true enough Christian did specify that the Guidestones should be capable of withstanding the most catastrophic events possible, which given the time of their construction and installation is not difficult to understand as a response to fears of global nuclear annihilation occurring in the course of the Cold War.
But again, there’s nothing really “Satanic” about it. I don’t doubt that some LaVeyan Satanists might agree with some of what the Guidestones say, but I have to stress that, if we want to be general here, Satanism just isn’t Satanism without an active and conscious relationship with Satan or The Devil at the centre of its philosophy and praxis, regardless of whether this means engaging with a deity or just engaging with a literary mythos, and the Georgia Guidestones simply don’t outline any such thing! If anything, it’s probable that Robert C Christian was still more interested in Christianity, at least to the extent that he apparently chose Hebrew for one of the translations of his inscription specifically because of the perceived link to both Christianity and Judaism and ostensibly even chose the very name Robert C. Christian just because he himself happened to be a Christian. But of course, conspiracy theorists tend to insist that the name Robert C. Christian is a coded reference to the Rosicrucians or their mythological founder Christian Rosenkreuz. There is almost certainly no basis to any of this, but even if Christian was a Rosicrucian that would still absolutely not make him a Satanist, considering that Rosicrucianism wasn’t exactly an “anti-Christian” sect and that in fact modern Rosicrucian movements can be counted as expressions of Esoteric Christianity.
You might wonder by now, why does it matter from our standpoints that the Georgia Guidestones were demolished? After all, if you don’t count the possibility that the creator of the Guidestones was a fascist or white supremacist, they don’t mean much to most people outside of the state of Georgia, and even there it’s largely considered a tourist attraction. In a vacuum I’m not inclined to shed too many tears for the Guidestones or what they may have represented, but here’s the thing: for the Christian Nationalist (or should that be Christian Fascist?) movement that comprises the contemporary right wing of American politics, the Georgia Guidestones being destroyed is a moment of victory for the Christian God and his faithful soldiers.
Remember, the Georgia Guidestones have long been regarded by right-wing Christian conspiracy theorists as a monument to the wishes of a secret society of devil-worshippers who want to destroy Christianity and impose a one world government on everyone, and they view its creator, Robert C. Christian, as a member of just such a secret society. Those who prattle on about the existence of a so-called “Luciferian Agenda” often inevitably include the Georgia Guidestones as part of that “agenda”, and figures such as Mark Dice have claimed that Robert C. Christian was himself a “Luciferian”. Kandiss Taylor made the demolition of the Guidestones a cornerstone of her campaign against the so-called “Luciferian Cabal” (and I have to stress at this point that the phrase “Luciferian Cabal” is an anti-semitic dogwhistle). Marjorie Taylor Greene, of course, thinks that the Guidestones are part of an international conspiracy to commit “world genocide”. Before the Guidestones were destroyed, right-wing communities spread memes of Donald Trump bombing the Guidestones, and after their destruction you can find scores of QAnon fanatics cheering it on as the will of God. We still don’t know who caused the explosion of one of the Guidestones, and as I write this no one has been detained as a suspect yet, but based on all relevant factors I am very confident that the culprit can only be one of right-wing Christian Nationalists who wanted to destroy the Georgia Guidestones because he thought they were some sort of “Satanic” edifice.
And so, ultimately, far from a victory against fascism, the destruction of the Georgia Guidestones is still a victory for fascism. In fact, it is very arguable that, by demolishin the rest of the Guidestones and citing some vague “safety reasons” for doing so, the Georgia state authorities have only handed QAnon and the Christian Nationalists a scalp for the trouble of blowing up part of the monument. That is appeasement, plain and simple, and I do not have to tell you how appeasing fascists will go down in history. As such, I would mark the destruction of the Georgia Guidestones as but one more chapter in the progress of Christian fascism. Don’t ever forget that they’re getting what they out of this destruction. They’ve wanted those Guidestones gone for decades, and now they’re gone. It’s another point of escalation, and it also ultimately represents the vengeance of Satanic Panic in the modern era. For the Right, it’s more proof that basically anything is possible.
Roe vs Wade was officially abolished last Friday. Almost 50 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to have an abortion was protected by the Constitution of the United States. Now that Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood vs Casey are gone, abortion can be outright banned in several states. 13 US states are already moving to immediately ban abortion after the SCOTUS ruling, while several more states could either eventually ban abortion later or just impose stricter legal restrictions. For millions of people, it will be impossible to get an abortion without unsafe backdoor procedures. Countless people will die as a result of botched abortion procedures or having to carry ectopic pregnancies. Many more will have to suffer being forced to carry a baby conceived by someone who raped them.
This oppressive reality represents the unambiguous destruction of the reproductive rights of millions of people, and is the fulfillment of a concerted assault against them and of anti-abortion politics. Those who contented themselves with a sort libertarian halfway house position on abortion – in which one has a confused moral aversion to abortion while nonetheless opposing criminalisation on the grounds of personal freedom and harm reduction – should find themselves disabused of the ability to content themselves with such a weak position. To seriously care about freedom is to oppose criminalisation completely and entirely, and endorse full bodily autonomy on principle and without qualification. The simple truth is that it really is either this or you want the state to control that autonomy, and thus undermine the whole premise of individual liberty. Even “moderate” restrictions of abortion, whereby it is banned after some ultimately arbitrary period of time has passed, is still an unjust restriction of individual liberty in this sense. And the fact is, giving even a fraction of an inch to the anti-abortion crowd is, in reality, lending support to a kind of fascist biopolitics. Look at Mary Miller declaring that the SCOTUS ruling is a victory for “white life”, look at self-described traditionalist Christians angrily denouncing pro-choice women as “blood libelous bitches”, and look at the contingent of left-wing anti-abortion figures who clutch their pearls at their imagined “rootless society”.
But if all of this was bad enough on its own, there’s more and worse to come. It is increasingly clear that, in a larger sense, the abolition of Roe v Wade will not only affect the right to an abortion. We know that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has argued that the Supreme Court should “reconsider” all substantive due process precedents. This includes Griswold vs Connecticut, Lawrence vs Texas, and Obergefell vs Hodges. Griswold vs Connecticut is the ruling that established the constitutional right of married couples, and later all couples, to buy and use contraceptives. Yes, you heard me: until 1965, it was illegal in some US states to buy, sell, and use contraceptives. Lawrence vs Texas established that laws against same-sex intercourse were unconstitutional. Until 2003, there were “anti-sodomy” laws all over the USA, that so-called “land of the free”. Obergefell vs Hodges established that same sex marriage was a fundamental right protected by the constitution, and that all states were required to recognise same sex marriages as a fulfilment of that right. This means that the Supreme Court could ensure that contraceptives, same sex marriage, and even same sex intimacy all become illegal again in several US states. Incidentally, right before Roe vs Wade was abolished, the Supreme Court also ruled in Vega vs Tekoh that police officers can no longer be sued for violating your rights during your arrest or a criminal trial, even if you were found not guilty of any crime.
In addition to all of this, after Roe vs Wade was abolished, conservative politicians have already begun publicly calling for more SCOTUS “reconsiderations” over the weekend and well before that. Republican Senator John Cornyn said that the Supreme Court should move to reconsider Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka. Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka was the ruling that established that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. “Reconsidering” this, on Cornyn’s terms, could mean the revival of racial segregation. In March this year, Senator Mike Braun suggested that interracial marriage should be left to individual states to decide on, which would mean that Loving vs Virginia would be overturned and it would be possible that interracial marriage could become illegal in some states. The Texas GOP recently released a platform that called for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits laws that prevent non-white Americans from voting, while also attacking homosexuality.
What we’re looking at is the culmination of a decades-long agenda by American conservatives to roll back almost every gain made for the advancement of freedom for women, LGBTQ people, and non-white Americans, and really any American who does not conform to the expectations of their desired theocratic Christian Nationalist society. Clarence Thomas himself is a member of the Federalist Society, which was set up to promote right-wing ideas in elite college campuses and then funnel right-wing lawyers to affect their ideology through the Supreme Court. In fact, all current Republican SCOTUS justices, with the possible exception of John Roberts, are or have been members of this same Federalist Society, and they were pivotal to the legal make-up of the last couple of Republican administrations. To fulfill this decades-long right-wing agenda, all federal protections for abortion, same-sex marriage and intimacy, trans and queer people, racial equality, and universal democratic suffrage/franchise, will all be abolished, which will allow Republicans to turn as many states as they can into theocratic, biopolitically-controlled fascist states. The very move to abolish Roe vs Wade seems to have been motivated partially by concern over a “domestic supply of infants”. And it will be enforced through repressive violence, even if Democrats get elected. The Supreme Court building had snipers on the roofs before protesters could even throw the first fist or have the first club lobbed at them, peaceful protesters demonstrating for abortion rights were mercilessly beaten by police officers over the weekend, and troops of armoured and militarized cops were seen patrolling Washington DC in full anticipation of protests. At this point it’s not a stretch of the imagination to say that fascism is increasingly incipient in the United States of America.
So, besides the ramifications I already talked about, what does all of this mean? To me, it means a lot of harsh conclusions and a bitter struggle. I hope it makes clear to more and more people that world-historic progress is a myth, and that you cannot expect the world to “arc towards justice” as President Joe Biden said in his inauguration speech. In fact, in the context of US history, the rights that the Supreme Court established might well be a pause in what is otherwise the domination of patriarchal white supremacy in the context of an authoritarian society. That is, unless those rights are relentlessly fought for by those who demand them. That’s the other side of this. When we say rights, we mean to establish liberty in our own jurisprudence. The repression of this freedom is, as well, the establishment of a different jurisprudence by a given extant authority. Freedom cannot be granted, it must be taken and/or fought for. History, progress, fate, God, the state, none of them will ever win liberty for you.
Staying on world-historic progress as a theme, I find myself annoyed by frequent pronouncements by progressives and others that the developments we’re seeing represent some return to the Middle Ages. America is not going back to the Middle Ages. It’s going back to the 1970s at the most recent, and to the 19th century at the furthest. For one thing, I cannot stress enough that all of the rulings being “reconsidered” addressed social conditions that persisted all through the tailend of the 20th century, though often did base themselves on 19th century laws. That means that the repressive nightmare we’re looking at is nowhere near as distant from living memory as the Dark Age America trope would have us believe. For another thing, the entire concept that life “begins at conception” as advanced by the anti-abortion movement has seemingly no evident basis in medieval theology, and is instead the product of 19th century Catholic theology and the then-contemporary secular medical establishment. Until then, Catholic theology had long established that a human fetus was not immediately ensouled before what was called the “quickening”. While abortion in itself was still legally restricted by medieval society, it was specifically punished if performed after the “quickening”, whereas pre-“quickening” abortions weren’t punished and were not considered murder. And of course, well before Christianity, abortion was not generally regarded as a homicide. There are several pre-modern texts regarding abortion practice, abortifacients were widely produced and procured for use, any legal punishment for abortion was not for murdering a fetus but for doing it against the wishes of the husband, and the whole “quickening” argument itself comes from Aristotle, who was most definitely not the only classical or ancient philosopher to reject the modern anti-choice argument. If anything it was the Enlightenment that “progressed” towards greater and more absolute restrictions of reproductive freedom. Meanwhile, the fascist biopolitics of the anti-abortion movement is inherent an expression of right-wing belief in reproductive futurity as applied to whiteness. Almost nothing expresses this more clearly than the infamous white supremacist fourteen words, which end with “a future for white children”.
But enough about that. What do we do about it all? Well, even if America insists on keeping its brand of capitalist federal democracy, I think that, at the barest minimum, the Supreme Court must be abolished. I will not be satisfied by the court being stacked, expanded, or rearranged by Democrats. Only the complete abolition of the Supreme Court will suffice – again, at the bare minimum. And it’s not just because they’re doing conservative rulings, but because this is where the investiture of jurisprudence in a handful of unelected judges to decide or affect the fate of everyone else leads to. The core concept of the Supreme Court is frankly absurd and obscene! Though, I suppose, one can make similar objections to the state itself – I would agree and advance that objection as well. But then while it sounds radical it still isn’t enough, hence “bare minimum”. While we would abolish that institution, we might still have to deal with the course of fascism now in motion, and Americans would still have to contend with the sovereignty of the federal government, and a Democratic Party that has shown, time and again, that it cannot be relied upon not make any meaningful and desirable reforms. In fact, the advance of fascism will ultimately taken as reason for the Democratic Party to insist that progressive policy ambitions be set aside for the “more immediate” goal of opposing either Donald Trump, his successor, or more generally the increasingly fascist Republican Party, thus ensuring a cycle in which reform is sidelined for the sake of party unity against the far-right, and American progressives will ultimately acquiese. It is for this reason that people like Bernie Sanders, or really any of the progressive Democrats, are ultimately unreliable.
I think that American radicals should take seriously the idea that direct action is the only way to overcome the present conditions. This is meant on revolutionary or even insurrectionary terms. Violence is the reality of the power being exercised in the jurisprudence of the establishment, and it is also the reality of the overcoming of this jurisprudence in pursuit of liberation. I have some reason to believe that a lot of American anti-fascists are indeed taking this seriously. But even if it is insisted that this is a step too far, the least that should be expected is the relentless activist disruption of the activities of the Supreme Court and the right-wing functionaries of the US state and the anti-abortion agenda. If the point is not to simply get rid of them, as would be much better for everyone, then at minimum it should be as hellishly difficult as possible for the bastards to keep doing what they want to do. If Democrats made it a point to do things like codify Roe vs Wade or went full force in campaigning for unrestricted reproductive freedoms, then even if they’re never going to be enough that would still genuinely do some good. But they can’t be relied upon. Already the best that the Democratic establishment has to offer is telling people to go vote for Democrats and admonishing people for not protesting peacefully enough. As if the American state “deserves” peace after attacking the freedoms of millions of people! I seriously think that the right course involves preparedness for, and will to, the total dismantling of the complex of American political and societal institutions as the only path out of the cycle that America is in. In other words, make total destroy.
But of course, to conclude this article, there’s the matter of what this means for our little world, for our communities. Obviously, I think that we should align ourselves with exactly that struggle of destruction and negation. Even if one cannot wage the fight, at least stand by those who will. Groups like Jane’s Revenge and all the black blocs looking to take up the fight should be supported unequivocally, while the liberals and reformists who want to stand in their way should be unreservedly opposed. Oh, and any opportunists no matter how “revolutionary” seeking to co-opt their efforts should be obstructed and humiliated for their attempts. In the meantime though, at the very least it is still important to support groups and individuals that make concrete material gains in providing or protecting access to abortion however possible. But don’t just accept anyone who presents themselves to be on your side as allies. Groups like the Boogaloo Bois, who present themselves as anti-government anarchists but are actually neo-fascists, should be opposed, and groups like The Satanic Temple, who present themselves as a beacon for reproductive rights while failing to do anything substantive for that cause and refusing to heed expert criticism on their practice, should also be rejected. We should also reject any and all responses to the abolition of Roe vs Wade that seek to reframe the carceral power of patriarchy as something that can be turned back around just to prove a point. Every liberal calling for “sex strikes”, joking about “mandatory vascectomies”, or complaining about how if men could abort we would have free abortion, all languish in erroneous and futile hypocrisy arguments, ignore the racist and eugenicist history of actual mandatory vascetomy policies, ignore the problems that they actually pose for women, and ultimately ignore transness and queerness. In fact, I am willing to go so far as to say that such hot takes are the result of an “unqueered” perspective on reproductive rights and the carceral state – that is, a perspective that is not informed by a critical understanding of queerness. For Satanists and Pagans, the nature and stakes of the struggle at hand is clear: Christian theocracy and authoritarianism is asserting itself once more, and it must be fought to the last.
If only one thing is to be made clear and internalised, it’s that America is not the “land of the free”. How could it ever claim to be, when love itself has been restricted and oppressed for so long and will be oppressed again? The only freedom that will exist in America, or anywhere, is that which is taken or fought for. And don’t ever think that you can’t do it. The Republicans by now know that almost nothing is politically impossible as long as you have the will to enact and fight for it. Charlie Kirk outright said it. Nothing is impossible for conservatives, and the abolition of Roe vs Wade under a Democratic government has shown them that. Nothing should be impossible for American radicals either. If after decades and even under a Democratic administration conservatives can succeed in turning the United States of America into a collection of fascist states, I don’t see why it’s impossible to tear their whole society down and replace it with only the void of ungovernable liberty.
Oh and just to say it right at the end: abortion is not murder. You’re just terminating an amalgamation of unconscious cells, not a lifeform in any meaningful sense. The idea that life “begins at conception” has no basis in science, philosophy, or theology, and is basically an entirely ideological moral claim. There is no credible justification for any restriction of liberty or bodily autonomy in this domain, and undermining bodily autonomy is ultimately to undermine liberty itself. On this basis, any efforts to either ban or simply restrict abortion in any country must be uncompromisingly opposed.
As I write this short piece, I am supposed to still be busy working on my commentary on Stanislaw Przybyszewski’s essay, The Synagogue of Satan, which I believe to the earliest written treatise on Satanism written by a self-declared Satanist. But recent events compel to interrupt such work for just a moment, because, thinking about it, I feel that it would be wrong for me to not say anything about it here on this blog when I have readily done so in the past. My work on Przybyszewski’s book is still in progress, but what I write now, I must write now, however briefly.
On June 10th, the headquarters of The Satanic Temple in Salem was attacked by a man who tried to set the place on fire. He placed some accelerants onto the premise and set it on fire. It seems that this individual was spotted in a T-shirt with the word “GOD” on it, likely indicating his commitment to Christianity. It also seems that the man was later identified as Daniel Damien Lucey, who, after his arrest, confessed to driving up to the building to light it on fire and that it was meant as a hate crime.
Although my opposition to The Satanic Temple are pretty well-known, and although I have questioned the very extent to which they could even be regarded as “Satanists”, the simple truth is that the attack isn’t really about any of that. It is reasonable to assume that Daniel Damien Lucey attacked The Satanic Temple quite simply because as far as he was concerned they were Satanists, and I further suspect that he may have been motivated by Christian nationalist ideology and the attendant moral panics centering Satanists and The Satanic Temple more particularly. This week, the American right condemned The Satanic Temple for their involvement in a Pride event in Idaho in which they were to offer “unbaptism” ceremonies and sell merchandise. The Satanic Temple pulled out of the Idaho event, probably not wanting to deal with reactionary backlash, but either way right-wingers already had their narrative that Satanists and LGBTQ people were “degenerates” looking to corrupt the community and, how do they put it, “sexualize your children”. In this sense I don’t think it’s a stretch of the imagination to count this attack as a broader expression of right-wing Christian nationalist violence meant to target marginalized groups, and anti-Satanic moral panic is a huge part of that ideology.
The recent attack on The Satanic Temple in Salem is not the first time Christian reactionaries have attacked Satanists or places associated with Satanism. I still remember when the Greater Church of Lucifer (now called the Assembly of Light Bearers) opened their first physical church in Texas back in 2015, and faced vandalism from local Christians before eventually shutting their doors in 2017. I am also informed that, in November 2019, a place called The Wilde Collection, which featured a depiction of Baphomet among other things, was the target of an arson attack by a man who said “God told me to do it”. And how often do we forget that Satanists have been victims of hate crimes for years now. Christian reactionaries have been trying to attack Satanists and be rid of Satanism for a long time now, and they’re not going to stop, especially not now that the war being waged by Christian nationalism is in full swing. In other words, it’s not just about The Satanic Temple particularly, because we are all under attack in exactly the same way, and the difference certainly doesn’t matter to our attackers.
You may notice the title of this article, “Against the Milites Christi”. That is no flowery hyperbole, and it is not simply a fancy name for fundamentalism. The term means “Solider of Christ”, and was the name used by the early Roman Christians to refer to themselves and the community of Christians in military terms. It is often also rendered as “Miles Christi” or “Miles Christianus”. The Christians saw themselves as soldiers on the side of God and his son, waging struggle on their behalf in order to spread the word of God and convert non-believers. Those who were not “Milites Christi” were called “pagans”, or “paganus”, in this case meaning “citizen” or “civilian”. The language of “Milites Christi” continued and evolved over the history of Christianity. The Christian Crusaders called themselves “Milites Christi”, and Christian leaders who advocated for the Crusades were also dubbed “Milites Christi”, while the basic concept took on more generic forms in the form of knighthood, chivalry, and the generic term “Christian Soldiers” referred to in Christian hymns. Modern Chrstian nationalists who attack Satanists, non-believers, and marginalized people tend to carry in themselves a similar zeal and fundamentally the same ideological mission: waging struggle in order to uphold God’s order, at least as they see it, under the desire to realize a theocratic nation-state. I will grant that many modern Christians do not view their faith in terms any great struggle, except perhaps for a more abstract sense of inner struggle with their own sins. But the Christians who are attacking Satanists with arson and violence absolutely see themselves as “soliders of Christ”, fighting evil in order to spread and uphold the order of God.
These people must be fought. There can be equivocation on this reality. Let them be cursed, let them be smashed, indeed let them burn in exactly the way they are trying to burn us. You should accept no counsel against the struggle that is to come – no, the struggle which has already been foisted upon you. In the American context, all talk of disarmament should be swiftly rejected, because it only means taking guns out of the hands of those waging anti-fascist struggle while the would-be “soldiers of Christ” get their hands on them anyway. And don’t doubt for a minute that they will. We’re talking about people who are convinced that their country is ruled by people who want to “sexualize” your children and get rid of Christianity and cis straight white males. Do you really think they’ll give a shit about how hard it is to get a gun if they think it means putting a stop to that? Make no illusions of the fight that is to be had. They want war. They want holy war on the streets. That’s how they see their actions against Satanists and anyone who they think is a Satanist, and if they’re allowed to run rampant they might indeed get their wish. Let’s not pretend everything is OK, and let’s not pretend that the powers that be will solve our problems. The politicians don’t care because they don’t regard us at all, the media doesn’t care and will happily tell us that those who kill in the name of God are not who they say they are, and it should ultimately be remembered that even now Douglas Misicko (sorry, “Lucien Greaves”) could still clutch his pearls about anti-fascist direct action taken against the people who just now tried to burn down The Satanic Temple’s Salem headquarters!
What action is to be taken against these Milites Christi, is to be taken into our own hands. Satanists are under attack, and other non-Christians will be too. The boots of the cross must not be allowed trample upon Satanic liberty; instead the cloven hooves must press upon them before they dare snuff it out!
Like a lot of people, I’ve been following the Ukraine-Russia war as it has unfolded since last week, and in the process of this I’ve been observing a lot of reactions to the invasion. Most of the world condemns Russia’s actions, and has extended tremendous (at least formal) solidarity to the people and government of Ukraine. But not everyone seems to be keen to support Ukraine, or even to oppose Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Besides the so-called “anti-imperialist” socialists, there is a tendency within the far-right in Western countries to actually defend Vladimir Putin and in some cases even support the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A lot of right-wingers defend Putin for idiotic contrarian reasons, such as Tucker Carlson defending him because he believes that Putin didn’t call him a racist and try to get him fired for disagreeing with him (as though Putin isn’t doing so much worse). Russia itself justifies invading Ukraine on the grounds of “de-Nazification” against a supposedly “fascist” country, and that Ukraine is supposedly rightful Russian territory. But others in the far-right have a very different angle: they support Putin and oppose Ukraine because they believe that Ukraine is a “satanic” regime, and that Putin is fighting for Christianity.
In examining this idea, let’s go through some examples. Lauren Witzke, the white nationalist Republican and candidate for Delaware Senate, expressed support for Vladimir Putin on the grounds of his “Christian values”, further expressed solidarity with Russia as a “Christian nationalist nation”, stated that she identified more with Putin’s Russia than with Joe Biden, and argued that “Christian nationalist countries” like Russia are demonized by the media because they are “threat to the global regime”, which she refers to as “the Luciferian regime that wants to mash everything together”. It should go without saying, of course, that none of the Western ruling class are “Luciferians”, and there is no “Luciferian regime” anywhere. Luciferianism, in fact, is not even a distinct religion. It’s just a name given to any esoteric belief system that venerates Lucifer as a non-diabolical figure of enlightenment and liberation in a context that is usually (though not really always) conceptually distinguished from Satanism. Beyond this, there is no formally shared doctrine, tradition, theology, or ritual praxis, or even a shared concept of the identity of Lucifer, that could form the basis of a consistent and distinct “Luciferian tradition”. Needless to say, Joe Biden is not a Luciferian. He’s actually a Catholic, albeit a liberal Catholic. But the idea that he is running a “Luciferian regime”, here meant to be understood as a world order ruled by a conspiracy of devil-worshipping elites (thus, in this instance “Luciferian” is meant to be interchangeable with “Satanist”), is a flank within a larger Christian nationalist ideology, in which the Satanic Ritual Abuse trope positions the so-called “globalists” (the “elites”, as it were) as diabolical threats to the nation and its “freedom”, order, and ethnic make-up, which is to be preserved by a right-wing authoritarian Christian regime, whether through the democratic process or through a coup d’état.
Another example within the American right is Wendy Rogers, a pro-Trump Republican Senator in Arizona, who tweeted her support for Vladimir Putin on the grounds that he is “Russia First”, which she considers equivalent to her “America First” position, and described most European leaders as “globo Satanic bankers” (which is also just her way of saying she hates Jewish people). Mike Cernovich, a notable alt-right conspiracy theorist, has described Putin as someone “who doesn’t center Moloch” while characterizing Western leadership as un-Christian. The official Twitter account for Gab, the right-wing echo chamber billed as a “free speech” alternative to Facebook, summarized their view of the Ukraine-Russia war as “Christians liberating other Christians from the demonic, secular, anti-God globalist West”, which according to them is “pretty based”. Andrew Torba, the owner of Gab, has said that Ukraine “needs to be liberated and cleansed from the degeneracy of the secular Western globalist empire”. Alex Jones, the InfoWars man himself, has apparently urged Ukrainians to welcome an invasion by Russia if they don’t want George Soros to “cut your son’s balls off”, by which he clearly means that he thinks that if Russia doesn’t capture Ukraine then George Soros and the Western leaders will somehow “impose” transness on people (I mean, the whole mutilation trope is classic transphobia). Keep in mind also that Jones thinks all of this is the work of “satanic” cultists supposedly running the elite. It’s also worth noting that, before the invasion took place, Jones also asserted that there would be no invasion of Ukraine and that all hint to the contrary was manufactured by propaganda, but after the invasion happened, his followers started claiming that Jones predicted the invasion even though he did no such thing. When Putin gave his speech right before invading Ukraine, Jones offered nothing but praise for Putin and asserted that everything Putin said about Ukraine was true. The QAnon movement, which believes that Donald Trump is secretly arresting and executing members of a secretive conspiracy of cannibalistic devil-worshippers, seems to support Russia’s actions on the grounds that they believe that Russia, by invading Ukraine, is fighting the deep state and foiling trafficking operations taking place there; of course, there are also QAnoners who think the whole invasion isn’t even real. John Enlow, a self-professed “prophet” of QAnon”, claimed that Putin was actually fighting a clan of “Luciferian pedophiles” who were using Ukraine to enact the Illuminati’s plan to wipe out 90% of the global population. Another conspiracy theorist named Delora O’Brien claimed that Putin was on the side of God and that Russian troops discovered a “child sex trafficking den” while looking for bio-weapons in Ukraine. The QAnon movement in general, insofar as they don’t think the invasion of Ukraine is completely fake, seems to be convinced that Putin is actually “liberating” the people of Ukraine by “purging” the country of its corrupt government, which they believe to be connected to the “deep state” and/or Joe Biden and his “crime family”.
America is not the only place where you can find reactionary Satanic Panic narratives used to justify support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As my friend Satanicviews has recounted recently, several of the conspiracy theorists dubbed Satan Hunters have declared their support for the invasion. Richard Carvath, a British conspiracy blogger who calls himself a “journalist”, has apparently called for Ukrainians to surrender to Russia in a post that has since been deleted; such a position could be referred to as “revolutionary defeatism”. Lydia Lowe, a conspiracy theorist from Gravesend who runs a Facebook page called “Supporting SRA Survivors”, has apparently supported Putin and referred to all of his critics as “satanic”. S Hill, a member of Jeanette Archer’s QAnon-esque conspiracist personality cult, has apparently not only supported Russia but also posed for a photo in front of an aircraft with a Nazi swastika. Brian P Willmot, a British conspiracy theorist who inserted himself into the Wilfred Wong case by violating a court order protecting one of Wong’s kidnap victims, has promoted Russia Today on the subject of Ukraine and has asserted that the narrative of Russian invasion is “pure bullshit”. Wayne Fox, a British priest and a leader in Archer’s conspiracy movement, stated on February 28th that “Russia has stood up to the West”, stated that NATO wants to intervene in Ukraine because they serve “the New World Order”, who he claims want to use Ukraine as a base of operations for child trafficking hubs, adrenochrome factories (adrenochrome is believed by SRA conspiracy theorists to be harvested by devil-worshipping elites in order to preserve their vitality) and bio-laboratories, and has further stated that Putin as “against the Rothchilds” (again, another way of making this about Jewish people). These people are all part of a movement of conspiracy theorists that sprung up in relation to the Hampstead conspiracy movement of 2015, which alleged that a primary school and various individuals were kidnapping, abusing, and even eating children as part of an international cult of devil worship and human trafficking. This movement’s cause was defeated when their allegations were resoundingly disproven and rejected in court, but they never stopped harassing people on the basis of allegations of pedophilia.
It has become commonplace among reactionary conspiracy theorists to automatically side against Ukraine and defend the Russian invasion on the grounds that the people they hate all support Ukraine, or that Putin is somehow foiling some sinister or “satanic” deep state plot by invading Ukraine. Right after the invasion, conspiracy theorists started pushing the idea that Putin is invading Ukraine in order to get rid of supposed US biolabs, dubbed “satanic buildings” by an army of copy-pasting conspiracist drones, which were supposedly built in order to manufacture the next global pandemic. The fact that Marina Abramovic, the conceptual artist who had been accused of being a baby-eating devil worshipper by insane conspiracy theorists since 2016, has urged Western leaders to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression is no doubt taken as proof that Ukraine is on the side of their hated “satanic elites”. And of course, there are many anti-semitic conspiracy theorists (read: overtly anti-semitic as opposed to merely implicitly anti-semitic as most conspiracy theories are) who believe that the invasion of Ukraine is nothing more than the liberation of Ukraine from “the Khazarian mafia”, who of course are believed by these anti-semites to control the “Deep State” and practice some sadistic form of devil worship. Unsurprisingly, this idea is also one of many that can be seen promoted by members of the QAnon movement. Proponents often justify this conspiracy theory through a comparison between the Ukrainian Coat of Arms and the so-called “Khazarian Tamga”, but there doesn’t seem to any such thing as a “Khazarian Tamga”, and the symbol given that name is actually probably just a variation of the Tryzub, an ancient heraldic symbol used by the Rurikid dynasty that ruled the Kievan Rus and is basically the origin of the Ukrainian Coat of Arms. Simply put, it’s not a symbol of some secret Khazarian dynasty, it’s just a symbol that has basically always been used to represent Ukraine.
It is easy to assume that all of these conspiracy theories are coming from America, presumably created by the QAnon movement as an application of extreme conservative negative partnership to the Ukraine-Russia conflict. However, it seems that there is actually an extent to which the Russian government, through its media apparatus, has been actively manufacturing conspiracist narratives against its enemies, and these narratives then find their way to the West as the basis of many right-wing conspiracy theories about Russia and Ukraine. As you will see, this extends to Satanic Panic as well, which would mean that the Russian government may be playing a role in keeping Satanic Panic alive. According to EUvsDisinfo, a counter-propaganda website and conspiracy theory database run by the European External Action Service, the Kremlin repeatedly promotes the idea that the West’s main plan is to use Ukraine to somehow inject Satanism into Russia and the Christian world. The report lists Rossiya 24, a news outlet owned by the Russian government, as a source of this conspiracy theory. Unfortunately I can’t actually watch the video linked in the report due to the fact that it doesn’t seem to exist anymore, and all I can ascertain from an archive link of it is that it’s a segment of a Russian talk show called “Evening with Vladimir Solovyov” that aired on September 26th 2018. Nonetheless, I have been able to find other evidence of Rossiya 24 concocting a Satanic Panic narrative against Ukraine.
On August 17th 2014, Rossiya 24 (a.k.a. Russia-24) ran a report claiming that Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the then-Prime Minister of Ukraine, and Oleksandr Turchynov, then-Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament, were working in tandem with a newly-formed “Satanic sect” to destroy the Russian Orthodox Church. It’s obviously an absurd conspiracy theory, but like many conspiracy theories this one is built on a few small nuggets of truth that are then distorted into a larger narrative based on lies. One of the things that Rossiya 24 builds its argument on is that, on June 6th 2014, a community of apparent Satanists was officially registered in Ukraine, specifically in Cherkasy. Curiously, however, the Christian-aligned Russian media did not pick up on this story until August that year. Founded by a man named Sergey Neboga, this community is referred to as “Bozhichi”, and in September of that year they apparently opened up their first church in the Pastyrskoye village. It is reported that Neboga styles this organisation as a community of sorcerers and witches which professes devil worship and the practice of Veretnichestvo (apparently a form of Russian or Slavic witchcraft). Neboga also purportedly advocated the worship of pagan gods as part of his system of Satanism, which would make this a polytheistic expression of Satanism, perhaps a form of Theistic Satanism. However, on October 7th 2014, it was reported that on October 3rd of that year this church had been burned down by unknown arsonists, and that, by this time, the Cherkasy Regional State Administration sought to cancel the state recognition of the Bozhichi movement.
The Bozhichi movement seems to be what Russian state media accused of being part of a Ukrainian plot to destroy Russian Orthodox Christianity. That this community seems to have been very small and obscure, and in no credible position to have any political influence, probably didn’t bother the people at Rossiya 24 when concocting their narrative. Nor perhaps did it bother them that neither Arseniy Yatsenyuk nor Oleksandr Turchynov were ever Satanists – in fact, Arseniy Yatsenyuk is a member of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Oleksandr Turchynov is a Baptist minister. Both of them are Christians and thus would have no interest in promoting Satanism, much less attacking the Russian Orthodox Church or Eastern Orthodox Christianity as a whole. But I presume that, because they do not align with the Russian Orthodox Church, Russian state media could present them as a threat simply on the grounds that they do not represent “Russian religion” by being non-Orthodox, coupled with the fact that they are part of a government that Russia has been invading. If the Russian state considers Ukraine to be “satanic”, the feeling seems to be mutual in Ukraine, since in 2014 the then-Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church accused Vladimir Putin of being under the influence of Satan.
In any case, it seems that the Russian state has been spreading certain ideas about the spread of Satanism, or at least the destruction of the Russian Orthodox Church, through Ukraine for years now. In fact, other more well-known conspiracy theories may have originated in the Kremlin, or at least in Kremlin-aligned media outlets or Russian social media, or are otherwise merely promoted in those channels. The conspiracy theory which says that Russia is entering Ukraine in order to destroy US biolabs was probably actually invented by the Kremlin, or more specifically it seems to originate from yet another report aired by Rossiya 24. In 2015, Rossiya 24 covered an apparent disease outbreak in Georgia and Ukraine, which purportedly killed pigs and other livestock, and supposedly no one had figured out the cause of the disease. The reporter accused the United States government of causing the outbreaks by funding bio-laboraties in Georgia and Ukraine, supposedly for the purpose of manufacturing deadly pathogens. Of course, in reality the disease was identified and contained within the Lugar Research Center, which was established in Georgia in 2011 with the aim of detecting, containing, and combatting viral diseases. The Russian government, however, doesn’t accept that, and has been waging a misinformation campaign against the Lugar Research Center for years. In 2017, the Russian government accused the Lugar Research Center of creating illegal bioweapons and claimed that the Pentagon was trying to establish a network of biolaboratories along Russian borders, all of which are completely unsubstantiated. Sputnik, a Russian news and radio network owned by the Russian government, claimed in 2016 that the United States is creating a network of bio-laboratories with the aimed at setting up hostile military bio-infrastructure against Russia. In 2018 the New Eastern Outlook, a conspiracist website run by the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which is operated by the Russian government, claimed without evidence not only that the Lugar Research Centre was actually a bioweapons facility but also that they were testing newly-developed viruses on the Georgian population. One American source for the conspiracy theory might be a man named Jeffrey Silverman, a conspiracy theorist who claimed in an interview with Patrioti TV, a pro-Russian Georgian right-wing outlet, that Georgians were being “used as white rats” by the Lugar Research Centre, who he believes are testing deadly viruses on humans. Silverman is also frequently cited by both Russian state media and conspiracist “alternative” websites. The claim that Russia is entering Ukraine in order to try and destroy bio-laboratories is certainly a very recent one, but it also builds on long-standing Russian state narrative that purports the existence of US biolaboratories in Ukraine and Georgia that exist to create viral bio-weapons, which has been constructed in order to attack the Lugar Research Center for years.
As another example, you may have heard about a conspiracy theory which alleged that European Union leaders were holding a “satanic ritual” to commemorate the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest railway and deepest traffic tunnel in the world, in Switzerland. It’s all preposterous, of course, but the idea may have originated with Asaval-Dasavali, a pro-Russian Georgian news outlet which is also notoriously homophobic, racist, ethno-nationalist, and prone to cartoonish misinformation. Another popular right-wing conspiracy theory asserts that the European Union is a Satanist project on the grounds that the Seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg is supposedly modelled after the Tower of Babel and there are supposedly “Satanic stars” on an EU poster. Again, this is false; the European Parliament Building is known to have been modelled after Roman amphitheatres such as the Coliseum, and the stars not only aren’t “satanic” but they’re actually just regular EU stars, and the poster featuring them was created by the Council of Europe. The idea that the Seat of the European Parliament Building was designed after the Tower of Babel and thus shows that the EU is a Satanist project has been documented in Russian social media, like the website Odnoklassniki, on accounts like “Biblia i Prorochestva” dated to 2015. The same basic claim also appears in pro-Russian websites such as Protiproud, a far-right Czech news website. That said, it also seems to have surfaced much earlier on a right-wing website called Vigilant Citizen, in article dated to 2008, which suggests that this conspiracy theory was not invented in Russia but is rather simply promoted in Russia and in pro-Russian media. Fort Russ News, a US-based pro-Kremlin right-wing news outlet, often runs articles accusing Western elites of being Satanists, such as their 2020 article accusing Melinda Gates of being a Satanist for supposedly wearing an upside-down cross (which, on its own, wouldn’t prove anything). Pro-Kremlin media also asserts that the Council of Europe and the European Union are “Satanic” organisations and that allowing homosexual couples to create a family would lead to destruction.
In a similar vein, Russian intelligence may also be responsible for creating one of the most prolific conspiracy theories found in the American right-wing. According to a Yahoo News investigation by Michael Isikoff, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (or SVR) created fake intelligence bulletins which purported that Seth Rich, a former Democratic National Convention employee, was killed by a team of assassins hired by Hillary Clinton, which was then planted in a website called Whatdoesitmean.com and then circulated in right-wing circles all the way up to the Donald Trump campaign team. Although this is not itself a Satanic Panic trope, the murder of Seth Rich was picked up by the PizzaGate movement, whose central premise involves a conspiracy of devil-worshipping pedophiles, who then made it part of its own conspiracist mythology, and then over the years others within the movement would be compared to Seth Rich so as to portray them as martyrs. Of course, Russian media denies all Russian involvement in possibly inventing conspiracy theories.
Another major Satanic Panic scare in Russia is centered around Pussy Riot, the all-girl Russian punk band who became famous in 2012 for performing a “punk prayer” protest song in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow directed against Vladimir Putin, which led to three members of the band being arrested by Russian authorities. Following this arrest, the Russian media along with Russia’s political and religious establishment was quick to condemn them as blasphemers, and this sometimes meant that Pussy Riot were framed as part of a satanic conspiracy to destroy Russia. Rossiya 24 ran a documentary presented by Arkady Mamontov arguing that Pussy Riot were anti-Christian blasphemers who were funded by exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky and the US State Department with the intention of destroying Russian society by corrupting the souls of Russians and attacking Russian Orthodox Christianity, and even suggested that Pussy Riot’s actions constituted a path to what he called “neo-Bolshevism”. Incidentally, this is also the same Arkady Mamontov who, in 2013, claimed on another Rossiya 24 programme that the meteorite explosion over Chelyabinsk was a punishment from God for the activities of LGBT people, argued that worse would come to Russia if Russians did not preserve “traditional love”, and further claimed that the LGBT community is a way for the West to destroy Russia. During the trial of Pussy Riot, two lawyers representing a man Vladimir Potan’kin, a security guard on duty at the Cathedral and supposed “injured party”, described Pussy Riot as a “criminal conspiracy” organized by an unidentified “satanic group” and “the global government” under the direction of Satan himself. Vsevolod Chaplin, who was a leading figure in the Russian Orthodox Church, described Pussy Riot as “literally satanic rage” and accused opponents of Vladimir Putin of fomenting said “satanic rage” against the Church. Patriarch Kirill chimed into the national conversation by asserting that the Russian Orthodox Church had become the victim of an “information war” waged by the enemies of Russia. Aleksandr Dugin, the neo-fascist leader of the Eurasian Youth Union and advisor to Vladimir Putin himself, stated that “Everyone who sympathizes with liberals, Pussy Riot and the West belongs to Satan”, while calling on members of the Eurasian Youth Union to greet opposition marches, referred to as “the devil’s spawn”, with “crosses, daggers and silver bullets to stop hell”. Pussy Riot had no apparent intentions of attacking the Russian Orthodox Church, or Christianity at large, and their only goal in singing their punk prayer was condemning Vladimir Putin. But, regardless of that, Russian Orthodox Christians have frequently regarded Pussy Riot as a “satanic” attack on Christianity, sometimes asserting that the women in Pussy Riot were possessed by Satan, and many Russian conspiracy theories often place the West as the source of such “satanism” and “blasphemy”.
Russian media also promotes anti-semitic conspiracy theories involving the Rothschilds. The Russian right-wing think tank Katehon, which is run by the pro-Putin channel Tsargrad TV, ran an article accusing the Rothschilds of having an “esoteric Luciferian agenda” and controlling the global media. It is worth mentioning that Katehon’s supervisory board includes Russian politicians like Sergey Glazyev (who is sometimes considered a potential successor to Vladimir Putin) and Andrey Klimov (Russian Senator and Deputy of the State Duma), as well as the Russian secret service agent Leonid Reshetnikov. Tsargrad TV itself also promotes conspiracy theories alleging that the European refugee crisis was created by George Soros and accusing the Rothschilds of wanting world domination. The president of Katehon, Konstanin Malofeev, is a right-wing traditionalist businessman who is also connected to the Kremlin and who financed pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Malofeev is also known in Russia as the right-hand man to none other than Aleksandr Dugin. Russian institutions also seem to promote QAnon, which tends to come with quite a lot of anti-semitic tropes and ideas to the point that they’re actually practically a neo-Nazi movement, and other similar conspiracy theorists and movements through systematic online propaganda campaigns. The Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm likely financed by the Putin-linked oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, is known to have promoted QAnon, PizzaGate, and several other right-wing conspiracies after the election of Donald Trump by creating a series of troll accounts operated from St Petersburg. Guccifer 2.0, the so-called “lone hacker” known for spreading PizzaGate conspiracy theories and claiming to have exposed the “Illuminati” by breaching the Democratic National Convention, appears to have actually been a Russian intelligence officer working for the GRU, a military intelligence agency operated by the Russian government.
Alex Jones is not the only conspiracy theorist to appear on Russia Today. Russia Today has over the years lent its platform to a number of toxic cranks such truthers, birthers, climate change deniers, and even actual white supremacists. These include Orly Taitz (the man who claimed to possess a Kenyan birth certificate belonging to Barack Obama), James David Manning (that infamous homophobic pastor also known for his birtherist views), Jim Stachowiak (an extremely racist and Islamophobic militia organizer who has called for terroristic acts against non-white people and leftists), Jared Taylor (infamous white nationalist ideologue), Piers Corbyn (anti-semitic conspiracy theorist), Christopher Monckton (right-wing climate denier), James Corbett (“anarcho-capitalist” conspiracy theorist), Lyndon LaRouche (almost legendary neo-fascist crank), Mark Dice, Lori Harfenist (9/11 truther), Michael “Lionel” Lebron, David Ray Griffin (who is both a truther and a Christian theologian), Mike Adams (the guy from NaturalNews), Jimmy Dore, and even Ryan Dawson (a Holocaust denier) among presumably many others. Mark Watts, a British conspiracy theorist known for spreading false accusations of child sexual abuse and paedophile rings originally conocted by Carl Beech on his website Exaro, appeared on Russia Today via George Galloway’s show to defend his work by claiming that it was “the biggest political scandal in post-war Britain”. In fact, in 2009, on the anniversary of 9/11, Russia Today themselves hosted a special series on its website arguing that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job, and for this occasion they released several articles by Robert Bridge in which he uncritically presents the claims of 9/11 truthers as legitimate narratives of what happened on September 11th. RT Deutsch has also promoted Alternative for Deutschland, the primary representative party of the German far-right.
In the context of the current invasion of Ukraine, the biggest peddler of conspiracy theories in relation to the Ukraine-Russia war is surely none other the Russian media itself, which works tirelessly to present Russian citizens with its own manufactured vision of the conflict. When Russian forces attacked a TV tower in Kyiv, Russian media instead reported that the Ukraine was attacking its own cities, effectively accusing the Ukrainian government of carrying out a false flag operation. Russian state media channels such as Rossiya 24 and Channel One still do not refer to the invasion of Ukraine as an invasion, or the events taking place in Ukraine as a war. Instead they prefer to call it a “demilitarization operation” or “special military operation, which they assert is being carried out to target military infrastructure in Ukraine and defend the “people’s republics”. This is in stark contrast to the reality of the events in Ukraine, in which we see civilian infrastructure destroyed by Russian bombs. As Kherson was captured by Russian forces, Russian media staged a greeting wherein people from Crimea would welcome Russian troops as “liberators”. Caleb Maupin, in his livestream on the invasion, also insists that Russia is not invading Ukraine and is not starting a war there, and instead argues that Russia is simply protecting the people of Donbas from supposed genocide being carried out by Ukrainian forces, and if anything that Russia is “ending the war”. In fact, when Russia invaded Ukraine, Caleb was ecstatic, and opened up a livestream on the day of the invasion by proclaiming that the “forces of righteousness” were “scoring some blows for once”, lamenting that he has “seen Satan win” and seen “the forces of evil have so many victories” for his whole life before excited declaring that he is “watching the forces of good in the world kick ass!”. We can safely assume that Caleb believes that the “forces of good” are Russia and the two separatist “people’s republics” in Donbas whereas he almost certainly assumes the “forces of evil” or “Satan” to be the United States government, Western leaders, and the “Israel Lobby”. This seems rather ironic for a self-styled “communist”, considering that Vladimir Putin basically accused the leadership of the Soviet Union of having created Ukraine in his pre-invasion speech. Some Russian media outlets apparently even claim that there are no Russian troops in Kyiv at all, despite all evidence to the contrary. On Rossiya 24 the state pundits make all sorts of unverified claims about the conflict, such as that Ukrainian forces have been taking hostages to use as human shields, and they never talk about any Russian air strikes being carried out against Ukrainian cities such as Kyiv and Kharkiv. Rossiya 24 also seems to be the source of numerous false claims about the Ukraine-Russia conflict that later get uncritically promoted in some left-wing circles, such as the claim that the Latvian government is criminalizing support for Russia and creating a hotline to report any citizen deemed sympathetic to Russia. In general, Russian media appears to be actively trying to cover up Russian aggression in Ukraine in order to maintain popular support for Russia, in this way omitting several viral images from Ukraine or outright presenting them as attacks carried out by Ukraine instead of Russia. The sheer volume of disinformation on Ukraine coming from Russian media is pretty staggering.
At this point I have probably described the landscape of Russian conspiracism in arguably much more detail than necessary, but the point is surely well-illustrated. There is practically a whole industry of conspiracy theories produced by none other than the Russian government itself, through a network of media institutions along with sympathetic foreign media companies. The purpose of this network appears to be to promote ideological narratives created by the Kremlin as well as spread disinformation to confuse the populations of rival countries and possibly bring said countries closer to Russia’s sphere of influence. But this alone doesn’t completely explain the dynamic of the relationship between the conspiratorial right and Putin, because it also seems that there is an affinity between the Western right wing and Putin and his Russia, and the reactionary conspiracism seen in Russia has many similairities to its counterpart in the Western world. Right-wing conspiracists in America and Western Europe are enamored with the idea that any cultural influence they happen to despise is inherently “satanic”, and there are countless conspiracy theories based around the idea that certain celebrities, often politically liberal/progressive ones, are actually devil worshippers who the Illuminati or George Soros or the Deep State employ as subversives to destroy American or European culture and identity. The Satanic Temple sometimes figures into American reactionary conspiracy theories, insofar as their activism is interpreted as an open anti-Christian subversion campaign organized by their political enemies to destroy the basis of American society, and the reasoning for it is not really all that distinct from the reasoning employed by Russian state media institutions such as Rossiya 24 when accusing Ukrainian politicians of being anti-clerical Satanists or from the arguments made by the people who wanted to send Pussy Riot to prison. At the root of the ideology of Satanic Panic, whether it’s set in America or Russia, is a traditionalist conservative ideology that predicates itself on a conspiratorial worldview which positions any alterity or Other that might transform society, a trope that goes all the way back to the age of the French Revolution and the conspiracy theories that presented a new class of bourgeois liberal intellectuals as part of a diabolical conspiracy to destroy civilization.
Ideas of Satanic influence as the cause of civilizational collapse do feature in the Russian far-right in much the same way that they do in the most virulent American and Western European conspiracy theories. One example of this is the idea that the collapse of the Soviet Union was caused by Yuri Andropov, the sixth official leader of the Soviet Union, who supposedly authored a secret plan to restructure Soviet society codenamed “Golgotha” during the 1980s. No evidence for this “Golgotha” plan exists, and in fact the name “Golgotha” seems to have emerged from a Russian spoof novel titled Operation Golgotha: The Secret Plan of Perestroika, which was written by Mikhail Lyubimov (himself a former KGB colonel) in 1995, but Orthodox Christian nationalists assert that the “Golgotha” plan was developed by the CIA, who they deem “the servants of Satan”, with the intention of “crucifying” Russian Christians and creating a “new world order” ruled by the Antichrist, and also Israel and the “Khazarians” are somehow involved. Tsargrad TV has run self-styled “exposés” on so-called “American Satanists” who supposedly “openly supported the killing of children”. Andrey Kormukhin, the leader of the Forty Forties movement honored by Patriarch Kirill, claims that Europe is ruled by a clan of elites who worship Satan and want to legalize pedophilia. That he and his movement are honored by the literal Patriarch of Moscow shows that conspiracy theories like these can be endorsed by the religious and political establishment of Russia, and in some ways normalized in Russian society at large.
Vladimir Putin himself has expressed a worldview similar to that of many reactionary conspiracy theorists; during a speech to the Valdai Discussion Club in 2013, Putin accused “Euro-Atlantic countries” of “rejecting their roots”, which is to say rejecting Christianity, of “denying moral principles and all traditional identities”, and of implementing policies that “equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan”. In the same speech, Putin also accused Western countries of trying to promote pedophilia by registering political parties that promote pedophilia. It’s not for nothing, then, that Putin is so readily embraced by right-wing conspiracy theorists; ultimately, it’s because there is an extent to which believes much of the same things they do. And Putin may not outright say that the West is controlled by “Satanic pedophiles” as some fake quotes have attested, the Kremlin does still like to promote the idea that Western leadership is somehow “satanic”. In 2014, the Kremlin-aligned biker gang known as the Night Wolves held a show in Sevastopol approved by Putin himself and broadcast by the Kremlin to celebrate the annexation of Crimea. The show depicted the United States and its then-president Barack Obama as “the giant black penis of Satan“, splashing the “black sperm of fascism” on Kyiv, and the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv as having conceived “a deformed embryo with hairy face and black horns”. The message of this was clear: Ukraine and the United States represent the forces of Satanism and evil, which Russia means to do battle with in the name of God and the Russian nation. The leader of Night Wolves, Alexander Zaldostanov, argued that Russia’s invasion of Crimea “showed resistance to global satanism” as well as opposition to “the destruction of traditional values, all this homosexual talk” (suffice it say Zaldostanov is a massive homophobe). Remember, again, this kind of talk is supported by the Kremlin and Putin.
Sometimes however, similar conspiracy theories are actually directed against Putin’s leadership, and a key example of this can be found in the context of the global Covid-19 pandemic. When Russia was implementing its emergency measures to try and curtail the spread of Covid-19, some vocally opposed the restrictions, and among those, some of them accused the Russian government of declaring war against Christianity. Sergii Romanov, a controversial Russian Orthodox monk, branded the Covid-19 pandemic a “hoax”, condemned the Russian government for ordering the closure of churches, denounced a so-called “vaccine conspiracy” to supposedly organised by Bill Gates to exterminate 90% of the global population, claimed that 5G towers spread coronaviruses, hit out at “the satanic leadership” for supposedly mulling over a plan to microchip the population through vaccines, and asserted that the Antichrist would come from Russia and look like a clone of Vladimir Putin. These are all claims that are very similar if not identical to the claims made by QAnon and similar right-wing conspiracy theorist movements.
A core part of the affinity between right-wing conspiracy theorists, along with hard right-wing nationalist politics in general, and Russia or Vladimir Putin, is the idea that Russia represents an alternative to Western society, with Russia ostensibly representing a society more “traditionally Christian”, more “religious”, and more defined by “spiritual values” on the one side, and the West representing every aspect of modern secularism and liberalism that they despise on the other side and which they link to all of their various conspiracy theories about Satanism, the LGBT movement, and/or Jewish people. Maksim Shevchenko, a Russian nationalist journalist and the leader of the Russian Party of Freedom and Justice, arguably illustrates this seeming difference of values in his denouncement of the West as a place where “there is no more sin or holiness”, where instead there are “desires, opportunities to achieve them and the permission of society”, where faith is considered “antisocial”, and where religion is considered “radical”. Patriarch Kirill asserted in 2012 that Russian faith in Orthodox Christianity caused its enemies to hate Russia. By the time that members of Pussy Riot were arrested for calling on the Mother of God to drive Putin away, the Russian establishment was keen to define itself and Russian identity in terms of religious character and Christian faith. In this context, Sergei Markov, a prominent political scientist and professor at Moscow State University, asserted that the Russian Orthodox Church was a depository of Russian national identity and culture, while claiming that there was a powerful international conspiracy working to destroy that identity. Russian society is also so grotesquely reactionary that there was actually a movement in Russia to protest the criminalization of domestic violence, on the grounds that they thought such legislation would destroy the traditional family and make the family “inhospitable to life”, and there’s also a law against “homosexual propaganda” in Russia, while gay people protesting for their rights have been brutally beaten up by the Russian police.
It’s not hard to see why people who believe in things like the QAnon movement, PizzaGate, Satanic Ritual Absue conspiracies, and similar right-wing conspiracy theories would find themselves ideologically aligned with Vladimir Putin and Russian traditionalism. The heritage of all of these conspiracy theories is the idea of a traditional hierarchy predicated on religious authority and meaning, or at least a very specific idea thereof, and also often a hierarchy of racial power and privilege, which is always threatened by some nebulous Other; a religion that does not quite conform to the dominant one and is therefore to be deemed evil, a race that is deemed foreign to the dominant one and is considered a threat, new norms that perhaps challenge the old ones and are therefore determined to be a threat to civilization. At the center of these conspiracy theories is a form of Christian apocalypse, the idea that the forces of righteousness will bring deliverance to a godless world ruled by the forces of darkness and lurching towards chaos and tyranny. Vladimir Putin presents himself and Russia in much the same light, positioning his authority and the power of Russian Orthodox Christianity as a vanguard against the supposed decadence of the Western world. Being an authoritarian strongman at the helm of a hegemonic imperial state that claims to represent a traditional Christian order, it’s not for nothing that Putin is considered to be the spiritual leader of the Western far-right. Konstantin Malofeev also presents a similar idea, claiming that a “Christian Russia” can “liberate the West from the new liberal anti-Christian totalitarianism of political correctness, gender ideology, mass-media censorship and neo-Marxist dogma”. The irony of this statement is surely palpable in the context of his alignment with the Kremlin.
In considering the connections between right-wing conspiracism and Russia, at the back of my mind I knew I couldn’t ignore Aleksandr Dugin, the neo-fascist traditionalist and advisor to Putin who also basically authored the invasion of Crimea. Dugin has multiple connections with the American right-wing. Besides having held interviews with Alex Jones, he was also interviewed by alt-right e-celebrities Lauren Southern and Brittany Pettibone, has publicly endorsed Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential election, had a foreword for one of his books written by the paleoconservative Paul Gottfried, was endorsed by former Trump campaign man Steven Bannon, and was frequently invited to speak in conferences with white nationalists/supremacists such as Richard Spencer, Matt Heimbach, and David Duke. Dugin is also the main source of the ideological mission behind Tsargrad TV, which he presents as representing a “silent majority” supposedly oppressed by modern liberalism. Dugin believes that every aspect of the modern world stems from a “Satanic idea” that has captured most of the world and supposedly spells doom for mankind, and that the only way to save mankind is through “tradition”, which in his ideology corresponds to the assertion of God, the church, the empire, the “congregation of the faithful”, the state, and the “people’s traditions”. Considering the fact that Dugin has publicly called for genocide against Ukraine, it’s clear that he certainly does not mean all people’s traditions. But in any case, when correctly understood, we can see that one the bases of Dugin’s ideology is none other than a form of Satanic Panic; he believes that the modern world and its elites represent a kind of Satanism, which he believes threatens to destroy mankind, and that only a return to tradition might save the human species. Thus, the goal of his Eurasianism is to be understood as the creation of a new empire based on Christian traditionalism, as well as “a more fascist fascism”, to oppose what he considers to be the forces of Satan. As war broke out, Dugin claimed on Facebook that the invasion was not a war with Ukraine but instead a “confrontation with globalism as a whole planetary phenomenon”, war between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic liberal elites rather than war between Russia and Ukraine, and asserted that Russia must either “build her world” or “disappear”. The basic justification for war given by Dugin is in essence the same justification given by the QAnon movement and several right-wing pundits who are now defending Russia in the face of international condemnation.
The affinity between Dugin’s notion of traditionalism and the Western right-wing conspiracist movements is not difficult to assess. Maybe the QAnon movement, for instance, doesn’t share all of Dugin’s views on geopolitics and other subjects, they share a belief with Dugin that the Western world is ruled by a class of people who represent a kind of “satanic” liberalism and that Russia is the international vanguard of Christian civilization. Indeed, I would go so far as to argue that Russian traditionalism in a way serves to complete the right-wing conspiracist worldview in the Western world, by giving it a vision of the world that corresponds to the desires of the conspiracists in a way that consists beyond the negative partisanship in the context of liberalism that pervades much of the right. Simply put, the world Dugin puts forward may yet be the world that many right-wing conspiracists would like to see, and the struggle that both Dugin and Putin present is in essence identical to the struggle put forward by the far-right in the West. Traditionalism, therefore, might be the ideology and world political order that links Russian and Western conspiracism.
So, now that we have all of this context at our disposal, let’s establish a summary of our findings. Russian state media, Russian intelligence services, and pro-Kremlin media in both Russia and elsewhere in Europe compose a vast propaganda network dedicated to spreading conspiracy theories about not only Ukraine but also the European Union, vaccines and Covid-19, the United States, and Jewish people among many other subjects, and in many cases these conspiracy theories come with a Satanic Panic element, the idea that a conspiracy of Satanists are controlling the world, or trying to, and are weaving sinister plots in the world. Conspiracism seems to be widily prolific in Russian politics, to the point that conspiracy theory is both rife among the Russian ruling class and media and to some extent prominent enough among Russian society as a whole. The conspiracies weaved by Russian institutions often make their way to right-wing conspiracy theory circles in the United States and Europe, and sometimes even in some radical left-wing (specifically the so-called “anti-imperialist”) circles as well, and sometimes Western conspiracy theories make their way to Russian media and become prolific enough that Russian media outlets hold interviews with experts to discuss them as though they were credible stories. The conspiracy theories generated by the Russian state correspond to a radical right-wing politics that is also ultimately in harmony with Russian traditionalist ideology, the two worlds being easier to bring together under the same sphere of influence, and both operate along an ideology of Satanic Panic.
All of that is not particularly hard to see once you know what I’ve established thus far, but it’s also not hard to see what’s wrong with all of it. Again, I have to stress above all else that there is no Satanic elite within modern liberal society. There are only Satanists who themselves might be convinced that they are part of some kind of esoteric elite, but who otherwise hold no political power whatsoever, and nearly all Satanists you will meet are not interested in messing with kids or eating human flesh, certainly none of them have any plans to inject microchips in your body to control you. And Russia is almost certainly not invading Ukraine over the presence of supposed Satanism in Ukraine, let alone bio-laboratories or child sex trafficking dens. The Russian state, and particularly Putin himself, have made it clear that they consider Ukraine to be Russian soil, to be absorbed into Russia as part of a long-term goal to re-establish Russia as an imperial power. The Russian government no doubt considers those who view Russia as waging Christian holy war against Ukraine to be useful insofar as it means they support Russia’s actions and will agitate against Western support for Ukraine, but holy war is not necessarily what Putin has in mind, even if it probably is what Dugin ultimately has in mind. If there is a religious aspect to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, it certainly has nothing to do with any struggle against Satanism, and could instead be understood as a struggle involving the national churches of Ukraine and Russia, but this is merely incidental (though not unconnected) to the basic conflict at hand.
Moreover, in a broader sense, despite Dugin’s assertion that the myth of progress is a “Satanic idea” or emerges from said idea, conservatism and traditionalism, in all reality, still emanate the myth of progress in their own way. I mean, traditionalists constant wail about the evils of “degeneracy”, but “degeneracy” is a concept that is actually fairly teleologically progressive in its conceits, its core meaning being to “decline” from a supposedly more “advanced” state, to “regress” from a more “civilized” state. Social degeneration theory is an idea often associated with reactionary political ideologies aimed at consolidating a rigid social hierarchy that excludes essentially anything that does not conform to a “traditional” form of human experssion (which tends to a very militantly patriarchal, authoritarian, cisheteronormative, and ascetic conception of human life), but while it seems to modern audiences like an entirely pre-modern way of thinking, social degeneration theory was actually a product of the Enlightenment as a way of justifying the inequality and oppression that some people suffered through the application of “scientific” principles, and in this light it enjoyed popularity throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th century. Central to social degeneration theory is the idea of linear progress as an objective phenomenon, with human evolution having a definite teleological aim or purpose, and that humans were to conform to this idea of objective evolutionary progress and behave accordingly, and if they didn’t, then they would be labelled “degenerates”. Crime itself was described as a failure to conform to such progress, as a step backward in human evolution towards a more “primitive” state, and hence “degeneracy”, while miscegenation was believed to cause the eventual regression of the evolution of the human species. In this light, the purpose of eugenics was from the standpoint of social degeneration theory to preserve a supposed objective path of human progress and evolution, by rooting out those who did not conform to that pattern of social progress and evolution. Thus in this way I would say that traditionalism, ethno-nationalism, certain forms of conservatism, indeed all of these modern reactionary ideologies that think they’re resisting modernity, shedding the Enlightenment, and transcending the myth of progress actually operate entirely from an Enlightenmentarian starting point that assumes an objective and ascending pattern of social progress and evolution that arcs towards the perfection of the human species, just that this is often couched in the assumption of restoring an originary and prelapsarian state of purity. The myth of progress is an evident enough part of modern conservatism that it’s actually fairly explicit in some cases; Vladimir Putin himself defined conservatism as something that “prevents movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state”. In simple terms, preserving an objective teleological movement of progress, by controlling or rooting out anything that would “go back” from that into “primitivity” and “chaotic darkness”, the freedom that might exist if humanity were not directed as civilizational agents of some objective historical movement.
In any case, I believe I’ve elaborated about all that I need to elaborate here, and I understand that this was quite a lot to go through. I have to admit, I can still remember a time where I might have treated some of what I’ve explained as itself conspiratorial, and there was definitely a time where a lot of people believed that there wasn’t an integrally connected Russian disinformation/propaganda machine sowing conspiracy theories into the West. But, if nothing else, I’d say that the fact that so many right-wing conspiracy theorists nowadays are all now defending and justifying Russia’s actions in Ukraine should convincingly alert many people to the realities of the Russian psyop machine. It is evidently clear that people in Western countries live their lives caught in the middle of a massive propaganda war being conducted between Western governments on one hand and the Russian conspiracy complex on the other.
From my standpoint, the ideological basis of thorough-going anti-fascism has to entail a deconstruction of the ideological basis of reactionary conspiracism, right down to the myth of progress (and its Christian roots) that underlies even the traditionalism of Aleksandr Dugin. It must also take the realities of the Russian conspiracy complex as one more reason to reject certain calls to embrace a campist one-sidedness that refuses to challenge Russia as an imperialist power with the same vigour that America is rightfully challenged, especially since, if we’re being honest, Russia appears to either be more systematically fascist or possess a much more systematic network of fascist organization than what is the case for Ukraine. Those who seek to fight Satanic Panic would do well to recognize it in the context of this conspiracy complex, and recognize the broader connections, tropes, and patterns seen in Russian conspiracism, and recognize the propaganda war being waged in the background. The more we look into Russian conspiracism, the more it looks to us like the kind of conspiracism we can see in America, and maybe then some too. And that’s no surprise, because American right-wing conspiracy theorists will defend Russia’s actions on the basis of the same ideas swirling around in Russia, some of which may well have already become what is now believed in the West.
Canada is at the moment wrangling with an ongoing protest referred to as the Freedom Convoy, which is a generally right-wing protest whose core focus seems to be on vaccine mandates and Covid-19 restrictions. For a self-described convoy, many of the protesters aren’t actually truckers, but what is true is that their protests involve blocking highways in order to try and extract concessions from the Canadian government through external pressure. Their goal seems to be the abolition of all Covid-19 restrictions in Canada.
Now, make no mistake; the Freedom Convoy protesters aren’t necessarily advancing a good cause. For one thing, their actual demands, if met, would likely only ensure that Covid-19 spreads to more Canadians and probably kills more of them, and in typical right-wing fashion they seem to lack any thought given to the question of “what about my freedom to not get Covid-19 from you?” or the fact that a lot of the oppression we’re seeing in Western countries actually seems to concern corporations forcing people to go to work even if they have Covid-19 symptoms. For another, it seems that at least a few of them might be aligned with the far-right and some of them do appear to be racist, as suggested by the appearance of swastikas and Confederate battle-flags among some of the protesters – the latter sometimes appears in other anti-vax protests outside of Canada as well as within Canada. But, while it is right to oppose the so-called Freedom Convoy, there’s also a different problem in relation to it, namely the response carried out by the Canadian government.
On February 14th, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the Canadian government would invoke the Emergencies Act, with the aim of expanding the powers of the Canadian police to seize the trucks of anyone participating in the protests, freeze their corporate accounts, and suspend their vehicle insurance. This also apparently meant that the Canadian government would give Canadian banks the authority to freeze the accounts of anyone suspected to have given support to the Freedom Convoy, without being required to obtain permission from the courts. Banks who decided to investigate and freeze accounts suspected of supporting the Convoy would be granted legal immunity by the government and be permitted to share more information from these accounts with the government. It was also announced that the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada would be given the power to monitor funds sent through GoFundMe and other payment providers used by the protesters, as well as crypto-currency transactions.
It’s obvious what’s happening. The Canadian government is expanding the powers of surveillance and the police and incentivizing private corporations to effectively financially punish anyone who took part in the convoy protests. It can be thought of as a soft power response, and a military dispersion of the protests does not seem forthcoming, but this is still a carceral response. The reasons for the government doing this are not especially difficult to understand. The blockades matter mostly because they present economic difficulties, preventing products from moving across the country. That said, it also seems to have impacted emergency services, often preventing them too from crossing. In any case, it is the regular functioning of the system that I suspect presents the biggest priority for the Canadian government. Whenever I hear about this, for some reason I’m reminded of the whole discourse surrounding Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain here in my country, and the various blockades that they enacted not too long ago. Although their actual reasons for protesting were very different from those of the Freedom Convoy, the former demanding immediate action to fight climate change and the latter campaigning for environmentally friendly insulation of all homes within the next few years, a lot of the social discourse and political response focused not so much on their demands but on the disruption of the economy and functioning of the system, which is then framed as an attack on the livelihoods of ordinary people. For daring to make demands of the government through external pressure, Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain were accused of “not being constructive” and “alienating ordinary people” and faced suppression by the police, and the British government expanded the powers of the police to “stop and search” protesters and enforce harsher penalties for motorway disruptions, not particularly mindful of the damage such moves would do to the right to protest.
That said, perhaps there’s a peculiar difference. For one thing, it’s said that members of the Freedom Convoy have weapons on hand. But also, the protests carried out by Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain all, after some time, faced the exercise of hard power by the government, whereas this doesn’t necessarily appear to be the case for the Freedom Convoy; not yet, anyway. Indeed, at the moment it seems that there are counter-protesters in Canada that have faced getting dragged off the scene by police officers. It’s a very strange expression of the carceral state. For right-wing anti-vax protests, the government responds with what is essentially a drastic expansion of surveillance powers or the outsourcing thereof in order to financially target protesters, which will inevitably be a problem for the left should they cross their own bridge. But for left-wing counter-protests, the standard police suppression is often deployed. It can comparatively seem to some like the government’s playing nice with the anti-vaxxers, insofar as freezing their bank accounts and generally invoking emergency powers to disperse and disincentivize them was ever the “nice” response. But, this is still a broadly carceral response, one that is more versatile than certain traditional notions of authoritarianism. This carceral state employs numerous tactics, seemingly on a selective basis per the groups it targets, favouring a mix of leverage and blunt force.
It’s worth being stressed that what ultimately matters isn’t the Freedom Convoy, they’ll likely come to nothing at the end of it, but rather the nature of the state and the powers it may invoke whenever its interests and the order upon which it depends are seen to be threatened. It’s this conversation that matters, for much the same reasons that I covered in my article on Boris Johnson’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Britain. The carceral nature of the state colours everything from state responses to protest to the course of the way the Covid-19 pandemic was handled and spread across the world, and so our conversations about protest and the Covid-19 pandemic should hinge on a much larger conversation about the conditions of the carceral state. I’m inclined to think that the political climate we have surrounding Covid-19 would be very different if our governments hadn’t carefully exploited the pandemic in order to establish states of exception and control to be justified via the pandemic.
So apparently, Russia is planning to invade Ukraine. Maybe. Or at least that’s what we’re all being told. Western leaders insist that war is imminent and Russia is planning on invading Ukraine. The British government appears to think that the Kremlin is conspiring to install a puppet regime in Ukraine. More recently, the United States has claimed, without presenting evidence, that Russia is planning to fabricate a Ukrainian attack on Russia or Russian-speaking Ukrainians in order to justify invading Ukraine. Vladimir Putin and the Russian government have predictably denied all impropriety and blame Western/NATO leaders for increasing tensions by their aggression against Russia, though they do seem to be assuring that there will be “consequences” if the West doesn’t agree to its “security demands”. Ukraine itself seems to be giving mixed signals on the issue: on the one hand the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is saying that the West is hyping up the threat of Russian invasion to create panic, and the people cited by the British government have explicitly refuted the government’s claims; on the other hand, the Ukrainian government has apparently taken the British government seriously, is accepting military aid from Britain, America, and other countries, and is concerned that other countries such as Germany are not on their side.
What are we to make of all of this? Should we take the West completely at face value and accept that war with Russia is a necessity? I think that can be flatly ruled out. Yet, this does not mean that Russian invasion is distinctly impossible. Russia will, of course, claim that it has no plans to invade Ukraine, but that’s to be expected of Russia. There is a significant extent to which the statements of Russia cannot be relied upon or taken at face value. However, it is certainly true that there is an extent to which the Western narrative is lurid and quizzical, given to dysfunctional conspiracy theory, eager to frame Putin as irrational, and absolutely certain of invasion. The build-up is surely familiar at least.
There are many important things to consider when discussing Russia, and in establishing a consistent anti-imperialist position in the context of the Ukraine-Russia conflict. There are several reasons not to take the Russian side of the conflict, or certain arguments from some who defend Russia on at least theoretically anti-imperialist, at face value. Russia will insist that it has no plans to invade Ukraine. But there are obvious problems. Russia has amassed 100,000 troops beside the Russian-Ukrainian border, and there are some reports which suggest that there are not only weapons but also blood supplies and medical equipment being brought to the region. It’s not clear what non-military purpose all of this should have. If the invasion thesis holds water, they are almost certainly amassing units for the purpose of entering Ukraine. If it doesn’t, we still have to assume there is some other reason for 100,000 troops coming with a medical team on standby to treat wounded combatants, and a mere drill would stretch credulity. Perhaps they are preparing to remain on the Russian side of the border so as to be in a defensive position against NATO? That too is possible. It is also possible that nothing will happen, but we’ll cross that bridge later.
An important point to address is the subject of annexation in Ukraine, since it is often relitigated. It is frequently pointed out that in 2014 there was a referendum in Crimea in which its people voted to be absorbed into Russia. The problem with this, however, is that before the referendum was held the parliament of Crimea in Simferopol was already seized by pro-Russian gunmen in February 2014, checkpoints in the region had already been seized, and in that month Russia was already sending tanks, personell carriers, and troops into the area. It was strictly after this that the Supreme Council of Crimea held a referendum, the outcome of which was apparently decisive but also disputed. It was claimed that 85% of Crimeans had voted in the referendum, delivering a decisive majority in favour of joining Russia. However, a report that was briefly and accidentally leaked by the Russian government suggests that both the turnout and the people who voted for annexation were considerably less than that; according to that report, only 22.5% of Crimeans actually voted for annexation, and on a turnout of 40% of the Crimean electorate. This would mean that Russian claims that the Crimeans voted in a majority to join Russia are a lie. But even if they were true and a majority did vote to join Russia, the fact that this was done right after parliament and checkpoints had already been captured invites us to consider the outcome as a inspired by coercion; if the Crimeans did vote in a majority, as Russia claimed, they might as well have done so with a gun pointed to their heads. After all, Crimea had practically already been invaded at this point, parliament had already been sieged, so from a certain point of view, what would be the point of resisting what is already fait accompli, especially if a vote to remain in Ukraine might have triggered further violence? If that’s democracy, then democracy is just a joke. In fact, years later, some Crimeans believe there should be a second referendum, and the current president of Ukraine isn’t ruling that out.
At this point let’s just be clear here, based on the facts. What happened in 2014 was an annexation. Before the referendum on Crimea happened, Crimea was invaded. This was an invasion. Russia set out to conquer Crimea, and it did, because it wanted to take Crimea for itself, probably because Crimea was considered to be the “rightful” property of Russia. This is more or less fact, and cannot be disputed. The main people who do try to dispute it are Russia and its allies, so it’s the word of the country that invaded Crimea, and the people who support said country, against everyone else and the facts of the matter, and the line that Crimea is actually “theirs” comes from Russia. What happened in Crimea can’t be treated as anything other than the invasion and capture of Crimea by Russia. Everyone involved knows it, including the Russian government, which is part of why the Russian government and state media has worked to suppress the truth. This is imperialism, of the sort that might be recognized as such if only it were carried out by the West. Since Crimea will come up again as a subject in any discussion of whatever Russia intends to do this year, it’s worth establishing this basic fact as a reason not to trust Russian statements regarding its plans. To do anything else, to not believe your own lying eyes and assert that this was not an invasion, or an annexation, even if said annexation really was “chosen by the people”, is nothing more than political correctness by any and indeed all definitions of the term.
For this and other reasons it is also profoundly unwise to assume that Russia has no expansionist or militarist goals on its own side of Europe. Russia, under the oversight of Putin and previously under the US-backed Boris Yeltsin, bombed and invaded Chechnya several times over two decades, killings tens of thousands in the process, and in 2007 Putin installed Ramzan Kadyrov as the puppet dictator of Chechnya. Incidentally, Ramzan Kadyrov also supported the Russian annexation of Crimea. Returning to the subject of Crimea, there is certainly an expansionist motive with ideological grounds. The Russian government has repeatedly stated that Crimea is rightfully a part of Russia, that annexing it was the correction of a perceived historical injustice, and that Ukraine itself is rightfully a part of Russia. This basic idea is, incidentally, also supported throughout the hard right in Western countries, including Donald Trump, the former President of the United States. Aleksandr Dugin, the ultra-reactionary and arguably fascist advisor to the Russian government, has stated that he does not believe Russia should stop at Crimea, argues that Russian aggression in Ukraine is part of a broader struggle for the “reunification of Slavic peoples”, and that according to him Russia is not to compromise with Western Ukrainians. From the Western standpoint Dugin may appear to be some sort of crank, but the Russian government takes his ideas seriously.
The Russian government has also justified aggression in Ukraine with the argument that Ukraine is a fascist country with a fascist government. There are many leftists who appear to believe this to be the case as well, no doubt guided to this conclusion by the fact that the Ukrainian government drafted the neo-fascist Azov Battalion (which has also received support from the governments of America and Israel) as a mercenary contingent of its armed forces as a bulwark against pro-Russian separatist forces. I could talk about the broader and fairly amoral political and military realities that underpin that from the standpoint of the Ukrainian government, but however logical it might be it’d go nowhere. Instead, however, I think it would be more prudent to point out that not only is the Ukrainian government still basically not unlike many Western governments in ideology, but also that Russia too supports and is supported by fascists. In fact, Aleksandr Dugin is considered to be part of a hardline faction of the Kremlin (referred to as the “war party” by Russian media) which favours full-scale invasion of Ukraine and rejects the Minsk ceasefire. Another fascist in the Russian government is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who was the deputy chairman of the State Duma and is the leader of the “Liberal Democratic” Party of Russia, and he called for Ukraine to be destroyed and for its territory to be divided between Russia and its neighbours, arguing that the continued existence of a sovereign Ukraine was a “historical error” that is to be “corrected”. Furthermore, the Ukrainian Azov mercenaries are not the only fascists doing the fighting in Ukraine.
There’s also a Russian ultra-nationalist group called the Black Hundreds, named after the old genocidal tsarist movement in Russia which opposed revolution and incited pogroms (and also opposed Ukrainian nationalism while regarding Ukrainians as Russian), which fights Ukrainian forces with the aim of overthrowing its government and then eventually the Russian government. Its members, once among them Anton Rayevsky, wear Nazi imagery as tattoos and describe themselves as fascists, so they could also be described as fascists and arguably neo-Nazis. Its leader, Alexander Shtilmark, certainly is a neo-Nazi. Alexander Zakharchenko, who led the pro-Russian separatist Donetsk People’s Republic until he was killed in a bomb attack in 2018, was an anti-democratic traditionalist anti-semite who referred to Ukrainian politicians as Jews in order to lambast them. The Donetsk separatists also accept fascists from other countries to fight for them, just as the Ukrainian Azov Battalion does. Pavel Gubarev, the former leader of the Donbas People’s Militia was a member of a Russian neo-Nazi group known as National Unity, has apparently still thanked them for influencing him, and was the member of the Progress Socialist Party of Ukraine which is practically a National Bolshevik Party and seems to be aligned with Aleksandr Dugin. National Unity was also involved in trying to stage a referendum outcome in Donetsk. Igor Girkin, the man who helped Russian forces capture the Crimean parliament before the referendum and now poses as an opponent of Putin’s regime, was a fascist admirer of the anti-communist White Army and was a commander for the white supremacist Russian Imperial Movement. The Russian Imperial Movement is a prominent part of the international white supremacist movement as a whole, maintaining contacts with neo-Nazis across the Western world while training Russian white supremacists, and advocates for the restoration of Russian tsarism and the organization of the Russian state along ethno-nationalist lines.
If this is what the Russian government, pro-Russian separatists, and Western defenders of Russia consider to be an alliance against fascism, then they mock anti-fascism as a concept. I mean, it’s not like there aren’t Nazis in Ukraine. There definitely are, and in fact Ukraine is still notoriously a place where neo-Nazis can gather, network, receive training from militants and become mercenaries or insurgents, likely aiming to take advantage of the Ukrainian warzone as a place to prove themselves as “Aryan” warriors and perhaps help turn Ukraine into a kind of microcosmic Fourth Reich; not to mention, this is the country home to the infamous Asgardsrei Festival, a neo-Nazi music festival where Nazi bands play and far-right terrorists go and socialize. But even despite that, Russia’s narrative of some sort of anti-fascist conflict in which Russia is merely defending its citizens from an orgy of fascism is rich when we consider that the pro-Russian side of the war in Ukraine is represented by fascist militias that aren’t so different from what the Azov Battalion is, and has fascist ideologues behind it hoping to either conquer or destroy Ukraine. The difference is that the Azov Battalion just happens to be working for the Ukranian government (who, as I understand, they ultimate would like to overthrow), opposes Russian expansion into Ukraine, and happens to be the bigger fish when it comes to neo-fascist militias. But you cannot look at a conflict that consists of Nazis versus Nazis and expect to paint one side as the anti-fascist versus the other. Such an error portrays anti-fascism as meaningless, and that cannot be abided.
In this light, I actually consider Russian arguments that justify military involvement in Ukraine on the grounds of fascism to be virtually identical to the arguments made by Western imperialists, particularly the United States, and right-wing ideologues who argue for the invasion of various countries in the Middle East, such as Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The West argues for military adventurism and imperialism in the Middle East on the grounds of containing the ideology of “radical Islam” and fighting terrorism, even as the United States exports terrorist violence throughout the world in service of the power of the Western bourgeoisie and the capitalist system they rule. In the same sense, it seems to me that if Russia is truly interested in anti-fascist struggle, perhaps Russia should invade itself, since Russia has fascists in its government and is supporting fascist and white supremacist militias on its side of the Ukraine conflict.
Now, I have been very harsh on the Russian side of all this, and frankly I think that’s because Russia deserves such unsparing criticism as this. But all I’ve done so far is to establish reasons to doubt Russia’s claims as to its lack of desire for aggression, and perhaps reasons why future aggression might be credible, though not necessarily certain. It’s difficult from this to conjure proof at this time, and Russia certainly isn’t going to give any proof of its intentions if they mean to invade. And yet, there’s an elephant in the room, by which I course mean the other imperialism at large: Western imperialism.
NATO might well care about Ukraine enough that they seem willing to lend support to the Azov Batallion even despite the fact that they seem to be neo-fascists who wear Nazi insignia, but we can hardly take this as proof that they actually care about Russian authoritarianism in principle, or even any authoritarianism rising in Ukraine for that matter (more on that later). After all, where was NATO when Russia was busy with its brutal suppression of Chechnya? Perhaps Saddam Hussein’s corpse and his phantom weapons of mass destruction were just too pressing a matter for America to busy themselves with the massacres, tortures, and rapes committed in Chechnya, let alone the installment of a clerical fascist puppet. The simple truth is that America operates in a manner not terribly different from Russia, and on a grander scale. America, at least since the end of World War 2, has gone into numerous countries in order to invade them, overthrow their often elected leadership, and manufactured consent for it via propaganda and phony elections. Of course, America doesn’t tend to claim that Grenada, for instance, is rightful American soil, as Russia does for Ukraine or at least Crimea, but America does perform a very similar pattern of imperialism across a broader share of the world, and often with the greater death toll and greater trail of destruction to its name. Not to mention that Russia is still not the only country that can claim aggression against other peoples as an act of assuming its rightful territory. Who can forget the enterprise of Manifest Destiny that came with the birth of the United States as we know it, and who could forget the ongoing occupation of Palestine by Israel (who, I’d like stress again, supports the Azov Battalion).
But this of course leads us to the other main angle repeated in standard arguments about imperialism: that Russia is not intending to invade Ukraine, and that US/NATO aggression is the single cause of escalating tensions. For starters, we don’t actually know that Russia isn’t intending to invade Ukraine, and there are a fair few reasons to assume that in fact they might. Yet, there are reasons to think that perhaps he might relent or that he might not intend to invade Ukraine. Russia might be able to pick off Chechnya and Georgia on their own, but it is doubtful that they could emerge victorious from a confrontation with NATO, and it would be wrong for Western commentators to assume that Putin does not consider that a possibility. A likely defeat is not proof that Russia will not try to invade Ukraine, after all America has become notorious for embarking multiple failed military expeditions in living memory; Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan spring to mind. But I suppose America’s overconfidence and its size might have been a theoretically assuring factor for many. And I suppose that America does not have tons of Russian or Chinese bases surrounding itself, whereas Russia has tons of NATO bases surrounding it.
NATO has played a substantial role in shaping the situation as it exists. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO expanded its sphere of influence over the former Soviet states in Eastern Europe, even after a not necessarily formal agreement to the contrary. But, I would stress that NATO cannot be the sole cause of aggression and escalation in the region, for the simple reason that this requires us to assume that Russia has no motives of its own. Already we can see reasons why it is necessary to doubt that assessment. It also requires omitting the fact that the West are not the only people arming militants in Ukraine. Russia has for years given arms to pro-Russian separatists and supported the “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk – who, by the way, have had a habit of banning Ukrainian media, kidnapping journalists as well as priests and Jewish citizens, and getting involved in violent insurrections as well as committing war crimes and even employing child soldiers – and in the wake of recent escalations the Russian state may continue arming them. But having said that there is one important factor that puts Russia in common with NATO: imperial grievance. It is often said that NATO and America’s current designs for aggression against Russia can be traced to certain humiliations suffered by the Western sphere of influence. The cataclysmic fall of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Taliban and the subsequent re-establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan last year is likely what is meant by such humiliation, having cast serious international doubts on the efficacy and moral authority of American hegemony. But this is ultimately a recent humiliation, and from the looks of it America and NATO are not poised into deep decline because of it, at least for now. From the standpoint of Russia, the humiliation of Russia would be deeper and more long-running.
The Soviet Union may not have been the biggest empire in history, but in its time it was certainly one of the largest and most expansive powers in the world, capable of standing toe to toe against America, and so from the Russian standpoint it represented a time in living memory when Russia could exercise a vast sphere of influence in the world and be capable of challenging the West. This is one reason why the memory of at least the idea of the Soviet Union, even if moreso than its reality, is a source of pride for the Russian state, even functioning as a sort of national mythos, which just like any other capitalist state is readily employed so as to mobilize the Russian masses along the lines of national pride, and mobilizing a patriotic mass in support of the government is exactly part of Putin’s goals and agenda. Indeed, Putin himself is no communist, certainly not a socialist, but he too employs the memory of the Soviet Union as national identity via the cult of Josef Stalin, which the Russian government also reinforces by suppressing critics of Stalin’s authoritarianism and human rights record. The collapse of the Soviet Union represented the loss of Russia’s ability to take on the West, and NATO’s expansion into the former Soviet countries represented the loss of Russia’s former sphere of influence, leading thus to the sense of the Soviet Union as a sort of “former glory” for Russia. In this sense, any talk of the West having been “emasculated” as some suggest is easily also applicable to Russia, if not moreso.
It is obvious that Russia has at least some interest in re-establishing a credible sphere of influence in Europe so as to once again challenge the American or NATO sphere of influence. For the Russian ruling class, the benefits include no longer being dependent on raw exports to global markets, and for the Russian state, it means continuing to exercise authority over territories formerly under Soviet control. Chechnya, for example, was a Soviet republic from the 1930s until the Soviet Union’s collapse, and when a Chechen independence movement formed it was opposed by Boris Yeltsin, ironically the same man that America helped get elected as the new “democratic” face of Russia, thus Russia opposed Chechen sovereignty by arguing that Chechnya, and not to mention its oil reserves, were part of Russia, and enforcing that argument through continuous warfare. As it turns out, America is not the only country to wage war for oil. A much more recent event, though, that I think illustrates my point, concerns another former Soviet republic: Kazakhstan. When protest over increased gas prices occurred in Kazakhstan, to which the government responded by cracking down on protesters and shutting down the internet, Putin intervened by deploying Russian paratroopers to protect the government of Kazakhstan and attack protesters. This was done with intention of securing Russian influence in the region; in fact, after the unrest ended, Putin promised the other ex-Soviet states that Russia would protect them as well. This coupled with the history of Russian participation in the suppression of dissent by neighbouring governments such as Belarus shows that Russia wants to demonstrate that it will militarily support its allies, which would allow Russia to cultivate a credible military sphere of influence of its own.
But does this in itself mean that Russia will soon invade Ukraine? There is one other possiblity I may be inclined to entertain: the possibility that nothing will happen and that recent speculation to that effect is all hype. Volodymyr Zelensky seems convinced of this, insisting that the West is trying to incite panic in Ukraine through its talk of Russian invasion, and there are many people in both Russia and Ukraine, particularly the ordinary citizens of those countries, who are not convinced that war is coming and suspect that both Putin and the West are just talking tough because that’s just what leaders do. Even the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres thinks that Russia is not going to invade Ukraine and hopes that the situation in the region will de-escalate; if anything Guterres seems much more concerned about the fate of Afghanistan than the fate of Ukraine.
There are good reasons to believe that perhaps this is the reality of the situation. The US has come alarmingly close to starting a new war under the Trump administration, but the suspense has met no payoff. The Trump administration has bombed Syria twice, despite ostensibly promising a non-interventionist policy in Syria, but this did not lead to a full-scale war in Syria. In the outset of 2020, the Trump administration bombed Iran and killed Qasem Soleimani, leading to rampant speculation about possible war with Iran and some tough talk from Iranian leadership. But months later, after all that, nothing happened and there was no war against Iran. War with Venezuela was also speculated during the Trump administration, but while the US government made attempts to smuggle units and weapons into the country and manufacture a “democratic” coup, nothing happened.
It’s also possible that Putin thinks he may not even need to invade Ukraine, but rather instead use the threat of invasion to exercise soft power over the region. That’s the argument that Loren Thompson gives, anyway. He argues that Putin tends to prefer to challenge NATO and thus appear to be standing up to NATO aggression, but in a way that still means he can take as few risks to Russia as possible. And there are perhaps reasons to believe that this might be true. For one thing, it would serve as a credible alternative explanation for why Russia is stationing troops on the border just outside Ukraine as opposed to inside Ukraine or even spread across the separatist “people’s republics” or in Donbas. It may also make sense of how Russia is keen enough to mobilize in countries like Chechnya or Georgia, but not directly in Ukraine. Ukraine represents the possibility for NATO to sit close to the heart of Russia, and is thus a serious risk for Russia, whereas Chechnya or Georgia do not present that same risk, which may allow Russia relative free reign in terms of the exercise of power. Alternatively, the Ukrainian socialist activist Taras Bilous suggests that a full-on invasion of Ukraine is not likely because it is too expensive and not cost-effective enough for the Russian state, and too unpopular with Russians, and suggests that the real threat from Russia would instead be Russian expansion into Donbas via the territories already controlled by pro-Russian separatists. More recently, the Ukrainian deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar, while still asserting that Ukraine is at risk of a Russian attack, appeared to suggest that perhaps nothing will happen in Ukraine because of the West calling out Russia on the subject via alarmism. Perhaps that is possible, but it does smell an awful lot like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
One thing that could easily be neglected in conversation is that Russia is still a nuclear power. In fact Russia has threatened to deploy nuclear missiles in Europe in response to perceived plans by NATO to do the same. According to the Federation of American Scientists, Russia currently possesses over 6,000 nuclear weapons, which is apparently more nukes than even the United States. None of this has gone unnoticed in media coverage of the current escalations in Ukraine. I trust that it is safe to assume that nobody wants a situation in which organized human life is wiped out by nuclear war, and so I believe it is reasonable to conjecture that perhaps this may motivate the progress of an ultimately diplomatic resolution. At the same time as Boris Johnson is pledging to get the UK militarily involved in Ukraine, he also seems to have agreed to hold diplomatic talks with Putin. Perhaps it’s not impossible that war will in fact be averted.
But, ultimately, at this point in time, everything is a matter of speculation, conjecture, and possibility. There’s no proof as yet that Russia is definitely going to invade Ukraine, and, if there are plans to invade, Russia is certainly not going to tell us anything about it until it’s too late, preferring instead to deflect the conversation towards the West. I consider the following to be possible: (1) Russia is preparing for a planned invasion of Ukraine, (2) Russia is merely using its troops as leverage with which to exercise soft power in Ukraine rather than an invasion, (3) NATO might attempt to attack Russia in order to pre-empt an invasion of Ukraine, though this to me seems unlikely, or (4) nothing will happen and everyone is just talking tough. Of these, although it seems to me that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is distinctly possible, I am also inclined to consider that the possibility that the hype may be for nothing is the strongest hypothesis.
But, with the question of whether or not Russia will invade Ukraine more or less fully explored, we must consider how we want the tensions in Ukraine to end, and what is the best outcome in accordance with anti-imperialist principle. The most obvious anti-imperialist recourse might be that NATO should simply pull out of Ukraine, recede its presence in the former Soviet bloc, and end all aggression against Russia. This is certainly desirable and a part of the classical anti-imperialist expectation as regards the US-NATO alliance. But, there is still a problem. We know that Russia to some extent desires to absorb Ukraine, or parts thereof, into its own territory or sphere of influence. The invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea is surely proof of this, and the actions of Russia outside of Ukraine show a broader agenda to establish a strong military and political axis. There’s no guarantee that Russia won’t simply absorb Ukraine once NATO pulls back and, short of the collapse of imperialism as a global system, this is going to be a problem that needs a non-military solution.
I cannot stress this enough: in my opinion, for Ukraine to be absorbed into (or perhaps conquered by) Russia would be the worst possible outcome for Ukraine and its people. In saying this I’d like to stress one last time that I do not intend on downplaying or ignoring the problems with Ukraine. I already mentioned that the Azov Battalion is part of the Ukrainian armed forces, to say nothing of the fascists running around in Ukraine while not affiliated with the government, and this poses serious problems. The incorporation of the Azov Battalion along with other reactionary measures comprises what I suspect to be efforts by the Ukrainian government to appease dangerous elements that its leadership knows might threaten to overthrow the government, a possibility surely validated by the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych during the Ukrainian Revolution in 2014. There is also a concerning degree of authoritarianism in Ukraine, as Zelensky’s government is censoring opposition and members of Right Sector are slowly gaining government positions. But I tell you now, a Ukraine that is absorbed into Russia will be worse than the status quo!
We know already that the self-declared “people’s republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk are drastically more authoritarian and actually dictatorial than the Ukrainian government. Internet shutdowns are a feature of these governments, and so is the abduction and torture of journalists, threats against schools who refused to host polling stations for the militias, and beatings and tortures for anyone in these republics who dared to question pro-Russian talking points. We know that the separatist militias who establish these republics tend to commit gruesome war crimes against their enemies. We know that Crimea, under the rule of Russian authorities, has repressed and tortured leftists, including Marxists and anarchists, and justified these actions by claiming that they were “extremists”. This alone should already demonstrate the true nature of Russia’s false concern for fascism in Ukraine, and perhaps serve as a preview of the nature of Russian domination in the rest of Ukraine. Although communist symbols are banned in Ukraine, I think it’s fair to say leftists aren’t rounded up and tortured or executed by the Ukrainian government. Not limiting my analysis to Ukraine, we know that Chechnya, under the rule of Ramzan Kadyrov, sees political opponents get assassinated and gay people get rounded up and killed. If Ukraine is allowed to be absorbed by Russia, or established as a puppet state similar to Chechnya, then Ukraine will not be free of tyranny and fascism, and instead these will dominate and magnify in Ukraine under the thumb of Russian rule. I would expect that Ukrainians would no longer be able to vote for their leadership once subject to Russian rule, and the cruel repressions seen in Chechnya, Kazakhstan, and the “people’s republics” may be facts of life there. For those who are interested in peace and freedom just about anywhere, that cannot be allowed. Thus it is perhaps not for no reason that perhaps some Ukranians are prepared to take up arms against Russia.
If this is to be avoided without violence then the only way forward is for tensions to be alleviated or dispelled through diplomacy cultimating in a mutual non-agression pact. Necessary terms would include the disarming of pro-Russian separatist groups in Ukraine, a halt to Russian aggression in Ukraine, and guarantees that Russia not interfere with Ukranian sovereignty. Such terms would also ideally the restoration of Crimea to Ukraine, but I expect that Russia would never agree to it even in exchange for NATO withdrawing bases from Eastern Europe. I’m told that this is essentially what the Minsk agreement, as was being brokered by France and Germany, is supposed to be. A problem is that previous peace deals brokered over the war in Donbas had failed to stop fighting in the region and collapsed after two attempts. The point being, though, guarantees for the sovereignty of Ukraine have to be established between the West, Russia, and Ukraine as part of a peace process, and if it means NATO has to recede its bases in order for Russia to uphold said guarantees, all the better. But this is something that will have to be committed. Apathy can’t really be accepted in this situation. If Western countries recede and Ukraine doesn’t get those guarantees in place, then maybe it could be argued that Western imperialism has been thwarted in Ukraine, but this would happen only at the cost of Russian imperialism prevailing instead, with Russia using the opportunity to at least eventually take over Ukraine. Only a binding non-agression and non-interference agreement, made between all involved parties, can prevent a situation in which war is rendered inevitable. If this is not acheived, then there’s no telling what will happen with Ukraine. Ukraine will certainly seem forced to fight to prevent being absorbed into Russia, and maybe, with the help of European allies, they stand a chance of winning. But if Russia were to somehow succeed in invading Ukraine, then even if Russia fails to capture Kyiv, it would mean swathes of Ukrainian territory may fall into Russian hands and end up like Crimea.
To be anti-imperialist is to recognize imperialism as a global system. There is not simply the US-NATO alliance versus an axis of “anti-imperialist nations”. Imperialism is something that is participated across the world by developed capitalist hegemons and a competition of nation states that participate in a might makes right contest for dominance, political influence, and control over or access to global markets and resources. In understanding this, it makes no sense to take the side of Russia simply because it opposes the US-NATO alliance. Rather, if imperialism is a global system, then it can only be opposed as a global system, and anti-imperialism thus means opposing and seeking to dismantle the global mechanism of imperialism. The absorption of Ukraine into Russia simply means the victory of one imperialism against another, in addition to the triumph of murderous Russian fascism.
But, all that said, short of the dismantling of global imperialism, pretty much all we can do at this point is hope that talks between Russia, Ukraine, and the West don’t completely collapse and result in more imperialist war. And in the mean time, our solidarity is to be reserved neither for the Russian autocracy and its fascist-imperialist appendages nor for the Western imperialism of the US-NATO alliance, but instead for the Ukrainian socialist movements who oppose imperialism from both Russia and the West, for the people of Crimea whose land was stolen from them by Russia, for the people living in fear and oppression under the “people’s republics” in Donbas, and, of course, for the whole working class of both Ukraine and Russia, neither of whom benefit from the imperialist war in Ukraine.
Friday was host to the court outcome that both shocked everyone, and yet surprised no one. Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man who travelled from Illinois to Wisconsin to shoot and kill a couple of anti-police brutality protesters, was found not guilty on all charges, after a particularly farcical two-week long trial. Where even to begin with that one? There was video evidence of Kyle talking about killing people with an AR-15, which, if it made it court, would have shot down any suggestion of Kyle acting in self-defence. That’s probably why the judge barred the prosecution from presenting or even mentioning it. That decision itself seems almost predictable, at least when you learn that the judge was a MAGA ideologue himself, and this among other things made it seem really obvious that he was going to acquit Kyle Rittenhouse. By the end it seemed like the jury, largely handpicked by the defendant, were really doing the 12 Angry Men business judging by the delay, like they were trying to fight what we knew they were going to do anyway.
But, to be perfectly honest, the real point for me is the rammifications of all this. Everybody is talking about how Kyle’s acquittal is going to lead to a grim state of constant violence in which anyone with a gun can show up almost at anywhere at random can kill whoever they please under the pretext of vigilantism, at least so long as they’re sufficiently “patriotic” and shoot the right targets. If that’s going to be the case, that just means that violence against protesters, leftists, really anyone that opposes the system or some aspect thereof, will be attacked at whim and could be killed by terroristic reactionaries, and the legal system and along with polite society will help them evade justice. It’s easy to get blindsided by the fact that Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, but Derek Chauvin was one of only eight cops to be convicted of murder. The rest are not punished for their crime, and are instead protected by the system.
Think about what that means. What should be the response to this situation? People seeking long-term change for the system are going to face violence from either the police or from adventurist vigilantes for their stance. If that’s the case, at a certain point, they should learn to fight back, because it’s the only thing to do. If it’s going to be the case that in America you can just be killed by right-wing fanatics only for those same murderers defended in court, then those who seek justice should be prepared for a war of all against all, in which those who side with the camp of liberation and justice fight brutally against their oppressors. I say this because, quite frankly, that might be coming.
Some might argue that this is a problem for reasons of optics, that leftists shouldn’t arm themselves because any discipline problems would end up attracting media attention. Well, Kyle Rittenhouse certainly got a lot of media attention and condemnation for his “discipline problem”, and he ended up getting acquitted of all charges. Basically every cop who killed unarmed black people could be seen as trigger-happy, “lacking discipline”, and most of those cops are protected for it anyway. It does not matter that you care what the media thinks. They will see what you stand for, and more importantly, that you stand up for it, and they will have made up their minds from the start, as will have the authorities who never intended to yield anything to you, and who have only given you any concessions because you forced them to, through collective action.
I said last month that struggle is the most basic reality that matters in politics, and much of life. That’s why I’m not going to complain if people see the Rittenhouse verdict and decide to take matters into their own hands in defence of themselves, their freedom, and their communities. That is, if it is indeed true that the threat of violence against protesters is set to increase as reactionaries become emboldened by Rittenhouse’s declared innocence. I would hope that it’s all bluster at the end of it. And yet, if it were all spin, I suppose the downside of that would be that it means that people go back to sleep. Don’t forget that the life of politics is that of a system that is at war against life, both human and non-human, and will not hesitate to suppress whoever is on the opposite side of that war, or whoever expresses conscience against that war.
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