Satanic Panic and the Ukraine-Russia War

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.

There are more pro-Russian conspiracy theorist outside of this milieu. David Icke, the lizardman guy himself, seems to support Russian claims of territorial sovereignty over Ukraine by arguing that Ukraine was always part of Russia. Beyond this, it seems that Icke has been arguing that Ukraine was a pawn in American or global plots to destabilize Russia for years, presumably as part of a global conspiracy by Jewish Satanists who are also lizard people because that’s basically how David Icke conspiracies work. In Canada, there’s a restaurant in Ontario called The Leaky Tank which has gone viral for putting up a sign declaring that Russia is “de-Nazifying” Ukraine rather than occupying it and that Putin spoke out against the “Satan worshippers” supposedly behind the “Great Reset”.

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.

Russian media even sometimes promotes conspiracy theories about Covid-19. RT Deustch, the German branch of Russia’s flagship state propaganda channel Russia Today, is apparently the source of numerous German social media posts and articles alleging, among other things, that there is an unreported number of deaths caused by vaccines or that there are deadly coronarvirus experiments being carried out by the WHO. While RT Deutsch is now banned by the German government, it was one of the most popular news stations in Germany, and other Russian media outlets such as Sputnik and Pravda also enjoyed relative prominence in Germany. Tsargrad TV also ran programmes opposing the implementation of QR Codes (apparently equivalent to vaccine passports) by claiming that those who don’t have them will not be allowed to go to church and that the QR Codes constitute the mark of Satan, while arguing for prayer as the cure for Covid-19.

There is also a definite connection between Western right-wing conspiracy theorists and Russian media. David Lawrence Booth, a conspiracy theorist writing under the nom-de-plume Sorcha Faal (an alter ego usually presented as a female Russian scientist), disseminated numerous conspiracy theories of all kinds through WhatDoesItMean.com, including stories based on or adapted from Russian intelligence reports, sometimes conspiracy theories from the website end up becoming news stories on Russian media outlets such as Svobodnaya Pressa and Izvestia, and Russian troll operations connected to the Internet Research Agency boost his work. Charles Bausman, an American expat living in Russia who founded an anti-semitic pro-Kremlin news outlet called Russia Insider, was also involved in the right-wing insurrection attempt at Capitol Hill that took place on January 6th 2021, and has also appeared on Tsargrad TV. Tsargrad TV was launched with the help of Matt Hanick, a former Fox News producer, Fox News of course being arguably the biggest disseminator of conspiracy theories within US legacy media. Alex Jones has appeared on Russia Today as a guest and interviewee on multiple separate occasions; once in 2008 (here he was referred to as an “investigative reporter”), again in 2009, again in 2010, once more in 2011, again in 2012 in an interview with Abby Martin, and many more occasions. In turn, Alex Jones also hosted an interview with Aleksandr Dugin on InfoWars in 2017. Alex Jones also seems to have appeared on Max Keiser’s show on Russia Today on numerous occasions, and Max Keiser in turn has made guest appearances on InfoWars. In 2018 it was revealed that Alex Jones was interviewed by Kristine Frazao, a Russia Today journalist who would go on to join the growing Sinclair media empire. Alex Jones has also reproduced over 1,000 news articles from Russia Today, and many more from Sputnik along with several other news outlets, without their permission, according to data compiled by BuzzSumo. In 2016 Alex Jones has also appeared on Tsargrad TV with Aleksandr Dugin to discuss Donald Trump.

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.

On top of that, Russia Today hosts sometimes join in on the conspiracy-mongering themselves. Peter Lavelle, the host of CrossTalk, claimed in 2014 that Ukraine was responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Abby Martin, who was a host at Russia Today until 2014, used her platform on Russia Today to argue that the 9/11 attacks were an inside job and defend proponents of the 9/11 truther movement that she was a part of. Abby Martin, in her capacity as an RT host, also tried to present the Bundy standofff as the next Waco massacre. Adam Kokesh, a right-wing libertarian activist, briefly had a show on RT America called Adam vs The Man in which he ran conspiracy theories about the Bilderberg Group, the FDA, and other subjects. Max Keiser, the host of Russia Today’s Keiser Report, repeatedly asserted before the invasion of Ukraine that the Ukraine-Russia war was a hoax created by CNN, and is otherwise known for promoting many conspiracy theories about the global finacial system, such as that the Euro currency was set up to fail so that Germany could establish a “Fourth Reich”. One of Russia Today’s most prolific reporters is an American journalist named Caleb Maupin, who is also most certifiably what I would describe as a “left-fascist”. Caleb Maupin has written numerous books in which he promotes anti-semitic conspiracy theories surrounding Israel, Ayn Rand, and various left-wing political commentators on YouTube, and uncritically promotes other virulent conspiracy theorists such as the neofascist named Haz as well as transphobic conspiracist talking points of CPGB-ML vice-chairperson Joti Brar.

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.

The Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Kremlin, Moscow; Russian Orthodox Christianity might be on the front lines of the conspiracy war that has been waged by Russia for years

War in Ukraine?

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.

The Luhansk People’s Republic is supported by National Bolshevik militias, including Interbrigades from the Other Russia party as well as the Prizrak Brigade, whose former leader Aleksey Mozgovoy was also a Russian Imperial Movement commander, an anti-semite who believed that Ukraine is ruled by “miserable Jews”, and such an authoritarian extreme misogynist that he would ban women from entering cafes – this was after he ordered the execution of a man suspected of rape. He was incidentally hailed by the Morning Star newspaper as an anti-fascist hero in a now-deleted web article, and after his death anti-semites claimed that he was killed by Jews as some kind of sacrifice. Igor Plotnitski, the leader of the Luhansk People’s Republic, is a viciously reactionary anti-semite who believes the Ukranian government is controlled by Jews and accuses Jewish people of being responsible for the Ukranian Revolution which overthrew Vladmir Yanukovych. Another notorious though now-defunct pro-Russian militia was Rusich, a neo-Nazi organization run by Alexei Milchakov, a sadistic fascist thug who is literally the kind of evil bastard that would kill and torture puppies, and whose followers practiced torture and committed war crimes and ranted about how they believe Hitler didn’t kill enough Jews. A Russian mercenary outfit known as the Wagner Group seem to be neo-Nazis, on top of being known for committing war crimes against and human rights abuses esepcially against Muslims, and was founded by a man named Dmitry Utkin, a Russian former special forces lieutenant who admired Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany to the point of naming his unit after Richard Wagner, who was Hitler’s favorite composer. Into the present day, Milchakov doesn’t seem to regret his time in Luhansk. Russia also enlisted members of far-right and even neo-Nazi parties across Europe to act as election observers during the Crimean referendum, along with even some pro-Russian leftist politicians, and invited members of Jobbik to visit Crimea after its annexation. Jobbik also appparently invoked anti-semitism in its argument for why it decided to abandon its support for the Svoboda party in Ukraine in favour of supporting Russia. And finally, we cannot forget that the main media outlet taking the side of the Russian government on Crimea is a fascist news outlet called Russia Today, which manufactures consent for Russia’s actions in Ukraine through propaganda and censors criticism of Putin’s actions.

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.

Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk; image from Vox

Nazism is not, and never was, Pagan

You are all probably all too familiar with the creeping presence of esoteric fascism and folkism within alternative religious communities and subcultures, and how frequently this is used by outsiders to attack our validity. You probably also have some idea about the problem of NSBM in the black metal scene, and if you’ve been reading this blog lately it’s a problem I’ve been giving a lot of focus to in recent years. Our communities have a great need to fight this problem, and to do so, we must challenge a very pernicious myth about the Nazis: namely, the myth that the Nazis were anti-Christian Pagans. It seems to me that this myth is at the root of the phenomenon of certain esoteric Nazi or fascist enterprises as well as the spread of neo-Nazi folkist Paganism and the idea of NSBM. To give an example of what I mean, remember that there are Nazi black metal musicians, such as Anthony Mignoni from the band Seigneur Voland, who praised Adolf Hitler for his supposed “will to found a neo-pagan empire in Europe”. And do I really have to say anything about Varg Vikernes alone? What I’m trying to say is that a lot of all this comes from a residual mythology that casts the Nazis as Pagans looking to overturn the Christian world order, and this mythology serves as a way for Nazis to try and exploit certain themes within Paganism, occultism, and the Left Hand Path for their own purposes. But, as you will see, the whole idea that the Nazis were esoteric Pagans is a lie.

If there is one thing that I think dispels the idea of Nazism being Pagan more than anything else, it would probably be the opinion of none other than Adolf Hitler on the subject of Pagan revivals. It is popularly claimed that Hitler extolled the value of Christianity in public, while also denouncing Christianity as a religion based on weakness even as he praised Jesus as some sort of honorary Aryan, and that the Nazis were some sort of almost uniquely anti-Christian powerhouse (I say “almost uniquely”, given that the other 20th century anti-Christian powerhouse commonly referred to is the Soviet Union). The presence of volkisch ideology and the pretences to Germanic paganism within the Third Reich, combined with Hitler’s supposed disdain for both Christianity and atheism, has led some to believe that he was some sort of avatar for the revival of Paganism, as has been the contention of Christian intellectuals and commentators. Carl Jung’s essay on “Wotan” as an archetype of wild ethno-nationalist frenzy and irrationalism has been influential in generating a supposed link between Germanic neopaganism and Nazism, and meanwhile a whole generation of pretentious Christian intellectuals have further poisoned the well with their own nonsensical pronouncements on the subject. But what did Hitler actually think of Paganism of any sort, and what was the actual religious alignment of Nazism as a whole?

In his Table Talks, Hitler described the re-establishment of the worship of pre-Christian Germanic deities as “foolish” and said that the old pre-Christian mythology “ceased to be viable when Christianity implanted itself”. In other words, Hitler considered Christianity to be superior to Paganism, which is on its own all the confirmation you need at least that Hitler wasn’t a Pagan. But, there’s more. In Hitler: Memoirs of a Confident, which was published by Otto Wagener in 1985, Wagener recounted that Hans Schemm, an esteemed Nazi educator and Gauleiter (regional leader), expressed his frustration at people who espoused “a lot of nonsense talked about blond men, about the Nordic race, about the cult of Wotan and the spirit of the Edda”, likely referring to certain neopagan elements of the Nazis, accused them of creating inferiority complexes and inspiring hatred among non-blond Germans and from there promoting division between Germanic and non-Germanic peoples (the irony of this coming from a Nazi officer has to have been lost on both Schemm and Hitler). Hitler interrupted by saying that he expressly and repeatedly forbade expressions of neopaganism within the NSDAP, mocking what he dubbed “All that rubbish about the Thing places, the solstice festivals, the Midgard snake, and all the rest of the rubbish they dredge up from the German prehistory!”. After this, Schemm further denounced the “solstice festivals” he heard about as being propagandistic rather than atavistic and jeopardizing the “Volk community”, Hitler then agreed and asserted that “We Germans in particular must avoid anything that works to create even more divisiveness”. Wagener recounted that he feared that the “Old Germanic Festivals” were increasingly reshaping the mission of the Hitler Youth somehow. Hitler apparently also stated that he had no issue with Christmas, instead objecting to the association of Christmas with pre-Christian nature worship, and asserted that he did not want to rob the Christian church of its holy day, though he then ultimately told his advisors not to worry about the festivals, claiming that he thought that whatever brought the Hilter Youth closer to “the godhead” was good and that whatever separated them from it, “even if it was a Catholic priest”, was bad.

Keep in mind that Schemm was very much a Christian, and in fact his notable slogan was “Our religion is Christ, our politics Fatherland!”, clearly suggesting his belief that Nazism was a Christian ideology. If Hitler and the NSDAP were such militant neopagans that would exclude or even liquidate Christianity from their Third Reich, Hans Schemm would probably not have the official status he did within the NSDAP. Instead, in reality, the Nazis honored Schemm after his death in 1935 by naming entire schools and streets after him, and he was evidently important enough for the Nazis that Hitler personally ordered a surgeon to fly to Bayreuth in an attempt to save him from the injuries that Schemm received in the plane crash that killed him. As it turns out, for a supposed anti-Christian, Hitler seemed to value certain Christian officers while ridiculing his more “neopagan” subordinates.

The Nazis are fairly notorious for their seeming and widely mythologized interest in the occult, even despite the fact that the Nazis, when they entered power, criminalized even volkisch mystic organizations. The reputation of the Nazis as occult obsessives can be traced in large part to Heinrich Himmler, the Waffen SS commander who was known for an interest in esotericism and self-declared non-Christian status. Himmler, however, was not much of a Pagan, if it could even be said that he was a Pagan at all. He had an interest in incorporating solstice celebrations into the SS, but this same SS was modelled on the Society of Jesus, otherwise known as the Jesuits, which tells me that he was simply layering ostensible Pagan custom onto what was ultimately an organization inspired by Christianity. Apparently he sought to challenge the customs of Christianity on the grounds of his own synthetic occult belief system, but there is no evidence that he ever worshipped any pre-Christian gods or that he was a polytheist, animist, nature-worshipper, or anything usually defined as part of the spectrum of Pagan religiosity. Himmler was quite explicit in saying that being in the SS means to believe in “a God Almighty who stands above us” and accepting the doctrine that God created the earth, the “Fatherland”, and its “volk”, and that he sent Adolf Hitler to earth, and further insisted that anyone who did not believe in God was unsuitable for SS membership and should be considered “arrogant, megalomaniacal, and stupid”, all of which is more consistent with a very volkisch interpretation of Christianity than any concept of Paganism. Himmler may have formally left Christianity or at least the Christian church, but he still believed in some religious premises that were rather close to Christian doctrine. If we are to take his apparent non-Christian status seriously, you could say he ascribed to a kind of Latent Christianity.

Some within the SS seem to have sought after the existence of a “true Christianity”, which they believed to have originated in Atlantis, which they believe was inhabited by “Aryans” who practiced monotheism. Himmler is also known for establishing the Ahnenerbe, a branch of the SS dedicated to exploring parts of the world in search of esoteric secrets that would “prove” the superiority and lineage of the “Aryan race”. But Hitler himself had no interest in these expeditions, and if anything he mocked them, lamenting that under Himmler’s watch “we might as well have just stayed in the Church”. In fact, for a German volkisch nationalist, Hitler really didn’t seem to appreciate Germany’s past. He denounced ancient Germans for “living in mud huts” while their Roman counterparts were “erecting great buildings”, and derided Himmler for apparently digging up ancient Germanic villages to reveal a past that Hitler considered embarrassing because he considered it inferior to Greece and Rome, who he thought had “already reached the highest stage of culture”.

Furthermore, the supposedly “Pagan” National Socialists declared from the beginning that they saw themselves as a Christian movement and not a Pagan one. In the NSDAP Party Program of 1920, the Nazis emphatically stated in Point 24 that their party represented “positive Christianity”, while of course claiming to demand freedom for all religious confessions; at least, so long as they “do not endanger its [the state’s] existence of conflict with the customs and moral sentiments of the Germanic race”. The Nazis chose “positive Christianity”, effectively a volkisch interpretation of Christianity, as a representative of the “customs and moral sentiments of the Germanic race” (Germans at that time consisted mostly of Christians), and as a vehicle through which to oppose “Jewish materialism”. “Positive Christianity” can be thought of as a highly revisionist form of Christianity (which, don’t get confused, is still a form of Christianity; we’re not doing the “No True Christians” fallacy here) meant to present a “true” or more authentically “Aryan” form of Christianity. This meant removing any trace of Jewish influence, including much of the Old Testament, from Christianity, recasting Jesus Christ as an “Aryan” warrior instead of King of the Jews, and reframing the Christian conception of the struggle of Good versus Evil as a struggle being “Aryan” light and “Semitic” darkness, thus pitting Germans and Jews against each other in a racialist holy war. Many Christians in Germany, far from being repelled by Nazism, actually embraced Nazism and its “Positive Christianity” as an affirmation of Christian values against secular uncertainty, and although some churches opposed Nazism (these were grouped together as the “Confessing Church”) and faced persecution because of it, many other churches, clergymen, and ordinary Christians remained complicit with the Nazi regime, and after the fall of Nazi Germany, Christianity in Germany struggled with the silence they demonstrated during this period.

Several Nazis held to the idea of “Positive Christianity” in some form. Artur Dinter, the Gauleiter of Gau Thuringia, formed a religious organization called the “Spiritual Christian Religion Community” (later renamed the “German People’s Church”) in 1927, which sought to divest Christianity of its Jewish influences and establish National Socialism as an expressly religious movement dedicated to Christianity. Dinter and Hilter did oppose each other, but this is because Dinter’s goals conflicted with Hitler’s own plans to present the NSDAP as neutral on religion. Dinter did not believe that Jesus was a mere political centerfold, rather he indeed believed in the doctrine of Jesus as the only incarnated spirit who never “misused his free will to sin”. He also opposed the Old Testament because it was “too materialistic”, and believed that its expurgation would reveal the “true” teachings of Jesus. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi arch-propagandist, was also a religious Christian. Goebbels believed that the idealized “struggle” against Jews upheld by Nazism was also a struggle between God and the Devil, he considered God to be on the side of Adolf Hitler, he believed that God was absolute and that nothing existed outside of God, he loved the New Testament and read the Sermon of the Mount every evening, and he even believed himself to have conversed with Jesus Christ. True, he did have anti-clericalist tendencies, but this is only to the extent that he thought Christianity was in need of renewal and that its churches and “false priests” have failed. Dietrich Klagges, a prominent Nazi educator and friend of Goebbels, emphasized the divinity of Jesus and wrote a whole book expounding what he believed to be the meaning of the Gospel. Walter Buch, one of the most powerful officials in the Nazi Party, likened the aims of Nazism to the struggle of Jesus, and upheld Point 24 of the 1920 NSDAP Party Program as “the cornerstone of our thinking”, thus he seemed to affirm Positive Christianity as the core religious ideology of Nazism.

Adolf Hitler himself can ultimately be characterized as a volkisch Christian, despite all common assertion to the contrary. For one thing, Hitler believed in Jesus Christ, just that he believed Jesus was an “Aryan” instead of Jewish. Indeed, Hitler proclaimed Jesus to be “the true God” and “our greatest Aryan leader”, and declared that the “true message of Christianity” could only be found in Nazism. For another thing, Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that it was the duty of the “folkish-minded man” to fulfill “God’s will” and not let it be desecrated, on the grounds that it “gave men their form, their essence and their abilities”, and he proclaimed that anyone who “destroys His work” is “declaring war” on God’s will and creation. Hitler also referenced the myth of the Garden of Eden by stating that “Whoever would dare to raise a profane hand against that highest image of God among His creatures would sin against the bountiful Creator of this marvel and would collaborate in the expulsion from Paradise”. He believed that Jews were “alien” to “true Christianity” because of their supposed materialism, and considered violence against Jewish people to be “fighting for the work of the Lord”. In 1919, Hitler wrote an unpublished tract in which he advocated for the “purification of the Bible”, that is to say the expunging of the Old Testament from the Bible, which was not only a cornerstone of revisionist Nazi Christianity but also an idea held by nationalist and volkisch Protestant theologians such as Adolf van Harnack before the NSDAP was even born.

Thus, Hitler, like many of the rest of his Nazi compatriots, was a volkisch Christian, one who believed in a “true” Christianity that he thought was obfuscated by the Old Testament, and thus wanted to get rid of everything about Christianity that he thought was too Jewish to represent the teachings of Jesus. And let’s make no bones about it, it’s an absurdly revisionist take on Christianity, it almost certainly seems heretical when put next to the more mainstream forms of Christianity, and its premises stem less from scripture and more from the racist volkisch mysticism that sprung up in Germany in the 19th and early 20th century, but it was nonetheless a form of Christianity, and particularly a representation of volkisch, nationalist Protestanism. It has often been claimed that Hitler was an atheist, but this is without basis as has already been discussed. He may certainly have thought of himself as anti-mystical and anti-clericalist, but when you consider that he believed himself to be an exponent of “true Christianity”, that is to say an “authentic” and “Aryan” Christianity not represented by the churches, then his opposition to the Church could be seen to have more or less the same basis as Goebbels’ Christian anti-clericalism. Hitler hated the Catholic Church, for instance, because of what he believed to be its “elaborate Jewish rites”, suggesting his belief that Roman Catholicism was a Jewish revision of Christianity.

There’s nothing about any of this that could be classed as “Pagan” except from the standpoint of Christians who will deem anything they don’t like to be “Pagan”, and none of it is without precedent in Christianity. For starters, the idea of Roman Catholicism as a “Jewish” religion is lifted straight from Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who claimed that the Roman Catholic Church preached a “Judaized” form of Christianity that had no resemblance to the supposed “true Christianity”, which he believed was established by an “Aryan” Jesus Christ, and that the Catholic Church did this as part of a conspiracy to destroy the “Aryan race”. Hardly a Pagan thing to long for the re-establishment of “True Christianity”. There’s also a very ancient precedent that to the Nazi enterprise of “de-Judaizing” Christianity in Marcion, a Christian who argued that the God of the Old Testament was actually an evil and false deity whose punitive nature stood opposed to the “true” God of the New Testament who represented love. And of course, it is impossible to overlook the influence of Martin Luther, the anti-semitic father of the Protestant Reformation, in shaping Nazi ideology. In fact, the Nazis themselves took Luther’s infamous tract On The Jews And Their Lies and displayed it prominently wherever they could, and repeatedly expressed their affinity for Luther’s anti-semitism, even comparing Hitler himself to Luther and hoping to “witness his [Luther’s] reappearance”. So what we get in terms of the religious underpinnings of Nazism is, in all reality, a form of Protestant Christianity that carries on the basic premise of Marcionite Christianity while recodyifing that in terms of struggle between two races as opposed to dualism between two versions of God, and all filtered through the revisionist volkisch ideology that was contemporary to the Nazi movement.

There’s also the matter of Hitler’s beliefs concerning the afterlife. Hitler apparently rejected Hell, denounced it as a barbaric doctrine, and instead subscribed to an annihilationist perspective in which those who would be damned to Hell would instead simply fade into oblivion. But this annihilationism is not some “Pagan” idea, and in fact it is a development of Christian theology whose supporters base their claims on Biblical scripture, and it is not without supporters among modern Christians. Moreover, annihilationism itself seems to go all the way back to early church fathers such as Tertullian. Meanwhile, Hitler does appear to have believed in some concept of Heaven, and at least nowhere in Mein Kampf or anywhere else do we see any sign of Hitler rejecting the idea of a heavenly afterlife. There also doesn’t seem to be any major evidence that Hitler rejected the belief in an immortal soul, despite what certain historians appear to have thought.

It is popularly assumed that Hitler actually hated Christianity behind closed doors, and that he wanted people to choose between being German and being Christian on the grounds that he supposedly thought they could not be both. The problem with this should be obvious. If Hitler seriously thought that you had to choose between being German and being Christian, while favouring the former over the latter, he would have at least required members of his Nazi Party to renounce Christianity before becoming members. But this is clearly not the case, as many Nazi officers, including the most powerful, were expressly religious (albeit volkisch) Christians. Moreover, Hitler would have to have required all of Germany’s Christian population to renounce Christianity in order to prove their loyalty to the German state. But this doesn’t seem to have happened either. And Hitler, as the one man who had the absolute power override all decisions and impose his own without objection, could conceivably have turned Germany into either a volkisch neopagan state or a state atheist regime (like the Soviet Union and other Marxist-Leninist countries) through sheer imposition of his dictatorial will via the Fuhrerprinzip alone. But the only Christian churches Hitler persecuted were those who publicly criticized Hitler and refused to comply with the Nazi state. Every other chruch was allowed to exist through their complicity with the Nazi state, and the majority of Nazi German citizens were some form of Christian, suggesting that the Nazi state did not seek to eradicate Christianity and replace it with some form of “Paganism”, since otherwise the Nazis would have just ordered the mass deconversion of Germany’s Christian population. The one source for the claim that Hitler was privately anti-Christian is Hitler Speaks by Hermann Rauschning, which is considered dubious scholarship and even outright fraudulent, and its author, while claiming to have had several meetings and coversations with Hitler, was only ever a Nazi Party member for two years (from 1932 to 1934) and his sole importance to the party was as administrator of the Free City of Danzig. Being a conservative reactionary, Rauschning’s primary objection to Nazism was that he believed it was a “nihilist” and anti-Christian revolution that supposedly destroyed all traditions and ceased to be nationalist, and argued for the restoration of the German monarchy as the sole alternative to Nazism.

But in any case, Hitler Speaks is not considered to be an accurate account of Hitler’s views and words. Rauschning also seems to be cited in arguments that Hitler was possessed by demons and that this explained his evil actions, so….make of that what you will! And so, it is best to reject the claim that Hitler privately hated Christianity as a concoction of Christian conservatives seeking to assert the moral inscrutability of Christianity. Furthermore, Hitler expressly denounced any enterprises that harkened back to Germany’s pre-Christian past in Mein Kampf, where he described neopagans as “the greatest cowards that can be imagined”, mocked any ideas of “old Germanic heroism” as well the “dim pre-history” of the Germanic peoples, and accused neopagans of running away from “every Communist blackjack” while preaching struggle at the same time. So Hitler was pro-Christian, albeit in a very revisionist way, and anti-Pagan.

There is one important detail we should note, however. Hitler seems to have insisted that the Nazi Party, as a political apparatus, should not specifically be a formal religious movement, This meant Hitler sometimes conflicted even with devout Christians in his movement, such as Artur Dinter, since they wanted the Party to be a more avowedly religious movement. It is easy to come away thinking that Hitler meant his movement to be an entirely secular one because of this, but since the NSDAP Party Program explicitly stated a commitment to “Positive Christianity”, this is likely not the case. And besides, the Republican Party in the United States of America is not, in the strict sense, a religious movement in the sense that Artur Dinter would have wanted the NSDAP to be, yet it clearly operates along the lines of religious politics, in that it premises its political ideology on the perceived rightful governance of America by a Christian moral order. In fact, the whole concept of opposing certain churches because of their “foreign” character is not unfamiliar to right-wing opposition to certain sects or religions on the grounds of their “foreign” nature in the present as is found in modern Christian nationalist movements.

The supposedly “Pagan” Nazi Germany also seems to have venerated the Christian Frankish king Charlemagne, who destroyed the sacred Irminsul and massacred thousands of Saxons in Verden as part of his campaign to make the Saxons convert to Christianity. Curiously enough, there has been division about Charlemagne within the pre-Nazi volkisch movement and even among Nazis, but Charlemagne was celebrated by the Nazi German state in the form of a huge commemoration event in 1942 to mark the 1,200th anniversary of the birth of Charlemagne. There was also a whole unit of the SS that was named after Charlemagne to honour him as a “pan-European Germanic hero”. Alfred Rosenberg opposed the veneration of Charlemange, and argued that his Saxon enemy Widukind should be honored instead of Charlemagne, but he was privately told by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels to cease his public condemnations of Charlemagne, suggesting that the Nazi leadership favored the Christian king. Of course, from Goebbels’ standpoint, it was all to remain in alignment with popular opinion, which of course favored Charlemagne. This isn’t a surprise when you understand that the majority of the population of Nazi Germany self-identified as Christians, and particularly favoured Protestant Christianity. There’s no record of anyone in Nazi Germany outside maybe a handful of Nazi officers ever supporting or practicing any form of Paganism. Furthermore, it seems that the time of the Weimar Republic was seen by many German Christians of the time as a direct assault on God’s order, due to the secularism of the Weimar government and its attendant, or at least relative, de-privileging of Protestant Christian imperatives. This sense, combined with the “war theology” embraced by nationalistic Protestant theologians, which saw God favoring Germany in an interventionist quest to “liberate humanity from materialism” and establish his order, did not require much effort to transform into a theological imperative for “Aryan Christianity” to triumph against “Jewish materialism”.

On Alfred Rosenburg, we should note that it is true that he opposed Christianity, but for an apparent supporter of “Paganism”, his actual beliefs don’t seem all that “Pagan”. He believed in a monotheistic God who created mankind and divided its constituents into a hierarchy of separated races and imbued the “Germanic Nordic Aryan” with a unique soul corresponding with the Platonic ideal of humanity. He seemingly did call for the abolition of Christianity in the sense that he wanted Nazi Germany to replace all crosses with swastikas, the Bible with Mein Kampf (which, as I’ve established before, was not a non-Christian book), and the dominon of the National Reich Church of Germany over all churches, and he did call for a “new religion of the blood”. And yet he still denounced Jews specifically for their hatred of Jews and identified them with the Antichrist. In many ways Rosenberg’s views on Jesus and Christianity were not so different from Hitler’s. He believed that Jesus was the true god of the Europeans, rejected all notion that Jesus was Jewish, and argued for the replacement of mainstream Christianity, which he deemed both false and outdated, with “Positive Christianity”. He viewed Jesus as a superhuman mediator between mankind and God and as the biggest “storm” against “Jewish nature”. At no point is Rosenberg shown to refer to multiple pre-Christian gods, or make reference to any individual pre-Christian gods, except for when he is referring to the Norse god Odin as an example of a Christian quest for the kingdom of heaven within as referred to by Jesus. At his most “anti-Christian”, Rosenberg was actually more specifically anti-Catholic in practice, and meanwhile he praised the Christianity advocated by Marcion, who argued that the God of the Old Testament was the false God and the God of the New Testament was the true God. He may have opposed the veneration of Charlemagne, but this alone is not sufficient evidence that he was a “Pagan”, and in his light even his desire to replace the symbols and text of Christianity can be seen in keeping with the contention that these were symbols of an old and “false” Christianity to be replaced by a new and “true” Christianity.

If you were a Pagan or a believer in some other alternative religion and you lived in Nazi Germany, you would probably have been prosecuted by the Nazi state, and then probably thrown into a concentration camp like what happened to Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses there. Although some Nazi officers were allowed to hold some ostensibly non-Christian views, practicing occultism or pursuing occult interests outside of the SS was not permitted. Friedrich Bernhard Marby, a German occultist who sought the revival of pre-Christian Germanic religion, was arrested by the Nazis for being an unauthorised occultist whose ideas “brought the holy Aryan heritage into disrepute and ridicule”. His colleague, Siegfried Adolf Kummer, was arrested for the same reason. From there Marby apparently spent eight years in concentration camps until his release in April 1945, while Kummer’s fate is still a mystery. Erich Ludendorff’s Tannenbergbund, a volkisch nationalist organisation which expected its members to abandon Christianity in favour of a volkisch brand of Nordic polytheism, was banned by the Nazi government in 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler took power. It’s not clear why the Tannenbergbund was banned, but I think it might have had something to do with Ludendorff having fallen out of favour with the Nazi establishment after previously having helped the Nazi Party rise to prominence. Ludendorff’s wife, Mathilde von Kemnitz, attempted to insert a new anti-Christian religion that involved polytheism and nature worship into the Nazi movement, but her efforts were rejected by Hitler, who thought she was delusional. Ludwig Klages, a philosopher who espoused his own unique and rather abstract form of Romantic neopaganism, was disliked by the Nazis and denounced by the Nazi press due to his denunciations of National Socialism, and in 1938 his writings were banned by the so-called “neopagan” Alfred Rosenberg on the grounds that they were too “hedonist” for him. The Germanic Faith Community, a Germanic Pagan revival group founded by the artist Ludwig Fahrenkrog, faced several restrictions to their freedoms when the Nazis took power; they were no longer allowed to hold public meetings, they were barred from using a swastika as their symbol, since this had now become the official symbol of the Nazi Party, and in 1934 Fahrenkrog’s paintings were forbidden from exhibition by the Ministry of Propaganda.

A major exception to this trend, of course, was the volkisch neopagan German Faith Movement, but while it did seemingly advocate for the return of polytheism and purported pre-Christian rituals, it also apparently included a syncretism of Christian rituals as well alongside non-Christian counterparts. Its founder, Jakob Hauer, hoped that his own particular brand of Hinduism-inspired occult volkisch neopaganism would be adopted as the official religion of Nazi Germany. But this never happened, and in 1936 Hauer left the movement and abdicated its leadership, though he did become a member of the NSDAP the following year. Otto Sigfrid Reuter, as an NSDAP member and volkisch ideologue honored by Nazi academic institutions, would also be an exception to the trend of neopagans being persecuted or ignored by the Nazi state. Little is known about the Indepedent Free Church, founded by Friedrich Hielscher to express a more or less polytheistic belief system built around a belief in both God and the pre-Christian Germanic gods, though it seemed to continue existing. That said, Hielscher and other Independent Free Church members, along with his church itself, were involved in the underground anti-Nazi resistance movement, for which Hielscher was arrested by the Nazis in 1944.

Turning away from the subject of Paganism in strict terms, we should note that several occult organisations were suppressed under Nazi rule. Fraternitas Saturni, the Luciferian magical order that broke away from Ordo Templi Orientis, was banned by the Nazi government in 1936, and its leader Eugen Grosche was arrested and bound for a concentration camp, before an apparently sympathetic officer helped him get released and get out of Germany. Ordo Templi Orientis itself was banned by the Nazi government, and so were Aleister Crowley’s books and the religion of Thelema as a whole. Karl Germer, who was the head of the OTO, was arrested by the Gestapo on Hitler’s orders in 1935 and was sent to the Esterwegen concentration camp, but was temporarily released later that year upon his case of blood purity being put before Nazi authorities. Ernst Schertel, an occult philosopher and sexual liberation activist notable for his book Magic: History, Theory and Practice, although he apparently did send a copy of his book to Adolf Hitler, was himself arrested by the Nazis, imprisoned for seven months, and had his doctoral degree revoked. Other occultists, even racialist ones, had been banned, apparently as early as 1934, and it is alleged that the occultist Franz Bardon was interned in a concentration camp by the Nazis for three months in 1945. Many forms of magic and alternative spirtual practice, such as witchcraft, astrology, fortune telling, and spiritual healing were all banned by the Nazi government, while Freemasonry in particular was viciously persecuted by the Nazis who thought that they were allies of a Jewish conspiracy against Germany.

Sometimes it’s claimed that Schertel in particular represented a direct link between Hitler and the occult, and thereby establishing the occult and even supposedly “Satanic” heritage of Nazism, based on the fact that Hitler apparently annotated his copy of Magic: History, Theory and Practice. But having examined the book, or at least the annotations, in light of the wider history of Nazism and its broad Positive Christian agenda, I honestly don’t see much reason to assume that the annotations meant anything for the ideological substance of Nazism. The sole annotation mentioned by Timothy Ryback, the author of Hitler’s Private Library, was “He who does not have the demonic seed within himself will never give birth to a magical world”. There is also no clear idea of how it connects back to the ideological formation and political practice of Nazism, nor can we determine the extent to which Hitler was actually interested in the ideas contained within Schertel’s book. Given that Hitler banned several occult groups and the practice of magic (except for certain Nazi officers like Heinrich Himmler), and that the Nazis arrested Schertel himself, it’s highly unlikely that Hitler gained any real respect for occultism as a result of reading Schertel’s book, and it seems obvious to me that Hitler likely treated the book as merely a piece of curiosity. If Hitler did derive anything substantial from it, it’s not clear what, and perhaps we may never actually know if the book was ever really influential at all. Though, even if it was, it was surely not nearly as infuential on Hitler as the prevailing volkisch Protestant ideology of his day. And to be quite honest, anyone who thinks that Hitler was some sort of esoteric Satanist is operating in complete ignorance of what Nazism stood for and who the Nazis were.

And of course, atheists and secularists were also criminalized by the Nazi government. In 1933, the Nazi government banned all “freethinking” and atheist organisations. One of these was the German Freethinkers League, a forum for atheists and materialist thinkers which was shut down in 1933, on Hitler’s orders and on the demands of Christians within Nazi Germany. Hitler also opposed secular schools on the grounds that all moral instruction had to emerge from religious faith (which, in practice, meant Hitler’s revisionist Christian faith). This is rather strange for a supposed atheist, as Christians often claim Hitler was, to do.

All of this paints a rather clear picture of the reality of the religious identity of the Nazi movement and the Nazi state. Although certain people of various stripes, ranging from Christians to certain anti-Christian neo-Nazis, want to believe that Hitler was this great rupture of anti-Christian revolution in the midst of Christian Europe, this is a myth that has no bearing on reality, and not only that it seems to actively distort and misconstrue reality in service of its own pre-determined conclusion of history. The actual reality of Nazism is that it was a movement that sought to construct its totalitarian state along the lines of a religious volkisch ideology whose prerogatives constituted the realization of the “true” Christianity. In essence, this was a revisitionist Christian project which saw itself as simultaneously restoring and renewing Christianity, simultaneously creating a new Christianity for a new era and restoring the “true” substance of the teaching and cultus of Jesus, by purging anything about Christianity that they felt was too Jewish or too materialist for them. The ultimate religious goals of Nazism consisted of bringing all German Christians into a single new Christian church in line with the new volkisch ideology, waging total holy war with Jews and Communists who they believed to be the forces of the Antichrist come to wage war with God, and in realizing the “true Christianity” that was supposedly contained in their volkisch interpretation of Christianity, by recreating the Bible and the major edifices of Christianity in the image of what they believed to be this “true Christianity”; even if, in practice, this could just as easily be said to be their own image. Insofar as they attacked Christianity, beyond the broader rammifications of their volkisch revisionism constituting a severe heresy against the Christian church, the Nazis preferred simply to attack the “Confessing Churches” who opposed them, while content with the other churches who complied with or supported them. And while Christianity was more or less still instituted and supported within Nazi Germany, we know that Paganism, atheism, occultism, and alternative religious/spiritual beliefs were attacked and often banned or persecuted by the Nazi government.

Take stock of what that means, as it is all too relevant for those in alternative subcultures, occultism, neopaganism, and Satanism and the like who seem willing enough to embrace some form of neo-Nazism. They are only rehashing the same fantasy that Heinrich Himmler had back in his day, when he thought that he might some day replace Adolf Hitler as Fuhrer and perhaps steer Nazi Germany away from Christianity. Now, just as then, this is an illusion. If the Third Reich were to be restored tomorrow, or if a new neo-Nazi regime were to be established, then they would be persecuting “degenerate art” as well as all expression of alternative religion and belief just as before. If you’re a metalhead (including a black metal enthusiast), a goth, a punk, even a skinhead, an occultist, a mystic, a Pagan, a Satanist, or anything like that, no matter how racialist you are, then a new Nazi government would curtail your freedom, imprison you, and/or throw you straight into one of their concentration camps alongside Jews, other non-white/non-“Aryan” people, LGBT people, the disabled, and political dissidents. It’s not for nothing that many neo-Nazi movements are still their own brand of Christian as opposed to being neopagans. If you support Nazism in any way, all that means is you’re selling who you are and your own kind to a Christian fascist agenda in the name of your own meaningless hatred against certain people. Whether you’re doing this because you got convinced that Nazism was good or because you just want to be a contrarian, do us all a favour and follow your new leader.

But why does this idea of the Nazis as some kind of neopagan occult empire persist even if the facts contradict it? The answer, in my opinion, is not very complicated. It’s obvious to me that Christians need the myth of Nazism as a sort of Antichrist state in order to save the legacy of Christianity from being forever damaged by its role in the development of Nazism and in facilitating the Third Reich. It seems that, in strict terms, much of our ideas about the religious identity of Nazism are propagandistic, the work of certain wartime figures looking to juxtapose the otherwise Christian Nazi state against the Christianity of contemporary Western liberal democracies by casting the Nazis as adherents of an esoteric Pagan revivalist religion. But I think, at root, the most basic motivation comes from the fact that Nazi Germany was such a systematically malevolent and sadistic state, and Nazism so seemingly alien to the “values” of the Western world (I mean, unless you count the fact that the Nazis were inspired by the practices of American colonialism and racism as well as that of the British Empire), that it could not possibly reflect the supposed Christian message of love, universalism, and salvation. In other words, Nazism appeared to be so evil that surely it couldn’t possibly be Christian, even though that is what the evidence bears out.

It appears that Christians are not the only ones who are convinced of this myth. Indeed, the idea of the Nazis as being a force of sheer anti-Christian power and archetypical evil seems to have echoed throughout our culture as a memetic presence, to the point that it is sometimes internalized by some who seek to oppose and rebel against Christianity. It’s the reason why certain ideas of embracing Nazi aesthetics as a form of transgression could be found in the early days of the modern Satanist movement, it’s ultimately the reason of why Nazi occultism sometimes finds its way in Left Hand Path circles and the reason why Nazi Satanism is a thing at all, and it’s part of the reason why Nazi aesthetics are sometimes taken up in transgressive subcutlures as a means of rebelling against bourgeois society. In this sense, it is also the reason why black metal sometimes finds itself struggling with the influence of Nazi bands, even despite the fact that Nazism, at its root, is built on a Christian ideology.

It is thus clear what is to be done in order to overcome the problem of creeping Nazism in the Left Hand Path circles as well as the problem of folkism and NSBM. For one thing, resisting fascism means taking an explicit and active anti-fascist stance of some kind, and it has to be more than liberal objection to the extremity of fascism. Rather, it must devote itself to a full conceptual opposition to Nazism and fascism, which stems from the full acknowledgement of what Nazism and fascism are at their root. For any movements dealing with a creeping fascism problem, this means that there needs to be a commited opposition to capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, statism, authoritarianism, hegemony, LGBT-phobia, bourgeois-patriarchal morality, and other forms of bigotry, and thus it also means that trying to remain “apolitical” in the sense of a general stance is strictly impossible, since maintaining a committed anti-fascist opposition is an inherently political act. For our task, we are also charged with deconstructing the inherited dysfunctional myths we have concerning the religious basis of Nazism, as well as deconstructing folkist ideology of both the past and the present. To put it plainly, the problems we face require us to ruthlessly attack the premise that the Nazis were an anti-Christian or “neopagan” or occult movement at every chance we get, armed with the facts of history on our side. All of this is vital for us on the Left Hand Path, Pagan and similar milieus for our struggle against fascism, since it means attacking the myths that are used to legitimate its presence, and refusing to brook any elements who would allow the infiltration of fascism into our communities.

Additionally, if there are supposed anti-fascists who seem to be on our side of the struggle only to then turn around and accuse us of being fascists because of Paganism, then we cannot call them friends or comrades, and if anything they might just be our enemies. It is empty to profess opposition to religious bigotry only to turn around and insist that you are a fascist simply for brandishing ancient runes (and I’m talking about the actual Germanic runes, not the symbology that was created or adapted by the Nazis) or wanting to re-establish the worship of the old gods. If there are those who insist the contrary, then they are against us, and they operate under the same bias that is used to obfuscate the volkisch Christian roots of Nazism, and practically operate in service us the same myth invented by the Christian establishment, even if their actual guiding myth might be the abolition of all religion on the grounds that religion itself is somehow fascist or reactionary.

In summary, the big picture is clear. Nazism is not Pagan, and never was Pagan. Nazism is a political movement that derives a religious basis and justification in the idea of “Positive Christianity”, which is a revisionist and folkist form of Christianity that sought the emergence of a new Christianity, which is also meant to be the “true Christianity”, which is thus “freed” from its supposed Jewish trappings. This idea emerges from a line of volkisch/nationalist Protestant theology, and has its predecent centuries earlier in Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic writings and in the radically dualist Christianity of Marcion. Paganism only represented a minority of Nazis, and otherwise it was generally banned and persecuted, while occultism had no substantial influence on Hitler’s ideology, was mostly the reserve of the SS, and was otherwise banned and persecuted. Ideas of Pagan or occult Nazism are the product of a sort of post-war mythology that sought to make sense of the horrors of Nazism by presenting them as the metaphysical enemies of “Western”, here meaning Christian, civilization. This myth has been internalized in certain areas of modern Western occultism and folkist neopaganism, but it is a myth all the same, one that is at odds with and in opposition to reality. Therefore, the nature of our struggle within Paganism, occultism, Left Hand Path spirituality, and any and all subcultures that are adjacent to them, against fascist/Nazi creep consists in part of an active assault against the erroneous Christian mythology that has sought to assert the moral superiority of the Christian faith by trying to frame Nazism as the product of rival creeds.

We must be uncompromising in this battle, or we will fall.

Image from @WolfJointAktion on Twitter

The Latent Christianity of Harry Potter and the bigotry of J K Rowling

Ah, J K Rowling. I don’t think I was ever a fan of her work. I remember being given one of the Harry Potter books in the form of an audio cassette when I was a kid, and I remember having two Harry Potter video games in the house, but my interest in the franchise never extended beyond having played the games once and dressing as a Hogwarts wizard when I was like 6 years old or so (in my defense, all the kids in my family did it at the time). The movies based on the books were even less appealing to me for some reason, so all told I never cared much for the Harry Potter franchise or for J K Rowling as a person. And so, years later, I like many people saw the broader culture around the Harry Potter franchise as a form of cringe, and the frequent proliferation of Harry Potter references as cultural signifiers within liberal politics and many other ideologies to be even more cringe-inducing, emblematic of almost every inane moral and cultural piety in society that I despise. In a way, they’re a modern Iiberal equivalent of the kind of bourgeois social-democratic moral idealism that Walter Benjamin railed against in his 1929 essay Surrealism.

Now, however, we’re in a very peculiar cultural moment where the Harry Potter franchise is not only considered unfashionable but also an increasingly considered toxic cultural artefact, due largely to the fact that its author, J K Rowling, has for the last couple of years become prolific in using her platform to espouse transphobia. Attendant to this fact is her tendency to declare herself, or for others to declare her, a victim of that ever-nebulous “cancel culture” (which, much like “wokeness”, serves as a poor substitute for the concept of political correctness), and in this she’s managed to garner a certain measure of public sympathy despite (or in some cases because of) her views. The fact that Rowling and other transphobes such as Rosie Duffield have apparently faced death threats from what is most likely some lone nut or too has done much in the eyes of a British media already sympathetic to transphobia as their pet manufactured “taboo speech” to bolster her image as a persecuted and cancelled woman who dared only to assert “unpopular opinions” about “biological fact” (and they mean this in a very two-dimensional sense). It’s in this context that the prevailing struggle in modern “Western’ and particularly British culture is to re-evaluate the legacy of the Harry Potter franchise, or more specifically to determine the extent to which it is acceptable to still appreciate the Harry Potter books and movies despite their author’s grotesque bigotry.

Although that particular question is all too familiar to me in that it recalls the subject of black metal, one of my favourite musical genres which similarly invites challenges regarding how best to approach beloved art in association with problematic creators, this article will not explore that question. That said, though, before we approach the real subject of what I want to say, it should be noted that transphobia is not the only toxic aspect of Rowling’s creative legacy. More recently people, are becoming more aware of the fact that, despite Rowling famously declaring that Albus Dumbledore was gay, her work nonetheless has certain homophobic tendencies, such as the fact that she depicted lycanthropy as a metaphor for the AIDS virus (though of course, being a liberal, she tried to pass this off as commentary on conservative moral panic rather than vilifying gay people as “bug spreaders”). Even Dumbledore’s homosexuality is never validated within canon, and if anything it can be argued that the canon depicts his gay crush as his Achilles heel, which is all the more troublesome by the fact that Dumbledore is the only apparently confirmed gay character in Harry Potter. There’s also the fact that she depicted bankers in the form of the Grimgotts, the goblins who run the wizard bank, which is increasingly notorious due to the fact that they’re depicted as greedy, hook-nosed creatures, which is very similar to long-established anti-semitic caricatures depicting Jewish people as similarly greedy and hook-nosed in order to frame them as evil masterminds of capitalism or the banking industry. In short there’s actually a bit of a tapestry of bigotry.

In order to meaningfully oppose Rowling and her ilk, and in order to meaningfully oppose the bigotry they espouse, it is necessary to challenge the foundations of the bigotry that they espouse. In other words, the legacy of ideas that animate the bigotries that Rowling presents. And in this, I believe there is an element in the room that must be confronted: Christianity.

It’s often forgotten that the Harry Potter franchise carries with it a hefty legacy of underlying Christianity. It may seem strange given that the series is all about magic and wizards, both subjects usually proscribed in Biblical injunction, and indeed the idiot brigade that is Christian fundamentalism accused Harry Potter of being a “Satanic” influence promoting witchcraft with this injunction in mind. Some Catholics have even abjured Harry Potter by declaring it as “Gnostic in essence and practice”, with predictably no self-awareness considering that the “Gnosticism” he is referring to is literally just esoteric Christian mysticism. But Harry Potter is nonetheless a Christian fantasy, or at least a secular work that still has some codified latent Christianity within it. I’ve been meaning to explore and comment on this for some time now, ever since I heard that people were worshipping Harry Potter as Jesus and treating the books as a kind of modern sacred literature. Aside from the obvious question of “why would you want to do this?”, there’s a lot to go into and at least it’s not too late to do so.

Let’s start with one overlooked fact about J K Rowling herself: she is a Christian, and a fairly committed one at that. Given that at least half of British society is broadly irreligious, and given the ostensibly liberal politics of Rowling, you may well have assumed that J K Rowling was an atheist. But in fact she is a Christian, she considers her Christian faith to be very important to her life, and she seems to be a member of the Church of England. She has repeatedly stated that she is Christian over the years, and in fact has gone out of her way to elaborate on the Christian themes in the Harry Potter novels. That said, the way she communicates it in her interviews, it seems to manifest as a vague reference to abstract and broadly more universal moral pronouncements such as “choosing between what is right and what is easy” (conveniently lacking any definition of what is “right” or “easy”). However, there are allusions to Christianity so familiar that even Christians, or at least some of the smarter ones, can observe them for what they are.

It’s easy enough to snicker at the thought of Harry Potter being likened to Jesus Christ, and I imagine there’s fundamentalist Christians who consider that whole comparison to be blasphemy, but there are apparently several allusions that are meant to connect Harry Potter with the story of Jesus. Harry Potter dies in order to make Voldemort mortal and therefore vulnerable, only for Harry to then return to life so that Voldemort can be defeated, thus apparently saving the world. This is pretty unequivocally a parallel with the basic premise of Jesus Christ dying and then coming back to life in order to redeem mankind of its sins. The difference is that instead of going to Hell to defeat Satan before his resurrection, Harry in his post-death/pre-resurrection state meets Dumbledore, who although definitely not God has been compared to the traditional image of the Christian God, and instead of going to heaven Harry gets married and has three kids who he sends off to Hogwarts. But regardless of the differences, the point of the Harry Potter story is that it culminates in a salvific conflict between “Good”, as represented by a dying-and-rising Harry and his friends, and “Evil”, as represented by Voldemort and his allies. Thus the central premise, the central conflict, of the Harry Potter books and films is a latent from of what is basically the Christian message.

That’s one of the more basic and familiar forms of Latent Christianity in Harry Potter, certainly among the most discussed. But what about the relationship to bigotry?

The easiest place to start would actually be the anti-semitism, which Rowling expresses in her depiction of the Gringott bankers. Despite the declaration of the New Testament that there is neither Jew nor Greek in the eyes of God, the founding fathers of the Christian church were vicious anti-semites who either invented or at least codified the very same canards against Jews that would re-emerge in both medieval and modern anti-semitism. St. Paul appeared to refer to Jews, or rather “they of the circumcision”, as “unruly and vain talkers and deceivers” who subvert entire households and teach false or forbidden teachings in pursuit of money (Titus 1:10-11). Keep that last part about money in mind for certain modern caricatures about the greed attributed to Jewish people by anti-semitic bigots. St. Ambrose praised the burning of a synagogue by a mob of Christians and took responsibility for it on the grounds that “there should no longer be any place where Christ is denied”. St. Jerome referred to Jews as “congenital liars”, accused them of tempting Christians into heresy, and believed they should be punished until they confess, which thus serves as a grim antecedent to the Inquisition that would come centuries later. John Chrysostom, who was an influential and powerful church ideologue, wrote an entire tract called Adversus Judaeos (literally “Against the Jews”), in which he accused Jewish people of murdering Jesus, described synagogues as brothels and criminal assemblies among other slanderous charges, claimed that Jewish priesthood was offered, bought, and sold for money, and advocated for the slaughter of Jews on the grounds that he believed them to have demons inside their souls and synagogues. Tertullian, in his argument against Marcion, declared that the Jews were an inferior people in order to oppose the idea that the God of the Old Testament was too harsh, essentially saying God’s oppressive cruelty is the fault of the Jews for disobeying or not believing in God rather than the fault of God – after all, the Christian God has to remain blameless of evil, or else the whole premise of Christianity falls apart.

As a side-note, it is humorous to account for the fact that some scholars comment that early Christian anti-semitism emerged in the context of a harsh period for the church, a time where the church was fighting for its survival at a time where Christianity had not yet become the dominant religion and was still persecuted by the Roman state. The fact that anti-semitic rhetoric continued to be trafficked in the Christian world for centuries after Christianity became the state religion of Rome, and the fact that Christians were actually persecuted less frequently in Rome than later Christians would have you believe, would all put a damper on that. But more importantly, if we are to take as fact that the church fathers employed anti-semitic rhetoric to survive, then this only means that Christianity established itself as a religion of love, mercy, forgiveness, and the equality of all peoples in the eyes of God only to immediately discard such concerns when the task of establishing the church proved unforgiving. That Christianity inverted its own supposed teachings of mercy, forgiveness, and love so quickly in its life is if anything among the strongest proofs that Christianity was always a fraudulent religion, and that the Western world for well over a thousand years was foolish to have believed in it.

To return to the central subject as it relates to the Gringotts in Rowling’s books, Christian anti-semitism is at the root of traditional stereotypes about Jews as being greedy and unscrupulous money-lenders. The sinful reputation of money-lending is often traced to Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple, but it also has older roots in Old Testament prohibitions against usury (Exodus 22:25) and charging interest except for foreigners (Deuteronomy 23:19-20). It’s important to remember at this point that Christian attitudes to the rich depended on whether or not you used your wealth “righteously” or “sinfully”. There were the rich who were “wicked and merciless”, who used their wealth in an evil way not aligned with God’s will, and there were the rich who were “merciful and loving”, who used their wealth in a righteous way aligned with God’s will. If we take into account the Christian view on money-lending and the vituperatives directed against Jews, it probably doesn’t take much guesswork to figure out who the “wicked and merciless” rich might consist of in the eyes of the early Christians. Sometimes the anti-semitic tirades of early Christians, and later medieval Christian ideologues such as Martin Luther, have been compared to the Nazis and Adolf Hitler, and in this light it is worth remembering that Nazi economics was predicated on a division between “schaffendes kapital”, meaning “productive” or “creative” capital, and “raffendes kapital”, meaning “predatory” or “parasitic” capital. “Productive”/”creative” capital referred to the national capital that was held to be the source of economic utility and technological advancement, while “predatory”/”parasitic” capital referred to finance capital, stock trading, and banking, all of which were directly attributed to Jews by the Nazis. It’s easy to connect ideas like this back to the distinction between the “good” rich and the “evil” rich, and how the implications of the latter probably would’ve meant Jewish people vilified as evil money-lenders.

Speaking of Nazism, the Harry Potter universe contains something called the Werewolf Register, created by Newt Scamander in 1947 as a register of all werewolves in Britain. Those who were werewolves were apparently required to register, and it is not clear what happens to those who did not register. Keep in mind at this point that werewolves are intended to be coded representations of gay people who contracted AIDs, and that Newt Scamander is also the protagonist of the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, which is part of the Harry Potter series. Thus, in Rowling’s universe, gay people are represented as werewolves who need to have a Nazi-esque registration system account for them because of their predatory nature. But we’ll come to the significance of that soon enough.

Now let’s address the big elephant in the room, Rowling’s transphobia. Rowling’s transphobia can be summarized via the following precepts: she rejects the idea trans people are real on the grounds that this supposedly means “sex isn’t real”, which simply means that she believes in an essentialist understanding of binary biological sex as the sole determinant of your gender identity, she believes that trans people are conspiring to force lesbians to date them and thus, in her view, date men (a talking point that was more recently platformed in an entirely sympathetic light by the BBC), she compares trans people to incels and Donald Trump, she believes that trans women are men who view womanhood as a costume, she claims that trans people regularly commit acts of violence against cis women, and she believes that allowing trans women to use the women’s bathrooms will result in a tidal wave of male sexual harassment and assault against women.

These are all obviously bigoted beliefs, and they fall under a family of ideas referred to as trans-exclusionary radical feminism, which its adherents prefer to call “gender-critical feminism”. You might be wondering how much of this has to do with Christianity beyond just the fact that a lot of conservative Christians are also transphobes. The Bible apparently says nothing about trans people, and the only verse I’ve seen that even comes close is an admonition against people who cross-dress (Deuteronomy 22:5), so some might think there’s nothing transphobic about Christianity. But, there’s a problem. In his City of God, Augustine condemns the rites observed in dedication to the Great Mother, most likely referring to the goddess Cybele, who he asserted surpassed the other gods in “crime”. He condemned the sacred rite of Cybele for its “cruel custom”, or rather the “consecration of mutilated men”, by which he seems to be referring to the galli, who were the priesthood of Cybele. The galli were priests who worshipped Cybele, led public festivals in her honour, and, to complete their initiation into the cult of Cybele, cut off their male genitalia so as to re-enact the mythical castration of Attis and unite with the goddess, and from then on they spent the rest of their lives dressing, presenting, and likely identifying as women. It’s these priests that Augustine referred to as “wretched” or “miserable men”, who he claims partake in a deception via rites he deems more abominable than any other pagan custom observed in Rome. If we note that the galli might well have been trans according to scholars, then the “deception” Augstine refers to may refer not simply to the “deception” of the goddess but also to their female identity being a “deception”; in other words, Augustine believed that the galli priests were men who meant to deceive society into thinking they were women. The standard “gender-critical” or transphobic argument about trans women is exactly the same, that trans women are actually men trying to deceive people into thinking that they’re women.

As is the case with modern transphobia, Augustine’s transphobia intersects with homophobia through his reference to the priests of the Great Mother as “effeminates”. There can be no doubt that he is referring to them as “effeminates” because of their presentation as women and the radical abjuration of their physical masculinity through the act of ritual castration. But Augustine’s denunciation of the galli as effiminate can be seen to echo another older Roman trope: in the eyes of Roman society, men who lost their physical manhood in some way were no longer seen as men. Homosexuality was sometimes denounced in Roman society, and often in the context of attacks made by Roman politicians against their political rivals. From the standpoint of Roman norms of masculinity, being a man meant penetrating people with your penis and having the ability to do so. To be a man and receive penetration from another man was, in effect, to be seen as a woman instead of a man. This idea of masculinity in its relation to homosexuality continued into the medieval Christian era of Europe, which also seemed to have much more lenient standards for lesbian sex than male homosexual sex. John Chrysostom viciously condemned homosexuality as “vile” and an “insult to nature”, and argued that men who received sexual penetration from men lost their manhood and became women. Roman and later Christian attitudes to the galli are thus linked to Roman homophobia in that both the galli and gay men are condemned or at least ostracised for being men who have abandoned or desecrated their manhood.

This in my opinion leads into another modern issue with Christianity and homosexuality that emerges from progressive attempts to claim that homophobia is not latent to Christianity. One argument I’ve seen from some Christians is that certain Bible verses that are invoked to justify bigoted attitudes towards homosexuals are not meant to reference homosexuality but instead reference either effeminacy or a more general weakness of character (which, keep in mind, seem to have been linked together in patriarchal Greek and Roman society). By modern standards, this would appear to exonerate the Bible from charges of homophobia. The problem, however, is that in the ancient context, particularly the Roman one, effeminacy and homosexuality are linked, and gay men are socially condemned because, in their eyes, being a man and being penetrated by another man meant the loss of manhood, and with it Roman notions of pride and honour that were supposed to be attendant to the traditional male. This is an idea that is still carried forth in traditional Christian denunications of homosexuality. So, in my view, the Bible is hardly exonerated and remains an anti-LGBT text.

Before anyone signs off thinking that Christian homophobia has nothing to do with the Harry Potter series whatsoever, let’s first return to the problem of the AIDs werewolves from earlier. Much of the stigma surrounding AIDs and HIV stems from the idea that these were “gay diseases”, diseases that you supposedly only got if you participated in homosexual sex, and this also fed into the idea that gay people were out to prick you and get you infected with AIDS and HIV, which comes from the idea of homosexuality as being predatory, which is itself had been a talking point for decades. The Christian movement had long held similar prejudices about homosexuality. John Chrysostom not only described homosexuality as vile and unnatural, but he also liked to frame homosexual sex as inherently abusive, and describing it as a violent sedition incited by the Devil or as the manifestation of God’s wrath against idol worship, and the abuse of two people of the same sex by each other. This itself seems to be a commentary extrapolated from Paul’s own condemnation of homosexuality. Paul condemned women for “changing natural sexual relations for unnatural ones”, and men for “abandoning natural relations with women” in favour of “lust for one another” (Romans 1:26-27). The fact that some modern scholars might interpret this as a condemnation not of homosexuality but of male rape and child abuse, besides requiring us to ignore plain text on the matter of “rejecting relations with women for lust with one another”, invites only the supposition that the Christian view of homosexuality was that it was a kind of violence for those who participated in it.

And so we come back to Dumbledore, who for a while was the only confirmed gay character in the Harry Potter series according to its author. Dumbledore may not be depicted as effeminate, but the only homosexual relationship he is shown is one in which he is victimized. Dumbledore was in love with a man named Gellert Grindelwald, who never really reciprocated his feelings and instead took advantage of them, which Dumbledore eventually realized and became heartbroken over it. This would mean that the (for a time) only gay character in the series is a man who had been effectively shamed and weakened by his pursuit of a gay relationship, and as a result he took on a life of celibacy. Although there’s definitely no sex involved, Grindelwald is clearly the dominant component of this relationship, rendering Dumbledore entirely submissive to his manipulations, and the resulting damage done to Dumbledore in the context of the only gay relationship hinted at in relation to at least the original books weaves a tapestry more or less in conformity to Roman ideas about homosexual relationships which then informed Christian homophobia. Thus, this is a relationship which displays Latent Christian ideas about homosexuality, and it serves to cast aspersion on homosexuality writ large.

There’s another Latent Christian prejudice in the fact Dumbledore, the only confirmed gay character, is officially celibate. While many might have congratulated themselves over the supposedly emancipatory or “progressive” depiction of Dumbledore as a gay man, in reality his sexuality is never validated in the series. I guess Rowling was of the presumption that homosexuality cannot be validated in fictional representation without it taking the form of overt sexualization. Though, of course, this celibacy follows his break-up with Grindelwald. In either case the celibacy establishes a divide between the “good” homosexual who chooses not to act on his desires for other men versus the “bad” homosexual who pursues a gay relationship. Grindelwald is the “bad” homosexual who explores a gay relationship with another man, but in a way that is depicted as cruel and manipulative, leading to the despair of his ex-lover Dumbledore. Dumbledore thus becomes the “good” homosexual, who abstains from such pursuits and devotes himself to a different pursuit, namely the study of wizardry and ensuring that good prevails over evil.

The universe of Harry Potter is a universe where the sole concern is the triumph of the good wizards against the evil wizards, which in the seven original books culminates in the death and resurrection of Harry Potter as Jesus Christ. This also means that the problems of the system that everyone lives in, which I have to stress is a pretty rigidly classist system, are never really addressed because the order of things is legitimate in the same sense that wealth is legitimate in Christianity: as long as it follows “good” instead of “evil”. Villains in this setting include a pale Satan expy, werewolves that are actually coded gay people with AIDs, and a gay man who breaks Dumbledore’s heart, among others. There’s a lot of Latent Christian context for the Harry Potter series and, by extention, much of Rowling’s views as well as the bigotries that they involve. As people re-examine the Harry Potter franchise and its negative legacy, my advice is for people to sincerely challenge Christianity, rather than seek a sanitized version of it.

Image from the Facebook page “The Church of Harry Potter” to represent Harry Potter as Jesus

The anti-religious religion of Peter Boghossian and Michael Shellenberger

Some people reading this might have some idea who Peter Boghossian is. He’s an atheist philosopher, of the New Atheist school in particular, the kind of atheist who loves getting self-righteous about their beliefs in a way that outmatches even many religious moralists. He’s also a conservative ideologue, in fact he’s pretty notorious for submitting intentionally absurd hoax papers for the purpose of “debunking gender studies”, which his employer, Portland State University, determined to be a violation of its ethics guidelines concerning research on human subjects. Like other New Atheists, Peter Boghossian is enamored with ideas about opposing vague constructs called “wokeness”, which he believes to be a threat to liberal democracy. Often times you find that “wokeness” is a thing that people struggle to define. Personally, I really hate the term “woke” as a way of describing anything. It’s a vague term often meant to describe any political position you happen to despise. But on November 11th, Peter Boghossian posted on Twitter a spreadsheet detailing the characteristics of what he called “the woke religion”. Ironically enough, I think it also exposes his own inner “religious thinking” for lack of a better term, as well as the true content of the manufactured “war on wokeness” now peddled ruthlessly by the mainstream of politics. So, let’s take the opportunity to dissect it.

Apparently compiled by both Peter Boghossian and Michael Shellenberger, himself a self-described “eco-modernist” and noted conservative contrarian, the table is divided between seven vertical categories and ten horizontal categories. The categories of the vertical axis consist of “Racism”, “Climate Change”, “Trans” (as in trans people), “Crime”, “Mental Illness”, “Drugs”, and “Homelessness”, all of them seemingly pet issues for conservative culture warriors. To be honest, I’m surprised “Immigration” and “Islam” aren’t sections here, considering where this is going. The cateogries of the horizontal axis consist of “Original Sin”, “Guilty Devils”, “Myths”, “Sacred Victims”, “The Elect”, “Supernatural Beliefs”, “Taboo Facts”, “Taboo Speech”, “Purifying Rituals” and “Purifying Speech”. Some of these sound like song titles from a shitty glam rock album. But, more importantly, they sketch out what Boghossian seems to think a religion is, and how “wokeness” supposedly works. First there’s the “original sin” doctrine, or rather what we’re supposed to take as an expy to the original sin doctrine of Christianity, here meaning basically the idea of a crime or transgression taking place which is responsible for the current problems of the world. Then of course there’s the people who are responsible for it. Then you have “Myths”, which apparently are supposed to be a creation story, which will seem all the weirder when we analyze what these “myths” are. There are “Sacred Victims”, who continue to be affected by “Original Sin”, and there are the “Elect”, a chosen few gathered to right the wrongs of the world. The “religion” is equipped with a set of “supernatural beliefs”, here defined as “beliefs beyond scientific understanding or known laws of nature”, and, of course, has attendant categories of “forbidden speech”, which attacks the “religion”, as well as counteracting categories of “purifying speech”, which upholds the “religion” while alleviating guilt.

So, Boghossian’s construction of “the woke religion” is apparently a salvationist religion in which there are, judging by the table, multiple original sins that need to be redeemed by an enlightened Elect, supported by purportedly non-scientific beliefs, origin myths, purification rituals and speech, and, of course, the persecution of heretics. Boghossian here is trying to frame all of his critics and opponents as being religious fanatics, or just given over to religious thinking in general, and it’s very obvious that Boghossian’s idea of the nature of religion is informed almost entirely by Christianity. The whole concept is essentially a caricature of Christianity, the religion most defined partly by the concept of “original sin”, though unlike Christianity or any other religion it also involves the presence of an “Elect” to be set up to correct society, which actually sounds a little more like Plato’s Republic than Christianity or any religion. Then again, perhaps “the Elect” is meant to have the same meaning as “the Church”.

At this point I believe it’s worth bringing up that Boghossian’s understanding of religion is, like that of many other atheists, a very narrow understanding of religion, one that only really responds particularly to a generalized set of claims made by or about Christianity, as well as maybe Judaism and Islam. It is entirely inadequate when addressing the diverse reality of religion, both historical and present, or many claims made by non-Abrahamic religions. Ideas about original sin, the temptations of devils, spiritual elects, and the like are all absent in the polytheistic religions of the world, and in the historical context of the pre-Christian world, Christianity actually seems unique, perhaps even “eccentric”, in this regard. Hinduism has one God, expressed through many deities, and Hindu class society does affirm a sort of elite spiritual caste at the top, but there’s no original sin in Hinduism. Nor is there original sin in Buddhism, with suffering merely being a product of continuous arisings of craving and ignorance that don’t seem to have an obvious starting point; there is no descent from purity to impurity. Shinto does emphasize ritual purity, very strongly indeed, but it has no concept of original sin. Finally, the nature of the gods of polytheism seems distinct from the One True God imagined by the monotheist faiths and likely the same God that is the sole focus of atheist responses. They are powerful, but not omnipotent, nor omniscient, or even omnibenevolent, they do not deal in the sort of divine command that God is known for, and in some belief systems they are not even immortal.

With that out of the way, let’s examine what Boghossian and Shellenberger seem to think is the “woke religion” in terms of what its apparent beliefs are, and this is where things get truly bad.

One thing I should note right out of the gate is that Boghossian uses the term “supernatural beliefs” not to refer to any actual supernatural claims but instead to claims that very much pertain to worldly society, often with scientific support, but which he himself happens to disagree with. For example, one of the “supernatural beliefs” he lists is “humans are causing sixth mass extinction”. Putting aside the obvious problem that the scientific community seems to suggest that this is indeed happening, it beggars belief to suggest that this might be interpreted as a “supernatural” claim. Do mass extinctions happen only because of a God flashing a magic wand, or like lightning bursting out from another dimension? No, they are very much naturalistic phenomenon, and until today they were all caused solely by extant, uncontrollable natural phenomenon. Or how about “prisoners aren’t guilty, the system is”. Again, we might well ask questions about the system that makes sure that non-violent drug offenders, often African-Americans, spend years of their lives in prison, while allowing millionnaires who literally committed murder to avoid incarceration, but how in the world are we to take that as a “supernatural” claim, or even a particularly extraordinary one? I also fail to see how decriminalization as a means to prevent addiction and overdoses qualifies as a “supernatural” claim. These are just a handful of examples of Boghossian’s absurd labelling of whatever claim he dislikes as “supernatural”.

The “Racism” section of the table begins in predictable fashion. Slavery, referring mainly to the Atlantic slave trade, is the “original sin”, the machinations of mercantile slavery here are somehow given a cosmic status that perhaps was never afforded to it by actual anti-racists, and white people and the police are the “guilty devils”, the implication being that Boghossian assumes that white people are assumed to never be capable of being allies in the struggle against racism or of dismantling racial hierarchy. The “Myths” section is ostensibly supposed to refer to “creation myths”, but contains nothing of the sort. Instead it contains strawmen such as “Asian success is due to Asians participating in white supremacy” and “structural racism is the cause of all racial inequality and the only explanation possible for disparate outcomes by racial group”. The “Sacred Victims” are of course non-white and indigenous people, and the “Elect” meant to save them are Black Lives Matters, critical race theorists, and basically a selection of anti-racist intellectuals that he doesn’t like (not that I’m a fan of Ta-Nehisi Coates or Robin DiAngelo either, just so we’re clear). Black Lives Matter here is supposed to be taken as a kind of elite movement, an appendage of the establishment meant to scold white people, when in reality they seem to repeatedly criticize mainstream Democratic politicians, such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, and have more recently earned the ire of the establishment for their declared solidarity with Cuba against US imperialism. The “supernatural beliefs” section here is just a joke. It consists almost entirely of strawmen, and the otherwise not incorrect claim that racism is as bad as ever. The “taboo facts” section would imply “things forbidden to say”, but claiming that racism is declining and that interracial marriages are broadly accepted is not the edgy, rebellious, or controversial statement that Boghossian thinks it is. If anything it just shows he understands very little of the subject, as is demonstrated by his claim that racism can simply be wished away through a single legislative act (surely “magical thinking” if I ever saw it) and that “black wealth” supposedly rising is somehow proof that African-Americans do not experience systematic incarcertation and brutalization. “Purifying rituals” here seems to mean essentially any policy intended to address racial inequality that isn’t the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as more performative measures that don’t actually address it, while “purifying speech” seems to include obscure phrases no one uses as well the concept of intersectionality itself. All in all a truly baffling mixture.

I kind of stress the implications of Boghossian’s apparent beliefs on racism. Based on what we’re looking at here, Boghossian might be a racist. He opposes the idea of any structural barriers explaining the prevalence of racism and the negative outcomes of black people, and it is my suspicion that when he hints at “other possible explanations for disparate outcomes by racial group”, he’s trying to hint at something more essential, like IQ, genes, or phenotypes. And if he isn’t, he will likely assert that the problem is cultural, that African-Americans partake in a culture of violence and the glorification thereof, while of course conveniently ignoring similar cultures among white men or even the very existence of “white trash”. Either Boghossian believes that black people are genetically predisposed to crime, or he simply believes that black people have a uniquely violent culture, and in either case, this clearly is racist, and so Boghossian has irrational racist beliefs. It’s also quizzical how he maintains the idea that rioting is inherently apolitical as a means to denounce it. What does he think the Rebecca Riots were? How does he think Stonewall fought for gay rights? In certain contexts, rioting can take on political significance as political actions. But of course even this is hardly relevant since he’s clearly referring to the 2020 “riots”, after it was found that 93% of the so-called “riots” were actually peaceful protests. You know, for someone who might claim to advance evidence-based beliefs over faith-based ones, Peter Boghossian certainly doesn’t seem interested in any evidence that might contradict his racist faith. I suppose this is the first proof that not believing in a god of any kind doesn’t actually make you any better at evidence-based critical thinking.

The “Climate Change” section is no better. In fact, it’s one of the clearest proofs that Boghossian has no idea what he’s talking about when he tries to discuss science. Here the Industrial Revolution and fossil fuel use are “original sins”, and the “guilty devils” are climate deniers, the Koch Brothers (who often fund them), and huge multinational corporations. Yes, Boghossian and his friend are actually defending corporations through their implication as persecuted heretics, and yes, the implication of climate deniers as the same type of heretic shows their sympathies towards climate change denial. The “Myths” section comprises of entirely scientific and factual claims about climate change, the “Sacred Victims” section is essentially a way of belittling indigenous people who might have their lives completely destroyed by the worst effects of climate change, and “the Elect” consists of an absurd mixture featuring climate scientists, the United Nations, Greta Thunberg, Vandana Shiva, and the long-dead economist Thomas Malthus, never mind that Malthus tends to be despised by many progressive thinkers as a racist because of his ideas about overpopulation. The idea that man-made climate change will make humans as well as the majority of Earth’s lifeforms extinct is inexplicably dismissed as a “supernatural belief”, as is the study of tipping points and the idea that prosperity does not equal happiness. Nuclear power advocacy is somehow framed as “taboo”, when in reality it isn’t, as are certain talking points about renewable energy, which are in reality anything but fringe, while “taboo speech”, meant to imply true but heretical ideas, consists of a string of delusional nonsense and non-sequiturs. “Purifying rituals”, yet again, consist mostly of any attempt by state policy, society, or the individual to address climate change whatsoever, although I will say: “net zero” really is just a buzzword.

This section is also, in my opinion, a good glimpse into the inner religious thinking of the otherwise secular atheist Peter Boghossian. If, as the common atheist does, we define religious thinking as meaning faith-based beliefs, not based in evidence or critical thinking, then to be perfectly honest Peter Boghossian embodies this in spades, even in just this one topic. One example of “taboo speech” is “wealth is good”. Why? How much wealth? For whom? Evidently not for everyone. Wealth is apparently so good that most of the world isn’t allowed to have it, and instead it must be concentrated into the hands of an abject minority of the global population. This is a value judgement that is never questioned. By his terms, it is an assertion of faith over reason. The idea that fracking actually reduces carbon emissions flies squarely in the face of basic facts about fracking and the methane gas it releases. The idea that human civilization, in its current trajectory, can continue to exist, at least without a significant reduction of prosperity, is quite possibly the most faith-based position you can have on climate change. If you think that humans can keep consuming the earth’s finite resources ad infinitum, destroy the ecosystems that sustain life on earth, and continue perpetuating anthropogenic climate change, and not expect that civilization will collapse or be significantly imperiled, you have way too much faith in the status quo and its power to resolve our situation.

More scientific ignorance and arguably faith-based talking points comprise the “Trans” section, and this one sure is a doozy. The “original sin” here seems to be the reduction of gender to the traditional sexual binary, which is then conflated with gender, and the “guilty devils” who perpetuate it are TERFs, as well as people who oppose trans athletes competing in the games of that correspond to their gender identity as well as “mandatory use of pronouns”. I think we can tell who’s side Boghossian takes here. The two “Myths” listed are either a strawman (“trans women or trans men are identical to biological women or men”) or actually a proven fact (“Violence against trans people is on the rise, disproportionate, and due to being trans”). The “Sacred Victims” are of course trans and non-binary people and the “Elect” are essentially any individual or group advocating on their behalf. The idea that puberty blockers and gender affirmation surgery have any effect on your gender or your sex is dismissed as a “supernatural belief”, yet another abuse of the very concept, and the other claim is simply s strawman.

It’s when we get into his idea of “Taboo Facts/Speech” that the depths of this ignorance extend even further. He claims that social acceptance of trans people is increasing. This is despite the fact that more trans people are being killed each year, and there seems to be an entire media apparatus dedicated to defending transphobes and never facing any political challenge because of it. He claims that trans kids “often benefit from parental involvement”. The truth of that claim really depends on what he means by “parental involvement”. We have evidence to suggest that strongly supporting trans kids in how they want to live, just letting them be themselves while accepting their validity and not withholding parental love because of it, dramatically reduces the overall risk of suicide for trans people. If that’s what we mean by parental involvement, then yes, trans kids do overwhelmingly benefit. But I suspect that this is not what Boghossian means. It’s clear that he in fact despises trans people or sees being trans as a purely ideological construct rather than an age-old reality of the human species. In which case, parental involvement for him would mean that the parents of trans kids repeatedly deny the validity of their identities and raise them to deny themselves. There’s no evidence that trans kids benefit from it, and in fact we have evidence that this is actually more likely to lead to trans people committing suicide. And, of course, like any died-in-the-wool transphobe, he brings up “detransitioners” as a “forbidden” subject, the supposed heretical status of it being a way to delegitimize trans people as tyrants. Putting aside the fact that J K Rowling can be defended for using “detransitioning” to justify transphobia, if you actually cared about evidence, you’d learn that “detransitioners” consist of less than 1% of the trans community, who themselves are a group that already consists of around 1% of people, and if you actually cared about logic, you’d realize how stupid it is to ban people (including children) from having gender affirmation surgery or getting puberty blockers on the basis that the tiniest possible minority might want it banned, especially if you’re OK with children going through other body-altering surgeries if it means saving their lives. Once again, by Boghossian’s own standard, his claims about trans people are in fact “faith-based”, since they are not evidence-based and reject evidence-based conclusions.

Before we get into the next section, are you beginning to see the big picture so far? So far the “woke religion” seems to consist of anti-racism, or at least any anti-racism that does not accept the liberal-conservative faith that believes racism has already been resolved, the acknowledgement that man-made climate change is a real and tangible thing which threatens the continued existence of human civilization and life on Earth, and the basic scientific reality that trans people are real and valid as well as the basic moral position that you should accept them for who they are and let them be themselves. “Wokeness”, then, seems to just mean any vaguely progressive position you can take: or more accurately, it means any scientific or social reality that you dislike and thus have to rationalize as a totalitarian conspiracy.

In that spirit, let’s examine the “Crime” section, which shows his fundamental deference to authority. It’s very clearly his way of whining about people who acknowledge capitalism at the root of any social frustration that might culminate in criminal behaviour. The “Myths” here consist of the almost universally acknowledged fact that the American police force descended from slave patrols, and that large numbers of black people are slaughtered by the police. At his most shockingly out of touch, he also claims that black people killed by police officers are considered sacred. Yes, in Peter Boghossian’s fucked up mind, there are people in America who, when they see a black man pass them by, they will immediately prostrate themselves in worship. Again we see evidence of Boghossian’s possible racism, as to be completely honest it sounds like something a white supremacist might say. Another possibile indicator of this strand of racism is his claim that the “Elect” of the “woke religion” on crime consists of Black Lives Matter, progressive district attorneys, police abolitionists, and George Soros. I trust that I don’t need to explain what’s anti-semitic and white supremacist about blaming all social and racial unrest on one rich Jewish man.

In yet another abuse of the concept of a supernatural belief, he defines “Supernatural Beliefs” to include the idea that “Prisoner’s aren’t guilty, the system is”, which is just a strawman directed at anyone who thinks we should address structural inequality in order to resolve the problem of crime, as well as the idea that “Jails and prisons aren’t necessary”. The “Taboo Facts” include the dizzyingly mainstream and common belief that the police reduces crime, and that the “taboo against cooperation with police and prosecutors is a barrier to successfully prosecuting criminals”. That’s doing all the work isn’t it? What matters to Boghossian is not necessarily justice in itself, but rather just “prosecuting criminals”, which in itself could just mean arresting and incarcerating more people. You merely want a justice system that meets arrest quotas, not necessarily a justice system that resolves crime. He also blames anti-police protests for increasing criminal emboldenment through police pullback. Again I would point to the ACLED data for 93% of the George Floyd protests being peaceful as evidence to disprove his claim. And of course, he’s one of those people who still hasn’t figured out that nobody actually believes “all lives matter”.

I mean, think about it. Let’s go back to the logic that Boghossian would like to talk about. The only thing to understand about saying “all lives matter” is that it’s meant as a response to Black Lives Matter, on the grounds that Black Lives Matter is somehow an exclusionary statement on the value of human life in the abstract. “All lives matter” is thus, in theory, an axiomatic statement that every human life has the same value, defined in terms of a kind of individualistic egalitarianism. If that’s the case, then guess what? You don’t believe it, and in fact I’d even argue that nobody does. Or, if you/they do, then you/they certainly are willing to make a lot of exceptions to that rule. How many people who respond to Black Lives Matter and their supporters with “all lives matter” actually care the lives of people settling in camps and crossing the ocean to flee their countries of origin? Certainly not enough to oppose them being labelled “migrants” and either getting shot or interned by the state. Sticking to Boghossian, the lives of trans people, indigenous and non-white people, and, as we’ll see, the mentally ill and the homeless don’t seem to matter to him, at least since he is willing to disregard their needs for failing to conform to his moral ideology. And what about in a more everyday sense? Does the life of someone who invaded your home and either abducted or killed your family matter as much as the victims? Does the life of a dictator matter as much as the lives of his oppressed subjects who might be about to violently overthrow him? Our willingness to put up with countless imperialist wars might suggest that the lives of the people of the countries we invade don’t matter, no doubt because they are strangers and foreigners. And what if we extend that to non-human life forms? Clearly, our attitude towards climate change suggests that human comfort matters more than the survival of countless non-human life forms. And even older, perhaps more animistic cultures, clearly didn’t think all non-human lives were sacred enough to not devour them. And if you’re squishing flies, spiders, and ants to death for the high crime of being creepy crawlies, or defend industrial factory farming because it gives you the meat you eat, then yes, something tells me all lives don’t matter that much to you. I sincerely wish people would give up the pretence.

Moving on, we come to the “Mental Illness” section, which is certainly an unexpected endorsement of conformity from an atheist complaining about enforced conformity. The premise he establishes is that “the woke religion” believes that psychiatry and the Enlightenment are responsible for inventing mental illness as a way to control neuro-atypical people. Of course, the “Sacred Victims” are neuro-atypical people and non-conformists, already suggesting that he ridicules and hates anyone who doesn’t conform to society (except himself, of course), and the “Elect” meant to save them consists of “advocates of mentally ill” as well as a motley crew of intellectuals such as Michel Foucault, Thomas Szasz, and R. D. Lang. Never mind for a moment that Michel Foucault was just this year accused of raping young boys in Tunisia based in the testimony of people who immediately retracted or walked back their claims, and the media or parts thereof just uncritically parroted those claims as objective truth. So much for darling of the establishment. As opposed to the “supernatural beliefs” that mental illness is made up and that mentally ill people should self-medicate freely, he advances the supposed scientific truth that mentally ill people are disproportionately violent and that many mentally ill people need or claim to benefit from “involuntary treatment”. The part that does all the work is “involuntary treatment”. What kind of “involuntary treatment”? What does it involve? Considering that he views neuro-atypical people as “Sacred Victims”, an inherently derisive category, and believes the word neuro-atypical is itself a mere buzzword meant to signal virtue, I suspect that Boghossian would be fine with taking autistic people away to have electroshock treatment to control or “cure” their autism. Another case where all lives don’t matter to the guy who says all lives matter.

The ” Drugs” section is yet another instance where Boghossian’s attempts to define progressive and/or libertarian positions on drug policy as faith-based superstition fly directly in the face of empirical reality. He attempts to portray the idea of decriminalisation and legalization of drugs as vital to preventing addiction and overdose as a “supernatural belief”. Aside from the obvious abuse of the very term, what Boghossian won’t tell you is that it’s actually true. In 2001, Portugal decriminalised the personal possession and consumption all drugs; those found to have a supply, rather than being arrested, were expected to appear before a local commission about treatment, harm reduction, and support services. This was accompanied by a broad cultural shift in attitudes to drugs, and resulted in a dramatic decrease in drug addiction, substance abuse, and related deaths. This, keep in mind, was after decades rampant drug abuse and deaths from overdose. Portugal is thus a shining example of how rehabilitation over punishment is the more effective way to resolve the problem of drug abuse than the other way around, and to claim the contrary would, again by Boghossian’s own standards, be a faith-based claim, not an evidence-based claim.

It is also apparent that Boghossian blames George Soros for widespread proliferation of drugs, since he appears as one of the “Elect”, along with the Harm Reduction Coalition and the Drug Policy Alliance, set up on behalf of drug users, who are the “Sacred Victims”. Again Boghossian is perpetuating an anti-semitic conspiracy theory in which Jews are accused of spreading drugs everywhere, which white supremacists believe is an effort to weaken the white race. Yet more racism from Boghossian and his friend. Boghossian then claims as a “taboo fact” that liberalisation, decriminalisation, and normalisation of drug use increases drug addiction. The evidence points to the contrary, but that won’t matter because it contradicts Boghossian’s faith. Distributing clean needles and providing services for homeless drug addicts is dismissed as a “purifying ritual”. I suppose it’s purifying in at least one sense; namely making sure the needles are sterile so that you don’t get infected with something and die. Oh look, more lives that don’t matter to the guy who says all lives matter!

And in that spirit we come to the last section of the table: “Homelessness”. It seems to be yet another way of whining about people who think capitalism causes problems by dismissing it as an “original sin” doctrine. The idea that homelessness is caused by poverty and high rents is classed as a “Myth”. Again, any available evidence on the subject suggests that it’s not a “myth”, but that doesn’t matter, because Peter Boghossian just religiously despises homeless people. The idea that people live in tents and sidewalks because of poverty is dismissed as a “supernatural belief”, and it is misleadingly presented as something people might “decide” to do. You wouldn’t “decide” to live under a bridge if you had the choice, you only do it because you’ve lost everything and have nowhere else to go. Logic might tell you that, but for Boghossian, his faith, albeit a godless faith, overrides logic. This faith also seems to override the facts about homeless people experiencing more violence, since Boghossian dismisses this as a “supernatural belief”. Instead he asserts that homelessness is caused principally by addiction and mental illness despite all evidence to the contrary and claims that trauma and abuse have declined. He also argues that subsidized housing should be contingent on abstinence. While he might consider that to be “taboo speech”, his ideas are already mainstream policy: it’s called means testing. Unsurprisingly, free housing and any programs focusing on homelessness that aren’t punitive in nature are dismissed as “purifying rituals”.

By now we have a clear picture of what “the woke religion” looks like, and by extension what “wokeness” is. It seems to just be a collection of progressive policies and ideas that Boghossian and his friend don’t like, and in particular policies and ideas that seem to involve criticially addressing the current structures of power. To call something “woke”, then, is to attack it for daring to challenge existing laws, norms and power structures on the subject of race, crime, gender identity, drugs, homelessness, really any issue, or for more generally questioning the status of quo of “Western Civilization”. That, I think, is one of the other almost religious ideas found among some sectors of the New Atheist. The more palatable form of this embraced even by non-reactionary atheists is the cult of the Enlightenment. It all starts from this idea that we progressed from being backwards apes in the throngs of religious superstition to being people who conducted their lives and thoughts based on rationalistic logic and reason. The more self-aware atheist is usually prepared to acknowledge the fact that this all came with a bucketload of colonialism and attempts to justify racism through science and even philosophy, though I suspect many New Atheists will simply gloss that over. That’s because the Enlightenment, or its twin phantasm called “Western Civilization”, are both functionally a kind of sacred center, a sort of ground of being for the worldview they would prefer to be dominant. The ideas they oppose have but one thing in common: they challenge a set of ideas that have been crystallized as the social basis of “Western Civilization”, which are justified through what seems to be the rationalist’s version of what is otherwise the typically faith-based thinking they might claim to oppose, and so they amount to blasphemy. You might say it even counts as “taboo speech”, ironically enough. Instead of an unshakable faith in one God and the promise of eternal life in heaven, these people have an unshakable faith in the order and progress of “Western Civilization” and its culture (often in the sense of a particularly homogenous culture if you know what I mean), and will bitterly defend that faith against anyone who criticizes their beloved civilizational order.

In the end, all this talk of “wokeism” seems like a cargo cult, an article of faith in itself, and just to show you that, let’s briefly, and only briefly, dip into Michael Shellenberger’s article on why “wokeism” is a religion. In it he mentions having met Peter Boghossian, who he describes as his new friend, and claims that Boghossian resigned his post at Portland State University “in response to Wokeist repression”. What Shellenberger won’t tell you is that Boghossian has been doing his “anti-wokeist” liberal-conservartive schtick for years now, and Portland State University kept rehiring him each year, for a decade, and before his resignation he was scheduled to teach philosophy for the next term, even after he was found to have committed ethics violations through his hoax paper. The university didn’t ask Boghossian to resign and there was no major campaign to get him fired. The “Wokeist repression” that Shellenberger and Boghossian are referring to is nothing more than the fact that Portland State University wouldn’t play ball and accept Boghossian’s hoax papers to prove his point that they would publish anything if it sounded “woke”, not to mention that Boghossian himself is unpopular and despised by his students for his nonsensical and bigoted political views. In fact, he hasn’t been particularly well-liked even by many atheists over the years. And for all his bullshit about being silenced and repressed, he has openly praised the Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orban for silencing his critics by defunding gender studies courses. This isn’t even the only time Boghossian has defended fascism. He defended violent neo-Nazi thugs from being referred to as Nazis, has appeared with the white nationalist Stefan Molyneux to accuse the left of being “the new racists” while announcing a broad trend of people calling guys like Molyneux out for their often cartoonishly misogynistic views as “the death of rational discourse”, and more recently has done a sitdown with far-right ideologues who think colonial violence was a good thing. Boghossian himself also likes Viktor Orban’s ideas about academia so much that he openly called for the defunding of Portland State University, a move widely suspected to be motivated by not giving him tenure. Meanwhile mainstream media seems to uncritically support his claims to being repressed by “woke” academics, while big name atheists like Richard Dawkins defended him for his attempt to submit a feminist version of Mein Kampf as a hoax.

Incidentally, it also turns out that Shellenberger and Boghossian got their concept of “the Elect” and many aspects of their “taxonomy of woke religion” project from John McWhorter, a conservative intellectual and the author of Woke Racism, who uses the term to refer to a class of progressive “neo-racists” and, well, perhaps anything else; seriously, McWhorter never adequately defines the term for himself. Shellenberger just summarizes it as “people self-appointed to crusade against evil”, which is meaningless. But apparently this junk philosophy can be endorsed by big-name skeptic atheists like Michael Shermer (who, by the way, is a sex pest) and fans of people like Sam Harris will simp for his work anyway, thus the New Atheist movement continues its reactionary drift.

This is the truth behind Boghossian’s and Shellenberger’s claims about “wokeist repression”. It’s all a big lie, a grift concocted by Boghossian to try and gain sympathy from idiots who might be inclined to believe his philosophy, and judging by the fact that Shellenberger endorsed him and became his friend after the fact, the grift seems to have worked. It’s nothing more than a pathetic manifestation of ressentiment that disguises rank failure, abject ignornace, and petty malice as common sense rationalism and skepticism, while framing the people opposing it as totalitarians, authoritarians, illiberals, what have you, which then justifies his own proposed actual authoritarian suppression of critics. But what’s really interesting and which I feel the need to stress more than anything is that his views, if we take them seriously, are fundamentally faith-based in the very sense Boghossian means when he condemns faith-based thinking. So much of what Boghosssian believes is proposed in direct contrast to evidential reality, and often seems to consist in what might otherwise be called “magical thinking”, or at least follows a similar logic. The way that the modern atheist movement, or at least certain sectors thereof, are defining themselves or have been defined by starkly reactionary tendencies, especially to the extent that they are supported by pseudo-science that presents itself as science, will never cease to fascinate me, between Peter Boghossian’s absurd attempts to frame everything he doesn’t like as a superstitious religion that must be purged and Lucien Greaves with basically everything he’s been doing up to this point. I’ve honestly been beginning to wonder what they’re even for over the last couple of months.

Strange bedfellows?: Peter Boghossian appearing on Fox News to complain about the nebulous spectre of “woke ideology”

Fighting an anti-“cancel culture” culture war isn’t worth defending the Inquistion

This last year has convinced me more than anything that conservative politics is entirely morally bankrupt, and their discourse on the increasingly nebulous concept of cancel culture serves as the basis of their moral decay. Earlier this year, we saw this with Republicans leveraging the non-issue of Dr Suess retracting a couple of books in order to avoid talking about why they voted against every Covid-19-related spending bill put forward and would not support a rise in the minimum wage. Now, we see this with conservative ideologues going on record to say that the Inquisition was better than modern “cancel culture”.

What I’m referring to is a Daily Wire segment in which Matt Walsh, a conservative pundit who has his own show on Daily Wire, actually argued that the Inquisition was “caricatured”, as in its crimes were somehow blown out of proportion, and that it was much better than the “cancel culture” supposedly perpetuated by “trans activists”. The following is taken from a clip shown on Jason Campbell’s tweet:

As for the videos, they demonstrate an important thing: that gender ideology, more than any other leftist doctrine, is spread and propagated by force. What you’re witnessing in videos like this is a modern form of forced conversion. Gender activists compel normal people to affirm their doctrines under threat of public shaming, loss of income, or violence, or all three in some cases. In a forced conversion centuries ago, or even today in some parts of the world, you may have been coerced into affirming their religious doctrine under threat of being burned at the stake. Now you’re coerced into affirming the doctrines of the gender cult, under threat of having everything else in your life, aside from your physical body, incinerated. Trans activists are basically what your public school history teacher told you the Inquisitors were. The difference is that the Inquisition has been caricatured. I mean, it was far more defensible than modern day cancel culture is, especially the cancel campaigns waged by trans activists. Also, in this Inquisition, of today, the Inquisitors are not trying to coerce a belief in or submission to any sort of eternal, celestial God, but rather, they themselves are the gods. At least that’s what they believe, and they want us to believe, or pretend we do. All while posturing as the victim, in an exchange that they instigate, with someone who does not want to be part of it. That’s how the game works, and it is repulsive.

So, according to Matt Walsh, “gender activists”, who are also “trans activists” (he uses those terms interchangeably and without meaning), are persecuting “normal people” (a concept equally without meaning) for crimes against the holy gender cult, which somehow involves trans people being worshipped as gods (which is basically just the same delusional bullshit that Jonathan Pageau believes), and the Inquisition of old was much better than this, in part because the people who were killed and tortured in the Inquisition were killed and tortured in the name of God instead of being cancelled by trans people, or something. Yeah. As long as that’s where we’re at now, if we’re really at the point where we’re having to talk about whether or not the Inquisition was better than “cancel culture” (a term that I despise for numerous reasons), let’s take a look at what’s actually being talked about for what they really are.

Everyone knows about the Inquistion, though not everyone has the right idea of how many people died in the Inquisition. By the year 1530, up to 2,000 people were murdered by the Inquisition, and throughout its 350 year lifespan, the Inquisition is estimated to have killed around double that number. The Inquistion is well known to have used torture in order to extract confessions, whether genuine or false, from those accused of heresy. In addition, the 1578 edition of the Directorum Inquisitorum, courtesy of Francisco Peña, advocated for the use of torture in cases of possible mental illness in order to efficiently determine whether or not the mental illness was fake or not, and it advised Inquisitors to not worry too much if the defendant died as a result of this treatment. So the Inquisition were quite prepared to kill many people under their custody if it meant stamping out heresy. On top of that, the Inquisition was viciously anti-Semitic and was a project of Catholic anti-Semitism; they burned Jews on the stake for refusing to convert to Catholicism, they persecuted Judaism to the point of mass burning copies of the Talmud, they explicitly targeted supposed Jewish influence through the conversos (meaning Spanish and Portugese Jews who converted to Catholicism), the Spanish Inquisition was started in the first place in order to target conversos in order to ensure that they were loyal to the Church, Inquisitions were ordered by Catholic monarchs specifically out of fear of “Jewish influence”, and the Inquisition was also involved in the expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal.

Now, in contrast, let’s try to examine whatever incident Matt Walsh is talking about that he deemed fit to compare with the Inquisition. The clip presented by Jason Campbell comes from an 8-minute video from Matt Walsh’s YouTube channel, itself a clip from the Matt Walsh Show, in which he responds to a viral TikTok video of a trans person berating the manager at a Sonic Drive-In over their being misgendered. Yes, that’s literally all this is. Matt Walsh ranted about forced conversion and defended the Inquisition over a dispute at a Sonic Drive-In. To be more specific about what happened, Eden Torres, a trans woman, was having an argument with a Sonic manager over the fact that their staff repeatedly misgendered her, calling her “sir” when in fact she identified as a woman, after they saw her dead name (their birth name in accordance with the gender they were merely assigned at birth) on her credit card. The manager seemingly apologized, but then said that “we have employees here that are gay” as though that somehow justified her being misgendered. When Torres pointed out to the manager that she was talking about gender-based discrimination and asked the company to stop discriminating against her, the manager asked Torres if her name was feminine, and insisted that Torres was not being discriminated against when she said it wasn’t. The manager then asks what he can call Torres, Torres asks what he would assume when looking at her, and the manager told her she looks like a man, at that point Torres dismissed him and drove away.

At this point I’m not sure what world Matt Walsh and others like him, or The Daily Wire for that matter, think we live in. This isn’t “forced conversion” to some abstract, alien, authoritarian ideology. Or at least it’s not what almost anyone thinks when the words “forced conversion” spring to mind. Seriously, which do you think is worse? Being a Jew or a heretic in the Middle Ages and getting tortured or killed for not believing in the Catholic Church, or being some asshole who misgenders a trans woman and is publicly called out as a transphobe? Is the prospect that people might boycott Sonic Drive-In for their transphobia really so bad that we might compare it to the mass execution and deportation of non-Christians? Is being expected to refer to the desired pronouns of an individual really a sign of obeisance to their divinity, and is it truly comparable to the expectation to uphold the catechisms of the Catholic Church on pain of basically death? And don’t give me some bullshit about losing your jobs or having everything other than your body being incinerated, because you know that isn’t actually happening. You know, J. K. Rowling is a TERF and I see no signs of her career taking a dive after her remarks about trans people. If anything, she got a bit of a pity party going for her after some motherfucker sent her death threats. Someone who was truly expunged from society and its remit for being treated with some semblance of deceny is probably not going to be defended in that event – after all, if you were truly deemed scum of the earth by society, why should society care if you lived or died? Instead J. K. Rowling got a lot of praise from a wide variety of public figures. Recently, in fact, Dave Chapelle defended J. K. Rowling’s opinions on trans people and supposedly got a standing ovation from the audience. That’s not exactly the mark of a man shunned by society if you ask me.

If you’re at a point where you’re going to tell the whole world that thousands of people getting killed, tortured, and kicked out of a country for having the wrong religion is somehow better than being vocally condemned by the public for being a transphobe, then that to me is a sign that your discourse regarding the subject of “cancel culture” is completely fargone and unservicable to anyone. It actually calls for anyone still into this to re-examine why they’re into it or ever were into it at all, because, for all the right’s talk about left-wing snowflakes, this talk of how the Inquisition would be better than getting “cancelled” on the internet is the most cliche, pathetic, snowflake shit I’ve seen in a long time. You’re actually willing to defend people getting burned at the stake and stretched at the rack for religious reasons just so you don’t have to deal with someone calling you a piece of shit on Twitter or Facebook? What kind of weak, man-baby attitude is this?

I guess if the human body is completely worthless to you and the soul and its place in God’s kingdom is more important, then maybe from that perspective being burned alive must seem like a cakewalk. At the very least, I can sort of respect someone being so willing to face down death like that. But even then, shouldn’t your possessions mean nothing to you as well? I mean, what’s the point of worrying about losing your possessions or your job for saying what you believe in if, in the end, your soul still gets to live forever in heaven while everyone else goes to hell? And, if anything, you have less obstacles to that salvation by having less stuff and money to attach your soul to. What’s the problem? The problem, as I see it, is that this was never about standing up for your beliefs in the face of some mob, and it was never about freedom of expression or speech. It was only ever about Christian conservatives having the right to their ideas of the boundaries of gender identity going unchallenged as the default mode of social life that everyone had to conform to, not to mention Christianity as the dominant religion never being challenged. It’s about social control, not freedom.

It’s safe to say that the influence of conservatism on society has been declining in recent decades, which is obviously eroding the popular consent that conservatives need in the context of a bourgeois-democratic society in order maintain the social control that they desire. Thus, the conservatives, even when they seem to be politically ascendant, are slowly losing power. That’s why they can claim to be victims even when they usually aren’t being victimized by anyone, because conservative victimhood is the experience of the loss of power and privilege in a culture and population that increasingly despises the conservative agenda. And you know what the big joke is? Conservatives so often like to claim that modern people, especially leftists and liberals, are weak snowflakes who get assmad when life doesn’t go their way, but conservatives have always proved to be the real snowflakes, especially over the slightest inconvenience to their worldview and their social agenda. And remember, these are the same people who have been at the forefront of almost every major censorship campaign throughout the 20th century and much of the 21st century. These are the people who have sought to cancel any expressive deviation from cultural Christianity, such as how they whipped up a media circus against Rosaleen Norton, which led to police raiding her house and eventually her becoming a recluse for the rest of her life. These are the people who are now trying to turn around and act like they’re crusaders for freedom of speech and expression.

I’m sick of this shit. Tell them to fuck off, but not before you get the chance to remind them of how weak their cherished Western Civilization truly is. After all, how strong is a society that we’re supposed to believe is going to collapse if being trans is seen as a normal thing, that it cannot survive such a blow without the return of the Inquisition? Frankly, I’d say such a society isn’t very robust at all, and deserves the fate of decay.

Illustration of an Auto-de-fe held in Valladollid, Spain (1559); the Auto-de-fe was a public ceremony in which accused and condemned heretics were humiliated and executed. Jews were sometimes burned in those ceremonies for refusing to convert to Catholicism. But according to Matt Walsh, all this is nowhere near as bad as getting called out for misgendering trans people.

I regret to inform you all that Rhyd Wildermuth is an ally to bigotry

Have you ever had that feeling when you encounter someone you really found fascinating, whose work got you thinking about something in a bit of a different way from before, and you start taking influence from them, and then you find out that they’ve made such egregious errors of judgement that it makes you question what you want to do with them, and then you feel kind of lost? That’s what happened regarding Rhyd Wildermuth. I discovered his work a few months ago, in the process of rediscovering Gods and Radicals, itself part of my own process of rediscovering, and re-envisioning, Paganism as a religious world-outlook, onto which Luciferianism as an esoteric outlook can be formatted in my own syncretic way. He inspired some ways of thinking about Paganism or had me thinking of some beliefs I always kind of had in a way that, at that time, I didn’t imagine before, or at least pointed the way to them. But recently I’ve begun to think he’s actively taking the side of some bigoted and reactionary corners of the online left – either that or he’s just too stupid to know the difference and he ends up as a dupe – and that has me questioning myself quite a bit. I mean don’t get me wrong, his more recent article on anarchism was very questionable enough and I had a lot of problems with it, but what I’m about to tell you is much worse. It has to do with two online left figures widely known for their snobbish, reactionary bigotry and who together form a kind of red-brown alliance in online circles: one is an (apparently) anarchist YouTuber/podcaster by the name of Angie Speaks, the other is another podcaster by the name of Aimee Terese. One of them, Angie, seems to be a friend of Rhyd Wildermuth’s and is actively platformed on Gods and Radicals’ website. This is a problem for reasons you are about to see.

This all started a few days ago when someone showed me a short Twitter thread that Angie posted last week, in which she attacked people who “”try to be something they’re not”. If that sounds vague, I’ll just post a screenshot of the thread below here:

Now this on its own can invite a fair few questions. What “self-hatred” is she referring to? Who are the people “trying to be something they’re not”? Why is aversion to said people “not bigotry”, and for that matter why the need to refer to bigotry, since this reference implies a response to accusations of bigotry? Who is “not living their truth” and why is it “perfectly natural” to be “creeped out” by them? But the answer to all of those questions, to anyone reading between the lines, is that Angie is referring to trans people. She believes that trans people are not and cannot be the gender they identify as, that they hate themselves, and that cisgender people being averse to them is “natural” because they are “uncanny” and “deceptive”. This is in part a fairly textbook case of ignorance about trans people, but also an equally textbook case of transphobic bigotry, since the whole premise of Angie’s argument is that she thinks trans people are inherently disturbing and that it’s both acceptable and justified for others to be disturbed by them and treat them like scum. When it’s coming from a right-wing conservative, and a Christian one at that, the bigotry tends to be easy to spot and most people react accordingly. When it’s coming from someone who calls themselves a leftist of any sort, the same is also almost true, except that for some reason there are more people willing to take them at face value or give them the benefit of the doubt, because left-wing transphobes, unlike right-wing transphobes, have the habit of masking the same exact bigotry in a labyrinth of intellectual jargon and obfuscation.

This is also not Angie’s first time being transphobic. In April, Angie, after seeing a video of a schizophrenic trans teenager panicking because their mother deadnamed them repeatedly and was in the process of kicking them out of their home, responded to said video by calling the trans person in question a “brat” and remarked that parents would “many parents would rethink having zoomer/ millennial brats if they new it entailed paying for their lifestyle and housing in adulthood”, among other things.

Just to emphasize, the poor individual with the green hair is pleading to anyone watching their TikTok video to help them find a new home in order to get away from their parents, because said parents are abusing them, and Angie’s response to this is to make it seem like the teenager deserved what they got, because of their “strange interests” (as though witchcraft somehow isn’t considered a “strange interest”) and supposed “bullying”. Angie decided to frame the teenager as the bully and her parents as the real victims, and following this she released a nearly-hour-long YouTube tirade about “narcissism”, “validation”, and “social justice”. Angie’s open and public stance on someone having a mental health crisis while being verbally and mentally abused by their parents and thrown out of their home is in fact a dispenser of abuse rather than its victim. Angie is thus justifying the suffering of young trans people, and is therefore a transphobe. Insofar as Angie considers herself to be a feminist, this would mean that she is also a TERF, a trans-exclusionary radical feminist (more on that later).

Then, last week, there’s the other tidbit about Angie appearing on the What’s Left podcast, hosted by Aimee Terese. I didn’t get much into Aimee’s whole persona and even in the context of this post I don’t think going into much more than a paragraph of detail is merited, but there’s a lot out there, and none of it good. Born as Aimee Laba, Aimee Terese is a Lebanese-Australian self-styled Marxist (who apparently can’t debate about Marxism without shutting down) who likes to talk a big game about how she advances real working class politics against “the professional middle class” by smuggling conservative nationalist, and often bigoted (and more recently anti-vaccine), talking points into socialist/left-wing circles. This, of course, is despite being the scion of a wealthy Lebanese capitalist and reared in one of Sydney’s most prestigious (and not to mention reactionary) elite private schools, a fact that flies straight in the face of her claims that her father was an impoverished electrician, and also despite having people like Oren Cass on their show, who is so establishment conservative that he worked for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns (very “socialist”, I’m sure). Over the years Terese’s politics has gotten more and more reactionary to the point that she went from posturing about being the biggest supporter of Bernie Sanders on the block to literally opposing universal healthcare on the grounds that it would supposedly give the state the power to vaccinate and euthanize everyone in totalitarian fashion. I’m not kidding around, see below:

Nobody tell Aimee that this has never happened anywhere, or that she sounds almost exactly like a Tea Party goon

Oh and did I mention that she’s basically a white nationalist who is in turn supported by other white nationalists and also literal, actual neo-Nazis? Because that’s pretty important.

Aimee Terese is the only contemporary “Marxist” I am aware of who has actually been promoted by white nationalists as an ally of their cause. Consider American Renaissance, the organization founded by the white nationalist and alt-right thought leader Jared Taylor. On their website one of their authors, Chris Roberts, wrote an article on December 11th 2019 titled “Aimee Terese: Contrarian, Marxist — White Advocate?“, in which Roberts goes through a gallery of Terese’s many takes which he finds agreeable to his own white nationalist ideology. In the same vein, the website for the National Vanguard, which is an actual neo-Nazi group founded by a fairly notorious neo-Nazi named Kevin Alfred Storm, also published their own article expressing solidarity with Terese, written on July 28th 2020 by an anonymous author going by “Dissident Millenial”. Titled “Aimee Terese — A Witty Marxist and Fetching Thorn in the Side of “Woke” Liberals“, it contains basically the same collection of tweets as Chris Roberts’ article with basically the same intent, but the author also adds a certain degree of flirtatious feeling to it, almost like a pathetic attempt to get a date. She’s also known to be rather friendly towards a white supremacist and Daily Stormer contributor named Joseph Jordan (known on the internet as Eric Striker), and had agreeable conversations regarding Striker’s views on the “j-left” (presumably meaning “Jewish left”, implying the left they don’t like is a form of anti-white Jewish subversion). When this naturally attracted the ire of the rest of the online left, she pretended not to know who Striker was, accused people of policing her, preceeded to police other people for retweeting her enemies, and had Eric Striker come to her defence.

If you advertise yourself as a socialist, indeed the one of the “only real socialists” on the internet, but you echo the views of white nationalists and neo-Nazis, are friends with neo-Nazis, and will defend association with neo-Nazis, the possibilities are that you are a Nazi or a white nationalist yourself, or are just so colossally stupid that it isn’t even worth contemplating.

Of course, so far I’ve gone through all of this information without once tying it back to Rhyd Wildermuth. But that changes now. You’ll remember that I mentioned that Angie Speaks is still listed on the Gods and Radicals website, and still has a page on that website. I contacted Rhyd Wildermuth via email about much of what has been discussed previously, and expressed concerns about him platforming a transphobe with links to white nationalism. What you’re about to see below is his response:

Hi there,

I’ve checked out the links you provided and none of these amount to evidence of Angie being anti-trans or aligned with white nationalists.

Her views align with a growing number of Black Marxists (see for example the repeatedly de-platformed Black Marxist professor Adolph Reed, as well as many of Cornell West’s recent positions) that neo-liberal ‘anti-racism’ only reifies race, because it is much better for the capitalists that poor people blame each other for ‘systemic oppression’ rather than fighting the capitalists together. While I do not have experience with Aimée Terese, after reading the screenshots provided in those links it appears she is also critiquing this same problem.

I have known Angie personally for many years, by the way, and can assure you she is not anti-trans either. She has absolutely critiqued much of the neoliberal (capitalist) dogma around trans identity and the aggressive subsection of twitter that has called for the death of cis gays who will not have sex with trans people, as well as the many rape threats against gender critical women on social media (see my own critique of this here, with links to large archives of this behavior ).

While some of her own rhetoric can absolutely be quite provocative in a way in which I myself would never engage (it’s one of the reasons I completely left social media in August), it would take much more for me to silence her–or anyone–on our website.

Thanks for your email.

In short summary, Rhyd Wildermuth has seen what I have sent him and does not believe that Angie is anti-trans or aligned with white nationalists, thinks of her as an intellectual critic of neoliberal identity politics doing nothing but critiquing “neoliberal dogma around trans identity”, treats Aimee Terese as yet another of said critics while seemingly not touching on why white nationalists and Nazis seem to actively promote her content, and will not dissociate her from the Gods and Radicals website. Let’s go through this response point by point.

I’ve already established that Angie is in fact anti-trans, so there’s no need to go into too much detail about that. What I could do, though, is get into Rhyd’s justification for why he maintains this idea that she is not anti-trans. He says that she has “critiqued much of the neoliberal (capitalist) dogma around trans identity”. What is that “neoliberal dogma”, exactly? Judging from Angie’s statements it would appear that this “neoliberal dogma” is nothing more than the assertion that trans people are the gender they say they are, and that gender affirmation (or reassignment) surgery is valid. How exactly this is “neoliberal dogma” is a bit of a mystery, unless you consider that perhaps calling it “neoliberal dogma” serves as a way to de-legitimize what is otherwise essentially scientific consensus on the subject of being trans, and in a way that can seem palatable to certain idiotic leftists obsessed with certain ideas of “proletarian culture” against “bourgeois culture”. The only other “neoliberal dogma” I can see is the idea that trans people shouldn’t be deadnamed ad nauseum, let alone at all or by their parents for that matter, and shouldn’t be thrown out of their homes for suffering a mental breakdown because of it. And again, the only reason that’s seen as “neoliberal dogma” for some is because it can serve as a convenient intellectual justification for being cruel to trans people.

The other flank of his argument that Angie is not anti-trans is that she is also critical of “the aggressive subsection of twitter that has called for the death of cis gays who will not have sex with trans people, as well as the many rape threats against gender critical women on social media”. As ludicrous as this all sounds, the tell is in the phrase “gender critical women”. “Gender critical” is the politically correct term for what are otherwise called TERFs – trans-exclusionary radical feminists. These feminists believe that trans women are actually men seeking to “invade women’s spaces”, borrow arguments from homophobic evangelical Christians to justify discrimination against trans people, and they have the habit of threatening violence upon people they disagree with – or at least, they like to stick razor blades under their posters to slice anyone who tries to pull them down. So for a start, it’s the TERFs that like to do the silencing in broad trends. As for the “death and rape threats” accusation, even the Twitter album that Rhyd cites isn’t necessarily the smoking gun that he thinks it is. Not least if you remember that Twitter is not representative of the entire LGBT community – in fact, it’s not even representative of the whole population. Besides which, no matter how many people in the LGBT community actually hold the kind of absurd and bigoted opinions towards homosexuals Rhyd alludes to, that doesn’t suddenly mean that Angie isn’t transphobic anymore than US imperialism suddenly means Iran isn’t an authoritarian theocracy. And even if there are people on Twitter who shit on gay people for not dating trans people, is that really worse than the fact that trans people can be murdered on a whim, with violence against trans people increasing, and their murders often still going unreported, and failing that they’re still regularly denied housing? That’s something that, for some reason, Angie and Rhyd don’t seem interested in talking about, or Aimee Terese for that matter, or any TERF. Or, for another matter, Glenn Greenwald, who went from one of the best journalists in America willing to stick his neck out to stand up to right-wing authoritarianism in Brazil, to a tired old centrist crank whining about how he thinks gay people are being replaced by trans people or some nonsense like that.

Oh but then there’s the point about Angie not being associated with white nationalism. Rhyd insists that Angie is not associated with white nationalism via her links with Aimee Terese, and that instead she is part of a growing movement of black Marxists (only two are actually cited) that are united by the contention “that neo-liberal ‘anti-racism’ only reifies race, because it is much better for the capitalists that poor people blame each other for ‘systemic oppression’ rather than fighting the capitalists together”. This, again, is deflection. For starters, “neoliberal anti-racism” is never specified, but we can only assume it refers to various liberal ideas about race and discussion thereof. Without being given any canards to examine, we can sort of dismiss this by pointing out that many leftists who aren’t what we might call “class reductionists” already tear apart the work of people like Robin DiAngelo as essentially an arm of corporate power against working class coalition building and organization, in favour of socialist anti-racist projects that still emphasize the inclusion of various identity-based struggles.

There’s a reason for this that I’ve come to understand. In the past, there were communist parties that expressly refused to include struggles for black liberation in their political program, no doubt to emphasize that the class struggle was the only struggle. The main example of this would be the Communist Party USA, which in the early 20th century followed this exact approach even to the point of denying the existence of racism. The end result was that some black workers abandoned the communist parties, and the left, to support Marcus Garvey, a proto-fascist black nationalist and an admirer of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Of course, many who didn’t instead turned to the much more radical Black Panthers, who unlike Marcus Garvey actually did frame demands for black emancipation in the context of a revolutionary agenda. The point being, socialist movements that dismissed liberationist identity-based struggles ended up losing people to anyone who might champion whose causes instead, even if that included fascistic ethno-nationalists. That historical reality may end up explaining why certain “class reductionist” or “class first” leftists end up morphing into reactionaries, often of the white nationalist variety. So contrary to some talking points about how “woke” leftists are creating fascists, the communists who followed the approach that Angie and Aimee would have them follow were the ones actually creating fascists.

Returning to Angie, for a moment, if the idea is that she’s critiquing identity fetishism in the sense of leveraging racial identity against the working class, that’s frankly laughable. In many exchanges, including only a few years ago in which she was arguably just as much an “identity-fetishist” as the people she now hates, she will, during the course of argument, not hestitate to leverage the fact that she’s a black woman in order to shield herself from criticism. Not exactly something you’d expect from someone interested in fighting “identity politics”. Since Rhyd claimed that Aimee Terese makes basically the same critique, we should briefly address her once more. While Terese is framed as an opponent of “identity politics”, we can see from her tweets that she spends a lot of time leveraging white identity against a multicultural elite, which is the quintessential and core politics of white nationalism. Also, for someone ostensibly keen to oppose identitarianism, why is Aimee Terese an anti-Semite? Just a month ago she produced a meme which depicted mass vaccination against Covid-19 as some kind of Jewish plot to enslave non-Jews.

When you do explicitly Nazi memes after repeatedly insisting that you aren’t a Nazi

I guess I can’t blame Rhyd too much for not knowing about this, not having dealt with Aimee before. But I’ll bet Angie knows what she’s doing, considering that they are friends and fellow travellers. Insofar as Aimee Terese is a white nationalist, and there really can’t be any denying it at this point, Angie’s links to white nationalism are pretty definite. She’ll never express white nationalism ideologically herself, but she will ally herself with white nationalists seeking to infiltrate the left as comrades in being “cancelled” by everyone else, thereby creating a network of influence. This along with the obvious transphobia is the problem with Gods and Radicals still having Angie Speaks on their website.

In light of all this Rhyd Wildermuth’s stance is clear: he is on the side of TERFs, and from the sounds of it might be a TERF himself, and so he has no problem with transphobia except to the extent that he likes to deny being anti-trans. He has seen evidence to corroborate Aimee Terese being a white nationalist, which would mean that, because Angie networks with Aimee, Angie represents a point of connection between left-wing contrarians and white nationalism, yet has chosen to dismiss the idea of Aimee Terese being a white nationalist, which functionally means he denies that Angie has any connections to white nationalism, and therefore he will not distance himself from her. By continuing to have Angie on the roster of the Gods and Radicals website, Rhyd gives his website a place in that same network. This means that at this point Rhyd Wildermuth is an ally to some very bigoted people.

What does this all mean? Well, it does mean I’m feeling extremely conflicted, mostly because his writings on Paganism proved to be informative of the way Paganism and radical left-wing political thought could intersect and helped light the way to a meaningful Pagan left-wing critique of the Enlightenment, plus his website still has a lot of good work on it, in the form of not just the articles not written by Rhyd, as well as some he did write, but in the form of the books they have (Kadmus Herschen’s groundbreaking True to the Earth is on that website). But while all the good is still there, knowing that Rhyd is willing to go out to bat for these disgusting reactionaries makes things very painfully inconvenient. The best outcome of this is that this complicates my ability to appreciate his work, but the worst possibility is that he’s trying to smuggle some pretty chauvinistic attitudes into Pagan left-wing spaces.

To close out this post, I’d like to make a point about why being a TERF doesn’t make much sense if you’re serious about Paganism. Christian culture may have made a big point about hierarchical masculinity and femininity being fixed essences and set in stone by God, but while even pre-Christian societies tended to be patriarchal, there is also a lot of evidence that they tended to accept trans identity to some degree. 3,000 years ago, the Persians recognized a “third gender” alongside male and female. In Sumeria, the priests of the goddess Inanna were men who discarded their masculinity and became women, and Inanna herself was revered for having the power to change men into women and vice versa. In India, the Hijra were a kind of “third gender”, considered either intersex, transgender, or asexual, who, although often marginalized in Indian society, have been present within it since antiquity and can even possess religious significance. In pre-Christian Norse society, transgressing gender norms could be seen as a source of profound power, and the god Loki himself moved through the genders almost on a whim, a fact that the Norse also tended to accept of their gods in general. And of course, the Amerindian (or Native American) tribes are known to have acknowledged over a hundred different gender expressions, and many tribes had a variety of ideas about people who did not fit the traditional male-female dichotomy, which were then suppressed by the dictatorship of colonial morality.

The point I’m trying to make is that the Pagan world did not have the problems with accepting the identity of trans people that Christian culture or more particularly modern Western culture has up to the present. So what’s stopping Rhyd Wildermuth, a Pagan, from taking effectively the same stance as his ancient pre-Christian forbears and accepting trans people as valid? By legitimating the TERF stance on trans people, endorsing the delegitimating of the identity of trans people on TERF grounds, and falling into identity-based sectarianism between trans people and gay people based on some dumb bullshit on Twitter, itself trumped up by TERFs, Rhyd does not seem to take seriously or grasp the extent to which Paganism endorses the acceptance of the identity of trans people. It also means he doesn’t take too seriously the way he talks about the Right Sacred and the Left Sacred. By his terms, the Right Sacred segregates Man and the Sacred and rigidly enforces the boundaries of experience. The TERF position is all about rigidly enforcing conservative gender norms as the mandatory experience of gender. It doesn’t matter that this hierarchical conservatism happens to be disguised by the rhetoric of female empowerment and liberation, because hierarchical conservatism it most certainly is in reality. So, by Rhyd’s terms, the TERF position is that of the Right Sacred, which he tends to see as inferior to the Left Sacred. To take the Left Sacred, with its emphasis on liberation, disinhibition, and transgression of the boundaries of experience seriously, it would be far more sensible to embrace a society in which the boundaries of experience can be freely transgressed, and therefore being trans should be considered valid in itself on those grounds at least. But even without that framework, being trans was simply considered to be valid in the Pagan world, or at least it was a recognized social category even in the context of societies where this was still marginalized. It’s not something that has recently sprung up as the product of liberal modernity.

In broad terms, Rhyd Wildermuth is taking the wrong side of an issue where we on the left, and we as Pagans, really should not be having such a hard time being on the right side of, and his willingness to defend transphobes who also happen to network with white nationalists is a major problem for his own credibility, and unfortunately that of Gods and Radicals, which is his website. Perhaps it can be maintained that we need not completely disregard the work of Gods and Radicals because of it, but then perhaps it would be better if there was another Gods and Radicals that isn’t run by someone who may be a TERF.

There’s no reason for this image to be here, except for me to say “fuck TERFs”, because fuck TERFs

The Esoteric Nazism of the Gnostic Church of Christ-Lucifer

After my post covering E. A. Koetting and Michael W. Ford’s ties to Tempel ov Blood and the Order of Nine Angles, I cannot help but be overcome by a sense of morbid curiosity dominated by one question: just how many more self-styled leaders in the left hand path scene are secretly part of the Order of Nine Angles family? I don’t think that many are, realistically speaking, and perhaps not many even there even know, and it’s probably not possible to grasp the true depth of the involvement of those who are actually involved. This is in part down to what the O9A call “insight roles”, a practice where members assume roles that are markedly distinct from and disassociated with their activity in the O9A, often while publicly renouncing the O9A or denying any involvement with them. The life of Christos Beest is a good example of this, where his public rejection of the O9A and conversion to Catholicism were actually, according to his memoirs, just another step in the Sinister Path which he still consciously followed, and it’s an important reason why you can’t trust that E. A. Koetting or Michael W. Ford aren’t still associated with them in some way. In that spirit, however, my curiosity recently led me to a Medium article written by an anti-fascist leftist podcast called The Empire Never Ended in which they document the infiltration of the government of Montenegro as well as the Montenegrin Orthodox Church by O9A members. It was here that I stumbled onto a bizarre and obscure occult organization called the Gnostic Church of Christ-Lucifer (a.k.a. Gnostička Crkva Hrista-Lucifera). Being as the article doesn’t cover it too much, I opted to investigate.

There’s very little information out there about the organization, but before we get into what does exist about it let’s talk about its leader, who the article discusses at length. The leader of the Gnostic Church of Christ-Lucifer is a man by the name of Nikola Poleksić, who along with his wife Mirna Nikčević is also the leader of a nexion of the Order of Nine Angles called Astral Bone Gnawers Lodge. Poleksić is also a musician, being involved in a number of rock and metal bands as well as a dark ambient project called Dark Imperivm, and as far as O9A members go he is easily the most active and prominent in Montenegro at least. He further seems to be a seasoned occultist, and quite the braggart at that, always bragging about how he spent 20 years of his life studying the works of occultists such as Franz Bardon, and he frequently uses his social media accounts to openly defend National Socialism and support Adolf Hitler (who he compares positively to Vladimir Putin). He’s definitely very deep into esoteric Nazism, being an avid reader of the literature of Savitri Devi and Tempel ov Blood in addition to simply being a supporter of National Socialism. Almost unbelievably, as of June 20th of this year Poleksić is also a deacon of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, after somehow rapidly climbing up the ladder of the church. Of course, while he’s in the Montenegrin Orthodox Church as a deacon, he somehow still runs the Gnostic Church of Christ-Lucifer as his church, and bizarrely enough he doesn’t seem to believe there is any contradiction involved in him simultaneously embracing Christianity and Satanism. That Nikola Poleksić can operate as a card-carrying Nazi Satanist while fronting as a deacon of a Christian church is a striking example of the insight roles of the Order of Nine Angles.

With that out of the way, let’s look into the Gnostic Church of Christ-Lucifer and try to find out what they actually believe. The article mentions that, in an interview he gave with Jake Hanrahan, Poleksić described the doctrine of his church as essentially an Order of Nine Angles interpretation of Christianity (yes, as absurd as that sounds, that is what his pitch is), and states that his theology is influenced by the teachings of Savitri Devi, the infamous pioneer of Esoteric Hitlerism. That’s about as much as the article covers. Like I said before, there’s not much information about them, but a quick trip to Google leads us to their Facebook and a five-page manifesto. Their website appears to no longer be accessible, but their Facebook page seems to have been active since 2019. Nothing of theirs is in English, so I’m having to resort to Google Translate to show you anything, and to be honest it’s probably going to be pretty shit. So if any Montenegrins happen to read this, feel free to check my ass with better translations.

Anyways, on their About page we get this description:

Gnostička Crkva Hrista-Lucifera je autonomna vjerska zajednica i mistična Tradicija nastala s ciljem promovisanja jednog specifičnog teološkog i mističnog pogleda na Hrista, prirodu naše realnosti i duhovnu evoluciju čovjeka.

Our probably bad Google translation gives us the following:

The Gnostic Church of Christ-Lucifer is an autonomous religious community and a mystical Tradition created with the aim of promoting a specific theological and mystical view of Christ, the nature of our reality and the spiritual evolution of man.

That sounds supsiciously vague. If we go off of this it can look like all they’re about is basically some weird Christian mysticism that aims to facilitate the evolution of humanity through a “specific theological and mystical view of Christ”. This view of Christ is expanded upon in what seems to be their first Facebook post, mercifully translated through Facebook. The post begins with “What is the GCHL?” and contains the exact same statement as before, but the rest of it reads as follows:

Speaking in purely mythological terms, we believe that human species is enslaved by Demijurg, malevolent being, head of the cosmic race of spiritual predators in the Bible, known as ′′ Elohim ′′ (gods). For us Christ is a rebel against this spiritual tyranny of Elohim, similar to Prometheus from Greek mythology who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans. Fire is a symbol of enlightenment and immortality that this predatory race wants to deprive us. Where is Christ for us the same as Lucifer-′′ lucifer “, the one who brings freedom to man by giving him the light of Truth, being, again, like Prometheus, punished for such a ′′ crime “.

We believe that the first, true Christians were systematically persecuted and oppressed by the official Roman Church (which later divided into Orthodox and Catholic), and that the teachings about the true nature and mission of Christ were deliberately distorted. Our mission is to, among other things, put these teachings in the right context and educate people about the same.

There’s plenty that sounds like the classic, archetypal “Gnostic-Luciferian” fare about how Lucifer is the “Gnostic” saviour who seeks to bring enlightenment to humanity and is punished by the Demiurge for doing so, just that here Lucifer is identified directly with Jesus Christ, and that the “first, true Christians” presumably follow this idea and were persecuted by the Roman Church – we are left to assume that this is meant to be the “Gnostic” sects of Christianity, none of whom ever venerated Lucifer in any capacity. Here Christ and Lucifer are one and the same, a Prometheus-like figure who rebels against the Elohim and their tyranny in order to liberate mankind.

Then you look at the group’s other posts and the picture you get of their doctine gets really convoluted. There’s this post for example where Christ is Lucifer and Jehovah is Satan, but both Christ/Lucifer and Jehovah/Satan are aspects of God and divine manifestations of the polarity of opposites. So somehow God is rebelling against God in this instance. Also Christ/Lucifer is taken to be Spirit while Jehovah/Satan is taken to be Matter, and, unlike in standard “Gnostic” doctrine, both Spirit and Matter express each other through each other, which sounds to me like their way of expressing the dualism of Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy. Another post professes a faith in a Mother Earth, identified as Bafomet-Babalon which seems to be derived from Thelema, as well as a “Mother Sofia”. The same post also professes a belief in a cycle of death and rebirth and the escape from said cycle, and said escape being made possible through a “baptism of wisdom with water and spirit”. In yet another post the GCHL seems to explicitly refer to their belief system as “Luciferian Christianity”, a “syncretic religion of the New Age” that happens to be based on the “Jewish-Christian” tradition, and takes as their source material the Bible, the “Gnostic” gospels, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Book of the Law, as well as modern science. The organization also claims to receive all people as members regardless of “racial, ethnic, national, ideological and classical affiliation”, which is somewhat laughable when you remember that it’s run by a neo-Nazi who claims that his church’s teachings are based on the work of Savitri Devi. They even claim to be a matriarchal organization.

Last year the GCHL published a 5-page manifesto outlining their beliefs. In it they describe themselves as the first official Luciferian church founded in the South Slavic area (who knows, they very well could be), as well as a Western form of Indian Bhakti Yoga. Much of the manifesto’s content is already seen in the group’s public Facebook posts, although curiously enough the section where it talks about baptism refers to a “Heretical Mass” whereas the Facebook post refers to this same ceremony as the “Jewish Mass”. It’s not at all clear what this “Heretical Mass” could be, but since we have to remember that the church is run by an O9A member, it might just as well refer to the O9A’s infamous Mass of Heresy which is essentially just a Nazi prayer for Hitler. One interesting thing to note is that, halfway into the manifesto, we see a cross and above it says “Theological Synthesis (Above Good and Evil)”. By itself it says little other than probably a no-effort Nietzsche reference, but again, since this guy is O9A, we have to keep in mind what “being above good and evil” could mean in that context, since O9A and Tempel ov Blood people like to talk about committing extremely immoral acts in order to transcend the limits of morality.

At some point the manifesto begins to discuss the Trimurti of Hinduism – the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – in the context of the GCHL’s view of cosmic struggle, and refers to each of the gods of the Trimurti in relation to time: Brahma represents “forces beyond time”, Vishnu represents “forces against time”, and Shiva represents “forces of time”. This framework is derived from Esoteric Hitlerist doctrine, specifically the work of Savitri Devi. In Devi’s worldview, the “Man in Time” is a figure who embodies destruction and exists to further the process of historical decay, the “Man Above (or Beyond) Time” is a figure who embodies creation and exists to transcend the process of historical decay, and the “Man Against Time” embodies the power of destruction used for a “life-affirming purpose”, by which is meant fighting the process of historical decay through violent and brutal means. Savitri Devi praised Adolf Hitler as the “Man Against Time”, and believed that he was an avatar of Vishnu who came to “save” humanity. Keep that in mind. The doctrine of the GCHL is essentially employing Savitri Devi’s Esoteric Nazism by framing the Trimurti gods in relation to Devi’s framework of time and decay, right down to Vishnu representing the “forces against time” and thereby embodying the purpose of the Hitlerian incarnation imagined by Devi and her followers. The document might not make any outright references to Hitler, the Nazis, the Holocaust, or anti-semitism, but if you know anything about what the Esoteric Nazis/Hitlerists believe, you’ll easily figure out that it is a work of Nazi mysticism, just that it carefully avoids explicitly pro-Nazi or anti-semitic rhetoric to hide its true intentions and hopes you won’t know better.

And, as if it’s not convoluted enough, Vishnu and Shiva are treated as identical to each other as aspects of Brahma, the creator. This would mean that the forces against time and the forces of time are one and the same, and are both aspects of the forces beyond time, and it would mean that Hitler, Genghis Khan, and the Jews are all the same thing. Which, to be honest, makes the whole thing pretty pointless. Why do the whole racial holy war that Nazis are all about if in the end all sides of that war are exactly the same?

In any case, we come to the point of the manifesto where all of this talk of Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma and the forces relating to time come back to Christ/Lucifer and Jehovah/Satan, and it’s here that we come to the other side of the esoteric anti-semitism of the GCHL’s doctrine. Christ/Lucifer is identified as fulfilling the function of Vishnu, and represents the “forces against time”. This represents Light, and Christ/Lucifer as the “preserver” acts within nature to sustain all things. Thus Lucifer is identified with Christ and Vishnu, and insofar as Christ/Lucifer is the “force against time”, he is essentially identified with Adolf Hitler. By contrast, Jehovah/Satan fulfills the function of Shiva, and represents the “forces of time”, thus representing Darkness and acting within nature to manifest through destructive phenomenon. Think carefully about where this is going. If Christ/Lucifer/Vishnu represents Light and as the “forces against time” can be identified with Hitler, then Jehovah/Satan/Shiva, insofar as he represents Darkness and the “forces of time”, meaning destruction and historical decay, would represent the Jews, who Hitler and the Nazis believed set out to destroy “Aryan” civilization. Remember also that the O9A, of which Nikola Poleksić is a card-carrying member, identifies Christianity, democracy, and basically everything they don’t like with the “Magian” epoch, which they believe to be ushered in by the Jews. Of course, the GCHL still ultimately insists that Christ/Lucifer and Jehovah/Satan are ultimately two faces of the same entity, the nameless entity called God, which I swear is just a way of conveniently skirting the implications of the esoteric conflict between an “Aryan” god of light versus a Jewish god of darkness. I mean if the “Aryan” god and the Jewish god are all the same god, why even should there be conflict between them? But I suppose if all else fails refer to the Hegelian dialectic or some version thereof.

The manifesto ends with a paragraph that can also be found on the GCHL’s Facebook page, and it outlines a doctrine of alchemistic unity of spirit and matter in which Christ/Lucifer is Spirit and Jehovah/Satan is Matter, but their union forms the “Living Soul”, the Azoth, and outlines how the GCHL’s ideal for Western civilization is for both Christ and Satan to be worshipped on the same altar as aspects of God.

The article from The Empire Never Ended brings up that the GCHL document contains many symbols that are also found on the website for the Astral Bone Gnawers Lodge, the O9A nexion led by Nikola Poleksić. If you check the article and then check out the Facebook page for Gnostička Crkva Hrista-Lucifera, you will find at least one of the images that were taken from ABG imagery, suggesting a definite link. The doctrine concerning Vishnu and “forces against time” itself presents an obvious link to the O9A’s doctrine, in that Vishnu as an avatar of Hitler dovetails harmoniously with the O9A’s doctrine of Vindex as a kind of messianic incarnation of Hitler, and the logic is more or less the same in both doctrines.

There is very little else to cover about the GCHL, but I think it is obvious what we’re dealing with here. They appear to be a kind of Esoteric Nazi form of Gnostic Christian “Luciferianism”, but they also try to appear as an open, progressive, or accepting organization, who are of the assumption that allowing gay marriage and embracing matriarchy in their organization somehow negates the presence of Nazism or fascism despite the belief in Nazi mysticism. They are very careful to avoid making explicit references to Adolf Hitler, the Holocaust, Jews, National Socialism, or any of the usual subject matter for Nazis, but they clearly believe in the Esoteric Hitlerist doctrine of the “Man Against Time”, which denotes the belief in Adolf Hitler as the physical incarnation of a divine esoteric force manifesting in a violent struggle against “historical decay”. They don’t say outright that they worship Hitler, but they do worship the “Man Against Time” nonetheless, even if you have to read between the lines to see that. And, at the end of the day, they should be treated as an O9A proxy due to the fact that their leader Nikola Poleksić is almost certainly still a member of the organization, merely moonlighting as a Christian deacon and “Gnostic” church leader. And, just as a bit of good advice, it’s probably not a good idea to get yourself involved with a guy who is not only not going to be honest with you but also probably killed someone or multiple people in order to advance within the hierarchy of the O9A.

A depiction of Jesus used by the GCHL on their social media, attributed to a man named Ahmad Sawas Najjar

Who are the Satanic Reds?

After my two recent posts I sense that, perhaps, there may be some interest in discussion over the group I mentioned called The Satanic Reds, the Satanist organization that also happened to be communist. Just who are they, and just who is Tani Jantsang, the group’s founder?

I suppose we can start with Tani Jantsang first. She appears to have been active in either the Satanic movement or just occultism more generally since the 1960s. She seems to have started out as a big fan of H P Lovecraft during the 1960s, when she intially encountered his writings, and in 1965 she came into contact with a group that was purportedly known as Societas Selectus Satanas, an organization that we know next to nothing about (although at least one person claims that there was actually no Societas Selectus Satanas and in fact what is referred to as such was actually a sect of “Family Tradition” Wicca), of which she believed the fantasy author Lin Carter was a member. As the 60s progressed, Jantsang’s interest in Lovecraft was so intense that it began to intertwine with her spiritual outlook. She started to believe that Lovecraft was connected to an ancient “Black Tradition” of magick that originated in Mongolia and unspecified parts of central Asia, and in 1969 she joined a magical order called Starry Wisdom, which appears to have been inspired by Lovecraft. In future decades she would also go on to become a prolific author of several essays, novels, and poems, many of them themed around the Chthulhu mythos, and she along with a man named Philip Marsh were also the editors of a magazine called Chthulhu Cultus, which ran from 1995 to 2001. In 1974, Tani and Philip formed an organization known as the Kishites, named for the ancient Sumerian (though they claim it to be Babylonian) city of Kish, which seemed to combine the Lovecraftian mythos with Tantric lore and other spiritual systems. In fact, Tani considers the Satanic Reds to be a continuation of the Kishite sect, albeit stripped of any references to Lovecraftian fiction.

cthulhu-cultus-issues-through_1_39243a3e2d391c16fc59adfccda95ad6
A volume of Cthulhu Cultus

Besides her work on Lovecraftian fiction, Tani is also apparently known for being a co-author of 11 historiographical monographs of various incarnations of Left Hand Path spirituality, so she seems to be a seasoned author of both fiction and non-fiction within the realm of Satanism. She is also an enigmatic figure in the movement, relatively obscure nowadays compared to the likes of Peter Gilmore or Michael Aquino (not to mention that very few photos of her exist), and so her life and involvement within Satanism sometimes the subject of rumour, speculation, and even drama. She is sometimes said to have been a Magistra of the Church of Satan in the past, a claim that Tani herself denies. She does seem to have had some correspondence with the Church of Satan, via letters that were sent between her and the Church of Satan between 1992 and 2000. In these letters she was praised by both Anton LaVey and Blanche Barton on various points, such as her pronouncements against the Nazis (or “Aryanists”), various articles of hers that were evidently submitted to the Church of Satan, and some music that she showed them that was apparently composed by her, as well as her correspondence with Anton’s son Xerxes. This is in itself would not be proof of her being a Magistra, but there is a quote of her saying that she was a Magistra going around in old Google forums dating back to 2003. It’s not entirely clear where this quote originates. Her relationship with the Church of Satan appears to have been amicable at first, and she also defended their doctrine of Satan as a dark force in nature against the Temple of Set, but by the time of her last correspondence with Blanche Barton there seems to have been a falling out between her and her organization, supposedly over her increasingly vocal anti-fascist pronouncements against some members of the Church of Satan.

Now, this is very interesting because, in a previous correspondence with Blanche Barton, dated to 1995, Blanche praises Tani for condemning the Nazis in the organization. In fact, Blanche refers to the “Aryanists” (as she calls them) as lacking nobility and purpose and accuses their cosmology and methods of being linked to Christianity (which is silly but at least it seems like she opposed Nazism). Curiously, this is the same year in which Blanche wrote that article for Black Flame in which she gaslighted Satanists who were expressing concern about the presence of fascists in the organization. But by the year 2000, it seems that Tani Jantsang had began calling them out again, in a similar way that she had before only perhaps more vocally, and this time that seems to have pissed off Blanche Barton and others in the Church of Satan. And that gets into some questions. How is it that the Church of Satan, an organization that, as I’ve demonstrated, has had a longstanding association with fascists up to the top of its hierarchy since its early years, would find itself admitting a self-identified communist into their ranks? Perhaps they weren’t lying after all when they said they were an apolitical organization? But then again why would they sideline a member or associate who they previously praised because of her vocal criticism of fascism, after previously praising such criticism?

However, I would be being one-sided if I did not bring up the fact of Tani’s own associations with fascists. I already talked about how she used to be a member of the fascist Order of the Left Hand Path, but she also seems to have known James Madole, the leader of the fascist National Renaissance Party. There is an interview in which Jantsang recounts meeting with Madole, along with a few other Nazis, who shit-talked Anton LaVey and ranted about him being a Jew taking over “the dialobic current”, that presumably was just a noble Aryan pagan warrior cult before he showed up (I tell you, the delusions that these volkisch fascists conjure within themselves never ceases to be entertaining). In addition it is known that Madole, who is noted for his fascination with occultism, was also, like Tani Jantsang, very interested in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, which leads me to believe that it was probably through this that the two initially became acquainted decades ago. And much later in life, despite calling out the Nazism of Church of Satan members, we find an interview she did in 2007 in which she praises Pat Buchanan’s books Where the Right Went Wrong and A Republic, Not An Empire as accurate books that everyone should read and even claimed that they constituted satanic literature, despite the notable handicap of Pat Buchanan and his vision for American society being characterized by conservative Christianity. And can I just say, isn’t it strange that a self-proclaimed Marxist would have such a high opinion of a man who believes that Jewish Marxists are responsible for the decline of Western Civilization? Not to mention, in that same interview, she praises the work of the white nationalist Kevin McDonald for his book The Culture of Critique, which argues that Jews are genetically predisposed towards ethnocentrism and to infiltrate white societies in order to eliminate their white populations and replace them with non-white peoples, and was directly inspired by the “Great Replacement” myth, and she also seems to dabble in Eurabia-style conspiracy theories, and along with that some ideas that sound suspiciously like the talking points of the far-right, when she says this:

Some of the Islamics even admit that they are unarmed invaders that will outbreed the Europeans and simply take over their societies and destroy their culture. These European countries have their own cultures and they are secular and advanced civilizations. I’d hate to see Western Civilization lost. It just might take extreme measures to fix what’s wrong in Europe. Playing the political correctness game has to stop if European culture, language and civilization is to survive this onslaught – and that means in the USA too. I regard the USA as primarily a European-culture nation, Western Civilization, post enlightenment. It should stay that way.

In addition to this, in her article about “Generational Satanism“, she says “I also said, “JEWS are Generational Satanists, and THEY RULE YOU.”. On the other hand, she also gives Jews quite a bit of credit within the remit of her ostensibly materialistic philosophy, in the sense that she holds that Jews are hated by Christians because hold the view that there is no heavenly afterlife. So, with all that in mind, I actually wonder why she would come out against the Nazis if she appears to harbour anti-semitic sympathies herself? Is it truly because of a moral opposition to the ideological program of Nazism (which, as I surely don’t need to tell you, is inseparable from anti-semitism), or is it just because she thinks of the Nazis as obvious bad guys, or because they’re most likely to actually bring her harm should they ever take power in her country? It’s hard for me to say, and I don’t think the answer to this question is going to be a particularly good one, since she appears to promote white nationalist (and blatantly anti-semitic) thinkers and ideas when given the chance. I think that Tani seems to be very confused on the question of Jews and anti-semitism, and, as we’ll see, politics more generally.

Good luck squaring this with one of the pro-FDR articles the Satanic Reds has, Ms Jantsang

Returning to drama, though, there’s also a weird drama that Tani Jantsang has concerning Michael Aquino and the Temple of Set. There was an apparent incident involving Aquino in 1972, when he was still a member of the Church of Satan, in which the Lovecraftian lodges seemed to get into conflict with Aquino over some manuscripts that it is claimed were written by Lin Carter. Jantsang’s critics accuse her of plagiarizing an essay that was originally written by Michael Aquino. There’s also the matter of the Order of the Left Hand Path, and the circumstances surrounding her leaving the order. She recalls that she “started a shitfight” with Bolton, and this was likely motivated by an increased sense of ideological divergence and the apparently dogmatic tendencies of its leader, Kerry Bolton. She accused Bolton of having used the idea of the Dark Doctrines to browbeat people into submission. This split caused the Order of the Left Hand Path to reconstitute into the Ordo Sinistra Vivendi in 1994, and in the process jettisoning the influence of Jantsang’s doctrine and other Eastern influences in favour of a doctrine inspired by the Order of Nine Angles.

Her drama is not entirely limited to Satanist groups, as she seems to have been in some sort of feud with a secretive communist group called Maoist Internationalist Movement, which considered her to be a terroristic anti-communist agitator. Jantsang, in turn, considers MIM to be an FBI COINTELPRO group that also endorses terrorists and attacks other communist organizations (which, to be fair, considering the fact that the CIA started up and supported Maoist groups in the 1960s for the purposes of splintering the communist movement, would not be without precedent). And in general, from what I have noticed of her writings or rather her exchanges on forums and particularly the old group chats she started from the early 2000s, she had the tendency to be highly polemical and defensive to the point of being excessively confrontational and often vulgar towards others, which lends to some sharp dramatic tendencies. This also lends itself to some extreme positions being on her part, such as her apparent opinion that the US should drop nuclear bombs on Afghanistan. I must say, if she is a Marxist, she must be a very confused one. For instance, in the quotation wherein she identifies herself as a Magistra of the Church of Satan, she also identifies herself as a Stalinist, but in another post she describes Stalin as a totalitarian dictator (and in that case she’d be right about that btw).

All of this comes from what little information is out there about Tani Jantsang herself, gleamed from a handful of books on the subject, the Satanic Reds website, and a series of forums often dating back around half a decade. Even from this, there are many who doubt even the most basic details about her, including her very name. Some believe that Tani Jantsang is actually a woman named Tanya Lysenko, or Phyllis Rose, or Phyllis Rosenbaum, but these come from a few old forum posts and I have no way of verifying the authenticity of such claims. So, in many ways, a lot of her life seems to be a mystery.

tanijantsang
One of the only existing photos of Tani Jantsang, possibly from 1977.

But enough about Tani herself, let’s talk about The Satanic Reds as an organization. They were founded by Tani Jantsang and Philip Marsh in 1997, decades after their formation of the Kishites and a couple of years after her involvement with the Order of the Left Hand Path. It’s unknown how many members they have, though Tani Janstang claims that the group has 800 members. This organization bases itself on two identifiable core doctrines – the first is what they call the Dark Tradition or Dark Doctrines and the second is what they call Social Realism. The Dark Doctrines is their way of referring to their overall cosmology and the line of esoteric tradition that they claim to draw from. The basic idea of this is that there’s an ancient tradition of Tantra that constitutes the primordial form of Satanism, which Tani claims is found not only in ancient Tantric Hinduism but also in the Pythagorean tradition, Advaita Vedanta and “Turanian” mysticism. The cosmological doctrine of the Dark Tradition is based on the idea of Sat, Tan, and Asat, with Sat and Tan in particular supposedly forming the primordial basis for the archetype of Satan. Sat is the name of the concept that they define to be the Boundless Darkness, the substance of the All which is then infused into all things and particularly living beings as Atma (the Hindu concept of the soul), and the source of the light, or the Flame as it were. Tan is the name of the force by which this Darkness is infused into all of creation, and in a broader sense the process of Becoming. Satan, in this light, is interpreted the synthesis of these two, the unfolding and its object, and thereby the embodiment of the creative process by which all things come into being in the universe. Asat in this doctrine is their word for Non-Being, which is described as giving rise to Sat or Being (much like Wuji, or the Without Ultimate, gives rise to Taiji, or the Supreme Ultimate, in Taoist cosmology), but they also seem to use it to refer to temporal or temporary phenomenon within the cosmos.

Although I’m not convinced that it is the historical representation of Tantra (or Satanism for that matter) that Tani Jantsang purports it to be, it does seem to derive from Tantric Hinduism in the use of several Hindu concepts possibly connected to Tantra. The connection to Tantra may, however, just be as stretched as the name Tan supposedly being the basis of the word Tantra, in which case this is just a particularly inventive system of religious syncretism. And such a syncretism is not an uninteresting one either, in all fairness. In Sat and Tan we could extrapolate a dynamic of creation associated with some pantheistic belief systems, in which Tan becomes the creative impetus or force which compels the generation of things upon the embryo of the universe. There’s also the invocation of various archetypal links – there’s wrathful Buddhist deities such as Shri Kalachakra and Mahakala, there’s the Tao, there’s Sanat Kumara (who for them refers to the five Kumaras which are the five Tan that make up the five points of the pentagram in their tradition), and there’s the Slavic deity Chernobog (or “Chynerii Bog”), which are all taken to be names of this force of darknesss. They also seem to root themselves in the idea of unity with Nature, or more specifically their own Nature, and in their Nine Postulates (their own take on the Nine Satanic Statements), they stress that humans are of Nature, and that those who try to rebel against their own nature, thereby defying Nature more broadly, spiritually die and become nothing, and I think the emphasis on nature does sound nice if framed from the perspective of the Ziran concept found in Taoism. The term for a person who defies Nature is called a Klippoth, which for them means Nothing, but in one article Tani Janstang also uses the term Setian, as in a follower of Michael Aquino’s doctrine, in a similar way, to refer to someone who, like the Christian, detaches himself from the natural world and views themselves apart from (or indeed threatened) by it, which in my view seems to be an attack on the Setian doctrine of human self-consciousness (and Set, its progenitor) as being outside of and apart from nature and the Satanist therefore as seeking to seperate from nature. Honestly, that’s quite the burn. She also calls them pretas, a Hindu/Buddhist term referring to the “hungry ghosts”.

The major problem, however, is that Tani’s concept of a Dark Tradition is ultimately ahistorical. There is nothing tracing her doctrines of Sat, Tan and Asat, or indeed the Satanic pentagram, to Pythagoras or the Pythagoreans – indeed, we all know that the Satanic pentagram in its modern form can be traced to 19th century occultism, where it was used as a negative symbol asssociated with the forces of subversion and opposition to God. There is also nothing linking her particular philosophy to the original Tantra in the historicist sense, and there is certainly no etymological link between Sat, Tan and Satan. I would perhaps appreciate it if Tani and the Satanic Reds were honest about the fact that this philosophy is their own syncretic invention, and in this sense a modern doctrine, but it seems they’re rather invested in the idea that this is just something that people have always believed in if it weren’t for those pesky Christians (which, given what we’ve already established about her associations with volkisch fascists, sounds like it’s not too different from what they believe about how everyone followed Esoteric Hitlerism or some such until the Jews decided that we shouldn’t), and given her claims to “Turanian” heritage, it almost feels like a massive projection of a sense of ethnic identity. Not to mention, her writings on the Dark Doctrines, much like her comments in general, are difficult to read and make sense of for some reason. There’s a certain disjointedness to her writing style, I often find it difficult to grasp her work, not because of its ostensible profundity but instead because everything feels jumbled and it’s hard to make sense of what she’s saying. It’s like she has some sort of communication problem.

The pentagram is an ancient symbol anyway, so it probably predated Pythagoras or the Pythagoreans

As for Social Realism, this is the name given to the political ideology of the Satanic Reds doctrine. It’s not really given its own definition, it just seems to be a moniker they give to their particular left-wing politics and its synthesis with Satanism. Now, it’s here that we come to one thing that I never really addressed in this post, which is probably the most interesting subject of this matter, is the question of how exactly do you be both a communist and Satanist, given that Satanism at large tends be an anti-egalitarian philosophy that in particular has a habit of embracing Social Darwinism? Whilst I can’t speak for other Satanists who happen to consider themselves communist, the Satanic Reds apparently have their own way of reconciling it, and, to be quite honest, it’s confusing. Even though the Satanic Reds are referred to as communist and their logo can be seen brandishing the hammer and sickle symbol of the Bolshevik movement, their FAQ seems to suggest that they are not in fact strictly socialist, but instead are both capitalists and socialists, or more specifically supporters of Dirigist capitalism, which they maintain is a form of socialism (to which any other Marxist, myself included, would laugh and then tell you to read basic Marxist theory as regards socialism and/or communism). What’s more, they seem to purport that they self-identify as “Reds” (meaning communists) not because of any actual adoption of communist ideology but because Franklin Roosevelt, whose New Deal programs they appear to support, was considered a communist back in his day, and, in their words, “if F. D. Roosevelt was a Red, then so are we!”.

This suggests that they are not in fact communists, or even socialists, but instead New Deal progressives who dress up their ideology in communist garb for nakedly contrarian reasons. In fact, they apply this logic to everything else as well. They embrace the label Red (or communist) on the grounds that liberals, feminists, gay rights advocates, advocates of social and religious tolerance, anti-racists, anti-fascists, and advocates of state planning or regulationist economic reforms, have all been considered communists at one point or another by right-wing reactionaries, and so being a communist to them simply means an expression of support for all of these things (oddly enough without the actual communism to support it). This is ultimately not so much an expression of meaningful communist politics so much as it is getting willfully hung-up on the fact that right-wingers, especially Republicans, have done what they will do even to conservative Democrats: so long as they are running against the GOP, the GOP’s supporters will denounce them as communists. Hell, even Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican President, was demonized as a communist by the John Birch Society over opposition to the military-industrial complex among other issues, but you can bet for certain that the Satanic Reds will never vote Republican just because of that. The overall stance follows from the logic that those who do not adopt Christianity are considered Satanists, so you might as well adopt that identity. Tani herself is an example of this; she claims to be “generational Satanist”, in that she claims her family was Satanists, but in reality they were likely not Satanists and Tani herself describes them as “non-Islamic Turko-Tartars” who she claims practiced a syncretic religion based on Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Tantric Hinduism (or “Tantric-Vedantic concepts”) and some form of shamanism.

And look, I know it can seem tempting to some left-leaning individuals on the internet to embrace the commie label just because reactionary forces and right-wing idiots deem them to be communists and will call you a communist no matter what you do, but consider the reverse of this phenomenon. For ages, Democrats have had a bad habit of calling their Republican enemies Nazis, and outside of America you will often find people with a left-leaning bent who will call various right-wing politicians fascists or Nazis, regardless of whether or not they are actually fascists or Nazis. Now, if hypothetically a right-winger were to say that he decided to move to the far-right on the grounds that “the left” has decided that everything’s fascist now, would you be willing to believe them or take them seriously? Come on, I’ve seen that Matt Bors comic you guys like to share. Of course you don’t buy it. So why do this for yourselves through the label of communism? Now, I get that it makes a tiny bit of sense if you take it from the lens of Satan being the archetype of opposition to the establishment or whatever, but the way you manifest that within a leftist outlook is through the union of the Satanic archetype and a meaningfully radically outlook. Apparently the anarchists managed to do it since the 19th century, so why can’t these guys?

Put it this way: it’s like being a hardcore Marxist-Leninist who’s otherwise a die-hard Bernie or Corbyn supporter, even though it ultimately doesn’t make much sense.

That being said, however, the Satanic Reds website contains multiple links to various articles written by either Tani Jantsang or other members outlining their postulations about communism, socialism, and even dialectical materialism – the very philosophical basis of Marxism. It may be interesting, therefore, to examine them.

For one thing, they have an article in which they argue for dialectical materialism as the analytical method of their organization, which to me suggests that perhaps they are Marxists. They have an article that harshly criticizes Ayn Rand, pointing out that the ideal man of Rand is a sociopath and was possibly inspired by a serial killer named William Hickman (who abducted and dismembered a 12 year old girl in 1927) on the grounds that his behaviour was a sign that he defied societal convention. This is quite a big deal in the Satanist movement because it strikes against the Randian inspirations that helped shaped the Satanism that began with Anton LaVey. In a similarly epic blow to Satanist orthodoxy, they also have an article featuring essays by Tani Jantsang and Ole Wolf which criticizes the “might makes right” doctrine found in the mainstay of Satanic philosophy introduced by Anton LaVey. They have an article in which Lucifer is interpreted as a champion of proletarian revolution through the lens of communist ideology. They have an article which praises Star Trek for what it sees as exploring the rammifications of a socialistic economy and refuting libertarian economic expectations. They have an article from someone praising the education system of the Soviet Union. They also (rather regrettably) have an essay of selection of quotes from Lavrenty Beria (who, to my mind, was pretty much the worst officer in the USSR who died the death he deserved). They even have annotated versions of On Contradiction and On Practice by Mao Zedong (the originals of which are excellent works on dialectical materialism), however these commentaries appear to consist of minor edits to the original works, do not effectively explicate a synthesis between Mao’s doctrine and theirs beyond basically claiming his concepts in On Contradiction as their own, appending their own names to the original.

It seems obvious to me that we are dealing people who are, at least in some sense, socialists, and they operate within Marxism in particular. Tani herself I think is a Marxist-Leninist of some type (judging by the fact that she once called herself a Stalinist, which is the name of a specific tendency within Marxism-Leninism). In some ways, I find them to be convincing leftists. However, I also find them to be confused. On the one hand, you have all of this material that establishes a credible Marxist ideological current for themselves, but on the other, their Q&A establishes that they might actually be pro-capitalist in the sense of Dirigist or New Deal capitalism. I’d say that they’re being a bit too coy about their political beliefs if you ask me.

The last thing I want to address about their doctrine is their views on the definition of the Right Hand Path and the Left Hand Path. It seems that they are simultaneously of the Left Hand Path and not of the Left Hand Path, in that they define the Left Hand Path and the Right Hand Path as inseparable parts of each other that, when separated, are reduced to falsity and error. Tani points out that the LHP and the RHP are, in their original Tantric context, defined not by their respective goals (because they had the same goal of attaining unity with God) but by their respective methods, but also suggests that LHP refers to Yin (the passive principle) while RHP refers to Yang (the active principle). This would be a strange idea because it would require us to categorize whether or not the Vamachara methods of transgression as either passive or active, or whether or not transgression itself is passive or active. And under this framework, transgression in the active sense, of all kinds, is RHP, even the Luciferian impulse and even violent revolution against the status quo. By the way, speaking of Lucifer, in this article Tani Jantsang claims that the term Lucifer was never used to refer to Satan until John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, when in reality the identification likely begins with Jerome.

And, that’s pretty much all I want to talk about with regards to the organization. The only other thing I could say about them is that it seems their website hasn’t been updated in several years. In the year 2020, this website still looks like it’s the late 1990s or early 2000s, suggesting that the website has not been updated at all since the group became somewhat popular in the early online Satanist scene of that time.

satanicreds
This old logo is probably the best one you can find

Overall, I find that the Satanic Reds are a group that could have had some promise in its weird mixture of Tantra, Satanism and Marxism, but while there are several promising elements I can’t say that it’s a well-executed synthesis. And it doesn’t look like the movement is still active and today it is largely treated as obscure footnote in the history of Satanism, which is kind of a shame because there was a lot going on in the background of the organization’s history that also ties in with the history of the Church of Satan. As for Tani Jantsang herself, I find her to be a very strange figure. On the one hand, she is commendable in being one of the few Satanists out there to actively try and challenge things like “might makes right” and Ayn Rand style individualism within the remit of Satanism, and there are aspects of her doctrine I find interesting, but on the other hand she also seems to be kind of a kook, she ultimately failed to produce the kind of refined synthesis that would be serviceable and ripe for expanding upon. And, on top of that, despite her commendable opposition to Nazis within the Satanic movement, it also seems that she, for a long time in her life, herself associated with fascists, and appears to have sympathies with white nationalists and the works of white nationalists and anti-semites, and I think that’s simply unacceptable.

I think, in the end, that the kind of thing that Tani Jantsang seeks would be better acheived by doing for Anton LaVey what Karl Marx did for Georg Willhelm Friedrich Hegel. Just as Marx took the foundation of Hegel’s dialectical philosophy and reconstituted it as a doctrine built upon materialism rather than idealism, so too must a Marxist running either within or adjacent to the Left Hand Path continuity take a foundation of something like Anton LaVey or whatnot and reconstitute it into a new philosophy using dialectical materialism. That is what I believe Jantsang would do if she were a more capable intellect, and in some ways it is the primary goal of my studies, wherever that path takes me.

Into the Devil’s Den: Carl Abrahamsson and the whitewashing of the Church of Satan

I was meaning to write this post much sooner, after Anton LaVey – Into the Devil’s Den was released on Vimeo, but I became busy over the last few weeks, dealing with personal matters in large part, and I got little time to sit down and watch the film. And then, as I was writing this post, the election in the UK drew closer and closer, so I decided wait until after the election, when I wrote my commentary on the election results, before publishing this post. But now, at last, I can present my thoughts on the film, and the rather morbid discoveries about the Church of Satan I made as I began writing about it.

Back in April of this year I became aware of an Indiegogo campaign started by Carl Abrahamsson to crowdfund a film project entitled Anton LaVey – Into the Devil’s Den. Abrahamsson apparently met LaVey at some point in 1989, and the angle of this documentary, in contrast to other documentaries about LaVey or the Church of Satan, is to bring forward a perspective about LaVey by those who knew him closely, and others who seem to continue the work he left behind after he died. After many months of waiting since then, it seems that the documentary is finally out and available to watch online on Vimeo, which I did. What follows is a review of what I saw.

Right off the bat I get the sense that this film has a rather gushing take on LaVey, as evidenced by the way the opening screen describes the film as “the titillating tale of one courageous character who took on an entire world of stupidity and mediocrity”. But we also get this sense from the way Abrahamsson introduces LaVey and his work early in the film. He describes encountering The Satanic Bible as a teenager, through an apparent interest in occultism, American pop culture and generally weird things, and he describes his love for the book as a primer of magical manipulation that in his view scared the simple minded. The sense of elitism isn’t lost on me, I think. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m sure LaVey shocked many people in his time, but, as you’ll soon see, the fear and awe I think is largely misplaced among both the masses of the time and LaVey’s ardent supporters.

For now though, let’s note that we learn quite a bit of how Carl presumably came to know LaVey – through his rock band, which was called The White Stains, and a friend named Genesis P-Orridge, the famous experimental musician of the band Psychick TV. In 1988, The White Stains released a song entitled Sweet Jayne, which was apparently all about an actress named Jayne Mansfield, who had a romantic relationship with Anton LaVey at one point in time, and then Carl sent that song to LaVey on the advice of Genesis P-Orridge, and LaVey then inducted Carl as a member of the Church of Satan.

Carl Abrahamsson and Anton LaVey

Anyways, the actual movie appears to be a series of interviews from people who knew LaVey and talk about him. Hardly something that isn’t for the “faint of heart” whoever they may be, but I digress. The first interview is conducted with a woman named Blanche Barton, who is Magistra Templi Rex at the Church of Satan and the last romantic partner Anton LaVey had before he died. What’s interesting is how, in the start of her interview, she recounted hearing of LaVey through The Satanic Bible, which she discovered through her interest in witchcraft, and she thought of LaVey as being rather full of himself initially, and was not initially very interested in The Satanic Bible, and it was only after a book called The Devil’s Avenger: A Biography of Anton Szandor LaVey was released that she began to learn more about him, and began to praise him for his apparent love of life, and his disdain for conventional Christianity, and after reading about other Satanists she felt his philosophy begin to make sense to her. Another individual, a writer named Robert Johnson, author of The Satanic Warlock, praised him for “having the balls” to write The Satanic Bible. Another, LaVey’s secretary Margie Bauer, praised LaVey as someone who thinks the way that she thought for her whole life. Several individuals speak of LaVey as having been a major part of their respective lives through their discovery of him and The Satanic Bible or other books of his during their youth. Peter Gilmore, current leader of the Church of Satan, described his encounter with The Satanic Bible, and feeling an immediate sense of resonance towards the book, and its dramatic flair.

The first fifteen minutes of interviews consists of a very autobiographical lens from the many individuals shown in the film, and after this Carl takes over to narrate about how we must understand Satanic philosophy by beginning with the early life of Anton LaVey. It’s recounted that LaVey grew up by a place called Playland in San Francsico (also known as Playland at the Beach), which was basically a big amusement park that hosted all sorts of rides, attractions and music until it was closed down in 1972, and also visited the Golden Gate Exposition in Treasure Island. Like many boys at the time he liked the rides and the escapism, perhaps as he got older he appreciated the “girly shows” featuring scantily clad ladies. One thing I find worthy of note is that Carl notes that those shows immersed you in the promise that you would be getting more than you actually got, which honestly tells me that those shows were a giant tease at best and debatably false advertising at worst and then based on that it’s pretty weird that LaVey would come to join the circus and form his philosophy in part based on the imprint that this left him. More than that, apparently we get the sense that his interest in the occult came directly from his time working in the circus, or according to Carl the lessons about human psychology he learned from working at the circus (which essentially boils down to “people need to let off steam”).

One other noteworthy thing about the documentary as a whole is that it’s not solely a third-person account of LaVey’s life and beliefs. At certain points, we find the documentary interspersed with clips of Anton LaVey during interviews. The first of which is him explaining his beliefs about Satan, where he explains that for him Satan represents everything that is rebellious, pioneering, “achievement-oriented” and critical, as well as cynical and questioning – essentially, that LaVeyan take on what is basically the John Galt archetype that Ayn Rand already gave us. One of the guests notes that LaVey’s concept of Satan is an examination of the fact that many of the pleasurable things in life have been rendered Satanic by conventional religions, and then essentially LaVey decided that if that’s the case then he should be a Satanist. Of course what he must not have realized is that this in fact resigns him to Christian morality via its shadow rather than representing the fight against Christianity, but I digress. I don’t like the fact that another guest makes the claim that LaVey reached back into “primeval philosophy” to form his own intellectual family tree, because the reality of it is that this just isn’t true. We know for a fact where LaVey got his ideas from: Ayn Rand, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ragnar Redbeard, Playboy, and carny culture. It wasn’t the continuation of a heritage of ancient philosophy or anything like that, it was effectively just an eclectic modern product drawn from specific 19th-20th century philosophies, hedonism and popular culture. But for all this, LaVey is praised as having a better understanding of human nature. Then we talk about artifical human companions and “total environments”, but also some more respectable talk about the decadence of Christian institutions such as the Catholic Church. It’s easy to see that LaVey came across as a striking figure to the people being interviewed, offering a new perspective on the Christian culture, and life more generally, that had not yet been unleashed to the world, and thus it activated quite a few imaginations, even if for some of the wrong reasons. As a side-note, one interesting point Blanche Barton does bring up is the point of rule by “poor me syndrome”, which, of course, is a rather apt descriptor of how bourgeois liberal politics operates nowadays. Though honestly, I think many of the guests give LaVey too much credit for what is otherwise observed to be the great liberalization of society, the effects of which have been observed by many for decades. Even the “poor me syndrome” type has had a certain public consciousness for decades that isn’t neatly attributable to LaVey, and in fact has been capitalized on by his Christian conservative enemies throughout the 1990s and beyond.

Just one example of what I mean here

At a certain point we arrive upon the subject of the Church of Satan and its establishment, as well as the attention that this garnered from the media. One curious detail sticks out. In the news clip featuring a Satanic wedding between two socialites, the narrator commented that the wedding appeared to smack of a publicity stunt, on account of the fact that, the very next day, the couple acquired a conventional wedding license. Arguably a minor detail in the context of the film as a whole, but nonetheless moderately significant in the context of the Church of Satan more generally, suggesting that the many socialites who became curious about the Church of Satan had no real attachment to Satanism as a tradition, and instead simply became attracted to it as a nexus of bourgeois or petit-bourgeois hedonism. Through this, we still get expositions of philosophy, and at that, LaVey’s characterization of the ideal Satanic society, which is to say a stratified society in which, for him, individuals would be free to live in “total environments” of their own chosing. What is a total environment? Well, in LaVeyan Satanist parlance, the total environment appears to be a psycho-magickal space of isolation in which the individual may retreat from the crowd in order to engage in a type of psychological evocation and intellectual decompression through ritual psychodrama involving many aesthetic components, such as fetishism, possibly shared with artificial companions. But you’d never guess this from the examples brought up by LaVey and his followers. In the interview clip, LaVey mentions that successful experiments in the field of total environments have been conducted, and the examples he lists are Disneyland, Disney World (or the Walt Disney World Resort), and Epcot Center, on the grounds that they basically serve as a kind of escapism (or as he puts it they allow individuals to play a role suited to their lifestyle and happiness).

Now, honestly, this is an aspect of Satanic philosophy that I hadn’t considered, even during my time as an avowed Satanist, but now that I re-examine it, there’s something bothersome about it. I mean, think about it. For a start, all of the examples LaVey gave in that interview clip are extensions of the Walt Disney Company – the Epcot Center, as I’m sure many are familiar with, is part of the Walt Disney World Resort. And of course the Church of Satan’s website offers us the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (a chain of theme parks based on the Harry Potter franchise) as another example. This is the total environment in practice? Massive theme parks? I suppose one can’t help but get the impression that this is a product of his upbriging adjacent to Playland at the Beach, but what we’re talking about, let’s face it, is consumerism. And not only that, consumerism peddled to us by multinational corporations. Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? But beyond theme parks, the Church of Satan’s website also offers such examples as virtual reality, the video game industry, and ancient Rome, which had many forms of entertainment designed to distract the populace, including the infamous gladiatorial games. Essentially, what this means is that the freedom that LaVey describes with total environments is only the freedom to disengage from society and collective action and submerge into consumerism, in order that one might distract oneself from the harsh realities of life – or, perhaps, the iniquities, subjections and machinations of a state that has immense power over you, the individiual. The latter is particularly relevant when dealing with the fact that LaVey asks for a society built on stratification. In essence, what we get from this is a vision of a society in which you are a subject within a rigid social hierarchy, and those at the top have incredible power over you and have quite a bit of license to do as they do (even in my Satanist days I’ve never been keen on this aspect of LaVey’s thought), and your only real liberty thus consists of, essentially, consumerism. I’m sad to say that this is not a liberating vision for society. In fact, if anything it almost reads like a mirror of bourgeois society, perhaps a chilling vision of the future to come as capitalism reaches its futuristic phase at a time of almost total consolidation of power. In other words, a dystopian, totalitarian nightmare where the pleasure principle rules supreme that it may obscure power and its mechanisms from the masses. But what did LaVey’s followers and admirers make of this? Not much apparently.

Michael Moynihan (yes, that Michael Moynihan) talks about “good guy badges” and some such about the incongruity between the good guys and their wicked private lives, which is fine and all until you remember that this guy edited collections of writings from James Mason, the neo-Nazi who wrote the infamous book Siege and also happened to be a convicted and admitted paedophile (he was arrested for and gled guilty to sexually abusing a teenager and possessing child pornography). Peggy Nadramia talks about how LaVey said “the animals should be our gurus”, which apparently meant that we should observe animal behaviour in order to understand our own priorities – itself a somewhat salient point, but one that ironically serves to betray LaVey’s philosophical ideals (if you observe ravens, for example, you’ll find that they are a highly monogamous species that punishes cheating, and if you observe most species more generally you find they embrace cooperation over internal competition). The general argument seems to be that because tigers don’t think about whether or not they’ve sinned that we shouldn’t either. But even though humans are animals, we are not the same animals, and we have developed complex moral thinking as part of our evolutionary development. I mean, put it this way, why would the bird, if it considered its own behaviour, think to emulate the nature of the fish? They are of different species, with different sets of behaviours. But no one really talks about the implications of a stratified social order supported by consumeristic escapism. Instead we move on to the subject of artifical companions, meaning of course robots, vis-a-vis a clip of LaVey talking about how he strived to make robots of people that would be more interesting and “palatable” than real humans. In LaVey’s ideal society, everyone will have a robotic companion (which he dubs a “real companion”) custom-made to their desires, and he thinks that’s a positive because everyone wants to feel better than someone else. What he describes is not real friendship, or companionship, or any kind of relationship other than a one-sided master-servant relationship between a conscious, sentient being and an automaton, and it cannot be any other way because, despite all the hype around artificial intelligence, a machine cannot truly emulate human intelligence nor possess consciousness. The automation can never be the equal of Man, and in some ways perhaps LaVey implicitly knows this which is why he makes no attempt to frame the robotic companion as the ultimate equal of their human counterpart.

Scene from the movie “Metropolis”, which I’m guessing LaVey must have gotten some fascination with robotics from

Then for some reason we move rather hastily on to music, or the idea of what “satanic music” should be. LaVey in an interview clip describes “satanic music” as music that “elicits a gut reaction” (which honestly could apply to any music), “sends a shiver down somebody’s spine” (again, almost any music), and music that really gets people thinking or feeling about something (almost any music). All of this can be applied to many non-satanic forms of music, so what’s so special here? Peter Gilmore talked about LaVey’s fascination with classical music and his tendency to practice the songs of Wagner and the like, and then we get to another clip about how real satanic music isn’t rock and roll, but instead a selection darkly-themed classical music songs (such as The Mephisto Waltz, Danse Macabre, Night On Bald Mountain and others), along with several other classical musicians, some of whom may have written songs about the Devil. Which of course gives the impression that satanic music is just classical music that’s about Satan, or something. Also there’s talk about music being a type of ritualism, and that Satanism in its foundations emerged from just the right aesthetic confluence associated with certain forms of music, but that’s about the extent of it.

Our next stop is when LaVey in an interview clip begins talking about the occult, and noted that the occult section of book stores consisted of things like dream books, books on fortune-telling and similar affairs, and how the only books about calling up spirits involved marshalling the protective names of Jehovah – in other words, traditional ceremonial magick. Poor LaVey doesn’t seem to have had much effect on your average book shop today – the spirituality section at Waterstone’s, probably the closest thing to an occult section there is, is not too different, it’s full of books about New Agery and whatnot, and the closest thing to the magick he might like is essentially just petit-bourgeois books on Wicca. And then of course we talk about magick, and how it worked. Well, actually, exactly how it worked insodar as the actual practical effect it had upon the external world isn’t discussed so much as just the premise that, well, it worked, and then we just move on to the Black House for some reason – about the fireplace that led to the bar, LaVey’s proclivity to mock even his fellow Church of Satan members, and how one of his guests thought there was a camera above the toilet, that perhaps might have been there for the purpose of voyeurism.

Then we come to talking about sex, a topic introduced by LaVey describing his attitude towards orgies, how he simply wasn’t particularly excited by them and how they aren’t a prerequisite to Satanism, instead the prerequisite being Epicureanism, by which he means “Epicurean sex”, which for him simply means you’re fussy about sex partiners – which is really a rather creative but also grossly reductive interpretation of the actual philosophy of Epicureanism. Seriously, read about Epicurus; there’s parts of his philosophy that almost line up with Buddhist philosophy at times, which I don’t think LaVey would have appreciated if he had known given that his philosophy is in many ways the total opposite of Buddhism. At first not much about his sexual philosophy is discussed beyond how sexy his book The Satanic Witch was, except for when Blanche Barton discusses how LaVey had “witch classes” or some such to teach women how to manipulate the minds of men to their desires – in other words how to teach women use men. It later seems that this also sort of relates to his opposition to feminism, which for my money is at least still one of his more salient positions. He evidently disagreed with a certain idea about women trying to emulate masculinity that was emerging in popular culture during the 70s and onwards, partly because to do so contradicts the nature of most women, but in his case it had more to do with the idea that it took away the specific power that women had that men did not, which Blanche does explain rather curiously terms of companionship and of woman being of the “right hand man” of men and leaders. Later on though we do get into the depths of LaVey’s general tolerance of just about any sex involving consenting adults, and to that end most sexualities (heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality and so forth).

We touch on Jayne Mansfield again, how LaVey considered her a sex goddess, how she was supposedly an active member of the Church of Satan before her untimely death in 1967, and how her death was not the result of a curse on his part. Much has been said about Mansfield’s death and the car crash that killed her, and it is apparently still the subject of mystery, but I think it goes without saying that her death wasn’t the work of a curse. Not just because curses don’t actually work, but because even within the occult community LaVey just wasn’t capable of a curse that would have that effect, or at least that’s what I get from Kenneth Anger, who claims that LaVey wasn’t powerful enough a magician to curse people into their deaths. In the same interview clip LaVey mentions that he was also interested in Marilyn Monroe, and that she had a profound interest in the dark side, however there is no evidence that Marilyn Monroe and Anton LaVey were ever together.

To be fair I’d be stretched to imagine Monroe being interested in anything

And then we return what honestly strikes me as the red thread of the movie: LaVey the aesthete. Carl narrates about the aesthetics of LaVeyan Satanism being drawn from a cavalcade of neo-noir films and dark photography, and the points to a film called Freaks, which was released in 1932 and directed by Tod Browning. In yet another interview clip from LaVey, LaVey talks about how he considered it to be a satanic movie because it apparently centered around the theme of retribution, the doctrine of lex talionis, “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”. This incidentally is the first time in the whole film that this subject comes up, even within the scope of discussing the philosophy of Satanism. But the guests don’t appear to talk about that, they just talk about the film itself, and how they were fascinated by it. One guest even remarks how LaVey never talked to him about Satanism, Satan, witchcraft or any related subjects, but did talk to him about movies, movie directors and similar subjects. LaVey also liked to claim that film-noir itself was a satanic genre.

Then we talk about a famous interview that Anton LaVey did with Joe Pyne, and how LaVey handled himself during the interview. Pyne was notorious for his confrontional persona in his shows. His shows occaisionally devolved into violent outbursts, and at one point, while interviewing a black militant, he revealed on-air that he had concealed a handgun in his coat, and then his guest did the same, and in general he has a habit of ridiculing guests he disagrees with. So one could imagine LaVey would have a challenging time on Pyne’s show, but he seemed to be quite calm in the face of Pyne’s obnoxiousness. And then this segues into a broader tangent about people misunderstanding LaVey, how it became fashionable to misunderstand, which I’m sure was the case all the time. I think it’s worth noting that one of the guests notes that terms like “Satan”, “Satanism” or “Satanic” appealed to people who felt that there was something fake about the world around them as a sort of uncorrupted expression of this sentiment, and that such a concept could never be sanitized and made safe by consumerism. Well it’s been quite a long time since LaVey showed up and made his mark, and now the Church of Satan is embraced by liberals as a snarky Twitter persona and The Satanic Temple has reinvented Satanism as a force that is safe for a type of progressive politics that remains friendly to consumerism and the current system. Oh and not to mention that you can still sell plenty of metal music these days with the moniker of Satan slapped on it, and most bands don’t even believe in Satanism (to be honest I’m not even sure how many black metal bands really believe in it). So yeah, he’s pretty much wrong on that point. Peter Gilmore at one point says that the philosophy of The Satanic Bible was deliberately misrepresented by people who already read it and decided they opposed so that it could not be understood by the public, because they felt threatened by it as an alternative to their belief system. Well I’m sure that might been going through the minds of many Christian ideologues, but other than that the idea strikes me as an expression of self-importance.

And then, of course, we talk about Satan himself, the central object of Satanism, and here it seems Carl describes the appeal of Satan with a remarkable lack of ontological import. For him the value of Satan comes less from any actual values contained within the archetypal resonance of Satan but rather just the fact that he provoked Christians by virtue of being the bad guy in the Christian mythos. This for him was proof that Satan is a kind of “bullshit detector”, though really it’s just proof that we are dealing with a framework that cannot escape the shadow of Christianity. And in relation to the theme of identification with Satan, Blanche Barton points to examples of LaVey being approached by those who asked him “why not call it something other than Satanism?” on the grounds that it would be less controversial, and points out that being controversial was basically the point, and that by employing the concept of Satan you are using the power of language to thwack the initiate over the head with the unvarished form of the idea. As usual Blanche’s explanations tend to have quite a bit more content or even substance to them than the other guests, but ultimately we still see that the point is essentially contrarianism. Margie Bauer points out something similar, but with a much bigger tell towards pathological elitism, saying that the reason the Satanist chooses the term Satanism over Humanism is because the whole point is to alienate those who aren’t inclined towards your philosophy or exist within normalcy and stratify accordingly. Even LaVey himself seems to establish this in a later interview clip wherein Satan appears to be defined principly as opposition to just about any popular trends. But for all that one guest boasts that he’ll be taken seriously by anyone who reads him. One is tempted to say “if only”, but honestly I haven’t been able to return to The Satanic Bible for instance and look at it the same way I once did. I get the sense from that one guest that honestly the world is to be divided between those who read LaVey and agree with him, and those who disagree with him and are deemed to just not have read him, or not read him “correctly”. In the overall, the point is established quite clearly: only “a certain type of person” will and is supposed to embrace Satanism.

Yep, we’re dealing with basically this only more elitist and dressed in goth clothes

There’s also the broader point only by invoking Satan could an atheist have any real impact on the consciousness of society. Peter Gilmore says that you can throw a boulder in the pond with Satanism, but with baseline atheism or humanism you through only a pebble. And the problem with this, historically speaking, is that this isn’t really true. Sure Satanism made an impact on the public consciousness in that it shocked the masses to a certain extent, but this never translated to widespread popular support. By contrast, the more baseline atheists didn’t have a small impact as Peter Gilmore believes, in fact secularists have made major ripples in the public consciousness via major public debates about theism and atheism, and many atheist thinkers have since become and remain quite popular, certainly more popular than LaVey and the like have managed to become. So this thesis that LaVey’s followers have simply did not prove itself correct.

We then return to the red thread of LaVey the aesthete, which then leads us to the conclusion that Carl himself is rather the aesthete given that he was sort of lulled into Satanism in a sense by a reading of some dark poetry set to some dark music, and from there we’re also brought to a man named Adam Parfrey, who was an acquaintance of Carl’s. Now who is Adam Parfrey exactly? I covered him a bit in a post I wrote about The Satanic Temple last year, but basically he is the guy who ran a publishing company called Feral House, which deals in “forbidden” subject matter, and who also happens to be either a fascist or at least fascist-adjacent. Parfrey was friends with Boyd Rice, who in turn worked closely with actual white supremacists such Bob Heick and Tom Metzger and was himself a self-identified fascist, and he was a member of Rice’s Abraxas Foundation, which promoted an ideology based in totalitarianism and social Darwinism (in other words, fascism). Another buddy of his was a man named Nick Bougas, the man who made those infamous “Happy Merchant” illustrations which demonize Jews as schemers against white people under the alias A. Wyatt Mann. Through his Feral House company he published the works of Michael J Moynihan, who, although he denies being a far-righter and a fascist, himself edited the works of James Mason and Julius Evola, was for a time a member of the Abraxas Foundation, and is the editor of a journal called Tyr which combines reconstructionist/traditionalist paganism with third-positionist (which basically just means fascist) ideology, and apparently he even criticized Boyd Rice because he thought he was only aesthetically fasicst, as well as Robert Stark, a fascist who chats with people like Greg Johnson (from the alt-right website Counter-Currents) about eco-fascism.

Parfrey’s own work also contains elements of fascist ideology. In his book, Apocalypse Culture, he published many essays that were apparently attributed to fascists and fascist organizations, such as “Long Live Death” from the Abraxas Foundation, an essay called “The Christian Right, Zionism and the upcoming Penteholocaust” by a far-right Christian named Gregory Krupey and even “A New Dawn Has Come…” which is a selection of quotes from literally Adolf Hitler. The book also contains in various places several quotations from fascists such as Savitri Devi, Dan Burros, Boyd Rice, and Oswald Spengler, and also contains numerous posters for neo-Nazi groups such as the National Socialist Liberation Front (which James Mason was a member of during the 1970s) as well as a lionizing portrait of Hitler. Of course the book does not consist solely of fascist and far-right voices, as suggested by the inclusion of an essay from the anarchist Hakim Bey and the communist Red Brigades, suggesting in theory that the book is a platform for all sorts of ideological extremists, but despite this it does seem that the book consists of a lot of fascist authors and quotations. One of his own essays in that book is called “Eugenics: An Orphaned Science”, which cites Adolf Hitler and a wide variety of eugencists, as well as Plato and the Bible, to defend eugenics. And to top it all off, when Parfrey died he was praised by David Cole, who worked for his Feral House company and was also a Holocaust denier until 1998 (after which he became an activist for the Republican Party), who wrote a puff piece about him on Taki’s Magazine, which is run by a man named Taki Theodoracopulos, a Greek far-right ideologue who publicly defended the Wehrmacht and supports the neo-fascist Golden Dawn Party (who he insists are nothing more than the Greek equivalent of UKIP), and also likes the idea of samurais beheading liberals who slight him. So, in short, Adam Parfrey was a fascist, was friends with fascists, promoted the ideas of fascists and was beloved by the far-right.

Adam Parfrey and friends just chilling with Nick Bougas and a Nazi or two

OK, that having been established. How does this film handle him? Well, his ties to fascism don’t seem to be discussed at all, let’s just get that out of the way. Instead, Michael Moynihan talks about his love of obscure books and photography, and in particular their collaboration on a book called American Grotesque, which is a book about an artist named William Mortensen who was praised by Anton LaVey in The Satanic Bible for his dark work. Margie Bauer, of course, had absolutely nothing of substance to say about him. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any tangible discussion of Adam Parfrey other than from Michael Moynihan. Parfrey was mentioned very briefly in the film, and then moments after we begin talking about him everyone just goes back to talking about how great LaVey was and Parfrey is never referred to again. All the more baffling is the fact that this was the case and yet the film was dedicated to Adam Parfrey in addition to Anton LaVey! Of course, given Parfrey’s fascist background, surely the fact that the film would be dedicated to him in itself seems all the more suspect than this fact alone.

One of the last sections of the film appears to be introduced by a clip of LaVey saying that the future of Satanism is assured and that nothing could retard it (except for, you know, the incompetence of the Church of Satan) and that Satanism is here to stay. And from there on out, his guests talk about how his legacy is basically everywhere, which really seems like rather obseqiuous praise to me considering that his legacy has been mostly insular to the Left Hand Path. One of the guests seems to say that his legacy has led to more individual freedom in the world, which of course doesn’t seem true to me considering we live in times where there is if anything less freedom in the world. That same guest basically equates his legacy to that of Tony Robbins, saying that Robbins and people like him all get their schtick from him. Not exactly a credit considering their line of work. Robert Johnson credits him with codifying the way most people already live their lives, which to be honest kind of smacks of that old “you may already be [insert religion here] and don’t even know it” canard that is sometimes employed by cults. Kenneth Anger points to him as proof that generally far out ideas can thrive without censure. Johnson claims that he would be amazed to see the Satanists of today “kicking ass and killing it”, a comment that can only come from self-delusion when you consider the present state of Satanism, dominated by an insufferably politically correct liberal organization, and beneath the surface you find numerous failed Theistic Satanist groups and actual esoteric fascist groups. Towards the end, there’s nothing left but praise of LaVey’s legacy, which I suppose is to be expected.

So in the overall, I don’t know what I was expecting with this film, but it was not a critical reflection of LaVey’s life and legacy. In general, a common thread with many of the guests being interviewed is that they still seem to be spellbound by Anton LaVey. The man has been dead for over twenty years at this point, his organization has failed to realize or proselytize the type of Satanic philosophy that LaVey championed (and indeed this failure began taking shape while LaVey was still alive), but for some reason his followers still seem to be captivated by his philosophy. What I get out of Carl Abrahamsson is that, although he clearly believes in the philosophy of Satanism at least to some extent, he appears primarily drawn to it for aesthetic reasons. It shows in the fact that the rammifications of LaVey’s philosophy are not adequately dealt with, and he does not have his guests discuss this in large part. Instead, a lot of attention is devoted to the aesthetics of Satanism, and him being spellbound by LaVey relates very much to aesthetic experience, rather than philosophical enlightenment. But then he was invited to join the Church of Satan in the first place just because he wrote a song about a lady who LaVey had a brief fling with and LaVey liked it enough for him to be approved as a member. Indeed, I think there is so much in the film that speaks the dark, occultnik aesthete, more than someone looking to consider his philosophical legacy, and some rather shady associations in his time that his guests would never answer for. I still find it telling that things like the doctrine of lex talionis and the Social Darwinist aspects of LaVeyan Satanism, despite being major aspects of LaVey’s philosopy, are never addressed in the entire film by either Carl or the many guests that appeared on the film, not even Michael Moynihan talked about it.

And, being as this film was partially dedicated to an actual fascist (namely Adam Parfrey), I think I may as well use the film to discuss one other detail about LaVey’s life, one that I’ve seen unearthed by some anti-fascists; his association with James Mason, and Mason’s praise of LaVey. I was horrified to find out about it, and, for a while, I couldn’t believe that such a detail would have gone unnoticed not only by myself but also by, well, other Satanists. But I didn’t say anything about it because I thought that the Church of Satan, given their more recent confrontations with some of the online left, would give me reason to have doubts about it. But I haven’t seen them talk about it, and I suppose I couldn’t expect Carl’s film to talk about it either. So I’m going to have to use my platform to talk about this myself.

The cold hard truth that too little Satanists realize is that Anton LaVey personally praised and endorsed James Mason and his work. We know this because there exists a signed copy of The Satanic Bible which features his signature and a comment wherein he praises Mason as “a man of courage and reason”.

And James Mason in turn praised LaVey on numerous occaisions, despite LaVey being of Jewish heritage of course. Mason compared LaVey to George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, on the grounds that apparently both were showmen who used shock and symbolism to advance their ideology, as well as the fact that both of them intended to remain legal actors, avoiding insurrectionary and illegal activity, and supposedly even the idea of Satan itself. Mason praised The Satanic Bible, describing it as “absolutely brilliant” in a 2003 edition of his book Siege. He even quoted Anton LaVey in Siege, and owned a copy of the Satanic Mass LP, which he purchased in 1969. It must be noted that he didn’t stay a Satanist all his life, and has apparently converted to Christianity later in his life, but he still praised Anton LaVey despite this, and it is said that later editions of Siege, such as one edition released as recently as 2017, never removed any praises of LaVey or The Satanic Bible. Now it is true that, besides the signed copy of The Satanic Bible praising Mason, there isn’t a whole lot to say about LaVey’s views on Mason or his book Siege, because LaVey seemingly did not say much about it. But even then, just that detail alone should be rather damning on LaVey’s part given he was willing enough to endorse him. And then Mason isn’t even the only fascist he’s been friends with: he was apparently buddies with James Madole, who was the leader of the fascist National Renaissance Party and apparently an early pioneer of esoteric fascism, with whom LaVey spent quite a bit of time at an occult book shop.

And if that’s not enough, the Church of Satan as an organization certainly seemed to have plenty of nice things to say about Mason and his book. Peter Gilmore, the current head of the Church of Satan, wrote a positive review of Siege in volume 27 of The Black Flame, the organization’s magazine, in which he described the book as a “monumental achievement”. He even positively compared Satanists to neo-Nazis by saying that, while Mason is a political extremist, the Satanist is also a religious and philosophical extremist. The Black Flame magazine has also contained spreads featuring artwork glorifying neo-Nazism, such as a painting of Charles Manson as the anti-Christ that was painted by Bill Ehmann Jr, and has also promoted the music of Rahowa, a notorious white supremacist rock/metal band. Gilmore was also seen photographed with Mason in 1992, alongside his girlfriend Peggy Nadramia and Mason’s girlfriend Eva Hoehler. On a related note, Nadramia herself is also known to have softballed neo-Nazism by denying that there is even an emerging threat of neo-Nazi terrorism in the US, and also described Satanists as believing in nature as a fascistic force. Perhaps she can’t really condemn neo-Nazism as a serious threat because many of the church’s members were also Nazis or generally far-right themselves, such as Kurt Saxon, who was a reverend of the Church of Satan and also a member of the American Nazi Party (which incidentally James Mason was also a member of for a while), and who also appeared before the Senate in 1970 to advocate that student protesters be massacred with machine guns and the police and vigilante groups should murder leftists in bombings. When confronted about this, the Church of Satan responds merely by saying that the personal politics of their members are up to them, which suggests that they tolerate violent neo-Nazis in their ranks. Then there’s Ashley Palmer, a Church of Satan reverend who was also the subject of a puff piece on The Independent and runs a fashion company called ASP Culture. He endorsed white nationalism on Twitter, specifically the ideas of Richard Spencer and Identity Europa, adveritses symbols that are blatantly associated with Nazism (such as the Sonnenrad and Wolfsangel), and has openly tweeted “Make Europe Great Again”, a variation of the MAGA slogan which is used by white nationalists. Peter Gilmore himself not only endorsed Siege back in the 90’s, but he also wrote an introduction to a recent edition of Might Is Right by Ragnar Redbeard (itself a tract known for proto-fascistic and anti-semitic statements) in which he apparently cited James J Martin, a Stirnerite individualist-anarchist who also happened to think that the Holocaust didn’t happen.

Now, take stock for a moment and think about that, because there is a noteworthy point of comparison from this year that we can draw from. Jeremy Corbyn, present leader of the Labour Party, wrote a foreword for a 2011 edition of John A Hobson’s book Imperialism: A Study. The book, although it was taught in academia for many decades and influential to many worthy critics of imperialism, is also notorious for allusions to “men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries of financial experience”, which is very obviously an anti-semitic trope. The book also apparently talks about the elimination or repression of “primitive colonial peoples” and “degenerate or unprogressive races”. Outside of that book Hobson is known for having blamed the war in South Africa on the idea of Jewish racial elites. But whereas Corbyn is condemned, and I’d say correctly so, for his eagerness to endorse such a book and its author, nothing is said of Peter Gilmore’s willingness to endorse a Holocaust denier (or indeed James Mason for that matter). But at least Corbyn made some effort to denounce the more racist aspects of Hobson’s Imperialism, even if in the end his only complaint was that the “language” (not the actual ideas about racialism) was awful. The Church of Satan, on the other hand, won’t even attempt to address the subject except through deflection and condescencion.

Then again, there’s still a lot of other anti-semitism Corbyn hasn’t quite addressed adequately

What’s more, some Church of Satan members were also revealed to have fascistic beliefs and associations as the result of doxxing by Antifa members. Kenaz Filan, who is a Warlock of the Church of Satan, is a racist troll who likes to post and share anti-black and anti-semitic memes, as well as memes that express support for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, on Gab, and in general promotes all manner of ideas associated with the alt-right. Kevin Slaughter, a Magister of the Church of Satan, runs an alt-right account on Twitter and Facebook that goes by the name Satanic American, where he argues for eugenics, race realism, volkisch paganism, and the border wall that Trump wants to build, and against racial egalitarianism, and generally promoting all manner of alt-right material (he even proliferated the idea that the Charlottesville riots were a false flag constructed by the establishment to demonize white nationalists). Slaughter also authored a book called Iron Youth Reader, which is a compilation of writings dominated by reactionaries and fascists like Oswald Spengler, Gustave Le Bon (a reactionary crowd scientist who opposed democracy and talked about a “racial unconscious”), Savitri Devi, and Francis Galton (a eugenicist), and published it through his company Underworld Amusements. He also has a Gab account where he follows Jack Donovan, who believes in “anarcho-fascism”, and the Traditionalist Worker Party, which was a self-described National Socialist party before it disbanded last year. James Sass, another Magister, is another outright fascist who openly praised Nazis such as Otto Skorenzy, supports the ideas of Julius Evola, Oswald Spengler, Oswald Mosley, Charles Manson and James Mason (and also made music for Mason’s Necrofascist project), condemned homosexuality by comparing it to necrophilia, opposed democracy and the US Founding Fathers, is an anti-semite who supports Holocaust denial, constructed an altar to the Ebola-chan meme draped in the flag of the NSDAP, and believes Western civilization and popular culture should be annihilated. James Stillwell III, another member and also the author of a book titled Power-Nihilism, posts about white nationalism on Gab, is anti-semitic, and he even supported James Alex Field Jr, the white nationalist terrorist who murdered an anti-fascist protester and injured several others in Charlottesville by running them over with his car. Matt Paradise, yet another Magister, runs an alt-right podcast called The Accusation Party, whose Twitter and Gab accounts brandish the symbolism of Italian fascism, and supports race realism and other alt-right ideas as well as the ideas of Jack Donovan. The Church of Satan has also actively promoted The Accusation Party, despite their claims to being apolitical. Other fascists in the organization include David Williams (a CoS reverend who is so pro-Nazi that he actually has a “favorite Nazi” and also blames humanism for the pedophilic abuses of the Catholic Church), Trevor Blake (who collaborates with Kevin Slaughter), David Harris (who likes Matt Paradise’s alt-right podcast), David Wallace (who endorses the ideas of Jack Donovan), and Vincent Crowley (the lead singer of Acheron who was a priest for a time, promotes NSBM bands and has done an interview with an explicitly neo-Nazi website).

All of these people represent or have represented the Church of Satan in some official capacity, many of them are high-ranking members, some of them occupying the second-highest rank in the Church of Satan (the highest being Magus or Maga), and the Church of Satan itself either tolerates their views on in some cases outright endorses them (Peggy Nadramia, for example, follows and endorses the work of James Sass), and you have a love of James Mason’s Siege that goes right to the top of the hierarchy. None of this is discussed in the film, which is noteworthy because both Gilmore and Nadramia are in the film and speak frequently in it, and of course we never have the opportunity to see them justify some of the less than savory aspects of Satanism, such as the Social Darwinism, and I have to suspect this is because it might lead to a discussion or defence of fascism, given the fact that Social Darwinism is the lifeblood of fascism in many ways, but then why would any of them have a problem with that if they’re truly radical enough to not care about what everyone else thinks? But I suppose it wouldn’t make sense for Carl to bring it up because Carl himself promotes Underworld Amusements, which is run by Kevin Slaughter. The bottom line? The Church of Satan is, and has been for years, an institutionally fascist organization, one which supports fascists and allows them to occupy the top of their hierarchy. The fact that Gavin Baddeley has to say that the relationship between LaVeyan Satanism and fascism is “a complicated one” all the way back in 1999 indicates a problem – if you oppose fascism, then your relationship with fascism shouldn’t be a complicated one. It should be an unequivocably negative one, otherwise you’re giving a soft hand to totalitarian ideology. End of story.

And even if the Church of Satan isn’t institutionally fascist (despite the evidence showing precisely that it is), their membership doesn’t seem to care if they are because they are too nihilistic to concern themselves with anything beyond their personal pleasure. In a 1995 article for Volume 5 of The Black Flame, Blanche Barton responded to concerns about fascist infiltrations of Satanism, which it seems must have already been a concern then as now, by saying “what are we supposed to be? A bunch of kindergarten babies? Are we supposed to be such self-righteous prigs that we can’t stand to see a swastika? By accusing us of fascism, are we supposed to be distracted from the fact that we live in an extremely puritanical, fascistic society?”. This is a kind of soft-balling of fascism similar to the type that we now see in modern classical liberals, built upon a delusion that tells you that, because most people already know fascism is bad, there is no need to point to evidence of fascistic infiltration within your movement, and that to do so smacks of political correctness. But I suppose I should be glad that it isn’t giddily pro-fascist like Peggy Nadramia’s article.

All of this I found out just from researching Adam Parfrey and his fascist associations. It is not in any credible sense difficult to uncover Parfrey’s fascist sympathies, and in so doing I somehow ended up finding out about numerous other fascistic associations within the Church of Satan as an organization. Much of this has also been discussed since before the film was released and before the crowdfunding project for it was launched. With this in mind, Carl’s loving biopic of Anton LaVey amounts to the purest of puff pieces. Very few of the guests come close to a serious reflection of LaVey’s philosophy, and at that it is still mostly positive. The Church of Satan’s ties to fascism and not to mention LaVey’s own are never discussed, they aren’t even mentioned, and nor is the doctrine of lex talionis or “might is right”. It’s my opinion that this is the work of people who are still spellbound by LaVey. Well, those people can continue being spellbound by him if they must, but I just can’t conscionably stand by it.