Chaos, nihilism, and the way of “No Surrender” (or, In defence of the Chaos Star and the Nihilist-Anarchists)

I will say that I am not a Chaos Magician, but I don’t think one necessarily needs to be a Chaos Magician in order to recognize the Chaos Star, also known as the Symbol of Chaos or Sigil of Chaos. The basic shape is eight-arrows pointing outward from one central point, meant to signify all possibilities expanding outward. In Chaos Magick, this star is often interpreted as a signifier for the endless potential of all action launching in all different directions instead of pursuing a fixed path. But, the Chaos Star is also one of a number of esoteric symbols that have been altered and recuperated by fascists as representations of their movement, leading some leftists to declare that the Chaos Star is itself a fascist symbol, despite the fact that it was a non-fascist symbol invented by a man whose own political convictions put him completely at odds with fascism. And recently, this has resulted in an entire tendency of anarchism, namely the nihilist anarchists, being tarred over the use of the Chaos Star in an image declaring the nihilist-anarchist position. Both anarchists and presumably Marxists take turns saying both that nihilist-anarchists are incapable of threatening the system and that they are dangerous fascist counter-revolutionaries, without the slightest bit of irony or self-awareness regarding the outright regurgitation of that old far-right trope that their enemy is strong but also weak.

Twitter drama in itself isn’t something I like the thought of covering here, but it is on Twitter that the discourse I’m trying to address is taking place, and it is important to address this discourse, because it touches on a number of important subjects. It touches on the extent to which social and cultural alterity is either allowed expression within leftist or radical spaces or condemned and cast away as an expression of fascism or reaction, a dynamic that has implications for how we view freedom of expression and has consequences for anyone trying to embrace sub/counterculture, occultism, alternative religion, and even kink within radical left-wing political spaces. It also touches on the old threat of moral panic that surfaces time and time again, and the way that esotericism is interpreted and received, as well as the arguments through which the logic of authoritarianism may be regurgitated even by people who consider themselves anti-authoritarian leftists. I also should stress that I don’t come at this from the standpoint of a nihilist, except in the sense of being very much nihilism-curious. While I don’t necessarily identify with nihilism, I have the inkling that my engagement with Max Stirner, forthcoming elaborations on Darkness, and a general interest in certain forms of revolutionary pessimism as put foward by Marxists like Walter Benjamin may end up putting me in alignment with some forms of nihilist communism and nihilist anarchism, to say nothing of recent sympathies with some of the nihilist anarchists presently being fash-jacketed. If that leads to a bias, then just know that this is the standpoint I’m coming from, and there are no neutral actors in discourse.

As far as I can tell, this all started with a tweet from Des (@queerbandit161), a queer anti-civ nihilist decolonial anarchist, originally posted on March 9th, which featured a meme depicting a balaclava-wearing wojak-style character wearing sunglasses, sporting an assault rifle and standing beneath the Chaos Star. The presumably memetic mascot for nihilist anarchism is accompanied by a quote from Blessed Is The Flame, a seminal text on anarcho-nihilism written in 2016 by Serafinski, which summarizes the basic position of nihilist-anarchism. It states that the current society cannot be saved, that hostility should be the only response to it, and that, rather than any demands for a new society, the revolution will be the “pure negation” of society. I’ll post the original meme below.

Kickass image from @queerbandit161

The post attracted a mixture of responses from various people. Some praised the post and its message, and expressed an interest in reading nihilist literature. Many, however, were quick to dismiss it and mock it, and a few of those resorted to cruelly suggesting that Des commit suicide. Some of Des’ detractors asserted that the anarcho-nihilist position was merely stuck in the bourgeois worldview, accepting its premise for the social order and merely positioning themselves as an antagonist; a strange objection for self-styled communists to make, considering they are supposed to be the material antagonists of bourgeois society.

For whatever reason, Des’ original post attracted further attention at around March 18th, 9 days after the original post, from numerous individuals spouting mostly the same lines, except that this time there were people accusing Des of being a crypto-fascist on the grounds that the Chaos Star is a “Duginist symbol”. This seems to have kicked off a whole discourse about nihilist-anarchism as a whole being somehow fascist, and besides that a wave of anarchists and socialists from other tendencies pronouncing that nihilist anarchists are ineffectual. Some users have gone so far as to claim that the Chaos Star is essentially the Sonnenrad, the Nazi sun wheel symbol (often popularly, but ultimately erroneously, dubbed the “Black Sun”). It’s at this point that we need to get into the problems with all of this discourse.

The Chaos Star as we know it was created by Michael Moorcock, the author of the Elric of Melnibone novels, as a symbol of the forces of Chaos. In Moorcock’s novels, there is constant struggle two cosmic forces, those of Law and those of Chaos, and a figure referred to as the Eternal Champion acts on behalf of the Cosmic Balance to ensure that neither Law nor Chaos come out on top for long. The forces of Law, symbolized by a single upward-pointing arrow, represent cosmic order and are credited with ensuring that anything material exists, but a world dominated by Law tends to lead to stagnation, and the Realm of Law is an empty and barren place where, in the absence of the ability to do wrong, law and justice become meaningless. The forces of Chaos, symbolized by a star of eight arrows, represent both entropy and a state of infinite possibility unfettered by any rules, and are credited as the source of the power of magic and sorcery, but a world dominated by Chaos is unstable, and all possibilities are exhausted in a state of constant change (personally I find that to be a strange idea considering that the possibilities are, well, infinite). Fans of Shin Megami Tensei, like myself, will easily notice similarities between the premise of Moorcock’s novels and the Shin Megami Tensei games that would be released decades later; in the original Shin Megami Tensei, one of the four demon generals of Chaos is called Arioch, which happens to also be the name of the gods of Chaos in Moorcock’s novels. Michael Moorcock himself was not a fascist. In fact, he has explicitly referred to himself as an anarchist, and specifically a “Kropotkinist” (that is, an adherent of Pyotr Kropotkin’s form of anarcho-communism), and he insists that his works often end with the message that “one should serve neither gods nor masters but become one’s own master”. So while the Chaos Star may not in itself be an anarchist symbol, it was created by an anarchist, and in the context of Chaos Magick it definitely dovetails with political anarchism rather more closely than fascism.

It’s worth mentioning that, although the Chaos Star as we know it was invented by Michael Moorcock, there actually was a similar older symbol that appeared in the work of Aleister Crowley. In the Thoth tarot deck, which also contained in Crowley’s The Book of Thoth, the Eight of Wands card depicts a large symbol consisting of eight arrows shaped like bolts of lightning and each extending outwards in all directions. It’s not really the Chaos Star, but it does look similar. According to Crowley, the symbol on the card represented energy that scattered at high velocity. That does sound fairly similar to the way the Chaos Star is talked about as representing infinite potential branching off in different directions. The Thoth deck project was originally initiated in 1938, and completed in 1943, and The Book of Thoth was published in 1944. That’s 17 before the first Elric of Melnibone novel, The Dreaming City, was published in 1961. It’s not quite the same symbol, but it does predate Moorcock. And, again, there’s no reason to interpret it as a symbol of fascism.

The Eight of Wands card as it appears in Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck

This brings us to Aleksandr Dugin, the fascist advisor to Vladimir Putin, who used his own eight-pointed star symbol to represent his Eurasianist movement. Dugin’s eight-pointed star seems to have first appeared on the cover of Foundations of Geopolitics, a treatise on neo-Eurasianist ideology and politics that was first published in 1997 and has since become widely influential in fascist circles in both Russia and “the West” and has been widely read within the Russian government. Although the two symbols are similar, there are important differences between them. The star of Eurasianism is typically squared, whereas the common Chaos Star is round, and the star of Eurasianism usually has the four intercardinal arrows appear larger or longer than the cardinal arrows, whereas the common Chaos Star is typically much more equilateral, with the eight arrows all of equal size and length. These are the obvious visual differences between the Chaos Star and the Eurasianist Star, or the Star of Dugin as we might also call it. As for the symbolic meaning, it’s not clear that the Chaos Star and Dugin’s Star have any symbolic correspondence. Frankly, I’m amazed that people have even managed to confuse the two symbols.

In a now-deleted tweet, a Twitter user going by the handle @DualPowerRanger repeated a claim from Alexander Reid Ross which asserted that Aleksandr Dugin is a practitioner (or “follower”) of chaos magick, and they asserted further that there is a convergence between the Chaos Star and National Bolshevism that is not accidental, based on the purported presence of eco-fascists in the nihilist milieu. Incidentally, the same basic claim of Dugin being a Chaos Magician was put forward by Robert Zubrin, writing for the conservative magazine National Review, in an article arguing that Dugin’s Eurasianist ideology was a “satanic cult”. Oh how easy it is to find certain people on the same side as reactionaries when it’s time to make people afraid of the occult again! In any case, the basic claim is wrong-headed for a number of reasons. For starters, Chaos Magick is not a religion, and there are no “followers” of Chaos Magick. The very notion is fundamentally at odds with the radically anarchic, anti-dogmatic, and anti-organizational ethos of Chaos Magick, and arguably offensive to its practitioners. For another thing, while it is true that Dugin was interested in occultism and wrote a number of tracts on the subject when he was much younger, he is at this point very much a Christian traditionalist. Dugin was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church since he was six years old, he is deeply involved in right-wing Christian politics in Russia which so characteristically revolves around the Russian Orthodox Church, and much of the religious content of his politics is expressly a form of Christian nationalism; he explicitly frames his struggle between a Eurasianist Russia versus the liberal/”globalist” West as a struggle between the forces of God, church, state and empire against the forces of Satan. Some people have told me in the past that there is at least a noitceable contingent of folkist neopagans in the Russian National Bolshevik movement, but I have never seen any evidence of that being the case. Even if Dugin did at one point practice Chaos Magick, he likely doesn’t now, and even if he did, this certainly doesn’t make the Chaos Star a fascist symbol.

A particularly hilarious bit of conspiracy thinking comes from self-styled leftists who appear to sincerely believe that the Chaos Star is synonymous with the Sonnenrad, or the so-called “Black Sun” used by neo-Nazis to represent their ideology. This is patently absurd for a number of reasons. The Chaos Star not only does not carry the same symbolism as the Sonnenrad, the two symbols are not even the same shape! Whereas the Chaos Star consists of eight arrows pointing outward in different directions, the Sonnenrad consists of twelve seemingly stylized sig runes through two circles, the runes each meeting at the centre of the circle, thus forming a wheel. The design was probably modelled after old Germanic ornamental disks that were generally symbols of royalty or aristocratic power, but otherwise barely resembles even those. The Sonnenrad is a distinct symbol that was created by Wilhelm Landig and commissioned by Heinrich Himmler as a substitute for the swastika to adorn the Wewelsburg Castle. As for the name “Black Sun”, the Nazis themselves never referred to it as the “Black Sun”. The symbol itself wasn’t even originally black, more like a kind of dark green. We don’t really know what the Nazis originally called it and even the original symbolism is something of a mystery, though it is speculated in scholarship that it represented a source of power for the so-called “Aryan” race. The reason I refer to it the Sonnenrad is because the word means “sun-wheel”, and that’s all that the basic symbol is; just a sun wheel made of stylized sig runes. The Sonnenrad only started being called the “Black Sun” by neo-Nazis in the 1990s, likely deriving the name from the thriller novel The Black Sun of Tashi Lhunpo. The novel was published no earlier than 1991 by the German author Stephan Mögle-Stadel, under the pseudonym Russell McCloud, who probably wasn’t a neo-Nazi himself, though Mögle-Stadel’s lack of enthusiasm for Nazi ideology didn’t stop neo-Nazis from running with the concept regardless of its expressly fictitious basis.

The very name “Black Sun” as an esoteric concept is not the historic property of the Nazis. In Western alchemy, the “black sun” was the Sol Niger, a symbol of the process of nigredo, the state of spiritual putrefaction or “death” that necessarily precedes renewal and the completion of the Great Work. There have been other “black suns” and similarly dark lights with different symbolic meanings throughout the ancient pre-Christian world. In Egypt, a “black sun” can be seen in some tombs as a devourer of the unrighteous and the enemies of the gods, and this sun was represented by a demon in the form of a black ram dubbed “The Lord of Power”. In Greece and Rome, the god Dionysus or Bacchus was sometimes referred to as the “Night Sun”. The planet Saturn was in some cultures considered to be a “sun of night”, and in Mesopotamia the sun god Utu was believed to travel to the underworld as a “night sun” to judge the dead. Mayans believed that the Sun took the form of the “Night Sun” as it journeyed to the underworld.

The logic of the comparison between the Sonnenrad and the Chaos Star is in essence the same logic used by your average conspiracy theorist to argue that every triangle or hand sign is secretly some esoteric or satanic symbol cryptically placed everywhere by a secret society of elites who for some reason want you to know that they rule the world and can’t tell you any other way. The Chaos Star is round and pointy, is employed by an occult subculture, and happens to be brandished by people you despise, while the Sonnenrad is round and jagged, maybe a little pointy in places, is linked to an esoteric movement, and is employed by people you despise, therefore, by ignoring the exact context and symbological differences between the symbols along with the precise ideological and political differences between the people who actually use those symbols, you can claim that the Sonnenrad and the Chaos Star are the exact same symbol and that Chaos Magicians and nihilist-anarchists are secret Nazis with no effort whatsoever! And the people looking to attack nihilist-anarchists seem to see fascist symbols literally everywhere, or at least everywhere in Ukraine. Another person attacking Des and accusing the Chaos Star of being a fascist symbol also claimed to see that same symbol on a Ukrainian soldier as proof that the soldier was a fascist, as part of a broader party line that Ukraine is a Nazi regime. The actual symbol was not a Chaos Star, but instead the symbol of the Sith Empire, which doesn’t at all resemble the Chaos Star and really doesn’t signify anything other than being a Star Wars fan. On a somewhat unrelated note, I’ve also seen some people claim that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a secret Nazi on the basis of an equilateral cross-like symbol on his shirt that was somehow supposed to be the German Iron Cross. That cross is obviously not the German Iron Cross, but in fact a symbol of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The fact that Zelenskyy happens to be Jewish should be relevant to anyone trying to claim that he’s some sort of secret Nazi, but apparently that doesn’t matter to pro-Russian conspiracy theorists.

My point is, there seems to be a noticeable element of conspiracism involved in the basic claim that the Chaos Star is inherently a fascist symbol, in that justifying such a claim often involves literally just seeing fascist symbols everywhere even where there aren’t, in the same way that lots of conspiracy theorists see symbols of Satanism or their imagined secret society everywhere even where they don’t exist.

A guide I’ve made to hopefully illustrate my point

What motivated me to write this article at all was a Twitter thread written by a self-described democratic socialist named Michael Paulauski, and it’s worth addressing the claims he makes against nihilist-anarchists. The thread begins with an endorsement of @DualPowerRanger’s problematic claims against nihilist-anarchists and the Chaos Star, and his bid to connect the Chaos Star to a broader issue of fascist creep in ecological movements. He claims that people who deny the existence of eco-fascism are relevant to the Chaos Star, implying the Chaos Star is a symbol of a broader fascist creep within anarchist movements. We’ve already addressed the reasons why the Chaos Star is not a fascist symbol, so it doesn’t bear repeating here. The argument I’m much more interested in addressing is Paulauski’s claim that “doomerism” is weaponized as a tool of fascists who supposedly use it to ensure that any and all constructive progress is obstructed, and claims that the utilization of the Chaos Star as a symbol of nihlist-anarchism fits perfectly with this along with the phenomenon of anti-civ and anarcho-primitivism, both of which he reflexively dismisses without argument.

In addressing this argument, we need to discuss the concept of the “doomer”, or “doomerism”. The word “doomer” seems to be a modern term the internet gives to someone who’s basically a long-term pessimist. It can mean someone who is convinced that society will collapse within their lifetime, and in fact it used to specifically refer to people who thought that this collapse would be brought about by the demise of peak oil production, and nowadays it can be interpreted to mean a latent assumption that the end of organized human society in the form of ecological collapse, global conflict, or any number of causes is basically inevitable and can’t be stopped at this point, and for whom the only thing left to do is figure out how to survive or live with the inexorable. It can also mean someone who finds themselves given to a much more personal resignment, having accepted the idea that, for various reasons, their own lives aren’t going to get any better than they currently are. Nowadays the terms “doomer” or “doomerism”, whenever they enter mainstream political discussion, are almost always related to the broader discussion around climate change, and the term “doomer” is thrown around interchangeably with terms like “nihilist” or “collapsitarian” to denounce or dismiss people who believe that it is too late for the human species to meaningfully avert the worst consequences of man-made climate change.

There are numerous and obvious problems with asserting that pessimism as a whole is merely an appendage of fascism. For one thing, pessimism is really rather common in left-wing movements, particularly in the United States. And there’s a host of good reasons for leftists to feel pessimistic without requiring the input of fascist interference operations. The climate crisis shows no signs of getting better, and in fact it seems like we really will be unable to stop most of the worst effects of climate change from being inflicted on the world, whole species and ecosystems are still being destroyed, there’s war everywhere, with Russia presently invading Ukraine while ongoing conflicts in the Middle East remain unresolved and continue to claim thousands of innocent lives, progressive politicians either make litle to no progress in improving the lives of the people or are actively compromised by the internal hierarchy of their party establishment, while their increasingly reactionary rivals on the right continue to grow and plot their next advance towards dictatorship, millions of people are still poor, suffering, with increasingly little hope that they’ll lead better lives or that their descendants will be better off, marginalized people continue to be brutally oppressed, the “democracy” we take for granted is being eroded even in the bastions of Western “freedom”, the whole world is slowly moving towards greater authoritarianism of some form or another, the capitalist system is still universal and the rich get richer and profit off of all of the misseration I’ve described, and all the while the left so far still appears powerless to change any of this in the long-term. In that sense, being a doomer as a leftist is an inevitable possibility, and that’s not usually because fascists are convincing otherwise faithful optimists to abandon hope. Rather, it’s a natural product of the grind that is left-wing politics in a late capitalist nightmare. Climate “doomerism” is also a natural reaction to the very real scientific conclusions being drawn about how much time we have and how much we can do to stop total ecological disaster from inflicting us all. The main difference, I suppose, is that some of us like the thought of turning what would be pure pessimism into a source of power and a deepening of the radical worldview, one that goes beyond the usual palliative quotations of Antonio Gramsci.

The other major problem is that the argument made against “doomerism” could also be applied to any counterculture, or any expression of alterity within society. Neopaganism and modern reconstructionist polytheist movements are not unaware of the problem of fascists trying to use their religion as an edifice of fascist ideology, and the same is true for Satanists and many occultists, and many within those movements are all determined to root out fascism from their communities. But if we followed Paulauski’s line of thought, then we would assume that, because fascists attempt to use Paganism, Satanism, and occultism as spaces for fascist ideology, then those things are now inherently fascist, even though they aren’t. Punk music, industrial music, noise music, and black metal are all music scenes where fascist movements are known for trying to set up shop, but that doesn’t make them inherently fascist, and if we followed Paulauski’s argument those subcultures would be totally off-limits and so would the gothic subculture simply because fascists attempt to weaponize them. The same goes for gaming, which is to this day a fairly notorious place for right-wing infiltration; you wouldn’t be able to play video games and be a leftist anymore, simply because fascists exist and try to seduce gamers into their cause. The final logical conclusion of this argument is that socialism itself cannot be trusted because the idea of socialism has in fact repeatedly been weaponised by fascists. The Nazis called themselves socailists even though they were just capitalist fascists, China still calls itself communist despite just being an authoritiarian capitalist state, and there is a surprising amount of people on the internet who call themselves socialists while peddling conservative and often white nationalist ideologies. If the left followed Paulauski’s argument consistently, they would abandon socialism completely, and ironically I would say this is far more defeatist than anything that anarcho-nihilism could put forward.

Paulauski points to another thread from a user basically saying that anarcho-nihilists inundate people with “doomer shit” and then entice them with their ideology, which I’m sure is totally not elementary conspiratorial thinking. I think that there is a much more realistic way to look at it. If by “doomer shit” you mean pessimism and reasons to be pessimistic, then people are definitely exposed to that pretty regularly, but it’s not because of nihilist-anarchists. I would assume that there are far too few nihilist-anarchists in the world for them to be responsible for people becoming doomers. To me, it makes much more sense to assume that people become doomers on their own, as a response to the fact that the world around is shitty not just to them but to everyone, and to the possibility that things might get truly irreparably bad within their lifetimes for a number of reasons. You just can’t look at the current political and ecological situation, or in some sense even the basis of modern capitalism or even modern civilization, and act like pessimism isn’t a completely legitimate response to it, and nor can you look at the fact that we’re stagnating even as we know what’s going on and theoretically trying to resolve it without something isnide you telling you that maybe we’re not actually going to get this right. Pessimism is a logical reaction to all of this and, if it doesn’t lead to resignment, people can and do radicalize on the basis of pessimism, and some people will follow that path in response to the conditions they live in whether you like it or not.

The reason people defend the Chaos Star has nothing to do with whatever false sense of victory you claim for yourself, or with fascist creep. The reason people defend the Chaos Star doesn’t even necessarily have to do with the merits of anarcho-nihilism itself. The reason people defend the Chaos Star is, rather simply, because the Chaos Star is not a fascist symbol, the claim that it is a fascist symbol is laughably absurd, there are plenty of non-fascists including anarchists who use the Chaos Star to signify interest in Chaos Magick or esotericism even if probably for subcultural reasons, and anarcho-nihilism is not a fascist ideology. It’s ultimately that simple, and, frankly, I think what distresses the anti-nihilist anarchist and the anti-nihilist socialist is the idea that perhaps the nihilist-anarchists might provide a more interesting critique of capitalism and might find themselves unmoored by the limits of mainstream socialism. And yet it is ultimately an irrational fear, in the end. There is inherent reason why nihilism, anarchism, communism, or egoism cannot exist alongisde each other and cannot form a coherent political worldview side-by-side; in other words, there is not much reason why you can’t be all of those things at once.

Anarcho-nihilism is not going to make anarchism or the left as a whole more fascist, but it’s honestly quite rich that the accusation is even flung around nowadays anyway in consideration of the fact that, if there is any part of the left that is at a major risk of becoming fascism or a pipeline to fascism, it’s none other than the entire edifice of state socialism. You might think that I am only referring to Marxist-Leninists, and they definitely are reactionary (I’m sorry not sorry but it’s the simple truth), but they are not the only ones. Paulauski describes himself as a democratic socialist? Very well, let’s see what the democratic socialists are doing. The eggheads over at Jacobin are currently advocating for a decadent big tent populism that would have leftists ignore social struggles in favour of strictly economistic understandings of capitalism. This has also sometimes meant bringing on white nationalists in socialist garb like Thomas Fazi for years, and their YouTube channel is full of videos of their hosts spouting a number of conservative talking points about “identity politics” among other social issues. Speaking of Fazi, he’s one of several reactionaries who certain leftists have decided to collaborate with to form a new magazine called Compact, which is essentially just an edgier and slightly more social-democratic version of what is essentially an establishmentarian neoconservative rag – try to imagine The Weekly Standard but for Bernie-boosters. The magazine positions itself as an editorial on behalf of a “strong social-democratic state” that “defends community” against “the libertine left and the libertarian right” (that sounds just a little bit like fascism but OK). They express say that they want to challenge “the overclass that controls capital”; that is to say, they don’t want to challenge capital, they just want a new set of paternalistic elites to rule society and govern capitalism. To that end, the magazine brings leftist voices like the ostensibly Marxist Slavoj Zizek and Ashley Frawley and racist social-democrats like Malcolm Kyeyunye and Paul Embery together with outright bourgeois conservative voices like Christopher Caldwell (literally a Weekly Standard editor), Sohrab Ahmari (Catholic neocon), Peter Hitchens (British right-wing crank), and Matthew Schmitz (if “establishment conservative” were an archetype, I’d say this guy is its embodiment), as well as conspiracy theorists like Alex Gutentag. Social-democrats across Europe (and, yes, I include the UK here) have for years made numerous efforts to meet the far-right half-way by accomodating many of their demands through conciliatory policy programmes designed to fit reactionary immigration policies in with social-democratic economics, and these efforts have never succeeded in doing anything except for creating a pipeline between social-democracy and fascism. It doesn’t look like that reality is going to convince social-democratic politicians to stop doing it either, since ultimately they need as many votes as they can get, and they often have a vested interest in preventing the radicalization of their party apparatus and the working class.

The core function of the socialization of the working class that defines social-democratic electoralism, and thereby much of the mainstream left, as well as even the vanguardism of state socialist forms of Marxism, ultimately bends much of the mainstream statist left towards a greater project of socializing the working class as functionaries of a more paternalistic state order, one theoretically more benevolent than its right-wing counterpart. The unity of this function with the still ever-present conservatism of bourgeois society leads inevitably to social-democracy arcing towards a reactionary reassertion of the dominant social order, and of hierarchical domination itself, and the unity itself is rendered inevitable by the realities of social-democratic electoralism. Every radical knows that this is not the first age in which social-democracy has proven reactionary or seen fit to ally with fascism or conservatism, and it may not be the last for as long as the status quo continues to perpetuate itself. Both social-democracy and Marxism-Leninism exist ultimately to socialize the masses as functionaries of the ruling system, whichever that ruling system happens to be, and that idea is not as incommensurate with fascism as any ostensible commitment to “the left” might make it seem. That socialization will arc inevitably towards the idea of a paternalistic state order that reinforces the hierarchy from which fascism derives life. Anarcho-nihilists, by contrast, seek the ultimate negation and destruction of this hierarchy, this state socialization, the order of the state itself, and every benign illusion that keeps it alive. At any rate, I would expect alliances between social-democrats and conservatives (not even necessarily “populist” ones at that) to continue growing. Right now you’re mostly seeing things like this confined to the internet and select columns on fairly mainstream media outlets, but there’s no reason to think it’ll stay that way. The alt-right used to just be a collection of think tanks, ideologues, and bloggers that nobody knew or cared about, but they’ve since evolved into a concrete political force that has extended well beyond its former limited sphere of influence, and is now still a driving element in the growth of contemporary fascism. Not to mention that whatever reactionary transformation “the left” undergoes will have a lot of money behind it, and, if the masthead at Compact is anything to go by, the support of numerous appartchiks from the neoconservative establishment, and my suspicion is that the mainstream, statist “left” will probably end up accepting this transformation once it is completed; after all, it was only ever about getting votes.

You want to worry about a pipeline to fascism in the left? Anarcho-nihilism not only isn’t a pipeline to fascism, but even with enough red flags it doesn’t even come close to the very real pipeline to fascism involving mainstream state socialism that is being forged right now and has been in the makings for years before you idiots decided to fash-bait people over the occult again. And when it happens, at least half of you will defend it. I guarantee that much.

Things like this are why it’s important to recapture something core to Satanism: the philosophy of no surrender. People who are part of occultism or alternative subcultures or alternative religions and who are also politically radical know that they can’t afford to surrender what they love just because the ignorant commissars of mainstream socialism have only relatively recently become attuned to the problem of fascist creep and now fancy themselves to be a sort of anti-fascist community police. Indeed every anti-fascist knows that if the enemy is given an inch they will take the whole mile. Fascists need every appendage they can grab hold of in order to form a network of culture presence that then translates into political influence, so that there are countless avenues into which a person can be radicalized into fascist ideology. The only answer to this is to preserve the cultures that the fascists want to take over by driving out fascists from those spaces and asserting the anti-fascist value of those spaces. The people who want anarchists to surrender the Chaos Star would have them walk the opposite path, no doubt in the hope of sacrificing everything that doesn’t conform to the cultural regime of the late Enlightenment. That cannot be allowed.

So listen well: no surrender! That is the ethos I believe certain anarchists know well indeed, and guides their praxis, even if mainstream socialists have all but abandoned it.

Addressing Peter Grey’s terrible take on We Are The Witchcraft

I have a lot more that I’d probably prefer to talk about, which I plan to talk about over the course of this month, but first I’m afraid I find myself compelled to respond to some esoteric e-drama concerning a man whose work I’ve cited over the last year. Yes, I’m afraid it’s one of those situations again. This time the person we’re talking about is Peter Grey, a self-styled Luciferian Witch who had been an esteemed author on witchcraft known for books such as Acopalyptic Witchcraft, The Red Goddess, and Lucifer: Princeps, and who had more recently released The Two Antichrists last year. Yesterday I had stumbled upon a take of his so bad that I find myself compelled to make some sort of statement about it.

On February 24th, coincidentally the same day that Russia invaded Ukraine, Peter Grey joined Gordon White for another episode of his podcast Rune Soup, this one apparently the third module of his Protection and Malefica Course, to discuss the ethical implications of cursing in magick as well as the content of Jack Parson’s landmark manifesto We Are The Witchcraft. That’s all good, valid, and important to talk about, and it’s not like you won’t find insight here, but towards the end of that podcast is when Peter Grey decided to talk politics, and things do not get good in that department.

Ostensibly, Peter Grey is an anarchist and a radical socialist, though perhaps with certain quasi-primitivist tendencies, and in theory this approach to politics shows itself in his work. But in Rune Soup we see a different side of Grey’s politics, namely that of crass opportunism and big tent populism. Grey is apparently one of those people on the left who appears to be convinced that we really need to unite with the people who hate us, by which we mean they will either do violence against us or invoke the power of the state to oppress us, and who we hate in turn, in order to fight the much bigger foe of capitalist state repression. We see this towards the end of the podcast, after they’re done talking about Parson’s essay. First he briefly mentions the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which took place on the same day as that podcast episode, by saying that Russia “sent the tanks” to Ukraine because “the West is falling”, whatever that means. Then he complains about people who think “Biden-style leftism” (which is absolutely not a fucking thing but go off I guess) will prevail, saying that they are in for a “very rude awakening” because of the mighty backlash from “the forces of repression”. That’s when he says “you’re going to need people on your side who at the present time you’re calling fascists, transphobes – what are the other meaningless hate words that are thrown around at the moment? – white supremacists”. He refers to these categorical descriptions as “the nonsense rhetoric of division”, and claims that anyone who reads We Are The Witchcraft and agrees with it has the duty to “do the work” to “connect with the others around” and not engage in “an endless witch-hunt” or “a purity death-spiral”. This is when Grey concludes that we need to ask “why they hell aren’t we seeing it now?” in reference to the radicalism of Jack Parsons.

Before we need to go anywhere we need to establish something right away: this is all obviously nonsense. Grey does not know that Jack Parsons would not have rejected transphobes, and he has absolutely no way to claim that he would’ve supported unity with fascists – in fact it seems very obvious that these would be his enemies. But having established this, it is important to understand what Peter Grey means when he says all of this. Grey’s overall position is that Western capitalism is collapsing, the time is approaching for anti-capitalist witches to usher in a new society, and in order to achieve this they will need all the help they can get, and so on this basis Grey argues that witches seeking to oppose capitalism should make alliances with essentially anyone who opposes the current establishment. When Grey complains about people being referred to as fascists, transphobes, or white supremacists, presumably by leftists and liberals, it might be inferred that he is referring to people who he thinks are resisting the establishment and are merely unfairly demonised by people who he refers to as “Biden-style leftists”. My guesses in that regard would be the so-called “Freedom” Convoy, TERFs who at least claim to be anti-capitalist in some way, possibly people like Derrick Jensen, or really just any self-styled radical who comes out with a bigoted take and doesn’t issue any sort of self-correction or apology for it. I suspect that he may also be responding to the discourse around attempts at left-right convergence, which are initiated either by fascists or idiots. Jimmy Dore and his buddies spring to mind.

So, Grey’s take is essentially that the far-left should unite with the far-right in order to seize the opportunity to destroy capitalism as it is collapsing. Well, there are several problems with this. It’s certainly not obvious how the invasion of Ukraine is supposed to single-handedly usher in the collapse of global capitalism, at all. It’s also not obvious why radical socialists, communists, or anarchists (which Grey claims he is) should ally with people whose primary political goals involve oppressing and destroying them. More to the point, this sort of big tent populist approach to anti-capitalist politics doesn’t work in that it doesn’t succeed in bringing us any closer to dismantling capitalism. The only thing it eventually succeeds in is normalizing not only reactionary ideology but also some incredibly toxic bigotry that goes with it. Chip Berlet already examined this phenomenon in his 1999 essay Right Woos Left and had already demonstrated therein the ways in which left-right convergences lead to fascists and anti-semitic conspiracy theories gaining influence in progressive activist circles while never actually generating any long-term political victories against the ruling class.

Not to mention, the argument is that we need to ally with reactionaries in order to fight “the forces of repression”, but if given the power those “allies” would be doing the repressing. Here in the United Kingdom we already have a government and opposition that is doing everything in its power to undermine the rights of trans people, while in many US states there are efforts to actually oppress trans people by forcing trans kids to undergo invasive “physical examinations” and abducting them from their parents if they undergo gender affirmation surgery. Isn’t this also repression, Peter Grey? What about the fact that the American right-wing seems to be increasingly interested in overthrowing elected leadership in order to abolish democracy and replace it with a dictatorship run by Trump? Would the outcome of that not be repression? You’re so concerned with the spectre of “cancel culture” on the left that it’s blinding you to what’s going on and to the reality of the people you want us to unite with.

The point regarding “rhetoric” of division is notable in that forces me to return to the subject of unity. As ever, “unity” is only valuable in a relativistic sense; unity of whom, or of who with what? Has it ever occurred to anyone that you don’t have to unite with everyone and everything, or that there are people that you should not unite with and who do not deserve such unity? Why should trans people and their allies unite with people who not only deny the very existence of trans people but also want trans people to be legislated out of existence? Why should Jewish people be asked to unite with people who hate them and want them to be exterminated or persecuted? Why should we be asked to unite with people who want to create a totalitarian system maintained through genocide? The self-styled “Luciferian” would do well to consider that the defining action expressed in the myth of Lucifer, his rebellion against God and subsequent fall from heaven, is precisely the refusal of unity with the greatest fascist of them all! Rebellion, the “renewal of the war”, is the refusal of unity by the renewal of conflict against power, against that which is, such that there can be no unity with it, and from the standpoint of certain pre-Christian cosmologies it is this and not unity in the abstract which comprises the cosmos itself.

I also see a distinct contradiction in Grey’s overall stance brought about by his big tent populist approach to anti-capitalist politics in relation to what seems to be a relatively elitist view of witchcraft. Drawing from We Are The Witchcraft along with Jack Parson’s apparent experience as a practitioner of Thelema, Grey likes to assert that witchcraft and magick are only “for the few”. However meritorious the position is argued to be, we are supposed to accept this and at the same time also accept that witches are supposed to bring anyone who happens to hate the establishment for literally any reason no matter how reactionary and bigoted into the fold of the cause. It’s like witchcraft is for the few to participate in, but for also anyone claiming to oppose the system to participate in. That makes no sense.

Bringing this back to the subject of We Are The Witchcraft, I think it’s worth drawing attention to the following passage from that manifesto, which reads thus:

Our way is not for all men. There are those who are so constricted and sick in themselves that the thought of their own freedom is a horror, and that of others a fierce pain; so that they would enslave all men. And these you should shun, or, if you must, destroy them as you will know how, for this also is bounty.

Peter Grey would like us to think that to follow in the example of Jack Parsons means that we should ally with reactionaries for the purposes of unity. This is implied by the fact that he closes his rant on the subject by appealing to the supposed loss of Parson’s radicalism in the world. But I think that a more consistent of application of the message of We Are The Witchcraft is precisely the opposite of what Peter Grey prescribes. When Parson talks about “those who are so constricted and sick in themselves that the thought of their own freedom is a horror, and that of others a fierce pain”, we can easily see that it is in fact the people Grey wants us to ally with who embody this description. The people we refer to as transphobes, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are in fact transphobes, and they are this because they want to prevent trans people from being liberated or acheiving the full range of rights to which they, if at least we operate from the conceits given to us under the banner of the human rights framework, would be entitled to instead of denied. The transphobes do this because trans people, along with queer people, non-binary, and all the others that do not conform to the experience of cisheteronormativity, are through their mere existence a threat to established notions of gender that have been the basis of long-standing systems of oppression and hence authority for certain individuals over others. The people we refer to as fascists, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are fascists, and we call them such because they want nothing less than the re-organization of the capitalist state along the precept of absolute submisson to the reified authority of a single dictator – hardly different in principle to the tyranny for which the Devil opposed God. The people we refer to as white supremacists, for which Grey complains about us, we do so because they are white supremacists, and we call them such because they want to establish, or perhaps rather reinforce, a brutal hierarchy of power based on race in which some people are privileged and the rest are oppressed. All of these either suggest a fear of freedom or even afflict it upon both the subject and the sovereigns, and those who seek to implement them are thus not the natural allies of The Witchcraft as Grey would have us believe. In fact, Parsons is quite clear as to what the Witch should do with them: “these you should shun, or, if you must, destroy them as you will know how”.

You would think that in a podcast devoted partially to an exegesis of We Are The Witchcraft would have had no trouble arriving at this understanding of the political implications of the text, but it seems that this understanding has eluded both Peter Grey and Gordon White, and I’ll be honest, the idea of getting around this and side-stepping it sounds like classic pseudo-intellectualism, seeking more of the thing than what it is and contorting the substance through sophistication. I’m inclined to think of it as a sort of privilege on Peter Grey’s part, since it really does speak of a sort of detachment from the gritty realities of radical politics in favour of some intellectual landscape, some retreat into the kingdom of thought and contemplation. Grey no doubt lives off of money generated from his relatively well-esteemed body of work and made through his company Scarlet Imprint. But of course, Grey reminds me to some extent of Rhyd Wildermuth, funny enough a man who has said he derived influence from Grey, and Wildermuth currently lives in the Ardennes, completely unconnected to any practical experience of American radical politics, making money partially through his books and his courses on neopaganism. I mean, fuck, I hate to say it but even Noam Chomsky sort of follows the trope as well, not because of Jimmy Dore’s drivel about how he’s a class traitor because he knows his “Force The Vote” campaign was never going to work, but because he looks at what’s going in Ukraine and his answer is simply to act like Russia has no agency in all this because it’s all America’s fault; and if you’re wondering how that connects to any sort of aloofness to the material circumstances at hand, you need only ask a Ukrainian translator. To be very honest, I’m getting mighty tired of this pattern.

In view of Grey’s comments, on their own I think he is merely purveying a populist outlook that naturally aligns someone towards the idea of left-right convergences as a form of praxis. And yet, there are signs of something else. For one thing, while I know him as basically an anarchist, he did in the stream briefly say that “post-anarchism” was the correct way to arrive at his interpretation of We Are The Witchcraft. It’s possible, then, that Peter Grey is technically no longer an anarchist in the sense that we might understand it, but rather some sort of “post-anarchist”, which necessarily entails that he has departed from baseline anarchism, possibly because baseline anarchism does not allow him to justify some of his positions and prejudices. The same thing basically happened with Rhyd Wildermuth, except Wildermuth nowadays prefers to call himself an Autonomist Marxist rather than “post-anarchist”, as though Autonomist Marxism is supposed to somehow better accomodate Rhyd’s reactionary socialism. Another sign I get from him is that he still whines about “social justice warriors” among other things for part of The Two Antichrists, at least if memory serves me well. This is in 2021. I’ll just say that by then I had already stopped doing that for quite a few years. Then, there’s Phil Hine mentioning in comment on the podcast that Grey had spoken positively, even fanboyishly, of Ted Kaczynski. And then there’s something that, admittedly, I didn’t initially give much thought to, but there’s the logo that used to represent Scarlet Imprint. It’s not their logo anymore, but you can still see it a lot in Lucifer: Princeps, and I can see why there would be problems with it in that it really does look like a variation of the swastika. It’s not the swastika that was used by the Nazis, to be clear on that front, and I’m guessing to them it’s an original esoteric sigil or whatever, but it looks sort of like they’ve put two triskleions together but the triskelions are in the shape of swastikas. That’s not even the only sus symbol around. Not to mention, I seem to recall him complaining at some point in The Brazen Vessel that the witchcraft community and the Left Hand Path needed to abandon “individualism”, however he defines it. But then why is “individualism” a problem if you declare that your legacy of witchcraft derives from Jack Parsons, who was literally an individualist anarcho-communist!? Suffice it to say, there is much about Peter Grey’s overall politics that is probably not as it seems, and it has some troubling implications to say the least.

All in all, the last thing to say is that for all of these reasons I will not be waiting to purchase Lucifer: Praxis after this point. I probably won’t even need it anyway for reasons I plan to explain, but really I have one important reason for spurining this book. It’s meant to elaborate the practical manifestation of his idea of Luciferian witchcraft, and the main problem there is what the political implications of it could be. Peter Grey is still not so foolish as to completely side-step the issue of politics in occultism and spirituality more broadly, he knows full well the necessity of politicizing witchcraft and indeed is known for advocating such politicization himself. But that’s very much the problem: now I have some very specific ideas of what that looks like in his hands, none of them good. His “post-anarchist” take on Luciferian witchcraft could well involve esoteric justifications for traditionalism undertaken in the name of rebellion against hierarchy, simply so as to forge an intellectual bridge for the alliances he intends to be made, and I would rather not lend any financial support to that bullshit. Take from the good parts of his work by all means, but just know that this might not be a totally unrealistic assumption on my part.

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

Bardo Methodology’s softball interview on Steelfest

Back in August this year there was a controversy surrounding the Steelfest Open Air festival in Finland, which for about a decade had been one of the nation’s most prolific extreme metal festivals and is set to return in 2022, after the global Covid-19 pandemic prevented them and several other music festivals around the world from playing. The festival also attracted attention for the fact that Sodom and other famous and respectable metal bands were set to play there, and that the line-up also contained several bands that could be classed as NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal). There was a string of middling to mediocre responses over this, and several bands eventually cancelled their appearance at Steelfest and distanced themselves from it while other bands stayed in the line-up and some performatively distanced themselves from Steelfest’s detractors. This week, months after the original controversy started, the magazine Bardo Methodology hosted an interview with Jani Laine, the organizer of Steelfest Open Air, to discuss the festival and the attendant controversy surrounding it. The interview was conducted by Niklas Goransson, and it was very much a soft touch.

The interview is divided into two parts, and thus two separate articles, the first of which begins with a hefty dose autobiographical content detailing how Jani became a part of the underground metal scene. While it’s definitely good for if you want to know how he became a musician and started his own band, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. It also contains a great deal of retrospection about how Steelfest came to be, with Jani recounting how it began as basically a private party among close friends featuring a lot of metal music and booze before gradually morphing into an incorporated open air festival. Right away, though, there’s a problem.

Among the bands listed by Jani, we see the bands Goatmoon and Satanic Warmaster listed as “Finnish underground bands” alongside Horna and Barathrum, and a little later Goatmoon is cited as a strong representative of the Finnish black metal scene alongside Horna, Impaled Nazarene, and White Death. Bands like Goatmoon are discussed without anyone ever bringing up the well-known, well-documented fact that they are open neo-Nazis. The explicit neo-Nazism of Satanic Warmaster is never discussed either. Or for that matter the Nazi ties of Horna, or the fascism of Destroyer 666, Peste Noire, Graveland, or Nokturnal Mortum.

Where the interview does actually talk about the issue of Steelfest and Nazism begins here:

While Jani’s concept might be popular among those who attend his events, it turns out that not everyone is quite as enthusiastic. A Finnish activist group wrote no less than four full-length articles about the 2019 edition, proclaiming Steelfest a nazi festival on accounts of hosting bands like MARDUK, MGŁA, HORNA, and SEIGNEUR VOLAND. The latter, an old French black metal band, share their perspective on the matter as part of the massive print-exclusive feature in Bardo Archivology Vol. 2. The activists also published a list of Steelfest’s business partners, urging likeminded readers to take action.

This Finnish activist group is not named by Jani, but I have managed to find the website of a group called Variverkosto, a Finnish anti-fascist group, and an article from May 15th 2019 detailing fascist bands at Steelfest, as well as a list of business providers and associated fascist companies. I’d say that means Variverkosto is what Jani is referring to. I wonder why he opted not to refer to them by name. Perhaps he wanted to avoid getting his ass handed to him online? Before we get to what Jani says let’s discuss all of the bands in question to see why anyone would be mad about them in relation to the subject of Nazism or fascism.

Marduk insist that they are apolitical, and in a formal sense their music probably is, but some band members are known to have purchased books about Holocaust denial from the Northern Resistance Movement, a far-right and even outright fascist organisation, and are otherwise broadly suspected of having fascistic sympathies due to the lyrics of many of their songs, which some worry suggest sympathy with the Nazis of World War 2. Mgla is a band whose vocalist has a side-project called Leichenhalle, whose debut album is called “Jedenfrei”, which literally means “free of Jews”. I’m amazed anyone thought that there would be nothing fascist about that! Horna, like Marduk, also claims to be apolitical, but several of their members are and have been involved in the NSBM or fascist scenes, with the guitarist Shatraug having been a member of a Nazi band called Blutschrei and the vocalist Spellgoth being a keyboardist in the openly fascist Peste Noire. Finally, Seigneur Voland openly promotes Nazi ideology and anti-semitism through explicitly racist and fascist lyrics while its vocalist Anthony Mignoni has said that he supports racial purges, opposes democracy, and admires Adolf Hitler for his supposed “will to found a neo-pagan empire in Europe” (never mind that Hitler actually loathed the various “neo-pagan” efforts from some of his fellow Nazis).

Yeah…definitely nothing Nazi about these guys, I’m sure. But what does Jani say?

This domestic group, which is what you might call our local ‘SJW’ network, has been pestering us throughout our entire history. Those articles are downright embarrassing in terms of accuracy. They name an individual who has nothing whatsoever to do with Steelfest, nor any parts of the organisation, as owner of our company. Also, they claim to ‘know for a fact’ that we arrange festivals with supposedly ‘problematic’ record shops and labels. In reality, we’ve never collaborated with any of those mentioned: we’re busy enough with our own events. Fact or fiction means nothing to these people; they will run with whatever fits their narrative, no matter if it’s sheer fabrication.

It would seem that Jani is one of those reactionaries who still gasses on about “SJWs” towards the end of 2021. Jani never once specifies which record shops and labels are being considered “problematic” and which Steelfest was said to have arranged festivals with. Variverkosto specifies that Steelfest cooperates with groups like Horror Shop (an NSBM oultet), Werewolf Records (a record label run by the guy behind Satanic Warmaster and which houses a lot of NSBM bands), and KVLT Shop (which is owned by Sami Tenetz from Beherit and sells a shitload of Nazi merchandise). Kvlt Shop has frequently participated in Steelfest, as does Horror Shop. Already I kind of suspect that Jani might not be telling the whole truth.

Of course, Niklas does not challenge Jani on any of this, and instead his next question is simply “Did anything change as a result of this?”. The answer is obviously no, and then Jani goes on a ramble about how everyone who thinks he’s a fascist is part of a fanatical cult that’s out to destroy his business.

Their main goal was clearly to – in one way or another – inflict as much damage to our company as possible and create problems for Steelfest’s business partners. You know, that’s how these cults work if you cross them: no interaction or attempted dialogue, just terrorising. Your only means of escape is to cave in and obey. Cancel your performance, issue statements in support of their agenda, and deny your own history. Should a member of your band be deemed questionable, he must be kicked out immediately.

How much power does Jani think the people at Variverkosto have over him and the Finnish black metal scene? Considering that Steelfest still went ahead that year, I don’t think Jani was in any danger of getting censored or terrorized. And terrorized by what? Boycotts? Aren’t you supposed to be about “strength and honor” and all that shit? Come on, get real.

Then comes the question of “Did you take any counter-measures?”, to which Jani says:

Well, we spoke with the police – ‘What the hell is going on? Is it even legal to spread disinformation about other people like this?’ After a short investigation by law enforcement, they explained that this is an insignificant but extremely active group who employ such tactics to draw attention to themselves, and in doing so promoting their political ideology. The cops said that we were well within our rights to press charges for defamation, ‘but all that would accomplish is bringing them closer to their goal’. Ever since, we’ve simply ignored the efforts of this irrelevant little group.

OK, so the Finnish police probably had a right-wing bias. Not the biggest surprise, all things considered. But what’s really interesting is when the cops apparently said that the Steelfest guys were within their rights to press defamation charges, but advised against it because “all that would accomplish is bringing them closer to their goal”. Why? I mean, if Jani and the cops are right and the anti-fascists really are just defaming them and spreading misinformation, why would pressing charges against them help the anti-fascists? To spread their political ideology by being defeated in court, in a case that I’ll bet few people outside the metal underground would know or even care about? Don’t give me that shit. I’ll bet that if Jani did press charges, the anti-fascists would present the case against them, and then there’s a good chance that it would have been shown that there was more going on with the Steelfest crew than just some dumb, edgy centrism.

It’s then claimed that the anti-fascists urged people to contact the city of Hyvinkaa to shut down Steelfest, and that this didn’t work (well, obviously it didn’t work, if the festival happened at all), and then Jani claims that many public officers and even local council members have been to Steelfest and thus “have seen with their own eyes that this festival is nothing like what these totalitarian cults paint us out to be”. The irony of somebody hanging around with fascists and outright Nazis complaining about totalitarianism seems to be lost on far too many people these days, but more importantly there is reason to doubt that this is the case since this is the festival known for featuring bands and fans openly sporting Nazi salutes. Then again, I’m sure Goatmoon can’t be in every Steelfest line-up.

Then Jani makes a lot of out there claims about left-wing critics, such as this:

But let us acknowledge one thing here: such methods aren’t even remotely rooted in a wish for a civilised society. What once started from the ‘left side’ of politics isn’t promoting social democratic views anymore, if it ever did. Quite the opposite. Threats, blackmail, sabotage, social media harassment – all the shit they pull is reaching proportions of religious persecution. And on that note, there is something I want to say about this. I’m sure you’ve noticed the increasing polarisation; how one is forced to pick a side. Bipartisan interaction is no longer possible, right?

And here I thought the left were supposed to be the ones playing victim all the time. There’s not a chance that many of the things he describes are even remotely true. If we strictly go by the exact account of things, which is that some anti-fascists reported on fascist/NSBM bands playing at Steelfest (which, I assure you, there were a lot of them in 2019) and called on people to basically boycott the festival, does this really sound like religious persecution to anybody? Because I don’t think it does. I think Jani is being deliberately hyperbolic in order to garner sympathy in a community and time where he knows he might be capable of getting at least some people to support his side of the story, and Bardo Methodology won’t challenge him for it. Nor will they ask the most basic question, and it’s basically the same question I put to Rhyd Wildermuth just a few days ago: why do you want bipartisanship with fascists?

Nor will they challenge claims such as this:

Well, over the last decade we’ve witnessed the biggest transfer of wealth in recorded history. I don’t know, but one might think that something like this would warrant the slightest bit of concern from those who identify as being on the left side of the political spectrum. Instead, it seems to me as if the left has mutated and been subverted into its current incarnation – with their psychotic fixation on gender, race, intersectionality, or whatever the current buzzwords are. So, if the undivided attention of the left side is on these matters, rather than the biggest transfer of wealth in recorded history, then we must conclude that polarisation works. And then consider this: who is the winner when people are divided and fighting amongst themselves? Divide, conquer, and control both sides.

The suggestion here is that the left has chosen to ignore the issue of the largest transfer of wealth in world history in favour of a “psychotic fixation on gender, race, intersectionality”. This, of course, would require a great deal of ignorance about the left, which is noted for its proclivity to discuss economic inequality, gender identity, and race relations at once. You see, according to Jani’s smooth-lobed marshmallow brain, it is impossible for people to discuss multiple issues at the same time, let alone as being interdependent or interlocked with one another. Thus, he would have us believe that being a leftist means having to choose between talking about “identity politics” or talking about economics, even though every leftist talks about both, even the leftists that claim to hate talking about intersectionality. But for Jani this is all part of a conspiracy to divide and conquer the masses, whose puppetmasters “control both sides”. I wonder who Jani thinks these puppetmasters are, considering his known associations with neo-Nazis.

Niklas actually seems to think this conspiracy theory is valid, and devotes a paragraph not to questioning whether any of it is true or even who the supposed mastermind of it all is but rather to explaining what he understands to be the concept of dividing and conquering. Jani then further elaborates on his ideology of manic conspiracy centrism:

This is not about ‘NSBM’, nor is it about the left or right side of the political spectrum – that much should be blatantly obvious. And it’s working perfectly. The mindset of the left seems to be that banning someone or disapproving of their content, de-platforming or cancelling, will have the desired result: getting them to start ‘behaving’. This is because these people are under the illusion that everyone else is as they are. But such repression gives the ‘target’ a sense of self-righteousness and motivation to fight back. The ‘left-side’ doesn’t seem to understand this, so they push even harder. Of course, their counterpart isn’t much better. The ‘right’ has taken an underdog position and seems to think that all their beliefs are under assault, they imagine that anyone and everyone can be against them. So, once again society becomes more divided, further escalating conflict.

So, it’s not about NSBM (which for some reason he prefers to put in scare quotes), even though basically every problem with Steelfest ties back to the subject of NSBM, and it’s actually about how the left are all Stalinists who want to ban, de-platform, “cancel” (imagine still going on about that after the Matt Gaetz scandal) everyone they don’t like in order to get them to “behave” because they don’t understand this makes their targets self-righteous and gives them the will to fight back, who them cultivate the delusion that their beliefs are under assault and everyone is against them. Yes, the guy who’s convinced that a secret conspiracy is dividing society and causing him to be censored is somehow going to accuse someone else of having a delusional victim complex!

Following this Niklas moves on to the subject of Covid-19 and how devastated Jani was to have to cancel Steelfest because of it, and then the return of Steelfest being announced this year. Then we move on to part 2, which begins by talking about the controversy in August. Jani predictably masturbates about how he wanted to demonstrate “the old F.O.A.D. spirit” which he thinks is no longer present in some people but is alive in underground metal. If I’m being honest, I’d argue that there’s a certain “fuck off and die” attitude that anti-fascists and punks have always reserved against fascists, and that Lani has a hard time understanding that. He then proclaims that he will not negotiate with a third party about the Steelfest line-up nor “allow anyone to influence our decisions in any way, shape, or form”. When inevitably asked if he had any regrets about the Steelfest line-up, Jani says:

Definitely not. But did I learn a few valuable lessons here? Sure. Had I done things differently, knowing what I know now? Of course. Would I get rid of even one ‘no-name band’ if ten of the bigger acts – or their agencies – demanded it? Not a chance. This has been our firm policy ever since the very first event, Steelfest 2012, when some deranged SJW sect demanded that we cancel IMPALED NAZARENE on accounts of their political leanings, sexually suspicious lyrics, and whatever else. Obviously, we did no such thing.

I have no idea what he’s talking about. Maybe it’s one of those really way back things but I can’t find anything out about what Jani’s talking about here. I’m aware of Impaled Nazarene being controversial, but not because of anything sexual. The only controversy involving them I’ve ever seen around them involves politics, and on that let me just say this about Impaled Nazarene: I don’t think they’re Nazis, and I don’t think they’re necessarily fascists, but I do think that they seem to lean to the far-right. They’re pretty well known for promoting right-wing Finnish nationalism on albums like Suomi Finland Perkele (which has a song glorifying anti-communist violence in the Winter War) and Pro Patria Finlandia (which is probably even more cringe-inducing than it already looks), as well as standard edgy boomer-tier right-wing politics on their most recent album, Eight Headed Serpent (which features an abysmal whine-fest song called “Foucault Pendulum” as its closing track). So as far as I’m concerned, they’re at least an avowedly right-wing band, probably far-right if I’m being honest, even if that’s not neo-Nazism or fascism and some such. You can probably enjoy some of their stuff if you’re willing to look past that, gods know that still applies to Megadeth and they’ve had Alex Jones diatribes for lyrics, but I’m just saying this is what it is. To be honest, Impaled Nazarene is probably the least problematic band out of all of the bands we’ve discussed so far, but don’t get comfy, because that doesn’t say anything good about the territory we’re dealing with – this is the Finnish black metal scene after all.

Curiously enough, Jani tries to make this about honour:

The notion of backing out of an agreement with a band we’ve booked never so much as occurred to us. Our unrepentant attitude, fuelled by principles and core values, is all we have in this world; it is the essence of everything we do. If we were to sell out or otherwise lose that spirit, there can be no more Steelfest. I mean… okay, say I’ve invited a band to perform at our festival. Should I then call them back to say that they have now been ‘cancelled’ at the behest of a third party? Honour, dignity, and self-respect on that one? None whatsoever. There is no room for such concerns when I decide the line-up; the best bands will be booked, not those who are ‘woke’ enough.

Not wanting to go back on your word is one thing, being all about honour, dignity, and self-respect is one thing, being unrepentant about principles and core values is one thing, and if that was all there is to this whole thing I would probably respect the hell out of it for the militant metalhead attitude, but we all know that’s not the case. Jani thinks that people want him to only air “woke” bands, but that’s not true. The only concrete demand, if such can be called, is that Steelfest not be a platform for neo-Nazis. If the worst you could say about Steelfest was that Impaled Nazarene was gonna be on there, there’d arguably be no real issue, it’d just be kind of cringe that they’d be there all things considered. But instead, the problem with Steelfest is that they’ve been a haven for NSBM and fascist black metal bands and merchants for years and get to be a prolific extreme metal festival for it, all while the people who use their music and its subculture as a channel through which neo-Nazism can spread do so unabated! That is the problem, and until Jani and his defenders understand this the controversy will recur for as long as Steelfest is still a thing.

Of course, Jani will probably have none of this, and in fact he considers the entire controversy to be manufactured by industry insiders. He starts by talking about Sodom, saying that they played in Steelfest in 2013 with Horna, Satanic Warmaster, and Goatmoon and no one complained (which, if true, what the actual fuck?), then Niklas explained that Jani apparently had a chat with an anonymous industry insider, who sent him an email asking him to “make some decisions upon how you want your buisness future to be”. If we assume that exchange to be real, then what follows is of course Jani telling the insider to fuck off and supposedly it was then that everything kicked off. He claims that another insider tipped him off about a plan to organize false accusations against Steelfest, claiming they’re Nazis, for the purpose of “making them behave”. Who is supposedly organizing a shadowy smear campaign against Steelfest, or why tons of people condemning Steelfest and calling them Nazis would require a conspiracy of industry insiders to orchestrate, is never established, much less questioned by Niklas.

Jani shared apparent emails with Niklas, with one urging him to “cancel the questionable bands again or not”. Which are the questionable bands? Well, Graveland is mentioned. Graveland is to this day an NSBM band. They still re-release albums that feature songs with white supremacist lyrics, such Dawn of Iron Blades which contains a song called “Semper Fidelis” whose lyrics include a reference to David Lane’s 14 words, and its founder Rob Darken is a self-described National Socialist. It also appeared to include Archgoat. I haven’t seen a lot to indicate that Archgoat themselves are Nazis. That said, Archgoat did do a split album called Lux Satanae (Thirteen Hymns of Finnish Devil Worship) with Satanic Warmaster, who are so openly neo-Nazi that one of the songs within that same split, “Wolves of Blood and Iron” literally opens with the words “Sieg Heil!” before going into an anti-semitic lyrical tirade (this, by the way, seems to be the same song that appeared on Satanic Warmaster’s first album, Strength and Honour). This album is distributed by Hell’s Headbangers Records, an ostensibly non-Nazi record label, which I suppose goes to show the extent of their commitment to any principled opposition to Nazism. Since there are people who try to claim that Satanic Warmaster’s neo-Nazism is just some edgelordery from 20 years ago, I must point out that this split was released no earlier than December 14th 2015. And just to put another nail in that swastika-branded coffin, Satanic Warmaster released a song on a Satanic Skinhead Propaganda compilation in 2010, and songs like “Carelian Satanist Madness” which feature anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi lyrics are still re-released and played live to this day, so Satanic Warmaster’s NSBM trajectory is continuous, which it obviously would be because that is its musical and ideological identity. I have to repeat for emphasis: Satanic Warmaster is a Nazi band. Even if Archgoat weren’t Nazis or fascists expressly, it seems to me that they didn’t have a problem with the songs that Satanic Warmaster contributed, and I’m guessing that they’re fans of the band’s work as a whole. To call Archgoat “questionable”, then, is actually just being polite. It’s politically correct if anything else. Jani also mentioned Horna, which, as I’ve discussed already, has definite links to the NSBM scene. It kind of seems like Finnish black metal in particular has a lot of fucking Nazis in it, does it not?

Also, when Jani says this:

Oddly, this index of the unacceptable included several bands that all these agents were perfectly fine with when they played Steelfest in 2018 and 2019.

That’s not the counter-argument he thinks it is. All you’re establishing is that those agents didn’t have a problem with Nazi bands just a couple of years ago, and now they do. That speaks more to their priorities and their attitudes than to whether or not Steelfest is an NSBM haven.

Niklas doesn’t discusss the actual lyrical content of those bands. Instead he just takes the opportunity to make what is essentially a childish comment about how he finds his critics ugly:

Taking Steelfest’s Facebook page as an example, there seems to have been a substantial influx of new commenters around this time. Far be it from me to pass judgement based on someone’s physical appearance, but I’m not convinced that many of those voicing their concerns were intending to visit the festival in the first place.

This is another non-argument, but it goes to show something rather suspect. I mean, why does it matter what someone looks like when you are addressing what they have to say. I’m sure that many people wouldn’t listen to a Nazi even if the Nazi was, hypothetically speaking, the most beautiful woman in the world, and they would be right to dismiss that person for being a Nazi. If Jani sees fit to talk about honour, dignity, and self-respect, then in my opinion those things are diminished when you suckle at the teat of Nazism, and especially if you yourself don’t even own up to the ideology while doing so. Werwolf, the man behind Satanic Warmaster, is the perfect example: he sings about honour while parading the dishonourable ideology of Nazism, but all the while denies being a Nazi even though he literally writes Nazi lyrics. The man shouts Nazi slogans, brandishes Nazi imagery, and hangs around with other Nazi bands, but he doesn’t even once own up to being a Nazi, and so strongly denies it that he made a whole bullshit graph trying to show that he supposedly rarely he sings about Nazism. From a certain standpoint, where’s the “strength and honour” in that?

Then the interview discusses the bands Sodom and Samael, who were originally going to perform at Steelfest, having cancelled their respective appearances. Jani claims that Sodom were forced to cancel their appearance because of a coordinated harassment organised by entire networks, forums, and websites, and claims further that one such message board celebrated and took credit for Sodom cancelling their appearance. Of course, Jani won’t tell us which websites, forums, or networks he’s referring to. I almost suspect he may be trying to refer to the Antifascist Black Metal Network, a group that promotes black metal bands that are politically committed to resistance against fascism as expressed through radical left-wing ideology, but, to be honest, if he is then he’s stretching a certain amount of credulity. Again, how powerful or influential does Jani think these anti-fascists are? Are we supposed to believe that the Antifascist Black Metal Network has enough influence to orchestrate a massive campaign against Steelfest, in a subculture where if anything you’ll find a little too many people defending literal NSBM bands? If that’s what we’re supposed to believe, I would expect substantial evidence to support this claim. But I don’t expect such evidence to be forthcoming, so I consider Jani’s claim to be non-admissible.

Then we get into more cancellations. Apparently the band Moonsorrow cancelled their appearance in Steelfest, which of course Jani mocks. We’re told that Uada agreed to play alongside Graveland at Messe de Morts, which is very bad if true. Not only did Sodom, Samael, and Moonsorrow cancel, but so did Impaled Nazarene and Archgoat of all bands, as well as Havukruunu, Melechesh, Primordial, Dark Funeral, Ensiferum, Deicide, and Dismember. Once again, Lani attempts to frame this as a conspiracy to get metal bands to violate their principles:

There were a couple of disappointing moments, seeing certain high-profile bands cancelling. I had a good phone-call with one of them, which ended by him saying: ‘I feel ashamed, because we are pissing all over our legacy and I know it. This antifa shit, I’m totally against it – always have been. But we need to do this tour and some of the dates might be in jeopardy if we appear at Steelfest. I feel sick, but after discussions with our label, management, and agency, we have decided to cancel.’ So, after several conversations like this, it started to get under my skin. But I do agree with him on one point: extremely embarrassing indeed.

Again, he doesn’t exactly say who this guy is. It could be anyone. I don’t think that every band who cancelled did so for purely principled reasons, and I’ve criticized Sodom’s conflicting statements on the matter in my previous post about Steelfest, but I don’t think it is reasonable to assume that everyone who cancelled did so for opportunistic reasons. Hell, I’m somewhat confident that a lot of the people who played in Steelfest for years had no idea what they were getting into, and likely didn’t do any research into the bands they were playing with or the shops that were getting involved, because if they had done so they would probably never have considered going to Steelfest to start with.

Then, when asked if most of Steelfest’s problems were created by insiders rather than online blowback (the latter actually makes much more sense), Jani says this:

Yes, but they are connected. For agencies, managements, and labels, any such negative publicity is a serious threat to their revenue stream. It has nothing to do with ethical opposition to supposed ‘NSBM’, but rather proactive damage control. It’s about who is ‘problematic’ as opposed to politically correct, safe, or whatever else. These people don’t give a shit whether any of it is actually true, or what would be the morally right thing to do. They are not involved in black metal with spirit.

Insofar as supposedly nobody in the industry involved with promoting Steelfest had an issue with bands like Goatmoon or Satanic Warmaster before, he might have a point for once. But, I would say that within recent years there’s an increasing growth in political consciousness in parts of the black metal scene, particularly the need to create an explicit ideological counter-presence to the NSBM scene as well as the complacency with which it is sometimes treated. Bands like Caina, Gravpel, Spectral Lore, Mystras, Feminazgul, Dawn Ray’d, Trespasser, and many, many, many more all represent a growing scene of explicitly anti-fascist black metal, sometimes referred to as Red and Anarchist Black Metal (or RABM), and labels like Grime Stone Records make their zero tolerance opposition to NSBM clearer than daylight. None of these people have anything to do with Steelfest per se, but in the broader context of our times I’d say that people are more conscious of fascism nowadays, as the contradictions of capitalism lead onto the resurgence at growth of fascism throughout the world, people are getting up close and personal to the horrors of fascism in a way that perhaps they might not have been about a decade or so ago. Of course, this is not to say that there haven’t been anti-fascist and anti-racism initiatives in the metal community and rock as a whole for decades now, but there is growing consciousness and attention given to the problems of creeping fascism and unchallenged bigotry, particularly following certain episodes from otherwise mainstream or quasi-mainstream bands such as Pantera and Watain. To be sure, people can go nuts over it, and fanaticism and zealotry can inevitably be found in some would-be consumer watchdogs of the internet, but people can take the information they see and do with it what they will, and there is a clear desire to not let the subculture we love be given over to fascism and white supremacy. Thus, people are reviewing their listening choices more carefully than they might have in the past, and in sight of such considerations certain bands and certain festivals have been found wanting.

This is the principle of freedom of choice and association that Jani and his supporters won’t prefer to talk about, much less have you consider thoughtfully. What concerns Jani is being involved in black metal “with spirit”, and he believes that this means pulling out of Steelfest is unprincipled and a surrender to commercialism. I say that this says more about Jani’s ideas about black metal than about his critics. His ideas about “honour”, “dignity”, “self-respect”, and “principles” all seem to involve tolerance for NSBM bands. The basic problem there is that if those Nazis ever got the chance, they would jackboot all over you if you’re not one of them. At that point, all you’re saying is you’d prefer to caress said jackboots with your tongue. I can’t see what’s so manly, brave, dignified, or honourable about that.

Frankly, I see Jani as more politically correct than any of the people he’s complaining about, for the sole reason that he puts the term NSBM in scare quotes! He even refers to it as “supposed ‘NSBM'”. Thus, he’s suggesting that perhaps the bands everyone’s talking about are not NSBM. In which case, what would you prefer we call them? Considering the lyrical content of bands like Goatmoon, Satanic Warmaster, or Graveland, I fail to see what to call them if not NSBM or Nazis. Would he prefer that we call them “true kvlt black metal” instead? This is what by some definitions would be called political correctness. Jani would prefer that we not tell it like it is and call Nazis what they are: Nazis, that is. But I think there’s also more to it than that. He frequently says that he knows Steelfest inside out. If we take him seriously, that means he knows that there’s Nazi bands and businesses affiliated with it. If he knows this, then he knows that in order to keep Steelfest going he needs to avoid scrutiny from the wider community. To avoid scrutiny and accountability, he must make it seem that the problem everyone else is talking about doesn’t exist, so he has to deny that those bands are Nazis. Then again maybe he’s a fucking idiot anyway and he actually believes that they aren’t fascists.

So anyways the interview moves on, not to challenge Jani but rather to attempt to prove his point about scary cancel culture by pointing to an episode from last year in which the frontman of an unnamed “prominent American band” mentioned a Hate Forest album as his inspiration in an interview for Revolver Magazine, for which he received backlash and later apologized with some sop story about privilege. Yet again for some reason the band and its frontman aren’t named, and I can’t find the interview anywhere. So since we can’t address that subject directly due to a lack of information, let’s instead just address what Jani goes on to say.

Anything which might someday harm the band’s chances of performing at bigger mainstream festivals and venues is a financial threat. This is a business – so set aside your pride, mock your own history, and deny everyone who might be considered verboten. Of course, this is not tackling the situation but rather surrendering and showing acceptance to it. For me, the hardest puzzle to solve is what the hell some artists are thinking? Say some promoter warns them about performing alongside this or that act at some other event… to then see respected musicians comply and cancel so they can stay in the good graces of the very people issuing such threats. Seriously, what the fuck is up with that? Sacrificing both your credibility and any remaining respect from the underground just for the sake of bigger tours and mainstream festivals?

For me, the last sentence is the part doing all the work here. Credibility in the eyes of whom? He says the underground, but he should know that the metal underground does not consist only of people who salivate over fascist/NSBM bands like mindless dogs. In fact, who are you to say that the metal underground does not also consist of RABM bands, who aren’t particularly mainstream in their own right? For all you know there were lots of underground metalheads who were pissed at Sodom for playing with Satanic Warmaster. Are those people not “underground” according to you? Why? By what standard? And who are you to say? I guess the other sentence doing heavy lifting is “so set aside your pride, mock your own history, and deny everyone who might be considered verboten”. What history? What pride? Do you seriously think that every underground band likes the thought of being in the same sub-scene as Peste Noire, Goatmoon, or Seigneur Voland? Is this something to take pride in? Are you dense?

Skipping Jani’s prattle about how every non-NSBM band is a servant of the lords of commerce (something tells me this isn’t a reference to Hermes if you know what I mean), let’s address the part of the interview where supposedly musicians have spoken to Niklas saying that they knew that Steelfest’s line-up would be “spicy” (again with the polite language obfuscating NSBM) but said that Jani had “gone too far” this time. Considering that Jani was quite happy to have NSBM bands at Steelfest for years before, I’m definitely curious as to what you’d have to do in order to have “gone too far” this time. But this seems to be yet another of those questions I can’t get the answer to. But Jani’s response is typical at this point:

I don’t know who this says the most about: me or the artist claiming that I ‘simply went too far’. Consider for a moment what those words really mean. It’s not as if I sit down to calculate how many potentially ‘offensive’ bands to include. And offensive to who and from what perspective? For example, a domestic group that seems obsessed with Steelfest produced a list of what they claim to be nineteen confirmed ‘nazi’ or somehow nazi-adjacent acts. It spread far outside Finland and has now been shared widely across the world. Should I – or any other promoter – consult this list when pondering future bookings? Because it includes PRIMORDIAL, MOONSORROW, and IMPALED NAZARENE… all of whom cancelled Steelfest to distance themselves from bands accused of the same thing. I’m not trying to be naïve here, but you should ask yourself: where is the line? Who draws it? When is it enough?

Once again, the group is not named. I’m not sure, but I think he might be referring to either the Antifascist Black Metal Network or the RABM subreddit. I’ve seen different websites and pages discussing which band is suspect or not, and on this basis I think that there isn’t the kind of totalitarian orthodoxy that Jani appears to suggest. I personally lean to the idea that a band is fascist insofar as express fascism is a part of the band’s musical output and creative identity. In other words, a band isn’t fascist because one of its members has problematic or right-wing views on an individual level, separate from the music or creative project as a whole. The project itself has to be a vehicle for fascistic messaging or sympathy in order to be a fascist band. A good example of this as applied to a more generally right-wing nationalist ethos moreso than fascist is in the band Winterfylleth: it’s not just that the band has members that consider themselves conservatives or English nationalists, but when you look around you find that English nationalism, and I mean not even in a “neopagan” sense but more like some kind of secular quasi-folkist worldview, is a core part of the ideas that the band wishes to express in their music under the guise of Anglo-Saxon heritage. That, incidentally, is the reason I find myself unable to conscionably support them, particularly as someone who favors Welsh independence and opposes English colonialism (seriously just listen to Iselder). Of course, things can get a tad more complicated than that. If I’m not mistaken Acherontas didn’t claim to be a Nazi band for many years, and yet I would say they’re at least Nazi enough to appear at the Asgardsrei festival, a notorious and prolific NSBM festival in Ukraine which also serves as a hub for far-right terrorists. Then again, the signs of Acherontas possibly being an NSBM band were there if you knew where to look. On their 2014 split album, Pylons of the Adversary, you can find a stylized Sonnenrad (the Nazi sunwheel symbol) on the back. I should also note that, contrary to Jani’s simplistic morality, just cancelling your gig at Steelfest might be good, but doesn’t make a problematic band not problematic at all. It just means they’re not totally bad.

I tend to think that the best way is to check band by band, especially because tends of non-Nazi/non-fascist bands can appear on fascist labels, probably not even thinking too much about it half the time. The story of the one-man atmospheric black metal Galdr is informative in this regard. Galdr was once signed onto Darker Than Black Records, who hosted their debut album in 2011. Although it doesn’t look like every black metal band their is NSBM, and Galdr themselves never were, Darker Than Black Records is owned by Henrik Möbus and his brother Ronald Möbus, both of whom are members of the notorious NSBM band Absurd. But Draugr, the man behind Galdr, was as I just said never a Nazi, a fascist, or even particularly right-wing. Before 2019 he described himself as kind of a liberal, and an apathetic one, but one who wasn’t always comfortable with the people in Darker Than Black Records, especially after they kept sending him smashed up CD cases of his albums. Since 2019, Draugr has come out as an anti-fascist and an anarchist, publicly denounced and distanced himself from Darker Than Black Records, repudiated his former beliefs along with all forms of right-wing politics, and now his debut album is on Unity Temple, which from what I’ve heard donates some of its profits to left-wing causes. I’m sure Jani would like to assume that Draugr has sold out his own pride and history to “the woke crowd”, which to be honest says more about Jani’s own beliefs than anyone else’s commitment to black metal.

Now, I thought that the interview would never bring up the fact that Goatmoon and their fans raised Nazi salutes during one Steelfest. But it turns out that they did, albeit as the only accusation they do acknowledge as legitimate. But they still don’t acknowledge it as neo-Nazism. Instead they only misleadingly refer to it as “radical content”, which could mean anything that even remotely appears to be against the current system. Still, it seems to be one of the only instances in which things like this are brought up. In any case, Jani responds as follows:

Sure, but the notion that I would align ideologically with every single one of the hundreds of artists who played at Steelfest over the past nine years is beyond ridiculous. We have hosted many acts with diametrically opposing positions on both religion and politics, so this assumption that we would favour one over the other makes no sense. Without exception, bands are selected on the merits of their artistic output – not whatever personal viewpoints the individual musicians might hold. I do not ask prospective bookings to fill out questionnaires declaring each member’s standpoints. I simply don’t care or even want to hear about anyone’s opinion. Left, right, centrist, or none at all… don’t care, not interested.

This doesn’t really address anything except to show where Jani stands, or more specifically his ostensible lack of a stance. We already know that Jani has had lots of NSBM bands in Steelfest off the back of them being “true underground black metal”. If that’s what he means by the merits of their artistic output, well then all that tells us is that he can be swayed by the merits of songs that begin with “Sieg Heil!”, quote the 14 Words, and glorify totalitarian genocide, and might presumably be utterly repelled by music that explicitly politicizes against those things judging by his reaction to anti-fascist initiatives. In fact he explicitly praises bands that continue to play with NSBM bands and condemns whose who disavow them.

When Niklas asks if Jani has any responsibility to ensure that fans aren’t subjected to extremist propaganda (read: fascist propaganda; again, extremist can mean almost anything), Jani says this:

As the organiser, our main concern is that everything taking place both on and off stage falls within Finnish laws and regulations. Those who find the presence of certain bands upsetting can simply stay in the beer tent when said acts are on stage; or, better yet, avoid the festival altogether. Totally fine. The same applies if our events are too ‘multicultural’ or ‘degenerate’ for you. Certain organisations have made us aware that they don’t tolerate Steelfest as we’ve always had visitors and performers from many different backgrounds – be it ethnicity or sexual orientation. The reason we are targeted from all directions is because we refuse to pick a side.

I somehow doubt that any fans of Steelfest are going to find anything too “multicultural” or “degenerate” for them there. If you happen to be a fascist and a black metal fan at the same time, odds are either “degeneracy” isn’t that big a problem for you considering the transgressive nature of the genre as a whole, or your idea of what is “degenerate” doesn’t include black metal for whatever reason. I also don’t believe that there are too many organizations that hate Steelfest because they have non-white and non-straight performers, not least because the “certain organisations” Lani mentions are, as usual, unnamed. The fact that Kvlt Shop sells actual Nazi merch and hangs around Steelfest, and the fact that Horror Shop also does white power and hang around Steelfest tells me that these people don’t see anything about Steelfest that’s too offensive for their sensibilities. But the idea that there are fascists that hate Steelfest’s guts, even though Finland’s most prolific NSBM bands as well as NSBM bands outside of Finland all gathered there, lets Jani engage in all manner of centrist self-righteousness about how he is hated by everyone because he refuses to pick a side. Well, cowardice was never considered a virtue, and refusing to stand against fascism could be interpreted as cowardice, at least if we aren’t supposed to take it as de facto support for fascism. But more to the point, Jani isn’t telling the truth here. He isn’t refusing to take a side, because he has already taken the side of the NSBM bands who played at Steelfest, by defending their inclusion and condemning whose who oppose them on ideological grounds. The claim to ideological impartiality is, at least in practical terms, is not to be taken seriously.

Niklas again takes Jani’s side here, and here again we see a certain fear-mongering about anti-fascist initiatives:

There are potential long-term perils with all these arbitrarily compiled lists. Not only do they deter promoters from booking the bands in question, but – now that performing at the same festival as someone deemed dodgy is also a factor – agents will not want to let their property anywhere near them.

What agents are getting their cues about who’s fascist and who isn’t from lists of bands compiled on Reddit or some other web page? Again, how much power do the anti-fascist movements actually have over festival organizers and agents for high-profile metal bands? I should stress again, this is the same subculture in which bands like Behemoth aren’t totally reviled over the fact that its frontman Adam Darski hangs around Rob Darken from Graveland (who, I should say once again, is a self-described Nazi) and talks about how much he hates Antifa. Whether that’s a bad thing or not, it’s really up to you to decide that, though I would imagine Jani would think it’s so epic that he’ll try to get Behemoth to play at Steelfest one day. But seriously, I have to stress, these people actually seem to believe that a couple of internet lists actually have the power to decide who gets to play or not play at high-profile extreme metal festivals, and those who don’t conform will be ruthlessly persecuted. Considering that if anything bands like Satanic Warmaster still get to carry on with their overt neo-Nazism widely unchallenged, I’d say that such efforts, if they did exist, are surely proving ineffectual, though it’s honestly much more accurate to say that Satanic Warmaster aren’t being persecuted anywhere. I mean, fuck, even Vice seemed to take it at face value that maybe the guy from Satanic Warmaster wasn’t a Nazi, and that tells you all you need to know about the band’s status. If there is a massive Antifa conspiracy to throw right-wing black metal bands into gulags as Niklas and Jani seem to suggest there is, then I’m just not seeing it.

Skipping to the very end, it’s all ultimately very self-congratulatory from here. Utimately even if Jani expects the “mess” to worsen for him over the next few years, he also sees it as an opportunity for “the underground” to delve into deeper paths of extreme metal, and further as a “great cleansing”, in which “real black metal” (by which he means, the bands that are still willing to hang out with Nazis) will retreat from the mainstream and “back into the depths of darkness”, which he also seems to think is already happening. I guess one could make the argument that this is indeed a good thing, since that means we don’t have to deal with Goatmoon, Satanic Warmaster, Graveland, or their allies again. Black metal, he insists, will prevail regardless of “aging has-beens playacting ‘black metal’ for the masses to consume”, by which he of course means bands who complain about Nazis being in Steelfest. I do believe black metal will prevail and continue to be a worthy artform, but it’s not that it will prevail regardless of people who oppose NSBM, but rather it will prevail regardless of NSBM, and regardless of Steelfest, and regardless of you, Jani Laine.

Some people have pointed out that Niklas never once thought to discuss the fact that Steelfest’s line-up also consisted of Inquistion, a band whose frontman Dagon was convicted of possessing child pornography back in 2008 and whose work has also appeared on a compilation from Satanic Skinhead Propaganda, an outright NSBM label whose owner Antichrist Kramer also designed artwork for four of Inquisition’s albums. Yeah, I’d say that’s valid to talk about in relation to Steelfest. I would add further that they don’t talk about Nokturnal Mortum being on there, which is relevant because Nokturnal Mortum, although they claim to have renounced Nazism, are still an NSBM band and have played in the NSBM festival Asgardsrei. Or how about Destroyer 666, whose “classic” album Unchain the Wolves is essentially a white supremacist album and who still seem to write fascist lyrics into the present. But at the same time, what would be the point of discussing them? Jani would simply dismiss it all even if Miklas brought it up, and I’ll bet that Miklas himself probably didn’t think it was worth mentioning either, possibly because he doesn’t accept that these fascist bands are in fact fascist. The truth of the matter is that they don’t intend on discussing fascism creeping into extreme metal, except insofar as it’s to say that you are the real fascists for criticizing them.

Overall, this interview was lousy. It barely addressed the concerns that anyone had about Steelfest, it definitely wasn’t very objective, Jani was barely asked any difficult questions, he wasn’t meaningfully challenged over any decisions he’s made that might have enabled the NSBM community in some way, and both Niklas and Jani seem intent on obfuscating the very subject matter they’re trying to discuss by withholding crucial information, mainly names, about the subjects and examples they discuss in service of their overall argument. That last part in particular is deeply suspicious to me. It tells me that perhaps there is something being intentionally hidden, possibly because other metalheads would easily check them on it and point out problems if they actually named names.

Those who think that fascism and Nazism should not be allowed to creep into extreme metal, and whose love for black metal in particular does not force them to agree with Steelfest’s attitude towards bands like Goatmoon, Satanic Warmaster, or Graveland, or the other fascist bands we’ve discussed, will not be satisfied by Bardo Methodology’s interview or by Jani Laine’s excuses, and will not accept efforts to softball the presence NSBM in extreme metal communities.

To all fascists and their sympathizers like Lani…F.O.A.D.

From r/SmugIdeologyMan; I figure this image best represents Jani and many of his supporters.

I’d like to just give a special shout out to Astral Noize for their exposes on Marduk, Mgla and Horna, Variverkosto for their exposes about not only Steelfest but also the broader Finnish NSBM scene and its networks, and the Antifascist Black Metal Network for making me aware of the story of Galdr. Your anti-fascist work has informed the creation of this post, and it’s only right that I express solidarity on behalf of the broader goal of opposing NSBM.

No, Rhyd Wildermuth, pluralism is not when you defend fascism

You probably already know about the controversy surrounding Edward Butler, his association with Indica, and Indica’s deep ties to the fascist Hindutva movement. It’s been some time, and the controversy within the Pagan community has definitely not gone away yet. In fact, Edward Butler has not gone without approbators, and one of the people stepping up to defend him is none other than Rhyd Wildermuth, the embattled editor at Gods and Radicals Press known for his increasingly contrarian and reactionary opinions that nonetheless somehow maintains within the scope of Marxism.

Yes, the same man who plays defence for transphobia, denies that people who call themselves fascists are fascists, and tried to claim that the openly fascist Jack Donovan and his Wolves of Vinland organization aren’t fascists, is now defending Edward Butler for his assocation with Indica. What are the odds!

His most recent article, “Polytheistic Pluralism and Sacred Cows”, begins with a meandering and largely irrelevant discourse about the difference between polytheism and monotheism interlaced with the usual cryptic transphobia followed by a sort of biographical account of his transition from somebody who may have had some principles in the past to a guy who calls himself a leftist and yet does nothing attack other leftists, so we’re going to skip all of that and go straight to the point and address the part of the article where he actually starts talking about Edward Butler and Indica.

After puffing up Edward Butler as a friend and wellwisher who was merely attacked by “the woke crowds”, he gets to establishing Indica as “an academic and cultural organization promoting “global study of indigenous knowledge, seeking to bring about a renaissance of indigenous wisdom””, and then we get to his response to the criticisms of Indica:

To get into all the nuances of this problem would take another full essay, but a few things can be cleared up quickly. Firstly, Indica isn’t part of the BJP nor the nationalist youth movement, the RSS. Secondly, their usage of the term hinduvta is much broader and less political than the way the BJP uses it, approximating the way “blackness” is used in the United States as a cultural identity formation. And third, their general focus on “dialogue across civilizations” and focus on Indic religions (including Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism) rather than just Hinduism easily make false the accusations that Indica is really a Hindu-superiority outfit.

Bit by bit let’s attempt to respond to this “point”. First, at least some Indica members are or were demonstrably affiliated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its offshoots, as I have discussed in my previous post on the subject. One of its Chapter Convenors is a man named Jigar Champaklal Inamdar, who Indica themselves note is a member of the BJP. Its Academic Council includes a man named M. D. Srinivas, who seems to have some ties to the RSS. Outside of membership, Indica frequently has featured Ram Madhav, a BJP member, as a guest while promoting his books, which include a treatise on the economic philosophy of Deen Dayal Upadhyay and another book in which he promotes Indian nationalism while condemning political opponents. This should already go some ways into refuting the second point regarding the supposed “apolitical” nature of their concept of Hindutva. But as to the idea that Hindutva could possibly be interpreted as “apolitical”, even if we took Rhyd’s claim seriously that the Indica people do see their project as non-political, it would be a mistake to see Hindutva this way, since the project of Hindutva is inseparable from politics. The founding father of Hindutva, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, explicitly stated that his own concept of Hinduness was not even predicated on religion, and was instead predicated on the racial category of being “Hindu”, which more practically means an Indo-Aryan, autochthonous subject of the Indian state, and a member of any of the religions within India. This is inherently politically defined, and supercedes the traditional boundaries of all the main dharmic faiths, and it also segues nicely into the third point: for Hindutvas to engage in dialogue with Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, is not a refutation of Indica being Hindutvas, because it actually makes perfect sense for Hindutvas to want dialogue with Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. Hindutvas consider Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, to be part of the umbrella of the identity of “Hinduness”, since in their view, “Hinduness” simply means being Indian, in a national and racial sense, and sense all of the dharmic faiths originated in India, then Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, would be considered Hindu by Hindutva adherents, despite actually diverging from Hindu tradition in any number of ways.

After this Rhyd attempts to consider the problem of Hindutva, accurately noting the violent attacks on Muslims by Hindutvas, only to then equivocate in relation to apparent attacks on Hindus by Islamic extremists and Naxalites. In attempting to establish the colonial context of the BJP, he seems to transplant the same centrist/quasi-Marxist analysis of America’s election of Donald Trump to the social conditions of India, the efficacy of which I can’t really speak to. His assessment of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be that he is similar but not the same as other politicians like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, but for him the difference is in the fact of India’s history as a nation that was colonized by the British.

Narendra Modi was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindutva militia that preceded the BJP and worked to plant members inside the BJP, since he was only eight years old, and had risen through the ranks of the RSS over the course of decades. Therefore, if we’re really going to be discussing the context of colonialism so as to distinguish the Hindutva movement from Western fascism, we would do well to note the role of the RSS within that same context. I already discussed this in my previous post on the subject, but the RSS did not partake in the struggle against British colonialism. They discouraged their own membership from participating in civil disobedience against the British colonial government, such as the Dandi March, and when the Quit India movement was launched to demand an end to colonial rule, RSS leaders promised the British to encourage members to join the civic guards, a sort of special security force set up by the imperial government. Furthermore the founding father of Hindutva, Vinayak D. Savarkar, during his imprisonment, repeatedly pled for mercy from the British colonial government while encouraging Hindus to cooperate with the British and join the colonial armed forces. In a context of colonial domination, the RSS and the broader Hindutva movement were not only not part of the anti-colonial/anti-imperialist struggle, they were if anything allies of the British colonial domination, and offered support and cooperation to the British government.

Rhyd seems to explicitly reject any comparison between the Hindutva movement and white nationalism on the grounds that Hindutva was formed under colonial rule whereas white nationalism in the US context isn’t. This is something that sounds nuanced until you actually read what the founding fathers of the Hindutva movement had to say about race and its role in the nation state. Madhav Sadhashiv Golwalkar was explicit in his belief that a nation ought to be defined by race, alongside land, culture, religion, and language, all at once, supported Nazi German notions of race pride, and advocated for the existence of a centralized state that suppressed all forms of pride and autonomy that conflicted with the Hindutva identity and its manifestation as the order of the state. Vinayak D. Savarkar expressly defined his notion of “Hinduness” as a racial category, not a religious one, which means that the Hindu nation he advocated was explicitly defined on an ethnic basis. Hindutvas, like Western white nationalists, also support the state of Israel for largely ethno-nationalist reasons, and Savarkar advocated for creation of a Jewish ethnostate while also praising Nazi Germany.

Moving along we arrive at his discourse on “Sacred Cows”, and here is where his attempt to defend Edward Butler by elucidating the nuances of ethno-nationalist fascism gets a tad stranger. He has shifted the subject towards the issue of cattle slaughter in India, supposed left-wing attitudes towards its continuation, and how supposedly the BJP are the only mainstream party to campaign on a platform featuring a ban on cattle slaughter, while critics supposedly denounce bans on cattle slaughter as fascist, and seems to bring up Vandana Shiva as someone on the left who is smeared as a fascist seemingly for supporting Indian traditional knowledge. This is not true. She’s been criticized for many other things, most particularly the scientific basis of her claims about genetically modified foods, as well being a plagiarist, prone to extravagantly incindiary rhetoric about her critics, and for apparently charging thousands of dollars for lectures, but as far as I can see not very many people accuse her of being a fascist or a supporter of Hindutva. That said, she did appear in an interview for Rajiv Malhotra, a fanatical Hindutva-aligned academic who likes to insist that everyone who criticizes him is simply being Hinduphobic. Not that it proves much, though.

And by the way, it might be well and good that the BJP pushes for a ban on cattle slaughter, but this is not proof that they are sincere defenders of Hindu tradition against neoliberal capitalism. In fact, the BJP government under Narendra Modi has overseen the destruction of several Hindu temples in Varanasi in order to make way for the Kashi-Vishwanath Ganga corridor, ostensibly an express motorway between the Ganges and the Kashi-Vishwanath Temple, which has also had the effect of destroying local neighborhoods in the process. Furthermore, in 2008, back when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi oversaw the demolition of several temples in Gandhinagar to make way for roads. That is until, ironically enough, the Hindutva group Vishwa Hindu Parishad got him to back down and halt the demolitions. All of this is to say nothing of the fact that Modi, far from offering resistance to neoliberalism, is actually a stalwart of neoliberalism within India.

What does all this have to do with Edward Butler and his role within Indica? Well, for Rhyd, the same thing that he claims happens to Vandana Shiva is happening in the United States of America, where he claims that even people with “clearly professed” leftist and anti-fascist beliefs are judged as fascist when their ideas are seen to intersect with “the bad people”, by which we can infer he means reactionary ideologues. Just so there’s no misunderstanding: when Rhyd talks about leftists who are called fascist, he is very obviously referring to himself, presumably along with any fellow travelers of being a reactionary contrarian under the banner of “leftism”. That may include Edward Butler, who Rhyd complains is being perceived as a threat to the Pagan community or an outright fascist for his work with a pro-Hindutva organisation – or, in his words, “an organization that stands for things which overlap with right wing iterations of hinduvta and iterates a de-politicized hinduvta” (we may return to that claim later).

Incidentally, I recognize the critics that Rhyd is indirectly referring to. In one paragraph he seems to be referring to Devo, who likened Butler’s arguments in defence of Hindutva to arguments made in defence of Donald Trump supporters. The paragraph before that, however, is him quoting yours truly! I’m almost flattered to report that Rhyd seems to have stumbled upon my blog, and quoted me when I said that Butler “might prove to be a danger to the Pagan community, and since Hindutva is a form of fascism, that can’t be tolerated.”. Now this is a little unexpected! But of course, I suspect Rhyd is misrepresenting my arguments. He takes both myself and Devo as representatives of “woke” or “social justice” ideology (hey, Sargon of Akkad called, he wants his GamerGate-era right-wing clichés back), which he defines only as a left-wing continuation of the George W. Bush maxim, “You are either with us, or against us”. I am honestly quite baffled by how he manages to draw that comparison towards me, when if anything I would advance that my own response to the controversy could be interpreted as far more benign and charitable than perhaps some other responses were. If I truly was as fanatical as Rhyd implies I am, I would have condemned not only Edward Butler but also everyone who happened to enter his orbit and did not know about Hindutva at the time, I would not have bothered to discuss the dilemma presented by his contributions to the polytheist community, and I would have condemned Chelydoreus for his statement on why he couldn’t just snub the Indica grant he was given before all of this started, whereas in reality I think Chelydoreus’ statement was thoughtful and considered in light of his own situation and that people willing to attack him for it after hearing him out don’t actually give a damn about marginalized people living in financial precarity. But Rhyd simply paves over this nuance, despite being perfectly content to insist on the nuances of Hindutva fascism, because at the end of the day this isn’t about fanaticism or ideological puritanism. This is about people being challenged for their clear endorsement of fascism, along with their pathetic attempts to justify it, and evidently Rhyd has a problem with people he likes, not to mention himself, being challenged by the wider community. I’m fact I’m at least half-convinced that this is the real reason why he decided to fuck off from basically all social media this year. Good for him, I guess.

The basic problem Rhyd has with people like me is that we draw clear lines in the sand when it comes to fascism. His problem is that we don’t take the people who peddle fascist ideologies at face value when they try to soften it up, and in fact we have fearsome contempt for such efforts. Rhyd on the other hand takes the politically correct presentation of Hindutva as a sincere and apolitical enterprise entirely at face value, failing to consider that its very history and content is inescapably political. He seems to genuinely despise it when other leftists take a stand rather than treat all political conflicts as though they’re tea parties in which idle chatter conducted around abstractions is the sole business of things. He sounds like a god-damned centrist who insists on calling himself a Marxist, when any thoroughgoing Marxism should have informed him that ideas are not solely mental abstractions that have no material effect on the external world.

Rhyd then claims the following:

Edward Butler is no fascist, and Indica is not a fascist project. I personally suspect hinduvta will lead to the same ideological dead-end that every other identity politics (blackness, whiteness, etc) leads to, but there is nothing inherently fascistic about it. In the hands of right wing political parties, it can do an immense amount of damage, but if enough people attempt to steer it away from an imposed monotheist framework (“who is Hindu and who is not”) into a pluralistic framework (which appears to have been the mission of Indica, especially in their focus on Indic religions, rather than just Hinduism) than it has the potential to be quite liberating.

Contrary to Rhyd’s assertions, Hindutva is in fact an inherently fascist movement, not an innocent and purely religious concept that merely fell into the hands of the right. I have already shown that Golwalkar, one of its ideological founders, explicitly called for India to adopt a model inspired by Nazi Germany and a centralised state built on an authoritarian unitary cultural fabric and monocultural/racial identity, to the exclusion of all others, and that Vinayak D. Savarkar similarly endorsed fascist Germany and Italy as congenial systems to contrast with liberal democracy. His problem with Hindutva is merely that it is a form of “identity politics”, just that he thinks that this “identity politics” has the potential to be liberating. It’s very strange and fundamentally Orwellian how he thinks Western “identity politics” movements aimed at liberating and emancipating marginalized people are dumb, liberal, “woke”, and should be laughed at and scorned, while an Indian “identity politics” movement that was created from birth to enact a fascist agenda to produce an ethno-nationalist society and whose adherents collaborated with British imperialism are to be given the benefit of the doubt or recognised as actually liberationist. You’d think this reminds you of the sort of thing that certain “woke” leftists would be condemned over but hey Rhyd won’t let that bother him. And more to the point, you might as well argue that National Socialism was not inherently fascist and that it could have been emancipatory had it not fallen into right-wing hands. This, incidentally, is exactly the same argument made by Otto Strasser and his faction of the NSDAP, along with modern adherents of what is called Strasserism. I’m not saying Rhyd is a Strasserist here, but the logical consequence of what he’s saying is consistent with the Strasserist argument. You are free to make of that what you will.

I must mention that, beyond this point, Rhyd barely actually defends Edward Butler directly, though he does continue to defend the legitimacy of Hindutva in some fashion, but a lot of time is spent focused on a broad concept of “leftist ideological abandonment”. Translated from dollar store critical theorist lingo, this means “leftists rejecting positions that I hold and embracing positions that I disagree with”. It would be a waste of time to go through the whole thing point by point, but I will cover what he has to say about Hindutva, as well as some other things I consider relevant to his overall thought process and its attendant problems.

He again attempts to establish a dichotomy between secular neoliberalism and Hindutva as its religious opposition by stressing that Hindu religiosity is an obstacle to the expansion of capitalist markets, while claiming that neoliberals manipulate the Muslim and Christian minorities in India against the Hindu majority. This is just nonsense. Putting aside Modi’s own role as a neoliberal strongman, Indian capitalism has expanded tremendously and I have not seen any religious force in India prove to be an obstacle to it. But again, here he seems to take at face value the Hindutva line and especially its conspiratorial thinking. Equally baffling is the reference to apparent efforts in European countries to ban kosher and halal slaughter, non-descript opponents that, we’re told without any reference, are smeared as religious extremists, and the absurd claim that “woke” leftists actually advocate for the banning of kosher and halal slaughter, never mind that it’s the far-right that actually pushes for the ban of halal slaughter in particular; or at least, I’ve only ever seen far-right activists do so.

All of this is then extrapolated onto a broader point about how leftists should stop “abandoning ideological territory” to the populist right. What does that mean? Apparently stagnant wages, massive job losses, and increasing debt, but the left had already been talking about that and much, much more, in the context of an analysis that cannot be limited to the vagueries of populism. Unless it’s the analysis itself that’s bugging him, which as a self-proclaimed Marxist it shouldn’t. Actually he’s still talking about the trope about how dismissing working class people as racist ensured the victory of Donald Trump in 2016. Putting aside the obvious issue of Trump’s actual base being more middle class than working class and ignoring the mechanisms of US democracy and its relationship to the actual popular vote of that election, I would point out that Joe Biden won four years later, and in that context much of liberalism hasn’t changed drastically, and if anything the Biden campaign had made vague references to social-democratic policy so as to crib the defeated Bernie Sanders campaign, while Trump actually did little other than appeal to the fear of socialism and “cancel culture” while otherwise glorifying the neoliberal status quo. So in this sense it actually seems out of touch to continue beating the same drum that mainstream pundits like Salena Zito have been since the 2016 election ended just to gaslight the left into doing whatever you want.

You can argue that the only way to stop right-wing populism is to stop “abandoning ideological territory to them”, but you’d be wrong. Jean Luc Melenchon tried pandering to the populist/far-right in France throughout his career, and yet his party La France Insoumise has received barely any migration of voters from far-right parties to their side, while if anything far-right parties have been siphoning voters from La France Insoumise. The Communist Party of France also tried appealing to French nationalism in the 1980s, and it did not result in any substantial gains for the party, certainly not enough to restore what electoral success it once had decades before. In Australia, the notoriously racist social-democrat Arthur Calwell lost every federal election that he ran in as leader of the Australian Labour Party, and it was after he stepped down that the party’s fortunes were reversed. Here in the UK the Labour Party tried to do a course correction over perceived “wokeness” and “lack of patriotism” under the outgoing Corbyn leadership, and it hasn’t really rewarded them electorally or in polls. Only a massive Christmas scandal seems to be turning Labour’s fortunes around. My point is that what Rhyd and others like him suggest simply doesn’t work for the left, never has done, and never will do. Frankly, all signs point to the observation that if people want to vote for reactionaries they’ll just vote for right-wing parties rather than any opportunist trying to outflank them on the left, and that’s partly because right-wing conservatives and nationalists generally actually believe what they believe in whereas leftists who try to copy them have only ever cared about either winning votes or pissing off other leftists in order to feel superior to them; I personally bet that Rhyd is of the latter category.

By the way, I can’t but notice that Rhyd thought to quote The Communist Manifesto to demonstrate that the result of capitalist expansion is the destabilization of religious traditions and communities, which is all well and good until you take note of the last part of the quotation: “All that is solid melts into air, all that is sacred is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.“. While Rhyd was likely intending to connect Marx’s analysis of capitalism to religious decline in order to emphasize capitalism as a threat to spiritual life, in the context of the quote Marx probably saw this as kind of a good thing. Here religion and sacredness are illusions, and the wresting of these away from human consciousness would have been interpreted as one of the positive and radically emancipatory effects of capitalist expansion. Too many people forget that although Marx did think that capitalism ultimately needed to be abolished, he did not consider capitalism to be entirely bad, and thinking in terms of historical progress of material conditions, Marx saw capitalism as consisting partially of historically progressive effects both material and social, some of which he and Friedrich Engels thought were necessary precursors to the development of socialism. Now, you don’t have to agree with Marx that religion was inherently bad and delusional in order to maintain a political worldview and analysis consistent with Marxism, everyone knows Marx isn’t infallible and it would be improper to treat him as though he were a prophet or a Pope, but I think it’s worthwhile to at least mention that Marx had meant the destruction of traditional community to be an enlightening if radical disillusionment rather than a benighting disenchantment.

All of this is still getting away from the base subject of Hindutva, but thankfully Rhyd takes us back there again with more whining:

Again, though I think hinduvta is probably a dead-end, what Indica has been attempting to do with it has potential beyond India. Dr. Edward Butler’s work with them to expand dialogue about polytheism across the world likewise has great potential, or did before he was accused of being fascist for that work.

Well don’t you worry, Rhyd. Edward Butler probably isn’t going anywhere, at least not for the time being. We can all disassociate from him and condemn him as we please, and he is free to stand alone in accordance with his own will, but that doesn’t mean his work is going to cease. He is probably still going to be involved with Indica, and he will continue to produce commentary in support of Hindutva, regardless of what we think of him. And you know what, that’s his business for as long as none of us have to be any part of it, but it will not go unchallenged, we will call it exactly as we see it, and we shall treat what we see accordingly. This is just how it is, and you’re just going to have to accept it, because we will be damned if we ever allow fascism to gain a foothold anywhere.

This seems to be the extent of his defence of Edward Butler and Hindutva, and if you look past the density of his article, it’s honestly a very weak one. But there’s something else to his overall argument that needs to be addressed, and it concerns his overall understanding of monotheism versus polytheism.

Towards the end of his article he says this:

Years ago, I made the very same mistake as his accusers. I failed to notice I was trapped in a monotheist framework, forced myself to answer a question whose only answers were binary. I was an idiot back then. I caused some harm and derailed something that is only now getting back on its tracks. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s pretty eager to go off the rails again, and I’m not very hopeful they won’t make the same mistakes I did.

We need to stop doing this. We need to stop giving ground to right wing movements and abandoning sites of potential transformation. The world cannot be neatly divided between “fascist” and “antifascist” or even “right” and “left” anymore than it can be neatly divided between “Western” and “Eastern,” “Christian” and “Hindu,” and “white” and “black.” These are all rigid and fragile categories that we’ve created through a monotheist framework of thinking, forcing universals where they cannot be applied.

The alternative to this is pluralism. I call this polytheistic, but it isn’t exclusive to polytheist religions. And I deeply believe it’s our default state, the organic and natural way we tend to relate to each other without external ideologies setting the co-ordinates of meaning for us.

From this we are to infer that monotheism is when you establish a set of questions predicated on binary choices. In essence, Rhyd’s conception of monotheism is nothing more than the concept of a closed question. Monotheism for Rhyd is when you make any divisions between two things, between left and right, between fascism and anti-fascism, Christianity and Hinduism, West and East, white and black, all divisions that Rhyd treats as fully equivalent to each other, and polytheism thus stands as an alternative to this framework, with plurality framed as a way to validate difference of opinion by bypassing all of those divisions. In other words, Rhyd is a typical centrist idiot, one who merely happens to call himself a Marxist, and he thinks that polytheism is a way to justify being a centrist idiot by defining the presence of division and conflict between two sides as monotheistic artifice.

To explore this point further, it is necessary to return to a section of the article that we previously skipped. But I’ll be honest, you won’t be missing much judging from the fact that he says stuff like this:

I was on the “good” side, meaning Antifa. That’s not how I look at it now, but at the time I was pretty damn certain one side was completely right and one side was completely wrong and I wasn’t going to be on the wrong side. That’s where I fucked up really badly. Looking back, I realise there wasn’t actually a right side and a wrong side at all, just two opposing ideological positions rising out of the same monotheistic universalism I’d been arguing against at conferences and in speeches.

Yeah. “I used to be anti-fascist. That’s not what I am now. Now I think drawing a line in the sand when it comes to fascism is just monotheistic universalism” is the stance Rhyd intends to take, on an outlet that I think still presents itself as avowedly anti-fascist. But we’ll get to that. For now suffice it to say “I used to oppose fascism but now I don’t” is probably not something you should own with any pride, and certainly not my idea of what anti-fascism looks like. But apparently it is, and not only that but the insistence that you should not have any solidarity with fascism is to be treated as the same kind of tyrannical absolutism that George W. Bush brought the world. Antifa then are basically neoconservatives to this guy? Honestly, given this guy’s reputation for defending fascists, I don’t like the implications of this sentiment, along with the implications of rejecting the division between left and right in contemporary politics, because when paired with the knowledge that he’s defended fascists, including now the Hindutva movement, it actually kind of seems like there’s something about Rhyd that he’s not letting on. Or perhaps not. Maybe he could just be a giant idiot and not much else. Now that’s pluralism if I’ve ever seen it.

Rhyd reduces polytheism to a vague belief in the lack of universals, which is fine on its own, but then he warps this so as to represent a belief that you can accept what other people say about themselves, and yet not accept it within yourself at the same time – in his words, this is to “accept the “truths” of others without necessarily their universals”. Remember earlier when I mentioned a “meandering and largely irrelevant discourse about the difference between polytheism and monotheism interlaced with the usual cryptic transphobia”? You’re about to see what I’m referring to:

Consider the most common reaction I’ve heard from people in person regarding the matter of trans identity. Most are happy to accept that someone considers themselves a different gender from their biological sex, and are even willing to make efforts to use the pronouns a person requests.

In this kind of pluralism, what doesn’t necessarily follow from such interactions is a simultaneous change in the personal beliefs about what is a man or what is a woman—because it doesn’t need to. It doesn’t need to for the exact same reason that we don’t need to change our own cosmology just because someone we know says they saw a ghost. We can accept their account of things and also our own without conflict, and then go about the business of actually living life alongside each other.

At first, it can seem perfectly reasonable in that a pluralistic outlook is generally going to be more accepting of someone who professes a trans or non-binary identity. On that point alone, a lot of Pagans would have no issues. The problem emerges when Rhyd starts talking about how this doesn’t lend itself to any effects on how you view gender or identity, let alone any political commitments attendant to accepting trans or non-binary people as they are, and especially when he actually compares accepting trans or non-binary identity to what is essentially the act of humoring a friend who tells you he’s seen a ghost. It’s utterly condescending and serves only as a mask to hide your true beliefs from others. When you say “we don’t need to change our own cosmology just because someone we know says they saw a ghost”, you are first of all saying that you reject the person’s belief in a ghost, and when you say “We can accept their account of things and also our own without conflict”, you are saying that you do not accept the person’s belief in ghosts, but will merely tolerate a person for having it, separate your beliefs about that person and their positions from your attitude to their personhood, and treat the matter as “live and let live”, but deep down you mock that person in some way, necessarily so, because you still think the person’s beliefs are wrong, perhaps even stupid and worthy of mockery, you just aren’t going to say anything about it.

Applied to the subject of trans identity, you are saying that you do not accept that a trans woman is a woman, or that a trans man is a man, and you reject what they say about their gender identity because you think biological sex, or rather your own particular essentialist understanding of it, trumps their subjective identity, but you accept the trans person’s account anyway, or so you claim to, and seemingly live your life and interact with others as “normal” in any case. But what that means is that you believe that you’re accepting the accounts of trans people, but without any examination of any beliefs you hold that would prevent you from meaningfully doing so, so you may live your life as though you assume yourself to be tolerant and accepting of trans people, when really, beneath it all, you don’t take what they say about themselves seriously, probably mock them in private, or in public you openly argue against accepting that trans people are the gender they identify as. In this sense, that “tolerance” is actually a false peace, unity for the sake of unity not borne of any actual acceptance, one that I think many trans and non-binary people will easily see for the cowardice that it is.

And besides which, it’s not actually the polytheistic perspective, or at least not as can be implied by its myths. The mythos of the various polytheistic and animistic religions of the world contains fascinating accounts of transformation across gender. As Kadmus Herschel has shown in True to the Earth, a book that I see Rhyd is borrowing terminology from without understanding the rest of what Kadmus is saying, the bardic poetry of the Celts depicts figures who undergo several transformations that cut across gender, species, and several other boundaries. Ceridwen transforms into several different animals, Gwion tries to hide in the form of a grain of wheat, but Ceridwen turns into a hen and eats him, only to become pregnant with Gwion, who is then reborn as Taliesin. They are transformations of body rather than soul, they cut against notions of essence or purity, and identity then is builty atop an ongoing event of conscious essencing. Several of the gods of polytheism, whether that’s Odin or Loki from Norse polytheism or Dionysus and Athena from Greek polytheism, exhibit either the capacity to transform their own gender identity or inhabit a set of gender characteristics not limited by the traditional gender binary; Athena, for instance, was meant to be born as a man, but instead was born a woman with male characteristics. You can also go to India and find deities that transform across gender lines as well as species lines, with Vishnu appearing as the female Mohini and Shiva manifesting as the dual-gendered Ardhanarishvara. The Hijras also represent within Indian society since ancient times a trans community that has existed in the context of non-monotheistic culture. If the gods can be seen as defined by more than the traditional gender binary, if the gods can be queer as can be and be accepted for it by their followers, if a person can be trans within pre-Christian cultures and meet some acceptance in a religious context, then it stands that the Pagan worldview on gender identity is that it is not defined by a binary that is fixed into human being through essentialist biology, but instead one of many places in which essencing takes place, and in which essencing can take place on individual as well as social terms.

Contrary to what Rhyd insists about how you don’t have to change your mind about trans people to accept them for what they are – although then again why should you even need to consider changing your mind unless you’re presently a transphobe – internalizing much of the polytheist worldview entails not merely accepting the accounts of trans people for performative and diplomatic reasons but on an existential basis, on the grounds that their identities are as natural as yours, as is the transformation that trans people rightfully undertake to fulfill themselves, and these exist as part of the multiplicity of life as much as you do. It is not about accepting “universals”. If you truly adhere to a multiplicitous and pluralistic cosmos, and reject a cosmos consisting of the inscribed designs of one supreme being, then you really do have to accept internally the validity of trans identity, instead of just formally validating it for the purpose of being polite and getting along while internally denying it; in that scenario, your outward stance is merely performance while your inward stance is your real position on the subject. At least a transphobic Christian or Muslim would prefer to brook no such deceptions since they believe what they believe to be the inalterable word of God. Rhyd on the other hand is a transphobe who wants to be considered valid for being a transphobe as long as it means just being polite about it. Well I’m sorry but being polite about your position doesn’t actually mean your position is any less dogshit. If it did, then Holocaust denial could be validated off the back of the affability of some of its proponents. Trust me: fascists are more than capable of presenting a respectable and polite face, and may even try to appear very tolerant of disagreement, even though this is a ruse in light of how they would actually govern you. Just because a fascist can get you thinking that leftists are intolerant and totalitarian because you got banned from their Discord server or whatever doesn’t mean a fascist society won’t be violently totalitarian, or for that matter that the left is necessarily as totalitarian in practice as you might have been told.

His idea of pluralism is based less on the philosophical ramifications of the polytheistic cosmos and its attendant mythos and more on a personal desire for unity, and political unity at that. I would say to him that the polytheistic world, and cosmos, was never always united. Cults could sometimes rival each other, a few were driven out in societies that considered them to be dangerous and foreign. Whole schools of philosophy rivalled each other, and some schools were sometimes mocked, scorned, vilified, and even demonized in some cases by whoever asserted themselves as the dominant school of thought. The gods themselves would fight amongst each other, sometimes just between individual deities each pursuing the same object (the mythological story of Troy features multiple goddesses fighting over Paris’ judgement on who was the most beautiful), sometimes out of desires for revenge (such as Hera), sometimes there is a conflict of values among the gods (as present in the trial of Orestes in which Apollo contests the ancient goddesses called the Eumenides), sometimes whole clans of deities fight and struggle against each other, with some compromise and intermingling in between (the Devas versus the Asuras, the Aesir versus the Vanir or Jotun, the Tuatha De Dannan versus the Fomorians, or the Amatsukami versus the Kunitsukami). Sometimes humans can rebel and challenge the gods, to varying degrees of success. As Kadmus has shown brilliantly, rebellion is a feature of a polytheistic cosmos, not a bug, and as Peter Grey has shown, rebellion is a part of the divine heritage given to humans from the gods. Insofar as a polytheistic cosmos consists of rebellion, and rebellion is a core part of that cosmos, the presumption of polytheistic pluralism entailing intrinsic cosmic unity seems entirely fanciful, and unbecoming of a cosmos of many divines, truths, and values.

More to the point, why exactly do you want unity with fascists? Why is it desirable? Contemporary polytheism has already understood the dangers of allowing itself to become a home for fascists and in allowing secular nationalism to appropriate the pre-Christian past so as to launder hateful authoritarianism. That is the reason for Declaration 127, The Xenia Declaration, and similar initiatives to exist, to deny solidarity with fascists since they do not deserve it, and to declare that you will not stand with white supremacy, racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, or any form of bigotry. Rhyd should know well enough about these initiatives, and it would be interesting to see what his opinion of them is now, or for that matter his opinion on how we should deal with folkist groups like the Asatru Folk Assembly, in light of the dribble he’s putting forth.

Unity with the fascist means consignment to your own enslavement. It is permission for the fascist, it is the knowledge that they will not be challenged for being fascists, which therefore leads to the normalisation of fascism, and finally to the triumph of fascism. The unity Rhyd seeks is almost the definition of unjust peace. By subtracting the presence of division, conflict, and rebellion from a pluralistic cosmos that necessarily entails these things, Rhyd’s “pluralism” insists that solidarity in the abstract ought to be universal, at least so long as he can claim the people he wants solidarity with to share a common enemy (which they don’t!), and denies the ability to freely deny solidarity with the undeserving and contest that which should be contested. His “pluralism” is not a pluralistic cosmos, but a drum circle held between hippies and swastika-beddecked skinheads.

But for all the talk of pluralism, there’s another reason I’m not buying it. I know Rhyd’s kind of leftist well enough. I have been in circles where his sort of thinking operates as the order of the day. I have had a friend who regularly complained about the left because they “hate” him, and that same friend went on to be one of those socialists who, while calling himself a socialist, a Marxist at that, embraced all manner of far-right social positions and even advocated for a form of white nationalism even if not by name. What I learned is that these people become resentful of the left because the left does not respond positively to their insistence on the objectively correct politics, often even despite that politics being anything but correct, and the opposition from the rest of the left impedes their ability to mold the left as they see fit. Rhyd, I suspect, is one more of those leftists, so embittered from facing constant challenge from the left, who in his eyes are doomed because they have failed to sufficiently agree with and conform to his brand of leftism, that he fled all social media so that he dare not deal with the rest of the left any further. These people do not assume a pluralistic world, let alone the way Rhyd himself defines it. Instead, if anything, it’s closer to the monotheistic worldview, where there is one supreme principle, one vision, one ultimate truth, and everyone is to be cajoled or convinced to accept it or face doom and failure forever, and even his ideas of pluralistic unity smack of a more benign version of this where it doesn’t matter what we all think because we are all One. Meanwhile even polytheistic cultures had lines to be drawn on what their communities could and could not accept, and their cosmoses consisted not of unity but of diversity, and sometimes conflict.

In summary, this was truly a laughably weak defence on behalf of Edward Butler and Indica, one that served only to show Rhyd’s own ignorance of the subject he strives to represent, rather than the supposed ignorance of Edward Butler’s critics. It’s such a shame too, since he puts a black eye on Gods and Radicals Press as a whole in the eyes of many. This is a shame because it does still feature some good work from Christopher Scott Thompson, Mirna Wabi-Sabi, and a recent contributor promoting Gaulish reconstructionist polytheism as an anti-fascist force, and its store still features the brilliant work of Kadmus Herschel, True to the Earth. Hell, Rhyd himself used to be pretty cool back in the day until at least 2018 from what I understand. I suppose though it’s mostly Rhyd that I have a serious problem with, and until maybe he gets over his reactionary contrarianism I don’t see much hope that he won’t, as he put it, go off the rails. After all, it’s not the left derailing him, it’s him that’s derailing Gods and Radicals. He needs to see that, and I don’t hold out any hope that he will.

On Indica and Edward Butler

There were a few topics relating to the Pagan community that I thought of talking about here, and it seems that the most pressing concerns a controversy relating to an organization known as Indica, an umbrella of apparent polytheist organizations including the Indic Academy, of which Edward Butler, a polytheist academic and the proprietor of a website about Neoplatonic polytheism called Henadology, is a director. Indica bills themselves as “an institute for global study of indigenous knowledge, seeking to bring about a renaissance of indigenous wisdom”. We might infer from this that they are, at least in theory, advocates for indigenous religious belief systems, and thereby for polytheism, though they actually seem to focus particularly on Hinduism, so I’m theory at least you might think of them as a Hindu advocacy group. In any case, Indica recently hosted a conference entitled Conference on Polytheism Today & Tomorrow: Dialogues on Pluralism and Polytheist Art, hosted by Edward Butler and consisting of a series of discussions from different polytheist voices coming from a variety of traditional backgrounds. It was honestly a very good opportunity to hear perspectives from the world of modern polytheism. That’s why it’s such a shame to report that, some time after that conference, a problem emerged when apparent connections between Indica and the Hindutva movement were brought to everyone’s attention.

I’ve written a fair bit about the Hindutva movement within the last two years, but for the purpose of this article it bears defining Hindutva again. Hindutva is the name given to a broad right-wing nationalist movement in India that seeks to consolidate Indian society on the basis of a theocratic nation state defined by a kind of ethno-centric version of Hinduism. The Hindutva vision is inherently exclusionary: only Hindus and adherents of other dharmic faiths are meant to exist in the Hindutva vision of society, while Christians, Jews, and Muslims are to be cast out, according to the Hindutva ideologues themselves. Unsurprisingly, Hindutva ideology was originally inspired by National Socialism and Italian Fascism, as the founding fathers of the Hindutva movement, Vinayak D. Savarkar and M. S. Golwalkar, openly praised Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini for their fascist and xenophobic policies. Thus, Hindutva belongs to the family of ideologies broadly referred to as fascism. In addition, as part of the Hindutva agenda, advocates of Hindutva tend to promote the idea of India as an exceptional civilization through historical revisionism, fundamentalism, and pseudo-science, not unlike the far-right in countries such as the USA, France, Israel, and Japan. Hindutva is represented in mainstream Indian politics by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which in turn emerged from a Hindutva volunteer organization called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), itself notorious to this day for being involved in sectarian violence aginst non-Hindus and especially Muslims (who the RSS are known to have lynched).

So, how does this come back to Indica? Well, apparently it had emerged that Edward Butler, the man organizing the conference, might have some sympathies to the Hindutva movement. This seems to connect with an article that appeared on Indica Today, titled “Hindutva In The 21st Century“, which was originally published there on September 15th, but recently promoted on their Twitter account a few days ago. The article is a glowingly positive assessment of Hindutva, Indica Today promotes it on its Twitter with the tag “Spiritual Nationalism”, and Edward Butler promoted it with the caption “reclaim Hindutva”. This of course is not too long after Butler was apparently forced to defend his association with the Indic Academy over its relationship to Hindutva ideology, which he did by casting the term Hindutva as an “elastic term” used by anti-Hindus to attack any celebration of Hinduism. This, if we’re being very honest, sounds like the line taken by supporters of Hindutva, who identify their ideology with Hinduism as a whole, even whereas a lot of Hindus don’t.

This apparently is not an isolated incident. Back in 2018, he seems to have promoted an article from The Economic Times, an Indian news website generally understood to be conservative-leaning, which appears to praise the Chinese state media outlet The Global Times over its own claims that Hinduism in India is responsible for the suppression of “radical Islam” and thus India’s wider standing in the international community. In 2019 he lionized India as a kind of bastion against the “frontal assault of Islam and then Christianity”, while telling an apparent Hindutva supporter who spoke of an “ongoing battle” that “all of us who worship the shining ones owe you our aid and support in that battle”. Yes, Butler has openly stated that he believes that all polytheists are obliged to support the Hindutva movement. Hindutvas are not even the only folkists that he’s supported in the past. Butler’s previous colleagues include Galina Krasskova, a Heathen priestess who happens to openly support the white supremacist Asatru Folk Assembly and, despite claiming to oppose folkism, complained that the AFA was constantly being “dogpiled” by other Pagans, and Sannion (real name: H. Jeremiah Lewis), a fascist Hellenic polytheist who worships Dionysus and claims that Dionysus told him to wear the Nazi Sonnenrad (a.k.a. the so-called “Black Sun”, which is actually not the Black Sun as I’ve discussed previously) in order to justify constantly wearing it. Butler, of course, has periodically denied that these people advocate for folkism or fascism, but their record is not too hard to come by and speaks for itself.

Sticking to the subject of Hindutva, let’s focus on the article Butler shared recently, and more particularly its author. The Indica Today article “Hindutva In The 21st Century” is written by a man named Navaratna S. Rajaram, and seems to have been posthumous considering that Rajaram died in December 11th 2019. Rajaram is, let’s say, a colourful character. He at one point claimed that the Vedic Indians taught the Pharaohs of Egypt how to build the Pyramids, thus seemingly making India the progenitor of those same Pyramids. He also claimed that ancient India was a secular state, while also denouncing secularism as irrelevant to pluralism, as well as claiming to have deciphered the Indus script. He tends to frequently denounce much of Western Indology as Eurocentric, claiming many scholars don’t even understand the basics of Indian language, and often blanketly refers to them as liberals and Marxists. In the Indica Today article, Rajaram attacks secularism as something that can never “define a nation” and conflates Hindutva with Hinduism (or Sanatana Dharma) as a whole in order to present Hindutva as an extension of religious Hinduism and a broadly tolerant and pluralistic ideology rather than the exclusionary and fascist ethno-nationalism that it actually is. Meanwhile, Rajaram is also known widely in India as something of a “pioneer” in Hindutva scholarship, and is praised by the Indian right-wing because of it.

Rajaram is not the only link between the Indica family and the Hindutva movement. Just three weeks ago, Indica hosted what they called a “Hindutva Paradigm Book Tour”, which promoted a book called “The Hindutva Paradigm: Integral Humanism and Quest for a Non-Western Worldview” by Ram Madhav, which purports to examine the economic philosophy of Deen Dayal Upadhyay as a “human-centric” worldview capable of managing “the new world order”. Ram Madhav was also the national general secretary of the BJP and a national executive of the RSS, and has another book, “Because India Comes First”, which is also promoted by Indica and seems to advocate for right-wing nationalism while attacking “liberal fascists”. Incidentally, Deen Dayal Upadhyay was himself a Hindutva ideologue who seems to have adapted his concept of “Integral Humanism” from the organicist philosophy of M. S. Golwalkar, and in fact Upadhyay was the leader of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), an RSS branch that preceded the modern BJP, until his death in 1968. And there are several other Hindutva books promoted by Indica, such as the “Savarkar” series by Vikram Sampath. More strikingly, last year Indica Today also promoted Vinayak D. Savarkar, the same man who openly praised Adolf Hitler and Nazism against Jawaharlal Nehru, as “a hero who stands tall in our History”, and continues to promote their article doing so. Indica still repeatedly praises and offers tribute to Savarkar, and just five days ago called upon authors and intellectuals to pay homage to Savarkar by reviewing his books. All of this by itself should be a clear refutation of Edward Butler’s apparent claims that Indica is a “non-political” organisation.

But these are still not the only links to Hindutva movement to be discovered. As Devo from The Twisted Rope has pointed out on their post on the subject, there are several members of the Indica team that have verifiable links to the Hindutva movement. Indic Academy seems to have been founded by a man named Hari Kiran Vadlamani. Although Vadlamani calls himself an “Indic Liberal”, he certainly has no issues with having the likes of Koenraad Elst, a Belgian right-wing activist who is, believe it or not, an RSS sympathizer, going on his platform to discuss his work. Karanam Aravinda Rao, one of Indica’s leaders and trustees, was the Director General of the Police in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, who retired in order to pursue his religious interests and now claims that international commentary on the Indian farmer protests is evidence of a vast international left-wing conspiracy to destabilise and take over India. Keep in mind that Indica bills him as an “anti-Naxal expert”. Vishal Agarwal, another trustee and author at Indica Today, takes money from the Hindu American Foundation and appears to promote the “Out of India” theory, a Hindutva narrative which holds that the Indo-Aryans were actually indigenous to India rather than having migrated from Iran, alongside other revisionists such as Michael Danino. Yet another trustee, Avatans Kumar, is a vocal supporter of Vinayak D. Savarkar and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and also likes to engage in all kinds of Covid-19-related crankery. In their Academic Council you’ll find Michael Danino, who I mentioned already as a historical revisionist, Meenakshi Jain, a Hindutva ideologue who promotes several books by other Hindutva ideologues, Subhash Kak, a right-wing computer scientist who not only supports the “Out of India” theory but also claims that the Rig Veda contained evidence of advanced computer science and astronomy, and M. D. Srinivas, a professor theoretical physics who is also a founding trustee of the Centre for Policy Studies, which is a think tank dedicated to “the essential civilizational genius of India” and the creation of “a polity that would allow the Indian genius to flourish and assert itself in the present day world”, and also seems to be associated with RSS. In fact, one of its Chapter Convenors is an actual BJP member named Jigar Champaklal Inamdar. All told, Hindutva is not only promoted by Indica, it’s also represented right at the top of its organisation and its internal hierarchy.

It has been said that Butler finds himself willing to defend these people on the grounds that polytheists of all stripes need to band together, possiblty in solidarity as a positive community or against a common enemy, in this case monotheism. But this is ever the problem with “unity” isn’t it? The same problem manifests way too often within the political left, where every so often you deal with expectations for the entire left to band together in unity, despite the obvious irreconcilable ideological differences contained within it and which, throughout history, have for the most part been reconciled principally through violence: with Bolsheviks suppressing anarchists, socdems, and left-communists, social-democrats ratting out communists to the state, anarchists occasionally attacking Marxist-Leninists, and so on, and so forth. Or, alternatively, it can be certain figures within the left, such as Caleb Maupin and Jimmy Dore, who argue that left-wing activists should unite with anyone else who opposes the capitalist system, even if they happen to be in the far-right or are outright fascists. This is a long-standing phenomenon within progressive/leftist circles that frequently has to be combatted, because it damages left-wing causes by allowing fascist infiltration to take place. Chip Berlet’s 1999 essay, titled “Right Woos Left“, is exhaustive but essential reading on the subject from a historical perspective.

The problem is thus: “unity” is not too valuable as an object in itself. As Ocean Keltoi once said, should we be expected to “unite” with bigots like the Asatru Folk Assembly while they openly advocate white supremacist politics, or for that matter with anyone who will not take the most basic stance you can take on condemning white supremacy? I would extend the question further. Would the whole of mankind unite with its oppressors, simply because it would mean that we all “get along”? Or should the problem of tyranny be resolved with the violent removal of tyrants, as it has often been done? Must the abused unite with their abusers, and victims with their victimizers, and the murdered with their murderers, because of some abstract and frankly fanciful belief in the goodness of coming together in itself? If your answer to this question is yes then, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you are functionally insane and your moral compass is fundamentally unreliable. I know it sounds harsh and you may even think that my questions are ridiculous, but I do believe that it is logical to conclude that if unity with everyone is an inherent good then unity with those who want to destroy or oppress you would be entailed, and that is just morally untenable.

And as to Butler’s apparent object of unity, perhaps we can address this too. I would agree wholeheartedly that monotheism and its secular cousin represents a force of spiritual hegemony that must be tirelessly opposed and deconstructed in order to realise the true depths of spiritual freedom for the world. I don’t think many Pagans would oppose that, at least in a vacuum. But while I would hardly hestiate to point out that the Quran contains some clearly violent denunciations of polytheism and also explicitly commands Muslims to not marry polytheists, and would criticise anyone trying to skirt that, I think we’re doing the discourse about Islamophobia a bit of a disservice if we fail to mention that a lot of attacks on Muslims are racially coded. I mean think about it. A lot of the same people who point out some of the violent and authoritarian content of the Quran don’t seem to have the same problem with the same type of content in the Bible. Admittedly, certain New Atheists and Satanists would be more consistent about that, but even then, are they? If they were, they’d have to conclude, starting from the premise that there is a clearly defined “Christian/Western Civilization” as opposed to “Islamic Civilization”, that both are based on violent and authoritarian creeds. Except, of course, that they don’t. The caveat might be that the West went through secularization and reform whereas the Islamic world didn’t. But the Islamic world too was subject to a phase in which rationalism, often an actually fairly rigid variety, took hold only to be replaced, and contrary to what Sam Harris and others who insist that there was no “Golden Age”, the philosophy of antiquity travelled through the Islamic World and influenced many sophistications in Islamic philosophy. Yet while classical philosophy is put on a pedestal by Christians, if only so they could claim it was secretly monotheist, the Islamic philosophy that was influenced by classical philosophy is simply ignored.

Hindutvas similiarly ignore any contributions that Muslims may have made tro philosophy, culture, art, or anything in India. Hindutvas also tend expand their concept of “Hinduness” as a political identity to include not only Hindus but also Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs – all groups that practice religions that originated in India and are part of the family of dharmic religions – while excluding all other religious groups within India, such as Muslims and Parsis. Such is the mark of a worldview whose core political identity is based on ethnicity or race, which must then exclude all groups that do not define it or, from their perspective, somehow intrude upon it.

That is one reason why people like Edward Butler should not take the claims of the Hindutva movement seriously. Another reason, of course, is that the whole claim that Hindutva somehow represents the traditional continuation and preservation of Hindu polytheism is simply a lie. Vinayak D. Savarkar, one of the founding fathers of Hindutva, the man that Indica hails as a hero of indigenous Hindu polytheism, was actually an atheist who opposed many aspects of Hindu tradition. He described himself as a rationalist, opposed vegetarianism, which although not mandatory is promoted in Hindu scriptures and is often considered a matter of tradition, he opposed the Hindu tradition of considering the cow as a holy animal, and from there argued against cow protection, since he considered the cow to be a “pitiable” animal that was only the mother of the bullock and whose worship supposedly made the Indians docile, he rejected the concept of sacred land or geography, he apparently refused to allow the observance any traditional Hindu rites for his wife when she died, and even refused to allow her body to be brought home on the grounds that it was “no use lamenting her dead body”. This man is supposed to be a “defender of traditional Hinduism”? Ironically enough for modern Hindutvas, such as Navaratna S. Rajaram, who believe that the Hindu religion is what defines the Indian nation, the founder of Hindutva insisted that “Hinduness” was not defined by religion at all, but rather was simply defined by shared country, race, and civilization, and it is this secular ethno-nationalist outlook, not religious Hindu tradition, that is the origin of the base concept of Hindutva. The only reason Sarvarkar invoked Hinduism or any concept of Hindu identity was in a nationalistic sense, under the auspices of reclaiming territory from Muslims and British colonialists.

In a bizarre way, Savarkar actually seems to be an interesting 20th century example of the way modern volkisch Pagans, such as Marcus Follin (a.k.a. “The Golden One”) and Varg Vikernes, seem to reject any belief in gods or anything expressly divine while adopting the pre-Christian religions and myths of old as something of a cultural expression, an identity to be consolidated. The volkisch movement that swept Germany and gave rise to Nazism was less a sincere revival of any indigenous Germanic polytheism and more a kind of secular cultural ethno-nationalism which adopted romantic adaptions of Germany’s pre-Christian past, which were frequently syncretized with Chrisitian mysticism and/or other latent aspects of German Christianity, in order to create a modern unified conception of “German religion”, as part of a mobilized racial body politic to be directed by a nationalist state. Of course, the Nazis who later took power were not so secular, and supported a mystical and revisionist from of Christianity known as “Positive Christianity” as the religious basis for National Socialist ideology, while opposing and criminalizing secularism, paganism, and most forms of occultism.

The way that Hindutva ideologues talk about indigenous sovereignty and liberation is also a lie, and exists solely to recuperate the rhetoric of geniune indigenous national liberation as practiced by the oppressed. The thing to remember about Hindutva nationalism is that, beyond its more general ethnocentric quality, it is also fundamentally a kind of colonizer or oppressor nationalism. M. S. Golwalkar spelled it out himself when, in Bunch of Thoughts, he wrote that the most important step to realizing Hindutva ideology would be to “bury for good all talk of a federal structure” and “sweep away the existence of all autonomous and semi-autonomous states within Bharat”. Essentially, Golwalkar advocated for India to be consolidated as one single unitary government, organized as a highly centralised state, with no regional autonomy and there by no “fragmentational, regional, sectarian, linguistic, or other types of pride” that might be “playing havoc with our regional harmony”. This, particularly when paired with their proposals for an irredentist Akhand Bharat (“Undivided India”), together create the picture of a nationalism based not on anti-colonial freedom but on the oppression of autonomous and indigenous peoples, whose identity and liberty would be smothered by a single unitary nationalist identity, as dictated by imperialists and oppressors, as opposed to any kind of a liberationist concept of nationalism.

On top of that, the RSS never actually participated in any anti-imperialist/anti-colonial struggles in India. If there was any enthusiasm on the part of RSS membership to participate in events such as the Dandi March, that enthusiasm was emphatically discouraged by RSS leadership. And sometimes the RSS actively opposed expressions of nationalism or pro-independence politics. M. S. Golwalkar criticized RSS members who wanted to participate in independence struggles, the RSS apparently abstained from participating in the Quit India movement, which demanded the end of British rule in India, and even after India gained independence from the British, the RSS opposed the then-new tricolor flag, claiming that no Hindu would ever own it because it was based on an “evil” number (the RSS superstitiously believed that the word “three” was evil), and frequently denounced the newly independent government of India for its secular constitution, which they deemed inferior to the laws of the Manusmriti, which the RSS campaigned to replace the constitution.

Not even the self-sacrificial defiance and anti-colonial bravado attributed to Savarkar is credible. Whereas other anti-colonial revolutionaries, such as the Marxist anarcho-communist revolutionary Bhagat Singh, led a hunger strike while in prison, accused of murder, and faced execution for his cause, Savarkar repeatedly pled for mercy from the British after his arrest in 1911. In fact, Savarkar actually pledged allegiance to the British colonialists following his release from prison, and actively recruited Indians to join the British armed forces. This is after he was previously going off with the Free India Society to organize Indian students to fight for Indian independence. Sarvarkar was a “freedom fighter”, but only until the authorities caught him, and then he begged them to let him join their side instead. He was a coward. And while in prison, begging to be released, Savarkar glorified the British Empire and called for patriotic Indians to cooperate with the British government against the “fanatic hordes of Asia”. All this, taken together, is the reality of the Hindutva that Edward Butler ignorantly celebrates to the point of adovcating to “reclaim Hindutva”.

And let’s address the elephant in the room that is Hinduism, since Butler is prepared to conflate Hindutva with Hinduism as a whole while praising Hinduism as a bastion of surviving indigenous polytheism and pluralism against the tyranny of monotheism. I would insist that the reality is more complicated than this narrative might suggest. For starters, Hinduism is not solely to be understood as a polytheistic religion. In fact, there are certain implications to the concept that can be interpreted in a monotheistic way. There were also Hindu theologians and sects who argued for one deity as the supreme being, personality and agency behind everything, not unlike the monotheism observed in the West. This typically comprised of Vaishnavites, who worshipped Vishnu or Krishna as Bhagavan (or Svayan Bhagavan, meaning “God Himself”), though there were also Shaivites who worshipped Shiva in a similar fashion. It is true, though, that Hindu texts tend to affirm a plurality of perspectives through the idea of multiple deities as different expressions of the same divine principle, though I don’t know if that can adequately be described as “polytheism” per se, since polytheism at base would entail the existence of multiple divine agents or intelligences and not necessarily just different manifestations of the same agency or presence. It could be argued, however, that the practice of worshipping multiple deities, even under the belief that they all represent the same divine power, could constitute at least a functional polytheism, with certain sects practicing a form of monolatry within that.

It must also be said, though, that the pluralism attributed to Hinduism, while genuine, is not always reflected in the history of Hinduism in practice. Hinduism is certainly a broad family of religious doctrines and theologies, rather than a single monolithic creed, and you will certainly find a great diversity of teachings and sects, to say nothing of its grand and beautiful diversity of deities. But even the history of Hinduism is not without sectarian conflict or attempts to establish orthodoxy. We see some philosophical sects, such as Carvaka, seemingly translated as demonic enemies of dharma and the divine, and as Wendy Doniger has documented there has been bitter conflict between some sects, particularly between Vaishnavites and Shaivites, which has even seen them demonize each other’s gods. Hindu “reformists” were also in the habit of denouncing certain practices they didn’t like under the umbrella of “the left hand path”, as part of a campaign to consolidate conservative moral order which blamed those practices for the colonization of India by the British Empire.

With that out of the way, I think I should finally turn towards the real controversy surrounding all this. Indica’s Conference on Polytheism Today & Tomorrow brought together a wide diversity of polytheistic voices. Aliakai, Stephanos Chelydoreus, Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, Theanos Thrax, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, Justin Shaffner and many more to discuss the different perspectives of their traditions in the context of modern polytheism. After everyone got wind of Indica’s connections to Hindutva, all of those people came under fire for having associated with Indica, and were questioned over their alleged affiliation with Indica. Several of the guests, at least as far as I’ve seen, have no affiliation with Indica. Only Edward Butler would have that distinction. Many had no idea what Hindutva even was. While that’s not a particularly good thing, it’s not entirely fair to have a go at these people for lacking knowledge on the subject or the Indica, especially when, once it became clear to them that Indica was bad news, they publicly denounced Indica.

I think it must have seemed difficult, given that many of them had previously had positive relationships with Edward Butler. In fact Butler seems to have played a role in inspiring the work of other polytheists to release books. Might we say that Butler was a positive influence despite his odious connections and positions? Might we say retroactively that he was nothing but bad news know that we know about his infatuation with Hindutva? These are questions I don’t quite have easy answers for. I for one can believe that it’s much harder for people who’ve met and worked with him, not realizing his motives, to deal with all this, than it is for self-styled internet watchdogs who quasi-professionally compile dossiers for both real and merely accused fascists. But however valuable Butler’s work might have been, it is my suspicion that his interest in Hindutva colours apsects of his thought and analysis, which might prove to be a danger to the Pagan community, and since Hindutva is a form of fascism, that can’t be tolerated. As such, Butler cannot continue to provide a nexus between the Pagan community and the forces of Hindutva. The scrutiny should thus be reserved for Edward Butler and Indica, not for the people who merely appeared at the Indica conference.

Edward Butler, via Indica Soft Power

Edit Notice, 28/01/2022: In light of the findings presented in a later post, “Nazism is not, and never was, Pagan”, a section of this post has been edited to reflect the fact Hitler and the Nazis were in fact a Christian and not secular.

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”

So I guess I have to talk about Steelfest

A new controversy caught my eye as a metalhead. A few days ago the veteran thrash metal band Sodom attracted backlash over their scheduled appearance in the Steelfest Open Air Festival, a metal festival in Finland dedicated mostly to underground black and death metal bands, in 2022. The reason why that’s proving to be a bit of a problem for Sodom is that, while there are respectable bands in the line-up, the some of the bands in Steelfest’s 2022 line-up include noted NSBM (that’s National Socialist Black Metal; literally Nazi black metal) bands. These include Graveland, Nokturnal Mortum, and Satanic Warmaster. The man behind that particular band is so adamant that he is not a Nazi that he went out of his way to make a graph supposedly showing how little he sings about Hitler or Jews. Of course, a quick look at such material as “Return of Iron and Blood“, “Strength and Honour“, and “Carelian Satanist Madness” quickly dispells said notions, as does the fact that material like that is still played live in more recent years and a compilation of NSBM songs was released as recently as 2017. One wonders how Werwolf could make that graph to try and exonerate himself. This isn’t even a new thing for Steelfest, either. In 2014, Steelfest had Goatmoon, a notorious NSBM band, in its line-up, and, as you would expect, both Goatmoon and the attending fans performed Nazi salutes at Steelfest. So, from that standpoint, Steelfest has kind of a history of openly promoting NSBM and having open Nazism promoted on stage and celebrated by both bands and fans. You don’t have to be politically correct to see why that’s a problem.

As it stands, Sodom have made their statement, and so has Steelfest. Sodom have stated the following on September 1st:

Hey pals! To get it right up front. Once again, we distance ourselves from bands that abuse their musical platform to express their political views, whether right or left, to the outside world. But we stand for freedom of expression for everyone and we won’t let that talk us to death. When the Steelfest promoter booked the show with us at the end of 2019, these supporting acts and the billing were not even up for discussion. So we have a valid guest performance contract. We are currently clarifying the legal situation. We generally perform on behalf of ourselves and our fans and not for the other bands.

The politically correct bands, whatever that means, are in the majority at Steelfest. Will they all cancel their performance? We will definitely talk to the organizer again about this situation and will form our own judgment.

We can’t always please everyone and we don’t want that at all, but if we have to bow to some kind of political pressure every time, then we artists/musicians can soon quit our jobs. And after 40 years in this exciting business, I don’t need any instructions about what to do or not.

We have a strong fan base in Finland and many are happy to see Sodom again receiving a special setlist exclusively. After this long dry spell, we are of course happy to be playing in Finland again. This is our job, our passion. That’s what we are living for. We won’t let that talk us to death either and decide for ourselves. We will of course keep you up to date on the current state of affairs.

But don`t forget…Sodom stands for freedom, peace, justice and democracy. And that’s all that counts. Cheers ,)

Sodom also initially said yesterday that they would try to return to Finland as soon as possible, “hopefully under better circumstances and with a little more poisitive vibes and party atmosphere”. That said, despite all of that, Sodom have announced today that they will be cancelling their appearance at Steelfest, “solely on the basis of our own conviction”. It certainly is a strange turn considering that Sodom initially didn’t want to be “pressured” into cancelling, partly on freedom of expression grounds and partly on financial grounds (evidently this was going to be one of their first shows since the pandemic rendered concerts impossible). Now it seems that this has changed, citing their own conviction. One wonders what that conviction was. But, given that Sodom have never been a pro-fascist band, perhaps they realizing that partying with Nazis and having others join them in doing so wasn’t worth the money, and we can all be glad for that.

As for the organizers of Steelfest, they’ve put up their own, much longer, and honestly even worse statement. To summarize, they complain that multiple agencies have contacted Steelfest to ask them to cancel some bands for being problematic (which is funny, did they ever get asked this when Goatmoon showed up in 2014?), and have declared that they will not let any agencies decide what bands should be cancelled. They claim that they reject any political movements and racist ideologies that want to use metal as an expression of their movement, which is just bullshit since they’re fine with NSBM bands being there and have been for years, NSBM being a sub-genre of black metal that exists precisely to take up black metal as an expression of Nazism in exactly the way Steelfest claims to oppose, while going on to declare that they will not take sides because “all sides are equally repulsive”, which is just that classic, childish centrist horseshit that serves only to defend fascism by saying that opponents of fascism are morally equivalent to the fascists they fight.

Satanic Warmaster, for their part, have come out in support of Steelfest’s statement, and of course they would since it defends them in practice, adding yesterday that they “draw the line in front of extortionist booking agencies and external influence that has it’s roots much further than within the metal scene”. It should be worth noting that last month they also shared a post from Werewolf Records complaining about a “new obviously moral policy” from Metal Archives, specifically their apparent decision to label Werewold Records as an NSBM label, and whining that “such moral crusades are not the responsibility of a website many consider a reliable and neutral source”. Well, the label itself is run by Werwolf, the man behind Satanic Warmaster, which as we’ve established is an NSBM band, but maybe by checking their band roster we can see why Metal Archives felt the need to do this.

Although not all of the bands there are NSBM, there are some notable NSBM bands on their roster. Besides Satanic Warmaster, and any other bands run by Werwolf, their current roster of bands includes Goatmoon, a well-known NSBM band whose lyrics frequently reference the “Aryan” race and its fantasized triumph over “subhumans” and other Nazi tropes, as well another NSBM band called Hammer, whose logo features a swastika and whose only full-length album is literally called “Shoax” (a reference to the Holocaust, or Shoah, and the belief that it never happened). There’s also White Death and Ymir who, while they aren’t overtly NSBM, do have songs that talk about “Aryans” and “the race of wolves”. Their past roster also includes bands like Aryan Blood, who definitely wear their NSBM convictions on their sleeves, Wodulf, a Greek NSBM band who also appeared at the Asgardsrei Festival (basically an NSBM festival) in 2019, Vothana, an American NSBM band run by a guy from Vietnam, Eisenwinter, a Swiss NSBM band who are about as brazen as Aryan Blood are, Evil, a Brazilian NSBM band not to be confused with the much cooler Japanese black/thrash metal band of the same name, Forest, a Russian NSBM band, Mastema, a French black metal band whose songs have such titles as “Killer of ZOG”, “Death to Z.O.G.”, and “Auschwitz”, Satans Sign of War, a German black metal band whose self-titled album contains several Nazi songs, and Hunok, a Hungarian black metal and dark ambient band that seems to have Nazi leanings. So, with this in mind, I’d say that it is definitely not inaccurate to refer to Werewolf Records as an NSBM label.

By the way, if you look at Satanic Warmaster’s album “Nachzehrer”, released in 2010, you will find that Michael W. Ford, the famous Luciferian Satanist occultist who founded the Greater Church of Lucifer, wrote lyrics for the track “Utug-Hul” under the alias Akhtya Nachttoter. So Michael W. Ford, who swears that he left the Order of Nine Angles because it was too fascist for him, seems to have had no problems working with someone who makes Nazi black metal. Just take that in so as to have no illusions about where Ford stands on fascism and Nazism.

But anyways, how do we deal with all this? There’s always talk of political correctness whenever we have to discuss fascism in metal, mostly from people who, as always, are motivated primarily by consumption. You saw it in the people who defended Phil Anselmo’s drunken white power salute and attacked Rob Flynn from Machine Head for calling him out. Black metal, though, is a very strange case. There are a lot of grey areas that result from the fact that even non-NSBM bands sometimes tend to sneak some fascistic or racist leanings in somewhere (I can think of such examples as Baptism, Impaled Nazarene, and Carpathian Forest for instance, funny enough two of those bands are from Finland), or just have musicians who are kind of fascist in some way even if it doesn’t reflect in their music. Of course, another part of it can stem from the fact that, for many, it can just be an edgy teenager phase, like when Darkthrone released. On the other hand, there are also some seriously committed fascists in the scene as well. Burzum are especially problematic in this regard in that they are still sort of celebrated today even though released plenty of stuff with Nazi imagery in the past and the man behind Burzum, Varg Vikernes, is essentially a prolific racist both past and present.

As an unrepentant black metal fan, consumer, and connoissuer, and as someone whose spent time in rather disturbing or just really edgy corners of the internet, I can attest to what it’s like to walk on the edge and carefully, or sometimes not so carefully, parse through boundaries with just good edgy fun on one side and morally reprehensible ideology on the other. Appreciating black metal as someone who isn’t a far-righter or a fascist or a Nazi can mean being very careful with your black metal to sort between who is and isn’t a Nazi, not just so you don’t wind up banging your head to Nazis but also so you don’t end up giving Nazis any money. I think dealing with the minions of the Order of Nine Angles within the Left Hand Path should give you a very good lesson as to how important that is, and since the O9A can sometimes have its claws in black metal bands too you need to be even more careful, especially knowing what Kevin Bolton’s been up to during the 1990s. One either enjoys black metal indiscriminately, which is fairly impossible without being willing to co-sign all sorts of immoral or just sloppy bullshit, or one enjoys it diligently. It’s what allows to enjoy some very edgy and even somewhat problematic material, whilst also avoiding the defence of open bigotry as a form of artistic expression.

The political correctness angle is worth returning to for multiple reaons. Obviously when Steelfest invokes it, it’s opportunistic radical centrist bullshit when considering that the line is being used to defend avowed Nazis like Satanic Warmaster, but it’s also true that black metal is, in certain ways, definitely a very “politically incorrect” genre, not in the sense that it’s all whiny right-wing bullshit (although I am looking squarely at certain bands for being precisely this) but because it prides itself on disturbing the boundaries of sensibility and good taste, which is definitely where many grey areas come in. When it comes to black metal bands, as long as they’re not avowedly fascist or Nazis, I definitely think there’s room for Amber A’Lee Frost’s idea that even reactionaries can make good entertainment or art, so long as that’s all it is. You can’t appreciate black metal if your only criteria for appreciating it is that it reflects progressive values or something to that effect, because black metal is definitely not for people who like to marinate in feelings of hope and goodness (mostly because black metal takes pleasure in disrupting those things), or who can’t derive those things from the visceral darkness it speaks to (and I understand that, for most people, that’s very difficult).

The term political correctness has been taken up by the right-wing as essentially a catch-all term for any and all progressive or left-wing political tendencies, but in its strictest sense it just means the insistence on rigid conformity to political orthodoxy, and in the original left-wing usage of the term, political correctness was a way of designating dogmatic adherence to the line put forward by the Communist Party in Russia or other Communist Parties and setting that line above independent thought and socialist principles. Before the late 1980s, the term was frequently used by libertarian socialists and feminists to mock authoritarianism and, for them, being politically incorrect meant insisting on unbridled freedom of expression, particularly sexual expression, and defying the party lines of authoritarian socialists. In a vague sense, the right-wing recuperation of this term does carry echoes of that meaning as well, but for them this meant that the otherwise powerless left was in fact the ideological orthodoxy of the day and that defending the powerful and systems of power constituted the real political incorrectness. Such an absurd reversal of roles has allowed “political incorrectness” to serve as a softballing or excusing of fascism as a kind of rebellion simply because it upsets most people, when in reality fascism always imposes a political correctness of its own when put into power, and psychologically fascists and hard-rightists end up being slaves to their own political correctness and become thin-skinned, because tyrannical orthodoxy and reactionary hostility to difference is the function of authoritarianism in all its forms and particularly within the right.

Here’s what I’m trying to get at. If the idea is that you have to make it so that every black metal band on scene has to be left-wing some way, then, yeah, that would be a form of political correctness in the loose sense at least. But, from my perspective, what is expected of Steelfest is not a form of political correctness, or at least that is not what I expect. I don’t expect Steelfest to cancel every band with vaguely right-wing members in it. I only expect them not to support open, self-described, confirmed Nazis, and especially not people who try to lie to everyone and say they’re not Nazis while still giving Nazi salutes (as is the case for Goatmoon at least), releasing white supremacist material to this day (as is the case for Graveland), and performing at Nazi music festivals (as is still the case for Nokturnal Mortum and Goatmoon). If the Nazis want to play, they should do it on their own, go and fuck off to Asgardsrei or wherever they can congregate by themselves while leaving the rest of us alone. Meanwhile everyone else should really stop giving them support, and stop making excuses for Steelfest and other festivals giving a safe space for Nazis, because that is de facto Nazi apologia.