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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi there,

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

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

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

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

Thanks for your email.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Media coverage of Joshua Caleb Sutter

While checking in on the Joshua Caleb Sutter story I noticed something peculiar. It seems that mainstream media outlets have proven just a little late to the party, having only started reporting on the story days after Ali Winston broke the original story in a Twitter thread on August 21st, ten days ago.

For a quick recap: recent court documents have all but revealed that Joshua Caleb Sutter, the founder of Tempel ov Blood and otherwise prolific white supremacist, was paid tens if not hundreds of dollars by the FBI to give them insider information on neo-Nazi organizations like the Atomwaffen Division. He was arrested in 2003 on charges of illegal ownership of firearms before being picked up as an informant on their payroll. You can read more about it here.

As of this writing there are three news articles covering this story. Vice was the first outlet to run the story, their article was published on August 25th, the New York Post published their article on August 26th, and lastly the Jerusalem Post published their article on August 28th. All of the articles cite Ali Winston’s thread containing the official court documents as their main source – in fact, the New York Post article also cites the Vice article as a source – and they all cover the basic facts of the Sutter revelations, but what has me wondering is that even the first of these articles is four days apart from Winston’s thread.

The revelation that the US government has been paying a prolific white supremacist and neo-Nazi as an informant is surely a shocking one at least for many and its rammifications are disturbing for the US intelligence agencies. As I’ve discussed previously, it means that FBI money, which I might add comes from taxation from the public, has been going towards Martinet Press, who publishes Tempel ov Blood’s books as well as other works of esoteric fascism, and probably Sutter’s other adventures such as the Rural People’s Party, a party that advocates for Juche ideology, idolizes the Kim dynasty, and openly supports the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. That should be far more widespread than it is. The fact that only three outlets have picked it up seems a little strange.

For some reason I feel reminded of how nobody found out about Michael Aquino’s death until right-wing websites like Heavy.com covered it, and even then they only found out about three weeks after Satanists had already discovered that Aquino had died. I covered the story of Michael Aquino’s death on June 29th last year after picking it up from Satanists well in advance of QAnon and their coteries ever discovering it. But then at least you could say somebody from Vice thought to cover the Sutter story within a matter of days. I can only assume that there are schedules involved regarding what stories are published when, but then you’d think that Nazis getting paid by the FBI would be a priority scoop.

Of course, perhaps we should be charitable with Vice considering that recently it seems that any attempt to seriously cover the infiltration of the US military by neo-Nazis can be slandered as distasteful and even dismissed as conspiratorial by reactionary elements of the public and the US establishment. Funny how the populists and neocons of the right all team up to protect fascists. I would say I wonder how the right-wing is processing the Sutter story in light of this context, but then I think I can intuit that they probably hadn’t even considered it at all.

Joshua Caleb Sutter and Martinet Press are FBI assets

You probably remember Tempel ov Blood, the extremist wing of the Order of Nine Angles which itself is already a violent neo-Nazi organization. A few weeks ago I talked about them in relation to E. A. Koetting’s possible involvement, as part of broader and ongoing conversation about E. A. Koetting and Become A Living God and their possible role in spawning far-right terrorism. Now it seems there’s another new development, this time concerning Tempel ov Blood’s founder, Joshua Caleb Sutter. You may remember him too. He was the guy that the DPRK hired to be one of their American spokespersons, and he was also a prominent white supremacist, member and sometimes leader of several white supremacist Christian groups such as Aryan Nations (for whom he served as their “minister for Islamic liasions”), who tried to form alliances between white supremacists and Islamic extremists after the 9/11 attacks, and then he spent some time as a Hindu priest before eventually entering the Order of Nine Angles. It turns out that the DPRK wasn’t the only power who made use of his services.

It has recently come to light that Joshua Caleb Sutter may have been on the payroll of the Federal Investigation Bureau, one of America’s primary intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies. A recent motion filed by Kaleb Cole, a leader of the Atomwaffen Division, to suppress evidence that was found during a search warrant of his house in Texas has yielded some indication that Sutter was an FBI informant. The motion mentions an informant referred to as “CI”, who is described as a convicted felon who owns a publishing company that distributes white supremacist writings. “CI” apparently served as an informant in the warrant against Cole, and according to the government he had worked for the FBI since 2003, for which he was apparently paid upwards of $140,000. Since February 7th 2018, he was apparently paid $78,133.20, as well as an expense advance of $4,378.60. “CI” is said to have begun his career as an FBI informant after being arrested for possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number and an unregistered silencer, his services as an informant having been offered by Sutter and accepted by the FBI in exchange for a consideration of his sentence. The motion to suppress evidence is based at least part on the assertion that “CI” is not a reliable source, presumably because of him being an FBI informant.

The motion does not mention Joshua Caleb Sutter by name anywhere, but there are several facts we can point to that establish Joshua Caleb Sutter as the likely identity of “CI”. “CI” is said to have begun working for the FBI in 2003, and that his career began after he was convicted of illegal possession of a firearm. In February 2003, Joshua Caleb Sutter was arrested and convicted for knowingly possesing a firearm with an obliterated serial number and an unregistered silencer. It’s mentioned that “CI” owns a publishing company that distributes white supremacist writings. Joshua Caleb Sutter and his wife run Martinet Press, an “antinomian” publisher known for releasing material from Tempel ov Blood, including Liber 333 and Iron Gates. There is also a peculiar case where, in 2016, a man named William A. White wrote to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to request records on Joshua Caleb Sutter after learning of his arrest. White alleged that Sutter spent 22 months in prison following his arrest in 2003 and then became a deep cover informant for an unlawful FBI-JTTF counter-intelligence program and, as part of this, stole White’s identity and engaged in various other illegal activities. Sutter has also been suspected of being a “government snitch” in the past. In 2005, Morris Gullett, a pastor for Aryan Nations, accused Sutter of being exactly that, belieivng Sutter to be responsible for his arrest as well as that of Charles Thornton for conspiracy to commit bank robbery.

So, based on the information available to us, Joshua Caleb Sutter is very likely, if not undoubtedly, the identity of the “CI” referred to in the motion filing. This would mean that Joshua Caleb Sutter is an FBI informant, has been working for the FBI since 2003, and was paid tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars for his work. This would also mean that the FBI propped up Martinent Press, which we should keep in mind was founded in 2014, 11 years after Sutter is to have become an informant for the FBI. The money he made working for the FBI would no doubt have financed the operation of Martinet Press and allowed them to distribute all kinds of Nazi Satanist literature. Considering that Martinet Press is operated by Sutter and his wife during his career as an informant, Martinet Press could be seen as an FBI asset, at least in the sense that it is being operated by an FBI informant, which would mean in turn that the FBI is helping to distribute white supremacist Nazi Satanist literature, thereby contributing to countless people falling into the deepest and most extreme corners of fascism.

But should we be surprised? The Wolverine Watchmen, a group of far-right extremists who plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, apparently had about a dozen informants in its ranks, who under the direction of the FBI were heavily involved in the kidnapping attempt from the beginning and worked to advance the plot. The leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, was an FBI informant and long-time undercover operative who worked for investigators after being arrested in 2012, not unlike Sutter apparently becoming an informant after his own arrest in 2003, and Tarrio has claimed that over the years he has informed police about planned Proud Boys rallies. The United States government has aided neo-Nazi groups such as the Azov Battalion, a Ukranian neo-Nazi militia that has been incorporated into the country’s national guard, sending them millions of dollars worth of weapons and aid in order for them to serve as proxies against Russia, and whose personnel were even trained by the US military. The FBI has also protected Nazis in the past. In the 1980s and 1990s, the FBI sought to protect the Romanian right-wing propagandist Ferenc Koreh, who spent World War II calling for the persecution of Jews and then went on to work for Radio Free Europe, from investigations by the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) on the grounds that the case against him was supposedly forged by the Romanian “communist” intelligence agencies, despite Koreh admitting to much of his past. J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI for nearly 50 years, personally blocked investigations of former Nazis working as informants on similar grounds; he thought they were victims of a forging operation by the KGB. And, as far as clerical fascists go, for all the complaints directed at the ending of US occupation of Afghanistan, we should note that it was the US whose training and funding of the Mujahideen in order to overthrow the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and fight its Soviet backers that gave rise to the Taliban who took over Afghanistan and now control it once again.

What do we take from all of this? Those in the Left Hand Path community should cultivate an intense distrust of US intelligence agencies on principle, on the grounds that we know that US intelligence has a habit of protecting and hiring Nazis for their own purposes – a fact that should not be lost on us just because the FBI seems to be publicly emphasizing the threat posed by white supremacists in recent years. In fact, when we consider the history of US intelligence agencies regarding fascism, this is just the pot calling the kettle black. The political left too should heed this basic lesson in mind. Of course, we shouldn’t need to emphasize this too much within the left, since the radical left is already well-attuned to the shady nature of US intelligence, but from what I can see it seems that there are some “leftists” who still haven’t taken that lesson to heart. In any case, we should consider Martinet Press as a vehicle for transmitting violent white supremacist fascism on the payroll of the FBI, and that US intelligence agencies are complicit in the spread and protection of fascism. Whether it’s the Left Hand Path or the left-wing, we should all take that information to heart as the basis for skepticism of US intelligence – not that we should need such a lesson, considering the last 20 years of them pulling the wool over our eyes on Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Esoteric Nazism of the Gnostic Church of Christ-Lucifer

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

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

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

Anyways, on their About page we get this description:

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

Our probably bad Google translation gives us the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need to talk about E. A. Koetting (and also Michael W. Ford)

I imagine E. A. Koetting doesn’t need much introduction for anyone who’s ever been involved with or followed the Left Hand Path in any sense. Koetting (whose real name is Matthew Joseph Lawrence) is sort of infamous for his “Become a Living God” brand and his line of books on occult Satanism, and his name is well-known enough to show up in many familiar Left Hand Path occult spaces. But despite his relative popularity, I never liked him or took him seriously. I mean, as titillating as YouTube videos about love spells or sex magick with bondage thumbnails on them must seem, especially now that I’m unfortunately single again, I have never taken any interest in his books, videos, or his web forum. In fact, when I looked him up in the past, it did not take long for me to see that he was in no way the “living god” that he liked to position himself as or that he offered to help you become, due mainly to the arrest of both himself and his wife in 2014 for abusing mephamphetine and illegal gun ownership. It certainly strikes me that a “living god” in the sense implied by guys like Koetting would not face serious problems with narcotic addiction or the authorities, and that’s not because of them being good little boys either just so we’re clear on that. His weird thing for meth still hasn’t gone away, at least judging by his apparent claims that methampethamines are some kind of entheogen in his recent book Herbarium Diabolicum.

Truth be known, even though he is relatively popular in the left hand path scene, E. A. Koetting is actually fairly notorious in occult communities, where there are many occultists who despise Koetting and see him as a scam artist and a phony. Despite all of that, however, Koetting has maintained a certain status as a successful occult author in the field of Satanic magic and has thus retained some currency within the broader Left Hand Path. I believe that this is a problem, and Koetting must be challenged. I have recently stumbled onto the YouTube channel of a polytheistic Hellenic pagan going by the name Aliakai. They have two videos on the subject of E. A. Koetting, and they both contain some very disturbing facts about Koetting, which I would like to share here.

Aside from a lot of seriously scammy shit that Koetting peddles, such as in one book where he unbelievably claims to have revealed a forbidden cipher from some esoteric order that nobody could solve, he seems to have been affiliated with the Order of Nine Angles, that infamous Nazi Satanist sect responsible for multiple terroristic murders, and may have drawn some influence from them. He also appears to describe “sanguinary vampirism”, as in literally draining human blood for consumption, as part of the practice of black magic, to the point of arguing that reluctant and unwilling donors are the best source for human blood and thereby power for the black magician, and that the path of the black magician involves continually practicing “sanguinary vampirism” until eventually he/she eventually moves on to feasting on “blood essence” instead. Essentially, Koetting is saying that part of his black magic belief system involves attacking and potentially murdering people to feast on their blood in order to gain more and more personal power. He even explicitly outlines a practice of constructing a ritual space specifically for human sacrifice, a “Temple” as it were, which can involve killing someone any number of ways so long as it happens within the “Temple”. He also argues that blood sacrifice is a way for the magician to destroy his old world and create his new world, and further that sacrificing animals allows the magician to confer the characteristics of that animal onto him/herself. This would mean that actual ritual murder is a part of the magical practice that Koetting advocates.

In another book, Koetting argues for indiscriminately murdering people by magical means on the grounds that the act of killing is proof of a person’s godhood by his/her separation from the food chain and sets the magician on the path to using “the power of God to reign as God reigns”, which is to say the absolute power over the lives of others according to his/her own desires. I can’t help but wonder if the irony of a Satanist, who would otherwise rightly rail against the God of the Bible, advocate for a path where the aim is to be the God of the Bible and behave in exactly the same way he does, is lost on him or not. He also writes that the black magician revels in and celebrates the killing of his victim through his magic, and gradually eliminates any feelings of remorse on the grounds that, by killing whoever he wants, he is gaining the power to challenge the gods. Thus, killing people and ridding yourself of any feelings of remorse or empathy is part of the path to becoming a god. And when you become a god, according to Koetting, you will find yourself utterly alienated from the rest of humanity, having few friends who you only see as tools ultimately and marinating in the belief (or more accuraretly delusion) that the human species could have ascended to godhood but instead chose to be “nothing”, and consequently operating under the assumption that your fellow humans’ deaths are meaningless, if anything almost excusable, on the grounds that they could have been gods if only they tried. If you told someone who isn’t a complete psychopath that this is how you think, they would see you for how monstrous, evil, and sociopathic you are, because these are monstrous, evil, and sociopathic beliefs. And for Koetting, that might just be the point, since the whole idea is to rule in the manner he thinks a god would. He also adds a weird victim complex to the whole thing by saying that black magicians often start as victims in some way or another, as if that makes Koetting’s psychopathic worldview understandable.

Here’s an apparent photo of E. A. Koetting taken from when he was arrested for drug abuse, just as a reminder that this lowlife is the dude talking to you about how to become a god.

Like Anton LaVey before him, Koetting claims to have actually murdered someone through magical means. Koetting specifically claims to have murdered his ex-girlfriend through black magic and justified it on the basis she was “slandering” his reputation by spreading false rumours about him sexually assualting her, murdering infants and leaving the dead and decapitated bodies of felines on her porch. It’s actually kind of funny to see him treat these rumours as obviously false but then say that she needs to be “silenced” because of it. You know, judging from what else he’s written in his books, even if the supposed rumours were false (I can’t actually verify even that she made rumours to start with or even who this ex-girlfriend is), you can kind of believe that Koetting would actually do stuff like this, because why not if you believe that killing innocent people and animals gives you personal power and is all part of you becoming a god, not to mention that you probably shouldn’t need to “silence” anyone if the “rumours” against you weren’t true. Think back to any case you can think of someone being secretly murdered for political reasons, and you’ll get the picture. And frankly, since I still treat my ex with whatever support, care, and honour I could muster, after everything, I find what Koetting claimed to have done to be utterly reprehensible and dishonorable, and it tells me that he probably only ever viewed his ex as an object for his whims in a way that is honestly unfathomable to me. But that ex was not the only person he claimed to have killed. He also claims to have killed another woman who he claims faked having a disability in front of him and had him do house chores for her.

On a side-note, it’s discussed in his book Ipsissimus that he was raised by Mormon parents. He apparently claimed elsewhere that his parents were Satanists and members of a Satanic cult. Very bizarre. But, more crucially, for me at least, it reminds me of yet another figure who was raised Mormon and then tried to set up a cult status within the left hand path and then went on to commit horrible crimes. It seems that both E. A. Koetting and Jacob McKelvy have a strange habit of having two completely different and conflicting backstories presented to the world, which is probably not surpising in that both of them are also brazen con artists who try to use occultism or some form of alternative spirituality (or in Jacob’s case, Christianity as well) as a means to make money from people who don’t know any better.

Perhaps most importantly, it seems that E. A. Koetting was a member of Tempel ov Blood, an offshoot of the Order of Nine Angles that is particularly devoted to vampirism as means of creating a new being capable of bringing about the “Day of Wrath”. This is the same Tempel ov Blood that published Iron Gates, that unspeakably grotesque dystopian novel which begins with a baby being killed in front of its mother and is considered required reading for its membership, and who was in the process of taking over the Atomwaffen Division, that infamous neo-Nazi militia, to the point that many neo-Nazis started abandoning Atomwaffen. Tempel ov Blood is notorious for their celebration of sexual violence, mass murder, terrorism, and racial holy war, and their leaders are white supremacists, such as Joshua Caleb Sutter who served as a propagandist for the DPRK (I’m not kidding, the DPRK literally appointed him as their PR guy) and larped as a Hindu priest before eventually joining the O9A. E. A. Koetting, for his part, wrote numerous articles for Tempel ov Blood under the alias Archaelus Baron, published through Ixaaxar Occult Literature, in which he encourages prospective members to study the “Terrorist Handbook” and take up military training in order to learn how to kill, advises that assassinations are sometimes necessary and states a preference for targeting religious figureheads, and explicitly tells people to never kill a person if they have a reason to kill them, entailing that murder is to be carried out at random, on a whim, targeting anyone, without requiring any justification at all. He also apparently went by another alias, Drill Sergeant 666, within ToB. There’s also a bit of mystery surrounding Koetting’s present relationship with Tempel ov Blood. Some occultists believe that Koetting is still a member or supporter of Tempel ov Blood and that he only publicly disavowed them while, in private, he either remained a member or is making financial contributions to the group. If that is true, then it would mean that Koetting is using his Become A Living God brand as a front to funnel money to an occult Nazi organization, which is something that should not be allowed to continue.

As if that’s not enough, Koetting’s work just might have played a role in the murder of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman at Fryent Country Park in Wembley. The murderer, Danyal Hussein (who is currently 19 years old), was a member of Koetting’s Become A Living God forum, where he says he infrequently practiced magick since 2015, briefly got into “spiritual Satanism” (whatever he means by this), believes that he is a “psychic vampire”, and says that his main challenge was summoning a demon who could help him get a girlfriend. He killed the two women as part of a supposed pact with the demon Lucifuge Rofocale that he believed would enable him to win the “Mega Millions Super Jackpot”. This pact required him to sacrifice six women every six months in order to avoid suspicion and arrest by the police. He also had a list of requests for a demon named “Queen Byleth”, who he hoped to summon in order to make some girl he knew fall madly in love with him and make himself more attractive. Hussein was arrested for the murders last year, had his home raided by the police shortly afterwards where they found evidence of his pacts, and was found guilty just last month. He was also especially vulnerable to falling under the influence of dangerous ideologies so his school referred him to a radicalization programme in 2017, and with little to no social support he struggled to socialize with others and especially with girls. It also seems that he held some kind of Nazi-esque ideology and he believed himself to be an “Aryan”. If I may comment, it doesn’t seem that Hussein was very smart, not just because of the mind-bogglingly stupid nature of thinking you can kill six women a month and avoid being caught, but also because he seemed to genuinely think that they would never identify his DNA because he refused to give a blood sample.

The actual pacts and spells found in Hussein’s house, specifically as relates to Lucifuge Rofocale, have been linked to E. A. Koetting’s book, Lucifuge: The Lord of Pacts, which is also co-authored by several other left hand path occultists, including Michael W. Ford, V. K. Jehannum, Orlee Stewart, Bill Duvendack, and more. However the book itself is prohibitively expensive, being sold on Miskatonic Books for $159, and if you go to the Become A Living God website he offers it via certain tiers with a price tag of close to $600. So Danyal Hussein must have had a hard time getting the book, if he did get his pacts and spells from that book. However, in my experience, I have found that it is possible to find some occult works as PDFs if you know where to look for them, and I have at one point been sent entire folders of works by people in the scene. That’s a very useful way to learn about any sort of occultism because actually buying lots of books on the subject is very expensive and a lot of distributors are frankly extortionate price-gougers of the highest order. If Danyal Hussein made a sort of spiritual family for himself in the BALG forum and related communities, it’s entirely possible that he may have accessed the book as a PDF or had it given to him by someone interested in helping him become a magician.

The “pact” made and signed by Danyal Hussein for Lucifuge Rofocale

On top of all that, Koetting and his cohorts apparently advocated for the use of a ritual by which the magician would communicate with the spirits of Covid-19 and “hijack” their “frequencies” (awfully New Age-sounding I notice) for the purpose of supposedly protecting yourself from the virus by “making friends” with it. Naturally, this video comes with a disclaimer in the description which stresses that it cannot replace official medical advice, not that you’ll see them say that in the video. Or maybe the whole thing is J. S. Garrett’s idea and Koetting just happens to put it on his channel and doesn’t necessarily buy it himself, which would be something but it still means he’s on record platforming this. So not only are we dealing with people who advocate for literally murdering people in service of undead gods with the aim of becoming a god yourself, we’re also dealing with people who have their own version of those dogshit evangelical Christian faith healing solutions to Covid-19 – you know, the sort of thing they concoct specifically to justify not following the guidelines and not temporarily halting in-person congregations. Truly a cut above Christian superstition and slave mentality I must say. But I suppose it’s not beyond the remit of someone who offers to turn your crush or your ex into a magic sex slave, make you fall in love yourself, create your own wealth empire out of nothing for you, defend you against any esoteric adversary, help you make a blood pact with any spirit, and other assorted woo benefits all to the tune of $1,600 for a private consultation session. I have to feel bad for anyone who didn’t see the word “SCAM” written all over Koetting’s body when they saw this shit. It’s like Koetting may as well put “holy shit they’re actually giving me money!” somewhere on his web pages and maybe someone would still fall for it. Of course, we shouldn’t forget about the fact that relying on this ritual would probably result in some people dying of Covid-19, at least because they decided to do this instead of self-isolate or get vaccinated.

So, we have a situation where Koetting, as a prominent author of Satanic occultism, is instructing people to commit murder on a whim and enjoy it in order to become a god, by which he clearly means an absolute ruler of creation, and who is quite probably connected to a Nazi organization and has definitely produced ideological and spiritual guidelines for them, under their banner. E. A Koetting is still active today, he still writes books, still makes money off of his shitty brand, he still peddles his grift about personal godhood, vampirism, and how to make a woman your love slave, and more recently, despite his possible association with fascism, he’s busy talking about “Satanic revolution against fascist slave-gods”. He also evidently still manages to hang around high-profile left hand path figures – or perhaps more accurately, they associate with him and promote his work – so he is still treated as a legitimate voice within left hand path communities or by their figureheads. His YouTube channel currently has 87,000 subscribers, his videos tend to get thousands of views each, his Facebook account boasts 128,998 followers, and his Instragram account has 3,717 followers, so he retains a very large social media presence at least. His Become A Living God forum is still active and it seems that there is a lot of activity on the forum, and the Facebook page for the website has approximately 2,500 likes. Put together, he still has some popularity to boast, and that makes him a problem, especially when you consider that people on his forum literally talk about offering people as sacrifices to gods. Not that that’s particularly surprising, though, because Koetting himself has openly advocated for human sacrifice as part of the practice of Satanic occultism.

You know, people talk about “Reverse Christians” in relation to certain people who position themselves as Satanists. You know what I mean, right? Those edgy, and often young, criminals who kill people and do vandalism, flaunt vaguely “satanic” or at least anti-Christian symbolism while doing so? These people usually have no real attachment to Satanism in a religious sense and are often just insane. But here, in the case of E. A. Koetting, I think we can see some semblance of what is clearly a somewhat conscious case of “reverse Christianity” in an actual ontological sense within the context of religious or occult Satanism. I mean there’s the obvious faith healing grift that sounds like the stuff you get from evangelicals if not New Age spirituality, but there’s also a clip in which E. A. Koetting literally talks about the End of Days being upon us, which is just a transparent invocation of the Christian eschatology and sounds rather like you’re talking to a Christian fundamentalist, but instead of this End of Days leading to God’s kingdom on earth it’s supposed to lead to “a new cycle of ascent” towards “ultimate self-godhood”. In fact, it’s probably not for nothing that he comes from a Mormon background and moved his way into Satanic occultism, since Mormons do actually believe in a certain kind of self-deification to the effect that the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints actually believes that humans can become like God. Not to mention, in his books he talks about using the power of God to reign exactly as God does (or “as the gods do”, it’s contextually interchangeable in this framework).

That’s the most stark expression of “reverse Christianity” you can think of: while opposing the God of the Bible, you strive to become the God of the Bible. This would mean that even as Koetting talks about rebellion against fascist slave-gods, the whole concept of “self-godhood” in his belief system means to become one of them. The whole thing is situated specifically in the Christian (or “Judeo-Christian”) framework, and to be honest it has me asking the question. Why, as a Satanist, knowing how bad the God of the Bible is and literally telling your audience that he hates you, would you want to become anything like him? YHWH rules with a cruelty, tyranny, and hate unmatched by pretty much any of the other gods, and he demands absolute faith and expects perfection from his followers, and if you misstep from that your reward is eternal damnation, so why would you want to actually rule and behave in the way he does? It doesn’t make sense to affirm the power of YHWH in this way while positioning him as a fascist and yourself as Satanic opponent of God’s tyranny. But I suppose this is what can happen when a person leaves Christianity behind while failing to challenge its deeper premises internally (this is part of what is called “latent Christianity“). It would be rather sad were it not for the fact that we’re dealing with a guy who cultivates a way of life centered on the total domination of everything and everyone around you by a narcissitic individual subject, and also whose record consists of getting whoever he can to kill people and animals on a whim just like the God he supposedly despises.

I mean there’s latent Christianity and then there’s basically Mormon heaven but for extreme esoteric Satanists

I’m afraid at this point I must also talk about Michael W. Ford, or more specifically one unfortunate thing he may or may not have in common with E. A. Koetting, and a little more, based on some information that has come to my attention while looking into Koetting’s involvement with Tempel ov Blood. According to some occultists at least, Michael W. Ford was also a member of Tempel ov Blood at one point, and apparently some say he claimed to have left. It’s extremely difficult to find any information about Ford’s alleged involvement with Tempel ov Blood, and Ford himself emphatically denies ever being a member or contributor, but besides an old forum where a reader of his makes this claim, we can see that ToB’s Liber 333 apparently has sections and excerpts within it that are authored by or at least to attributed to Ford both under his real name and under the aliases Michael Nachttoter and Baron von Abaddon (both of which he also used for some of his musical projects) and attributed to the late 1990s, back when he was in the Black Order of the Dragon and Tempel ov Azathoth, and it’s said that Ford introduced a guy from ToB called Fra.13 to the concept of vampirism (or “Wamphirism” as it’s also called) and provided comparison between his system of vampirism and the system utilized by ToB’s Vampyric Order. In fact, there are quite a few pages dedicated to Ford promoting his own Tempel ov Azathoth and Black Order of the Dragon as well as expounding on his own concepts of esoteric vampirism.

If you’re familiar with Ford’s work, especially his older catalogue, you probably know that Ford has a major thing for vampirism and vampyric magick, and likes to mix it in with all sorts of other esoteric ideas and belief systems. That doesn’t sound too far away from what E. A. Koetting likes to do. In fact, the two authors seem to be closely connected, and in Liber 333 Ford tends to promote ideas about cultivating an eternal magical will that survives the death of the flesh, not too dissimilar to the way Koetting talks about how the old and the worldly dies and as you progress towards “the Eternal”. Ford also talked about how the Black Order of the Dragon aims to use “sinister archetypes” to unlock “the psyche of European and Euro-decended man and woman”, which sounds very racialist and folkist, and while promoting BOotD he even advocated for culling the masses. He even talks about draining “astral lifeforce” from human “prey”, not too different from Koetting’s ideas. Michael W. Ford appears on the Become A Living God website as a collaborating author, nine of Ford’s books are published through Become A Living God, and Ford has promoted Koetting and given introductions to his work. Koetting, in turn, wrote a foreword for one of Ford’s more recent books, Apotheosis: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Luciferianism & the Left Hand Path. More relevant to the subject of Tempel ov Blood, it is well-known that Ford was a member of its parent organization, the Order of Nine Angles, and has published and written introductions for O9A works, and even though he publicly disavows the O9A, he still makes money off the O9A works he published.

It’s worth mentioning again that Ford denies ever being in Tempel ov Blood, and he claims that rumours to that effect are based on a confusion of the fact that his Black Order of the Dragon was sanctioned by Christos Beest, who apparently was his mentor at that time, from around 1993 to 1997. It must be said that it is true that Liber 333 does not refer to Ford as a member of ToB itself, and instead refers to him as a member of Black Order of the Dragon. This would in theory mean that Ford was not actually a member of ToB, but then he somehow has considerable writing within Liber 333, which means that, even if he was never a member, we can only conclude that Ford’s Black Order of the Dragon and Tempel of Azathoth were in some way affilitated or associated with Tempel ov Blood and exchanged ideas with each other, which as far as I’m concerned is no better than simply being a member of ToB. We should also note that Christos Beest (whose real name is Richard Moult) was a high-ranking member of the Order of Nine Angles since the 1980s, and is still a member to this day. Although in 2001 he claimed to have left the O9A and converted to Catholicism, Beest in reality was still in the O9A and produced documents and media promoting O9A teachings, such as his manifesto “The Dreccian Way” (in which he straightforwardly advocates for “culling”), and his Tarot deck “The Emanations Tarot” (which features artwork containing, among other things, a pale-faced woman holding the severed head of Claus von Stauffenburg and a rifle favored by the SS), and he has even admitted to retaining a friendship with David Myatt, the O9A’s founder with a well-known background in neo-Nazism. Even if we take Ford at his word that he was never a member of Tempel ov Blood, it’s honestly not a good sign to know that, per his own admittance, his mentor was a Nazi, but then it’s already known and acknowledged that Ford used to be an O9A member for a few years. He even used to peddle the idea that the O9A was really an anarchist organization instead of a Nazi one in his Book of the Witch Moon, which is actually a tactic the O9A has trotted out before and will tend to do whenever they face external scrutiny over their political ideology. In that book he even claimed that the O9A didn’t practice cullings depsite their own express word to the contrary. Book of the Witch Moon was originally published in 1999, a year after Ford is often said to have left the O9A in 1998, supposedly after he found their fascist beliefs objectionable, which is odd when you consider that he goes on to refer to the O9A as anarchists. In fact, in Apotheosis: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Luciferianism & the Left Hand Path, he still explicitly refers to the Order of Nine Angles as anarchist, and this was from a book published in 2019, after the O9A again became well-known for their Nazi shenangians.

As I said before, Ford has still published and had writings featured in O9A books long after he supposedly left the Order. One of those was Codex Saerus – Black Book of Satan I, II, III, which was published by the O9A in 2003 and its second edition (published in 2008) includes a forward by Michael W. Ford in which he praises the O9A’s Black Book of Satan as a grimoire capable of challenging stasis and order and essential to the understanding of Satanic magical tradition. Christos Beest and Anton Long are also listed as authors, and the book contains the infamous O9A “Mass of Heresy”, in which Adolf Hitler is revered as a saviour sent by “our gods” to lead the “Aryan” race, Hitlerian salutes are performed, and the phrase “Hail Hitler” is uttered. Keep in mind that all of this is from a book that the O9A advertises as a collection of “anarchist” ritual workings – just what “anarchist” rituals involve praises to Hitler and celebrations of Nazi ideology? – and this is the same book Ford praises as essential to understanding Satanic magical tradition. That’s a worrying indication of Ford’s stance on esoteric Nazism. There is also another O9A book titled Order of Nine Angles: The Sinister Collection, apparently published in 2007, and it is a compilation of writings from O9A members and associates which also has Ford’s name attached to it and contains some his work. In the same year, Ford also published an edition of yet another O9A book, NAOS: A Practical Guide to Modern Magick, originally written by Thorold West, and in the foreword that Ford wrote for this edition he appraised the book’s practices of magickal development as similar to his own system of Luciferian Witchcraft, and justifies publishing it on the grounds that he deems that it is “worth being in any esoteric library”, despite not subscribing to the ideas and methods of the O9A (a difference that is not even downplayed, merely alluded to in passing).

The Codex Saerus, Black Book of I, II, III, second edition; this book contains unambiguous praise for Adolf Hitler

Now, tell me, doesn’t something sound off to you? What we know for certain, or at least what is more or less the official story, is that Michael W. Ford joined the Order of Nine Angles in 1996 and was a member for a few years until he left the group supposedly because its fascist or neo-Nazi beliefs become too objectionable for him, which may have been at around 1998. So what was he doing defending the Order of Nine Angles, claiming them to be anarchists as opposed to Nazis, one year after he left? And if they were not Nazis or fascists, and instead were anarchists, why did Ford find the O9A’s views objectionable enough to leave? What are some of Ford’s writings doing in Tempel ov Blood’s Liber 333? And why does Ford still claim that the O9A were anarchists into the present day, even after they’ve increasingly become even more notorious for their involvement with violent Nazism? Ford has claimed that he was more of an anarchist in those days and that he was never interested in Nazism. So why are there writings from the 1990s where he talks about European racial consciousness and the need to awaken it, and why was he talking about cullings? Now, granted, that’s his teenage years and he was young, but at the same time he can’t claim that he was an anarchist back in those days when nothing of the sort is suggested in his writings except perhaps in name alone. Despite the official story that he left the O9A after a few years, he has still published O9A works under Succubus Publishing, which he owns together with his wife Hope Marie-Ford, which means that although he claims to have abandoned the O9A for being too extreme and fascist for him, he still published O9A books from his label.

Not to mention, what was it about the O9A that proved to be too extreme for Ford anyway? Supposedly he left because it was a neo-fascist group and he got sick of their neo-fascist ways, but there is no reason to assume that was a problem for him before, because there are writings from him where he talked about European racial consciousness and supported cullings like everyone else in the O9A did, and his mentor Christos Beest was a literal neo-Nazi, so I think there is cause to doubt that he was seriously bothered by the neo-fascism. Perhaps he suddenly changed his mind at the time? Unlikely, considering he published and promoted an O9A book containing a Mass devoted to Adolf Hitler as basically a classic Satanic text. Or was that change of heart and everything else was all just more misinformation, like the kind that Christos Beest manufactured when he told everyone he left the O9A while all along he was still a member? And even if Ford did decide that the O9A were neo-fascists, that doesn’t matter because he continued to claim that the O9A were anarchists even after that and to this day, which is an O9A tactic designed to obfuscate their true nature, and he still published books from the O9A, who he supposedly decided were too fascist and extreme for him to keep company with.

On those grounds we have to consider that, even if we can accept that Ford was not a member of Tempel ov Blood at any point, perhaps there is more to the story of his involvement with ToB and the O9A proper than he is willing to tell us. And the fact is that he has writings contained within ToB’s Liber 333, so even if it’s true that he wasn’t a member, his claim that he never contributed to their esoteric oeuvre is simply not true, and in fact I would go so far as to call it a blatant lie. In any case, it’s quite possible that the true extent and history Ford’s involvement with the O9A might not actually be apparent to us, and it is possible that we can’t even be sure that Ford ever even left the O9A, and even if he did leave them, he certainly never stopped supporting them.

To return to the subject of Koetting and his belief in the practice of human sacrifice to gain personal godhood, I had a thought about this as I was writing this post. Isn’t it so funny that we keep seeing people espouse insane conspiracy theories about the ruling class practicing Satanic rituals involving blood sacrifice supposedly to confer some kind of benefit from it, even though none of those people – Donald Trump, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, Prince Andrew, Bill Gates, none of them – have ever been proven to be involved with any real Satanism or occultism or anything like that, and meanwhile you have people who actually do believe in human and animal sacrifice as a way to literally become a god or gain personal power and none of them ever get put in the center of some far out conspiracy theory, whether that’s QAnon or god forbid some jokey Chapo Trap House bromides about Moloch? I don’t see why we would even need to neglect the conspiracy angle, since we know that Tempel ov Blood literally conspire to infiltrate violent groups so they can use them as vehicles through which to commit random acts of murder for sacrificial reasons as part of their plan to become gods, and that they tried to do this with the Atomwaffen Division. As strange as this must sound, there actually is a shadowy group of people who call themselves Satanists and want to kill innocent people at random specifically for magical and sacrificial reasons, and they even cover themselves up by wrapping their movement in a shroud of conflicting information, but they’re not part of the ruling elite (though they certainly believe that they are some kind of esoteric elite) and don’t represent all of Satanism, and while I’m sure the far-right and the QAnon crowd despise them and would react with disgust if you told them about their activities (as I’m sure almost anyone would), you won’t see people talk about Tempel ov Blood conspiracies ad infinitum. In fact, a lot of the discussion I see about Tempel ov Blood activity comes from anti-fascist activists trying to curb the influence of their parent organization, the Order of Nine Angles, though you will also find it in news reports. The simple truth is that the Satanic Ritual Abuse quacks have always cared more about the invented and fantastical Satanic murder and abuse conspiracies they cooked up in their often drug-addled brains than any actual real-world organizations plotting widespread human sacrifice, or for that matter any actual widespread cases of child sex trafficking. That’s part of why absurd stories involving the Clintons, John Podesta, and basically every Democrat operative matter more to right-wing QAnon nutbags than anything the Order of Nine Angles and its offshoots do in the real world.

Screenshot taken from The Quietus, probably originally from a chan forum. This is the real Satanic conspiracy, not the QAnon or SRA bullshit.

In conclusion, to follow the same spirit as Aliakai, I’d stress that the problem isn’t Satanism, or the left hand path, or occultism or even demon worship. In fact, I don’t take the side of neopagans who insist that venerating the dark side of life is the exclusive by-product of Christianity, and I’ll definitely hang out with pagans who like to venerate “demons” in what is still a non-Christian context. The problem, to be quite specific, is E. A. Koetting, and the network of influence that he has created. Not only is Koetting a notorious con artist known for his dumb videos and equally dumb takes in his books, he also uses his books to advocate for a spiritual practice that is completely sociopathic and dangerous in that it encourages people who are serious about becoming gods to kill whoever they please, and his sphere of influence proved to be a space which cultivates the murderous desires of at least some of its inhabitants, and he himself likely has his fingers in the pie of esoteric fascism. Where Ford may be involved is that he too had his fingers in the same pie, and he and Koetting promote each other and are also part of the same network of influence within the left hand path, and although both may publicly denounced the O9A, it is suspected by at least some that there is more to such ostensible renunication than meets the eye, since those within the O9A who have ostensibly left are sometimes found to actually still be part of the O9A and fulfilling what are called “insight roles”. That means that both Koetting and Ford are part of what I can only describe as an esoteric conspiracy aimed at killing people as sacrifices in order to gain the power to become gods and bring their desired Aeon and their “Dark Gods” for the purpose of destroying democracy and replacing it with a kind of Nazi Satanist empire.

But does all of this mean anything for the left hand path as a whole? Well, for one thing, it means that the network shared by E. A. Koetting and Michael W. Ford has to be avoided like a plague, it must lose the influence and status that it has in the more popular representations of the left hand path. One thing you can do to ensure this is to stay away from Become A Living God and avoid giving E. A. Koetting any money, though that’s not exactly a big ask for most people, stop buying Ford’s books or anything from Luciferian Apotheca, and stay away from any of Ford’s projects, and unfortunately that includes the slowly growing Global United Nightside Movement and the Assembly of Light Bearers. You don’t know that these people aren’t still involved with the O9A, and so you don’t know that any money going to these people isn’t going towards the O9A or anything adjacent to it. In fact, in the case of Koetting you can at least assume that he’s going to spend your money on his drug habit. It’s pretty fucking painful for me to say because even though I like to think I’ve outgrown Ford in a number of ways, I have still had to credit his work with the course of my spiritual development insofar as the guidance of a dialectic between left-hand path-aligned spiritual content and latent paganism has been central to what I believe is my destiny. The thought that a guy like that may have turned out to be with O9A or ToB all along, thus playing a role in a large-scale conspiracy of sacrificial murder, and that he might not be telling the whole truth as to whether he’s still with them (or even was with them at all) is horrifying, but unfortunately that’s just how it is, and so in order to curb all of that, I have to tell everyone and myself that Ford can’t be dealt with or trusted anymore.

The other important rammification for the left hand path, I feel, is that it must find a way to redefine itself away from the kind of framework that is imposed upon it in modernity through a dynamic created by colonialist Christian culture and its esoteric manifestations. Simply put, we should surpass and retire the idea that the left hand path is what denotes spiritual egoism vs the right hand path emphasis on the Other. I find this especially pertinent because even left hand path belief systems ultimately have some kind of Other within them despite claims to the contrary (Koetting, for instance, talks about the Eternal). The Social Darwinism that is core to the baseline of Satanism is built to some extent on a form of egoism, and so long as Social Darwinism retains its place, fascism and its inherent violence are destined to be drawn to it, because they are aligned and not to mention joined at the hip (we should point out that Anton LaVey’s many friends and the Church of Satan membership have often consisted of fascists). But the left hand path has always meant more than this. Before the arrival of Satanism, even within the context of Tantric Hinduism, it has generally encapsulated transgression and the embrace of the flesh as a means of accessing the Sacred, or ultimate unity with God in the context of Hindu doctrine. I plan to delve into the subject of the meaning of the left hand path in a separate post, but I would again mention the way the Pagans at Gods and Radicals talk about the right and left of the Sacred, drawing from 20th sociology in the process.

The right aspect of the Sacred is concerned with purity, order, and the boundaries placed between Man and the Sacred. This is what corresponds to the Right Hand Path, which in the Tantric context of Dakshinachara is defined by the observance of ritual purity and taboos. The left aspect of the Sacred, by contrast, is concerned with transgression, not simply social transgression but also transgression of the boundaries between Man and the Sacred. This is what corresponds to the Left Hand Path, which in the context of Vamachara is defined often by the transgression of ritual purity and taboos. Rhyd Wildermuth makes the point that, in animistic cultures, rituals were performed in order to ensure the spirits and/or gods of their culture stayed within their respective world rather than enter the human world. Under such a framework, the goal of the Left Hand Path would be not to solidify some fallacious notion of a transcedent isolate intelligence as the sovereign ruler of the world, but instead it would elevate individual freedom, spiritual independence, the embrace of the “dark side”, and transgression of the boundaries between Man and the Sacred as part of a way to bring the individual self together with the Other, to elicit communion with the Sacred, with nature, with the unconscious, with experience of whatever might be called “divinity”, and thus leading humans to be whole and united with the sacred nature of life, rather than purify themselves to meet the absurdity of transcendence. Thus, instead of the modern left hand path’s emphasis on atomic individualism, and occasionally fascistic terror, as a way to cut off all bonds the individual has with the world and, in its own way, set out a kind of negative transcendence, this left hand path would seek to produce a holistic (while of course liberated) individual by marinating it in the mulitplicity of a terrific, numinous, darksome Sacred that connects said individual to the world instead of severing them from it.

I can’t stress enough how stupid all of this fascist and Aryanist bile being brooked in corners of the left hand path is. The Satanic esoteric fascists believe that they are manifesting a left hand of the sacred, when, if you think about it, even in the context of manifesting their willpower, what they manifest is absolutely fundamental in the context of a right-hand understanding of the sacred. The whole point of folkish faith, for instance, is to establish strict boundaries between the Sacred and humanity, to limit the way that humans and the Sacred can interact with each other, in this case through racial hierarchy (I’ll post Ocean Keltoi’s video on Folkism at the end to help illustrate what I mean). A left-hand understanding of the Sacred, on the other hand, invites us to transgress those boundaries, so that Man and the Sacred are ever directly linked to each other, perhaps even to the point that they come together as one. Rather than impose limits on the presence of the Sacred in the world of Man, it calls for the Sacred to pour, nay flood, into said world. Ethnic borders between Man and the Sacred tightly control Man’s interaction with the Sacred in the most absurd way possible. But then I suppose that even the right and the left hand paths are not totally adequate to explain some of these types, since, for all I know, all of it could be motivated by the desire to enact the apotheosis of some kind of racial will. For many esoteric Nazis, this entails purity and is thus an extreme expression of the right aspect of the Sacred, but for the Satanic version of this, purity is affirmed in the racial sense but also almost denied in every other sense, yet the boundary between Man and the Sacred is not transgressed, since it remains closed by ethnic boundaries due to the volkisch religiosity so often embraced by the Order of Nine Angles and its various offshoots.

Regardless, I am firmly of the belief that the left hand path cannot be defined by the kind of people whose inexorable direction is fascism, let alone murderous conspiracy in service of fascism. Historically speaking, it is not something that can be limited to something as narrow as the pursuit of the ego, and has not been so until the ascent of LaVeyan Satanism, and morally speaking, the consequences of limiting the left hand path to the frankly pathetic egoistic Social Darwinism too often pushed by what passes for Satanism is something that will only eventually lead to the destruction and emptiness of those who continue to pursue it, even if it does not ultimately lead to the deaths of innocent lives. We who aspire to the divine darkness of the left hand of the Sacred believe in our path because we see in it something beautiful and noble, and absolutely essential, that cannot be found in the delusions of transcendence and purity too often sold to the world as the one true religion. We should not allow this to be obfuscated and snuffed out, whether through the work of the evangelists of God’s “light”, or through the work of sinister and traitorous conspiracy.


Aliakai’s original expose of E. A. Koetting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GlgjYQY2oY&ab_channel=Aliakai

Aliakai’s follow-up video covering Danyal Hussein’s crime: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKqluHdCVFk&ab_channel=Aliakai

Ocean Keltoi’s deconstruction of folkism, just as a bonus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6SXC2mRS34&ab_channel=OceanKeltoi

I’ve already linked an archive of Tempel ov Blood’s Liber 333 in the text of this article, but I urge you to look at it anyway and see Michael Ford’s writings contained within it, and judge for yourself the nature of his involvement with ToB.

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

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

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

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

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

Carl Abrahamsson and Anton LaVey

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

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

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

Just one example of what I mean here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t cheer on the Bolivian coup

You have probably heard by now that Evo Morales, the recently re-elected president of Bolivia, was forced to resign just three weeks after winning the general election on October 20th, by order of the Bolivian army. As you could guess from both the title of this post and my generally left-wing and anti-imperialist position, I am thoroughly opposed to this development. But the reason I’m here to talk about the coup (and that’s what it is no matter how many liberals will tell you otherwise) is a little different from the usual theme of how the coup is discussed. I could go on about how there’s no evidence of vote rigging or other electoral fraud on the part of Morales’ side, or how the mere fact that an elected leader could be forced to resign by the military is decidedly anti-democratic in and of itself, or how all of this seems to be related to Morales’ attempts to nationalize lithium mining assets in his country, or how Morales’ supporters are effectively being violently suppressed by the Bolivian army and police as part of the opposition’s takeover of the country, or not to mention the ethnic tensions between indigenous and non-indigenous Bolivians that appear to be involved in this whole thing, or how the opposition and their supporters act in clear opposition to the will of the Bolivian people, but I believe that all of this has been covered very abundantly by left-wing voices already. What I’m here to talk about is a theme more familiar to the kind of stuff I like to talk about on this blog – namely, religion. What do I mean by this exactly? Well, you see, the new unelected interim president of Bolivia, Jeanine Anez Chavez (no relation to the late Hugo Chavez), is a fanatical Christian conservative.

To start with, her illegimitmate declaration of herself as intermin president of Bolivia involved her wielding a large Bible in her hand and raising a ridiculously oversized copy of the Four Gospels into the air. This is a very clear indication that she’ll be using the Christian religion as a way to legitimize and solidify her power, and we can guess that it may have some influence on her policies. Now, take stock of this for a moment. If you saw this in the United States or in Europe, you would think that this would be unacceptable. If you saw a hardened right-wing ideologue seize power by proclaiming himself your ruler while wielding a Bible in his hands, you would think that your country was being taken over by a clerical fascist regime. Indeed, I remember when liberals were somewhat aghast at the fact that Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony was much more religious in tone than Obama’s previous inauguration ceremony, which to them must have suggested the resurgence of an authoritarian religious right. But apparently, in the case of Bolivia, the liberals have no problem with this, or at least I’ve not seen a single one express any concerns about this whatsoever because by god she’ll be Bolivia’s second woman president and that’s more important to them. What disgusting hypocrisy.

Then there’s the way her religious fundamentalism plays into what seems to be a hatred of indigenous Bolivians. Now before we go on there’s something I have to explain. A sizeable chunk of Bolivia’s population consists of a wide variety of indigenous or native peoples collectively referred to as Indigneous Bolivians, Native Bolivians, or Ethnic Bolivians. These include the Aymara and Quechua peoples, the largest of these native groups. There’s also a religious dynamic at play here. While Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion in Bolivia, much as it is throughout Latin America, many indigenous Bolivians retain a pre-Christian belief system, frequently centering around the goddess Pachamama, a fertility goddess worshipped throughout the Andes region. This detail is now rather important for Bolivian politics because the Christian opposition has brought that goddess to the fore by publicly condemning it. Evo Morales himself has even been accused by Catholics of being a pagan who worshipped Pachamama (needless to say I have a feeling this has something to do with his indigenous background). In fact, the goddess was also associated with a bit of a scandal for the Roman Catholic Church more broadly. During this year’s Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region, Pope Francis apparently participated in a rite that involved the worshipped Pachamama, or at least he didn’t seem to object to it, leading his critics to accuse him (perhaps with some justification) of idolatry.

Anyways, Jeanine has constantly used her platform to rail against indigenous Bolivians and accuse them of being devil worshippers over their attachment to Pachamama. In April 2013, she posted a tweet which translates as “I dream of a Bolivia free of indigenous satanic rituals, the city is not for the indians send them to the high plains or to the Chaco!”. “The Chaco”, for those who may be wondering, refers to the Chaco Basin, which is a large and barren stretch of land that extends over the border to Argentina and was considered to be something of a wasteland until the discovery of oil in the region. Yeah, basically she’s telling the indigenous people that, if they don’t convert to Christianity, they don’t belong in the city and should go live in a barely hospitable wasteland. Just one of many details you won’t hear about from the throngs of pro-opposition psyop accounts (by which I mean the “Bolivians” who aren’t really Bolivians). In June of the same year she also tweeted “”What a new year Aymara people, a.k.a. Lucifer! Satan, no one can replace God!” (or perhaps it’s “What a new year Aymara or morning star! Satanic, no one replaces God.”), which is another clear attempt to link indigenous Bolivians with Satanism for some reason. That tweet has apparently been deleted, but the internet never forgets. And the thing is, this sort of sentiment appears to be tied to a certain racist sentiment against indigenous Bolivians. She in yet another now-deleted tweet once accused indigenous Bolivians of being actors because they wore shoes. In 2015 she also accused the indigenous peoples of being basically foreign rulers in a tweet that translates as “Very clear President, in Bolivia the indians lead…but from where? From Venezuela, from Cuba???”, which sounds very familiar enough to American right-wing tropes about left-wing governments from Latin American countries sending immigrants to the US in order add to the voter base of the Democratic Party. Many of these takes have been purged from Jeanine’s account in an attempt to make her seem like a clean, liberal-friendly enough voice of opposition against Morales, but to no avail. So in summary she’s not only a Christian conservative, she also seems to be racist towards indigenous Bolivians, possibly for religious reasons mind you.

What’s more, Jeanine Anez Chavez is not the only opposition figure we can talk about here. There’s also Luis Fernando Camacho, an evangelical lawyer widely identified as the leader of the opposition and who’s also been dubbed “the Bolsonaro of Bolivia” (referring of course to Jair Bolsonaro, the insane right-wing president of Brazil). Why is he called “the Bolsonaro of Bolivia” you might ask? He seems to have been part of a fascist paramilitary organization known as the Santa Cruz Youth Union, which apparently sought to form a Christian separatist nation after Evo Morales was elected (believing that his election brought the country under the spell of a “satanic indigenous mass”) and is also noted to be responsible for violent attacks on indigenous people and even assassination attempts on Evo Morales – you should also take note that its main symbol is a green equilateral cross, similar to other fascist symbols such as the cross of the Austrofascist movement. Their followers even give Nazi salutes for fuck’s sake! After Morales was deposed, Camacho and his followers burned Wiphala flags, which represented the indigenous peoples of Bolivia. Connecting all this to the theme of Christianity is Camacho’s proclamation that “Pachamama will never return to the palace” and that “Bolivia belongs to Christ”. So, yeah, these are people who want to bring about a kind of theocratic rule at the expense of the indigenous population and religious freedom. Oh and to top it all off this Christian fascist theocrat also happens to be one of the millionnaires named in the Panama Papers. So in that sense, he is Bolivia’s answer to Bolsonaro: a rich, xenophobic authoritarian who wields the banner of Christ to suppress indigenous people, non-Christians and leftists. Furthermore he’s also friends with a reactionary Croatian oligarch named Branko Marinkovic, an avid supporter of far-right movements throughout Latin America who believes that Camacho’s movement is in “a crusade for truth” and has “God on his side”, and whose family may or may not have been involved with the fascist Ustase movement.

So yes, Bolivia appears to be having its democratically elected leadership replaced by a reactionary authoritarian Christian movement powered by people who are practically or at least potentially neo-Nazis. Those who supported the coup probably thought that they were going to get a regime of liberals like Carlos Mesa, but those hopes are quickly proving to be misplaced. If you support this coup, you’re not just opposing democracy, you’re supporting the triumph of clerical fascism in the world.

An example of a wiphala flag