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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rhyd then claims the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Towards the end of his article he says this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too much comfort and abstraction will kill you

I know this post is rather spontaneous, and I don’t plan on writing about the Gods and Radicals stuff for too long, or at least unless something major happens, but it seems that Rhyd Wildermuth’s article about anarchism just yesterday received a response on that very same website written by Christopher Scott Thompson, an anarchist and contributing author. The article, titled “We Are What We Always Were: A Response To “What Happened To Anarchism”“, is a sincere challenge to Wildermuth’s arguments against anarchist anti-fascism and I find that it put some real, heartfelt perspective to what Wildermuth strives to complain about, as well exposing his lies.

But, the article itself is not the main subject of this post, though the perspective it provides is a big part of what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is some reflections and perspective that was inspired by Thompson’s response.

Probably the most important point to consider from the article is about conflict, more specifically Thompson’s response to Rhyd’s points about the tactics used by anti-fascists. In response to Rhyd’s point about how it was ironic that anarchist websites got banned from Patreon and Facebook after Antifa groups “led the call” for far-right groups getting banned, Thompson argued, pretty convincingly, that even their own groups getting censored was, while bad for them, worth the risk to take out the far-right. His point was that a tactic in itself doesn’t become bad just because it can be turned against you, because the same applies for every tactic, in that there is no tactic that isn’t in some ways a double-edged sword. According to Thompson, everyone knew that this would happen, and accepted the risk on the grounds that it was worth taking the hit if it meant preventing harm being done. While I tend to be skeptical of deplatforming and definitely opposed to censorship on principle, when it comes to doxxing fascists who are about to do violence on others and bully others into committing suicide, it almost seems like there’s no reason to oppose that. I mean it’s just as Thompson says, which is more ethical? Is it more ethical to let fascists on 8chan “troll storm” Sophie Labelle into committing suicide because they didn’t like the fact that a trans person was creating comics that offended them, or is it more ethical to stop those fascists from doing that? If Thompson is right, the 8chan fascists seemed to stop harassing Sophie Labelle only after anti-fascists doxxed the people involved. I can’t help but think back to what happened to Near, the emulator developer who was bullied into suicide because they were trans and autistic, and wonder if perhaps the people at KiwiFarms might have backed off if they had the feeling that, perhaps, they would face the consequences of what they were doing? Would Near still be alive?

The perspective that Thompson offers is like a lightning bolt, it thrusts something important, but often forgotten, to the center of consciousness. From the perspective of Thompson, and the active, on-the-ground anti-fascist movement of which he is a part, it’s all about conflict, because theirs is a struggle in a real and visceral sense, one that is violent in nature in response to violence against the marginalized. For liberals, conservatives, vulgar libertarians (as opposed to radical, socialist ones), and apparently for people like Rhyd Wildermuth too, this is all just a conversation of ideas and opinions that can be hashed out intellectually. That’s in stark contrast to the anti-fascists fighting on the streets: for them, this is war.

Struggle, conflict, war, these are things that are lost to people who live in comfort and abstraction. Rhyd Wildermuth lives in the Ardennes, far away from anything happening in the United States that was once his home. Angie, his friend, is a middle class online socialite from London. Her friend, Aimee Terese is the rich daughter of a Lebanese capitalist living all the way in Australia, all the while doing nothing but incoherently rambling about the politics of a land whose people she has no real connection to. There’s all sorts of people who live, if not in comfort, then certainly in isolation from the struggle that persists at the center of the present. But if you live in relative security, comfort, alienation from struggle, it’s easy to think what you do about people who actually live in struggle and conflict, and make it their business to claw their way out rather than try to talk their way out of everything forever. And sometimes, just as is the case for the bourgeoisie, if you have comfort you’ll stoop to anything to protect it, even becoming a grotesque reactionary. I once met a guy who lived in the happiest country in the world and for him everything was about how to win debates and resolve the issues of “wokeness” to make socialism electable. The last time I saw him, he had fully embraced white nationalism. That’s what becomes of these people, because the truth is, if they’re not trying to hold on to their pre-existing biases, they have no skin in the game, and have no respect for those who do have skin in the game. Besides, all they like to do is get offended about everything and then complain about their rivals supposedly being like that. That is weakness.

Here’s something important to take away, consider it a lesson in life: never allow your struggle to be reduced to an intellectual quandary. If you do, then you’ll spend too much time trying to figure out how to solve the quandary, but all that means in practice is creating a set of rationalisations to justify yourself to others in a way that you hope your enemies will be satisfied with. They won’t be satisfied, because they never are, because that was never the point for them. Their real goal has never been to achieve resolution through reason, but instead to dominate you, gaslight you, and create insurmountable obstacles for your goals that can only be overcome on their terms, and while you never win they sit comfortably knowing that their victory is forever assured. Meanwhile the war, if it hasn’t already been ceded through intellectual compromise, is still going on all around you and your friends are dying or being brutalized, and figuring out how to rationalize yourself intellectually has solved nothing.

What has the working class ever gained by arguing that they have the right to equitable and humane living conditions, instead of fighting for those very conditions? What would Stonewall have ever gotten for the LGBT community if not for the riots of 1969? People talk about the American Founding Fathers to use them as a stamp of authority on behalf of their own positions, often for conservative goals, but you would never be able to do that if they didn’t wage revolutionary war against the British crown. Why do trans people have to debate their existence and their rights and endure the suffering of marginalization while their enemies get all the social protection and every benefit of the doubt?

Never forget what Heraclitus said, “war is common, strife is justice, and all things happen according to strife and necessity”. Struggle is real, it animates the transformation of things and of society, because Nature consists of cyclical growth and change, and therefore transformation. Life strives, therefore it fights. Therefore, the world turns. Change, justice, power, emancipation, these grow out of the barrel of a gun or the clash of a blade, or the smash of a brick, or the light of a flame. That’s also the only reason capitalism exists: it won the battle of the brutal transformation of the social order – that is what Marxists call the dialectic of history, and, I assure you, I’m convinced lately that the implications of dialectical transformation contain a grain of brutality to them. It’s also the only reason that losers get to evangelize about the greatness of civilization and progress, because they live off the fat of historic victory, turning that victory into the law of the land, and are eager to avoid losing their place.

Remember the struggle that matters, matters to you, because that knowledge at least might as well be sacred. If you lose it, you lose yourself.

Life Is A Struggle by Gustav Klimt (1903)

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