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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democracy versus autocracy, or oppression versus oppression?

As the possibility of war in Ukraine gradually unfolded yesterday (as of the time of this writing, Russia has now invaded and declared war with Ukraine), with Russian and Ukrainian troops gathering in the eastern Ukraine after the sham “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk were declared sovereign states by Vladimir Putin, I caught a Twitter thread from a Finnish liberal (well, I suppose he much prefers the term “leftist”) named Janne M. Korhonen, who argued that Putin’s actions in Ukraine were part of a broader plan to undermine and ultimately bring down the European Union. Korhonen’s idea of “the left”, or what “the left” should be, of course boils down to support for Nordic social democracy, which is essentially just capitalism with a human face as guided by the ideals of an ideology of progressive welfarism, and to preserve this order he feels that Finland should join with NATO in the hopes of protecting Finland from the possibility of being drawn into a war with Russia. Suffice it say, as far as “leftism” goes this certainly is fairly weak.

I will say that there are a number of valid points that Korhonen raises when he’s talking about Russian actions within Ukraine and the reasons why Finland and the Baltic states would fear any hint of Russian aggression or even expansion in Europe. However, the part of Korhonen’s thread that I wish to bring into focus is his overall narrative that what’s happening represents a struggle between “democracy” (referring to the West, of course) and autocracy (referring to competing imperialist dictatorships such as Russia and China). I find this to merely be liberal version of a phenomenon found in some corners of the left that is referred to as campism. Campism is a vulgar form of anti-imperialist analysis that frames the world as divided between, as the name suggests, two geopolitical camps; one “imperialist”, the other one “anti-imperialist”. In contemporary Marxist or even some non-Marxist socialist movements (and honestly even some nationalist and fascist circles), this means seeing the “imperialist” camp as consisting of the West, particularly the USA and NATO, and the “anti-imperialist” camp as any nation that can be seen to actively oppose the US-NATO sphere of influence, such as Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Syria. The campist approach to anti-imperialist politics typically entails uncompromising support for the latter “anti-imperialist” camp of nations, often regardless of whether said nations could even be called socialist countries or even regardless of their actual imperialist actions (such as Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Georgia, and Chechnya). But of course, the liberal has their own version of campism in practice. From the liberal standpoint, if Russia is doing imperialism, then surely NATO is the anti-imperialist party in all this, regardless of the nature of Western imperialism and the atrocities involved in its continuance, and if Russia represents autocracy and authoritarianism then the West must be the party of democratic freedom, regardless of the oppressions that plague the Western world.

It is on this note that I would highlight an important and disturbing development from the so-called “leader of the free world” that is the United States of America, or more specifically the state of Texas. On February 22nd, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that, according to the Office of the Attorney General, gender affirmation surgery constitutes “child abuse” under Texas law, and further announced that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services would be directed to investigate any reported instances of children receiving gender affirmation surgery in Texas, and investigate the parents of the children who receive them. All licensed professionals and even members of the general public are now required to report to the authorities on such surgeries, and those who refuse to report to the state will be subject to criminal penalties.

What this means is that it is illegal for trans children to undergo gender affirmation surgery in order to embody their real gender identity, since Texas law deems this to be “child abuse”, and that the parents of trans children can be arrested and investigated by the state for supporting the individuality of their children, along with any medical professionals who facilitate gender affirmation surgery. This is oppression. This is oppressing people for being trans. And it’s not like this is too big a surprise considering that the same state also implemented a law that allowed basically anyone to sue anyone for providing an abortion, thus oppressing reproductive rights through the incentives of the legal system.

Some may think “at least the US isn’t Russia!”. Maybe. Technically they’re right that the entirety of the US doesn’t work the way Russia does, and even in Texas there aren’t brutal crackdowns of LGBT protests, or at least none that I know of. But even then, such an objection misses the point. Oppression is oppression, and it does not matter what form your oppression takes. And besides, Texas is not the only US state that is oppressing trans children. In Florida, schools are permitted to carry out invasive “physical examinations” of children to make sure they aren’t trans, so as to enforce a ban on trans athletes competing in sporting events. Something similar has been proposed by Republican lawmakers in Utah, who want to ban trans students from competing in sports events and enforce that ban through a commission that would examine the bodies of children to make sure they’re eligible to compete (read: to make sure they’re not trans). And even outside the issue of LGBT rights itself, are we really going to ignore the fact that certain states are trying to ban books and make it practically illegal to protest against police brutality?

The United States of America is at this point an increasingly oppressive country. Its media can’t even acknowledge the issue of trans rights, without first pointing to how Russia banned trans people from adopting children, as though you’re supposed to be grateful that you don’t live in Russia, as if you’re not supposed to see that there is more than one oppressive country in the world. In this sense, just as pro-Russian campism obscures the real dynamics of imperialism as a global system by ignoring the way Russia engages in flat out imperialist aggression, and putting you squarely on the side of authoritarianism for as long as it means opposing the USA and NATO, so too does liberal pro-Western campism obscure or even sometimes excuse the nature of oppression as it takes place in the US and similar countries, such as the oppression of trans people that can be seen at present. Besides, the American liberal may whine that Russia is worse, but this is only because they cannot conceive the American conservative constructing a more systematic and equally brutal hierarchy of oppression than what exists in Russia. Oh, and for any British liberals who might be reading this, don’t fall asleep; Britain is much nicer to trans people than America is at the moments. You won’t see too many British conservatives gas on about the way God supposedly made you, but you will see even the Labour Party support the oppression of trans people – they’ve even tried to cover it up.

To return to Korhonen’s thread, which I used as a springboard for this much broader discussion, I will say straightforwardly that one of my disagreements with Korhonen is his belief that “violence cannot build a sustainable world”. To be frank, I think that Korhonen is simply wrong here. The entire geopolitical order of liberal-democratic that Korhonen so lauds was built and maintained through violence; whether that’s the revolutionary violence that inaugurated the age of bourgeois republics in the dawn of the Enlightenment, the war and revolutionary violence that was waged against chattel slavery in order to abolish it, the violence of the police force and system of incarceration that was created ultimately to defend the privilege of private property, the war that was waged to stop Nazism or fascism from taking over the whole world, and the conflict between the West and the so-called “communist states” that led up to the so-called “end of history”, culminating in the geopolitical order we see today. And not only is the world we live in built on some form of violence or another, so were all worlds before it, and so perhaps will whatever world succeeds this one – that may well be true for communists and anarchists, since how else is the capitalist state and the global system of imperialism to be defeated? Korhonen, thus, is wrong.

And the whole reason I raise this point is that in addition to creating new worlds, it is often necessary in order to preserve life and freedom. I have said before, not long ago, that the US left should consider being prepared for all-out war with the reactionaries that are increasingly threatening their lives. In the wake of the new Texas legislation, it is not unreasonable to see similar calls for militarization in order to resist the abject oppression being put forward. Only active resistance to oppression will lead to the triumph of liberation and the defeat of oppression. “Reform”, insofar as it still maintains the mechanisms of oppression, will still support oppression. Oppression and imperialism are global systems, and should be fought on those terms. Campism, thus, means consignment to an illusory perspective of the world, which serves only to hinder the struggle against oppression on behalf of one of the oppressors.

Janne Korhonen is thus only faintly correct in framing our situation in terms of democracy versus autocracy, if we refer specifically to Ukraine versus Russia, insofar as at least in Ukraine you could vote for Zelensky or someone else and vote out whoever’s in charge. That’s not much, but the same can’t be said for Russia. But if we’re talking about some bigger narrative of the democratic West, led by America, versus Russia, as a contestation between the principles of democratic freedom versus authoritarian autocracy, that’s just detached from reality when you look at the oppression being carried out right now. Whereas Janne Korhonen would say that the world is democracy versus autocracy, I prefer to see that the world is oppression versus oppression, and the real war worth fighting is the war against the global system of oppression.

It may seem strange to discuss both the thread, the war in Ukraine, and the mounting US oppression of trans people in the same post, but in a weird way it all kind of comes together, once we try to consider the claim that we’re dealing in the world that Korhonen would hope we do. Plus, all of this is going on at the same time, and neither can be readily ignored in favour of the other. Suffice it to say this has been an eventful timeline in more ways than we might prefer.

In closing: this should go without saying, but my solidarity goes to the oppressed trans people in the United States of America, to anyone in America who plans to fight this oppression, to the people of Ukraine escaping and fighting Russian invasion, to the Russian anti-war protesters who risk being brutally curtailed by Putin’s fascist thugs, and to the working class and anarchists in Ukraine, Russia, and Russian-controlled territories who are actively fighting imperialist war and oppresion in their lands!

The problem with liberal Christianity

Contrary to what some of us might have assumed, the Western world does not live in a “post-Christian” era. Not yet, anyway. Christianity is still the dominant religion in Western countries and composes much of the prevailing superstructure of bourgeois society in its religious aspects, as well as festering in the background of some of the more secular mythologies prevalent in the West. In the case of the United States of America, it’s not even the fact that Christianity is more “moderate” or “progressive” nowadays (such that it ever was anyway), as reactionary Christian nationalism continues to grow ever stronger, forming a key plank of the increasingly radical right which now threatens to install a fascist dictatorship in the White House via coup d’état. In addition to this, we can see that Christian creationism, far from having been consigned to the dustbin of bad ideas, is still alive and continues to enjoy a sizeable platform via well-funded propaganda outlets such as Prager “University”, and there are attempts in parts of America to ban books that are deemed “homosexual material”.

Christian hegemony is alive and well, but virulent reactionism is not the only way that Christianity tries to preserve its hegemony. Sometimes Christianity is defended by liberal and progressive or even leftist voices, both Christian and secular, who advance that all of the hallmarks of reactionary Christianity are little more than misinterpretations of the “true” Christianity, which is held to be much more progressive. Similar efforts are directed towards Islam in response to prevalent racism against Muslims, which can lead to people forgetting that Islam, in all reality, isn’t much more progressive than Christianity in many aspects. In both cases there’s often a great deal of special pleading and creative interpretations of scripture involved, and in this regard the focus of this article is Christianity.

One of the core problems with Christianity’s attempts to engage with the modern world regards the Christian attitude towards homosexuality. Christian opinion of homosexuality has been historically, and consistently, negative, and therefore homophobic. Many contemporary Christians may today be fairly tolerant and even accepting towards LGBT people, and increasingly so, but the idea of “hate the sin not the sinner” is still trafficked to this day. There are those who insist that Christianity is not actually homophobic because, among other things, Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. Stephen Colbert, a Catholic liberal, is known for popularizing this idea to liberal audiences. The first problem with this is that at face value, at least, this establishes only that Jesus had nothing to say, and consequently that Jesus cannot defend homosexuals or their human rights. The second problem with this is that Jesus made it explicitly clear that he did had no intention of overturning the law of the Old Testament or the word of its prophets, saying “I did not come to destroy them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Old Testament law is painfully clear on the subject of homosexuality, and in this regard it’s worth addressing the arguments made in defence of Biblical scripture as not inherently homophobic.

For our purposes, let’s consult the Human Rights Campaign (which, by the way, endorses anti-LGBT politicians while claiming to defend LGBT rights) for a summary of the arguments against attributing homophobia to the Bible. One argument is that the injunction in Leviticus that “man must not lie with another man” is that it “coheres with the context of a society anxious about their health, continuing family lineages, and retaining the distinctiveness of Israel as a nation”. The problems with this should be fairly obvious. For starters, this doesn’t change the explicit nature of “man must not lie with another man”, just that perhaps tells us a little something about the origins of monotheistic homophobia. Second, if the context for it is “anxiety about health”, that definitely doesn’t reduce the homophobia. Depending on what’s meant by health, all it establishes is that the ancient Israelites probably considered being gay itself to be a health risk, which is still in itself homophobic. So is the idea that being gay presents a threat to “the distinctiveness of the nation”. In other words, it’s still homophobic, and the homophobia comes with a bit of nationalistic moral panic behind it. 1 Corinthians 6:9 is explained as “more than likely about the sexual exploitation of young men by older men”. Well “men having sex with men” really says nothing about the age of the men in question. To be blunt, it could be any men in any age dynamic. Indeed, does tying homosexuality to pedophilia not service reactionary homophobia? 1 Timothy 1:10 refers quite explicitly to “those practicing homosexuality” alongside “the sexually immoral”, and it rather does stretch credulity to assume that this is only referring to some elite Greek practice of pederasty. Paul’s homophobic comments in his letter to the Romans are described as “part of a broader indictment against idolatry and excessive, self-centered lust that is driven by desire to “consume” rather than to love and to serve as outlined for Christian partnership elsewhere in the Bible”. This is still homophobic. It still means that homosexual sex, when portrayed in the Biblical context, is portrayed as a negative, more specifically as a sort of giving in to “self-centered” passions which itself is framed as a punishment from God for the crime of worshipping any gods other than God.

A lot of the argument hinges on the idea that the authors of the Bible had no idea what “sexual orientiation” in our modern use of the term was, but this is a bit like saying that tuberculosis actually didn’t exist until the 19th century simply because it wasn’t called tuberculosis until then, even though it had otherwise existed for centuries under many different names. In fact, when it comes to the issue of trans rights, the line that the authors of the Bible had “no concept of trans people” is curiously not employed, and instead it is recognized that being trans has been real and recognized in various ways for centuries. Another refrain would be that the Bible doesn’t condemn loving (presumably in the emotional or Platonic rather than physical sense) same-sex relationships, which is just nonsense. Even if the Bible says nothing about non-sexual homosexual relationships, it’s still rather clearly hostile to same-sex relationships whenever they come up, even if that’s mainly the sexual sense. But besides, why would the difference matter so much? If you’re condemning homosexual sex because it’s homosexual, and presumably not heterosexual sex in the same way, the condemnation emerges from the premise that homosexual sex “goes against nature”, which is simply homophobia. Paul is rather explicitly clear about men “abandoning natural relationships with women” in favour of “lust for one another”, and Romans 1:27 (which the Human Rights Campaign barely examines) explicitly states that men who did this would “receive the due penalty” for it, and that is exactly how the fathers of the Christian church have interpreted homosexuality; as an unnatural lust. If that was the wrong interpretation, then that just means that everyone in the early Christian movement somehow misinterpreted an otherwise LGBT-positive message supposedly inherent in the Bible, which would be interesting considering that as far as I can see none of the church fathers or even many “Gnostics” ever expressed tangible opposition to, say, John Chrysostom’s declaration that gay people were “an insult to nature”. And even if the Bible doesn’t say that essentially emotional, platonically romantic gay relationships are a sin, so what? It never affirms such relationships, and again, that’s important. If you want to be LGBT-positive, you have to affirm the validity of same-sex relationships as being valid in and of themselves, which neither Jesus nor anyone in the Bible ever does. The argument that God “wouldn’t judge” on its own just doesn’t cut it, and at any rate has little to do with the scripture upon which Christianity is necessarily based. Besides, if you want to affirm loving relationships, you have to affirm the sexuality of these relationships as well, since that is an inseparable part of it at least for many relationships.

If the best that Christianity can say for itself is that the Bible hates it when gay people have sex but not when they love each other emotionally, then that’s just the same thing as when conservative homophobes say that they only hate it when gay people “act on their desires”. If any form of love between LGBT people is endorsed, if we take the Human Rights Campaign seriously, it’s a fundamentally reified, abstract, and de-sexualized love, which is legitimated not of itself but as a representation of marriage between Christ and the Church, or as a vessel through which God’s “love” is fulfilled; LGBT love is thus, from the Christian standpoint, legitimated only insofar as Christ or God are legitimated, not because it is valid on its own, because in Christianity everything is validated only through God. Luke 15 is brought up as somehow evidence that the Christian God had already accepted LGBT people into his communion, which is hardly evident in that text. If anything, if there’s supposed to be a reference to homosexuality in there, what do you think the chance is that it’s not the “sin” referred to by the son who confessed before his father and before God. Remember also that Jesus said “go and sin no more” to a woman who was about to be stoned for supposed adultery. It seems evident that this is to be taken as a counsel to not repeat any behaviours deemed sinful, which has implications for homosexual sex which is still repeatedly regarded by the Bible and the church fathers as sinful.

Another appeal to scriptural gaps can be found in relation to the argument regarding “gender complementarity”, which conservative and homophobic Christians base in the Book of Genesis’ statement that God created a sexual or gender binary that is then used as an argument against gay marriage; in other words, the classic homophobic “it’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” canard that was once frequently trotted out by the Christian right. The counter-argument summarized by the Human Rights Campaign is that the account says nothing about gender and does not say that God only created the gender binary. That might be a point to made regarding the inclusion of trans, intersex, and non-binary people, but addresses nothing about gay marriage. Again, so? The Bible also never actually affirms the idea that gender is not a binary, and, again, that is important since you can’t build a consistent LGBT-positive worldview based on the fact you merely (or rather ostensibly) say nothing about it; especially when there’s still explicit homophobia in the mix.

And why don’t we apply this to other aspects of the Bible as well. Like, for instance, the Biblical stance on slavery. Although Christianity is often popularly associated the movement to abolish chattel slavery, the Bible not only does not oppose slavery, it actually seems to support slavery, and not only that it also seems to offer counsel on how the slaves should obey their slave-owners and how slave-owners should treat their slaves. Luke 12:47 counsels slave-owners to beat their slaves if they knowingly disobey their commands, and that slave who disobeys unwittingly is still to be beaten, just a little more mercifully. In Exodus 21:20-21, it is counselled that a slave-owner is to be punished if they beat their slaves to death, but if the slave survives the beating and recovers after a few days then the slave-owner would not be punished for it. This is a pretty clear endorsement of slavery and the abuses inflicted through it. Now we could talk about the context of the time in which it was written, which is to say a time in history where slavery was widespread and considered a matter of course even by the victims of slavery, but does this change the content of the pro-slavery verses or the fact that the Bible never challenges the system of slavery? No, it doesn’t. Likewise, what changes about the verses in which homosexual sex is expressly condemned by appealing to the context of the times, or asserting that the authors of the Bible had no concept of homosexuality in their time?

The way the issue of trans rights in the Bible is covered isn’t too much better, even though you can argue that there’s actually a better case for trans-inclusion in the Bible than for particularly enligthened attitudes towards gay people and women – which if we’re honest is kind of saying something weird. A verse apparently used by transphobes to justify their bigotry against trans people is Psalm 139:13-14, which states that God knitted the individual person together in their mothers’ womb. For the Christian transphobe this verse is taken as proof that God fixed the individual gender identity of each person before birth, thus supposedly invalidating trans identity. But in the argument given by the Human Rights Campaign, we’re told that this verse is supposed to mean that God lovingly created everyone such that every part of them was created with dignity, and that there was no textual basis for excluding gender identity. Besides the problem that some might argue that God just gave them the wrong body by, say, giving men the bodies of women thus leading them to be assigned female at birth when really they’re not (I suppose admitting that would raise serious problems for the concept of divine omniscience), and besides the other problem of what happens when children are born with terrible genetic disorders and this is to be interpreted as being “lovingly made”, it doesn’t seem all that clear that the Bible actually does affirm trans identity or the idea that gender identity itself is not a binary. The closest we come to a Biblical affirmation of trans identity is through the eunuchs. On the one hand, Deuteronomy 23:1 says that “men with crushed or severed genitals” may not enter the “assembly of the Lord”. On the other hand, Isaiah 56:4-5 seem to suggest that eunuchs who sufficiently serve God will receive a monument and name “better than sons and daughters” and a name that shall not be cut off, which seems to suggest some special place in God’s eyes. Thus we see that the Old Testament has a rather internally contradictory stance on the role of eunuchs; they can’t enter the “assembly of the Lord”, but at the same time if they serve God loyally God will give them everlasting names and monuments. That said, it is not like the practice of eunuchry is thus endorsed by the Bible, and the law of Deutoronomy is still pretty explicit against eunuchs. The difference is that, in Isaiah, God offers an abrogation of that law on the condition that the eunuchs sacrifice their own prerogatives on behalf of conscientious obedience in keeping God’s Sabbath. On a semi-related note, Deuteronomy, specifically Deutoronomy 22:5, also forbids the practice of cross-dressing. This verse is usually one of the only verses that transphobes can theoretically point to in order to justify their bigotry, and when applied to trans people problems obviously abound. It is textbook transphobic bigotry to assume that trans people are merely “dressing up” as the gender they “aspire to be”, as opposed to outwardly confirming their real inward gender identity, so there isn’t much reason to assume that cross-dressing in itself can be taken as a reference to being transgender. On the other hand, a lot hinges on whether or not the Bible actually affirms the inward gender identity of trans people, which there’s no explicity sign of anywhere in the Bible, and meanwhile the Bible contains legal condemnations of men who castrate themselves and engage in homosexual relationships with men, both of which are practices that, in a lot of the ancient world, were taken as signs of a man casting off his maleness and embracing femininity, thus crossing traditional lines of gender identity.

In Matthew 19:12, Jesus doesn’t seem to condemn eunuchs, and even referred to those who made themselves eunuchs in service of heaven. But, there’s a complication. Firstly, the context of Matthew 19 as a whole is that Jesus is talking about marriage and divorce. Jesus says in Matthew 19:4 that God created humans in male and female, citing Genesis 1:27 to that effect, which at least could conceivably be interpreted as endorsing a gender binary, and in a broader context this is meant as an argument by Jesus against divorce. Jesus argued that Moses merely permited men to divorce their wives because their hearts were hard, and that this was not originally the case, further stating that if a man divorces his wife then, unless he does it in response to “sexual immorality”, he is committing adultery. Second, where the eunuchs come in is that they are among the people who cannot be given to marriage and thus cannot “accept this word”. I shouldn’t really need to explain that being trans does not or at least should not render you incapable of matrimony, but more to the point several Biblical commentaries suggest that eunuch here, or more specifically those who make themselves eunuchs in service of heaven, is likely meant as a reference to celibacy, self-denial, and self-mortification, rather than the castration practiced by the eunuchs. Indeed, the Pulpit Commentary suggests that it cannot refer to literal “excision”, since this is apparently deemed contrary to the order of creation as established by God. Origen, who was accused by Eusebius of having castrated himself, explicitly advocated against literal interpretations of Matthew 19:12 as a counsel to actually castrate yourself. Given this, it’s very unlikely that the Biblical attitude to gender affirmation surgery would have been particularly positive, and there is certainly no express affirmation of the practice that can be pointed to anywhere in the Bible, on top of which it’s reasonable to assume based on the moral condemnation of self-castration and Augustine’s hatred of the priests of Cybele that such a practice would have been condemned as an attack on God’s order.

Through all this let’s return to the subject of Old Testament law and Jesus’ relationship with it. From the perspective of Judaism, the law of the Old Testament was the law set to the Israelites by God, as part of the covenant they made with said God, which the Israelites needed to follow in obedience to God in order to cultivate righteousness and atone for the sin that humanity inherited from Adam and Eve. Jesus was pretty clear on the point that he had no intention of overturning that law or the word of the old Hebrew prophets. That means that the law about how eunuchs wouldn’t be admitted into the assembly of God, the prohibition of homosexual sex, the prohibition of cross-dressing, the rules regarding slavery let alone the very existence of slavery, all of this Jesus had no intention of challenging or abolishing, since his stated mission was to “fulfill” the law and the prophets. So even if he said nothing about LGBT people, that doesn’t matter because he isn’t standing up for them either, since he has no intention of challenging the prohibitions that would have oppressed them.

The ultimate thing to remember is that liberal and progressive efforts to rehabilitate Christianity as a progressive force are essentially a form of Christian apologetics. Apologetics is a branch of Christian theology that exists to intellectually defend the Christian faith against objections from various sources. For the early Christian movement, this tended to mean defending the faith against criticism from polytheists as well as defense against accusations of various (often lurid) wrongdoings levelled against Christians. In a more general and traditional sense, it can mean defending Christianity by giving a theoretically rational reason to believe in God or accept the claims of Christian teaching, as well as address serious questions regarding the role that evil and suffering plays in the creation of an otherwise “benevolent” God; in this sense, theodicy (the philosophical vindication of God) functions as a branch of apologetics. But while the usual brands of apologetics have often proven unfashionable, progressive apologetics seems to be popular. And it is apologetics in the most basic sense, just that in this case Christianity is being defended against arguments that Christianity is inherently bigoted, which would undermine the moral legitimacy of the faith. It’s all part of defending Christianity in much the way that it has always been defended, and in the modern context it serves as a way to forestall Christianity’s inevitable demise.

The final point to make as regards progressive apologetics concerns God himself, and strangely enough I find myself seeing it come up from self-described Luciferians. A Gnostic Luciferian who goes by the handle serpentchrist69 objects to the description of God being a tyrant by suggesting that such a description speaks more to the people writing the Bible being problematic than the being inspiring said writing, which is to be balanced against the perceived “good” within the text, and that to call God a tyrant is simply an oversimplistic kneejerk reaction. Well, perhaps it’s worth looking at what God does throughout the Bible. The Old Testament begins with God punishing Adam and Eve for eating the fruit of a tree that probably wouldn’t even be in the garden of Eden if not for him in order to prevent Adam and Eve from joining the gods and becoming immortal. He then declares all the other gods to be unworthy of worship, promises to turn women who aren’t traditionally submissive into burnt deformities, interferes with human free will by hardening people’s hearts, and in this way ensuring the continued persecution and suffering of his own believers, as well as the suffering and deaths of innocent Egyptians, and has repeatedly ordered the genocide and enslavement of non-believers, not to mention all the prohibitions we discussed before. In the New Testament, we are introduced to the idea that the soul will be thrown into a lake of fire prepared for the Devil and his angels if he does not sufficiently believe in God or his son, and that the world will eventually end with a gruesome Judgement Day in which those who believe will be saved while the unbelievers will be ground in a wine-press by angels or simply damned until the end of the age. It also affirms not only the absolute authority of God but also, based on that, the legitimacy of all earthly authority, which must be obeyed without question. In this context, we can easily see how the picture of God as a tyrant forms on the basis of the scripture devoted to him. You can argue that it’s all just a flawed interpretation of an ineffable divine being forged from the understandings of people with old attitudes, but then it’s impossible to parse God’s actual character this way, and this hardly even gets into how the God who we’re meant to assume is still all good even if his scripture gets him wrong lets suffering and evil run rampant in his own creation or is actively responsible for it as the creator of everything. Besides, a similar argument can and has been made in the context of the gods of polytheism. God’s not special, in this regard.

Here’s the thing: if you give God an inch, he’ll take the whole nine yards. We already saw what happened when even non-Christian progressives put their faith in Pope Francis or more specifically the hope that maybe he’ll reform the Catholic Church to make it more inclusive and accepting, and then it never happened. Instead the church still refuses to support gay marriage, and pushed for the Italian government to not prosecute anti-LGBT hate crimes. The icing on the cake is that there’s still no actual action on the rampant institutional child abuse within the church, and under Francis’ tenure more revelations of more ecclesiastical abuses of children have emerged.

And here’s the other thing: why should we want this? Why should we want a more benign and progressive way to serve YHWH when the point should be to be free from the rule of God and his son? Why should we depend on God to justify the rights of marginalized people when their existence should derive validity from itself and thus their liberation counts for more? Why does society need to defend the legitimacy of Christianity, or at least more particularly the Catholic Church, so badly? Is the thought that perhaps the world might leave Jesus behind, let alone in favour of either the Devil or the gods of old, so unbearable? I think that there seems to be a “need” among certain people to maintain in themselves the idea of Christianity as some sort of positive and even progressive force, rather than question the reason why it merely appears munificent and then freely abandon Christianity. The world, it seems, cannot yet come to grips with the idea, or indeed the reality, that Christianity is a false hope that was cruelly inflicted upon the world.

The last thing I want to say concerns the very Christianized direction being introduced by the Gnostic Luciferian Christopher Williams (a.k.a. serpentchrist69), since it kind of touches into the realm of apologetics I’m discussing here, and to be honest I couldn’t be asked to delegate these matters to a separate article. He appears to see his Luciferianism as a synthesis involving Christianity, his form of Gnostic Luciferianism based on the Valentinian sect of Christianity, which holds the Demiurge to be ultimately a valid part of the cosmos, and insists that God should not be seen as a tyrant. In this, he frames the opposition to Christianity, and any attendant attraction to Satanism, as essentially just a kneejerk response motivated by trauma experienced by the oppression of the church and its authorities. It’s a very American perspective, obviously, not without a modicum of merit, and yet I think it fails to consider that not everything about how people receive and react to religious ideas is about trauma, and not everyone despise Christianity because they were hurt in some way by their Christian parents or community. I was born in a country where people are fairly tolerant when it comes to religion. My parents were and still are Christians but they were never fundamentalists about it (not always really devout for that matter) and they seemed to tolerate people who weren’t straight. But all the same, I never liked Christianity in the overall, and when I was a kid my only connection to Christianity consisted of doing one or two prayers to Jesus to save the rainforests and telling a teacher I believed in Jesus to avoid punishment, meanwhile I refused to go to church the first time I was told to. My hatred of Christianity does not come from trauma. It comes from Christianity. And frankly, I find the more progressive apologia that appeals to trauma in order to make its adherents sound like they “understand” you is actually more annoying that conservative Christian proselytism. The conservative Christian is undeniably toxic and authoritarian, but this new shit where you act like the only thing wrong with Christianity is your parents hurt you in the name of God is an insidious mode of condescending obscurantism, in which you think you can ignore everything wrong with God and his creeds by reducing all objection to it as a mere trauma. Well not every conversation about religion is about trauma let alone some stupid rhetoric about “healing”. To be honest, I don’t think I like what you’re doing, Christopher. You may call yourself a Luciferian, and there’s nothing stopping you from doing so, but as far as I’m concerned the form of Luciferianism you espouse and the way you talk about much of the Left Hand Path, and the things you accuse us of, puts you alongside the dogs of the Christian church, just that you prefer to recuperate the power of transgression in service of God. It’s nothing but liberal Christianity, which is to say a way of restoring or perhaps renewing the hegemony of Christianity, whether that’s in the vain hope of “transcending” it or not.

Why should we pretend that we have no problem with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam just because a couple billion people happen follow these religions, or more accurately are blindly conditioned into it? If your response to Christianity is to perform meaningless apologetics to coddle the masses rather than liberate them then you really have no issue with Christian hegemony except that it’s not sufficiently open to change. Well I don’t care if Christianity “changes”, because my desire is for it wither away, and for mankind to abolish it in themselves of their own free will.

Joe Biden and Pope Francis (image taken from Getty Images)

The Satanic Panic Lite edition, featuring Jordan Peterson (and it’s about trans people, and women of course)

So, I’m sure you remember Jordan Peterson, yes? Yes, you probably do. He was all the rage in 2016-17, and I myself had covered him here to some extent, and I’ve considered him to be something of a Christian crank ever since I read his “Maxims for Men” back in the middle of 2017. Ever since then he had been a figure of prestige in the world of conservative politics both on and offline, but after a few years he seemed to spiral into ridicule and has ceased to be the subject of media attention that perhaps he once was. He released a follow-up to his book 12 Rules for Life last year, but to little fanfare. More recently, it seems that Peterson has retired from teaching at the University of Toronto and announced that he is no longer a professor there. He almost predictably cites diversity initiatives supposedly stopping “supremely trained heterosexual white male graduate students” from attaining faculty positions and careers, a grievance that I would think he had levelled previously and which has somehow not previously inspired Peterson to quit his job.

It’s worth remembering that it’s not like Peterson is being silenced. His books still sell well, he still got to do lectures and podcasts, he actually has a pretty extensive platform in which to display much of his views. And, more recently, after resigning, he returned to The Joe Rogan Experience on Spotify, while wearing a whole fuck-off tuxedo for some reason, for a conversation. This is where we get to what I’m here to talk about. During that podcast, Joe Rogan asked Peterson about his thoughts on what “causes” trans people to exist. You see, in the dull sludgy mind of Joe Rogan, being trans is something that has to be “caused”, rather than something that just occurs in human beings, as seems to actually be the case. Peterson, however, responds to Rogan by describing being trans as a “sociological contagion” which he likened to “the satanic ritual abuse allegations that emerged in daycares in the 1980s”.

Yikes indeed. Not only does Peterson believe that trans people or just the condition of being trans itself are some kind of virus (that’s what’s implied by the term “sociological contagion”), but he also believes that being trans as a phenomenon is comparable to accusations of ritual abuse being committed by devil-worshipping Satanists. That’s basically just his way of saying it’s all some kind of mass delusion.

Why would Peterson make such a comparison? Well, based on what I’ve been able to see, it has something to do with Abigail Shrier’s ideas about “rapid onset gender dysphoria”, which come from a discredited study by Lisa Littman which claimed that young people, particularly young boys or men, tend to identify as trans because of “social or peer contagion”, or basically peer pressure. That study did not derive any evidence from actual trans youth, but instead only surveyed the parents of trans youth, and at that parents who happened to have read transphobic websites. During the podcast with Rogan, Peterson seems to describe being trans as a symptom of autism, or at least he does so by implication when he says “a lot of the people who are manifesting serious issues with gender identity are on the autism spectrum”. Rogan then compares that to Abigail Shrier’s work, which he seems to accept completely at face value seemingly without having done any research into her credibility, and Peterson seems to refer to her ideas about “rapid onset gender dysphoria” as his reason for opposing Bill C-16, on the grounds that “as soon as we messed with fundametal sex categories and changed the terminology, we would fatally confuse thousand of young girls”, a claim that he insists is backed by 300 or 500 years of literature. He then calls it a “social contagion”, and also applies that description to accusations of satanic ritual abuse, which he then blames on women entering the workforce and supposedly leaving their children with strangers and having schizophrenic fantasies about it.

So, in summary, Jordan Peterson believes that recognizing and accepting that trans people exist is like accusing people of satanic ritual abuse because both are “social contagions”, and also we’re told that women are responsible for it because they decided to get jobs rather than spend roughly 20 years of their lives as stay-at-home mothers. On top of just being blatantly bigoted towards women and trans people, it’s mind-numbingly incoherent and impossible to make sense of. Nathan Robinson was right. If Peterson is the modern intellectual cream of “the West”, then honestly “the West” needs to explain itself because it looks like we’ve gone completely insane. I’d say probably the only evidence you need to be convinced of this is just the fact that his books can find themselves in ordinary book shops in the self-help or even “smart thinking” sections! People who may not even be right-wing or particularly reactionary can buy Peterson’s books because they see them in the self-help section, possibly while buying up a bunch of other self-help books. I dated someone who had a copy of 12 Rules for Life and tons of other self-help books, but thankfully I don’t think she even read it, let alone enough to internalize his spiel about women. My point, though, is that’s how widespread his work can be, and to be honest I’m half-suspicious that the media just sort of helps that along even while going through the motions of formally criticizing his views. And we really do need to explain how we thought this man, with his transparently senseless theories about trans people, satanic ritual abuse accusations, and women entering the workplace could ever have been taken as a serious intellectual. And before you say what I think you’re going to say in response, you can only hide behind the speculated grievances of young men for so long before the whole enterprise means nothing.

I’d just like to point a few things out about the Bill C-16 thing for a moment. In the podcast with Joe Rogan, Peterson seems to have shifted away from the free speech argument when discussing Bill C-16. Rather than being about how Bill C-16 was supposed to land people a jail sentence for not using the correct pronouns and somehow usher in a Maoist dictatorship, and just so we’re clear none of that ever happened in Canada since Bill C-16 was introduced, Peterson instead argues that Bill C-16 was bad because it meant “messing with fundamental sex categories”, which to him means “fatally confusing thousands of young girls”. I have to imagine that if Peterson didn’t make fallacious free speech arguments about C-16 the first time, and only rambled about how calling trans people by their preferred pronouns would confuse everybody, nobody would be paying attention to him, or if they did they would be condemning and mocking him as a bigot and then move on, and I consequently might not be talking about him today. From his arguments here, it actually seems like he would prefer to control any speech that represented “social contagion”, and his society would if anything make overtures to ban the non-cisnormative use of gender pronouns. From his standpoint, why not, considering he thinks trans people represent the decline of civilization?

Now, why do I refer to all this as “Satanic Panic Lite”? Because it technically isn’t an actual Satanic Panic as such, in that he doesn’t seem to argue that satanic ritual abuse as a phenomenon is real, and appears to be as convinced as almost anyone else that the accusations of satanic ritual abuse were just that: accusations. But then the whole spectre of satanic ritual abuse, even when acknowledged as a collection of accusations with no basis in reality, is invoked so as to frame trans people as essentially a similar threat. For Peterson, trans people may not be worshipping Satan and ritually abusing and sacrificing children, but they are inducing mass delusion in a way that lines up with the fear of satanic ritual abuse, somehow. In this, the “real” satanic panic is the fear of satanic ritual abuse, which he believes trans people induce an equivalent state within society. So in other words, Jordan Peterson thinks trans people are like a satanic panic about a satanic panic, and their existence inspires that through “the confusion of gender norms”.

Of course, this is all a very long-winded way of saying that Jordan Peterson is a transphobic, and misogynistic, lunatic. And like many other reactionaries before and since him, he needs some form of Satanic Panic to support his ideology, even if that means just the fear of a satanic panic. Whereas a Satanic Panic in the classical sense means taking a scapegoat figure and putting them at the center of an active conspiracy to abuse and kill children, we might look at Peterson’s arguments as a kind of Satanic Panic Lite, as in a set of ideas that approaches Satanic Panic but does not properly embody it, on the grounds that, instead of accusing trans people of being satanic ritual abusers, Peterson is accusing trans people of creating satanic panic or a similar condition in society. Thus the fear of Satan and of Satanism is laid at the feet of trans people in order to cast being trans as a “social contagion”.

Remember, again, Peterson isn’t exactly being stopped from giving these utterances. He just went on a podcast seen by millions of people on a mainstream streaming service to do it, and if The Joe Rogan Experience were banned from Spotify, Peterson and Rogan would simply find a new platform on which to espouse transphobic ideas along with several other out there bigotries and dysfunctional conspiracy theories. Furthermore the man not only writes books, his books get to be sold as mainstream self-help. Such a man could hardly claim to be a persecuted outsider to the establishment, even if he and his cult-followers need that myth for sustenance. A new Satanic Panic is being ushered in, and it’s a satanic panic about a satanic panic, which is being blamed on trans people. And the establishment, no matter what its cries, is going to help Peterson and others bring it in. Why? Because nothing’s changed much since the 1980s. The idea of progress that led to people turning away from the subject of social oppression to a set of largely imaginary contemporary grievances is based on a lie. When something threatens to challenge the social order or at least change our ideas about what that means, society will always invoke the forces of Satanic Panic to protect itself from scrutiny by casting the forces of this change as a conspiracy of predators working in the shadows to destroy the innocent.

So long as society needs the reactionary ideology of Satanic Panic, which is to say until we have demolished or reshaped society as it exists, our struggle with the spectre of Satanic Panic will never end.

The new Twilight Zone looks like shit (image from LadBible)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defund the BBC

I don’t know how late this is, but the subject matter is still very much current, and I have to address on some level or another. Simply put, there is no reason the BBC should be allowed to demand that we pay for it by law in order to own a television. The excuse given to its vaunted status as the central institution of public broadcasting and journalism in the UK is its supposed independence and objectivity, a standard that, theoretically, sets it above all other similar private companies. There are, of course, many reasons to laugh at this claim, but we’ll focus on a recent matter that shows the BBC’s true colours and is still an ongoing scandal.

On October 26th, the BBC published an article titled “We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women”, in which the author Caroline Lowbridge advanced numerous assertions about trans people supposedly peer-pressuring or coercing lesbians into having sex with them. Because there is no actual data to point to in order to empirically support such claims, the author largely cited a number of lesbians who all happened to come from explicitly anti-trans organizations, such as Get the L Out and the LGB Alliance, and represents the “trans side” of the debate through random tweets and a decontextualized video from a “social justice warrior”, almost without ever consulting the trans community or the LGBT community as a whole. This article is so notorious for its irresponisble assertions about trans people that it sparked a major backlash, prompted numerous complaints which led to some editions, some of the BBC’s own staff debated and protested the article before it was even published (evidently the TERF wing of the BBC won out), and now the article even has its own Wikipedia page.

The worst aspect of this comes from one of the article’s sources, Lily Cade, a lesbian former porn actress, who in the article discussed what she called the “cotton ceiling”, a belief attributed to trans people in which “breaking the cotton ceiling” was supposed to mean having sex with a cis woman. No trans person has ever even heard of the term or seen it used in that context before this article was published. Not long after the article was published, people discovered that Lily Cade was herself a serial rapist who abused several other women, and confessed to it, which meant that this was a proven and admitted rapist who then went on to accuse trans people of being rapists, with the approval of the BBC. And after that, Lily Cade took to her blog to release three angry tirades against trans people, all of them involving insane conspiracy theories about the supposed replacement of cis women by trans women and featuring explicit calls for the murder of trans people. They read like a series of school shooter manifestos or, in terms of language and subtext, classical white supremacist hate propaganda. It was only after this that the BBC, after initially doubling down on their article, eventually removed the Lily Cade section from their article, by which point everyone else also figured out that she was a pedophile as well as a rapist. But that still means that every other bigoted, unsubstantiated assertion about trans people was left to run unchecked.

As a matter of fact this article is not an isolated incident from the BBC. At one point they also had a Newsnight show about trans people which featured the likes of Graham Linehan, former IT crowd writer and presently psychotic TERF pundit, who compared trans people to Nazis. Much of the BBC’s coverage of trans people and their issues has actually been remarkably antagonistic to the trans community. Their exclusion of trans voices from any discussion that actually affects them is both systemic and deliberate, as is evidenced by not only the fact that the author of the infamous article chose not to include the testimony of a trans porn actress pointing to Lily Cade’s history of rape, but also by the fact that there are several BBC staff who are themselves transphobes. Some staff have reported that senior management within the BBC have lent an ear to figures with anti-trans ideological beliefs and themselves are taken in by anti-trans conspiracy theories.

The BBC is often talked about by the right as some bastion of progressive ideology, of so-called “political correctness” (a phenomenon that, I maintain, no one has adequately understood from the 1990s onward), but in reality the BBC is quite a profoundly reactionary institution. The regularity with which they churn out anti-trans propaganda is alone evidence enough of this. But we should also note that the BBC has exhibited other reactionary biases, such as its apparent bias against the Labour Party during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. The idea of the BBC as an “objective” institution in the face of power is also directly undermined by its historic tendency to at least cave to pressure from the state, such as during the build up to the Iraq War. In fact, we get a good view as to the true, reactionary historical purpose of the BBC from the organization’s founding father, John Reith. Tom Mills’ book The BBC: Myth of a Public Service summarizes his convictions in the context of his response to the general strike that took place in 1926:

Recalling these events three decades later, Reith wrote that ‘if there had been broadcasting at the time of the French Revolution, there would have been no French Revolution’. Revolutions, he reasoned, are based on falsehoods and misinformation, and during the General Strike, the role of the British Broadcasting Company had been to ‘announce truth’. It was, he thought, quite proper that it had been ‘on the side of the government’ and had supported ‘law and order’.

From this perspective, it makes perfect sense that the BBC, beneath the modern perception of “liberalism” and objectivity, is a deeply reactionary, establishmentarian institution that is hostile to non-normative tendencies and threats to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. You may also notice the attribution of social and political upheaval to “misinformation”. In a modern context, we might see this same belief motivating our discourse regarding social media, with basically any riot or upheaval that doesn’t get the sympathy of the media being deemed a product of “fake news”.

The BBC doesn’t deserve any of your money. If you get a TV, try to avoid getting the BBC on it, just to avoid getting a license. If you can’t, find a way to replace your TV with a computer. The BBC only exists to further the cause of the oppression of trans people and the working class. Frankly, it should not be a public corporation, supported by your tax dollars. Even if that means it becomes a private corporation, I guarantee you that even if that means the BBC’s editorial line becomes more reactionary than before, it would also just be an expansion of the already reactionary line it often had since its foundation. While I dislike privatization in general, and strive for a system where private property (meaning property held by capitalists to extract surplus value, not personal property) is but a memory and there are no more corporations, I also wouldn’t complain if the BBC, while it exists under capitalism, became a private company instead of a public one, because then you are longer no legally obligated to financially support them if you want a TV. Seriously, fuck the BBC.

Marginalized people are being oppressed in the name of “freedom”

In the last couple of days something horrible seems to be happening in Italy. It seems that the Italian Senate has struck down a bill that would have made violence against LGBT people, as well as apparently misogyny and attacks on disabled people, illegal. Yeah, as hard is it is to believe, apparently violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people and the disabled, as well as some attacks on women, are legal, and that was going to change if it weren’t for the Senate, which on October 27th voted by 154 to 131 to block debate on the new law. The blocking of the bill appears to have been met with a wall of applause from Italian politicians, and was spearheaded by the Italian far-right, who claimed that the law would somehow suppress freedom of expression and speech by way “homosexual propaganda” in schools. Yes, apparently, according to the far-right, the freedom to express yourself as an LGBT person without fear of being attacked by bigots with the state practically on their side is somehow a form of authoritarian oppression directed at straight people.

And who took the side of the far-right in Italy? Why, none other than the Catholic Church of course! Vatican lobbyists sought to intervene against the bill on the grounds that it would impede the church’s “freedom of thought”, somehow. Keep in mind who the current Pope is, the ostensibly LGBT-friendly Pope Francis. I haven’t seen any word of condemnation from him over this, and it’s been four days since the bill was struck down. This shouldn’t be too surprising, though. For one thing, the expectation that the Catholic Church would do an about-face on LGBT inclusion was always a fantasy, in light of the church’s historic record of bigotry and exclusion. For another thing, we know that, although Pope Francis has made many gestures suggestive of his tolerance, he is not consistently pro-LGBT, as evidenced this year by the Vatican’s decree that it will deny blessings to same-sex married couples, after Francis himself apparently endorsed same-sex civil unions – though, it might be stressed that this is not the same thing as endorsing same-sex marriage. Frankly, I never took the idea that Francis was such a progressive reformer seriously, and I will never get tired of my suspicions being right. But what do you expect of a guy who, when you get down to it, is just like every other Pope, at least when it comes to protecting children from institutional paedophilia within the Church?

Regardless, the fact remains that the Italian government will not be protecting marginalized people. If you are homosexual, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, disabled, or even just a woman, you’ll be subject to all kinds of attacks and assualts, and the government will practically defend the rights of your abusers.

Italy is not alone in developments such as these. Poland, another Catholic country, is presently debating a bill that could see LGBT Pride parades being banned, along with all other gatherings deemed to be “promoting same-sex relationships” (as if that’s supposed to be a bad thing) in parliament. One of the lawmakers arguing in the defence of “Stop LGBT” bill, Krzysztof Kasprzak, actually argued in parliament that the LGBT movement was a totalitarian, Nazi-esque movement, whose goal is to “overthrow the natural order” and “introduce terror”. The bill was also put forward by a conservative activist group called The Life and Family Foundation, which also seems to be responsible for introducing recent legislation criminalizing abortion. Also in Poland, the Polish high court ruled that EU laws violated the Polish constitution, and this includes Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union, which outlines the values of “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities”, which entails that the Polish government views the obligation to uphold LGBT rights as a violation of its constitution, on the basis that the EU courst “act beyond the limits of compeences transferred by the Republic of Poland” and “illegally override the Polish constitution” by checking the legality of the appointment of judges.

In Hungary, parliament passed a law banning the sharing of information about LGBT people that the government sees as “promoting homosexuality” in schools and TV shows for minors, which is a lot like what is already the case in Russian law on the subject, and is very similar to the justification given by the Italian far-right for blocking the anti-hate crime bill. The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, also declared plans to hold a national referendum on LGBT rights next year, in which the questions are framed so as to gaslight people into hating LGBT people. These include questions on whether or not you support “sexual orientation workshops in schools without consent”, whether or not you believe gender reassignment surgeries should be made available to children, and all the more bafflingly a question about whether or not you support “minors being shown, without any restrictions, media content of a sexual nature that is capable of influencing their development” (I see someone never watched He-Man). Orban framed the entire referendum as a matter of “child protection”, arguing that “LGBTQ activists visit kindergardens and schools and conduct sexual education classes”, the suggestion being that this some kind of invasion of inappropriate sexual content in kindgardens meant to turn your children gay or something. All of this serves to conflate LGBT activism with pedophilia, an association that he’s outright trying to imprint in the minds of Hungarian voters as the referendum approaches.

You might notice something in all of this. The Italian far-right, the Polish conservative government, and the Hungarian prime minister, all share in common a bizarre kind of Orwellian doublethink which holds that freely expressing sexualities that do not conform to the heterosexual norm, or genders that do not conform to the cisgender binary, are somehow a form of fascism or totalitarian. Somehow, the anti-LGBT right-wing would have us believe that gay people, trans people, bisexuals, non-binary people, and the rest, who mostly just the freedom to express themselves openly without fear of persecution and to share the same rights as their heterosexual/cisgender counterparts, are a totalitarian movement that wants to oppress straight people, presumably by making your kids gay or trans or something. Under this twisted logic, to oppose them would mean preserving, or even rescuing, the freedom of heterosexuals and cisgender people to be who they are (the irony of such a premise is probably lost on them), which means that to curtail the freedom of LGBT people actually becomes a preserving freedom for everybody. This logic also underlies claims that the LGBT movement wants “homosexual propaganda” to fill the airwaves of children’s TV, somehow “oppressing” the natural development of straight children. Considering the frankly ambiguously homoerotic undertones of some Saturday morning shows, particularly He-Man or just about any superhero show, and the fact that I’ve not seen anyone turn out gay because of it, I think it’s obvious what the problems with this idea are. But of course, what they really mean is just the idea of cartoons or kid’s shows taking time out of their day validate the identities of LGBT people, to show them that it can be perfectly OK to be more than just a heterosexual breeder. The same goes for anti-racism. That’s why when Steven Universe or Arthur have little segments about addressing racism or black history, people who probably don’t actually watch those shows anymore or ever shriek with outrage and make claims about how yor kids are being forced to accept what is, let’s face it, not even particularly radical ideology about race. The irony of it all is that it’s one area where these people lose all self-awareness when it comes to their free market ideology (yes, they are still free-market capitalists as far as I can see, just not American free-market capitalists); after all, it is private companies doing this, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to watch it.

Bottom line: LGBT rights are under attack in different parts of Europe, and all the more gallingly they’re being attacked under the auspices of a twisted version of freedom where “freedom” just means not having accept people for who they are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi there,

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

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

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

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

Thanks for your email.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan Pageau’s homophobic (and transphobic) Satanic Panic over Lil Nas X

To be honest, I initially ignored the brew-ha-ha surrouding the pop rap singer Lil Nas X, his Satan shoes, and the song it was supposed to market, despite the fact it dovetails into the subject matter of Satanism. At the time I looked on it as a classic moral panic against “Satanism” in pop culture and thought little of it. Then I got alerted to a video released in April by a guy named Jonathan Pageau about Lil Nas X’s song, around whom the Satan shoes were marketed, and I decided that I simply had to write a response to it, and maybe advance some new takes in the process. Pageau’s video is titled, and I’m being serious, “Montero and Wandavision: How Satanism Functions”, and in it he argues that Lil Nas X, and Wandavision as well, are promoting Satanism through this engendering the decay of “Western civilization”. Also he apparently argues not only that witchcraft is real but also that the Malleus Maleficarum was an accurate account of the practice of witchcraft being played out in the present day. Or at least he argues for the relevance of what the Malleus Maleficarum says in a very roundabout way.

For context, the main subject of all this is “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, a hip hop song made by Lil Nas X and released in March 26th. The song is about Lil Nas X struggling with being gay in the context of his Christian upbringing, deep down wanting to have sex with men, and eventually embracing his sexual identity and owning what society perceives to be its subversive nature as part of that. To promote the song, Lil Nas X and Nike collaborated to release a series of custom Air Max 97 shoes referred to as Satan Shoes, which are essentially just sneaker shoes that sport Satanic imagery and supposedly made with a drop of human blood. Naturally, this courted controversy among idiots looking to use their faith as a basis to attack Lil Nas X for being gay and accuse him of seducing the youth into Satanism just like they said about every other pop musician ever. Evidently Jonathan Pageau, a Christian artist (he makes Orthodox icons for a living) and public speaker about symbolism and myth, is one of those idiots, but as you will see he goes above and beyond with his insane takes on the song.

Mindful of the fact that Pageau’s video is 36 minutes long, goes all over the place, and in general it can take me quite a bit of time to write response posts such as this, I will do the best I can to not make this too lengthy a post. So in that spirit, we’ll focus mostly on some very specific points/claims made by Pageau. For our purposes, this means ignoring everything about Wandavision in the video that isn’t otherwise pertinent to everything else we’re covering. The actual video is about both Lil Nas X’s song Montero and Wandavision, but I mostly just want to focus on his commentary on Lil Nas X and all things Satanic.

Right from the get go, we are shown that Pageau has no real idea who Lil Nas X is, and condescendingly treats him as someone “desperate for attention”. Regarding “satanic tropes and moves”:

None of it is arbitrary, but like any system of meaning, it rather has a strange coherence. This coherence can give us a few clues as to why this imagery would be used to attract the type of attention someone like Lil Nas X desperately needs in order to stay relevant in a post-Christian, blase, porn-infused, hungover culture.

Anyone who knows anything about Lil Nas X knows that he isn’t the kind of guy who would be “desperate for attention”. He shot to viral fame in 2019 with his single, “Old Town Road”, which stayed in the Hot 100 chart for 19 weeks, and since then he went on to be the most nominated male artist at the 62nd Grammy Awards, of which he won two awards (one for Best Music Video and another for Best Pop/Duo Group Perfomance). “Old Town Road” is still considered one of the most popular songs of the last few years, so needless to say he’s not exactly starved for attention. But even if it was all a scheme for attention, could we not say that it worked? And if it did, could we not make the argument that we in fact are not in a “post-Christian” age? If we were, then would we even be discussing any controversy relating to the opinions of religious Christians? After all, if we were in a post-Christian age, then Christianity would be irrelevant in the way that pre-Christian belief systems are generally considered to be irrelevant now. But then I suppose that, by “post-Christian culutre”, Pageau really means a generally secular culture where Christian religion isn’t forced on people by society at least in the way that it used to be, where Christianity has lost some of the power and influence that it once had, and irreligion, atheism, or alternative spirituality are experiencing some growth and openness.

After remarking dismissively about the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, as I suppose he should, Pageau begins to describe the music video for “Montero” and its imagery:

So the Montero video is a rather disturbing sight to behold. In a world inhabitated only by versions of himself, Lil Nas X sings about his intimate encounter, let’s call it, and his obsession with a man who has the same name as him, Montero, and Call Me By Your Name is the unofficial title of this song. The video is ultimately about one thing. It’s about pride. This self-love is represented as an exploration of the strangeness and idiosyncrasies of one’s self. Self-seduction, self-victimizing, self-abasement, self-gratification, and ultimately self-crowning. In speaking to his self-named lover, Montero tells us that “I’m not fazed, only here to sin. If Eve ain’t your garden, you know that you can.” And so pride as self-love appears ultimately as a sterile revolution against the natural patterns of the world. A desire for the world to be solipistic, to be contained by my self, for the world to be in my image, and a desire to be free from the usual constraints of natural patterns and cycles of being.

It is very important to understand what Pageau is trying to get at when he talks about things like “solipsism”, “pride”, “self-love”, and “revolution against natural patterns”. To do that, we need to remember the context of the song. It’s about Lil Nas X coming to terms with his homosexual identity, his struggle with his own self-denial in the context of a Christian upbringing, and eventual embrace of his identity as a homosexual. Where might “solipsism”, “pride”, or “narcissism” come in? Pageau will never outright say it, but it seems obvious that he is trying to say that homosexuality represents a deviation from the natural order or “natural patterns and cycles of being”, as set by God, and that the desire to be accepted for being homosexual is a form of solipistic rebellion against nature. His interpretation requires the ignorance not only of the fact that homosexuality was more or less normal in much of the ancient world (with Rome being a notable outlier), but also of the context of Lil Nas X’s own struggles with self-denial of his own homosexuality. Indeed, to underscore that, we need only address the lyric that Pageau quotes here: “I’m not fazed, only here to sin. If Eve ain’t your garden, you know that you can.” This is actually a reference to the fact that homosexuality is considered to be a sin in Western Christian culture, euphemistically hinting at the “forbidden” nature of the relationship that Montero wants to be a part of. Eve would be the woman in his lover’s life, the woman that he was probably partnering with as an act of self-denial to hide his real sexuality from a society that would not approve of it, and if this woman isn’t around to know about it, then perhaps Montero and his lover can freely pursue a homosexual relationship. All of this seems a lot more sensible an interpretation than some abstract nonsense about how Lil Nas X is declaring war on nature and God by being gay, which, on top of just putting words into Lil Nas X’s mouth and being homophobic, is Pageau looking at the satanic aesthetic and from there referring to the myth of Satan falling from heaven and projecting that myth onto the Montero song/video in order to working backwards towards his conclusion. If Pageau were a much more straightforward and honest man, he would be forthright in simply stating his opinion that homosexuality is “unnatural”, but perhaps he knows that this would ruin his effort to position himself as a somewhat respectable presenter of Christian mysticism, which is built on the ability to exploit ignorance.

He seems misinterpret another lyric as well:

He tells his self-named lover that he wants to, let’s say, I won’t quote it exactly but, let’s say, to put a child in his mouth. This is of course the ultimate image of sterility, of solipsistic dreaming, of this imagination which is taken up in fantastical places but does not produce body, community, or cohesion, but only causes revolution, fragmentation, and ultimately loneliness.

For starters, the correct rendition of the lyric is “Shoot a child in your mouth while I’m ridin'”. And all of that elaborate interpretation might seem compelling to someone who has no idea what Lil Nas X meant by that, but as to its actual meaning? It’s just slang for ejaculation. He’s jacking off into his lover’s mouth, basically. Riding is very obviously a reference to a sex act, which presumably ends in said ejaculation. It’s just Montero wants to do with his lover. That’s it. Now I’m sure that, as a Christian, Pageau would obviously have a problem with any form of ejaculation that doesn’t take place inside a woman’s vagina in the context of marriage, but it is not obvious what’s so sterile, or solipsistic, about jacking off in a guy’s mouth, except for what Pageau won’t tell you, which is that he thinks homosexual relationships in which men have sex with other men for pleasure is inherently unnatural and therefore solipsistic because it supposedly is at war with nature. Again I would note that many societies such as China, Turkey, and many African countries for instance considered homosexuality to be perfectly normal, and in fact during the age of European colonialism there were Moroccan visitors to France who were offended by the fact that French men did not engage in sexual relations with men. It was only after the West came in, conquered those countries, altered their societies, and spread the narrative that they were conquered due to their “decadence”, that attitudes towards homosexuality would change.

So we find Montero under the tree of knowledge in the primordial garden, where he is first frightened but then seduced by a serpent figure. The serpent figure is a hybrid in the traditional Renaissance depictions of the serpent, which has often been linked to Lilith by historians. The hybrid also takes on the image of the alien, so of course this hybrid alien demon serpent figure is one that has become the narrative monster of conspiracy theorists from David Icke to QAnon. So it could be easy for many to dismiss all this as a kind of trolling, and this is indeed the game being played, I think. But there’s something else going on, because even if it is just trolling the question remains, why does Montero invoke this very precise imagery in this video? To gain attention? To provoke? To subvert? Well yes, yes, and yes, but, the error that we might make is to believe that it stops there, that such an answer somehow explains what is actually happening.

With that, let’s cut in to explain what is actually happening. Since the serpent in the Garden of Eden is brought forward, it’s worth returning to what we discussed earlier, about the line in the song that says “I’m not fazed, only here to sin. If Eve ain’t your garden, you know that you can.”. We’ve already established that the line is a reference to how Montero tells his lover that he wants to pursue a homosexual relationship with him and that, if his female partner isn’t around, they can do so in his house without her knowing, free from prying eyes. The imagery of the Garden of Eden is an obvious call to the theme of sin. Traditionally, this means the first sin committed by Adam and Eve (or rather, first Eve and then Adam, establishing woman as the first sinner in an obviously misogynistic fashion), which leads to mankind being expelled from the garden by God. But in context, the “sin” as it relates to Montero is the “sin” of homosexuality, or more accurately the fact that society and his upbringing traditionally perceives homosexuality to be a sin against God. Lil Nas X only came out as gay in 2019, and around the same time “Old Time Road” was released, so he only felt comfortable being open about being gay to the point of declaring himself as such relatively recently in his life. Before then, he repeatedly denied the suggestion that he might have been gay, and apparently there was and might still be some apprehensions towards homosexuals within the country and rap music scenes. With that in mind, you can understand the lyrics of Montero in the context of homosexual desire and the struggle to find acceptance and fufillment, and the imagery in terms of that self-acceptance manifesting in the willingness to take on the subversive reputation of that: as in, “if I have to be a sinner, then so be it, I’ll embrace that if it means I’m happy with who I am”. It’s just about coming to terms with being gay, albeit in the context of a song about sex. Of course, if it actually were a Satanist message (and I maintain that it isn’t), then I suppose Anton LaVey did capture it best when he said “if you’re going to be a sinner, be the best sinner on the block”. But that has little to do with the message of the song. Montero doesn’t want to be a sinner, he just wants to be happy with being gay and have sex with men, and he just happens to be prepared to take on a subversive and sinful edge as a way of embracing his sexuality in a way that, ultimately, doesn’t actually lead on to a religious (or anti-religious) break with mainstream culture. Pageau speaks of how the imagery crystallizes the fears of many people, but what he won’t tell you is that it’s only bigoted Christian conservatives like himself who have any fears about the song or the video.

Continuing:

So in the video, after his seduction by the serpent, it follows Montero to a kind of coliseum where he’s chained and judged by cross-dressed versions of himself. He’s then stoned by these dusty zombie figures that are replicas of him, and then he’s finally killed with some disturbing sex toy.

That’s a buttplug, dumbass. Ever heard of it? More to the point, why do you think the people judging Montero and stoning him to death are all versions of himself? It’s because that scene is his own self-denial. He is a homosexual, but struggles for acceptance within society, and for him, like many other homosexuals, this has sometimes unfortunately meant that they may go through a process where, in order to be accepted by society even if that’s not for who they are, they find themselves internalizing society’s contempt for homosexuality and the premise that homosexuality is abnormal or that there’s something wrong with them, which is then explained away by homophobes as a kind of natural inner monologue that informs them that there is indeed something wrong with them, and so they judge themselves as sinners just for the “high crime” of existing as homosexuals.

He ascends into the sky to meet a shadowy angel, but this pole, this pole/lance, shoots up from below, and as Montero grabs it he begins to slide down in the guise of a pole dancer into the belly of Hell. And let’s be honest if there ever was a perfect representation of the, let’s call it, ontological reality of pole dancing, I’m pretty sure this is it. The pole coming up from below is of course an inversion of the spear of St. Michael, which is portrayed in medieval imagery as pinning down the great serpent, that is Satan, coming from above. And now this spear/pole is coming to claim Montero from behind, with all the undertones that that also includes. So even though it’s coming from below, it’s nonetheless this axis mundi, the axis of the world. It nonetheless is this hierarchy which connects heaven and earth together, though now it’s not a hierarchy seen from the side of the traditional ladder you see in icons of the ladder of divine ascent, which is going up in humility, worship, and self-transformation, but rather it’s this coming up from behind of revolution.

This is all already a lot to take in as is and he goes on about how the lance coming from behind is a metaphor for being chased out of heaven, but rather than put all that forward let’s just get to the point. When Pageau talks about the pole coming up from behind, I’m amazed he doesn’t do this but I think back to the lyrics when Montero says “Shoot a child in your mouth while I’m ridin'”. Montero is “riding” his partner, and while in heterosexual sex this would mean the woman “rides” on top of the man’s penis while he lays on his back, in a homosexual context this would instead involve a form of anal sex. So if the pole is coming from behind then in my opinion it’s pretty obviously sexual symbolism. But for Pageau it’s not as simple as it obviously is, and instead what would in context be a sexual reference becomes for him a symbol of ontological descent and revolution, spiralling down an inverted hierarchy towards Hell and damnation instead of ascending the hierarchy towards Heaven vis-a-vis the axis mundi and the divine ladder. This apparently is the “ontological reality of pole-dancing” (trust me, you will never find anyone else utter such a lunatic phrase), it’s a man sticking his penis in another man’s ass, which is apparently supposed to be a kind of “revolution”. The context of “revolution” here is clear, when paired with terms like “fragmentation” and “loneliness”. He means revolting against God, alienating yourself from God, and therefore sin, which is anything that separates Man from God or God’s will. Homosexual sex is therefore cast as a revolution against “natural patterns of being”, meaning God’s order, and is therefore a sinful inversion of Christian symbolism. So, again, we have a rather thinly disguised expression of religious homophobia.

So we see the movement from the periphery, we see it from the wheel that’s wrapped around the axis, which turns and slithers and seduces onlookers by its changeability, and by leading them into their passions.

Just bringing this up because, in the actual video, this commentary is accompanied by an image of a circulating image of the Ouroboros, the classic, ancient symbol of a serpent biting its own tail forming a circle, and it seems to me like Pageau is conveying a rank misunderstanding of the symbol. People bring up the Ouroboros image all the time and use it as an expression of self-cannibalism, usually in a figurative sense, but in many ways that’s just invoking the image of Ouroboros without understanding its significance. In its Egyptian origins, it was likely a symbol meant to denote eternity, which feeds into modern understandings of it as a cipher for the endless cycle of life and death. The idea of a serpent surrounding the world, the axis mundi, doesn’t strike me as having anything to do with Christian teachings, unless you count the “Gnostic teachings of the Pistis Sophia which speaks of an outer darkness surrounding the world in the form of a serpent, but I doubt that Pageau is speaking to a “Gnostic” understanding, being that he is at least ostensibly aligned with Orthodoxy. In fact, the idea of a serpent surrounding the axis mundi actually seems like it should be a reference to Jormungandr, the serpent son of Loki from Norse mythology, who grows to encompass the whole world and whose biting of his own tail will herald the arrival of Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods. But in general, there’s nothing about Ouroboros, or Jormungandr, that has anything to do with seduction or human passions, and this idea seems like an obvious projection of the symbolism of the serpent of Eden (and that of Satan) onto the image of Ouroboros, which fails to consider that serpents have had a broad symbolic meaning since basically forever and not all serpents, even within Christian symbolism, denote temptation and evil.

So ending up in a caricature of Hell, with a thorn-covered door, which is a nice touch in terms of symbolism, Montero lap-dances Satan into this simulated sexual act, to then himself come up behind the Evil One, to break his neck, steal his horns and his crown, replacing the Devil in what we could call a final revolution, a revolution which is the supremacy of the self.

Pageau sort of compliments this detail on the basis that he thinks it matches the idea of a Satanic story pretty well. But does it? The whole basis of Satanism is that Satan is supposed to be a positive figure in some sense, even in the case of the Order of Nine Angles and similar groups where the reason for that is that conventional evil in-itself is a positive thing. I suppose that, by taking over Satan’s throne and replacing him, you do loosely fulfill one criteria for certain strands of Satanism, LaVeyan Satanism in particular, wherein the goal of the Satanic individual is to be Satan yourself. On the other hand, those strands of Satanism would also emphasize that, in literal terms, there is no Satan except for you yourself, who strives to embody a Satanic ideal, and this is a point we’re going to get into again shortly. In general, though, you going in to kill and dethrone Satan, just because you’re not doing so in God’s name, is not necessarily a Satanic narrative. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a Satanic narrative where Satan is anything other than a positive influence, someone whose role is not to be as a rival for you but instead as a guide, an inspiration, a teacher for the Satanic path. Killing Satan in a Satanic narrative, for this reason, makes little sense, especially when the point of a Satanic narrative is in some way to extoll Satan as a representative of the Satanic ideal. But again, when Pageau says “a revolution which is the supremacy of the self”, this is what does all the work. Remember, Pageau’s argument is that the imagery of the Montero music video represents the triumph of a solipsistic self against the patterns of nature and being, which is essentially just his way of saying he hates homosexuality. The ultimate point in Pageau’s worldview is that homosexuality is a revolution that culminates ultimately in the dethronement of all values and the inversion of all hierarchies except for the self, and that’s ultimately because this is what Pageau would rather believe than just accept that it’s basically a queer narrative about a gay man struggling to accept himself, even when not only is that literally what Lil Nas X says himself but also Pageau shows those statements in his own video. Seems to me like he could have saved himself a lot of effort and maybe just made this about Wandavision instead.

Now, when we get to Pageau’s discussion of Satanism let me press this into your head: when I said Pageau was doing a Satanic Panic, I didn’t mean that lightly in the slightest. I mean literally, this guy literally believes that every edgy rebellious form of pop culture is Satanism. In the video he refers to “modern pop Satanism” and its imagery, which for him includes not only Anton LaVey but also bands like Black Sabbath and “heavy metal Satanism”, and in the video the footage that plays for “heavy metal Satanism” is a goddamn KISS show! It’s very obvious that this guy doesn’t have the slightest clue about Satanism let alone in rock or metal music, since not only does he never refer to any bands that might actually be considered satanic, not even Ghost, but the first band he refers to is Black Sabbath, the band that is known for using a right-side up cross rather than an upside down one for its imagery and also features openly and explicitly pro-Christian lyrics in its songs! This is literally just a rehash of the Satanic Panic of old, but in passing, and honestly I don’t think I’ve seen such a pathetic attempt to scare Christians away from metal music, let alone in 2021 of all times. Later in the video he mentions the band Slayer (who, by the way, disbanded two years ago and don’t plan on reuniting) in passing while discussing some trend of sacrilege against Christianity that somehow goes back to the Knights Templar. On top of just being insane gibberish, it also neglects that none of the band members in Slayer are actually Satanists, and in fact the lead singer Tom Araya is literally a Catholic.

He frames Satanism as “irony itself”, and in the process, he struggles to understand what LaVeyan Satanists, or really any atheistic Satanists, mean when they say don’t actually worship Satan. When atheistic Satanists say they don’t worship Satan, they don’t mean to say that their belief system is a joke, rather they consider that worship itself is an un-Satanic act, and that following the Satanic ideal or archetype means you shouldn’t worship anyone except yourself, because the Satanic ideal is that you are the only god, the only master, in your life, and that all the others are just projections of your own ego that will take control of you if you let them. Pageau whines that this is alien to the Christian way of ordering their lives around “faith” and “truth” (by which they only mean God’s “truth”). He rambles about how Satanists operate on self-righteous pride in their pursuit of destroying Christian ideas of meaning through embodying everything they oppose, and then brings this back to the Montero video by noting that it ends with Montero putting “the satanic crown” on himself. Then he claims that this is exactly what happened when The Satanic Temple erected their Baphomet statue, which if you’ll remember was the statue they planned to put on Oklahoma Capitol Building to protest its endorsement of Judeo-Christian religious values on secular government property. He derides religious freedom as an “ambiguous egalitarian notion”, and tries to describe the purpose of The Satanic Temple as demonstrating that most Americans are actually Satanists since they accept religious freedom, when in reality it was all just a way of getting local governments to either be consistent with secularism and have no religious symbols on their property or be consistent with “religious freedom” (which, contrary to Pageau’s claim, does not in this case refer to the “ambiguous egalitarian notion” he says it does but instead a dogwhistle for Christian supremacy) and endorse Satanic symbols and practices to show that they do not mean “freedom” only for Christians, and needless to say it succeeded in getting the government to choose consistent secularism.

Something to note is his rambling about hierarchies, which again is tied back to Montero, so let’s quote it here for a response:

In a traditional world, there is a hierarchy, and the monsters, the demons, the gargoyles, and especially the Satan or the opponent, are all on the outside, or they’re underground, they’re below us, and it’s best to actually not even pronounce their names. But now, in the context of liberty and equality driving social forms, the figure of Satan begins to appear as a dark prophet of the modern world, a noble Promethean who tragically stood against authority and declared himself equal to that which was above him. In the Montero video, Lil Nas X gets it right. Satanic imagery has never ultimately been about worshipping the devil but rather about embodying the revolutionary pattern through the type of pride exemplified by Satan in his war against Heaven, which ends with self-worship as self-crowning. And obviously it can’t really end that way, Montero’s only claim to the horns is violence and revolution, which means that there is always another pole-riding, lap-dancing person in line waiting to kill Montero and take the crown from him.

Let’s get something out of the way to start with: by “a traditional world”, he means a Christian society, albeit with some Greco-Roman influences. But even in the Greek world, although Hades was not worshipped and sometimes not named, he was indeed worshipped through proxies, and chthonic gods, who in Pageau’s view should be at the bottom of or outside the hierarchy, were often popularly worshipped in local cults and even form an integral part of the pantheon. In other pre-Christian societies, the “monsters” were sometimes paired with the gods and were not considered evil. And in most of the ancient world, there was no “Evil One”, no singular “Dark Lord” leading the enemies of the heavens who remains a persistent spiritual threat to mankind. That idea is the invention of monotheism. So “traditional world” only means the Christian world in practice. Pageau sort of gets the point of Satanic imagery, in a Satanic context, right when he says it isn’t about devil worship, but its emphasis on spiritual individualism is obviously filtered through the Christian mystical perspective so it becomes about ontological pride. But if we remember, this pride, this self-crowning, is for Pageau tied to what is actually supposed to be Montero’s struggle with and eventual embrace of his own homosexuality, so in this way Satanism as a phenomenon is cast by Pageau in terms of solipsistic revolution against God through homosexual sex. The last point is interesting, he insists that there is no genuine claim to the horns because it was inherited through violent overthrow. On this point, he may as well surrender the legitimacy of the United States of America, since the only reason that country exists today is violent revolution in the form of war against the British monarchy. And the point about how Montero will always be waiting for someone new to overthrow him, could the same not be said for Christianity, or for God? God is the supreme spirit in our culture as a result of his displacing all the gods who came before him, but the God that the West still worships was just one god among many in the land of his origin. He may have overthrown the other gods, but Pageau’s token, he too will eventually be replaced, or simply dethroned and replaced by a vacuum, for the age of Christianity cannot last forever.

We get to his discourse on the figure of Satan, and to be very honest it is all very empty. Pageau seems to deride contemporary religious scholars (who he describes as “anti-Christian”) for pointing out that the image of the Devil has nothing to do with the early Christian beliefs or the Bible and instead evolved gradually over centuries while picking up various outside elements, and he actually seems to think that the pagan elements of the Devil’s imagery consist in modern depictions like Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer, as opposed to the goat-like and hairy devils that were introduced by Christian eccelesiastics in the Middle Ages. And then we come to something he says that once again comes back to Montero and, honestly, I would like to take it apart:

So the reason why The Satanic Temple wanted to put up this stupid image of Baphomet in the United States is, believe it or not, the culmination of the same process which made Napoleon Bonaparte fill his Arc de Triomphe with Roman gods. And I wonder if Napoleon could perceive that this gesture of declaring himself emperor while putting a crown on his own head would culminate in a solipsistic video by a pole-dancing rapper who seduces the Devil to then only kill him and put the crown on himself.

So I take it that Napoleon wanted to establish secularism in a democratic context by juxtaposing Satanic symbolism alongside Christian symbolism in order to establish all religions as equally endorsed or repudiated in order to get the government to establish a neutral stance on religious symbolism? This is what happens when, instead of reading events and phenomenon as they are, you read them backwards from an a priori symbolic pattern that you establish in order to read reality in conformity to your own desires, preconceptions, or imaginations. Pageau fundamentally misunderstands the point of The Satanic Temple’s Baphomet statue, and I suspect that he may in fact be deliberately misleading the viewer. Pageau is not an objectiver thinker or analyst. An objective thinker or analyst would strive to read things as they are, whereas Pageau reads them based exclusive on some sort of mystical, clearly Platonistic ideas about pre-existing patterns of being that dictate the course of history and its meaning, which in reality is nothing but his own projection.

The reference to Napoleon invites the possibility of another such projection. Napoleon crowning himself emperor of France is supposed to culminate in Montero’s video, somehow. The reason, if you read Pageau carefully, is that Montero is solipsistic in the same way Napoleon is, and this means that in Pageau’s view the positive embrace of homosexuality by Montero is to be linked with solipsistic pride in the form of imperial ambition. This is another mystical reading that not only is suggestive of Pageau’s homophobia but also requires turning history on its head. Although it is fashionable for modern reactionaries to complain about “gay imperialism”, in all reality homophobia in a Western context can be thought of as a component of imperialism and imperial culture. In Rome we see that homosexuality, although it was practiced by members of the ruling class, was forbidden for everyone else on the grounds that it damaged “Roman manhood”, there were laws prescribing severe punishments for men having sex with men, and politicians liked to attack their rivals as “effeminates” and attach homosexuality with crime and conspiracy. In Roman religion, however, morality had very little to do with the worship of the gods as such, and more to social custom, but as Christianity rose, homophobia came to have a new religious basis dervied from the premise that homosexuality constitutes a corruption of God’s order as sin, and as Christianity became the dominant religion, European conquests of other lands often involved stamping out previously open attitudes to homosexuality and injecting their own bigoted attitudes through the transmission of Christianity, resulting in some of the homophobia you see throughout the world even as the West strives to overcome its own. Christianity is an imperialist religion. That is the logical outcome of a religion whose primary premises include the idea that what you believe is a determining factor in your supposed survival after death, and all of mankind must be “saved”, which necessitates Christian cultural imperialism. This is the real imperial ambition in the Western cultural context.

And, again, objectivity is not important to Pageau in the slightest, as he demonstrates of his worldview:

One of the historical moments where we can trace the origin of modern occultism and Satanism is when the Knights Templar were disbanded in the 14th century. The legitimacy of the accusations made against them is still being discussed interminably by historians. But in terms of social narrative, it doesn’t matter so much if you believe the accusations against the Templars or not. It is quite possible that they did not practice sodomy, they didn’t blaspheme against the cross or worship a strange god named Baphomet. In the same vein in terms of what we’re seeing today it doesn’t really matter if you believe the accusations against witches in the early modern period either, of these descriptions their Sabbat masses and their fornicating with demons. Of course one could argue about this in historical terms and people can do this interminably until they forget the original point of why such an accusation matters. What matters most is how these new possibilities, which appeared at the end of the Middle Ages, became something like a narrative space, where the opposite of Christianity, which was more implicit before, began to explicitly take form, in the form of explicit sacrilege and certain types of parody and inversion, and ultimately embracing the opposite of everything that Christians value.

So, the objective account of history in this regard does not matter to Pageau, only the narratives that can be made about it matter. The truth about the accusations against the Templars and “witches” don’t matter to him, only the fact that the possibility that they might have been heretics creates a “narrative space” into which the antithesis of Christianity might emerge. “Social narrative”, then, supercedes historical truth. I suspect that’s not arbitrary, since the historical truth tends to ruin Pageau’s “analysis”. The Knights Templar were not “opposite” to Christianity. They were a Catholic Christian military order that doubled as a charity and banking organization and were recognized by the Pope until Phillip IV, eager to escape his debts with the Templars, concocted fallacious accusations of heresy and devil worship in order to have them killed after the failure of the Crusades. Nor were most of the so-called “witches” “opposite to Christianity” in any real sense. Most of the “witches” were Christian peasants who either practiced some kind of folk magic in the context of their Christian religion or just happened to be unsociable towards clergy and had trumped up charges brought against them because of that. If anything, the real narrative of evil antithesis against Christianity was probably created by the Christians themselves. It was the medieval Christian establishment who concocted the idea of the Templars as heretics and witches worshipping the Devil. In fact, even the early Christians got in on this action. The 4th century Christian poet Prudentius accused the followers of Marcion of Sinope of worshipping the Devil, whom he believed created a shadowy cult that they follow in order to denounce God, and some of the racist blood libel tropes against Jews that have echoed over the centuries were advanced by some of the church fathers, who accused Jews of murdering Christians in elaborate sacrificial rituals, much as some pre-Christian Greeks had done. In fact, the main reason we have the Satan concept that we do today is because Christian theologians invented it in order to protect the supposed omnibenevolence of God from critical scrutiny, to have a scapegoat to blame the evil, suffering, and sin in the world on instead of God, who otherwise remains its true author as the creator of everything. So it is Christianity that created its own antithesis, and therefore the narratives of said antithesis. Pageau will never acknowledge this, not only because objective historical fact does not matter to him but also because this complicates his belief in the sublime perfection of Christian narrative and truth. This lack of concern for historical fact is also what allows Pageau to claim that the image of the Devil is based on the late medieval image of Baphomet, despite the fact that there was no “image of Baphomet” in the medieval era and the goat-headed Baphomet we know comes from Eliphas Levi, centuries after the Templars were burned to death.

It also doesn’t help Pageau’s case that not only were the Knights Templar most certainly not the fathers of modern occultism, but Eliphas Levi, one of the occultists he brings up, was a Christian mystic, and so were many other French occultists during his day, who were also utopian socialists. In fact, Eliphas Levi explicitly identified himself as a Catholic and referred to his esoteric belief system as Catholicism, condemned atheism and associated it with Satan, who he identified as a principle of evil based in the negation of God, and part of his doctrine of the fall of Lucifer consisted in the belief that he would eventually repent, be redeemed of his fall from grace, and return to God. Much of the occultism of the 19th century was based in some kind of Christian mysticism, sometimes framed as an attempt to revive the “Gnosticism” of old, and even Theosophy certainly could not be counted as “Satanic” by any stretch. Insofar as most of the old occultists believed some concept of Satanism was a thing, they hated it as a form of black magick, as the left hand path that was to be opposed by all serious practitioners of ceremonial magick. In fact, a lot of symbolism now used by Satanists, such as the upside-down pentagram with the goat’s head in it, was invented by magicians of this same Christian or Christian-inspired/adjacent background who were quite clear in their belief that it meant nothing good, and Eliphas Levi described the inverted pentagram as a hated symbol of evil. But insofar as that whole scene did end up creating the imagery that would later become associated with Satanism, then, again, you have nothing to blame at the root of it except for Christians, because, insofar as there is a “narrative space” to be discussed, that narrative space was originally created by Christians. Pageau also neglects to note that much of the occultism and spiritualism of the 19th century could be seen as an explicit reaction against the rationalism of the Enlightenment, which is something he should probably have considered before trying to tie occultism together with the Enlightenment to concoct some vague monolithic force of anti-Christian reaction.

Now, remember when I said at the beginning that Pageau actually believes that the Malleus Maleficarum is a credible account of witchcraft and also that witchcraft is not only real but also a threat to society? I wasn’t making that up. He goes into a general description of what the Malleus Maleficarum believed about witches, how they seduce men, kill children, abort fetuses, chop off men’s penises and all sorts of nonsense, and then explains how he thinks it’s all relevant to today. Trust me, if you thought Pageau was a bigoted asshole before, wait till you see him say this:

So 200 years ago I might have been mocked, maybe not even that long ago by the well-to-do for suggesting that a group of people would want such a thing for the world. And, to be honest, I can understand why the Catholic Inquisition actually rejected the contents of this book, and also rejected those that wrote it and were the proponents of its content. But if we see rather these dark descriptions as something like a narrative arc, which is moving towards the end or the dissolution of Christianity, we only have to ponder a moment to realize that, whether it is pornography, artificial insemination, whether it’s the proliferation and acceptance of abortion, or even young boys that have been put on hormone blockers, I can find prominent contemporary examples of all the “ancient witchcraft” I just mentioned. So then the early modern witches might have been projections or collective dreams, it’s possible, and people will argue either way, but it’s actually not that important to us, and we shouldn’t waste our energy on that. What matters is that these witches are healthy, they’re unabashed, and they’re winning the culture war today.

Pay close attention to what Pageau is saying here. When he says “such a thing for the world”, he’s referring to the absurd stories about witches killing children and cutting off men’s penises. The Malleus Maleficarum also actually espouses the belief that witches, after cutting off a man’s penis, animate that penis so that it can live as an independent creature and form nests like a bird. Pageau not only appears to be fairly serious about the idea that this all might be real in some way, but thinks that the current manifestation of this idea is men watching pornography (at least it’s implied, since none of these anti-porn grifters ever complain about women watching porn), women having children through artificial insemination, abortion being accepted or normalized, and trans people existing and getting access to puberty blockers. Remember that this ties back to what he sees as a narrative space of anti-Christian sacrilege and rebellion, gradually taking on the form of Satanism. His proposal is thus that this satanic narrative current is responsible for the creation of a modern witchcraft culture that manifests itself through trans people, porn, artificial insemination, and abortion, or let’s be honest just about any social change he dislikes or any liberalization of social norms which he feels threatens the Christian moral order. This is Pageau’s Satanic Panic, a homophobic and transphobic diatribe against social change and the acceptance of marginalized people, people who are often still marginalized even today (a marginalization that, frankly, I see Pageau playing a part in re-normalizing). And Montero, in Pageau’s narrative, is the crux of that panic. It represents, to him, a grand declaration of narcisstic desire and solipsistic rebellion against God manifesting in what is otherwise just a sex anthem about accepting your own homosexuality, which is itself a culmination of the supposed gradual embrace of Satan or Satanism and trangression of Christianity, thus Montero for him becomes a signpost for the broad transformation of society by witchcraft, which somehow involves sweeping social liberalization. Since he evidently considers trans people to be unnatural, and being trans as something that can only be forced on someone artificially, the whole narrative becomes another way of saying that there is a conscious effort by shadowy evil cabals to turn your kids trans or gay to erase cisgender and straight people, which is essentially just a form of Satanic Panic.

As I said at the outset, Wandavision will not be covered in this article, so we can skip his section on that, although I will say that somewhere in the Wandavision section he does reinforce his talk about the Malleus Maleficarum by taking Wandavision, or rather his misinterpretation of it, as secret proof that the Malleus Maleficarum was correct and that we need to burn “witches”. He’s ostensibly joking, of course, but it does seem like a roundabout way of tying the themes together. But after that, he ties it all back to the Montero video by saying that the whole Satan Shoes controversy and Wandavision are linked together by the same current of victimhood and pride, and are all proof of “American individualism showing its satanic colours”. Forget, of course, about the fact that American homophobia is still couched within the context of a culture of capitalistc individualism, because actual material causes and systems don’t matter, only projected narratives matter according to Pageau, and the narrative is that satanic individualism is destroying Western civilization through popular culture, despite the obvious problem that Satanism as an actual belief system has only ever been represented by a stark minority of people, and let’s face it even then some of them might actually just be vanilla secular humanist atheists who style themselves as Satanists but without much in the way of a distinct Satanic philosophy such as LaVeyan Satanism. Pageau frames it all as just a quest by power-hungry individuals who want to impose their idiosyncratic desires on everyone and transform society to suit said desires. Keeping in mind that the original thrust of this is a music video for a song about a gay who struggles to accept his own homosexuality and just wants to be accepted for being gay himself. Wanting to freely express and accept your sexuality is just “idiosyncratic desire” according to Pageau. This pathology expresses itself in yet another misunderstanding of what might otherwise be obvious:

In Montero’s Hell we see this engraving in flaming letters, we see the famous Latin phrase, “Damnant quod non intelligunt”, which means “they condemn that they do not understand”. What is wanted through these narrative tropes is ultimately the opposite of that, something like “the misunderstood will condemn them”. Something like “the exception will invalidate the rule”. So if in the Christian vision the shepherd is willing to lead the flock, to even leave it unprotected to go out and find one lost sheep, here we rather have this lost sheep demanding that the shepherd not bring the sheep back to the flock but rather bring the entire flock out into the wilderness. So if in traditional societies we see this scapegoat mechanism, of sacrificing the exception in order to preserve coherence, here, it is the opposite of that. It is the desire to sacrifice the entire world for the exception. On a social level this is what appears as an upside-down hierarchy, where the strange, the impure, the exceptional, the fluid, the rejected, the sick, and the unknown, become not those we need to help but they become a new measure by which all of society is evaluated.

The Latin phrase “Damnant quod non intelligunt”, or “they condemn that they do not understand”, is really doing all of the work for Pageau. The meaning of the phrase being placed there is pretty obvious. Who in the West has historically been condemned by those who do not, and often refuse to, understand them? Homosexuals. Montero and his lover are gay, society doesn’t always understand that, so their liasions are secretive to avoid prying eyes. They are condemned by those who don’t understand them, and in fact, the people accusing Lil Nas X of promoting Satanism and thereby “corrupting our children” are doing that condemnation, and so is Pageau. But Pageau can’t understand that, and instead he frames the Montero video in terms of an imagined message of sacrificing or subjugating all of society to an exceptional minority, in whose image the rest of society is remade, never mind that Montero never does anything close to that in the video. Pageau, it seems, cannot conceive of any acceptance of homosexuality, or trans people for that matter, as anything other than a tyrannical imposition of an exceptional minority upon society. In fact, he thinks of them as “sick” people, very openly telling you what he thinks of the idea of extending social acceptance to them even if he never says stuff like “sodomy should be banned”. Montero never advocates that the misunderstood condemn the majority in the video, nor is that idea ever conveyed in the video, but if the misunderstood do condemn the majority in some way, as they sometimes do, then maybe Pageau should consider that this the misunderstanding and condemnation of the majority biting them in the ass. You can only marginalize people for so long before they get fed up of society and turn against it. But since Pageau views “traditional society” (again, really this means Christian or “Judeo-Christian” society) as some abstract mythical reality whose value cannot be questioned, he will only be able to see people who aren’t “normal” as intolerant, narcissistic ingrates who want impose their way of life on everyone else. Pure bigotry, from the lens of Christian mysticism, is all that explains Pageau’s worldview.

In summary, Jonathan Pageau is intensely triggered by the existence of Lil Nas X’s Satan Shoes, and the Montero music video, because he sees it as a sign that the “satanic individualism” of secularism is threatening the social hierarchy of “traditional society”, meaning the social order of Christianity. What he means is that the acceptance of homosexuality as normal is a kind of “satanic individualism”, even though for most of the world homosexuality already was normal for probably thousands of years until Western empire showed up with its Christian tyranny. But bringing that historical point up will not matter, because, as I keep saying, Pageau does not care about historical facts, because history, objectivity, reality, these are not the core of Pageau’s worldview, and what is the core of his worldview is “our stories”, the narrative of how things happen, which means that the story we tell about our world is more important than its actual events and trends and how they actually play out, let alone the material structures behind them. Pretty much everything about Pageau’s commentary on Lil Nas X stems from a fairly obvious discomfort with the normalization of homosexuality, or just the idea that homosexuals can and should accept who they are without having to struggle with a self-denial demanded by a chauvinistic, culturally authoritarian society that tells them that there is only one acceptable way to be a man. This sort of thinking is to be ruthlessly opposed at every turn, and people like Pageau are to be treated as the repressive lunatics that they are.


Jonathan Pageau’s original video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1-U5WSy2Gs