Outlaw Women

The following article contains descriptions of severe abuse. I do not take the decision to publish this information lightly. The woman who shared her story want’s to denounce the system and believes that exposing this reality is the best way to ensure this abuse ends once and for all. On the other hand, I understand that this information can be emotionally unhealthy for some of our readers, so please consider this trigger warning before continuing, or consider skipping the signaled paragraph.

“if Rights were ensured to everyone, the Government would have to become something else entirely. It would have to cease to be.”

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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Sunday afternoon, 6 people, some of which had never met each other before, are at the beach drinking beer, playing Frescobol and talking. One of the women starts talking about how annoying it is when her neighbors blast music, and how the Law that forbids this behavior should be enough to have these people behave respectfully. A whiter tattooed woman disagrees, saying that the Law isn’t necessary in these situations and does more damage than good. She recites Anarchist slogans comfortably: “The Law does not protect people, it oppresses the vast majority, and is imposed unequally on the population. The Law is only there to protect the interests of the Elite!”. Then a young factory worker, with militant communist affiliations and a cigarette, responds by saying that some laws are important to protect the rights of workers like him.

Then Nina speaks. The more words come out, the more intense her trembling becomes, and the bigger the tears rolling down her face.

The following paragraph bears a Trigger Warning: sexual abuse.

Nina is a mother of three, but her petite young body does not show it. She was 2 months pregnant when she was arrested and raped by police officers. She gave birth in prison and witnessed the abuse of many other women. Every night they worried about who would be next. Some cases were even worse than hers, such as the woman violated with a broom handle who came back bleeding. Even after reporting the incident to the judge and being sent to the doctor for tests, her abusers remain unpunished.

“I feel dirty, like I’m garbage” she said while hugging herself. There are not enough blankets, hugs, and words like “No, they are garbage. They are filthy garbage, not you” to make this trembling go away. She knows all of their names and is not afraid to report it, even if it means putting her life at risk.

She had tuberculosis, and ate horribly: Frozen meat, spoiled food, and lack of water. Officers claimed their budget was 2 thousand Reais per inmate, and Nina affirms that there is absolutely no way this money was actually getting to them. Reporting corruption is important, but it’s also important to stress that focusing on improving the system is pointless. There is no use in asking to be protected by a system that is created and sustained by people whose interests depend on keeping women like her dehumanized and with the lowest level of self-esteem.

When her daughter was molested, she took the law into her own hands, because she knew that the judicial system is not there to protect her rights. It is there to criminalize dissent likely to undermine the Government’s ability to function. Operating outside of the law is the way to combat the injustices perpetrated by the rule of law, to undermine the government’s ability to function (in the interests of the few), and to seize control of our own lives.

There is no better way to sustain rule of law, and the government’s ability to function, than to convince poor people they don’t deserve rights, that they don’t deserve protection. That’s because if rights were ensured to everyone, the Government would have to become something else entirely. It would have to cease to be.

For example, the right wing founder of the NGO Turning Point USA said: “You really think Rosa Parks was a hero? I guess you forgot that she is famous for breaking the law.” You would think that this proud white U.S. American reveres the constitution to such an extent that he believes there is no excuse to break the law, even when for a righteous cause. That’s not the case, because even he broke the law when his NGO endorsed republican politicians and shared personal information of its members with conservative campaigners.

What is the fundamental difference between Rosa Parks breaking the law, and this generic conservative white guy breaking the law? One broke the law in an attempt to undermine the government’s ability to function, and the other broke the law to protect the government’s ability to function. Institutional racism is an indispensable tool to make government function feasible. How? Borders, economic exploitation of “Developing” non-white countries, the for-profit prison system, the unpunished liquidation of the marginalized contingent of the population, and so on. This is the distinction between crimes you can get away with, and crimes you cannot.

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The crime women are most arrested for is drug trafficking. First of all, in Brazil, the line between a user and a trafficker is determined by judges, not by quantity. They claim that otherwise dealers will use this “ceiling” to skirt the law. In practice, this is used to criminalize people who they don’t believe can afford to use without selling: a criminalization of poverty. Our previous Minister of Justice has even admitted that distinguishing between a potential criminal and an innocent citizen is done by “looking at the person’s eyes“, which basically means a wide range of potential for discrimination based on race, class and gender.

Second of all, let’s ask ourselves why trafficking drugs is illegal in the first place. Drug trafficking is considered a danger to public health, like toxic chemicals in food, cosmetics, or air and water pollution. While some industries destroy the planet and our bodies with impunity, “drug” users and low level distributors are doing time in double digits (in a judicial system that not for a moment questions what really leads to addiction).

Volkswagen can cheat on their emission tests and get away with it with a relative slap on the wrist. Why? Because their crime was an attempt to sustain the fragile capitalist economy, which is crucial in keeping the government’s engine running smoothly. A Volkswagen executive has spent less time behind bars than a protester arrested for carrying two bottles of cleaning products (Schmidt got 40 months of supervised release while Rafael Braga got a proper 5 years, and a month in solitary confinement). Drug trafficking, much like protesting, is not there to benefit the government. It is an industry that sustains the sovereignty of the community the government treats as excess contingent.

The sovereignty of the ghetto is a massive threat to the status quo- to the state. Organized crime might be big enough to negotiate with the state, but the massive numbers of people doing time are those who benefit the least from being on either side of the negotiating table.

Nina’s battered self esteem is in the best interest of the government, because were she to have the will and resources to build sovereignty, she would use it to make the system that sought to destroy her and her family obsolete. Does anyone really think that if she suggests ways for the system to improve and says “please” that anyone will comply? Expecting her to beg is only a perpetuation of the abuse. We must cheer her courage to rise and resist, and never again demand obedience.

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Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.


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Werewolves Against Cyborgs and Alex Jones

Alex Jones is making headlines this week- here is our take on it:

From Julian Langer

Alex Jones is a journalist.

Alex Jones is a Human.

Alex Jones is a conspiracy theorist.

Alex Jones is a pioneer.

Alex Jones is offensive.

Alex Jones is an explorer.

Alex Jones is fake news.

Alex Jones is animated.

Alex Jones probably has high blood pressure, which is why his heart is big.

He likes to fight (apparently).

He is Here (but not here).

He likes to eat children (he doesn’t really, but he does).

He has no life force, he’s not a real person and he doesn’t (Really) exist.

“I’m like a chimpanzee, in a tree, jumping up and down, warning other chimpanzees when I see a big cat coming through the woods… I’m the weirdo? Because I’m sitting in a tree going OOH OOH AAH AAH AAH OOH AAH AAH OOH OOH OOH AAH AAH AAH AAH AAH!?”

-Alex Jones

Comparing Alex Jones to a chimpanzee would involve insulting the entire global population of chimpanzees – all 170,000-300,000 of them [1]. And it seems to me more the case that he isn’t actually an animal, human or other, and that despite all of his protestations of being alive, an animal, a human, and of not being a machine or of being against cyborgs, he is a cyborg, feasting upon the flesh of those who adore him, upon those who hate him and upon the world whose collapse he denies.

Maybe he isn’t a cyborg. Maybe he is nothing.

According to his Wikipedia page, Alex Jones was born and raised in Texas; he claims to be part Irish, part German, part Welsh, mostly English and part indigenous American; he was a lineman in his high school football team; and his journalism career started in community college.

His career has gone from Austin Public Access TV, to Austin’s KJFK-FM radio station, to his now world famous Infowars Youtube channel and website [3]. His rise has been fuel mainly by his shouting and distinctly macho bravado – “The more he screams, the more they listen.” Manuel Roig-Franzia – in lieu of him actually having anything to say that warrants being listened to.

Last year, as his notoriety grew due to his relationship with Donald Trump and the rising right wing tendency, the question of whether or not Jones is a journalist/talk show host or if he is a performance artist became part of public discourse [4]. Jone’s current status is entirely the product of his relationship with Trump and his “historic” campaign [5]. And like how Trump is simultaneously both a politician and a performance artist, while also being absolutely nothing, Jones is simultaneously both a journalist and a performance artist, while also being absolutely nothing.

I don’t mean that these men aren’t occupying the bodies of actual living human-animals, nor that they don’t occupy roles within the narrative of History, making them Humans. But equally (and more so) they are nothing, they don’t Really exist and aren’t alive.

They are cybernetic organisms in cyberspace. Alex Jones is a cyborg.

Cyborgs are fictional or hypothetical people whose bodies are in some way mechanical [6]. Examples such as the Terminator (from Terminator) and the Borg (from Star Trek) spring to mind, as well know cyborg examples.

But Jones (and Trump) seems like a different type of cyborg to these.

Rather than the collectivist-type assimilation of the Borg and the Terminators mindless violence, Jones’s cyborgism is more like that of Adam (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

Adam is a bio-mechanical demonoid, created to be part of a super soldier army for the American government. Adam is part human, part demon and part machine.

Why is Jones (and Trump) like Adam?

The classical narrative of civilisation’s myths has been Man(/God) against the wild-animal(/demonic). Now, as the technosphere/History becomes more and more self-aware, the narrative is becoming one of Man(/cyborg/God) against Cyborg(/demonic), with the wild-animal being caught between the two, which are one, ripped apart.

Jones presents himself, through cyberspace, as something Human and living-animal, while being, in many ways, Dead. And as such, within this mythology-history he embraces, he is part Human, part cyborg and part demon.

“I am the end of all life, of all magic. I’m the war between man and demon, the war that no one can win”

-Adam

Within the myths of this civilisation that has brought us to ecological collapse, both demons and cyborgs are defeated by Humans/Man/God and civilisation continues, in some form or another. This seems little more than the pathway to later ruination.

If we are going to perform any stories now, I propose that, rather than the classical narrative, our narrative be one of humans becoming-animal(/demon) against the Adamist cyborg; of Life-as-No-thingness against the Machine-as-nothingness.

“What had to remain in the collective unconscious as a monstrous hybrid of human and animal, divided between the forest and the city – the werewolf – is, therefore, in its origin the figure of the man who has been banned from the city. That such a man is defined as a wolf-man and not simply as a wolf (the expression caput lupinum has the form of a juridical statute) is decisive here. The life of the bandit, like that of the sacred man, is not a piece of animal nature without any relation to law and the city. It is, rather, a threshold of indistinction and of passage be-tween animal and man, physis and nomos, exclusion and inclusion: the life of the bandit is the life of the loup garou, the werewolf, who is precisely neither man nor beast, and who dwells paradoxically within both while belonging to neither.”

-Agamben

Alongside the becoming-feral de-Humanising of this embrace of the werewolf against the cyborg, identifying Jones’s cyborgism as a nothingness is central to this process.

That Jones is nothing is becoming increasingly obvious as his platform on Youtube becomes less and less stable [7] and as he freaks out over being mocked by a teenage liberal [8]. To maintain the appearance of Being something, you have to maintain the appearance of stability and Jones is looking unstable.

This werewolf practice is one of guerrilla ontology directed towards undermining the stability of the cyborgs, rather than attempting to defeat them head on. They will collapse upon themselves, as civilisation collapses, but we can help speed this process up. The death of the cyborgs and Human-Man will see the rise of the wild-animal-human-demon (within the myths of civilisation) of the werewolf, not as something moral or immoral, but as something full of Life and living, primal and anarchic.

Alex Jones is a cyborg.

Alex Jones is nothing.

Alex Jones deserves nothing more than our laughter.

Alex Jones doesn’t deserve your fear, because there is nothing to fear about in nothingness.


Notes

[1] About Chimps!

[2] Alex Jone’s WikiPage

[3] Alex Jones Bio

[4] CNN on Alex Jones

[5] The Invisible Empire of Alex Jones

[6] Definition of cyborg

[7] One Strike Away From a Youtube Ban

[8] Alex jones gets dunked on


Editor’s Notes:

The header image is by Sean P. Anderson from Dallas, TX, USA. He does not in any way endorse us or our work. (“This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.”)


Julian Langer

Writer of Feral Consciousness: Deconstruction of the Modern Myth and Return to the Woods, blogger at Eco-Revolt, and has been published on a number of other sites. Eco-anarchist and guerilla ontologist philosopher. Lover of woods, deer, badgers and other wild Beings. Musician and activist.


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Reacting to Reactions to Reactions: a review of Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies

While social justice activists have gotten quite good at shaming those with subtly different views from their own, all their internet crusades combined will never match what the alt-right has shown that it can do–and is more than willing to do–to its chosen enemies.

From Rhyd Wildermuth, a review of Kill All Normies, by Angela Nagle


The other morning, just before starting my morning tea, I looked at my phone. I once made a practice of not looking at my phone for the first hour after waking, but I’ve let that habit slip because my lover often sends me texts in the morning, and I miss him a lot. He lives in Ireland, we don’t see each other often enough–those messages kinda get me through, you know?

So groggy, before tea, I looked at my phone, and saw I had a message from someone I didn’t know:

I’m the editor of an anti-capitalist website and publisher. I get hate mail all the time, and I generally have a rather thick skin. But for some reason, this message was harder to deal with than the ten or so others I get a week. That same day I’d also gotten accused of being the ‘real’ fascist by someone who themselves actually is one, a ‘mansplaining’ message about how I obviously don’t understand capitalism, and some others I really don’t want to recount here.

Precisely why it bothered me, though, wasn’t clear until the next day when I was engaged with a commenter whose last message to me ended with this:

“This is the clearest indication of what a trans antagonistic POS you are and completely unable to take responsibility for the harm that you cause. Really, you’re nothing but a spiritual bypassing fuck.”

In case anyone is tempted to ask the social justice version of “but what was she wearing?” suggesting I may have deserved that statement, I’ll briefly explain myself. The latter was in a post where I’d criticised Trans Exclusive Radical Feminist (TERF) ideology, saying it didn’t belong in Anarchist thought. And I’ve some history of being attacked by TERFs: photos and misquotes of me have been used by actual trans-hating people to attack me as a ‘threat to women.’ I and the other co-founder of Gods&Radicals were both attacked last year for our anti-TERF stances (she got the worst of it, getting banned from Facebook by a notorious TERF lawyer). Previously I have also been threatened with a libel suit for revealing how someone tried to prevent myself and other writers at another site from writing anything critical of anti-trans ideology.

So perhaps ‘trans antagonistic POS’ is not precisely accurate.

Getting harassed from people on both sides of an argument is always a bit perplexing. I now get as much hate mail from would-be fascists as I do from the social justice ‘left,’ and by the time I saw that last comment I had reached what felt like critical mass. There’s only so much online ire that one can comfortably digest before you just feel over-full, nauseated, and sort of done with it all.

But these last two statements rattled me deeply, and not just because I try very hard to be supportive of trans folk and also not to be an “oppressive reductionist mansplaining misogynist.” What shook me about them (besides the fact they both came from people I do not know, one anonymously), was that I recognised the attacks from somewhere.

Last year, we published a piece that cast light upon the influence of the New/Alt-Right within Paganism. For months afterwards my inbox was full of threatening emails attacking my character, calling me a fascist, a racist (against whites), a “Marxist Demagogue,” a liar, a misogynist (because I’d criticized a woman who called for the return of a ‘conservative monarchy,’) and many more things. I also lost my writing position at a Pagan site, someone bought URL’s of my name and created an attack site against me, and I still haven’t fully lived down rumors that I have collaborated with the government and the FBI.

Going back and reading some of those messages I began to understand precisely why I recognized these newer attacks. They follow the same form, the same logic, despite having different moral content. On the one hand I’m a cultural marxist feminist out to harm anyone who I don’t agree with, and on the other hand I’m a ‘mansplaining misogynist’ and ‘trans antagonistic POS’ who causes harm to strangers.

Online Markets of Virtue

No doubt most will feel a little uncomfortable drawing equivalency between alt-right types and social justice warriors. One wants fascism, the other wants tolerance, and I generally agree with that assessment. But undoubtedly, they use the same tactics, and the question remains: why do they act the same way? Published this summer, Irish author Angela Nagle’s recent book, Kill All Normies, comes closer to the answer to that question than many will find comfortable.

Kill All Normies is first and foremost a cultural history of the alt-right and of internet political culture in general, focusing primarily on the last five years.  Yet its fiercest criticisms have come not from the far-right, but from the social justice ‘left,’ because like any good historian, Nagle refuses to narrate the social and cultural forces which birthed the alt-right in terms of good and evil, guilty and innocent, or righteous and barbaric.

Nagle opens her book with a discussion of an event few reading this could possibly have missed: the first explosively viral internet phenomenon, Kony 2012. If perhaps you were living in a forest and were not one of the 100 million people to have seen it, Kony 2010 was a short film produced by Jason Russell for a Christian children’s ministry to drum up support for a campaign to catch or kill the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony.

Seemingly overnight, everyone with an internet connection knew about the video. And then, not long after, everyone with an internet connection knew about another one, too:

Angela Nagle correctly sees this event as a significant shift in mediated cultural and political consciousness. Suddenly, millions of people knew about a social injustice in Africa about which few had previously cared. Similarly, all those people also learned that the immense cultural and social capital accumulated by a single person could be completely wiped out just as suddenly, and by the very same mechanism by which they accumulated it.

Like the markets of capital, internet social markets giveth and taketh away, and we are now all subject to invisible hands clicking ‘like’ or ‘retweet.’

This point, unfortunately, is an only minor thread of her rather profound book. She weaves it in and out of her primary narrative deftly, and it is more than enough to stitch the entire book together, but readers unfamiliar with the applications of Marxist thought to social phenomena can be forgiven for overlooking it. However, no such leniency should be granted some of the critical reviewers of her work, who rely instead upon the very same dogmatic social justice tropes which Nagle criticises.

Because Kill All Normies isn’t just about the alt-right, but also about the social justice left. In fact, the story of the rise of Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos and the social pogroms they employ against women and oppressed people cannot be told without examining the mechanisms of those crusades themselves. But to do so, those mechanism have to be looked at without their aesthetic-moral content, and that leads to some very uncomfortable questions for the new breed of online social justice advocates who have arisen from internet culture.

We are unaccustomed to viewing violent tactics from a materialist standpoint, temporarily suspending our feelings and personal allegiances to look at the act itself. A case in point would be the complete failure of the American left to regard Obama’s war tactics (and particularly the use of drone assassinations) with the same scrutiny with which they viewed Bush’s employment of those tactics. Obviously, we generally liked Obama–he was charismatic, POC, and somewhat ‘on our side,’ so we were happy to overlook his expansions of the security state and extra-judicial slaughter of American ‘enemies.’

That same inconsistency occurs when we regard other political tactics. When an alt-right troll publishes the personal information about a feminist activist (doxxing) causing her to lose her job, have to leave her home, and fear for her life, we are certainly right to see that as a violent tactic. However, when the same doxxing occurs to people in attendance at the public fascist rallies which have swept through the United States recently, our criticism falls silent. If anything, collecting and publishing the names, phone numbers, employers, and home addresses of alt-right members became a celebrated social justice cause itself.

Tumblr-Liberalism, Virtue Scarcity, and the Employment of Shame

To view the tactics as-themselves. without their moral/aesthetic content (who the target is, why it felt justified, who was using it), doesn’t necessarily lead to moral equivalency. When I receive harassing emails from TERF’s or social justice ‘leftists,’ I do not then automatically see them as ‘just as bad’ as the threats I receive from white nationalists. From such a vantage, however, I am able to note that the weapons are the same, similar to how  the gun in the hands of a domestic abuse victim and the gun in the hands of a bank robber are both guns. If one decides that doxxing is ‘bad’ in the hands of 4chan trolls but ‘good’ in the hands of social justice activists, we can no longer say doxxing itself has any moral content.

So to note that the tactics employed by social justice activists and by the alt-right are the same then begs a more important question: how did they both become so common?

Nagle’s book answers this very well by presenting a cultural history of online communities, tracing the growth of ideas and narratives through both 4chan and its social justice (and let’s not forget–porn) twin, Tumblr.  Particularly of note for her is the explosion of new gender identities birthed in the alembic of Tumblr’s virtue-market, paralleling 4chan and the ‘manosphere’s’ obsession with misogyny.

While gender non-conformism is nothing new, and has certainly been ever more mainstream since the beginning of the sexual revolution and the gay liberation movement, this is part of the creation of an online quasi-political culture that has had a huge and unexpected level of influence. Other similar niche online subcultures in this milieu, which were always given by the emerging online right as evidence of Western decline, also include adults who identify as babies and able-bodied people who identify as disabled people to such an extent that they seek medical assistance in blinding, amputating or otherwise injuring themselves to become the disabled person they identify as.

You may question the motivations of the right’s fixation on these relatively niche subcultures, but the liberal fixation on relatively niche sections of the new online right that emerged from small online subcultures is similar in scale – that is, the influence of Tumblr on shaping strange new political sensibilities is probably equally important to what emerged from rightist chan culture.

As she points out, not conforming to the gender binary is hardly a new thing. What is new is how we talk about gender variations, how we argue about them, and what sort of recognition they require. While sites like Tumblr (founded only ten years ago) are not the only place people have discussed new ideas about gender, there is an extra capitalist mechanism at play which mediates those discussions.

That mechanism? Attention, distributed through the accumulation and appropriation of virtue.

At the beginning of the last decade, if I wanted to express my gender in a way that did not fit in with the dominant modes in my community, the amount of work I would have to do in order to convince people would be quite extensive. I might have personal friends who were supportive, might even be able to meet people who felt in similar ways, but merely saying that I was an “ambigender Otherkin” wouldn’t really get me far. Through Tumblr we are now able to find hundreds of people around the world who feel exactly the same way, or read our account and ‘discover’ that they, too, are also an Otherkin ambigender.

Upon discovery of kindred Otherkin ambigenders, a sense of community is created around which each person with similar experiences can share their joy and sorrow and especially their struggles against a world that doesn’t embrace, understand, or (likely most painful of all) has never heard about Otherkin ambigenders (!!!). From such communities can then arise political narratives which explain the oppression that one might experience when others refuse to acknowledge your identity.

Demands for better recognition, for protection, and collective actions against those who erase or dismiss your existence are now much easier to organise through such mediums, so much so that Tumblr can be said to have significantly contributed to the liberation of ambigender Otherkin.

Whether you as a reader find such discussions a bit ridiculous or truly liberatory, a more important question arises. How, then, do we judge the oppression of peoples? What moral frameworks should we use to prioritize in whom we will invest our limited political attention and energies? Is the struggle for disability recognition, the protection of women’s access to contraception and abortion, liberating Black men from the prisons, and bathroom access for trans people all equal to the needs of the Otherkin ambigender community? And can an intersectional social justice framework hashed out through social media by means of listicles on Everyday Feminism and Teen Vogue really help us answer that question?

Rather than answering that question in any meaningful way, Tumblr-Liberalism (Nagle’s description, and apt one) has provided us instead with a playbook to get attention for our cause, to get our concerns heard. To do so, we must accumulate virtue through a highly-ritualized social process invoking the demonic spirits of ‘shame’ and ‘privilege’ to coerce others into action on behalf of each individual cause.  And when virtue is too equally distributed and its ‘buying power’ lessened by inflation, we must then appropriate the virtue of others by showing them no longer worthy of it (the social justice ‘call out’).

This playbook works because very few of us want to appear like assholes, and invoking virtue is a way to make others feel like they have wronged someone and should make amends. So if while reading my explanation of the oppressions faced by Otherkin you smirked or rolled your eyes, you just engaged in Otherkin-shaming. You showed your privilege as someone who is not Otherkin. And no–it’s not up to ambigender Otherkin to educate you on their oppression. And because you likely do not want to be a bad person, or at least do not want to appear as a bad person, such accusations may shame you into being more willing to listen to the concerns of ambigender Otherkin, help them raise awareness, ‘call-in’ your friends whose actions are obviously antagonistic micro-aggressions against ambigender Otherkin, etc..

Nagle asserts that virtue is the core capital of social media interactions. I want to appear virtuous, to appear as if I care about people (because I do). So I express things which show my virtue on the internet, and that grants me virtue capital. But when I do something un-virtuous, I can lose that very quickly as others seize the opportunity to accumulate the virtue I have forfeited by saying something ‘oppressive’ on-line. And even if I have not said something oppressive, it can be enough for virtue competitors to convince others that I have by changing the rules on what is oppressive or not, redefining oppression in a way that benefits the virtue competitor.

Rejecting the cumbersome and solipsistic nature of these closed systems of virtue has given great strength to the alt-right. The popularity of charismatic figures like Milo Yiannopoulos derives precisely from his boldly-stated rejections of the economies of virtue. But what the alt-right (especially 4chan denizens) do to political enemies (particularly women) operates on the very same mechanism. Women have had to flee their homes and people have actually killed themselves because of the social media campaigns against them, but whereas with Tumblr-liberalism the stakes are your social status, with the alt-right it is that and also your physical safety.

Shame is the core weapon in both political tendencies, the goal in both cases to ‘ruin’ the transgressor, and though the consequences of such ruin are different, the processes are so similar that we cannot help but wonder why they got that way.

This is another place where Angela Nagle’s book feels a little too short. One wishes it were not just a cultural history but a psycho-analytical study unraveling why both the alt-right and social justice left act like schoolyard bullies, the latter banishing transgressors from the popular group and the former kicking them in the shins and stealing their lunch money.

Misogynist Masculinists and Anti-male Feminists

To attempt such an analysis, however, would make the book even more uncomfortable, because underlying the two tendencies is the unspoken matter of gender-difference itself. The “manosphere,” 4chan and all other related subcultural/political milieu are overwhelmingly male, while their victims are primarily female. On the other hand, while Tumblr users are only slightly more often female than male, the social justice left sees maleness to be the most oppressive of the hundreds of genders existing on Tumblr.

While it may seem too simplistic or reductive to re-insert the gender binary here as a political tool, Nagle comes to the same conclusion as I previously outlined in my series on Jack Donovan (someone she briefly mentions in her book).  That is, the anti-feminist “Manosphere” cannot be talked about without also speaking to the flaws in feminist thought to which they react.

This crop of forum dwelling-obsessives would be horrified to learn that the original men’s movement grew out of and alongside the feminist movement and the sexual liberation movement as a critique of rigid traditional sex roles, according to masculinities scholar Michael Kimmel. Men’s liberation later grew apart from the feminist movement as second-wave feminism became increasingly antagonistic towards men, criticizing men as a whole in its rhetoric around rape and domestic violence. Splits and tendencies developed as the question of men’s experience of their societal role took different thinkers and factions in radically different directions. It was by the 90s that the men’s movement became primarily focused on institutions in which men were excluded or discriminated against. [emphasis mine]

“Criticizing men as a whole” is basically essentialism, ascribing to all men traits and behaviors which oppress women, and it is this which actually opens up territory for the very oppression feminism attempts to fight. To quote my essay on Donovan:

Jean Baudrillard expanded Walter Benjamin’s work on aesthetics by noting how, now that we only have reproduction of art, we now also only have reproduction of politics. The ‘real’ we imagine is always a copy, a simulation of the real. Those copies and simulations become how we determine what is real, affecting our behaviour and the construction of our identities.

Whereas once the aesthetic was the visual representation of a way of being, the aesthetic is now our only blueprint. We do not know what it is like to be masculine except by the representation of the masculine, anymore than we know what it is to be anti-modern without representations of the anti-modern.

More dangerous, however, is that the negatives of images reproduce themselves as well. The aesthetic of hyper-masculinity from which Donovan and Waggener build their politics is produced from the negative space of liberal feminist critiques which reduce men to enemy, alpha-oppressor, toxic, and dangerous.

It will not seem surprising that it is on this point which Nagle has received the most ire from social justice/leftist critics, who have accused her variously of blaming feminists, trans people, and social justice advocates for being worse than the alt-right. But on the contrary, if there is anywhere that Nagle could be accused of moralizing, it’s in her accounts of what the alt-right has done to women. Her history of the harassment of women during “Gamer Gate” is harrowing and she spares no details, and particularly her criticisms of Milo and the “manosphere” are everything but gentle or sympathetic

Kill All Normies is just as much an indictment of the social justice left as it is a warning about the alt-right, but it is not completely without flaws. Much attention already has been given to one particular aspect of the book, so much so that I was told to read the book was to side with the enemy. “She hates trans people,” I was informed, because of her sympathetic discussion of the incidents surrounding Germaine Greer and her rejection of no-platform tactics.

These aspects deserve further attention. Germaine Greer is a feminist thinker in the United Kingdom who has been no-platformed by trans-activists for her public rejection (15 years ago) of trans identity. Her feminism is indeed trans-exclusive, and while Nagle makes clear she herself supports trans issues, her sympathetic treatment of Greer has led some to claim the opposite.

First, the entire section in question:

These dynamics, which began in subcultural obscurity online, later spilled over into the campus wars over free speech, trigger warnings, the Western canon and safe spaces. Trigger warnings had to be issued in order to avoid the unexpectedly high number of young women who had never gone to war claiming to have post-traumatic stress disorder. They claimed to be ‘triggered’ by mention of anything distressing, a claim with no scientific basis and including everything from great works of classical literature to expressions of pretty mainstream non-liberal opinion, like the idea that there are only two genders.

At the height of all this Germaine Greer was announced to speak at Cardiff University about ‘Women & Power: The Lessons of the 20th Century’. The women’s officer at Cardiff University Students’ Union, Rachael Melhuish, decided that Greer’s presence would be ‘harmful’. In her petition calling for the event’s cancellation, she claimed:

Greer has demonstrated time and time again her misogynistic views towards trans women, including continually misgendering trans women and denying the existence of transphobia altogether… Universities should prioritise the voices of the most vulnerable on their campuses, not invite speakers who seek to further marginalise them. We urge Cardiff University to cancel this event.

The petition was signed by over 2,000 people and Greer was transformed overnight from a leading veteran figure who worked for her entire life for the cause of women’s liberation to a forbidden and toxic TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist), whose name was dragged through the dirt. As far as this new generation of campus feminists was concerned, Greer may as well have been on the far right. Greer had not published any comment about transgenderism for over 15 years, which was ‘not my issue’, she later told Newsnight. In response to the controversy, Cardiff University’s vice-chancellor pandered to those attacking Greer, saying: ‘discriminatory comments of any kind’ and how it ‘work(s) hard to provide a positive and welcoming space for LGBT+ people’.

Not satisfied with the attacks on Greer thus far, online activist Payton Quinn, identifying as ‘non binary’ and a ‘trans feminist activist and all round ethereal being’ penned an angry public letter suggesting Greer’s actions were criminal in an article titled ‘Entitled to Free Speech But Not Above the Law’.

Greer’s feminism undoubtedly falls into what most would describe as Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminism, and though it is not up to me to decide whether Greer deserves a platform to speak, Greer’s no-platforming seem neither the social justice victory trans activists believe it to be, nor does it seems nearly the great loss which Angela Nagle suggests.

Nagle’s reason for bringing Germaine Greer up at all is not to defend her brand of trans-exclusive feminism, but rather to elucidate how no-platforming and Tumblr-liberalism has led to the left having no coherent intellectual discourse against the alt-right. Few theorists or intellectuals can accumulate enough virtue capital to withstand the friendly-fire long enough to iterate a coherent political and cultural ideology that can weaken the alt-right’s position. But here she makes a rare intellectual error herself, because Greer’s feminism is precisely the sort that hobbles the efforts to cultivate  something that can oppose the core brilliance of alt-right fascism.

Greer’s feminism is actually not much different from the feminism we see in Tumblr-liberalism; both heavily rely on the notion that men are the alpha-oppressors of women, and merely differ on whether trans women are part of that oppressor class or part of the sacred oppressed. For a TERF, the answer is the former: male socialization and/or the possession of a penis at some point in ones life makes you part of the privileged male oppressor class no matter what surgery or life experiences might make you feel otherwise. But the social justice position on trans women (they are no longer men, maybe never were men, are just as oppressed and even more so than women) is no more radical. It keeps the same basic article of faith (men are bad) and only disagrees with TERF ideology on whether or not maleness can ever be mediated.

While both sides resort to harassment, no-platforming, doxxing, and even direct violence against each other, the alt-right continues to build support from men (who are after all the alpha-oppressors with no chance ever of undoing their patriarchal male privilege, so why not embrace it?). No one on the left could possibly articulate a way out of that anti-masculinist deadlock–to even question such articles of faith is to risk all your virtue capital, if you are even listened to at all. And so while social justice activists have gotten quite good at shaming those with subtly different views from their own, all their internet crusades combined will never match what the alt-right has shown that it can–and is more than willing–to do to its chosen enemies.

At the end of Kill All Normies, Nagle ends with an understandably bitter indictment of the feminist social justice left after the death of Mark Fisher:

During the period examined in this book, Mark Fisher stood out as one of the few voices not on the right who had spoken out against the anti-intellectual, unhinged culture of group hysteria that gripped the cultural left in the years preceding the reactive rise of the new far right online. In January 2017, when news broke that Fisher had committed suicide, those in the same online milieu that had slandered and smeared him for years responded as you might expect—by gloating.

Stavvers (aka Another Angry Woman), an influential Twitter figure among what the alt-right call SJWs, had already written ‘Vampires Castle’ sarcastically down as her Twitter location and responded to the news of his death by tweeting: ‘Just because Mark Fisher is dead, doesn’t make him right about “sour-faced identitarians”. If only left misogyny would die with him,’ with the follow-up: ‘*dons vampire cape, flies off into the night*,’ This response is a fairly typical example of precisely the sour-faced identitarians who undoubtedly drove so many young people to the right during these vicious culture wars. The left’s best critic of this disease of the left had just died and dancing on his grave was a woman who once blogged about baking bread using her own vaginal yeast as a feminist act.

While a tragic tale, reading it made me feel a little less alone. While I am hardly excited about the onslaught of anonymous messages from TERFs calling me a “oppressive reductionist mansplaining misogynist,” or angry comments from trans people calling me a “spiritual bypassing fuck” that this review will elicit, the very fact that Angela Nagle wrote this book at all gives me hope.

Perhaps this will all change soon. Perhaps enough people will read her book and decide to opt-out of the 4chan/Tumblr outrage machine, holding the line against the absurdity with thoughtful critique and actual organizing. Because the people who actually benefit from the call outs and doxxing and harrassment are neither the victims nor the perpetrators themselves. It’s the capitalist machines profiting from every click and retweet, every social justice crusade and manosphere pogrom–not us.


 

Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth is a spiritual bypassing fuck an anarchist, bard, and  co-founder of Gods&Radicals, as well as its managing editor. His work can be also be found at his blog, Paganarch. And you can also call him out for his micro-aggressions against ambigender Otherkin support him on Patreon.


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Catalunya and the Coming Flood

Gods&Radicals has started our fundraiser for next year. See the link at the end of this essay for more information.


Catalonia has opened a flood-gate. Whether or not they succeed, the rushing waters cannot be held back.

From Rhyd Wildermuth

 

He’d sent his favorite painting to his friend in Paris, a friend who’d managed to hide his anti-fascist politics long enough to keep his position in an archive as Nazi bootsteps echoed through the streets of France. He bid auf wiedersehen to his hosts in Marseilles, especially his close friend Hannah Arendt, stuffed the loose leaves of his final manuscript into a valise, and traveled to the small town of Cerbère, at the tip of the southwesternmost part of mainland France.

The Gestapo had direct orders to apprehend him. So, too, did the Stalinists.  There was no where else for him to run but here.

He’d gotten a visa, arranged by an American poet friend. But the Nazis would not let a Jew leave France through any port, and his only hope was to flee by boat from Portugal. To get there, though, he would have to travel through Fascist Spain, and to get into Spain he had only one hope: Catalonia.

Only a year before, Catalonia had been free, the last bastion of anarchist and leftist resistance in Europe as fascism swept through the continent. Many Catalonians still remembered, still resisted, including the former mayor of the town of Portbou, just on the other side of the Pyrenees from Cerbère. The mayor had helped resistance fighters to the fascist Franco regime flee in France, and now he would help the Jewish Marxist philosopher, Walter Benjamin, flee the fascists in France towards safety.

I wish this story ended well.

I wish I could tell you a happy tale of how Benjamin, exhausted and harried, arrived finally at a port in Lisbon and from there sailed from European fascism forever. But he arrived in Portbou one day too late; Franco had just issued a decree that any Jews in Spain without Spanish citizenship should be immediately deported to France, and he was put under house arrest by the Guardia Civil.

Even the still-burning heart of resistance in Catalonia could not save him against the full weight of the Spanish government. But rather than face the gas chambers of Germany, he injected himself with a lethal dose of morphine, the last entry in his journal quoting Kafka:

“There is plenty of hope. But not for us.”

Last year I, along with my best friend who’d been haunted for months with dreams of the dead philosopher, followed the rocky and steep trail Walter Benjamin took across the Pyrenees from Cerbère to Portbou. The path leads ever upward, winding its way through outposts of cork oak and vast oceans of wildflowers, with the blue-green of the Mediterranean always at your back until you reach the dizzying top. But as you descend the Catalonian side, the entire land seems to change around you, massive cactus and scrubby bushes your primary companion. By the time you reach Portbou, you are in a different world completely though barely a few miles as a crow might fly from where you started.

Neither of us ever really quite understood why we made that trek. It was her first mountain climb, my first in years. The whole trip had been one of anxiety–uncertainty why we were there in the first place, confusion about the path, panic about our insufficient plans and the mere handful of coins we’d had between us during the journey. We’d run out of water before we got to the top, arrived exhausted and hurried in Portbou, realizing we had just enough money to take a train out but barely enough time to catch it, and neither of us speak Spanish or Catalan.

Why did we make that trip? Why cross a mountain just to spend brief minutes in the small town where our favorite philosopher died? And why did we feel so much dread that day and the days afterward, fearing something was coming we were supposed to prepare for?

Watching what is happening in Catalonia and the rest of the world now, I suspect I know a bit more of those answers.

“Catalonia is Not Spain”

By now you’ve probably heard about it all. Earlier this month, a vote was held in the semi-autonomous region for independence. The Spanish government declared it illegal and sent out the Guardia Civil (whose insignia is still a fasces) to seize ballot boxes and beat up old women who’d cast their vote. And then, on the 27th of October, at 3:35 pm local time, the Catalonian leaders followed the direction of the voters and declared independence.

In just 24 hours, the conservative Spanish government had moved to depose the independence leaders, had seized control over local police and emergency services, threatened parliamentarians with treason, taken over the public broadcasting services in Catalonia and installed their own leaders over the region.

And as of the writing of this essay, Spain has jailed 9 of the elected leaders of the Catalonian government who partook in the independence move. They are charged with treason and sedition, eight of them without possibility of bail, and must together pay 6.7 million Euros to cover the Spanish government’s ‘court costs’ or have all their possessions seized.

Worse from the government is promised.

But while the Spanish government attempts to punish Catalunya for its desire to be independent of the nation-state of Spain, it is not the only one showing disapproval. Large corporations are threatening to leave Barcelona or have already done so, the same process of “Capital flight” which has brought many a populist and leftist government in the global south to its knees.

And the leaders of the ‘free world’ have made clear which side they are on, and it’s not the people of Catalonia:

  • The United States under Donald Trump issued a statement through the State Department vowing to support “the Spanish government’s constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united.”
  • Theresa May, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, was even harsher, stating Britain “does not and will not” recognise Catalonia as an independent entity.
  • Emmanuel Macron, the pro-capitalist leader of France, stated: “There is a rule of law in Spain with constitutional rules. Mariano Rajoy wants these rules to be respected and he has my full support.”
  • From Angela Merkel’s government spokesman: “The German government does not recognise such a declaration of independence.”
  • From Turkey, whose leader Erdogan has violently put down Kurdish attempts at independence (including ordering the beating of American supporters of the Kurds): “Turkey will continue to support Spain’s territorial integrity, constitution and political integrity.”
  • And from the president of the European Union, Donald Tusk: “For EU nothing changes. Spain remains our only interlocutor.”

As of the writing of this essay, the only European government to be somewhat supportive of Catalonia has been the Scottish Parliament, who were blocked from efforts to join the European Union independent of Britain after Brexit by the Spanish leader Mariano Rajoy himself. Belgium, currently ruled by a coalition which includes separatists, made a less supportive statement but has tweeted out instructions to Catalonians on how to seek asylum within Belgium in the likely event of Spanish political repression. The deposed president of Catalonia fled there already with 8 other Catalonian independence ministers.

And what about Russia? In multiple statements since the initial referendum, Vladimir Putin has made clear Catalonia “is Spain’s internal business and must be resolved within Spanish law and on the basis of democratic traditions,” though certainly seems eager to capitalize on the European Union’s double-standards regarding support for independence movements.

That so much condemnation has quickly come from the leaders of the “free world” should give anyone dismissive of Catalonia’s independence bid pause. When Donald Trump, Theresa May, Vladimir Putin, and Recep Erdoğan all agree Catalonia must remain part of Spain, something else is probably going on here.

That ‘something else’ is much bigger than Catalonia itself. If anything, Catalunya’s desire for self-governance threatens the entire capitalist world order.

The Identity Politics of the Nation

To understand the threat Catalunya presents not just to Spain but to capitalism itself, we need to look at the concept of the nation-state and its relationship to capitalism. But before that, we need to unravel precisely what a Nation is and how it is used to control people.

First, we must remember: most of the modern nation-states in existence are relatively new.  For instance, what we know of as Italy was birthed in 1871; Germany came fully into existence that same year. France as a nation-state was born in 1792, a little after the United States (1776). But even still it is not quite correct to look at any of these nations as being quite so old: the United States has only existed in its current territorial form since 1959 and didn’t fully control the land which is now the 48 contiguous states until 1912. Germany in its current form has only been around 1990 (after re-unification); France is in its 5th incarnation as a Republic (1958), and several European nation-states in existence 30 years ago no longer exist, including Yugoslavia (died 1990) and Czechoslovakia (died 1993), birthing new nations from their ashes.

So the nation-state is hardly an eternal form. They come, they go, they form and re-form, but before the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, they cannot be said to have existed at all. What came before were less organized systems of governments (usually kingdoms) attempting to exert control over land and very diverse people through direct force.

The nation-state significantly changed the world, and not just because it created borders and all the modern methods of state violence (police, bureaucracy, etc.).  More than anything, it changed the way people saw themselves, slowly replacing their local identifications with National identity.  For instance, before the birth of the French republic in 1792, there was no real sense of what it meant to be French (and anyway at that point, no more than half of “the French” actually spoke “French”).  Only through long decades of war and government repression of differences did the idea of being French actually take hold in France, and even still some (including Bretons and Corsicans) refuse to call themselves “French.”

The Nation-State, then, is not just a new political construct, but a new way of arranging people and defining their meaning and identity. This identity creates what Benedict Anderson called “imagined communities,” constructed connections between people who will never meet each other but see themselves as part of the same Nation.

In the United States, “American” may not mean the same thing to people on the far left or the far right, to a poor Black woman or an upper class white male, but it’s incredibly rare (except among First Nations peoples) to find anyone who actually refuses to allow themselves to be called an American. That shared national identity binds people who hate each other, binds oppressors and oppressed people together, around a shared sense of membership in the social construct called the Nation.

That definition in places like the United States appears fixed and unquestionable, but in the European nations from which the ancestors of white Americans came, national identity is not monolithic. France, for instance, has at least five other competing national identities within its European territory: Alsatian, Breton, Basque, Corsican,  and Occitanie. Add to this the colonized outremer departments such as Martinique and Guyane and you have many, many more non-French identities.

These identities are not just regional; a Corsican who tells you they are Corsican is not just telling you they live in Corse, they are telling you they do not live in France. Here where I live in Bretagne, it is the same: friends and strangers often vehemently correct me when I say I live in “France.” For them, France is an occupying force, an identity pushed upon them and one they are fully justified in rejecting as they please.

The United Kingdom has a similar internal division: for some Welsh, Scottish, Cornish, and Northern Irish folk, “British” is not just an identity they refuse to be defined with, but it is an enclosure and erasure of their cultural and ethnic identity.

One Nation Under the God-State

For the rulers of Nation-States like France and the United Kingdom, national identity is the primary means by which they are able to get the people they govern to not just identify with each other, but identify with the rulers themselves. The French leader Emmanuel Macron, for example, is the President of the French people. If the people Macron tries to rule do not see themselves as French, the laws he and his government create and enforce cannot adequately control people without using overt violence.

Similarly, Theresa May is the British Prime Minister: if the people in Scotland see themselves no longer British, the only way her government can control what the Scottish do is by direct force. Governments lose their appearance of legitimacy (and much of their power) when the people they are supposed to represent no longer identify as part of the imagined community they were elected to lead.

If you are a reader who considers themselves American, imagine how different your relationship to the United States government (and especially Trump) might be if you did not see yourself as an American. Say, for instance, that your parents were Irish and you see yourself more Irish than you do American, and you were living in an area where most of the people you knew spoke Irish and also didn’t see themselves as American. Your perception of the legitimacy of the United States would radically change.

There are already examples of this alternate identification in the United States. Some First Nations people refuse the label of American and point out that the United States is an occupation on their land, a settler-colonist government which is fully illegitimate. Also, some Black and Pan-African thinkers likewise identify more with Blackness or Africanness than with “American,” though these movements do not (by no fault of their own) have the same ongoing ancestral connection to land that First Nations peoples do and thus often have to reconstruct cultural identity.

From here, it should be easy to understand that what is happening in Catalonia is not some aberration in the history of humanity. And also it should be easy to understand why powerful Nation-States attempt to inculcate a singular constructed identity. But another objection is often raised against regional independence movements, particularly by liberals and some anarchists.

That objection? That Catalonia’s desire for independence is “nationalist,” and nationalism is fascist.

Fascist Nationalism vs. Autonomous Movements

Currently sweeping through Europe and the United States are far-right identitarian movements invoking cultural, ethnic, and racial ‘purity’ to fuel their desire for political power and a future without immigrants, Muslims, and anyone else besides themselves. In the United States, for instance, the so-called “alt-right” has marched openly carrying torches and chanting anti-semitic and anti-Black slogans. In Europe, groups like Bloc Identitaire, PEGIDA, Golden Dawn, Alternativ fur Deutschland, Front National, and others associated with the New Right/Nouvelle Droit have staged rallies, attacked refugees and anarchists, and even gained many seats in parliaments.

Besides their anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish rhetoric, these groups have another thing in common: they argue for European states built around ethnic/racial/cultural identity. In this way, they may seem not much different from the movement in Catalonia (or Bretagne, or other places) but for one crucial difference: exclusion. For, while the European far-right tries to redefine the nation along identitarian lines, they also think those nations should only be composed of those identities.

That is, fascist nationalism is primarily exclusionary. On the other hand, the Catalonian independence movement has not said “Catalonia only for Catalonians.” In fact, part of the political platform of an independent Catalonia was the immediate granting of citizenship to immigrants of any ancestry who already had resident status.

More so, fascist nationalist groups have had a horrible time gaining support from independence and autonomous movements. The Front National headed by Marine Le Pen, for instance, did worse in Bretagne during the elections than in more culturally-assimilated (“French”) regions in France, while the far-left/communist candidate, Jean-Luc Melechon, did better in Bretagne than elsewhere.

While it may seem counter-intuitive to Americans unfamiliar with Spanish history, in Catalonia the far-right anti-immigrant/fascist groups are supporting Spanish national unity, not Catalonian independence. There are both historical and ideological reasons for the fascists to take Spain’s side: Spain was ruled by a fascist dictator from 1939 until 1975 (the longest fascist government in history). Spain wasn’t ‘liberated’ from fascism, either–Franco only left power because he died, and the successive ‘democratic’ governments since then never fully (or even partially) purged the fascist sympathisers from their ranks.

Ideologically, though, fascism has much more in common with (and much more to gain from) the Nation-State (and national identity) than it ever would from independence movements. Fascism is at its core both nationalist and statist: none of the far-right movements in Europe are calling for the abolishment of the State or the breaking up of States into distinct cultural regions. Instead, they demand stronger States which exclude, punish, and make war against people who are not like them.

Catalonia has no such plaform, nor does the other independence movement with which I am most familiar, the Breton nationalist movement (mostly made up of communists and anarchists anyway).

So we see here that Catalonia’s independence is both a threat to fascist identitiarian movements as well as the governments of liberal democratic states like the U.S., U.K, France, and Germany. And here’s where our discussion of nationalism finally leads us to the collusion of the Capital and the Nation-State, and why what Catalonia is doing threatens the entire order.

Capitalists and the Nation State: Symbiotic Parasites

There are two things which govern the mutual relationship between Capitalism and the Nation-State. The first is the Capitalist’s desire to gain wealth, avoid risk, and protect their investment. The second is the Nation-State’s need for political stability and wealth in the form of tax-income. These two imperatives function in tandem and make both the Nation-State and the Capitalist mutually parasitic on each other, and thus natural allies.

The first should seem self-evident: investors, corporations, and banks do not like losing money and do everything in their power not to do so.

Economic and long-term investment forecasts aren’t used by the rich the way that the average person uses a weather report. For us, whether it rains next week won’t change much of our lives–we may not plan that trip to the beach with friends or the outdoor barbecue, but unless we are farmers, we don’t significantly change our behavior. For the rich, however, the stability or volatility of a market determines whether or not they are going to keep investments or move them to another market.

Those decisions based on volatility or stability don’t just affect the wealth of the investors, of course. They also determine whether or not people keep their jobs, get to borrow money for houses, or even get to survive at all. So when an investor decides that a market is too risky and decides to move their money elsewhere, that economic chaos can cause political chaos too. Capitalists need to protect their investments (property, primarily) during such times, and also need to protect themselves from political actions from the poor they’ve harmed (riots, assassinations, worker-takeovers, etc.).

A Nation-State is the perfect entity to provide these things for the rich. Through its ability to control markets by laws, policing, and military actions, the Nation-State can guarantee to the capitalist a stable economic climate. Also through its police, judicial, and military powers, the Nation-State can punish people who react violently to decisions by Capitalists to move investments, cut wages, destroy neighborhoods (gentrification), or even outright steal from people.

On the other hand, the Nation-State needs taxes in order to function. Taxes on income and commerce are an easy and difficult-to-oppose means for the State to gain wealth, and thus the economic activity generated by capitalists directly benefits the Nation-State. The more economic activity, the more tax revenue–thus the hyper-consumerism that banks and corporations encourage becomes an addictive drug for the state.

Subsistence farmers or people who only work enough to survive and make most of their own goods cannot produce enough tax revenue for a government to fund massive military campaigns or even run a modern state. Likewise, if a citizenry becomes self-sufficient and self-governing, they rely on the state much less and even begin to oppose it. On the other hand, economically hyper-active citizenry often tend to associate their wealth with the leaders of nation-state itself and become more loyal to it (the way President Bill Clinton or Prime Minister Tony Blair were credited with their respective nation’s economic growth, for instance).

What happens when a Nation-State deviates from this mutual relationship, though?

One need only look at what happened to Argentina and other South American nations who elected leftist or left-leaning governments and platforms to find out. When Argentina in 2001 announced they would no longer pay back debt forced upon them by the International Monetary Fund, capitalists punished the people severely through a process called “Capital flight.” Basically, banks, corporations and large investors quickly pulled their money out of local economies all at once, leading to banks running out of money, millions of people suddenly losing jobs and access to credit, and entire cities suddenly going bankrupt.

So although the relationship between the Nation-State and the Capitalists is mutually-parasitic, the Capitalists are able to do much more damage to the other than the Nation-State can, unless the Nation-State itself seizes the wealth and property of the capitalists (which occurs only during communist take-overs of the State).

The Gates Are Open

Now, back to Catalonia. As I mentioned in the beginning of this essay, Capital flight occurred immediately when the Catalonians voted for independence. Hundreds of Spanish corporations left or moved their headquarters, because to stay meant too much risk. Also, the Catalonian independence movement was heavily influenced by far-left politics, further suggesting to the capitalists that they might not get nearly the same profits in the region as they currently do under the conservative and neo-liberal Spanish government.

So both the Capitalists and the Spanish government have punished Catalonia for their desire to determine their own future. And here’s where a floodgate just opened that threatens to drown the entire capitalist world: we all just saw them do that.

Liberal Democracy (the system that the US, United Kingdom, and almost every European nation uses) has been able to function so well and fight off leftist and independence movements for so long because it veils the Nation-State’s collusion with the Capitalists better than any other system. It promises freedom and democracy to its people, but in Spain it literally beat up old women who’d just voted for autonomy and imprisoned democratically-elected Catalonian leaders.

It also claims to be opposed to fascism, but in Catalonia the conservative Spanish government and the “socialist” minority party are doing exactly what the fascists want. Likewise, the widespread condemnation of Catalonia’s independence from the leaders of every other large Liberal Democratic nation have also revealed themselves to be against democracy and in agreement with the fascist movements in their own countries.

The entire world just watched this happen, especially every other independence movement. We have all watched what the Nation-State and the Capitalists will do together to stop anyone who tries to determine their own future. The Scots saw this, as did the Welsh. The Bretons saw this, as did the Basque and the Corsicans.

So, too, did everyone who was under the illusion that the Nation-State is inviolable and eternal, that governments can protect us from the capitalists and that capitalism was not invested in the authoritarianism of the Nation-State. They now know their governments and capitalist class are all ultimately on the same side as the fascists.

Catalonia has opened a flood-gate. Whether or not they succeed, the rushing waters cannot be held back.

What comes next in the world is uncertain. Which groups inspired by what Catalonia has done will try next? Which groups will succeed? And what beautiful alliances will begin to form between all these apparently disparate movements across the world? Will we see Bretons and Scots and the Basque meeting together with First Nations people, co-ordinating mutual aid and international solidarity between their movements?

Or will we see the fascists seize this moment, using the panic of the governments of the world to manifest their dreams of homogenous, exclusive, authoritarian Nation States?

I don’t know. When I think on Walter Benjamin’s last journal entry in Catalonia before he killed himself, that quote from Kafka, I imagine those who’ve put their hope in this first full attack on Spain seeing a glimpse of all the future movements that will arise.

If Catalonia fails, they too may find themselves penning those same words: “There is plenty of hope, but not for us.”


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth is a co-founder and the managing editor of Gods&Radicals. He’s a poet, writer, theorist, and nomad currently living in occupied Bretagne. Find his primary blog here, his Facebook here, or support him on Patreon here.


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Asatru’s Racist Missionary: Stephen McNallen, Defend Europe, and the Weaponization of Folkish Heathery

 

“…while the Alt Right is the U.S. and Europe were singing the identitarian’s praises, a celebrity in the U.S. pagan community was capitalizing on this to renew his call for racial tribalism.”

From Ryan Smith & Shane Burley

As they headed out into the Mediterranean, Defend Europe had the plan of interfering with humanitarian NGOs attempting to provide medical aid to refugees crossing the seas after years of war-torn violence.

After raising $200,000 through crowdfunding websites like WeSearchr, Defend Europe chartered a 422-ton ship, determined that they would block refugee boats, putting families at fatal risk so that they could prevent the “Islamization of Europe” they believed to be taking place. Heading into the Libyan “search-and-rescue” zone on August 4-5, this meant intending to block Doctors Without Borders as they desperately tried to save the lives of children floating.

Defend Europe is an extension of the “identitarian” movement in Europe, made up of controversial nationalist groups like Generation Identity that the Alt Right in the U.S. have been desperate to imitate. Defend Europe’s direct-interventionist approach is hoping, desperately, to find that there is some evidence of these NGOs practicing “human trafficking,” bringing in refugees for “forced” resettlement.

Throughout the formation of the organization and its project on the high seas, North American Alt Right figures have been active in their support. People like Lauren Southern, formerly of the caustic Rebel Media, had her Patreon suspended from her stated support.

But while the Alt Right is the U.S. and Europe were singing the identitarian’s praises, a celebrity in the U.S. pagan community was capitalizing on this to renew his call for racial tribalism.

Viking Revival

For people in the pagan community, McNallen’s name is well-known, a collage of veneration and horror. The heathen revival, particularly Asatru in the United States, comes from McNallen’s construct starting in the 1960s, bridging over a friendlier version of the racialist Odinism found across Europe. After being drawn by the stories of heroism found in the Eddas and Sagas, McNallen formed the Viking Brotherhood in 1969 with the Viking Manifesto, an ode to a young-male obsession with the warrior cult media interpretation of Norse Vikings.

Taking on a more serious tone, and adopting the magical flavor from Iceland, he created the Asatru Free Assembly in 1976, using the same meta-genetic tone of Else Christiansen’s earlier Odinic Rite, yet eschewing the harder edged racialism. For McNallen, this was to be a religion of the Northern European people, their true spiritual practice, and he could use the language of post-colonialism to argue that it was their right–just as it was that of the Tibetans to be freed from the hands of the Chinese Communist Party or for the Navajo Nation to be allowed to have ethnically-exclusive Pow Wows. This was not a new argumentation for the right; European New Right academics had been taking this turn for a few years, arguing that the wave of national liberation movements was in line with their own battle for an “authentic” European Ethno-state.

McNallen

McNallen can be best understood through his actions and ideology. The core of McNallen’s Folkish ideology is the belief in a concept known as metagenetics. Metagenetics claims culture is passed on genetically within specific groups of people. Such genetic connections to culture also determine what deities one can connect to. McNallen’s ideology also shows strong influence from Carl Jung’s Essay on Wotan written in 1936. In this essay Jung argues, based on his theory on archetypes, certain Gods are carried in the lineage of different cultures and certain people can invoke these Gods into their community. In the essay Jung claims Adolf Hitler is such an individual, asserting Hitler archetypally embodied the God Wotan.

His Asatru Folk Assembly further codifies these beliefs in the AFA’s Declaration of Principles. In it they claim only “the Peoples of the North” should practice any form of Germanic Paganism. This is further justified by claims of. Those who do not have the right ancestry are told to “drink from their own well” and leave. Folkish Asatru holds no consistent standards for what is the right or sufficient amount of ancestry to practice. In theory access to the Norse Gods, according to this form of practice, is dictated by blood heritage so anyone of the right descent should have access including a lot of non-white people. In practice the most consistent standard for determining the appropriate background is the paint swatch test.

Tribe and Tradition

McNallen has a long history with the far right. It is unclear exactly when he got involved in extreme right politics though there is little question his flirtation is decades old. The first bit of evidence is when he started his first Asatru organization, the Viking Brotherhood, in 1973 which he advertised in the pages of Soldier of Fortune magazine. The Asatru Free Assembly, his next major project, was started shortly after and lasted around a decade before imploding over the issue of overt white nationalism in the organization. In 1985, just before the old AFA disbanded, McNallen first published Metagenetics.

Between publishing Metagenetics and founding the Asatru Folk Assembly in 1994 McNallen worked as a freelance journalist publishing articles in magazines like Soldier of Fortune. One such example is a piece published in the fall 1994 issue claiming the end of apartheid meant South Africa would soon be consumed by race war where all whites would perish. His dressing up of these concerns in the cloth of anticommunism is a perfect example of his messaging strategies ever since.

McNallen, until his recent removal as head of the AFA, would utilize such methods very consistently. He dresses up his philosophy under the banner of diversity, claims he is focused on protecting the unique heritage of all groups, invokes Judaism, Shinto and Native Americans as justification and brandishes his support, on purely ethnocentric terms, of the Karin and Tibetan separatist movements. All of this is meant to distract from the basic white nationalist foundation of the organization.

McNallen’s ideas were rooted in tribalism, that allegiance to one’s people was bound by blood, and that brotherhood was defined racially, even if he utterly rejected the vulgarities of the neo-Nazi movement. It is this clash in concept that largely destroyed the original AFA, but it only took a couple of decades for the white nationalist movement to evolve into using the same language as McNallen.

As the Alt Right developed, McNallen was right with them with his newest formation, the Asatru Folk Assembly, where he had firmed up his own arguments about the meta-genetic Jungian roots of Asatru in the psyche of the spiritually distinct Nordics. He contributed early on for AlternativeRight.com, joining Richard Spencer on episodes of Vanguard Radio to discuss the first Thor film and the heroism of the Icelandic explorers, coding the language he used well enough to avoid finger pointing from the right and the left. The AFA helped to popularize the “folkish” interpretation of heathenry, that it was an ethnically exclusive religion, and McNallen traveled the world talking to de-colonization movements attempting to woo them into common cause. As many heathens can attest, McNallen helped to set the tone for what heathenry was, especially in the U.S., as he helped to flesh out rituals and theology, adding much of the aesthetics and depth needed to create a multifaceted tradition.

Wotan Network

McNallen currently holds a purely ceremonial office. Day to day affairs is handled by a new triumvirate of individuals who, by some accounts, are far less subtle in their politics. There are rumors his retirement was not voluntary and he was forced out due to a shift in the AFA’s internal politics. Regardless as this was occurring and in the immediate aftermath the AFA’s increasingly open support for white nationalism inspired a backlash in the Heathen community.

In January of 2016 McNallen publicly posted his desire for the Freikorps, the infamous far right paramilitaries who formed the backbone of the Brownshirts and the SS, to come back to Germany and deal with Muslim immigration. These comments inspired immediate backlash against McNallen and his defenders.

After McNallen’s exit, AFA social media posted that the AFA was for “white men and women,” not for transgender people, and even found allies in movements like Deep Green Resistance. Their open racialism came in concert with a new commitment from heathen organizations to stand against the folkish tendency, and the Declaration 127 campaign was born, drawing from the 127th verse of the Havamal that cites the courage to stand up for what is right.

Major organizations, like the Troth, finally cut all ties, and the AFA was relegated to the only crowd left: white nationalist. This made sense since members were attending the National Policy Institute conference, hosting neo-fascist bands at Stella Natura, and helping to build much of the meta-political culture of the burgeoning Alt Right.

Part of McNallen’s separation from the AFA was his renewed commitment to white nationalist politics, doing videos for Red Ice Creations and starting the Wotan Network.

“It’s no secret that it’s my life purpose to awaken European peoples from their sleep,” says McNallen in his announcement video for the network. “This is why my heart beats, this is why I breathe.”

“Agile, hostile, and mobile” is how the decentralized network he is creating, named after Wotan who he believes distinctly motivates the white race. McNallen, though a hard polytheist, wants whites to think of Wotan as a Jungian archetype, a racially distinct machination in the minds of Norther European stock, a mode that they can tap into so as to become a warrior in defense of their racially-exclusive tribe. McNallen has made it clear that the Wotan Network was not an issue of promoting his religion, but instead about the “existence and the destiny of our people.”

In reality this means a culture war headed by racially-motivated memedom, except using the language of terror cells to play into the eschatological machinations of the Alt Right. While he expressly says it won’t be a religious project, he is calling white followers together for a sacred Blot, this one a statement of racial awakening rather than a mythic spiritual call.

The most obvious of the projects from the Wotan Network is Operation Erwache, intended to support those in Europe who are fighting the resettlement of refugees, which they believe is the “Islamization of the West” and redefine the genetic make-up of the continent.

Defend Europe and Operation Erwache

The Wotan Network’s involvement in Defend Europe is as a supporting role. Stephen McNallen posted a call to action shortly after the Wotan Network’s Facebook group was created called “AN EXERCISE IN APPLIED MEMETICS”. He put out a call for members of the Wotan Network to create memes, advertisements and propaganda material to promote Defend Europe.

The support is not surprising given McNallen and the AFA’s explicitly anti-migrant stances. This is the logical conclusion of decades of advocating racial holy war, dehumanizing migrants and leading a white nationalist organization shares parallels with broader trends in society. Trump’s election has emboldened white nationalists and the far right like nothing else, as shown by the surge in hate crimes since November 8, 2016. The surge in far right activity parallels McNallen’s removal from office at the AFA, his own increasingly militant public statements and similar surges in Alt Right activity.

Operation Erwache is a plan to seed the Internet with Wotan Network propaganda, target specific populations who McNallen feels can be won over and build their credibility with the Alt Right. Based on McNallen’s history and pattern of behavior, there is every indication that this goes beyond simple support for his ideological fellow-travelers. By spreading his influence in the he would gain greater support, publicity and visibility in the movement and society and would flood the Heathen community with activists. In one stroke, if all goes according to plan, he would secure both of his bases of support.

In many ways Defend Europe is an outgrowth of low-level neo-Nazi violence, assaults on immigrant communities and other related activities. It also fits with the existing pattern of fascist openly filching tactics, imagery and trappings from the Left with Defend Europe showing strong similarities to the activities of Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Defend Europe, in spite of all the money and publicity it received, has devolved into a total farce. Beginning with being stopped in the Suez Canal for lacking proper documentation and members of the crew detained in Turkish Cyprus for human trafficking Defend Europe’s entire operation has veered from one spectacular screw-up to the next. Their troubles only continued when Tunisian fishermen successfully organized Tunisian ports to deny use of their harbors for refueling, repair and resupply. The whole tragicomic affair climaxed with the vessel adrift at sea due to a critical mechanical failure and the freezing of funding by Patreon, leaving them at the mercy of the very aid ships they sought to impede. One has to wonder if the entire thought process behind hiring the C-Star in the first place was hanging a right at the waterfront, approaching the eye-patched bartender of the first seedy dive they found and inquiring loudly with their new friend if said disreputable fellow could help them contract a trustworthy ship for engaging in piracy, kidnapping, general mayhem, murder and assorted crimes against humanity.

The credibility and money poured into the operation strongly suggests that, for now, there won’t be any similar attempts in the immediate future. Over $100,000 was sunk into this maritime comedy of errors which succeeded in setting itself adrift at sea, humiliated and in legal jeopardy. If the intent was to mobilize public support, build positive publicity and create a brand of direct action similar to Greenpeace’s famous fleet then Defend Europe was a total disaster. Yet this clear defeat should not make those engaging in antifascist work complacent or assume the Identitarian Movement and their Alt-Right allies are beaten. If anything the history of neo-fascism has shown those people are as determined as a bloated tick.

McNallen, to his benefit, does not appear to have been a central figure in organizing Defend Europe. He has also shown a consistent ability to deflect such charges and prevent them from sticking to him. After all this is the man who continued to lead the Asatru Folk Assembly for well over a decade after the Kennewick Man debacle, an episode that would’ve destroyed a less capable demagogue. Ideological setbacks are not going to be enough to upend the Wotan Network or McNallen’s goal of installing himself as Pope of the Alt Right with Folkish Heathenry as the official dogma of the movement.

A Post-Charlottesville World

In the U.S., the Unite the Right rally on August 12th defined the conversation on the far-right for weeks as the Alt Right planned to “defend” the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia. As speakers like Richard Spencer, Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, Christopher Cantwell, and Augustus Sol Invictus lined up; it began to define itself by its unwillingness to “punch right” and to include everyone from Identity Europa to the National Socialist Movement and KKK organizations. This was a solid break with the more moderate Alt Light and Patriot sphere that has been surrounding the, severing where the fissure was created during the “free speech” rallies.

McNallen jumped on board with his support for Unite the Right, promising to join the crowd in Charlottesville to stand up for “white identity.” After the image of the torchlight march from August 11th came forth, where white nationalist protesters chanted “Jews will not replace us” while surrounding a church and finally attacking protesters, McNallen put up an image of the protest with the line “where there is light, there is hope” emblazoned atop it. This was signed off on with the hashtag “#wotannetwork,” owing to his penchant for branding. The next day, one woman died and nineteen were injured as a Vanguard America associate plowed his Dodge Challenger into counter-protesters before hitting the gas in reverse and running the scene. It was both one of the largest white nationalist gatherings in twenty years, and one of the most catastrophic.

In the weeks that followed these declarations, Huginn’s Heathen Hof, a well-known Heathen blog, put out a call for a joint declaration denouncing the Asatru Folk Assembly, its doctrines and its leadership as a racist organization. Since then over a hundred Heathen organizations from all over the world have signed the statement. This has isolated the AFA from many of their former allies, lost members and pushed them into a more openly white nationalist direction. Their increasingly overt white nationalism also parallels with the broader surge in far right activity across the globe. As further splits occur after the Alt Right’s violence in Charlottesville, McNallen and the AFA’s choice to continue supporting the white nationalist contingent should further be a marker to disassociate them from the heathen community they desperately want to define.

What will do the job is quarantining his followers, support network and those advancing his ideology under other names. Declaration 127 is a powerful example of how collective action can contain such groups and lay the foundation for effective confrontation of their politics, ideology and works. Even with this potent precedent more needs to be done. The Asatru Folk Assembly is, sadly, not the lone example of Folkish Heathenry or fascist ideology active in Paganism.

Anti-Fascist Pagans are uniquely positioned to counter ideologues like Stephen McNallen, Augustus Sol Invictus and any others who spring up in the coming days. We live in times that are a greenhouse for fascism yet they are not the only ones who benefit. The scales have fallen from the eyes of many as the greed, exploitation and disregard for human life at the root of Neo-Liberal Capitalism is made plain for all to see. Just as these conditions have given rise to fascism they are also providing potent fuel for a Left that has been deprived of oxygen and space for far too long. In society and spirituality an understanding of ethics, practice and values centered on human needs over human greed has become more possible than it ever has at any point since 1917.

Even with the opportunity at hand victory is not assured. Organizing, mass education, and mutual aid projects plants the seeds of the new society, providing a vision that can really unseat fascist resurgence. The danger of fascist groups, ideologies and organizations, cannot be underestimated either. At one time this movement was used as a dagger to plunge into the heart of the left and humane alternatives to the status quo. Its steel was wielded to keep the people in line during the Cold War. Now, facing either exploitation or barbarity, there is an opportunity to change the dynamic. In and out of our spiritual communities we can transform how people view human relations, society and community. That can only happen through confronting fascism’s threat, and a movement that goes beyond its insurrection and heads to the roots of the system that birthed it.


Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith is a Heathen devoted to Odin living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the co-founder of Heathens United Against Racism, a founding member of Golden Gate Kindred, is active in the environmental justice and anti-police brutality movements, and recently completed his Masters in modern Middle East History and economics.

Shane Burley

Shane Burley is a writer and filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon.  He is the author of Fascism Today: What It Is and How We Stop It (Forthcoming 2017, AK Press). His work has been featured in places like In These Times, ThinkProgress, Roar Magazine, Labor Notes, Make/Shift, Upping the Ante, and Waging Nonviolence. He can be found at ShaneBurley.net, and on Twitter @Shane_Burley1

Valentine’s Game

I breathe easier knowing my grandfather died before the age of Trump. My grandfather, a fiercely opinionated man, believed in people’s power and populism. He was the first person to breathe the word “communism” in my presence — then, in the early nineties, still a dirty word. His relationship with populism and fascism was complicated. His own father had been a soldier in Mussolini’s army, but taken prisoner for most the war in North Africa and presumed dead, leaving my grandfather’s family without a source of income, broken, and ostracized in their small Italian village.

My grandfather was still a young child when Canadian soldiers liberated his village from Axis powers at the end of the Second World War. I still remember my grandfather’s smile at that particular memory — from that point in his life, he would forever associate Canada with hope. When he emigrated to North America, he became a factory worker. Like most men of his age, class, and cultural origin, he had a difficult time with contemporary liberal politics. Decades later, by the time 2008 was said and done, he often felt a strong need to express his dislike for Obama and Obama-style politics. But towards the end of his life, as sickness and age eroded his ability to track world politics — and wage interminable, circular political arguments at the dinner table — he did not have to watch the rise of Trump-style American fascism as his children and grandchildren watched him die. Small mercies.

I’m thinking of that on Valentine’s Day. I’m twenty-six, and I just watched my family blow up in my face.


 

I’ve been here before.

We were always a family split along linguistic and cultural lines — I often joked that my parents’ dinner table was a Babel where three or four languages could be heard simultaneously. Even if bits were lost in translation, nothing could stop the signal of this beautiful cacophony.

As is often the case, there’s only so much difference that blood and habit account for. Eventually, something cracks. We lost our ability to speak to each other.

It ends this time, as it did last time, with an email from my father. This one contains only two words: “Fuck you.”


We are not Americans, but American-style politics have become, in the past decade, our common frame of reference despite ourselves. My brother, the youngest sibling, often wears a baseball cap mimicking those red ones we saw on television at the American Republican National Convention. He calls himself the most feminist person of the family, as he uses racially and sexually charged language to provoke anyone at the dinner table into a confrontation. He is a master of pivot-and-redirect argumentation. He loves to personalize everything. The moment I begin talking about patriarchy, or racism, or oppression in terms larger than any one individual person, he reframes the conversation to be all about him, about whether or not we think he is a bad person, whether we think he is acting like a white supremacist, whether we love him enough despite his faults.

My brother also fully admits to be trolling us at the dinner table. It’s all a joke: the baseball-cap-wearing-redneck attitude, the role of devil’s advocate, even the yelling out of racial epithets to shock us.

Nonetheless, my parents are fiercely protective of his right to say whatever he wants. Every argument with him happens the exact same way. I have tried arguing with him at the dinner table and on Facebook. I have tried being calm, taking him aside one-on-one to detangle this web of entitlement and rage that keeps its iron grip on my brother and won’t let go.

I have also tried, as I did just this last Valentine’s Day after another disastrous family dinner, to walk away. To walk away from his provocations, from this game he plays where he tries to get me to call him out for racist or sexist behaviours in front of our parents. Because he knows that the moment I do that, it’s game over. My father will rise from his chair and begin to scream. My mother will defend her son, throwing daggers with her eyes. As my brother knows well, the bulk of that rage is directed towards me. It’s the fault of feminists that my brother behaves this way. It’s our fault, as women, that my brother channels his insecurity as the youngest in this way.

I reach out to my father later that evening to apologize, again, that dinner was ruined, again. The response is: “Fuck you.”

Reading the email, somehow I am still capable of stupefaction. I am struck with the memory of my grandfather in tears when I admitted to him that I wasn’t sure my father loved me, let alone even liked me.


The problem likely isn’t a lack of love. My father shunned me when I was twenty years old, and I usually describe the year after as the worst of my short life. My life was split into a before and an after; the edges of that divide reached into my family, as certain members of my family no longer spoke to me and others still did, braving my father’s chilly wrath.

My grandfather never stopped speaking to me.

It was through his efforts, my grandmother’s, and eventually my mother’s, that after a long, frosty year, I reached out again towards my father and accepted his help on his terms.

I was dating my nonbinary ex-partner at the time, a relationship that disturbed the delicate heteronormativity my family adhered to religiously. My ex was furious I was speaking with my father again: in fact, it nearly broke us up right then and there. They kept asking me how I could do this to myself after everything that had happened. After all the work we had done to make it to that point, my ex believed that I was cracking under the financial pressure of trying to cope with being in university full-time, working full-time, and being without my family’s financial help. They were truly, completely furious with me. I realise now, with the benefit of hindsight, that so much of that anger was fear — fear for me, fear for my fragilized mental health, and even fear for them.

While my dire financial straits certainly were a factor that encouraged me to reconcile with my father, the truth is that that doesn’t even come close to the full reason. The simple truth is: I love my father. I love my father even when he calls me a whore. Even when he calls me a liar. Even when he screams at me. Even when he tells my brother to go commit suicide. Even when he tells me that my mental illness, multiple suicide attempts and hospitalizations, weren’t real. Even when he tells me that no one would ever love someone as screwed up as me. Even when he has never once apologized for saying these things. I love him even when he tells me, so simply: “Fuck you.”


My grandfather, when he was a young immigrant factory worker, asked my grandmother to dance on a Valentine’s Day. It was the very first time they met: star-crossed love between young immigrants separated by language, continents and race. The Day of Love has always had a mythic quality in my family. Somehow, the story of my grandparents falling in love and beating every single odd before them seemed a story too pure for the shallow claws of commercial capitalism and the cynical Hallmark-card-narrative reaffirming heterosexual gender roles. The story of their first date was a story my grandfather and grandmother adored telling, over and over, long after we had already memorized all the details.

It would be on a Valentine’s Day, in another century, in another world, that the very same family my grandfather built, could be so easily torn apart.

I am not alone. I may be walking away, but I am not alone. I reach out to a friend of mine, who works in the United States and has recently been disowned, financially and in all other ways, by her family because she would not support Trump.

We admit to ourselves that we don’t know, exactly, how to cope with this. We spent a day crying or staring at a wall, and then we rolled up our sleeves and threw ourselves back into work. We try not to worry about the fact that our futures have become dimmer. We try not to think of family reunions and dinners that we will miss. We try not to think of the holidays and vacations we will not be invited to. Funerals, weddings, births we might miss. These memories with loved ones are fleeting and ephemeral — I think of my grandfather dying last year. I don’t even remember the last proper dinner I had with him, when he was still completely lucid and there.

We try not to wonder about these things, and instead try to come to terms with the fact that this has happened at all. The usual suspects: the ever-present accident of our birth and bodies and gender; our queerness; our unapologetic commitment to a feminism that isn’t bullshit; our generational status as entitled millennials with terrible job and housing prospects. In my family, I consider the part language and culture have to play, and think of God confounding Babel until all its people scattered, no longer able to connect with one another. Trauma manifests, poisonous and inescapable. Can it really be that simple, that we are estranged, denigrated, or refused for these reasons? How have Trump-style politics and violence arrived at our dinner table and infected our conversations? How is it so easy for love to be corrupted as it is?

There will be a before, and an after, now. My friend in the United States admits that, just like with my own family, the tension in her family ran high for years, and while the results were usually explosive and terrible, she’d always been able to avoid the finality of this kind of confrontation in the past. Somehow, a few weeks into President Trump’s presidency, a dam broke somewhere — she was unable to escape this outcome.

We wonder about the stresses of “unconditional love” on children and on parents, how it broke us as proverbial lines were drawn in the sand. These cracks in the earth that separate children from their parents, or siblings from each other, don’t seem to matter much in the greater scheme of things. If a political agenda is being served by all this interpersonal chaos and violence, it will probably be for posterity to name and trace its contours, though I have my theories.

After Valentine’s Day, I call my oldest friend. She is, coincidentally, also estranged from her father. I ask her why it seems like the whole world has become a nightmare, and why it feels like it is going to only get worse. She says that she feels it too. She tries to cheer me up as an afterthought, reminding me: “Things always seem darkest before dawn.” The platitude is one we’ve exchanged before. It hangs awkwardly between us in the phone static, as we both take a second to steel ourselves.

The “Fuck you.” echoes, viscerally. When I open my emails I have to reign in the urge to close my computer in panic. I need to go back to work. I take in a deep breath, find my father’s email, and delete it from my inbox.


This was an anonymous contribution to Gods and Radicals. A complete list of Gods and Radicals publications can be found here.

A photo of Whitefish in Montana

The Alt Right’s War on Whitefish, and the Growth of an Opposition

The heart of Montana’s Flathead Valley has always been a cash-flushed vacation destination for those hitting the nearby mountains, perusing well-oiled ski resorts and the kitschy shops that live off of its financial success. Whitefish, a town with a population scarcely above 5,000, is one of the most traveled towns along the valley, with restaurants and antique shops littering its tourism district. It is along these streets that a procession of neo-Nazis promise to march against “Jewish power,” flooding in from out of state, automatic weapons in tow.

Andrew Anglin, the host of the neo-Nazi and Alt Right blog the Daily Stormer, has called for an armed march on Whitefish. The Daily Stormer mixes traditional genocidal Nazi ideas of racial superiority and anti-Semitism with the digital tirades so typical of the new Alt Right. In the world of contemporary white nationalism, the traditional “Stormfront” crowd of skinheads, Klansman, and other insurrectionary racialists has found their access to the more hip Alt Right through Anglin’s site.

Anglin had promised to ship in neo-Nazi skinheads from the San Francisco area, including a supposed Hamas member and vigilantes from the Soldiers of Odin, to descend on the town on January 16th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Anglin renamed it James Earl Ray Day after the man who assassinated King on his trip to visit striking sanitation workers. While Anglin came on strong with a promise of terrorism, it was exactly his exaggeration and the Alt Right’s pattern of creating smoke without fire that created the kernel of their failure. In a world where white nationalism has become commonplace, anti-fascism has grown by mammoth proportions. Anglin’s threat was a catalyzing event that allowed anti-fascist organizations, both community-based and more militant, to take the next step towards a united community that forced Anglin to finally concede defeat.

The Alt Right Mythology

While Alt Right people associated with the Daily Stormer and the surrounding constellations of podcasts, blogs, and busy Twitter accounts have always presented themselves as a movement that is new and intellectual rather than violent, this is a façade that has been cultivated to insulate them from the long history of opposition their movement has faced. While the branding, strategy, and talking points are new, this is traditional white nationalism repackaged for the smartphone generation.  Almost every single prominent Alt Right organization, from the National Policy Institute to American Renaissance, can trace its roots back to earlier white nationalist projects that have had long histories of terrorism. American Renaissance, which built its reputation by arguing people of color have lower IQs and are more aggressive than whites, has hosted guests like former KKK leaders Don Black and David Duke, various Holocaust Deniers, and Aryan Nations members. At the National Policy Institute conference you will see former neo-Nazi skinheads, which is not so surprising after the recent video of stiffed-arm Seig Heils to round out their 2016 conference.burley

Andrew Anglin lies on the edges of this pack of open fascists, often trying to take their snarky memes and racialist talking points, and use them to bring along traditional neo-Nazism. While the Alt Right has relegated itself to podcasts and online word diarrhea, neo-Nazis have had a long tradition of stepping out into the streets in an effort to strike terror into their neighbors. What Anglin hoped to do was to return the Alt Right to its long tradition of American white nationalist organizing: the main street march. The Alt Right, with a more educated demeanor and dreams of Washington power never wanted to resort to the embarrassing role-playing so characteristic of the “revolutionary” white nationalist groups often from the rural South.

White, Montana

Anglin’s call was neither new nor arbitrary, but came at the end of years of escalation that began when Richard Spencer, the Director of the National Policy Institute and founder of the term Alternative Right, moved to Whitefish. When Whitefish became his parent’s vacation home away from their busy lives in Dallas, Spencer moved there with his new Georgian-Russian wife Nina Kouprianova. He centered the NPI there, listing his mother’s property as their headquarters, and hoped to live a quiet life there half the year working on the various racialist book, podcasts, and websites he produces.

Starting in 2014, the relationship he had with Whitefish began to crumble, first during a fated ride on a chairlift at the posh Whitefish Mountain ski resort. Seated by chance next to neoconservative GOP strategist and lobbyist Randy Scheunemann, Spencer berated him for his foreign policy blunders. Spencer comes from an Old Right sensibility about foreign policy matters, one centered on an isolationist “America First” agenda. The confrontation quickly erupted into a controversy as Scheunemann spoke to the press about why a well-paid ski resort in Montana was allowing Spencer membership.

Spencer then headed to Hungary to hold a conference on white nationalism and “pan-European solidarity.” The conference was modeled after his NPI conferences, hosting an international audience and featuring speakers like American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor, Croatian New Rightist Tomislav Sunic, and Eurasianist nationalist mystic Alexandr Dugin. The Hungarian nationalist political party Jobbik eventually pulled out and Viktor Orban himself, under pressure from the socialist party, condemned the conference and declared Spencer persona non grata. Despite the advice of his fellow Alt Right consortium, Spencer continued his plans to host the conference and took a series of flights and train rides into Budapest to avoid arrest. Despite his Bond-like attempts at stealth, the Hungarian authorities descended on his pre-conference dinner and arrested Spencer, deporting him back to the U.S., banning him from entering the European Union.

burleyWhen he returned his infamy had only grown and Whitefish had had enough. A local group named Love Lives Here had formed in 2009 in response to the showing of a Nazi film in the area, and they became an affiliate of the larger Montana Human Rights Network who had been known for countering the growth of the militia movement. A campaign was started to pass an “anti-hate” ordinance through the Whitefish city council to prevent Spencer from holding NPI events in the town. Spencer became irate, declaring that the town was trying to “make Richard Spencer illegal.” Spencer was even refused service at a local coffee shop as he waited for his drink with his then pregnant wife, and other business owners asked that he not return. City Councillor Frank Sweeney had contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center to solicit advice for how to build this ordinance at the time, noting that Spencer was creating his racialist media from their town. They ended up passing a more tepid “commitment to diversity,” one that Spencer tried to “troll” by publicly “endorsing” the call for inclusivity.

This back and forth allowed both sides to claim victory, but as they continued on, Spencer’s appeal was to a constituency of loud racists whom he had little evidence would support him in material ways. At the same time, this catalyst allowed for the Montana Human Rights Network to continue to organize in its highlighted relevancy, with a white nationalist neighbor showing exactly what was at stake.

The Year of the Alt Right?

Since 2014, Spencer’s profile has moved from Whitefish embarrassment to the national stage as scarcely a day goes by without an emerging story or profile on the most famous white nationalist in the country. 2016 became the “coming out party” for the Alt Right, taking their radical traditionalism into mainstream media discourse. During the post-election NPI conference, cameras from The Atlantic caught conference attendees using Roman Salutes as Spencer yelled “Hail Trump! Hail Our People! Hail Victory!”

While Richard was riding a wave of attention, his parents Sherry and Dr. William Spencer continued their investment in Whitefish. Sherry owned a rental property at 22 Lupfer Avenue along Whitefish’s historic commercial district. A local activist named Tanya Gersh began raising the profile of Sherry’s property ownership in town; specifically that Spencer had been using much of it as a base for his operations. While the Spencers had made it their second home, the slow burn of the Alt Right and its growing opposition finally made the relationship between the Spencers and the town crumble. According to the Virginia state corporation commission, Sherry’s multi-million dollar Whitefish home is still listed as the headquarters for NPI. Sherry began to get pressure to sell the commercial building, a prospect she considered; yet after Gersh offered to list the property herself, Sherry became incensed and published a Medium.com post about it claiming Gersh was “extorting” her.

“Whatever you think about my son’s ideas — they are, after all, ideas — in what moral universe is it right for the “sins” of the son to be visited upon the mother?” said Sherry.

That is hard for many to believe given Sherry’s own right-wing connections to fringe political candidates and her close relationship to her radicalized son. Her Facebook even included photos of her and her husband attending the H.L. Menken Club conference, a white nationalist gathering that was a precursor to the NPI conference. Shortly thereafter, Richard began publishing videos and blog posts attacking Gersh and Love Lives Here, calling them a “local hate group.”

Troll Army

It was about this point that the Internet exploded, and Anglin jumped into the lead. He began organizing a doxxing campaign of Whitefish residents, posting pictures of Jewish neighbors with golden stars emblazoned atop and the word “Jude” inscribed. Several images were stacked in front of the Burkenwald concentration camp, where so many Jews were piled into mass graves after gassings. Calls, emails, death threats, Yelp reviews, and a stream of harassment fell on Whitefish, creating a culture of frozen fear. Special derision was given to Gersh, who had to go into hiding and had her 12-year-old child targeted.

burleyWhat set off Anglin was not only that the Spencers were facing push back, but that anyone of Jewish descent could be involved. The essentialist nature of race is central to white nationalism, but also that there is a key actor in the international opera of racial conflict. This comes down to the “Jewish Question,” the belief that Jews are a tribal group who use a superior “verbal IQ” and ethnocentrism to destroy nations. Anglin hopes to reframe the issue as one of “powerful Jews” attacking plucky Alt Right heroes, and that he needs to re-live Kristallnacht, the night with the German SA burned and looted Jewish businesses. While some of those they harassed were in fact Jewish, most were not, but none of that mattered since they labeled the behavior as Jewish, as they do with anything associated with left-wing politics, feminism, or cosmopolitanism. Many on the left have argued, erroneously, that anti-Semitism is on the wane, but the Alt Right has worked hard to make the reality of anti-Jewish hatred explicit, and Anglin’s effort further politicized those he targeted.

Love Lives Here continued organizing in the Flathead Valley, first creating a “menorah card” giveaway so that residents could put the image of the menorah in their windows during Hanukah. This act of solidarity would send a message of the shared experience of this harassment, because, in this case, Anglin and his army have labeled them all as Jewish. On January 7th, Love Lives Here organized a massive diversity rally with speakers and music, including letters of support from around the country. All of this was meant to soft-peddle the opposition by creating a show of community support, and it has helped the Whitefish community to become unified in opposition to the Alt Right. While Anglin wanted to build divisions in the community, the strategy has been to simply forge bonds and to strengthen the wall against these ideas. Anglin took the bigotry from something ephemeral to a tangible threat, and now there was an imperative to come together.

Anglin’s next move was to call for an armed march in Whitefish to threaten the Jewish residents and assert power. While Anglin has posted a filled-out permit for the march, it was actually only partially completed; revealing his bluff. Love Lives Here refused to engage directly with the neo-Nazis, so other groups stepped in to build on the united community base and to develop a counter-demonstration that can block Anglin. Montana Antifa began a public call for the demonstration, along with fundraising to meet the logistics, and the radical labor union the Industrial Workers of the World and its General Defense Committee also organized a large contingent, just as they have against white nationalist projects in places like the Twin Cities. Montana Antifa asked supporters to contact the hospitality base of the Flathead Valley to warn them about Nazis trying to rent accommodations. At the same time, Columbus Anti-Racist Action in Columbus, Ohio staged a protest action along with Showing Up for Racial Justice against Greg Anglin, Andrew’s father who has been accused of supporting his neo-Nazi son. All of this happened with the kind of support that they never would have received only months before, but as Anglin overstated his own ability to create a gun-toting parade, he provided the agitation that created a broad support for Antifa.

The threat presented by much of the Alt Right, Anglin includes, is one that hovers between real and fake, but has consequences for the sense of security that many that many built on the absence of open extremism. While the Alt Right was often reported as “diet fascism,” they were instead the real deal, except this time using “dank memes” instead of swastika banners. For Anglin’s war on Whitefish, he showed the Alt Right’s hand, which was to threaten people into inaction. This time, Whitefish chose something else.

burleyWhile the Alt Right claimed 2016 was their year, it was also the year of opposition. Anti-fascist groups have grown exponentially, and the result of the Whitefish harassment campaign was a unified state and the acceptance of radical anti-fascist organizations willing to defend against a racist contingent at all costs. While the Alt Right has been unable to move rhetoric into boots on the ground, the anti-fascist left has, and Anglin’s bluff could be the deathblow to a white nationalist movement fumbling its growing pains.
When the day actually arrived, the only people to show up were the dozens of anti-fascist supporters brought by Antifa organizations, the IWW, the Queer Insurrection Unit, the Alliance for Intersectional Power, and the surrounding community of Whitefish. Patrols were conducted on the surrounding streets to see if there was a contingent of nationalists who promised to arrive anyway, yet none came. Anglin pulled back entirely when he saw his few supporters would be dwarfed by a community united.

A State Unified in Resistance

Anglin’s “day of action” reversed the power by revealing that one side was ready for a fight. The region created a series of responses to the threat of an organized racist attack, from the civic alliance of Love Lives Here to the direct opposition of the IWW GDC. The two organizations together presented a spectrum of possibilities, from the strengthening of community to the direct opposition on the street corner. It is likely this final step, that antifascists were committing to “no platform” principles, is what forced the neo-Nazis to cancel their busses. This anti-fascist project was stronger by the end of the day than they were before anyone they heard of the Daily Stormer, and that anti-fascist opposition does not suddenly disappear after the Alt Right retreats. While there may have been tactical disagreements between some organizations, a few of which did not want to publicly antagonize the Nazi contingent, in the end they came together in a complex web of support, with the militant anti-fascist organizations building on the foundation laid by the Montana Human Rights Network.

The adaptation the community made to the racist threat presents lessons for the ongoing confrontation with the white nationalism. The base building had been done not for months, but years, and the slow process helped to further radicalize a town that could barely pass an anti-hate resolution a couple of years before. Likewise, with two different approaches to the issue, with the softer community organizing from Love Lives Here on the one side and the direct confrontation presented by Antifa on the other, can have a synthesis. Without the long-term community engagement presented by the Montana Human Rights Network, there wouldn’t be a broadly unified community to resist the invasion, and without organizations willing to confront the protest directly, it could have still taken place.

The Montana Human Rights Network has been clear that they have received more hate threats and incidents since the election of Donald Trump than they had in years. But with this kind of behavior becoming commonplace, they have now created a model for how to unify a community and create an organized anti-fascist response that engages more and more residents, many of whom have no background in organizing.

What happens in Whitefish may provide a model for other small towns around the country. While Anglin has shown that the trolls can try to use traditional racist and anti-Semitic narratives to attack residents without a political backing, this climate of fear has also driven those same residents to action and to form a strong sense of community. As is happening around the country, the election of Donald Trump and rise of hate crimes has inspired new organizations to form and older ones to grow. In Whitefish, this has awakened the community and the entire state is becoming a veritable “no go” zone for the Alt Right that will have ramifications for Patriot and white nationalist groups across the state. As Anglin tries to scramble up his supporters, the anti-fascist opposition has become a wave that will make any further attempts at racialist organization fail before it begins.


Shane Burley

12375190_1270053539678590_6582607531732468985_oShane Burley is a writer and filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon.  He is the author of Fascism Today: What It Is and How We Stop It (Forthcoming 2017, AK Press). His work has been featured in places like In These Times, ThinkProgress, Roar Magazine, Labor Notes, Make/Shift, Upping the Ante, and Waging Nonviolence. He can be found at ShaneBurley.net, and on Twitter @Shane_Burley1


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