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.
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.
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.
When 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.”
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.
What 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.
While 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 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
While the New Right discussion has most recently dredged it up, everyone who combines a religious affiliation with Left politics hears it eventually. Apparently, because we prioritize both areas of concern, we must therefore be putting politics first. (Ironically enough, while our coreligionists make that claim, we often face the opposite accusation from political comrades.)
Of course, that begs the question: why should left-wing and religious concerns be at odds? Many Pagan leftists have reiterated lately that everything involving more than one person is, in some sense, political by definition. Others have denied any strict delineation between the religious and political components of their worldviews. I also might observe that when right-wing or reactionary politics get injected into Pagan theology, their proponents might get told they’re wrong, but they don’t get called “fake Pagans.” Not uncommonly, our detractors suggest that the mere existence of the Pagan Left somehow impedes the revival of polytheism itself. Sure, I think that right-wing politics and redbaiting are absolutely wrong, but I’d certainly never question someone’s religious sincerity on those grounds. I’d prefer to be extended the same courtesy, particularly from people who accuse us at Gods&Radicals of attempted censorship. It seems to me that there’s less a backlash against “bringing politics into polytheism” per se than against bringing in leftist, as opposed to rightist or liberal, politics.
(And again, there’s a category difference between censorship and asking Pagans to stigmatize the practice of discrimination. Public criticism isn’t censorship; for that matter, neither is no-platforming. Censorship means using violence, the threat thereof, or a direct position of power over someone to prevent them from disseminating their ideas. Anything short of that is just disagreement, and even if G&R wanted to censor our critics – we don’t – we lack the logistical ability to censor anybody, conspiracy theories aside. It’s not as if we’re a government agency with police powers.)
As a devotional polytheist, I don’t think that the gods’ multiple and divergent agendas cleanly line up with any worshiper’s ideology, my own included. I don’t promote a set of generalized or supposedly-universal spiritual values. Instead, I have specific deities whom I serve in particular ways. Am I putting my communism “first?” Without looking at the actual relational content of my religious life, there would be no way to coherently say. So, let’s take a look – after all, to my mind, my devotional situation actually requires some sort of political engagement.
“[Gallai] wear effeminately nursed hair and dress in soft clothes. They can barely hold their heads up on their limp necks. Then, having made themselves alien to masculinity, swept up by playing flutes, they call their Goddess to fill them with an unholy spirit so as to seemingly predict the future to idle men. What sort of monstrous and unnatural thing is this?”
“Transies who attack us only care about themselves. We women need our own culture, our own resourcing, our own traditions. You can tell these are men…Women are born not made by men on operating tables.”
I am a galla. I belong to Kybele, Mother of the Gods, and Attis. I’ve taken vows to serve them however they prefer. That’s my unshakable priority.
Not everybody can be a galla. A cisgender person couldn’t, nor could a trans man. Being a galla requires a transfeminine identity. (Theologically, this involves the devotee’s relationship to the apotheosis of Attis.) After all, my deities’ spheres of patronage include the transgender community. Kybele collectively adopted us thousands of years ago, and my individual spirituality needs that context to work. One consequence of that is the importance of venerating the non-biological ancestors who constitute all the previous generations of trans people.
Further, I find myself charged with work going past prayer and cultus (though certainly including those!). Kybele’s children aren’t all ancestors yet, and Matar has conveyed to me that serving her implies serving trans people, too. Necessarily, that includes supporting other trans people’s material as well as spiritual and social needs. The ways trans people inhabit our bodies are often painful but always sacred. Every trans woman and nonbinary transfemme moves through the world echoing Attis’s own divine physicality. So when prominent and powerful people call those holy bodies little more than walking rape machines, trying to punish us for existing as we are, how apolitical could I in good faith allow myself to be? When Paganism contains leaders who theologize that rhetoric, how could I not challenge it without dishonoring my deities?
I last entered a Christian church on November 20th last year. The pastor had offered his sanctuary to a small advocacy group for their annual Trans Day of Remembrance vigil. As I stood there, candle in hand, reading aloud the names of some of the newest trans ancestors, I silently recited a prayer over and over. The TDOR list includes just the ones whose deaths were reported as murders and classed as hate-motivated, just the ones whom the police identified as trans, just the ones whose bodies have been found. Even without factoring in the many driven to suicide, everybody involved knows the official list represents a small portion of those actually killed. Despite these restrictions, I still can’t recall a year when the number of names didn’t hit triple digits. I venerate the trans dead alone every day, and once a year with everyone I know. This is part of my polytheism.
Anti-trans violence, of course, is neither bad luck nor a natural disaster. The nexus of racism, patriarchy, and capitalism that impoverishes trans communities also exposes Black, Indigenous, and Latina trans women to the most intense violence in the LGBT world. The patriarchal gender system and lack of legal jobs that disproportionately lead transfeminine people into sex work also criminalize that work, partly causing astronomical rates of incarceration (plus plus pushing up the work’s danger level). The gentrification in Seattle, where I live, that leaves so many trans people unhoused also gives us the third-highest rate of anti-LGBT hate violence in the US. The right-wing Christian organizations that cause parents to kick trans kids out also push laws that criminalize trans bathroom use and slander us as rapists.
That’s the shape of American trans people’s reality. These conditions kill some of us and prevent many more from living free and fulfilled. They are Kybele’s children’s needs.
My religious mission demands I address them.I can’t pretend they’re not political.
“With the realization that what we saw as personal problems were in fact social ones, we have come to understand that the solutions must also be social ones.”
Sure, I could ignore my community’s material conditions, but Kybele and Attis deserve gallai who don’t choose ignorance. Honest engagement requires analyzing these problems as they actually exist. They are structural, economic, and political. Personally, I’d connect the particular strain on trans people to society-wide systems that organize power and resources – capitalism, racism, and patriarchy. My opinion is that the best empirical understanding of those systems says that they’re about who does what work and who enjoys the benefits created by that work. Various divisions of labor have led to a class system, where some people make a living by skimming a chunk off the top of what working people create. Those people are a ruling class of business owners. They enforce their exploitative and unaccountable power through both organizedviolence and sophisticated propaganda. That’s capitalism. Further, capitalism keeps certain kinds of work – housework, emotional labor, most sex – out of the money economy and mostly makes women and femmes do it. That’s patriarchy. Under patriarchy, your gender isn’t just a question of your own identity. It’s equally a matter of whether or not others, in a given situation, expect you to do that unpaid gendered work. Trans women and nonbinary transfemmes get expected to do that work in an extra-exploited way. The enormous levels of violence (emotional, social, physical, and spiritual) that get thrown at us serve to keep us in line, doing that extra-exploited work. Marxist feminism means figuring out ways to fix all that.
You may well think that’s 100% off the mark and incorrect. However, once we’re talking about whether my specific ideas are the most accurate ones, we’ve already conceded the point: politics won’t be dodged. If you think my politics are wrong, then all that means is that yours differ. I’d never expect my coreligionists to become communists en masse just because I’m one. No one else on the Pagan Left asks for that, either. Hell, I don’t even demand it of the people with whom I do secular activism.
But, my religious commitments and desire to piously serve my deities don’t permit me to eschew some sort of political consciousness. I take polytheism seriously. Therefore, I can’t ignore Kybele and Attis’s imperative to address the trans population’s needs, material ones included. Thus, I have to know and address those needs as they really are. More often than not, what they are is political.
My deities come first. That’s why I’m an organizer. That’s why I lack the option of deferring to “civility” or some supposedly-apolitical polytheist unity. Racist and male-supremacist discrimination is already happening in Paganism and polytheism. Attis and Kybele want and deserve gallai who won’t leave that alone.
The Pagan Left’s critics wish we’d just focus on rebuilding the cultus of the gods. Because I take that same mandate seriously, I’m with the Pagan Left. The gods don’t automatically align their plans with conservative polytheists’ comfort zones. From time to time, deities do, in fact, decide to be patrons of acutely oppressed populations. Mine are among those, so I do politics.
And that is what living polytheism looks like.
Sophia Burns is a galla, vowed to serve Attis and Kybele, and a Greco-Phrygian polytheist. After coming out in the small-town South, she moved to Seattle, where she is active in the trans lesbian community. Other than writing for Gods&Radicals, Sophia’s activities include political organizing, attending nursing school, and spending time with her partners, friends, and chosen family. This fall, she will lead a ritual at Many Gods West.
The New Right is a particularly worrisome influence on many Pagan, Polytheist, and Magical communities. We are particularly pleased to host this long-form essay by Shane Burley on the ideas of the New Right and their relationship to Fascism as seen through the platform of Augustus Sol Invictus.
We’ve also included a special page on the New Right, their intersections with Paganism, and how a Pagan Anti-Capitalism can better address these same issues.
At about 9:00pm on Tuesday, March 1st, Rose City Antifa (RCA) sent out an alert that a neo-fascist politician from Florida was having an open “meet and greet” in Northeast Portland. Augustus Sol Invictus had begun his “Northwest tour,” and was publicly congregating at the Radio Room in the trendy Alberta neighborhood. RCA, it seems, had been monitoring his Facebook, which he leaves public so as to create a constant stream of contact with supporters and vague ideologues.[i]
After anti-fascists protesters began calling in, Augustus and friends were kicked out and went down the road to the Bye & Bye, which refused both to remove the growing crowd of Invictus supporters or to defend them against the roaring collection of protesters that were amassing just outside its doors. Augustus was not shy about what came next, posting on his Facebook at length.
First of all, fuck you to the piece of shit bartender at Bye & Bye who refused to call the cops, saying. “Not my problem, man.” When there is a woman in the bar about to be jumped, it “is” your fucking problem. The day you and a woman you’re with are about to get jumped by twenty people, I hope the bartender tells you the same thing. Second, fuck you to the antifa who hit one of my supporters with a 2×4 and smashed the windows out of the car of another supporter. One day you’re going to pull that shit on someone who is armed, and you will get what you deserve. Come to Florida with that, and see what happens to you. Third, fuck you to the manager at Radio Room who kicked us out because you were so offended at the fact of my mere presence in your bar. I can get a cheeseburger at a thousand different bars in my short stay in Portland: you will always be an idiot, no matter what bar you manage. Fourth, thank you to the score of antifa who came by to take me out. I didn’t take the death threats seriously until tonight. You could have just left me alone and let me make my speeches in peace, but you decided to make a movement to assassinate me. I have been waiting for a worthy enemy all my life, and you have given me the best gift a man could ask for. Fifth, thank you to the supporters who refuse to be intimidated by threats of blackmail and violence. Remember that this is what the Fasces means: As individuals we can be broken, but together we are invincible. [ii]
In RCA’s report backthey noted that Augustus’ phone had died, which actually may have decreased the number of supporters that came to clamor at his internet stardom. While Augustus was angry with certain Bye & Bye staff members, RCA also wrote that “the Bye and Bye bouncers went so far as to act as bodyguards for Augustus.”[iv]
Earlier that day I had walked into a Panera Bread on Holgate to find that Augustus was as early as I was.
A couple of months ago I wrote an article, “Imperium and the Sun,”looking at the neo-fascist politics of Augustus Invictus, his campaign and his associations. He wrote me back a letter outlining some problems he had with the article, but generally commending it for being a fair and biting critique of him. I followed it up with “Fascist Performance Art,” where I went deeper into his politics and aesthetics, as well as the ways that I think Augustus tries to insulate himself from criticism. In his letter, he referenced coming to Portland as a part of his Northwest tour, and mentioned he wanted to grab a cup of coffee if I was up to it. After a bit of mental pacing, I decided to do this, as I had more questions forming that I wanted direct answers to. At the end of “Fascist Performance Art,” I listed 14 questions for Augustus, all of which were designed to be straight forward and provide the kind of answers about his political ideas that had remained clouded behind a wispy ambiguity.
When I arrived, Augustus was reading Jack Donovan’s The Way of Men, a sort of manifesto of “male tribalism.” Jack, also living in Portland, has had his own infamy grow over recent years. His first book, Androphilia, was a call to other queer men to drop what he saw as the “gay identity,” and to instead reclaim their masculinity. He has gone on to write heavily about masculinity and male tribalism, now speaking at White Nationalist allied organizations like the National Policy Institute and American Renaissance. Most recently he has made news for joining the controversial group the Wolves of Vinland, a “folkish” heathen collective that combines many of the tribalist ideas of motorcycle gangs with Germanic neo-paganism.[v]
Augustus was on his way to get a tattoo from Donovan after our meeting, which was his campaign’s logo on his back. This is an eagle, wings outstretched, clutching a “fasces.” This, as I mentioned in the other articles, is a bundle of sticks bound together, the image for Mussolini’s Fascist Party. It is also the image above the Roman senate of antiquity, a move towards the plausible deniability of the Invictus campaign. In his comment on Facebook, he mentions this “fasces,” a motif he is happy to resurrect.vi
Past polite pleasantries, we jumped headfirst into the meat of it as I delved into pointed questions about his positions on race, gender, nationalism, and other topics that have made his “Fireside Chats” so controversial. For his part, Augustus not only answered honestly, but seemed to fight to do so. I have interviewed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people in my life, but almost none tried quite so hard to give an honest answer as he did across the table from me. Here he took time to analyze his own thoughts and to be as clear and as fair as possible, all of which is done to keep himself in line with some of the values that make up his own image of heroism.
I led with a question about race and IQ, asking if he believed that there were genetically defined racial difference in intelligence. This has been one of the most common edge arguments of White Nationalists over the last decade, creating a “field” known as “Human Biological Diversity.” This was formerly known as “race realism,” but HBD sounds even more innocuous and less likely to raise flags immediately to uninitiated onlookers. Augustus’ family is bi-racial, as he has bi-racial children with a woman from Puerto Rico.
He answered clearly that he thought that there was not enough evidence to make a determination one way or the other, and that IQ studies tended to be “political” and overly prejudiced. When I asked whether it gave him pause when thinking about his own children, he said no.
“No, I know my kids are smart,” he said, referencing that they were in the gifted program.
“I would say that I have never seen the work of Charles Murray [The Bell Curve] or J. Philippe Rushton [One of the best known proponents of racial differences in intelligence] disproved. I have seen many people offended by their work—but I have never seen anyone disprove it….I am largely agnostic in this area. I try to keep an open mind to all studies, because I am inclined to believe that anyone working to prove something about race—whether proving equality or inequality—likely has some sort of agenda.” [vii]
Equality, however, is not something that Augustus approves of nor believes in, and when asked if he thought people were generally equal despite their own particular differences he replied, “absolutely not.”
In Augustus’ response to my first article, he took issue with my use of a source that said he had a “dim view of women.” His response included saying that he “worshiped the feminine,” which he meant to include Goddess worship as a part of his religious practice.
In my second article I wrote that this argument was essentially the “religious version of saying I have a female friend.” He told me that when he first saw this second article he was using LSD as a part of a religious ceremony and it made him incredibly angry. He later went on a White Nationalist podcast, Radio ThreeFourteen, and mentioned it, saying that my first article was fair and the second one was despicable trash.viii He re-read the article later on and, while taking great issue with that particular statement, found it reasonably fair.ix
I brought this issue back up. I said, both to him and in the article, that worshipping the “feminine” and believing that you respect women is not the same thing as being allied with feminism. “So, then, do you believe that men and women have different prescribed roles?”
He answered that they did, that they were fundamentally different, which I responded was certainly not a feminist or progressive reading of gender or women. He agreed:
“Men and women are biological compliments. To treat them as identical is to allow ideology to override common sense and thousands of years of historical evidence (“groundbreaking” studies of far-flung indigenous tribes aside).”
The “groundbreaking” work he is talking about, whether anthropological or socio-biological, is generally mainstream at this point, whereas the notion that there is a gendered “essence” specific to someone’s assigned birth gender has been largely discredited. This discourse is one of the last holds that the far-right has in modern culture, as the battles over gender identity form the hallmark of the fascist crossover into Evangelical ecstasticism or GOP punditry.
Much of the previous discussion brought in some of what seemed like a series of paradoxes about Augustus’ politics, which is not unusual when looking at the syncretic ideas in fascist movements. I assumed that the primary focus of his own right-wing ideas, and the reason he supported groups like the American Front even though he is in bi-racial relationships, is that he supports a general Will to Power and the use of categorical hierarchies to stratify society.
He confirmed this, saying that he believes that hierarchies are both natural and normal. We discussed this at length, where he used well traveled analogies, citing the differences in ability in certain skills and professions as examples of these hierarchies. He added that he and his family would do well in a “warrior” society that was heavily stratified, and that this fact is what is important to him rather than what the average person would experience. He made it clear that he would prefer his own vision of a warrior civilization, based on the will of strong men, which is why he allies with them despite the monoracial ideas of his colleagues.
This does not mean, however, that he believes in a multi-racial, multicultural society. He stood firmly as a nationalist, though he disagreed with “rigid” racial nationalists. To Augustus Invictus, racial nationalism was never a feature of past society, nor is it likely to be achieved. In his broader nationalism, Latino people may be allowed over the border.
“My view of nationalism is broader than racial or ethnic nationalism. But I do ally myself politically with racial and ethnic nationalists—whether white, black, Hispanic, or Chinese—because, as I see it, we all have the same goal of the self-determination of peoples.”
He often brought things back to how he sees his own family, where certain types of diversity may be allowed to be present—for example, someone dating his daughter. His nationalism was more cultural, and reminded me of the America First politics of far-right political parties in the ’60s and ’70s, or perhaps the positions of Pat Buchanan in 1992 or Donald Trump today. When asked if he would allow a Jew or African American person to date his daughter, he said he would be less likely, since they would be further from his own “culture.”
These racist politics are not cleanly defined as they would be in the American Front, and seem to require mental backflips at times. However, Augustus still has clearly put a lot of thought into them. He mentioned his affection for Malcolm X, stating that his Black Nationalism was not out of a “hatred of white people” but instead a “love of his own people.”
This is not an uncommon talking point, but one that seems to lack even a basic understanding of the differences between Black Nationalism and White Nationalism. The Black Nationalist movement was not simply an attempt to reclaim identity as some sort of essentialist tribal marker. Members of the Black Nationalist movement hoped to find a sense of personhood that had been robbed by white colonial enslavement, and to create a community so as to resist oppression. White Nationalism is, as best we can see, the last gasp of reactionary whites attempting to hold on to some sense of privilege, or the identity that was formed through the subjugation of other peoples.
He took a great deal of time to explain how he not only was not homophobic, but could not even understand how a person could be. He said several times that he “advocated bisexuality,” which could mean either that he condoned it or that he thought it was the preferred way of being. This is part of why he said he only dates bi-sexual woman and that it would be fine if his son dated a bi-sexual woman, but he was less likely to accept his daughter dating a bi-sexual man.
When asked about transgender people, he said that he did not like what seemed like the “blaming of heterosexual people” by transgender people, but he thought that he should not have any political control over them. He did, however, say that they made him personally uncomfortable, and that they would likely not be allowed in his own “tribe.”
He made this tribal distinction often, lacking political “universalism.” There were no answers about what was “right,” but what would be allowed in his own perfect social sphere—a culture where the weak are dominated by the strong (whatever that means). Certain types of queer relationships may be allowed, and certain ones not. Some types of racial communion would be acceptable, while others would undermine the national identity that he prefers. He sees his own nationalism as “concentric circles” similar to Jean-Marie Le Pen—first the family, then the neighbors, then the community, and so on. He feels that this is compatible with people like the American Front.
The only conversational point where he seemed a bit cagey was about the Jews. His law firm, Imperium, is named after the anti-Semitic fascist tome Imperium by Francis Parker Yockey, and he often goes on anti-Semitic programs to promote his campaign. He does not say much about Jews publicly, except a visceral opposition to AIPAC and all things Israel. He has been accused of Holocaust Denial in the past, so I asked him if he doubted the official numbers in the historical record of the Holocaust. He confirmed that he did, saying that while most Jews likely had no negative intentions towards “Western civilizations,” some certainly did. He later tried to clarify that he did not think blanketing Jews with a broad category made sense.
“I was trying to say is that grouping all Jews as “THE JEWS!” is fallacious, just as it is asinine to call all Scotsmen, Frenchmen, White Americans, and White Australians as “WHITE PEOPLE!” and ascribe to all “WHITE PEOPLE!” all the unjust treatment of all non-white people in the world. As I’m sure you are aware, there are many different Jewish groups, and none of them can agree on anything… Point being, trying to bait me on “THE JEWS!” is probably not productive.”
This does not undo what has been a deep relationship with anti-Semites, his public declaration of Holocaust Denial, and his sideline remarks about the Jews and their role in “Cultural Marxism.”
While he certainly answered in person that he did not believe the official reportage of the Holocaust, or found that the “numbers had changed,” he would not put that answer in print when answering the questions. Instead he focused on the person who had originally made this claim about him,which happened when they were traveling through The Netherlands.[x]
“So with all due respect, Mr. Burley, I won’t be put on the defensive for the dirty tricks of [He has been naming this woman in the press, but she would prefer to remain anonymous].”
“Health Over Sickness, Strength Over Weakness”
A lot has been said about his stated support for eugenics, which comes from an article he wrote in law school after working on philosophical papers as an undergrad. He later dropped his support for eugenics as a state policy, but only because he said that if the kinds of people that are in power today took control over it then it would become a “dysgenics program.” My written questions included asking what type of eugenics program he would want to see implemented in the U.S., if, for some reason, he had total control over it.
“I value health over sickness, strength over weakness, intelligence over stupidity. I would not, however, be so ambitious with any eugenics program that I would seek to promote these things, though my opponents would love to hear me say that. The only thing I ever promoted was the lessening of human suffering. For instance, if it is a certainty that a child will be born with AIDS or Huntington’s Disease or mental retardation or severe physical handicap if two people came together to create a life, that is an evil that should be prevented. I still believe that, but I doubt whether a state-sponsored eugenics program is the right mechanism for it. I also doubt that many people actually read the article I wrote in law school, but the aim was always to prevent unnecessary suffering, not to create the Nietzschean Superman; which, incidentally, I believe must be created outside of all human civilization. Still, I would reiterate that any eugenics program, no matter how modest in its ends or means, would likely be used for evil by the bureaucrats put in charge of it, and this is too likely a danger to justify that risk. This is why I have stated repeatedly and publicly and without qualification that I do not advocate state-sponsored eugenics programs.”
What he describes here is less of a eugenics program and more of a state-run form of sterilization and abortion based on the idea that allowing disabled people to be born would be a form of civilizational cruelty. The eugenics notion would be that this intervention would eventually rid the gene pool of certain “weaknesses,” such as genetically prescribed disabilities. It could then be taken to its next logical step by trying to isolate and breed in “positive qualities.” While he has suggested intelligence would be one of these, in past periods of “racial hygiene” this often included things we would today consider subjective and situational, such as attractiveness, racial purity, and criminality.
We do not oppose eugenics simply because it is racist (which it is), but because it is scientifically incorrect. There is little evidence (beyond “groundbreaking” studies on Human BioDiversity blogs) that you can control disability in this way, nor that controlling disability actually leads to human benefit. I can agree with Augustus about one thing in this however: if the state ran a eugenics program it certainly would be a tool of unprecedented human brutality.
Eugenics may be the most taboo part of the Human Biological Diversity movement, as this tends to be paired almost universally with their ideas about Asian superior intelligence and Kenyan superhuman running capabilities. Race scientists like Richard Lynn have continued to argue in this direction, while non-scientific, culturally-focused White Nationalists at places like the Radix Journal regularly make claims like homosexuality could be abolished through eugenic selective breeding programs.[xi]
The new focus on eugenics may seem like the revival of earlier periods of now discredited science, and it is, but the process of doing this is an essential and profound one for them. To do this, you make a few clear statements:
First, the qualities that eugenics programs favored are essentially valuable. This means, for example, intelligence, as it is very narrowly defined in this instance, is innately a sign of superiority, and must be preserved as such.
Second, the move away from these now-discredited racial and socio-biological sciences, which discussed the innate inferiority of the “lower classes” and the biologically defined roles of women, but also claim that we need to move backwards to old “truths.”
Third, eugenics means that we can now use ideology to drive evolution, and can craft a world that has been ideologically predicted by people like Friedrich Nietzsche and Ernst Junger. Invictus certainly mentions that he does not mean to use eugenics to build a “superman.” Instead, that happens outside of a state. This does not mean that he would oppose driving biological evolution in the direction of what he sees as superior qualities.
Much of the conversation traced through his experiences running his campaign, how he negotiated his libertarian politics, and what his intentions were after the fact. His relationship with the Libertarian Party of Florida is a complicated one, as are most libertarian political outposts. Rather than a location for coherent economic politics, they are often the stop-over spot for those on the radical right attempting to crossover into some part of mainstream discourse. The anti-tax movement on the 1990s was an entry point for KKK members, skinheads, and various neo-Nazis, as was paleoconservatism and paleolibertarianism a vessel for a coherent far-right politic boring into the GOP in the 80s.
The libertarian movement is often broken up today by those who align with socially liberal values, and were brought on to the Ron Paul campaign on 2007-8, often associated with the Caito Institute and Reason Magazine, and those on the further fringes who decry the slow creeping liberalism into their hardened anarcho-capitalism. Free market capitalism seems like the ideological foundation of the Libertarian Party, its entire reason for existence, but for Augustus, this is not all that important. Though he often says buzz lines about destroying the “social safety net,” he is also incredibly clear in calling for its maintenance to shelter those lower on the economic ladder. This seems to be in line with his own nationalism, where a “nation” should be served by its government. It is those that are outside of the nation, whether ethnically or by whatever vague dividing line Augustus claims for himself, that would be stricken from governmental aid.
This is not a libertarian distinction, nor are many of his policies beyond ending the drug war and destroying the Department of Education. Instead, the Libertarian Party seems like a place where he can enter into a semi-mainstream public discourse without being immediately flagged as outside a reasonable frame of debate. He told me he that he originally intended to run a few years into the future as a Democrat.
Paganism, Fascism, and Obscurantism
We went into his religious practice quite a bit, where he outlined his own interpretations of Thelema more deeply. This includes seeing most European pagan gods as being culturally interpreted versions of each other, which is to say that Heathen gods are somewhat the same as Roman gods, yet with different names and cultural stories. He did not say whether or not this included non-European traditions, though I’m sure he would have granted it some degree of universality, while saying that he would only respect the European ones. He was consistent in his support for traditional paganism, and promised to sanction human sacrifice if given full reigns of world affairs. According to Augustus, collective sacrifice our enemies to the gods would bring a great deal of national unity, since the gods gain their power from blood.
The difficulty to find coherence in Augustus’ politics by many trying to defend him against claims of fascism comes not from his own incoherence (though there is some of that), but from the lack of discourse about the evolution of fascist politics in America and Europe. Not only is fascism not a label that Augustus finds too offensive, he generally revels in the label as a medal in a war for offensive individuality.
He is a fascist in all the ways in which that political title is true, even if he does not share the raving white supremacist racism and homophobia that many have come to expect from the cartoonish buffoons that occasionally hide behind police protection in public. Instead, he believes in the innate inequality of people, the need for tribal nationalism based on in- and out-groups, the different prescribed roles for men and women, a conspiratorial view of certain ethnic groups, and that we need to restructure society along a heroic warrior model.
What is difficult when we look at Augustus is that many people, who no one would describe as having National Socialist leanings, have found him attractive. Inside of individualist pagan circles, especially those allied with the Left Hand Path, critiques of Augustus as being on the radical right have gained little traction. Part of this comes from the penchant that many in those circles have for offensive and iconoclastic rhetoric, as well as a philosophical ethos to move outside of conventional moral strictures.
Augustus’s own rhetoric, of destroying the system and abolishing conventional politics (both right and left) has also been taken up by the less discerning elements of the left that find any kind of revolutionary character a plus. When people went through the lists of supporters in Portland there were a lot of personalities you would expect, as well as many you wouldn’t.
Known left-wing activists have been traveled on his page, as well as progressive pagans who know far less about his problematic politics than that he is the most public pagan politician in America currently. Without a keen lens as to the history of Third Positionist and esoteric fascist politics, and with a definition of fascism that only reveals a shaved head and a Klan robe, how would people even know without taking up a research project?
When talking with Augustus a quote from Steven Weinberg, a 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics winner, came echoing through my mind. This particular quote is often used by problematic New Atheists and is meant to deride the religious, but I think it could be used for political orientations of this type as well.
Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.xii
Augustus was courteous and friendly throughout our entire conversation. He was both sincere and open to criticism, genuine in his demeanor. It sounds as if he is likely kind to his family and friends and generous in the circles he runs in. In a different world, he could likely be a friend. In this world, however, he was holed up in the Bye & Bye. In this world, he organizes a political movement that continues to found itself in xenophobic racism, sexism, nationalism, oppression, and violence. His politics, to him, are good natured and logical, but they also have consequences, ones that are very real for those who have been the target of these fascist movements, both in outbursts of violence and in the few cases when they are able to take political power.
Intersections with Libertarians & Confrontations with Antifa
What brought Augustus out here were some American Front events, starting across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington. Augustus first raised eyebrows by defending American Front members against criminal charges in Florida, and eventually helping them formally disband the organization. He has said many times that he is friends with AF members, and lives with one currently. However, he would not be allowed to be a member, because of his bi-racial relationships.
After his private speech to the American Front, it was posted online as one of his “Fireside Chats.” Here he used the talking points one might expect, such as the fact that the AF deserves fair representation, yet in reality they could not get an attorney besides himself. Groups like the ACLU regularly represent neo-Nazis, and while many oppose this, nobody assumes that they share in their politics. That is likely because they do not publicly call themselves nationalists or fascists, nor do they speak at their events.
It was this very connection that eventually put a dramatic, and public, hold on Augustus’s Northwest tour. The primary purpose for him coming out was to speak at an additional American Front event in Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver Against Racism then started a campaign calling for the venue, The Railway Club, to cancel the event, which they did. Vancouver Against Racism also pushed for a counter-demonstration that would dwarf the original political event. Counter-organizers in the area had discussed a “creeping fascism” in their subcultural space, a term that is often used for the way that fascist ideas can seep into left-associated spaces through shared counter-cultural roots. They mention bands like The Night Profound, with fascist and skinhead connections, using their fan base to promote Augustus’ event. The band had previously turned heads when they brought in controversial bands like Death in June. [xiii]
Augustus was determined not to be influenced by increasing numbers of fingers pointed at him, making jokes about the growing anti-fascist contingent that saw him as a public target. As he went to cross over into Canada from Washington, he was detained by the border authority, who asked him questions several hours before essentially denying him entry. He was technically allowed to reconsider his application for entry, but this was likely semantics at this point.
In a press release put out several days later, which seems likely written by Augustus in the third person, it notes that his interrogation was about his “affiliation with neo-Nazis, about the charges of Fascism, and about allegations of racism:”
“I was a politician traveling to give a speech and yet they treated me like a gang member trying to run guns across the border. They said that no good could come of my entry into the country because violence would certainly ensue…There is no question my expulsion from Canada was due to political reasons.” [xiv]
He tried to tell the border guard that it was not him issuing threats of violence, but the “communists” instead—but to no avail. The Canadian government stated that he had no legitimate purpose to enter Canada except “to cause trouble.” Augustus alleged that they went through his text messages and emails, asked personal questions about his girlfriend and ex-wife, and got much of their information from the Antifa organizers blocking the Vancouver event. [xv]
He almost immediately went on Facebook to say that Antifa had “won the battle,” and posted the “Allowed to Leave Canada” paperwork that he had to sign as he was forced back stateside. Grandeur seemed to be the reserved place for Augustus to lick his wounds after this set-back as he took to social media in long, angry tirades referring to himself as a “leader” and providing advice for those that have to deal with Antifa:
Advice for those who are not professional street brawlers:
– Do not travel to or from the event alone. Antifa are cowards without honor. They travel in numbers, and they attack only when the numbers are asymmetrical.
– Assume an ambush. Antifa are cowards without honor. They will hide in the shadows to jump unsuspecting passersby.
– Keep your head on a swivel. Antifa are cowards without honor. They are sucker punching bitches who wouldn’t know a fair fight if they saw it on pay-per-view.
– Film everything. Antifa are cowards without honor. They will hit you and run to the police when you hit them back. It would be a good idea to have proof that you acted only in self-defense.
ASSUME DEADLY FORCE WILL BE USED. The antifa have openly declared their intent to assassinate me and to begin a civil war at this event. Take them at their word. If you are attacked, do not hold back.” xvi
He continues to focus on the bi-racial ethnicity of his children, his relationships with non-straight people, and his worship of the goddess as a protection against many of the allegations of bigotry that were leveled against him.
The news of his removal from Canada exploded like a social media frag grenade, heading to places like Gawker, Vice, and Raw Story, where they did not go much further than mentioning that a fascist who “drinks goat’s blood” has been blocked from entry. His own press was as equally outraged as he was, with right-libertarian and “race realist” Christopher Cantwell coming to his defense with anger.
“Speaking of liberal idiocy, Senate Candidate Augustus Invictus was refused entry to Canada this week because he has ‘no legitimate reason to enter the country and will just cause trouble’. That is quite odd since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to think open borders are such a fantastic idea, at least when it comes to Syrian “refugees.” Perhaps the leftist immigration agenda has nothing to do with freedom at all, and is rather about flooding countries with welfare dependent non-white voters who will perpetually favor the expansion of government.” [xvii]
This story revealed the uncomfortable relationship that libertarians, and, by strained association, Invictus, have to mainstream conservatism. As the anti-fascist contingents swelled in response to Augustus’s upcoming speech, libertarian internet press continued to push forward to support the event. Lauren Southern, a right-wing libertarian with Rebel Media and Press for Truth, came out to cover the event and bait protesters.
After yelling at the crowd that there were “only two genders” and mocking rape allegations, a protester came by and threw urine on her. Press for Truth then dug their heels in to focus on the story, calling the protesters feminists and “SJWs [Social Justice Warriors].” xviii
They never mention any details about who Augustus Sol Invictus is, or why the protesters are there. Organizers refer to Southern as their “local Ann Coulter,” saying that the protest was a “smaller crowd of wing-nut conspiracy theorists, and other right-wing weirdo[s].”xix
Drawing together the subcultural elements of Augustus’ campaign that allowed him to be invited to Vancouver in the first place, as well as the reaction by the right wing to Antifa’s policy of “no platform,” organizers used this as a temperature check.
By not engaging critically with ideas, and preferring subcultural markers to a personal and political affinity with one another, people are leaving an open door to anyone who’s critiques of capitalism, “communism”, “corporatism” and “international financiers” is just subliminal messaging meaning Jews. By refusing to look into or take seriously pre-and-non-christian(sic) religions and occultism, just because it is not clearly associated with what they see as conservative capitalist values, people are leaving the door open to right-wing interpretations of Odinism, Satanism, etc, that reinforce racial hierarchies and create fear and hatred of immigrants on the basis of being “other” and not being “western”.
Disallowing fascism doesn’t mean being exclusive. It means being invested in an idea, and open with more intention. Not only would this be a serious thorn in the side to any fascist movement attempting to grow in sub-cultures, it might create an even more vibrant, creative, and interesting culture in which to mingle.
Another interesting quality to the right-wing mobilization around Augustus is the extreme reaction to ‘callout’ and anti-oppression culture. We see this in Lauren Southern’s rhetoric, and it was quite apparent in many of the Facebook memes and comments of Augustus himself and his supporters…The caricature of the spoiled brat university kid demanding a safe space (which can at times be embarrassingly accurate) is now being evoked, even by fascists, to justify the most disgusting misogyny and white-supremacy.xx
This story was then uncritically picked up in Tea Party allied sources like Breitbart News, continuing to be echoed throughout the right-wing press as Southern being assaulted for her views on transgender people. What she was doing, coming out to favorably cover an event hosted by the American Front, seemed beyond the purview of BigGovernment.com. The rest of the coverage turned Augustus into the side-show that they have generally made of him, making sure to focus first on the internet famous goat-head and his stream-of-consciousness “LSD journals,” rather than the nationalist content of his speeches.[xxi]
Media Sensationalism = Media Complicity?
It was exactly this vapidity, the focus on the sensation of Augustus rather than the real story, that led to us casually talking over medium-roast in a Portland Panera. He reached out for me not because he had affection for my politics, but because there had been no one on the opposition that had been able to see his presentation as anything other than Live-Action Role Playing. It is exactly this paradox that kept him off the radar of anti-racists for months, largely because the dearth of coverage he garnered showed him as an insane creature clamoring for internet stardom rather than a dangerous fascist.
Instead, a real ideologue was proposing a growing base of far-right ideas that drew on subcultural fascist notions that had reshaped and been repackaged over the decades of anti-fascist organizing. For months, no one saw Augustus because the image of him climbing through the desert, preparing goat sacrifice for the camera was only enough to inspire trendy Twitter hashtags rather than an opposition. While this was happening, he was amassing supporters, not to get him elected, but to further a movement of Will to Power dissension that may continue to see its ranks swell as disaffection continues to flow through the country.
When asked if he opposes mass democracy as a concept, he said “absolutely.” This is unique for a candidate in a representative system, but that is because elections are simply a canvas on which he can paint with his own mix of spirit, water, and blood. He enjoys references to his movement as a “weird sect,” making fun in jokes about its cult status.
The support of the American Front is no fluke. Augustus has now accepted an invitation by the National Socialist Movement to speak at a Rome, Georgia, event on April 23rd. The event, which is co-sponsored by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was actually taken down from his campaign’s Facebook after it was first put up. The post was then archived over at the American Third Party Report, where he posted a multi-page explanation. He resurrected the analysis that nationalists, including both himself and the NSM, were challenging “McCulture” and the oppressive state.
“And this is all one can ask for in an ally. The question is why this is so difficult for so many. As I have said in several of my speeches & interviews, I have never been attacked by a white nationalist or black nationalist—physically, verbally, or otherwise – for having an [sic] Hispanic family or for tolerating homosexuality or for drug use or for anything else; but I *have* been attacked—physically, verbally, and otherwise – by leftists for exactly those things, and for my refusal to denounce white nationalists as the Devil’s spawn. The willingness of the NSM to have someone like me speak at their event, combined with the willingness of the Antifa to stop me by any means necessary, should be a glaring demonstration of where the true intolerance lies.
So I will speak in Rome. And I will make it the best speech I have ever given. And I will speak to the Nation of Islam if they ever get around to asking. And I will speak to the Cuban nationalists in Miami and the Puerto Rican nationalists in San Juan. We are all in this together, no matter our race or ethnicity, against the special interests that would destroy our respective cultures for their own profit under the guise of humanitarianism. “xxii
This shift to the right, if not in rhetoric at least in relationship, is a telling point for the direction of Invictus, further pushing outside of acceptable discourse and away from anything the Libertarian Party would publicly associate with. His previous stop over at the more “respectable” neo-fascist milieu was short-lived, and now even those Alt Right depositories where he has done many interviews would likely find his most recent announcement politically toxic.
This turn may seem logical when looking at the most recent reactions to Augustus, which put him in a long history of antagonism between the shape-shifting far-right and the increasingly militant anti-fascist left. Before Rose City Antifa’s sharp confrontation and the organized response to his event in Vancouver, there was little conversation that discussed him exactly within the fascist context that he spoke. Now his connections and ideas have been placed front and center, putting all of his more moderate connections into question.
Part of this is done through the singling out of Augustus by the anti-fascist left, which has hardened his resolve to abandon most leftist appeasements and allies. This could useful to anti-fascist organizers who need to shed his false allegiances and clouded discourse in order to cleanly identify him as a dangerous right-wing revolutionary. If the Canadian libertarian press tried to redeem him through vilification of the “SJWs,” this was entirely undone as he announced an event with cartoonish neo-Nazis who cover their blackshirts with swastika patches.
In a certain sense, Augustus has cemented opposition to him while closing the door on any of the political crossover that he was hoping for with the Libertarian Party of Florida. Roger Stone, former Donald Trump lobbyist and right-wing ideologue, was rumored to be brought in to run against him simply to save the name of the party. Augustus did not see this happening since the Invictus campaign had “nothing to lose,” and Stone was in poor health. At this point, no one would be surprised if LFP Chairman Adrian Wylie would pull a “hail Mary” in a desperate attempt to save the party from the only person who could fundamentally destroy it. The destruction of the LFP would close that bridge between the far-right and the GOP, as well as the neoliberal economic cover that seeks to influence beltway conservatism.
“The Will To Power”
The toxic hand of Invictus now seems as though it will poison all who touch it, and that is not reserved simply for party politics. Augustus had been long listed as a speaker at the upcoming International Left Hand Path (LHP) Consortium in Atlanta, Georgia, taking place from April 8th to 10th. The event’s website is ornamented with the expected pictures of greasy ponytails, leather trench coats, and pastel drawings of naked women with dragons. It pledges to bring together Satanists, Thelemites, tribal religionists, and other people who “eschew conventional morality” and have a rough individualism in their occultism. Anti-racists have brought concerns to the organizers of the event, including Atlanta Antifa.The convention organizers posted a response in a snidely made “Critics Corner” on their website.
Their amateurish understanding of neo-fascism is one that seems to only see fascism as being synonymous with the political structures it used during WWII. Instead of being able to see that fascism’s nationalism and anti-egalitarianism has used a variety of political forms, they parrot back tired caricatures and clichés about the far-right that should have been dispelled with a simple Google search. They begin by going through references to the fasces on Augustus’ campaign images, which they find examples of just about everywhere. They then go on to defend Augustus’ eugenics paper, saying “Can you name one person who has not written or said something in their youth who later regretted it?” This is lukewarm as they then not only voice their support for eugenics in the same way Augustus had, but also to note that the LHP tradition would as well.
While we, at the LHP Consortium do not in any way, shape or form condone racism, neo-Nazism, or eugenics programs, we do strongly feel that the United States government has favored a decadent ideology that rejects the beauty of strength. And we also strongly believe that this country has enabled and even encouraged the exponential growth of weakness and ignorance by dumbing down the populace through disinformation campaigns, fear mongering, and defunding education programs in favor of feeding billions into the military industrial complex as well as funding corporate and foreign welfare. Our government habitually bails out corporations and banks while cutting funding for education and wounded veterans. The country has transformed the movie ‘Idiocracy” from a comedy into a documentary by encouraging and rewarding ubiquitous weakness and ignorance. [xxiii]
They continued to mock allegations that Augustus is “both a fascist and an anarchist,” without even a cursory understanding of the anti-state fascist trend. Fascism has not been synonomous with authoritarian political forms, which were in fashion during the interwar period far beyond their fascist implementations. Instead, fascism defines itself through its exclusionary ultranationalism, its enforced hierarchy, heroic mythos, elitism, anti-democracy, and anti-egalitarianism. They went on to define the LHP as a uniquely opposed to the “self-deception” and “false morality” of the conventional Right-Hand Path religions.
Left Hand Path philosophy often sees altruism as a form of self-deception that is created and promoted by Right Hand Path religions. This is because most altruistic actions reap some sort of benefit or reward for the person or organization who is accomplishing the deed. For instance, if you donate money to Planned Parenthood to make birth control available to indigent and homeless women, you help to reduce society’s financial burden of caring for unwanted, sick, and drug addicted children, which in turn, should keep your taxes from going up and help to maintain a stronger, healthier community in which the altruist lives. [xxiv]
These right wing sentiments are not modern addendums to the LHP tradition. The ideas of a egoist “self-worship” and a kind of Might is Right “overcoming” was central to LaVey’s notions of morality in the Satanic Bible, aligning itself with the kind of “strongman” politics that fails to be universalistic, egalitarian, or democratic. That being said, the LHP Consortium is also going to be filled by edge spiritual and occult practitioners who would be horrified by this discourse, and whose idea of ego-worship does not include the notion of the biological inferiority of entire groups of people. Their rough libertarian talking points attempt to insulate them from criticism for including someone whose behavior would be considered publicly abhorrent, but this superficial rage is only a veiled reference to the same “Will to Power” that Augustus has made his own life’s law. The work that many would want to do to undermine the right-wing contingencies inside of the LHP Consortium has already been done through their unwavering support of Augustus, which, after the NSM announcement, rippled through participants, shrinking their numbers and further breaking the LHP community from broader occult, New Age, and pagan contingents.
The irony of the Consortium’s response became apparent as they led two other pagan/occult organizations in dropping Augustus after the pressure mounted. Taylor Ellwood and Ken Henson, both presenters at the event, said that they would “not take part with Invictus.” It was actually Invictus’ own behavior that got him the final boot as the organizers were clearly going to side with him against Antifa. On a private forum, which was later deleted, Augustus went after the protesters with explicit language that insinuated violence.
You “protesters” are swine. I will not go out of my way to placate or sweet talk cowards, fools, & hypocrites. You claim to be practioners of the Left Hand Path. No member of the Left Hand Path that I have ever in my life met has been a soft, moralizing ninnie like the lot of you “protesters.” You call yourselves men and women. Some of you even dare to call yourself gods. All I see are keyboard warriors with SJW dicks so far up their asses they have their brains scrambled…You say I am a fascist. It is hilarious that your fear of Fascists far exceeds the fear Christians have of LHP practitioners. If only they knew how pathetic you really were. If only they could see the pitiful, pudgy face of Rufus Opus, claiming to be a representative of the occult community, worried to death that his delicate reputation is going to be smeared by association with a right-wing politician. You call yourselves fearsome, but I smell the fear on you from 2,000 miles away. You call yourselves individuals, but anyone else with eyes can see your sheepish conformity to society’s values. You call yourselves freethinkers, but look at what slaves you are to the reigning political dogma.xxv
The Consortium’s website has now taken down the Critic’s Corner page, and the original statement in defense of Invictus.
Augustus’ rage has become expected at this point as his response has just been a heart beat of increased anger, spewing out without restraint at any objection to him and his program. His response is quite telling for what this wing of those communities think about this type of leftist moral anger.
Modern attempts to whitewash the occult are a desecration of the sacred. In our line of inquiry, the more mainstream the discipline becomes, the more profane. To blacklist a speaker for voicing unpopular beliefs is not only outrageously hypocritical; it is self-defeating. And if this is the road we are going down, I thank you for counting me out. [xxvi]
The War for the Past & The War for the Future
The injection of his ideas into paganism is both modern and recent, which is true both for racialist heathens and for ultra-liberal Wiccans. The argument that these modern political ideas were absolutely present in ancient pagan religions is more than hyperbolic, both for the far right and the far left. To a large part, this requires contemporary pagans to acknowledge the actual modern role that their religions have, even if reconstructed from incomplete records of the past. These religions do not have continuity to their original implementations, and are instead just as subject to contemporary understandings of philosophy, politics, and theology.
The battle over values is happening inside of Goddess worship just as it is happening in mainstream Christian churches, and both sides of those agreements turn to practice and lore as justification. Augustus’ arguments in favor of animal sacrifice are also intended to make the argument that he is resurrecting the “real” pagan tradition of the past, which mainstream American paganism abhors, and is likely the direction he goes in when voicing support for human sacrifice.
Augustus himself seems only energized, at least publicly, by this increase in oppositional attention. There has to be something personally hurtful for him during this as he continues to state publicly that people are simply misreading his positions and that their accusations are baseless. Though much of his rhetoric has been a smokescreen to make his previously unconscionable ideas palatable to a larger audience, the veil is dropping and his fascism is becoming known. The movement that he had been cultivating, a sort of “para” campaign to his public political one, now faces a challenge of opposition that it lacked for many months. The real questions are how Augustus is going to change, how far to the right he is going to shift, and how those “border agents” who enjoy straddling the line between mainstream occultism or GOP politics and the radical right are going to negotiate someone whose political orientation is becoming more and more plain.
After our meeting I sent an email to Augustus thanking him for talking with me and answering my questions, which is something I noted that he really had no obligation to do. He offered me several compliments in his reply, something that I have to note he likely intends to see reflected in the way I talk about him. Many people would criticize even having this level of back and forth with him, but I think that being open to listen closely allows us to better understand exactly what creeping fascism looks like today. Beyond headlines about blood letting and dropping acid during ceremonies, a certain media vacancy has permeated the discussion around the Invictus campaign—a trend that seems to be ending as the laughter turns serious. Rose City Antifa transformed the ephemeral into something concrete: a movement that is unwilling to grant his politics any showing in the public sphere.
The real question is less of intention and more of pragmatic politics, and how a senatorial campaign can continue once its façade has all but burned away.
vii The cited conversations come directly from either the conversation between Augustus and I on March 2nd, 2016, and a private email that Augustus send to me with the answer to the questions listed in Fascist Performance Art on March 5, 2016.
Shane Burley is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer based in Portland, Oregon. His work as appeared in places such as In These Times, Truth-Out, Labor Notes, Waging Nonviolence, CounterPunch, and Perspectives on Anarchist Theory. He contributed a chapter on housing justice movements to the recent AK Press release The End of the World As We Know It?, and has work in upcoming volumes on social movements. His most recent documentary Expect Resistance chronicles the intersection of the housing justice and Occupy Wallstreet movement. His work can be found at ShaneBurley.net, or reach him on Twitter at @shane_burley1.