With today being Samhain (Halloween), we thought we would share this now classic essay/zine on the radical history of this holiday and tradition. We have reposted the version found at Mask Magazine, including their photo selection, and have also included a link to the zine version below.
By Bradly Stroot
Origins of the Halloween Spirit
Though widely recognized across North America, the origins of Halloween are poorly understood by many of its celebrants, likely due to their dark, unsavory, and disorderly nature. Its calendar date and etymology are undeniably Christian (from “All Hallows’ Evening,” the night before All Saints Day on November 1st), but the spirit that animates this “Halloween machine” is widely thought to originate from the pagan New Year celebrations of the Keltoi people (or Celts) of Ireland.
The Keltoi, whose name is likely derived from kel-, the Indo-European prefix for the “hidden,” were a diverse constellation of Celtic-speaking tribes that spread across much of Europe and the British Isles between the Iron Age and Early Middle Ages, even occupying Rome for a period of time around 400 BCE. Because of these hidden people’s refusal to commit their oral history and scholarship to written records, much of the most spectacular accounts of these “primitive” pagans and their “bloodthirsty” human sacrifice have been written by their imperial enemies like Julius Caesar and thus should be considered suspect at best.
What is known almost for certain, however, is that many Keltoi of the British Isles believed in an afterlife called Tir na tSamhraidh, or the “Land of Summer.” The doors to this Other world were only opened once a year on Samhain (pronounced SOW-in), the period between the two nights of October 31 and November 1. According to Nicholas Rogers, the author of Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night,
“Samhain beckoned to winter and the dark nights ahead. It was quintessentially ‘an old pastoral and agricultural festival […] It was also a period of supernatural intensity, when the forces of darkness and decay were said to be abroad, spilling out from the sidh, the ancient mounds or barrows of the countryside. To ward off these spirits, the Irish built huge, symbolically regenerative bonfires and invoked the help of the gods through animal and perhaps even human sacrifice. […] In Celtic lore, it marked the boundary between summer and winter, light and darkness. […] It represented a time out of time, a brief interval ‘when the normal order of the universe in suspended’ and ‘charged with a peculiar preternatural energy.’”
These liminal interludes, as Barry Cunliffe calls them in The Celts, were particularly dangerous because “they were times when anything could happen and it was only by careful adherence to ritual and propitiation that a precarious order could be maintained.” Lisa Morton, another Halloween scholar and the author of Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween, crucially adds that this was the only time of the year with a relative abundance of food and alcohol which contributed to Samhain’s festive and mischievous atmosphere. She also adds that, in addition to Beltane on May 1st, it was one of the two most important days in the Keltoi’s often frightening heroic folk tales, like that of,
“the Formorians, a race of demonic giants who have conquered Ireland after a great battle, demand a yearly tax of two-thirds of the subdued survivors’ corn, milk, and children, to be paid each year on Samhain. The Tuatha de Danann, a race of godlike, benevolent ancestors chronicled in Celtic mythology, battle against the Fomorians for years, but it takes the Morrigan, a mother god, and the hero Angus Og to finally drive the monsters from Ireland – on Samhain, of course.”
In these multiple accounts of Samhain, we can find themes that will come to define Halloween and follow it through its long history – particularly those of liminality, excess, celebration, mischief, darkness, fire, demons, and, perhaps most important to this essay, rebellion. When I obsessively began researching Detroit’s Devil’s Night a month ago, it was not immediately clear what its connection with this larger tradition would be, but as a began to work backward I began to uncover a genealogy that I couldn’t ignore. From the anti-Christian heresy of the medieval British Isles to the widespread arson of 1980s Detroit, we will see as this spirit of Halloween will continue to intersect with several notable subversive moments throughout its long life, constantly re-inventing itself to evade the forces of law and order.
The Witch Hammer, c. 700-1590 CE
Though Samhain provided Halloween with these raw, disorderly materials, it actually gave the holiday very little in terms of concrete practices or symbolism, excepting bonfires. These traditions, including the name of Halloween, came later in the Medieval period with the violent imposition of Christianity and its holy days, All Souls’ and All Saints’ Day.Originally celebrated on May 13 as a remembrance of Christian martyrs who had died at the hands of pagans, Lemuria (as it was previously known) was moved to November 1st by the Pope and rebranded as a more palatable, positive celebration of “all the saints.” Later, the early Church added All Souls’ Day on November 2, conveniently bookending the celebration with an opportunity to pray for the souls of the deceased that were trapped in Purgatory. According to Morton, however, “it seems more likely that the gloomy, ghostly new celebration was added to cement the transformation of Samhain from pagan to Christian holiday.”
Three centuries later, this gloomy and ghostly nature of All Souls’ Day transformed from an exceptional, temporary celebration to the daily reality of most Europeans as the Black Death began to spread throughout the western hemisphere. Beginning in 1346 and peaking around 1350, the plague killed as much as 60 percent of Europe’s population and left the surviving population with an unavoidable preoccupation with death. This, coupled with the simultaneous spread of the printing press, led to the mass circulation of Danse Macabre imagery and a generalized perception of Death as a personified subject, which one can still see in modern celebrations of Halloween. Though the figure of Death was originally portrayed as an animated skeleton, the opportunity was quickly seized by the Church and early capitalists to re-purpose this body of enmity in order to target a rebellious subject whom they had both long considered a threat but were now finally strong enough to destroy: the witch.
According to Arthur Evans’ recently republished 1978 book, Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture,
“Despite its contempt for magic, the early church did not organize a full-scale attack against magicians and witches because it was not yet strong enough. The Christianity of the early middle ages was largely an affair of the King and the upper class of warlords. The rest of society remained pagan. In addition, early medieval Christians were hampered by a general breakdown of centralized authority in both church and state. Anarchy favored paganism.”
However, as Evans continues,
“By the early thirteenth century, […] the church was much better organized and ready to act. Its immediate target was heresy: the numerous and widespread attempts to combine traditional Christianity with elements of the old religion. To deal with this, the church launched crusades and started the Holy Inquisition. […] Now it began to look at the historical sources of heresy – the surviving old religion that modern historians view as ‘folklore,’ ‘peasant fantasy,’ and ‘strange fertility rites.’ Feeling its privilege, power, and world view threatened by these sources, the fifteenth-century ruling class fantasized that Satan was conspiring to overthrow the power of Christ’s church on earth.
With this consolidation of sovereign power and the figurative marriage of Satan and witches began what came to be known as The Great Witch-Hunt. In Caliban and the Witch, Silvia Federici traces the lineage of this mass genocide beyond just the Christian elite’s fear of paganism but to a whole world of generalized peasant revolts and the powerful, undomesticated women who likely organized them. Though this population was likely quite heterogeneous and their activities today may be likened to those of midwives, abortionists, sex workers, and popular healers among others, their enemies were able to collapse their commonalities into the identity of the witch, which could then be surgically targeted for removal.
According to Evans, the early Church “turned homosexuality into heresy” and began to collapse the two identities so that to call someone a heretic was to call them a homosexual, and vice versa. And “because of the methods of the Inquisition, […] great numbers of Lesbians and Gay men must have lost their lives.” We can also assume that the many individuals who today might have self-identified as transgender were likely also targeted for extermination. Besides the story of Joan of Arc: Transvestite and Heretic, there is unfortunately very little other research into this history and, therefore, my only reference point for this period will be Federici’s figure of the witch-as-woman.
The authorities obsessed over that these witches largely lived alone, relied on public assistance, were sexually “promiscuous,” and encouraged non-procreative sex (by means of contraception and abortions). Because these activities interfered with male supremacy, heteronormativity, population growth, compulsory labor, domestication, and order – in a word, civilization – the witch started being painted as a threat to life itself. According to Federici, “Witches were accused of conspiring to destroy the generative power of humans and animals, of procuring abortions, and of belonging to an infanticidal sect devoted to killing children and offering them to the devil.”
But, according to Federici, these accusations did not spontaneously generate from the witches’ own neighbors overnight. Instead, a highly-organized campaign of indoctrination was introduced from above and spread from to village to village traveling public officials. All this was only possible with the mass generation of propaganda using the most advanced technology of the day – the printing press. Of particular importance to re-imagining these rebellious women as demon-worshipping baby killers were the widely circulated copies of the Malleus Maleficarum and the evocative images created from the engravings of Hans Baldung Grien. In his most famous work, Witches’ Sabbath, one can see precursors to images of witches we still can find on Hallmark cards today – deformed bodies gathering around a bubbling caldron with their animal familiars (later portrayed as black cats), and flying through the air to their subversive meetings with the devil.
Of special significance to the history of Halloween is this last component – the mass gathering of witches at the Sabbath, or Sabbat. Though widely exaggerated by its enemies, some historians have speculated that the Sabbat was an actual nocturnal gathering of thousands where peasants plotted popular revolts against ruling social enclosures.
Given the potentially subversive nature of these massive gatherings, it should be of no surprise then that the “witches” who attended became a target of extermination to the forces of order. Curiously, according to Morton, this is about the same period when a term closely resembling “Halloween” first begins to appear in the English language.
“The choice of All Hallows’ as a major holiday for witches and devils was no doubt coerced from the accused with a political agenda in mind. […] A spectacular witch trial took place during the reign of the Protestant king James I: in 1590, dozens of Scots were accused of having attempted to prevent James from reaching his queen-to-be, Anne of Denmark, by gathering on Halloween night and then riding the sea in sieves while creating storms by tossing live cats tied to human body parts in the water. After the infamous North Berwick Witch Trials, as they were called, Halloween was forever to be firmly associated with witches, cats, cauldrons, brooms, and the Devil.”
Mischievous Nights c. 1600-1900 CE
After this brutal erasure of an entire population and the undomesticated form of life that they represented, one can see a marked change in the culture surrounding the celebration of Halloween, particularly in its embrace of romance, parlor games, and tempered mischief in place of unbridled revolt. According to Rogers, one popular tradition of this era was a public choral performance that encouraged marriage and procreation with refrains celebrating “the wise virgins awaiting the coming of the bridegroom.” These public affirmations of marriage also announced the beginning of the seasons of Christmas and misrule, a temporary period of permitted mischief wherein urban leaders were ritually usurped from power in mock coups by impersonated sheriffs and mayors.
Simultaneously in the countryside, according to a sixteenth century account written by Philip Stubbs, large groups of drunken revelers would parade the churchyards with their horses, singing and dancing “with such a confused noise that no man can heare his own voice,” and demand contributions from their neighbors in order to continue their “Heathenrie, Devilrie, and Drunkennesse.” According to David J. Skal, the author of Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween, it is also within this era that the tradition of the jack-o’-lantern develops, complete with a Christian folk etymology of harmless mischief:
“Jack was a perennial trickster of folktales, who offended not only God but also the devil with his many pranks and transgressions. Upon his death, he was denied entrance into both heaven and hell, though the devil grudgingly tossed him a fiery coal, which Jack caught in a hollowed turnip and which would light his night-walk on earth until Judgement Day. Jack’s perpetual prank is decoying of hapless travelers into the murky mire.”
In this new era of “civilized” Christianity, previous bloody wars between pagans and early Christians were replaced by relatively minor inter-religious skirmishes between Protestants and Catholics – that is, until November 5, 1605. Successfully recognized by its simple injunction to “Remember, remember the fifth of November!”, this was the day that Guy Fawkes, a Catholic malcontent, was caught placing thirty-six barrels of gunpowder in a vault beneath the protestant House of Lords, later known as the Gunpowder Plot.
Fawkes was soon publicly hanged as a Catholic traitor and the date of his failed attack was chosen by the Parliament as “a holiday forever in thankfulness to our God for deliverance and detestation for the Papists.” Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night (as it came to be dually known) co-existed peacefully for about 40 years until, in 1647, Parliament banned the celebration of all festivals excepting the anti-Catholic celebration. It was then, due to their relative proximity of one another, that November 5 began to take on many of the sinister and mischievous elements of Halloween. Young people would spend weeks preparing for the night by going house-to-house dressed in rags and demanding firewood or money for the massive bonfire roasts of Pope effigies that would come to define the night, a tradition that some historians consider as the origin of trick-or-treat, which will be discussed later. According to Rogers, if no firewood or money was given, it was “considered quite lawful to appropriate any old wood” from these households.
It also around this same time, according to Rogers, that the oldest recorded use of “Mischief Night” is noted by a headmaster to describe his school’s theatre performance that ended in “an Ode to Fun which praises children’s tricks on Mischief Night in most approving terms.” Though originally celebrated on May 1, it eventually found it’s home on in Great Britain on November 4, the night before Bonfire Night, and later in the US on October 30. According to Rogers, it was during this transitional time that Halloween itself began to reappear in the British Isles as a festival distinct from Bonfire Night while still retaining some its most disorderly practices such the targeted destruction of private property, particularly by young, working class men in Scotland and Ireland.
“Mimicking the malignant spirits who were widely believed to be abroad on Halloween, gangs of youths blocked up chimneys, rampaged cabbage patches, battered doors, unhinged gates, and unstabled horses. In nineteenth-century Cromarty, revelers even sought out lone women whom they could haze as a witch. […] ‘If an individual happened to be disliked in the place,’ observed one Scot in 1911, ‘he was sure to suffer dreadfully on these occasions. He doors would be broken, and frequently not a cabbage left standing in the garden.’ Such was Halloween reputation as a night of festive retribution that in some parts of Scotland the imperatives of community justice prevailed over private property, to a point that the Kirk-session found it impossible to enforce law and order.”
These accounts of masculine mob attacks to deliver “community justice” to “unpopular” neighbors and “lone women” are not included as an endorsement for their obviously proto-fascist and misogynistic nature; instead, these moments illustrate how, by means of the witch-hunts and other violent forms of domestication, women had been excluded from the sphere of rebellion and continued to be a target of attack. It is also important not to overlook these moments’ qualities of retribution and ungovernability that will better situate the widespread vandalism of Irish-American immigrant youth and Detroit’s prolific teenage arsonists.
Black Halloween, 1845-1945 CE
Much like the Black Plague of the fourteenth century, the potato blight of 1845 dramatically impacted the course of Halloween’s evolution as it spread across Ireland, killing both the country’s staple food crop and over one million Irish peasants from the resulting starvation. Over the course of the next seven years, one million more Irish would leave their homes, many sailing to North America where they soon outnumbered all other immigrant groups combined. It is not surprising then that this is also the context in which that Halloween celebrations and revelry, long disdained by earlier Puritan settlers, begin to appear in the United States. As Lesley Pratt Bannatyne writes in her book Halloween: An American Holiday, An American History, “Wherever the Irish went, […] Halloween followed along.”
In their new homes across North America, Irish immigrant youth continued to experiment, innovate, and spread new forms of devilry during the Halloween season, often creatively adapting to the idiosyncrasies of each environment. In some Midwestern towns, this took the form of removing farmers’ gates to free their animals, while on the East Coast, this took the form of weaponizing the relatively abundant supply of cabbages. Lamenting that “gangs of hoodlums throng[ing] the streets” had replaced the “kindly old customs” with “the spirit of rowdyism,” William Shepard Walsh, a nineteenth-century historian details that:
“Mischievous boys push the pith from the stalk, fill the cavity with tow which they set on fire, and then through the keyholes of houses of folk who have given them offence blow darts of flame a yard in length. […] If on Halloween a farmer’s or crofter’s kail-yard still contains ungathered cabbages, the boy and girls of the neighborhood descend upon it en masse, and the entire crop is harvested in five minutes’ time and thumped against the owner’s doors, which rattle as though pounded by a thunderous tempest.”
In keeping with Halloween’s long tradition of liminality, Tad Tuleja posits in his essay Trick or Treat: Pretexts and Contexts that these attacks on rural households:
“may be seen as an attack on domestic borders. The majority of popular pranks were ‘threshhold tricks’ that assaulted, if only temporarily, ordered space. […] Buggies, which provided cohesion to far-flung rural communities were ‘dysfunctionalized’ by being placed on barn roofs. Even the popular custom of tipping over outhouses served metonymically as an attack on the house-as-home.”
Though many of these mischievous deeds against rural neighbors were treated with a wide berth of tolerance by the authorities of the day, the tactics of urban immigrant youth soon sharpened and escalated to the alarm (and beyond the control) of fledgling police forces, taking on a character resembling something closer to asymmetric urban warfare. After the collapse of the American stock market on October 24th, 1929 (or Black Tuesday, as it came to be known), the next few years saw Halloween mobs specifically targeting symbols of luxury and the infrastructure of the metropolis, with a notable peak in 1933 (uncoincidentally at the height of America’s Great Depression) that came to be known as Black Halloween.
According to multiple accounts by Lisa Morton, Nicholas Rogers, and David Skal, this period was marked by youth gangs ripping down street signs, sawing down telephone poles, opening fire hydrants, disabling streetlights, barricading streets with stolen gates and refuse, dragging tree stumps onto railroad tracks, removing manhole covers, tearing up the boards of wooden sidewalks, smashing storefront windows, holding shopkeepers hostage, unhooking poles from the tops of streetcars, spreading grease on trolley car tracks, putting empty barrels over church steeples, attacking the police, and burning “almost anything they could set afire.” Rogers adds that as the celebration of Halloween started to spread westward, so did these flames. In 1908, anonymous vandals in Belton, Texas burned several freight cars, houses, and 1000 bales of cotton which in total cost the city upwards of $6 million in today’s money, when adjusted for inflation.
Many of these attacks were focused around immobilizing the movement of commerce through the metropolis but specifically, as Rogers observes, “the new symbol of prosperity, the automobile, became the object of destruction. Revelers soaped windows, deflated tires, and at busy intersections unceremoniously ‘bounced’ cars, or rocked them from the back to the discomfort of the passengers.” Skal also notes the class antagonism to be found within these accounts, adding that,
“one report took special notice that a car overturned by a ‘mass attack’ of hoodlums was a ‘sedan of expensive make.’ The stucco of America’s social contract was likewise severely chipped by the time Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, and in a small way, the customs of Halloween pranking reflected more generalized anxieties about civil unrest.”
Skal goes on to write, in a notable account of multiracial rebellion, that
“on Halloween 1934, the pranks of masked children parading through the streets of Harlem rapidly escalated from harmless flour and ask pelting to rock throwing to automobile vandalism. The police estimated that four hundred youngsters, both black and white, were involved in the various melees, which culminated with a car being heisted and rolled down a fifty-foot embankment in Riverside Park, where its tires were slashed.”
Though it would be pleasant to imagine that these sorts of multiracial conspiracies were common in this period, it should not be surprising that not only was this rare, but actually antithetical to many of Roger’s accounts of non-white participation in these mobs. In fact, three years earlier on Halloween night of 1931, a violent street battle developed between 400 black and white adults on the same streets of Harlem. As urban youth began to materially sabotage the fragile economy, white mob attacks began to develop into larger race riots, and widespread looting overtook the Halloween celebration of the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago, it was not to be long before the forces of order would have to once again intervene to restore order to the holiday.
The Taming of Halloween, c. 1945–1960
After three decades of annual insurgency by tireless immigrant youth, it became obvious to authorities that the rebellious spirit of Halloween had to be severed from the holiday once as for all. As Skal writes, “although Halloween never even registered in the national debate, the many local controversies surrounding the holiday echoed much larger political themes about anarchy, order, and wealth distribution.” He continues, citing the accidental death of a young girl (after her dress caught fire from a Jack-o’-Lantern) as another source of public unease regarding Halloween, which,
“to many observers, seemed nothing but an invitation and excuse for social disaster. Fear of a seething underclass was a strong subtext of other reform movements of the early 1930’s; film censorship campaigns, for example, got especially worked up about the Halloweenish content of horror and crime movies, each genre anarchic in it own way. Such entertainments were widely viewed as demoralizing threats to public order, October 31 all year long.”
This particular passage is striking because it likens to the desperate counter-revolutionary concessions of the Roosevelt’s New Deal with the concerted efforts to “civilize” Halloween by police, schools, politicians, churches, and civil groups. While this certainly took on forms of updated strategies from previous centuries – erasure in the form of film censorship, romance as costume balls, parlor games as church lock-ins, and so on – it also presented a newly available option in the post-Depression era: consumption. Rogers explains that “by making Halloween consumer-oriented and infantile, civic and industrial promoters hoped to eliminate its anarchic features. By making it neighborly and familial, they strove to re-appropriate public space from the unorthodox and ruffian and restore social order to the night of 31 October.”
Though there is evidence that Halloween rebels were being bought off with candy as early as 1920, it is not until after the Halloween unrest of the mid-1930’s and post-WW2 production boom that we begin to see trick-or-treat being explicitly promoted as a tangible solution to restore order to the reviled holiday.
The precise origins of the tradition itself are disputed by some historians, but many agree that it partially arose from Depression-era “house-to-house parties” that some neighbors would co-operatively host on Halloween to save money. Morton notes that one of the first national mentions of the term “trick-or-treat” can be found in a 1939 article entitled A Victim of the Window Soaping Brigage?, which specifically names the practice as “a method of subverting rowdy pranking.”
“Whatever its specific sources, inspirations, or influences,” writes Skal, trick-of-treating “became widely known and adopted as a distinct property protection strategy during the late Depression.” However, he continues,
“it is the postwar years that are generally regarded as the glorious heyday of trick-or-treating. Like the consumer economy, Halloween itself grew by leaps and bounds. Major candy companies like Curtiss and Brach, no longer constrained by sugar rationing, launched national advertising campaigns specifically aimed at Halloween. […] The begging ritual was modeled for millions of youngsters in the early fifties by Donald Duck’s nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie in Disney’s animated cartoon ‘Trick or Treat,’ accompanied by a catchy, reinforcing song of the same title.”
In addition to promoting trick-or-treat as a subtle alternative, Rogers also cites this specific Donald Duck cartoon as a propaganda piece critical for “the taming of Halloween,” explaining that “rather than experience real-life shenanigans, children could find them in a Walt Disney cartoon.” By the late 1950’s the enmity that had come to define October 31st had been almost completely supplanted with a fabricated ethic of consumption, whether in the form of candy or experiences. This “generation by models of a real without origin or reality,” as Jean Baudrillard conceived of a hyperreality, was apparently so effective that one police sergeant in Los Angeles publicly expressed his confusion about the disappearance of teenage rebels after an oddly peaceful Halloween in 1959.
Of course, these measures were not applied uniformly across the entire continent, and in some places the destruction previously associated with Halloween were simply displaced to the day before, on October 30th. As Rogers recorded of an older man’s prouds remarks of his boyhood in Hoboken, New Jersey, “there was only mischief. The adult world could not buy us off with candy or shiny pennies. They didn’t even try.” In these small pockets of lingering mischief, particularly in the newly developed suburbs of the period, the vandalism took on a decidedly less class-conscious tone, reverting to a previous form of pranks that targeted “unpopular” or stingy neighbors by smashing their pumpkins or stealing their gate. And because of their relative isolation to one another, many of the areas developed hyper-localized terms for their own sports, like Vermont’s Cabbage Night, Montreal’s Mat Night, upstate New York’s Gate Night, New Jersey’s Mischief Night, and Detroit’s infamous Devil’s Night.
The Demonization of Halloween, c. 1967-Present
On July 23rd, 1967, after the police raided a party for two returning Vietnam GIs at an illegal speakeasy on the Near West Side of Detroit, crowds made up mostly of black residents soon gathered outside and began throwing bottles and stones in retaliation. The police were forced to retreat and the remaining crowd quickly seized the opportunity to pillage a nearby clothing store. The incident quickly widened into full-scale looting throughout the entire neighborhood. Sidney Fine, in his book Violence in the Model City, recorded accounts from witnesses that described this moment as possessing a “carnival atmosphere” of multiracial looting, in which the police were totally outnumbered and were forced to watch this “gleefulness in throwing stuff and getting stuff out of buildings” from a careful distance. By the next afternoon, the first fire had been set at a nearly grocery store and a small mob blocked a firetruck from putting out the flames. According to historian Herb Colling, the local media initially refused to report on the unrest for fear of it spreading to other parts of the city, but the unavoidable smoke of a burning Detroit soon began to fill the city’s skyline.
Over the next 24 hours, the fires and looting spread across the entire city targeting both black and white-owned businesses, notably resulting in 38 handguns and 2,498 rifles being appropriated by the rebels. In response, President Johnson was forced to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 that could authorize the use federal troops to put down an insurrection against the U.S. Government. Beginning at 1:30am on July 25th, over 8000 Michigan Army National Guardsman and 4700 U.S. Army paratroopers descended upon the city to violently put down the uprising. In the following three days, countless horrors of brutality, sexual assault, and assassination were visited upon those who continued to fight against the forces of order.
By July 28th, after the last fire has been set, the troops began to slowly withdraw from the city and authorities began to survey the damage. All told, the five-day period between July 23-28 resulted in 2509 stores being looted or burned, 7231 arrests, 1189 injuries, and 43 deaths, 33 of whom were black residents. Unlike the 1943 Detroit race riot, however, observers noted a high participation of white residents in looting stores, setting fires, and sniping cops which raised questions about whether the uprising could be simply categorized as a ‘race riot.’ The Great Rebellion, as it came to be known instead, set off a wave of unrest that would continue to spread to over two dozen cities and return to Detroit the following year after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
It is following this period of social upheaval and counterinsurgency that one finds the development of a diffuse anxiety within the white population over “inner city issues,” and their subsequent mass exodus to the suburban peripheries, later known as white flight. In these shiny new refugee camps for the white middle class, an alienating fear of the Other lingered and would soon prove to be a death knell for trick-or-treat, one of their children’s last remaining sources of autonomy and comradery outside the family unit. Much in the way that authorities were forced to suppress the mischief they initially promoted in place of unbridled revolt, they now found themselves losing control over the unrestrained throngs of begging children that they created to replace the uncontrollable vandals before them. As Morton argues:
“Given trick or treat’s almost universal suburban popularity, its emphasis on representation of outsiders, and the way it empowered its participants, it was perhaps inevitable that trick or treat was about to experience a backlash. Adults, it seemed, were unwilling to grant their children that power after all. In 1964, a New York housewife named Helen Pfeil was upset at the number of trick or treaters whom she thought were too old to be demanding candy and handed them packages of dog biscuits, poisonous ant buttons, and steel wool. Within three years, the urban legend of children being given apples with hidden razor blades surfaced, and parents began to worry about Halloween.”
Though only two deaths (both of which were later attributed to family members) and a small number of injuries were reported over two decades of “Halloween sadism,” the media was quick to portray the holiday as rife with poison, satanic cults, and stranger danger. As one 1975 Newsweek article leading up to Halloween claimed,
“If this year’s Halloween follows form, a few children will return home with something more than just an upset tummy: in recent years, several children have died and hundreds have narrowly escaped injury from razor blades, sewing needles and shards of glass purposefully put into their goodies by adults.”
Civic groups and churches again rushed to this opportunity for a decisive social enclosure, that is, of removing youth from the street once and for all. Across the continent, thousands of “alternatives to trick-or-treating” were suddenly being hosted at shopping malls, museums, zoos, schools, spook houses, and community centers while some hospitals continued to reinforce the paranoia of Halloween sadism by offering to x-ray the die-hard trick-or-treaters’ candy for dangerous metal objects.
These “tales of Halloween sadism,” Rogers eloquently argues,
“were measured against the vision of a stable, congenital decade of trick-or-treating in the 1950’s. This was a decade of Cold War politics and Red scares. Yet beyond the zone of leftist agitation, it was also a decade of relative social peace, of continuing baby boom, of consumer affluence and suburban development. The 1960’s and 1970’s, however, posed new challenges to the social and political fabric of the United States. This was the era of civil rights agitation, of urban ghetto riots, of student and antiwar protest, of youth countercultures, of feminism and gay liberation, of Watergate. In the South, African-Americans defeated Jim Crow, but in the North they faced de facto resegregation as whites fled to the suburbs in the wake of rioting in Watts, Newark, and Detroit.”
Within five years of The Great Rebellion, the composition of Detroit’s population had completely changed, producing a majority black inner city ringed by a hostile periphery of white suburbs. “In the aftermath of the riot,” As Ze’ev Chafets explains in his once controversial 1990 book Devil’s Night: And Other True Tales of Detroit, “Detroit became the national capital of disingenuous surprise. People suddenly discovered what should have been obvious – that beyond the glittering downtown, the leafy neighborhoods, the whirring computers, there was another city: poor, black, and angry” that “seethes with the resentments of postcolonial Africa.” This comparison was clearly not lost on those who would soon be tasked with recycling counterinsurgency measures developed against anti-colonial uprisings to be used against a new form of annual black insurgency – that of Devil’s Night.
Although 1983 is widely recognized as the official beginning of Devil’s Night because of its dramatic increase in dumpster fires, there is evidence to suggest that there was an already low-level insurgency associated with Halloween dating back to at least 1979 and, conceivably, to 1967 itself. It was only in 1984, probably due to a combination of the widespread media hype of the 1983 arsons and the World Series victory by the Detroit Tigers on October 31st, that there was a marked increase in building fires. With over 297 fires on October 30th alone, 1984’s Halloween season set the high water mark for destruction with “the worst fire scenes I’ve seen since the riots of 1967,” according to a former Detroit Fire Department chief.
This last statement should also not be overlooked, because within it is a glimpse of authorities’ conceptual framework for viewing Devil’s Night – that is, not as an isolated incident, but as an aftershock of The Great Rebellion that rivaled its destruction and, therefore, should be eligible for the same levels of counterinsurgency. But to do would require more than just a single comparison; it would require resorting to racist and supernatural tropes to target an opaque and population that had long been mystified the white population. Much in the same way that the witch was manufactured to target a heterogeneous population with the figure of a supernatural, life-stealing Other, the figure of the Devil had also been revived to literally demonize the insurgent black youth of Detroit. According to Carole Nagengast’s Violence, Terror, and the Crisis of the State, “the goal of state violence is not to inflict pain; it is the social project of creating punishable categories of people.”
Though many residents and politicians speculated about the circumstances that produced the widespread arson of 1984, David Skal notes that the influential Detroit Free Press newspaper noticeably avoided any sociological analysis in the months after, instead favoring a “law-and-order approach to Halloween Eve arson and crime, including gun control, aggressive prosecution, and more jail cells.” According to the authors of an enlightening research paper entitled Preventing Halloween Arson in an Urban Setting, it was the following that Mayor Coleman Young then created a “Devil’s Night Task Force,” tasked with goals of “reduced arson, raised community awareness, and increased involvement in the fight against arson” over the next decade. Each spring, appointees from the mayor’s office, Detroit Neighborhood City Halls, city departments (including public health, fire, police, youth, public lighting, law, recreation, information technology, planning, among others), community organizations, churches, public schools, and the private sector would convene to begin creating strategies based on insights gleaned from previous years.
With these in hand, fire and police officials from each neighborhood would collaborate with neighborhood snitches and influential clergy to create “decentralized action plans” to enact a larger eight point, city-wide strategy: Deployment of Public Safety Personnel, by means of mobilizing all available police, firefighters, and helicopters; The Elimination of Arson Targets by means of towing abandoned cars, removing tires from dumping sites, and demolishing thousands of vacant homes and buildings; Volunteer Training by means of offered orientations to Adopt-A-House volunteers who wanted to guard abandoned buildings or Neighborhood Patrols who wanted to seek out arsonists on foot; Media and Communications by means of an aggressive PR campaign to convey “the dangers of arson”; Activities for Children and Teenagers by means of church and city-sponsored movie marathons, dances, carnivals, etc.; Youth Curfew in the form of a 6pm curfew for those under 18, whose violators would face expedited processing at temporary nighttime courtrooms; and Prohibition on the Sale of Fuel by means of criminalizing the sale of dispensing of gasoline into portable containers.
In each of these eight headlines, we can find almost perfectly mirrored strategies depicted in Kristian Williams’ essay The Other Side of COIN, many of which he directly cited from U.S. Army Field Manual on Counterinsurgency and British brigadier Frank Kitson’s strategies against anti-colonial movements in Kenya, Cypress, and Northern Ireland. Of particular significance to many of these strategies is the goal of “monopolizing the use of force” and establish legitimacy in doing so, which the Army field manual asserts as “the main objective.” One can particularly see this in the conflicting strategy of guarding and demolishing abandoned homes, a clearly desperately attempt to re-establish control over a territory that had subverted its monopoly on destruction by self-immolating. As part of maintaining its fragile legitimacy, however, the city couldn’t simply call in the National Guard again; instead it had to source its army from the remaining loyal segments of the city’s population to do its bidding. This “Halloween anti-arson intervention,” when viewed through Williams’ simple equation reveals its obvious and undeniable nature: Community Policing + Militarization = Counterinsurgency.
Between 1985-1996, largely by means of these counterinsurgency strategies and anti-gang initiatives, the city of Detroit was able to considerably reduce Halloween-time arson within the city. Though it is tempting to conclude that this may have been the moment when the rebellious spirit of Halloween was finally killed, to do so would deny the almost constant low-intensity insurgency that remained and would later spread to other cities like Camden and Cincinnati. In 1994, after the new mayor of Detroit publicly declared the death of Devil’s Night and mobilized a significantly smaller number of citizen patrols, the numbers of arsons dramatically rose, forcing him to mobilize an army of 30,000 “Angel’s Night” volunteers the following October. Given this constant obligation to douse its flames, perhaps we should not speak of the death of Halloween, but instead, its temporary imprisonment.
But if the history presented here is any indication, moments of disorder are not only unpredictable but evasive by their very nature of disrupting of linear time and ordered space. As the rare moments of social peace between upheavals become ever shorter and the fires of Detroit blends into Camden and Ferguson’s into Baltimore, it’s possible to conceive of the spirit of Halloween returning not as a discrete moment in October, but, in the words of one old revolutionary, “a holiday without beginning or end.”
October 31, all year round.
After months of making inroads with white nationalist organizations like Identity Europa and posting racially charged posts on social media, the Asatru Folk Assembly has now been officially banned for offensive behavior on Facebook. The AFA is one of the best known “folkish Heathen” groups in the U.S., which takes a racialized interpretation of Nordic paganism. This is based on an earlier Jungian notion that the archetypes that make up the Nordic gods, such as Odin or Thor, were set into the psyches of Northern European people exclusively. The founder of the original AFA, Stephen McNallen, uses these pseudo-scientific arguments on race to argue that Asatru, the modern revival of a magickal Heathenry, is the native spirituality of Northern European people and one that white should return to.
While the AFA often tries to present itself as “apolitical,” it has consistently sided with white nationalists. McNallen was known for being a core part of the Alt Right since 2008, appearing on the AlternativeRight.com podcast, Vanguard Radio, several times to speak with Richard Spencer. He has also attended the white nationalist conference the National Policy Institute and pals around with various racialist projects.
Most recently, the AFA hit new leadership has taken it in an even more explicitly racist and patriarchal direction. Below is a screenshot of a recent post of theirs, and because of it they were denounced by almost every Heathen organization in the country.
As they have continued to increase their racialist profile, including participating in the Alt Right rally at Berkeley, they have seen resistance form. They have now been banned from Facebook and will continue to see their profile shrink as few are willing to accept their white supremacist version of paganism.
Note: The vast majority of Heathens are anti-racist, and those who take the “folkish” perspective are a loud and racist minority in the religion.
By Rhyd Wildermuth
I said to a friend, we see the darkness, and some go in.
It is the Abyss.
We have to find out what is there, to find out if there is meaning. And we see only the abyss. And some go mad. And some never return. And some—
And some, I said, come back wielding light against that darkness. Seeing nothing, we bring back fire, we light lamps, candles, torches. We hold light that isn’t ours, as how else would any else see?
Terror often greets the far-off glances on the faces of those who return from the Abyss. The lone wanderers who walked boldly into the darkness past the boundary of fire- or street-light, the mad poet, the uncouth heretic, the unshowered witch: their reckless journeys are not celebrated when they return.
Like the ones who ‘walk away from Omelas,’ they did not know to where they were going, only somewhere not-here, not the streets full of opulent wealth and the joyous cries of liberation made possible by a founding horror. But unlike in Le Guin’s story, the city is the world, and there is nowhere else to go except back to those same streets, their eyes no longer glinting with the shallow laughter of civilization but nevertheless lit with fire.
It is their own fire, and it is a fire others are right to fear. It is a fire that can reforge the world.
I am what some might call an Egoist. I can also be described as a Nihilist, a mystic, an esotericist, a witch, a Pagan, an Anarchist, and also a Marxist. None of these labels actually mean anything–they are only useful when attempting to speak as the locals speak, to use the prescribed language of Capitol/Capital, treating ‘words that stay’’ with the same fetishism which Marx ascribes to commodity-cum-currency.
It is generally easier to list what I reject (for those of you checking-off boxes on mental clipboards) than it is to begin the litany of what I embrace. Few have the time: there are stories that must be told for each thing before they can be understood, and such narration seems mere obfuscation to those for whom reductionism and essentialism (as endemic to the American ‘left’ as it is to the ‘right’) are unconscious requirements to get at the ‘truth.’
I will tell you what I do not like. I do not like racism or racialism; I do not like gender or genderism. I do not like property or propriety, nor do I Iike borders and what they define. Also, Capitalism and Liberal Democracy and Empire are my least favorite things in the world, along with their shadow, Fascism.
Here, though, I should remind you: “Fascism” means nothing at all. It is a word invoked by people overcome with a strong urge to shore up the ruins of Empire by recourse to even more tenuous concepts with even less material basis: Tradition, Race, Gender, Morals, the Nation. Though the words are mere sounds we make with our throats or symbols printed with ink or displayed on screens, they each serve to outline vaguely (and by their vagueness gain more power) ideas which nevertheless have great power in the realm of the human social.
Max Stirner called these ideas ‘spooks.’ Others would call these ‘constructs.’ I prefer to name them spectres or Egregores. They are also the mythic, and it’s the realm of the mythic I understand best, which is also the realm the Fascists are trying to take from us.
Spooks That Kill
Carl Jung gave a speech in 1936 in which he suggested a “Wotanic spirit” had begun to inhabit the National Socialists, as if the people had become possessed by a god:
Perhaps we may sum up this general phenomenon as Ergriffenheit — a state of being seized or possessed. The term postulates not only an Ergriffener (one who is seized) but, also, an Ergreifer (one who seizes). Wotan is an Ergreifer of men, and, unless one wishes to deify Hitler– which has indeed actually happened — he is really the only explanation.
Jung invokes his theory of gods as pre- and un-conscious archetypal drives to defend his thesis, but like much of the rest of Jung’s work, it’s always unclear whether he believed there was not really a god there. But Jung does not quite mean what we generally think of as a god. Wotan is a “buried drive” within the Germanic people, one which essentially haunts the ‘race’ until it becomes manifest.
“Because the behaviour of a race takes on its specific character from its underlying images, we can speak of an archetype “Wotan.” As an autonomous psychic factor, Wotan produces effects in the collective life of a people and thereby reveals his own nature….It is only from time to time that individuals fall under the irresistible influence of this unconscious factor.”
Jung’s racial essentialism here is tragic and prefigures the biological and genetic essentialism which now dominates Western thought. However, the concept of a mass possession by an unconscious form fits incredibly well with what we know of Nationalism.
Consider the World Trade Center attacks in 2001 in the United States. After the attacks, people experienced (and were diagnosed with) trauma from watching the explosions on television, so much so that some (including otherwise sane and clear-thinking friends of mine) for a little while believed they had either actually been present at the event or had a close friend or family member within the destroyed towers. Worse, many otherwise virulently anti-war people suddenly regained national ‘pride,’ literally waving flags with such civic devotion that one would have thought their life depended upon it.
Devotion to the Nation after such traumatic events often takes on both a religious quality (similar to that of evangelical Christians) while displaying symptoms of mass hysteria. The Nation appears to haunt the actions of the individuals, manifesting and reifying itself as if by possession or seizing.
What Jung noticed regarding the possession of the German people by “Wotan” is this same process. And while one need not believe it was Wotan who possessed his people (I do not—I’ve asked him myself), Jung’s assertion that a mythic force can operate on the psyche is hardly a unique idea. The same function was described by Max Stirner as ‘spooks,’ ideological and philosophical forms which exert influence when they are unconsciously accepted as really-existing.
Spook, Spectre, Egregore
Jung’s theory of archetypes—as well as Stirner’s theory on Spooks, may have been influenced by an occult theory regarding near-deific spirits known as egregores. An egregore (greek for ‘watcher’) is a spirit composed of the memories, knowledge, personality, and intentions of a group, which either arises organically from the activities and interactions of the group or is constructed willfully by the group.
Egregores could be called ‘group minds,’ though they exist autonomously (like Jung’s archetypal Wotan) and maintain the cohesion, survival, and collective identity of a group beyond the individual goals of each member. Unlike an archetype, an egregore does not spring from the unconscious/pre-conscious mind, but rather the myriad actions and interactions of those within in. Unlike a god, an egregore is not something one worships or necessarily invokes. They can be constructed, but after their construction the apparent life they take on is much more complex than what they were constructed to be.
A more accurate explanation may be to say that they are real-ised; brought from the realm of infinite possibility, the world without forms, into the more finite realm of social existence. Yet another theory is that they become inhabited after-the-fact by pre-existing spirits, similar to the way many animistic cultures build shrines as houses that benevolent spirits (or fairies, etc.) will want to move into.
Like Jung’s ‘Wotan’ and Stirner’s Spook (and to some degree Derrida’s ‘Spectre’), the Egregore describes the apparent realness of a thing despite its disconnection from the material world. There is no ‘there’ there, and yet it functions always as if there was, manifesting itself in the actions of those who live within its realm of influence or meaning. And it thus acts also as if it were a god, making demands upon its followers who constantly (and often unconsciously) manifest its existence.
This same process has been described by other means by post-colonialist theorists. Dipesh Chakrabarty, particularly, proposes in his introduction to Provincializing Europe that it is precisely European exceptionalism that prevents us from seeing how those of us in Liberal Democratic societies still “inhabit these forms even as we classify ourselves as modern or secular.” Similarly, Frantz Fanon and James Baldwin speak to the way that belief in whiteness and its psychological manifestations seem to inhabit those who, in Baldwin’s words, “believe they are white.”
One need not necessarily accept a supernatural explanation for the way the mythic manifests as-if it is real in order to comprehend this idea. Benedict Anderson’s formulation of the Nation as an ‘imagined community’ also points to the same mythic and Egregoric functioning. For him, the Nation is a modern constructed form creating an indefensible (yet fully-manifest) sense of (false) horizontal kinship with complete strangers, as Anderson says, making “it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people not so much to kill as willing die for such limited imaginings.”
America exists; yet we cannot point merely to the constitution of the United States, nor to its government and institutions, soldiers and politicians and police, and say: this is America. America exists within the psyche of Americans, constantly reproduced through self-description and unconscious acceptance of its goals, desires, and inevitability. America is an egregore, a god-form, inhabiting the psyche of its individual constituents, like Jung’s Wotan: “…an autonomous psychic factor, …produc[ing] effects in the collective life of a people…”
The Fascists Know What We Prefer To Forget
Race, Gender, and all other ‘identity’ categories function this same way. Gays imagine themselves part of a ‘gay community,’ yet there is no such thing, only an imagined kinship with people who just happen to like sex with people who have the same genitals as themselves. A horrific attack on people who call themselves gay (such as the Pulse massacre in Orlando) thus manifests in individual gays elsewhere (as was the case for myself and many of my gay friends) as an attack on us as well.
We see this egregoric manifestation even stronger in whiteness. Whiteness has no material basis, yet it does not need one to manifest through the social interactions of humans. Whiteness ‘possesses’ the white person, and appears to inhabit their interactions with people possessed by other egregoric racial categories (Black, etc.) regardless of their oppositional nature. In fact, the conflict and tension between egregores only further refines and entrenches their influence and power.
Neither the conservative Right nor most of the liberal or radical Left challenge these egregores. Instead, they strengthen and re-invest these egregores with power by insisting they are real and meaningful fields of social struggle (regardless of their final goals). We see this most tragically on the Left, which generally accepts the constructed nature of identities, yet also insists identity is a valid (if not foundational) field of political struggle.
Consider the problem of Gender. Most Leftists accept Judith Butler’s proposition that gender is performative, not essential or biological (likewise the Egoist position). Yet, particularly on the “Social Justice” Left, essentialism and a fear of straying too far from Liberal Democratic forms creates a contradictory position, seen particularly in the arguments around trans women. On the one hand, Leftists insist woman is a constructed category, yet then assert that trans women are women. That is, woman is constructed, but in order to liberate another constructed category, trans women (as category) are absolutely (essentially) part of a woman (as category), making both again essentialist, Similarly, maleness is a category that the Left generally seeks to make irrelevant, but then the Left reduces men to an essential category in which every man essentially causes exploitation, violence, and oppression (“#YESALLMEN”).
Even if it were only the Left attempting to define the boundaries of these egregoric categories, we would find ourselves in an interminable deadlock. Unfortunately, there is a much stronger and less self-conscious current which already understands the great power these egregores have over the actions of humans.
A brief glance at the Nazi project is probably sufficient for us to grasp how Fascism not only is more comfortable with the egregoric nature of these concepts, but also understands how best to manipulate them. Nazi theorists (social, occult, legal, scientific, etc.) cobbled together a new mythic reality for Germany quite quickly. Tibetan and Hindu spirituality, Nordic and Germanic folklore, and general occult studies as well as previously oppositional and antagonist political, social, and scientific forms all became part of the egregore of Nazism, seizing the mythic imagination of a (likewise mythic) Nation.
Consider: before the Nazis, the Aryan race was a mere fringe scientific theory. During the Nazi ascension, the Aryan race was a thing, alive, ‘self-evident.’ So, too, Germany itself: suddenly a nation created only three decades before arose fully-formed with an ancient history as if it had always been there.
Did the Nazi theorists actually believe their own mythic creation? Or were they consciously creating something new? It’s impossible to know. The same question could be asked of Lenin and Stalin: did they really believe in the existence of the Worker?
Or more controversially regarding the identity politics of the Left: gays did not exist as a category in the 1800’s, nor did trans people. When the political category/egregoric identity of ‘gay’ and ‘trans’ arose, suddenly they were self-evident, alive, meaningful, and strangest of all: ‘true.’ Did those who constructed gayness and trans identity know they were making something up? How many who embrace these identities (unless they’ve really read Foucault) even realize that they do not stretch back into prehistory, let alone before the 20th century?
The point here is not to unravel the nightmare of Left identity politics, only to show how Leftists unconsciously do the same thing that Fascists consciously do. Leftists construct identities and egregores without any reference to the material world, yet then quickly accept them as if they have always existed, just as a Nationalist embraces the Nation and a White Supremacist embraces the White Race.
Leftism (and anti-fascism) as it currently exists is thus insufficient for combating the mythic power of Fascism until we acknowledge how much of this mythic, egregoric power we’ve not only ceded to Fascists, but then clumsily mimic.
The World Without Forms
An essay by Alexander Reid Ross recently warned against the danger of “Post-Left,’ Egoist, mythic, and anti-civilizational thought. What these “potential intersections” with Fascism all have in common, however, is a rejection of the egregoric spooks over which the Left and Fascists are currently warring. Also, they all have at least an apparent understanding of the mechanisms by which the egregoric functions, and they each assert the freedom of the individual over these forms as a primary goal.
Ross’s essay suggests that these positions seem close to the border past which all is fascist. That apparent proximity, though, is not what he suspects it to be. Rather, the extreme distance of most Leftism from the mythic–and its long complicity with Liberal Democratic secular exceptionalism–makes these non- and anti-fascist positions seem ‘close’ to Fascism.
Leftism—especially American anti-fascism—has been so lost in the world of identities and forms that it has forgotten that they are only merely that: forms. Thus, any who reject the world of forms, or create new ones, will be seen as immediately suspect.
Were the current forms (Liberal Democracy, Capitalism, the Nation, Gender, Race, etc.) worth keeping around, then this error would not be so catastrophic. Some are certainly anti-fascist only because it threatens Liberal Democracy, and perhaps it is no longer true to say that Leftism (at least in its American iterations) is anti-imperialist or anti-capitalist any longer, regardless of how much it claims otherwise.
If, however, we are anti-fascists because we are also pro-something else, something besides the current egregoric forms which lead only to exploitation, oppression, and the destruction of the earth, then we must stop looking away from the mythic power we have ceded to the Fascists.
We can see how we’ve done this by looking at one of the symptoms that anti-fascists use to diagnose whether someone is a Fascist: the Black Sun. Though proximity doesn’t prove causation, this is generally a good rule of thumb. However, little to no attention is ever given to why Fascists invoke the Black Sun.
The secret of the Black Sun is actually quite simple, and it’s one that Fascists do not own. Stare at the sun in the sky and something odd happens. It appears first to turn deep red, and then goes black and starts to spin as your retina burns. It also sears itself as an after-image, lingers there for hours (if not days), and creates the perception that there is actually nothing behind the sun. It appears to go flat as it moves, revealing a deep Abyss as if all light, and all reality is merely a black hole.
I do not suggest every white boy and girl who puts an image of the Black Sun as their iPhone background has experienced the same mystical transformation that medieval alchemists name nigredo; nor do I assert that it is an Abyssal truth limited to mystical traditions or European-derived thought (the Sufis and many animist traditions describe a similar experience). Still, it should intrigue us that in at least one Fascist strain, a rite exists which inducts the initiate into the nihilist/spiritual world without forms.
From that world, through such an initiation, it is easy to transcend societal restraints and enter into the pre-formal realm of perception. Outside the constraints of socially-constructed identity and morality, any new thought is possible and any new form is acceptable specifically because ‘possible’ and ‘acceptable’ no longer apply. More so, the experience strengthens the will of the initiate: the vision was survived, the mind intact.
Those who’ve studied and felt the inebriating mix of mythic power and indomitable will evinced by fascists like Jack Donovan and the Wolves of Vinland will understand my meaning here. Donovan has been able to create an intoxicating, egregoric, mythic conception of the world, cobbling together fragments of the past with terrifyingly violent new ideologies which are pristine in their coherence. There is raw, seductive, violent power here that functions on the ‘primal’ (pre-conscious, libidinal) level against which anti-fascists have no other defense except no-platforming.
Reclaiming What We’ve Thrown Away
If I here seem full of praise for something so horrifying, it is not because I am, but because you may have become so separated from your own mythic power that you’ve forgotten you can do this too, towards a more affirming and fair world rather one of hierarchy and hatred.
I suspect we shun this power for two reasons. First, anyone returning from the Abyss with such mythic visions, transcending the egregores by which the rest of us are ruled, will always be initially marked as a heretic or an outcast. Only when we find others who have seen the same things or who find meaning in these new dreams can such mystics find acceptance. The other reason? We’ve so long ago ceded to others our power to make the world that we are more happy to leave such delvings to the Fascists than realize we are complicit in our own enchainment.
The ‘world without forms,’ where we can again reclaim our power, is what Stirner and the Egoists embrace. It is also what Bataille sought, as did his close friend, the Jewish mystic Walter Benjamin. From that world we see both the infinite possibility of human liberation and the infinite delusions under which we have for too long struggled. It is also where we can learn how to be Walter Benjamin’s “real state of emergency” which will eventually make Fascism untenable.
The Nation is a false thing that only has power because we give it power. Gender, race, class, religion, morals—even the self itself—are all constructs. Civilization is a spook, one to which we are always subject because we believe there is such a thing as civilization, because other people believe there is such a thing as civilization, and because all of us fail to remember that civilization is just an idea in our heads that causes us to cohere around it and give it more power. Thus, the Fascist who warns that civilization is under threat from Islam, or trans people, or Cultural Marxism—as well as the Liberal-Leftist who warns that civilization is under threat from Fascism—are both still merely fighting for control over the egregore of Civilization.
Any anti-fascism which seeks to break not only the power of the Fascists but also the power of the forms the Fascists wish to control must refuse to accept the forms themselves.
Race, Gender, the Nation, Civilization–these are not our forms, they are forms which enchain us, they do not exist in the world we wish to build, and we must stop pretending otherwise. Instead, we must make new forms while always conscious that they are only just forms, forms we can change at will because it is our will which births them.
We must also refuse to cede the mythic—and the embrace of the self—to the Fascists. The ‘post-leftists’ and the Egoists and those who’ve read Bataille, and also those who’ve read Baldwin or Fanon or Chakrabarty, and especially all those who would dare walk past the forest’s edge in darkness and find there new truths, regardless the consequences—it is to them where we must look for the rituals which will free us all. It is them, and nothing else, who can finally exorcise Fascism’s spectre from our world.
Rhyd Wildermuth is the co-founder and managing editor of Gods&Radicals. He co-edited, along with Lia Hunter, the most recent issue of A Beautiful Resistance, “Left Sacred.
He can be supported on Patreon, and is currently in Rennes, France, where he is very happy.
Get the latest copy of A Beautiful Resistance here.
On Saturday, November 20th, the Ronald Reagan building in Washington D.C. will host the largest white nationalist and Alt Right conference of the year. After a year and a half of Breitbart and the Donald Trump campaign mainstreaming their message of ethnic nationalism and minority blame, they have seen the kind of unprecedented growth that white nationalism hasn’t seen since segregation. The conference is coordinated by the National Policy Institute, the white bread named non-profit that props up The Radix Journal, Washington Summit Publishers, and the twice-yearly conferences that they hold. The project is all centered on the most prolific, and interviewed, white nationalist personalities of the year: Richard Spencer.
Spencer coined the term Alternative Right in 2010 and set out creating a movement, and string of publications, that were centered on a new “intellectual” brand fascism that brought together white nationalism with masculanism, Southern nationalism, reactionary conservatism, right libertarianism, paleoconservatism, ethnic paganism, and so on. That movement evolved into the snarky internet trolldom we have today after it was picked up by racist nerds on /pol/ and 4Chan/8Chan, and now we have a Trump supporting brand of meme-oriented fascists that have grown far beyond their well-vetted chat rooms.
On Saturday their largest conference will bring them together, with a special focus on younger Millennial “shitlords,” who get a discount on the hefty conference price. The conference is in a public facility that has been resistant to anti-fascist pressure, but as their profile grows it only becomes more vulnerable.
Spencer will be speaking, as always, as he has become a celebrity in their movement and is the one trying to bring an academic tone and fashionable appearance. He is able to do this as his parents still fund most of his luxurious living and he gets a heavy influx of money from William Regnery of the Regnery Publishing legacy.
He will be joined by various speakers popular in the Alt Right today, with a shift from conferences of the past away from fascist philosophers like those of the French New Right and towards internet YouTube magnets that gauge their political effectiveness by the number of “Likes” they get in internet back alleys.
Millennial Woes will be one of these, who has become popular as a YouTube commentator where he essentially holds Google Hangouts with the “Who’s who” of that week’s Alt Right fame. Being inspired mainly by the people at the Daily Shoah, he keeps the content reasonably low-bar, even though he tries to bring on the few PhDs that they have in their ranks.
The headliners, besides Spencer, will be Peter Brimelow and Kevin MacDonald. Brimelow is known for his time in the Beltway conservative journalism world, formerly writing for Forbes and on a crusade to bust the teacher’s unions. This led him to the belief that education outcomes were not the result of actual education state policies, but that some people were innately less able to pick up those smarts in the classroom. This lead to his landmark racialist book Alien Nation in 1995 that set him on his later trajectory, which was founding the racist immigration restrictionist website VDare. Over the last few years he has become increasingly radical in his white nationalism, speaking at places like American Renaissance and the H.L. Mencken Club.
Kevin MacDonald bridges the world of the Alt Right and the insurrectionary world of explicit neo-Nazis and KKK members (many of whom will also be attending NPI). MacDonald is best known for creating a series of books that act as the Das Kapital of anti-Semitism, creating a “Grand Theory” to explain all the disparate conspiracy theories about Jews. Believing that Judaism is a “Group Evolutionary Strategy” to compete with Gentiles for resources, he argues that Jews use their high IQs and eugenic behavior to create a parasitic super-race that dissolves “white racial consciousness” through their false ideologies of communism, capitalism Freudianism, Boasian anthropology, Feminism, and “Cultural Marxism.” He is a “race realist” that believes that black people have innately low IQs and is an avid white nationalist.
F. Roger Devlin bridges the “manosphere” with the Alt Right, being well known for trying to construct crudely realized science and anthropology to buff up his belief that white men are genetically superior creatures. He has latched himself onto Radix as a vessel and is hoping to slide in under its banner into the perception that he is an intellectual of the white nationalist movement. His image is not well known at this point, so this provides anti-fascists an opportunity to reveal him and his real name.
The pair from Red Ice Radio will be in the house as well, both Henrik and Lana. They have become the defining Alt Right media operation at this point, building up over the last ten years on a subscription model to doing regular podcasts and video broadcasts. Their content is a mix of bizarre conspiracy theories, embarrassing occult ramblings, attempts at Fedora faux-intellectualism, and “alt health” ideas like that Vaccines were invented by Jews to sterilize gentiles.
Matthew Tait will bring in a foreign nationalist perspective, as he has been a voice in various nationalist parties in Britain, such as the now-defunct British Nationalist Party. He vocally jumped behind the UK Independence Party and its Brexit plan, one that Richard Spencer has been highly critical of. He will likely be there to discuss the recent Brexit vote, which is being called the British equivalent of the Donald Trump election.
One thing that Spencer has been avid about is the building of a “meta-politic,” one that develops a right wing culture, mindset, and identity before it even seeks out political goals. In this way he has set out, mostly unsuccessfully, to make Radix a cultural magnate for the Alt Right. In this way he is including live music at his conferences from here on out, in the past hosting half of the neofolk band Changes. This year he will have neofolk acts Xurious and Upward Path, both of which have been well known for their fascination with racialist Odinism and various nationalist European movements.
What most the press is likely to focus on, besides Spencer’s glee at Trump’s victory, is that in their pre-event they will be hosting a “talk” by reality-celebrity Tila Tequila. Since she faded from television programming, she has made headlines for using her website as a platform for Holocaust Denial, virulent anti-Semitism, anti-black racism, and various fascist allegiances. She recently gained headlines for openly denying that the world was round, a claim that seems to have been neither a joke nor a satire. This is the first non-white speaker at an NPI gathering (she is half Asian), which many white nationalists have criticized, especially after a story in Mother Jones revealed that Spencer had romantic relationships with women of Asian descent.
The conference is being held on Saturday from 10am -11pm, with music and drinks in the evening. The night before, Friday, there will be a private event for conference attendees that has not been made public, as well as a brunch for the Sunday morning following the main conference. Spencer hopes to build camaraderie amongst the fascists and help to build networks that can help with on-the-ground organizing.
The One People’s Project has continued their years of incredible work by joining with the DC Anti-Fascist Coalition and Smash Racism DC and organizing the counter-demonstration for NPI. The OPP has been identifying and challenging Alt Right fascists for years, and they will also be photographing conference attendants as they enter the building so that they can be identified.
The action will be held at the Ronald Reagan building from 12:30-3:30, show up early if you can.
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
You can also contact the Ronald Reagan Building administration to let them know what you think about them hosting a white nationalist conference.
The world of the pseudo-intellectual far right used to be relatively isolated. There was a small network of blogs and then a few that peaked above the others, namely Alternative Right, American Renaissance, Occidental Observer, Counter-Currents Publishing, and a few others. Alternative Right morphed over to the National Policy Institute and the Radix Journal, where they continued their use of meta-politics to introduce white nationalism and used podcasts as a primary means of media communication. In only the last five years this network of online “Alt Right” spaces has expanded exponentially, starting largely with Human Biological Diversity blogs that continued “race and IQ” arguments. They began creating a generalized subculture of trolls, social media warriors, and those who have taken the jargon and influences of the more academic Alt Right and brought them down to the level of the average racist.
Today, podcasts and videos are commonplace for Alt Right commentators who are trying to jump into the fast Internet media cycle, and attempting to create a fascist version of what we see on the left. Through this, the Daily Shoah and the Right Stuff radio network have become incredibly popular for their crass racist audio tracks, and places like Radix have continued to pump out their interview focused episodes with fascist “celebrities of the week.” While all of these have maintained an increasing popularity as Donald Trump mainstreams white nationalism, all of their work combined still pales when compared to a relative newcomer in the fascist Internet scene.
Red Ice Creations, which jumps between Sweden and the U.S., has created a media infrastructure that is more formal and has more socio-political crossover points than you see in other racist media. They have taken up the mantle started by people like Richard Spencer, now doing a regular feed of audio and video programs.
We first heard about Red Ice Creations, which includes their radio and video shows, over a year ago when many of the louder voices on the right, like Richard Spencer and Jack Donovan, began getting interviewed on their radio show. At first, it seemed like programming primarily focused on strange conspiracy theories and alternative scientific notions, and perhaps these voices were just a part of their strangeness. As they went on, their founders, Henrik Palmgren and Lana Lokteff, became open about their racial politics, being clear on any show that has a racialist subject or guest that they are there to “defend their race” and demonizing African descended people, immigrants and refugees, and all “leftist” ideas.
The design of their website is purposefully meant to look like places like Infowars, the conspiracy racket from resident nutjob Alex Jonesnutjob Alex Jones. These places have a generally slick presentation and act as somewhat of a crossover point between the far right and broader conservatives. This connection continues as they repost articles from Infowars and the affiliated Prison Planet regularly. Their news choices fit into an interesting space for the Alt Right as of recently, which is to try and create artificial holes in narratives about the reality of racism. An example is their recently posted article listing 100 “hate crime hoaxes,” which is intending to first undermine the recent history of bigotry related violence and, second, reframe the narrative so that it appears as European-descended people are under attack because they are not “allowed” to organize in their own racial interest. It may seem obvious that they are playing with facts and ignoring very simple bits of analysis to make these connections, yet it is these blind spots that are critical if there are going to create an “analysis” that justifies their white nationalism
Their two primary programs are the podcasts Red Ice Radio hosted by Henrik and Radio 3Fourteen hosted by Lana. Here they focus on guests for interviews, which are quickly becoming the “who’s who” of the broad white nationalist and racist communities. Guests like Richard Spencer, American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor, David Duke, Mike Enoch and Seventh Son from the Daily Shoah, various people from the Manosphere and Men’s Rights community, and just about everyone who remains relevant from this growing Alt Right scene.
Because of their connection to Sweden, they have picked up very heavily on one of the hallmarks of the racialist movement in Scandinavia: Islamophobia. Between hearing from anti-Islamic activists to posting articles about Swedish political parties being “infiltrated by Islamists,” they have used Muslim European immigration as a fault line since they see it as having the same social crossover point in Europe that anti-Latino immigrant racism has in the United States.
What could be considered even more of a focus would be pagan guests, always leaning to the far right. Lana herself has spoken about her fondness for the pagan side of the Alt Right, how it avoids the cultural and restrictive trappings of Christianity, and how it can help to define their race.
It is this paganism that has created one of its crossover points to the non-racialist circles, though it becomes clear that even those unaffiliated with the Alt Right previously are more than willing to flirt with its racial nationalism. An example of this would be the recent interview with Stephen E. Flowers, who is known inside of heathen circles for writing some of the more respected books on the runes. He caused a controversy inside of the Troth, the largest Universalist heathen organization, for also being a member of the Left Hand Path Temple of Set. Though his interview really does focus on the topics of ancient Indo-European religions, he uses “blood and soil” rhetoric to discuss this and helps to validate the racialist voice of Henrik.
Their radio programs go back for ten years with hundreds of guests that run the gamut, and it is likely that, not until recently, the extent of the racial and political views of the hosts were not known to all of the guests. Over the last year they have honed in on fascist and racist commentators almost exclusively, from anti-immigration activists in Australia to nationalist politicians in Britain like the British National Party’s Nick Griffin.
More recently they are trying to do regular videos and live broadcasts, following the recent trends on the Alt Right to refer to everyone as “cucks” and to use silly internet Alt Right personalities like Millenial Woes to chatter about any possible issue, usually showing their inability to think through complex social problems.
Their largest point of crossover is in the broad world of conspiracy theory, which is an important component of far right ideology. To reach the point where by you center power on Jews or that non-white racial groups are lacking in intelligence and “agency” you have to created a complex matrix of conspiratorial power that is suppressing this information and denying the truth. These ideas cannot exist on their own, so it is useful to “jump down the rabbit hole”(they prefer “take the Red Pill”) of conspiracy theory, calling most known facts into doubt. From 9/11 Truthers to Climate Deniers (and Holocaust Deniers) to JFK Assassination theories, Red Ice has had major players in these fringe circles all over the place. Besides the Ancient Aliens and “Big Pharma” conspiracies, they have focused on another crossover point: libertarian/Austrian economic ideas. While they certainly do not politically side with Libertarians, especially those of the Mises or Caito Institutes, they do enjoy finding an audience with shows about the gold standard, BitCoin, and the Federal Reserve.
Their connections to the anti-vaxx community have been one of its more solidified crossover points. Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, a well-known anti-vaccine activist, has been on the program often, talking about things like Zika Virus conspiracy theories. The far right has often found inroads into spaces otherwise considered left or “progressive” through Alternative Medicine, which often comes from their generalized conspiratorial worldview.
Lana’s show, Radio 3Fourteen, seems to have always had a foundation in European “identitarianism” right from the start, and has had a slew of recent guests like the Political Cesspool’s James Edwards, pan-Europeanists Melissa Meszaros and Alex Gabler, Counter-Currents’ Greg Johnson, and Walter T. Richmond on various Syrian refugee blaming.
What you can see both in Lana and in Henrik’s show where the crossover points to non-racialist subcultures is going to be. Inside of organized power-lifting, martial arts, and cross-fit communities were are seeing a difficult flirtation with the various “tribalist” factions inside the Alt Right, from the masculanism of Jack Donavan to the barely-literate rants of The Pressure Project. And example of this is with David Whitehead, a popular martial arts instructor in Canada who has his own podcast called Truth Warrior. He runs the Warrior Arts Academy in Sooke, which ranges from broad martial arts classes to a condition type of “warrior” training. From his professional personae there is nothing explicitly racial yet on Radio 3Fourteen he joins in with an open racialist to discuss the “warrior” ethic in what he calls a “Culture of Victimhood.”
The question about the guests of Red Ice Creations is not so much whether or not they are open fascists like the hosts. It is likely that they would disagree about many things, yet they still will flirt with those ideas and empower a movement that is explicitly about creating authoritarian ethnostates. Each of these guests should be challenged for this association and we should make it so that they do not feel welcome to associate with the openly racist radical right. The vast majority of guests on the show are open about their fascist politics, but for those that are not, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to distance themselves from the crowd they are associating with.
Lana has decided to move out of simply broadcasting from her living room studio and has created a clothing company, saying that fashion is normally a “lefty cesspool.” Lana’s Llama is a “non-toxic clothing” company, which is her attempt to carve out a space inside of the organic community. The clothes themselves are your general mid-range mix of blouses, shirts, skirts, and pants, with only a few styles of each. Fabrics are of a major focus for Llama, which advocates the use of natural fibers over synthetic. Nothing about the website indicates her intended “subversion of the fashion world,” which lends to its intent to use the natural clothing/foods community as a Trojan Horse of white nationalist entryism. She goes further than she needs in this way by trying to assert that synthetic fibers are responsible for hormone disruption, fungal infections, respiratory problems, joint pain, muscle fatigue, and a number of other ailments. There is some real agenda in this, especially with the claims about hormone disruption. This plays directly into her notion that chemical companies are responsible for “feminizing men,” or for somehow “creating” transgender people through hormone manipulation. This conspiratorial thinking works to further essentialize gender and to create the notion that “globalism” is actively working to subvert “natural gender roles.”
There is a rash of alarmist images and language along these lines, an important component of continuing the sense of dread and conspiracy that is necessary for laying the foundations of a revolutionary white reactionary worldview. Much of the rhetoric that they use draws on elements that are, again, associated with the left, such as the need to have environmentally sustainable clothing production. This has always been a focal point of Third Positionist fascist ideologues, and one that, because of environmentalism’s current cultural image, has allowed for fascist associates to go under the radar.
Lana’s Llama continues the slick appearance of Red Ice and is well linked up with ordering options and social media. Right now it seems that their website is the only way to get the clothing, but it will be important to begin broadcasting what this company is and who it is run by before it gets any further crossover. This means letting people know right on the social media accounts for the company, and to keep up pressure to make sure that those who do not want to fund white nationalist causes do not do so unwittingly.
The same has to be true for Red Ice more broadly, and now that their politics are becoming more known it seems that the guests on their shows are narrowing a bit. The list of those who have been guests is so expansive and touches so many bizarre subcultural spaces that it would be hard to list them one at a time, but it is going to be important to monitor who goes on there from here on out and to make sure they are contacted about their associations. Racial politics are not a safe space because we will not allow it to be. We will make it socially dangerous to associate with these ideas because white nationalism is founded on violence and oppression.
Red Ice has made extensive crossover into the broader Alt Right over the last year, so much that they co-hosted the NPI Conference live podcast with Richard Spencer and Mike Enoch as well as live-streamed, with obnoxious commentary, the videos from Richard Spencer, Nathan Damigo, and Johnny Monoxide from the Berkeley Alt Right Safe Space “event.” They also went to the American Renaissance white nationalist conference in Tennessee this year, broadcasting live and doing interviews with speakers and those attendants who were willing to have their faces on camera.
They extended this live stream project to the recent Traditionalist Workers Party/Traditionalist Youth Network event with the Sac Town Skinheads and Golden State Skinheads, neo-Nazi skinhead gangs who often try to flirt with more “suit and tie” organizations.
Going forward, Red Ice Creations is going to be the leader of this particular wing of the white nationalist movement, consolidating speakers and media output in a way that fascists have rarely achieved in the past. By finding a (slight) financial model that keeps them afloat and by driving deep connections in the conspiracy and pseudo-science/mystical worlds, they have created enough of a base to keep speakers lined up and people paying for premium memberships. Their own folly will likely be in their attempt to follow podcasts like The Daily Shoah and go “full Alt Right,” where their vulgarity will limit their guests to fellow open racists. You can see a direct descent over the last six months as their own “diversity” has been reigned in so as to replicate the ugly success of many of the Alt Right trolls that have defined their movement.
Never the less, they have taken the lead position in the Alt Right digital mediascape, and because of their lack of ideological presence they are bringing in everyone from Britain First activists to open neo-Nazis and Holocaust Deniers. They remain a good marker for those inside of occult, “alternative medicine,” libertarian, and conspiracy circles who are willing to flirt with fascism, and can be a bridge point for confronting the creeping nationalism and racism that often finds these marginal communities as a cross-over pathway into the larger social discussion. Their “success” can also be a tool for anti-fascists who can use their broadcasts as a window into the less-confronted areas of the “intellectual” fascist world, as well as be a regular news feed for what the inside of these new nationalist projects look like.
No matter what Red Ice intends their project to be, the anti-fascist community will use it as a resource to further understand the Alt Right and to build a movement that will shut it down at every turn.
The reframing of Syrian refugee migration into Europe and the United States is critical to the messaging of the racist right-wing. Instead of seeing these as rightful refugees of an incredibly violent, war-torn region, they are instead painted as “invading hordes.” The dehumanization of these immigrants of color is obvious, but it is also an effort by Alt Right voices to reframe the discussion in terms of their own interpretation of pre-modern tribal norms. The term “hordes” inspires the listener to immediately apply “barbarian” to it, which inclines them to think in an “us and them” mentality. The idea here is to begin thinking of people of European ancestry, specifically Northern Europe, as a distinct “tribe” with its own interests. This is opposed to the universal morality that sees actions within the same moral framework whether they happen to someone of a similar ethnic background or someone from a distant country with different customs and religious practices. To see the refugees as “invaders” is to then see the need to protect the “tribe” from the immigrant populations that you are absolved of the responsibility to care about.
This shift in perspective plays directly in the new Soldiers of Odin phenomenon, a group of people who are trying to “defend” European nations and the U.S. from these refugees. Playing on fallacious notion that the refugees are responsible for increased rates of crime and sexual violence, they have created an impetus that street vigilante action against non-white people is necessary. The “Odinic” reference is also key as Odinism/Asatru, as a resurrection of the ancient Nordic pagan religion, is often interpreted racially, using the pseudoscientific concept of “meta-genetics” to say that the Nordic Gods are literally a part of the psyche of people deriving from Northern Europe.
The Soldiers of Odin were created in Kemi, Finland in October of 2015, towards the beginning of what is now phrased as the “refugee crisis.” This was created to be a street gang that would patrol areas with asylum seekers, often appearing as a motorcycle gang or mirroring white tribalist groups like the Wolves of Vinland. The founder of the movement, Mike Ranta, was close to the nationalist Finnish Resistant Movement, as well having a 2005 conviction for a racist attack that injured two victims.
The group’s dynamics of racial violence seem obvious, but they have grown over the last five months, creating locals all over Europe and moving into several places in the United States. The process began by creating multiple Facebook groups, all with lax security protocols, that have open racialist understandings of who the “invaders” are. Even with this white nationalist slant, the growth of these groups has been incredible and the numbers of people unaffiliated with the racialist movement at large has been striking. Large numbers have been coming directly from the Odinist/Asatru movement, even beyond the explicitly racialist forms.
Among these new groups is one for Colorado, with members running the gamut. This includes the Gothi, or clergy, of the Eagles of Yggdrasil, a folksih heathen kindred.
Canadian locals have popped up with common membership, indicating that there is likely less local organizing happening as much as a few enthusiastic metal-head racists who are creating these groups for different regions in the hopes that it will spark some growth. The blog Anti-Racist Canada has reported on this growth, noting that the nativist Canadians United 4 Canada have begun to ally with neo-Nazis in the Soldiers of Odin project. Charlene O’Farrell, who started that group on Facebook, has posted long diatribes in support of the Soldiers of Odin to start “protecting Canada and us(sic) women, children and even men who can’t defend themselves from being attacked or rapped(sic) if this should happen here in Canada.”
Dave FightingBack, a Facebook name, has also been a high profile member organizing in Canada, known for neo-Nazi connections, has sent back the kind words to O’Farrell. Anti-Racist Canada further exposed several of the SOO organizers who were sporting neo-Nazi tattoos and images, Confederate battle flags, and “seig heiling” in various social media posts. Several of them are members of known skinhead gangs, affiliated with Blood and Honor “white noise” music networks, and sporting Rock Against Communism and Totenkopf t-shirt images. This includes one SOO organizer, Kory Knowles, who, among being friends with O’Farrell, is also friends with open Creativity Movement followers. It would appear that, at least in Canada, the SOO movement is almost entirely run by neo-Nazi skinheads looking for a political crossover, and the crossover between them and Canadians United 4 Canada has led many open neo-Nazis to now be made admins of the Canadians United 4 Canada Facebook group.
Now the Soldiers of Odin have organized a “meet-up” event for those interested in their racist organizing project, one that is not a public event and instead a private gathering dedicated towards furthering organizing projects. In California, a meet-up is planned for April 30th at Lodi Lake Park, in Lodi, CA. Topher Justis, one of the U.S. Soldiers of Odin organizer who has been active online, seems to be one of the key organizers of this.
In an effort to call attention to the racial violence that is embedded in the Soldiers of Odin project, as well as to demoralize their plans, this would be a great event to have an anti-fascist contingent attempt to attend and counter-protest. If you would like to go under the radar, you could also attend and send in a report back that could further aid anti-fascist counter organizers to give inside information on plans, specific organizers, and hard information.
For those who have been watching this saga unfold, things are becoming more and more difficult for neo-fascist politician Augustus Sol Invictus. Running for Marko Rubio’s seat in the Senate, this candidate is running with the Florida Libertarian Party(against their general wishes). He is a Thelemite pagan, which is the part that many focus on, who argues in favor of hierarchy, nationalism, various types of eugenics, and taking power with a show of strength.
In general, Invictus went under the radar for months, with news stories mainly focusing on his embarrassing videos of animal sacrifice and his public use of drugs during ceremonies. This was, however, until he was shutdown by Rose City Antifa in Portland, Oregon, and then denied access to Canada where the reformed American Front were organizing an event for him. Shortly after he announced that he was speaking at the National Socialist Movement’s conference, and was decidedly dropped from pagan and political events around the country.
Invictus is now trying to raise his profile even further by coming to Chicago. He has recently just announced this, though he has yet to put an exact time and location for this. Though the far-right will be his base, he often draws those out of neofolk/post-industrial music scenes, pagan circles, and general counter-cultural areas that attempt to be iconoclastic without being expressly political. His high profile nature has allowed this to be a perfect event to counter for regional anti-racist and anti-fascist organizers, so this puts those in the Chicago area on notice.
Below we are putting a short reading list of articles about Augustus Invictus, and the efforts to counter-organize his presence. We will update the website with more specific information as it becomes available.
- Fascism Against Time: Nationalism, Media Blindness, and the Cult of Augustus Sol Invictus
- Report Back from Rose City Antifa on Invictus ‘Meet n’ Greet’
- Imperium and the Sun: The Strange Case of Augustus Sol Invictus
- Fascist Performance Art: Looking Deeper at Augustus Invictus and Trends in the Far-Right
- Augustus in Vancouver: A Non-Event
The post-industrial, black metal, and neofolk music scene has been defined by fascist plausible deniability. The earliest days of the black metal scene were defined by iconoclastic misanthropic malaise, a generalized anger against everyone and everything. The scene was mired with early days of violence, but also embarrassing interviews from early bands about their obsessions with death and “evil.” This culminated in the murder of Euronymous by Varg Vikernes of Burzum, as well as the dozens of church burnings. The burnings themselves were both begging for some kind of high-schoolesque rebellion as well as a resistance against the past Christianization of Scandinavia, namely in Norway. Virknes eventually came out as a racial Odinist and white nationalist, with the church burnings being an act of religious war both against a “universalist/non-ethnic” religion and against an ethos that says “turn the other cheek.”
The black metal community was largely defined later by fellow far-rightist Michael Moynihan, who wrote the book Lords of Chaos about the early years. The book, largely built on interviews with the band, see the movement as being the manifestation of an Odinic demonic spirit welling up in them. This draws on an idea from Carl Jung that people have archetypical spirits in their collective unconscious based on race, with white “Aryans” having the spirit of Nordic gods inside of them. This is the foundation of racial heathenry and is an idea that both animated much of Nazi occultism and the contemporary ethnic Asatru and Odinic sects.
While National Socialist Black Metal is certainly a phenomenon, racism is not the permanent state of the black metal community. Instead, there are very real problematic elements in terms of violence and nihilism, some of which taking an elitist and masculanist obsession, but the vast majority of bands do not share nationalist sympathies openly. What people tend to pick up on is instead that they share many themes with genres like neofolk and martial industrial, both of which have strong ties to the far-right.
Neofolk broadly can be defined by resurrecting musical styles inspired by early pre-Christian music synthesized with modern post-industrial. You might find throw backs to Renaissance, Romantic, Medieval, and other eras mixed with traditional European “folk music.” This is then paralleled with a lyrical obsession with pre-Christian myths, paganism, warrior stories, fairy tales, along with general themes of occultism, religion, decadence and decline, and romanticism of the past. This has often been associated with fascism in as much as many of the prominent bands have lyrical and aesthetic content that draws both on Nazism and on broader fascist themes, of which fans often use plausible deniability to say that it is more about lurid obsessions rather than their own fascist politics. This might be accepted if the lyrics were not often a straight line to Pan-European nationalism, as well as seeing prominent bands directly associated with fascist movements. The most obvious of these has been Death in June, but Sol Invictus, Fire + Ice, Ostara, Allerseelen, and Waldteufel, among many others, have been shown to not only play with imagery, but to have aligned themselves with the far-right. This often ranges between Nordic racial paganism to the traditionalism of Julius Evola to right-wing interpretations of Aliester Crowley’s Thelema and Chaos Magick, all focused on hierarchy, power, strength, and elitist control.
It has often been difficult to verify these sorts of allegiances, mainly because they are incredibly subtle references. Much of the inspiration for neofolk is in resurrecting a European romanticism, yet the neofolk scene attracts many who have anti-racist sympathies yet also enjoy the mythos and themes of early Europe. If a person wants to verify exactly what this musical scene is delving into we luckily do not have to jump into esoteric Gothic magazines or foreign press because a few Americans have created a website to dumb down their own pan-pagan racism.
Heathen Harvest is a music website focusing on “post-industrial” for over a decade. Here you are really going to find news, interviews, features, and reviews about music spanning the “Dark genres” and “extreme music.” Though this could broadly include metal and industrial, it seems to have carved a niche for itself in the music associated with dark religious obsession, paganism, and the occult. If you know what you are looking at, even just a quick survey will reveal that there are racial sentiments boiling under the surface.
In almost every interview on the site they will begin referencing racial and neo-fascist themes. Often times questions reference the perennial traditionalism of Julius Evola, books like Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West, or racial paganism. While some musicians resist these associations, many play into them directly, even if not incredibly deeply. Ostara, for example, gets prompted repeatedly by the interviewer to discuss Spangler and traditionalism, which they oblige, but it is clear that they are having a difficulty making their way through the list of fascist texts that have been provided for them by the scene. What drives a common spirit is a disgust for the “modern world,” a term that has become in popular use from Evola. Some interpret this as things like industrial capitalism and environmental destruction, but in the traditionalist school this more aptly means multiculturalism, democracy, and equality.
Their podcast, The Forest Passage, drops much of the pretense and takes us directly back to the racism of the Alt Right. In Podcast #12, they open with jokes like calling our current period the “current year,” a joke from the rabidly racist and anti-Semitic podcast The Daily Shoah. They go on to deride “liberals” for their universalizing morality, they admire nationalism instead of “globalism,” and certainly side with the idea that elites should be running society. They had on Florida Libertarian Party candidate Augustus Sol Invictus, where they rapped about Left-Hand Path occultism and nationalism. In this episode one of the hosts discusses Germany’s choice to let in Syrian refugees, which they say is “destroying” Europe. They present contemporary politics as “Nationalism vs. Globalism,” presenting the common straw-man argument from fascists that to be against nationalism is to be in favor of global corporate capitalism. One of the hosts derives his name GJ Anarch from far-right philosopher Ernst Junger’s concept of the Anarch, which means a “sovereign person.” At almost any point on their website you can find references to the coming collapse, when the western decadence of the “Kali Yuga” will bring us back to a possible Western Golden Age. While they rarely jump into openly “racist” language, they have a consistent voice in favor of white racial nationalism. They functionally make the same arguments as places like the Radix Journal or The Daily Shoah, but have recolored it with esoteric, pagan, and counter-cultural language so as to provide an intellectual mirage that provides a feeling of rebellious superiority to their audience. Plainly put: They are white nationalism with an occultist lens and inside of a musical scene.
VICE Magazine did a recent article called “How a Thor Worshipping Religion Turned Racist” looking briefly how the resurrection of Nordic paganism became racially inclined. HH responded to this by stating that they mischaracterized racial paganism, going into the tired rhetoric about “love for your own doesn’t mean hate for the other.” They specifically come to the support of Asatru Folk Assembly founder Stephen McNallen and the band Changes, whose members were also members of the Third Positionist American Front.
If you claim to favour the global patchwork that is multiculturalism then you cannot set about removing chosen patches from that quilt. You also cannot take it upon yourself to redefine any of those patches lest the cultures that they represent have set out to harm you—and even then you’ll be fighting the force of a million forefathers who have slowly woven that world for their descendents. This goes for any folk around the world—all of whom deserve control over the culture of their ancestors. In practical terms this control may manifest as a sense of exclusivity, but consider this: exclusivity maintains the boundary between one thing and another—forest and field; football and rugby; public and private. It is no more hateful an act than it would be to reject D♯ from a musical composition in the key of A-minor.
The website goes on to have reviews of Julius Evola’s Fascism Viewed from the Right, a tome where Evola observes the points where fascism diverted from a true right wing path, as well as his autobiography, The Path of Cinnebar. Their commitment to “folksih” Heathenry, meaning racially defined Heathenry, is near complete, though they do hold a single article containing arguments in favor of universalist heathenry and against folkishness . Their reviews extend to right-wing journals, like the “radical traditionalist” TYR, also edited by Michael Moynihan. That occasional journal publishes work looking at the “pre-Modern European traditions,” though this is very eschewed. In reality it publishes articles on Odinism, Evola, and right-wing interpretations of myths and folktales, featuring white nationalist Heathens like Colin Cleary. HH are often covering Arktos Media, a traditionalist publisher run by white nationalist John Morgan. The publisher was founded to translate and publish works of the French New Right like Alain De Benoist and traditionalists like Julius Evola for an American audience. They have really gotten behind neofolk, both as a popular right-wing musical scene and one that focuses on the traditionalist and romantic themes of Europe rather than just the vulgar racism of the skinhead Oi! and Rock Against Communism scene(Though they include interviews with RAC musicians like Vapaudenristi.). They regularly review books with racial content, especially as it applies to edge political scenes like National Anarchism. This includes a shining review of A Life in the Political Wilderness by Welf Herfurth, which draws on the work of Troy Southgate, Tomislav Sunic, and Alain De Benoist. They follow similar queues to other nationalist website in reviewing the work by controversial French author and Islamophobic iconoclast Michel Houellebecq, giving a “traditionalist” review of his book Submission. All of this really is just a snippet as this content is such a regular feature that even a survey of it would be incredibly dense. HH is likely to counter these claims, citing reviews of books like The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement by Robert Forbes where they show little sympathy, but this should only be persuasive to those who do not have a firm understanding of what the new trends in neo-fascism are and how they differ from the antiquated skinhead gang culture. HH represents a vision of nationalism and anti-egalitarian thinking that grounds itself in spiritual and philosophical themes, and so its own self aggrandizement is likely what allows it to feel as though it is not in the same camp as Combat 18 and those that clashed with Antifa in Dover.
What is most insidious about HH is that is has crossover appeal, which is to say that it is not explicitly a racial website. Many bands refuse to take the bait on the racism, including bands like Agalloch. It should be noted that HH absolutely does not interfere with bands with left and post-left leanings, and gives them an open platform to speak up from this perspective. An example of this would be an interview they have BRUT, where the band members discuss the way that female musicians have been marginalized in the industrial and dark music scene. This runs in contrast to the way that many authors, editors, and podcast hosts make fun of the concept of “toxic masculinity,” and often discuss the need for men to come together in tribes(or, in particular, “white men”) against the modern world(Jack Donovan comes up more than once, and his books are reviewed on the site.). Given the fact that they focus on “extreme” music, you are going to get a lot of anti-authoritarian left bands as well, though there seems to be little differentiation done by them when it comes to HH’s affiliations.
What should be noted is that even the non-racist crowd inside much of these circles have supported and joined up with problematic musicians like Michael Moynihan, Boyd Rice, and Death in June. The boundaries are not set inside of neofolk as they would inside of the anti-racist world, so we have to keep that in mind so as to see them for their intentions rather than just their associations. While Agalloch may be willing to support Sol Invictus, they have also stated that their opposition to the “modern world” is exclusively because of techno-industry and not because of multiculturalism. This makes their associations equally problematic, but notes that not everyone inside of this musical subculture share the nationalist political roots.
Heathen Harvest has now prepared a tour across the U.S. of popular European neofolk and post-industrial bands, though they are only one of the sponsors along with Annihilvs Power Electronix. Operation Equinox 2016 will include the Danish bands Of The Wand and the Moon and Die Weisse Rose, the U.S. based Blood and Sun, and Vril Jager, Destroying Angel, and Scout Pare-Phillips. Blood and Sun also joined bands like Waldteufel at Stella Natura, a questionable neofolk music festival put together by the Asatru Folk Assembly. Luke Tromiczak of the band was interviewed on Episode 13 of The Forest Passage, where he talks about the romanticism and opposition to modernity in neofolk. According to New York City Antifa, Luke Tramicza has dressed as a Nazi brownshirt at shows, collaborates with Nazi bands, and has “associates in White Power circles.” Fascism Watch, who wrote a letter trying to have a New York City venue cancel a show with Blood and Sun and Death in June listed that he had “neo-Nazi connections in his native Minnesota.”
Die Weisse Rose actually naming themselves after the German pacifist student movement that resisted the Nazis, yet they list their politics as Revolutionary Conservative on MySpace. This puts them in line with people like fascist legal scholar Carl Schmitt, another obscure philosopher popular with this strain of the far-right.
Of the Wand and the Moon, the project of Kim Larsen, has often gotten painted with the same brush because of their focus on romanticism and runes, and while there is not strong indications from his music, his use of fascist symbols is so dense that it is hard to argue with these allegations. Larsen has especially been targeted for using the same runic Algiz necklace as members of the neo-Nazi Heathen Front. With situations like this it is quite difficult to determine exactly how to approach it, as well as his collaborations and compilations with bands like Death in June, Sol Invictus, and Allerseelen(She was also featured at Stella Natura). What this says very clearly is that even if Larsen does not hold racial ideas, he is certainly not an ally to the aims of anti-fascist progress and standards. Vril Jager takes its name from a Nazi-era fighter plane, and also a project of Kim Larsen.
This tour provides an opportunity for anti-fascists to either confront the concerts directly or to pressure the bands not associated with racist causes to distance themselves from the more problematic elements. If bands like Die Weisse Rose eschew racist politics, then it is reasonable to hold them to the same standards of association that we would in any other community. No one wants to be culturally policed, but instead it is critical to continue to show the reactionary power that fascist music can have and how it is mobilizing a very dangerous white nationalist movement that is leading to mass violence against refugees across Europe. Segregating bands like Blood Axis and Death in June from the rest of the musical movement, putting them in the same camp as skinhead “white noise” scenes, will help to keep the organized racism out of subcultural and Goth spaces. With this kind of creeping sub-cultural fascism, anti-fascists need to confront them directly and build a movement that is not going to allow it to seep in under vague philosophical arguments that attempt to divert our attention from the reality of their genocidal racism.
This gives you an opportunity to contact the venues to tell them that the community does not want to deal with racist bands and promoters, as well as to contact the bands directly to tell them that this music community will not accept fascist associations. The shows will be on the east coast and midwest, so local counter-organizing can happen drawing on the larger anti-racist movements of the regions. Below some of the dates below is the venue contact information.
3/25/2016 Machines With Magnets – Pawtucket, RI
Address: 400 Main Street Pawtucket, RI 02860
- 1728 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD, 21201
- email: TheDepot.email@example.com
So as followers of this blog will note, we have stayed closely to the more fringe elements of white nationalism and the far right. This means looking towards various Third Positionist movements, National Anarchism, racial paganism, and, of course, neo-folk and related musical genres. We would never claim that the entire genre is fascist in nature, really only a small subset of bands are in the grand scheme of things, but they have been influential in the aesthetics, lyrical content, and style of the movement.
The harbringer of this turn is the seminal neo-folk band, Death in June. People will note them for their extensive use of Nazi and fascist imagery, which people try to claim is either ironic, non-racial pagan, shock value, or some other apologetic notion. Douglas Pearce, the masked front man of DiJ, has repeatedly countered this view with his open racist comments, support for Third Positionist/Strasserite National Socialism, and his racialized Nordic Odinism. This is a point that has been outlined in many, many places before, so instead of retreading the evidence for the band’s racist positions and connections, we will simply post a reading list below with links to articles that expand on this. DoJ makes up a racialist undercurrent of bands that all intertwine, including Sol Invictus, Blood Axis, Boyd Rice, and many other neo-folk, martial industrial, pagan metal, and black metal bands.
DiJ and its cohorts are destructive parasites on music culture, where they have infected goth and industrial musical subculture with nationalist notions. Pearce has continued, and will continue when confronted, to hide behind the fact that he is an open gay man and has worked in Jews, but this is only a complexity that is built on a much more deeply running idea of racial folkish nationalism. Even though he may not share every aspect of victimizing fascist ideologies, he certainly pairs the Might is Right, racial separatism, and cult of violence that makes up the genocidal nationalist project. More importantly, he creates a space for a “rainbow” assortment of those on the far right, and almost none of their concerts pass without participation from local white nationalists, skinheads, neo-Nazis, Odinists, Men’s Rights Activists, and others on the racist “Alternative Right.” Plainly put: Death in June is a “hip” meet-up point for those who want to dethrone equality and democracy and institute a brutal hierarchical order built on racial, gender, and sexual divisions. Whether the followers use fancy terms like “anarcho-Monarchist” or “Dark Enlightenment,” they share the same philosophical trend that makes up our direct opposition.
Death in June is heading out on tour for the end of November and all of December. Antifa has seen some of their biggest successes in shutting down Death in June events, which can sometimes be the largest white power event in a city all year. The “no platform” principle of Antifa organizing is incredibly important here, where the first organizing strategy can be to pressure the venue to cancel the show. Most venues do not even know who they are offering the space to, and certainly do not want to invite the kind of conflict or characters that are insured at a DiJ show. If they double down, as they have in many instances, then this means confronting the event as it is happening and doing what is possible to stop DiJ from having a space to operate. In these instances, we can draw heavily from the community, to have a groundswell that is not going to tolerate old-fashioned racist ideas under the guise of hipster irony and nature worship. DiJ actions have been especially successful from the participation of anti-racist pagans and music fans who are tired of being associated with a vile racist undercurrent.
They will also be touring with a band Spiritual Front, which is more up front about their white nationalism than even Death in June.
Below, we are listing all of the Death in June concert dates and location, including the venues. You can choose the venue link or the Facebook to get the phone number and email, both of which are good for contact. It is also a good idea to try posting messages on the venue’s Facebook page, but expect DiJ fans to begin insulting you. Locally, groups should begin to organize counter actions, as well and having “call ins” in coordinating blasts to show the venues that the community will not tolerate this kind of racialist music in their city.
|Death in June Reading List|
|Below are articles that outline Death in June’s nationalist politics and fascist connections.|