Friday, June 17, 2011

Southern Poverty Law Center: There They Go Again (On the SPLC's Nazi-Pagan Calumnies)

The Southern Poverty Law Center is often a good source of information on the worst of the worst of racist and would-be fascist groups in America. But the SPLC also has a sick obsession with the Big Lie that there is some connection between Nazism and Paganism. And in the most recent issue of their journal, Intelligence Report (Spring 2011 issue), they are at it again with an article titled "Former Neo-Nazi Explains ‘Esoteric Nazism’".

The article consists of a very brief (<1,000 words, even including the questions), and thoroughly superficial interview with Nathan Pett, a former member of the White Order of Thule, a group that only just barely ever existed, and that has been disbanded for over a decade.

The most important passage in this interview is the following:
"Let’s face it — the White Order of Thule had such a small amount of people. The chapter in Virginia was just Michael Lujan and a P.O. box. The same with me in Washington state. I was the only guy there. I had one or two people I knew who I tried to get interested, but it was so bizarre to most white supremacists to do the weird mix of philosophy. Most people just didn’t want to get into it, you know? It was so esoteric. People couldn’t understand what the hell it meant, including me."
The second most important thing about this article is that nothing is ever "explained" about so-called "Esoteric Nazism." Instead, Nathan Pett serves up a bizarre word salad that makes the Unabomber sound like Thomas freaking Jefferson. For example, we are told that the group was made up of "pseudo-intellectuals" who admired Nietzsche, Hitler ... and Joseph Stalin. This promotion of Stalin "as a good leader", Pett tells us, made it difficult for the WOT to be taken seriously by the other white nationalists! As to the supposedly "pagan" content of the WOT's ideology, Pett says that this amounted to a mixture of Christian mysticism, Theosophy and Greco-Roman Paganism, and that this made it difficult for the WOT to be taken seriously even by white nationalists who pose as "neopagans", because these tend to "obsessed with the Nordic thing."

Meanwhile, the main article in the same issue of the Intelligence Report is the SPLC's annual round up of violent right-wing yahoos: The Year in Hate and Extremism, 2010. The focus of this overview is on nativist/anti-immigrant and "Patriot" groups. There is no mention anywhere of groups that promote any kind of Paganism or Heathenism.

It is no secret that there is only one religion that has always been and always will be intimately associated with racist and neo-fascist groups in America, and that religion is Christianity. Christianity is the religion of the Ku Klux Klan, and it was the religion of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. It is also the religion of the overwhelming majority of those most active in the nativist and "Patriot" movements. It is also the religion of the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachmann, etc.

So why does the SPLC continue with this pattern of misinformation and slanders against Paganism? At least part of the answer seems to be that the SPLC is to a great extent run by a single person, Mark Potok, who has some kind of personal vendetta against Paganism. In 2006 Potok was widely quoted (in USA Today and elsewhere) describing Paganism as "a theology that celebrates raw physical power and domination." For that reason, Potok said the kind of person who is drawn to Paganism is "a white man who is looking for justification for extreme violence, who is looking for an ideology which explains why he should be the boss." (Apparently, Potok has never read the Bible or the Quran, if he thinks that a "white man" has to turn to Paganism to find such a "theology"!)

The SPLC has in the past been criticized for it's bigoted Pagan-bashing by prominent Heathens and Pagans including Chas Clifton, Jason Pitzl-Waters, and Dave Haxton. Lets hope that this most recent episode will elicit a similar response.

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KatyDid said...

I think there IS a vague connection between paganism and Nazism, especially in northern Europe.

But it's vague and almost coincidental.

I've been reading about the black metal movement in Scandinavia, and all of the journalists who write on the subject want to try to DEFINE the connection between right wing extremists and pagans.

As far as I can tell, there are two connections:

1) Both movements often attract alienated young people, who sometimes move from one movement to another, creating some overlap; and

2) In Europe, pagans often cast Christianity and other "semitic" religions as impreialists and invaders of their traditional culture, which can lead to a nationalism and racial conscousness of sorts.

Nevertheless, it looks to me - as your research here shows - that attempts to make a solid connection invariably fail.

Fantastic blog entry as always!

Apuleius Platonicus said...

Thanks for the comment, KatyDid!

Yes, there is lots of great Pagan Metal in Europe. I have two dear friends who are obsessed with it. I love the ideas and the images and the lyrics, but I am not really a fan of the music itself. I'm too much of an old-hippie Grateful-Dead type.

I truly believe that there is less of a connection between Nazism and Paganism than there is between Nazism and vegetarianism, or between Nazism and dog-lovers. (Hitler was both a vegetarian and a dog-lover, and I also happen to be both as well, although I am not a very good vegetarian ....)

IarasChamber said...

I find this hilarious for a few (what I believe to be) very good reasons.

1. as you mentioned there has always been only one religion associated with Nazis and the KKK and white supremacists in general and that would be Christianity

2. Pagans in general are a widely open minded accepting religion. Which is why most if not all of us stand up for minority rights including LGBT rights etc. (can you see a neo-nazi doing this?)

3. Potok said the kind of person who is drawn to Paganism is "a white man who is looking for justification for extreme violence, who is looking for an ideology which explains why he should be the boss." Obviously he has not met very many Pagans….we are not violent…we are the opposite of violent we don’t want to harm anything and well…just this dude is nuts…end of story. He obviously has no idea of what Pagans actually stand for and believe in.

Also as for the above comment Paganism may attract some alienated young people, however most of the Pagans I know are well beyond the stage you speak of. Also even though we have bad experiences with Christians singling us out to poke fun at, we do try to maintain positive attitudes and open minds to all people and all religions. It is hard at times and I will say we are not perfect at all, but we do try most of us.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

Thanks for your comment Iaras!

You have hit on a very important aspect of this issue, and one that is easy to overlook.

The very "hilarious" nature of the Nazi-Pagan theory is what makes it such a clear example of the "Big Lie" phenomenon.

Central to the way in which "Big Lies" work is that the claim being made has to be so ridiculous (or "hilarious") that it convinces people to give credence to the idea!

Here is how Hitler himself explained it in Mein Kampf: "In the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying."

Athena's Glen said...

How is that persons like this are ever taken seriously? Even in our own circles we do not listen to fluff bunnies. As educated, knowledgeable people- which is the group that seems most attracted to this garbage - as a majority we are to balance different ideals and walk around carrying our many grains of salt. How is it that others can believe so blindly?