The Nazi Heathen AFAir: The Asatru Folk Assembly and their Southern racist foothold

Much of this post is derived from information from @FolkishFacts on Twitter, who put together a thread on the topic covered below. The thread can and should be viewed at this link.

Pagans come in many different varieties. The vast majority are not the murderous cult members as seen in “Midsommar”. Many are groovy people who want to enjoy time in nature. Unfortunaltey, there is a small but vocal contingent of hardcore racists. The Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA, not to be confused with ‘Anti-Fascist Action’) is a far-right, racist ‘Folk’ organization. The Heathen tradition that Folkish followers claim is one that is deeply contested by anti-racist Pagan adherents who oppose all bigotry, calling all peoples children under Odin, the Allfather (see, for example, the works of Graham Harvey and Michael F. Strimska et al). The Pagan Federation of Ireland, for example, publicly denounced a racist, homophobic solicitation by a US couple, saying in response “Fuck off”. The AFA’s racist stances within the broader spiritual tradition is not a new one and is ultimately a minority within the Heathen community (they have an estimated 700 members), but AFA’s influence and attempts to grow and gain more followers warrants documentation and response nonetheless.

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White Rose Stickers and the Transnational Antivax Network Behind Them

An international network with roots in the UK is pushing a message against life-saving pandemic health measures. Stickers from “The White Rose” group appeared around the world, from Australia to the USA to South Africa to Japan. Beyond limited reports of this guerrilla “activism” in a few local UK papers, the English-language reporting on the group remains weak.

Maybe the stickers have popped up in your hometown. A quick Twitter search shows their appearance in NYC, Wales, Kent, London, Bristol, Dublin, the Pacific Northwest, and Germany all in the past week. With black text on a white background, they bear phrases like “The media is the virus”, “This is child abuse” with a picture of masked children, or “Mass non compliance is the only way to end this nightmare”. At the bottom or on the side is a QR code and a link to a Telegram chat. The exact same stickers have appeared around the world and they all link back to the same place – “The White Rose”, a Telegram channel with just under 50,000 followers.

“The White Rose” Telegram channel is simple. The channel cycles through a set of messages. First, the channel shares instructions on purchasing a sticker printer and sticker designs advertising the anti-vaccination, anti-mask message with links to “The White Rose” Telegram channel. Second, the channel shares links to Telegram group chats for “local groups” with information on putting up stickers in users’ home area. Finally, the channel shares pictures of its stickers out in the wild.

Where did “The White Rose” network come from? Based on the concentration of groups, the network likely originated in the UK – 30% of “The White Rose” channels identified by DSRW are for locations in the UK, 35% for locations in the USA (which has a population about 5 times that of the UK) and 35% for locations in other countries. (Note – these numbers may be different as of the article release date.) “The White Rose” Telegram channel as it currently exists came into existence on 6 November 2020 and the first posts showing stickers placed in the wild originate in the UK.

“The White Rose UK” maintains a website using the same name and expressing identical beliefs to those found in their Telegram networks. The current website specifically claims that “we do not do stickers” and that “The White Rose” group on Telegram is separate from them. That two groups in the same country with the same ideology and the same name remains plausible at first glance. However, according to domain registration information, owners registered “The White Rose UK” website on 31 October 2020 and, on the current version of the website, the first post originates from 2 November 2020, lining up closely with the creation of the Telegram channel on 6 November 2020. 

You sure about that one?

Archived versions of the website include no mention of stickers until a post from 12 February 2021 in which the website links to the sticker Telegram group but denies connections between the groups, instead acknowledging the groups “share the same values and goals”.

A less forceful message

 However, “The White Rose UK” does link to two spin-off groups, “The White Rose Ireland” and “De Witte Roos” in the Netherlands. Owners regiatered “The White Rose Ireland” website on 23 February 2021 and someone registered “De Witte Roos” on 2 April 2021. Unlike “The White Rose UK”, “De Witte Roos”  specifically links to the international “The White Rose” Telegram channel and “De Witte Roos”’s Telegram chat is listed in the international “The White Rose” Telegram channel’s list of local chats. Clearly, the website and Telegram networks are the same or at a minimum closely linked.

Both the websites and the Telegram chats contain copious amounts of antisemitism. Invoking the name of the Scholl siblings, who the National Socialist regime decapitated for their opposition, in order to oppose needed health measures trivializes the Holocaust and the Scholl’s resistance. Similar references to the COVID-19 vaccine violating the Nuremburg Code also trivialize the Holocaust through over-exaggeration of the current situation that downplays the atrocities committed by the National Socialist regime. The British website makes multiple references to the “Great Reset” and its spiritual forebearer, the “New World Order” conspiracy theory, which itself holds deeply antisemtic roots. The Irish website takes the trivialization up a level, explicitly claiming that COVID-19 quarantine is the same as concentration camps. Supposedly, the entire Irish government is guilty of war crimes. Unsurprisingly, the websites of all three groups contain an overabundance of disinformation.

There are many notable differences between going in quarantine and being forced into a Nazi concentration camp

On Telegram, literal neo-Nazis come out to play. The White Rose Telegram network is arranged around the central channel, mentioned earlier, which shares links to location-specific group chats and channels alongside pictures of The White Rose stickers out in the wild. A “The White Rose Chat” also exists, with several thousand members and no specific geographic focus. The size of the group and the constant flow of messages make it near impossible to read through the entire group. Searching specific phrases reveals racist, antisemitic, homophobic, and transphobic comments from members of the chat. Messages and forwarded content referencing QAnon by name also filled the chat, along with explicitly neo-Nazi content that praised Hitler. Anyone with the link, which other channels share freely, may join the group chat, meaning that not all members of the group chat hold the same belief. However, Telegram’s lack of any content moderation combined with the lack of action from the admins of “The White Rose Chat” allowed the chat to become a festering cesspool of extremism and conspiracy theories.

In local groups, we found similar content. As the name Dirty South Right Watch implies, we looked mostly at local chats covering our focus area. In several chats, an account whose profile pic shows a man in a skull mask regularly forwards fascist and neo-Nazi content into the chats. In many of the groups, members sport Confederate-related names or display the Confederate Battle Flag in the profile pictures. Others display Proud Boy related material on their profile and share Proud Boy posts into the groups. Many of the local chats also share QAnon content alongside antivax posts. Individuals discuss how to craft and where to purchase fake vaccination cards. In many, the 6 January Capitol rioters are praised as true patriots and referred to as political prisoners. Some of the group chats exist now as virtual ghost towns, where the only posts come from bots pushing scams, porn, or promoting other COVID-19-denying pages. 

We hate skull mask aficionados

The danger of the White Rose network comes from its aggregation effect. While the stickers are annoying, the simple messages themselves are unlikely to convince someone to take a hard anti-vaccination position who would not have otherwise. In a poll taken on the channel, responders indicated that nearly half the followers found the channel through other Telegram groups or channels. However, the network serves as a radicalization pathway for the garden variety COVID-19 skeptic. On Telegram, the distances between COVID-19 denial and explicit fascist thought small enough to be nearly nonexistent. Actors interested in winning followers for their extremist ideology find a fertile audience in the COVID conspiracy crowd. As we previously reported, The White Rose Network is closely linked with other groups and far-right activists are eagerly utilizing Telegram as a radicalization pipeline.

The stickers are annoying, but the web of connections present deeper danger

Incel Punks Fuck Off: When a Far-Right Internet Subculture Comes to Town

In 1981, hardcore punk band Dead Kennedys released “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” The song decried both explicitly neo-Nazi punks and punks who flirted with fascist imagery for shock value. The song made clear in no uncertain terms that neither group was welcome in the punk scene. Forty years later, the song and sentiment remain relevant. “Ironic” usage of far-right language and symbols paves the way for serious far-right presence in the scene.

On 11 September 2021, attendees from around the country gathered in Atlanta for “Virginfest”, a self-described “incel music festival”. The “incel” community or “involuntary celibates” are a violently misogynistic online community that produced numerous mass murderers, such as Elliot Rodger. The most recent incel mass murder occurred on 12 August 2021. This event was to be held at Toki Tatt2, where Athena Raven Rapp, who organized the festival, worked before being fired following the event. The event attracted a large crowd of edgelords, but mixed in were serious far-right actors who understood the opportunity presented by the gathering.

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Georgia’s “Worldwide Freedom Rally” and Chris Hill Hit Hilarious Hiccups

On August 29, 2021, under the Georgia sun’s sweltering heat, the Georgia Capitol Building in Atlanta stood in a state of lockdown. Amidst online chatter surrounding a planned rally coordinated between unstable militia leader Chris Hill’s III% Security Force and the Georgia contingent of the astroturfed-by-Germans anti-vax “Worldwide Freedom Rally”, armed counter protesters and law enforcement stood ready. Hill called for a pre-rally at the Capitol ahead of an anti-vaccination rally at Piedmont Park. A total of 6 militia members showed up armed downtown. A few other “activists” aimlessly wandered the area. All in all, the operation was a complete bust. 

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Atlanta Organizing and the Big Igloo Meltdown

Editor’s Note: We initially shared early information from this article on our Twitter account.

On 15 August 2021, a group of organizations gathered at Atlanta City Hall. The group protested the construction of a massive police training facility and the razing of an ecologically valuable forest to make space for the facility. Together, the group of organizations make up part of the Defend the Atlanta Forest/No Cop City movement, which DSRW will report on in future articles. The following day, the Atlanta City Council voted on the facility, ultimately tabling the decision for three weeks. A previously unknown individual appeared at this protest. 

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Watching the Watchmen: Vigilantes swearing loyalty to the Blue

Watching the Watchmen: Vigilantes Backing the Blue

The “Watchmen” are a vigilante, pro-police, auxiliary-fantasy group based out of Gastonia, North Carolina. The group is led by “David Horton”, who resides in Gastonia, North Carolina. The group claims to adhere to a two-prong strategy: civil defense and civic engagement. The “Watchmen” group has a national body that Horton leads, but essentially two major chapters exist: New York and Gastonia. We cover the Gastonia Watchmen here.

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Conspiracy in Plain View: Atlanta’s “World Wide Freedom Rally 3.0”

At the Atlanta “World Wide Freedom Rally 3.0”, conspiracy narratives took center stage. On the surface, the rally opposed  health measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including and especially vaccinations. During the rally, transphobia, racism, antisemitism, and old-school conspiracy narratives flowed over the speakers, highlighting the convergence of conspiracy thought as the fringe moves ever closer to normalization. While no speaker directly mentioned QAnon, the conspiracy beliefs shared come straight from the QAnon canon.

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Into the Rift

Deplatforming is a good thing, a fact that the literature backs.  Removing hateful accounts from mainstream social media sites hampers their recruitment abilities. Unfortunately, for those entrenched in their extremist beliefs, deplatforming can send them further down the rabbit hole. As QAnon content was banned from sites like Twitter following the storming of the US Capitol on January 6th, 2021 and Parler, a “free speech” social media platform, faced instability and sporadic shutdowns. Here, the garden-variety QAnon adherents found themselves without a digital home.  In the midst of confusion, posts began to circulate funneling people to Parler Lifeboat, on the white nationalist and radical right’s preferred platform, Telegram. Parler Lifeboat itself was repurposed Proud Boys chat. Through the group and later sub-groups, actors from the white nationalist milieu on Telegram worked systematically to push QAnon adherents, civic nationalists, and others further down the radicalization pipeline, thrusting them into an environment where explicitly antisemitic and national socialist content flourished.  

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The Shape of the GOP to Come?

On Thursday, 27/05/2021 Representatives Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene brought their “America First” rally to Dalton, Georgia, 1.5 hours north of Atlanta. At the rally, Gaetz and Greene utilized the standard playbook of the far-right wing of the GOP. The duo also latched onto the latest culture wars talking points, railing against critical race theory, the “woke military”, and Biden’s ATF nominee. While the man who gave Gaetz and Greene their national audience is out of the picture, the pair are doing their best to continue pushing the Republican Party to the right while espousing a dangerous form of Christian ethnonationalism.

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