This is a guest article for DSRW and LCRW from Christ, Jesus (any pronouns). The article is also available on LCRW’s website.
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It’s rained all day. You’ve been wondering if the bonfire is still going to happen tonight. Luckily though, god’s good graces have prevailed, and the downpour seems to have stopped just in time. You chide yourself for having doubted. With some occult stuff (mostly old Disney merch) sitting in the back of your flatbed, you hop in the driver’s seat and trundle on over. Pastor Locke himself seems on fire tonight, radiating energy. You always love the songs that come before the sermon but whenever he gets up on stage it feels like the lord’s spirit has entered you. He denounces the Masons and Satanists who have been threatening the church, even mentioning how the fire department threatened to put out the burning display. You felt a bit of shock at that. A couple of years ago, you and everyone you knew trusted the local government. It seems like even that’s gone away now. The pastor lets way for more music before hopping back into preaching. He immediately calls out the way other churches have been conducting spiritual warfare.
This year’s “Virginia Citizens Defense League Lobby Day”, held on January 17, 2022, in Richmond, Virginia, went much quieter than in recent years. Nonetheless, as with years prior, armed far-right groups appeared alongside friendly media. Front and center of the spectacle in the Virginia capital–once again–were members of the waning “Boogaloo movement”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.