In August 2016 Pagan priest and activist Rhyd Wildemuth opened his piece, “Confronting the New Right” with this warning:m
What is the New Right?
The New Right is a Anglo-European intellectual, political, social, and cultural movement gaining influence within Paganism, Polytheism, Heathenism, and the Occult communities. Generally called either ‘proto-fascists’ or ‘crypto-fascists,’ their ideology mirrors many aspects of what we might call ‘traditional’ Fascists, though only a few on the New Right claim that identity.
A year later Vassar Medieval Studies professor and activist Dorothy Kim began “Teaching Medieval Studies in a Time of White Supremacy” thusly:
Today, medievalists have to understand that the public and our students will see us as potential white supremacists or white supremacist sympathizers because we are medievalists. The medieval western European Christian past is being weaponized by white supremacist/white nationalist/KKK/nazi extremist groups who also frequently happen to be college students.
Both Wildemuth and Kim claim “Fascists” and “extremist groups” are engaged in a campaign of infiltration and are latching onto more powerful and more recognized institutions to spread their toxic ideology. As Kim puts it:
So, this is the question I pose to our community of scholars: “Are you, as medievalists, emboldening white nationalists?” The range of white supremacy and medieval studies’ complicity in it include the following: denying the problem exists (or even that there are medievalists who are white supremacists); labeling the backlash and protestations of medievalists of color as alarmist; imagining there are two sides; deciding that you want to give sympathy to the pain of white supremacists; declaring that medieval spaces (IRL or digital) are above contemporary geopolitics; stating that conversations about white supremacy and race are ancillary and “spam”.
One need not declare support for a White Ethnostate or fly a swastika to be a Medievalist White Supremacist. All it takes is statements like
- “I’ve never run into any White Supremacists in my class.”
- “I teach how contemporary geopolitics were shaped by medieval spaces rather than forcing 15th century thought into contemporary definitions of ‘racism’ and ‘Whiteness.” or even
- I’m more interested in medieval history than neo-Marxist screeds.”
Wildemuth lists multiple Pagan subgroups he considers especially vulnerable to “New Right” infiltration. He notes “Often times the adoption of these ideas is unconscious, particularly since many advocates of New Right ideology do not present their ideas as part of a political stance. In fact, many ideas are presented as overtly ‘apolitical,’ deriving from common sense, tradition, lore, or the will of the gods.” It’s not enough to castigate bad behavior: we must be ever zealous against thoughtcrime as well.
Desperate times demand desperate measures. Wildemuth recommends we jettison ideas of hierarchy for egalitarianism; of Neo-Tribalism for Interconnection (“we at Gods&Radicals insist on the fact that the dichotomy of who’s in and who’s out is always dangerous”); and of Cultural War for Class War. He offers special caution against those who are actually devoted to their Gods, since “The sacred has long been used by violent people to justify violence, by hateful people to justify hatred, and by authoritarian people to justify authoritarianism.” Meanwhile Kim declares
The whole, “I want to sympathize with white supremacists, we should listen to white supremacists, we should have them in our conference spaces,” is flat out a declaration of white supremacist sympathies at the very least, but really a declaration of your belief in white supremacy and the utter white privilege of medievalists.
Neither Wildemuth nor Kim provide any concrete examples of this clear and ever-present danger. We hear of no cases wherein students of any color, religion, gender or acronym were made uncomfortable by “White Supremacists,” no incidents where a well-meaning coven went White Nationalist after perusing Evola or praying too hard. (Kim provides a link to a Washington Post story about Derek Black, son of Stormfront founder Don Black. But that story talks about how Medieval Studies (among other factors) led Derek to repudiate White Nationalism, not to embrace it).
This technique has a long if not honorable history. The Revolution™ needs True Believers: anybody not wholly committed to The Cause™ is a liability at best and a reactionary at worst. Wildemuth and Kim both call for a purge: they do not wish to argue with their opponents but to silence them. To that end they create a problem then offer a solution targeting anybody who disagrees with them — or whose agreement is insufficiently fervent. They use real and imaginary crises to target critics and place supporters in key positions. They scream “infiltration!”as they infiltrate your group. And, as I recently learned, they are willing to go to great lengths to get what they want.