The Asatru Folk Assembly and White Nationalism

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 19, 2011 — 485 Comments

White nationalist organization the National Policy Institute (NPI) recently held their 2011 national conference, and Brian Powell from Media Matters was there to cover it. While listening to post-apocalyptic plans for a white “ethnostate” and endorsements for recreating apartheid in American towns, Powell runs into a contingent of members from the Asatru Folk Assembly during lunch.

“I nodded reluctantly and the four well-groomed white males smiled politely and sat down. What followed was one of the more uncomfortable meals of my life, as I smiled and pretended to concur with their views on affirmative action, the depiction of white people in the media, and their plans to recruit others to the white nationalist cause by use of racist humor. […] The four of them were excruciatingly friendly. They were relieved that they had finally found a place where they didn’t have to “feel out” the conversation before navigating it into the straits of white supremacy. […] They revealed that seven of them had traveled a long way up the East Coast to be here, led by a heavy-set red-faced Englishman in his forties who was sitting at one of the more expensive tables in the banquet room.

Other peculiar interactions caught my attention as well. For instance, the young men grew visibly uncomfortable when people asked where they were from and referred questioners to the Englishman. They talked about runes, and were offered a place to stay by a man they didn’t seem to know. If you have a hammer, he said to them, you always have a place to stay. My curiosity got the better of me, and after some coaxing and snooping (e.g., craning my neck to watch them writing down information on their group for another young attendee), I discovered  to my surprise that they were part of something called the Asatrú Folk Assembly […] there were at least 7-10 AFA members at this event, maybe more, and with their jewelry displayed, they could not have been unnoticed by the conference organizers. What their presence portends for the future of the white nationalist movement remains to be seen.”

In theory, the blatantly racist talk at this conference is against the stated values of the AFA, who while concerned with “the survival and welfare of the Northern European peoples as a cultural and biological group” also state:

“The belief that spirituality and ancestral heritage are related has nothing to do with notions of superiority. Asatru is not an excuse to look down on, much less to hate, members of any other race. On the contrary, we recognize the uniqueness and the value of all the different pieces that make up the human mosaic.

Despite this (mostly) “separate but equal” racial view of indigenous and Pagan religions, the AFA, and its founder Stephen McNallen, seem to keep coincidentally rubbing elbows with elements of white nationalism. For example, McNallen has contributed to two periodicals with ties to white nationalismAlternative Right (see their endorsement of the “National Anarchists”), and Tyr, which was co-founded by the “main business partner and heir apparent” of white nationalist and former Klan lawyer Sam Dickson. Dickson was guest of honor at the NPI’s national conference covered by Media Matters.

“Dickson, the elderly former lawyer to the Georgia Ku Klux Klan, espoused the most creative ethnostate scenario. First, he said, the government would need to adopt a plan to move every white person in Cuba to the state of Florida, where they would form a new city called “Havana Nueva.” Once this was accomplished, the government could begin to move all the black people in America down to Cuba. He made a point of assuring the audience that this forced resettlement would be executed “in a civilized way.” I wondered who in the room Dickson thought he might be offending.”

The open question is why were so many AFA members attending a blatantly racist conference (you can’t have discussion of forced relocation, post-collapse race-wars, and mimicking South African apartheid policies and not be considered racist), and will the AFA condemn the views displayed at NPI as against their stated values? Will these members be ejected for going against its own boundaries in matters of race? If not, what does that mean for the future of the AFA? Will the wider Pagan movement, including other Asatru organizations, have to reconsider its relationship with them?

UPDATE: Stephen McNallen of the AFA has posted a statement on the Media Matters story.

I have investigated the current controversy and have discussed it with the AFA Board of Directors. Here is my statement:

Four (not “seven to fourteen”) members of the Asatru Folk Assembly did attend a conference hosted by the National Policy Institute. They did this as private individuals, not as representatives for the Asatru Folk Assembly. The only way the original blogger, Brian Powell of the left-wing blog Media Matters, knew that they were AFA members is because, by his own admission, he craned his neck to see what one of them was writing on a piece of paper. At no time was there any attempt to speak for the AFA or to identify the ideals of the AFA with the subject matter of the conference.

The AFA will not dictate to its members which meetings they are permitted to attend as private individuals. There are suggestions that we discipline them for the crime of being present in a room where extreme statements seem to have been made. We will not do this. There will be no exposure, no witch-hunt, no apologies, and no reprimands.

A careful reading of the original post on the Media Matters blog makes it clear that Mr. Powell “cherry picked” the most extreme comments possible while ignoring the rest. He admitting that he expected “a little more anger, a little more foaming-at-the-mouth hatred of non-whites.” He further notes that “foremost on the minds of the attendees was not white dominance, it was white extinction.” His main objection, in short, was that people of European descent dared to meet to quietly discuss issues of concern to them as a group.

Let me very clearly state these two points: 1. The AFA will never advocate, condone, or excuse illegal or dishonorable acts directed at any person because of their race. 2. That said, men and women of European descent have exactly the same right to meet and to promote their collective interests as do any other group. To demonize them for doing this, when every other group is encouraged to do so, is to indulge in a vicious double standard.

I will let each of you decide whether this sufficiently answers any questions or concerns.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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