Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Norse Mythology Hissy-Fit

It seems that Dr. Karl Seigfried, who writes the usually-good Norse Mythology Blog, is a tad unhappy with the recent article on Religion News Service, which was subsequently picked up by the AP and showed up in all sorts of places, on the opening of the Asatru Folk Assembly's new hof in Brownsville, CA, written by Kimberly Winston.

It seems that the good doctor is not a fan of the AFA or Stephen McNallen, and he's mighty upset that the author of the piece chose not to accept his argument that the AFA and McNallen are evil, evil, evil. She had the utter nerve to write a balanced piece, presenting the AFA in a not-negative light, and only gave McNallen's detractors (because apparently the AFA and McNallen are interchangeable, and there is no difference between Stephen McNallen as an individual and the AFA as an organization) a direct link rather than paragraph upon paragraph of space in the article. Unthinkable!

His whole post basically comes down to "I am upset because you didn't take my side."

Let us betake ourselves systematically through Dr. Seigfried's post.

First, he objects to the AFA's claim that the Newgrange Hof is history-making:
She told me that the AFA “admitted there were other hofs, but characterized them to me as privately owned (like, in someone’s yard or on his/her property) or temporary.” Although I gave her the contact information for a Heathen group with its own permanent standalone hof – and at least one other Heathen contacted her to discuss this point – her article presents the AFA assertion as fact.
But here are the words that the AFA actually used:
There has been no temple, shrine, or other structure like this in almost a thousand years... It is a hallmark in the revival of our indigenous European faith!
Gladsheim Hof (thanks, Google Street View!)
Which I am constrained to point out is an absolutely factual statement. There are indeed other hofs in this country (as I have myself written about) and elsewhere, including the erstwhile Joe Marek's property in Maryland. However, I must mention that the Gladsheim Hof in Maryland (which I think is a wonderful achievement, and have promoted in various places, and indeed even brought to journalists' attention when I learned they were doing stories on the subject) was also Joe Marek's home (I am told he no longer lives there, but that there is now a caretaker in residence). He may well have a "a conditional use of the property as a religious facility", but the fact remains that Joe Marek is the person who owns Gladsheim Hof and makes it available to the community.

Newgrange Hof
Newgrange Hof, on the other hand, is owned by the Asatru Folk Assembly as an organization. As such, it is indeed unique. It is not the effort of a single individual, giving of his own property and resources for the good of the community. It is the expression of the community as a whole, coming together under an organization to achieve a goal. And it's a public facility.

So, the AFA was correct when it said this was unique. It is organized and owned by an organization, not an individual.

Score: AFA 1 | Seigfried 0


Next, Seigfried complains that Ms. Winston failed to use his preferred sources, which he helpfully provided to her as soon as he got wind of her story (because Heaven Forbid that an article about the AFA be written without a negative slant):
Of the six academic contacts that I provided, the only one quoted in Winston’s piece is Jeffrey Kaplan, author of Radical Religion in America (1997). 
Kaplan's book gives a fair and balanced (if somewhat dated) view of the American Asatru scene. But of course, anything that isn't a complete denunciation of the AFA, Folkish Heathenry, or Stephen McNallen shouldn't be referenced in any article about them. Indeed, he doesn't think that any sort of defense of the AFA or Stephen McNallen is justified at all:
Winston’s willingness to include defenses of McNallen was coupled with questionable treatment of Heathens who don’t belong to his non-profit organization.
Kaplan's book
Yes, you read that correctly. "Winston's willingness to include defenses of McNallen" is actually cited by the good doctor as a negative, in and of itself. No defense is allowed! One is reminded of the show trials in Stalin's Russia and Mao's China. The guilty don't need a defense, and the innocent would never be in court to begin with.

The story that Ms. Winston was writing was about a hof being dedicated in California, not a lengthy and negative expose of the Asatru Folk Assembly (or, as Seigfried would have it, Stephen McNallen). So because she didn't write the article he thought she should write, he condemns it and her. Nope. Sorry. You don't get to criticize a steak house because they don't serve only all-vegan food. That wasn't the story, and that's not a Bad Thing just because you think it should (always) be the story.

Score: AFA 2 | Seigfried 0


Next up, Dr. Seigfried launches into an attack against Stephen McNallen himself, essentially writing the article he is so obviously disappointed that Ms. Winston didn't write (although without the benefit of the same audience).

As an aside, this seems to be a perfect example of Dr. Seigfried applying the lessons from Saul Alinski's Rules for Radicals:
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”“Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”
That explains why Dr. Seigfried never engages the AFA as an organization. It's always Stephen McNallen as an individual. "Personalize the target". And of course why he and his ilk never stop repeating the same tired accusations, no matter how many times they are refuted. Typical antifa bully tactics. Slander someone enough times, and eventually they'll give up. Well, not Steve McNallen, apparently.

But back to the matter at hand.

First, Dr. Seigfried whines once again that Winston's article isn't an expose about how evil Stephen McNallen is. Then he attempts once more to use the same tired arguments to link Folkish Heathenry with racism, through the back-door of "racialism", which attempts to link those who think that race is a real thing with those that think that race is an excuse to oppress, exploit, or exterminate other races, simply by the similarity of the terms. Sly, but hollow. And quite simply stymied by the AFA's own Declaration of Purpose, which Dr. Seigfried fails to mention, but which undercuts his whole "Metagenetics means the AFA is racist" argument:
 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. ... The AFA supports the efforts of all cultural and biological groups to maintain their identity and opposes the plans of the world-managers to reduce all of humanity to a lowest common denominator.
Seigfried then goes on to make a wildly speculative and entirely tenuous connection between an article written nearly twenty years ago with the subjective impressions of an author today (that McNallen is "angry"), to proclaim that McNallen is a racist. Despite the fact that he denies that he is, and despite the fact that his organization explicitly condemns racism (by the very definition that Seigfried uses in his own article!). Once again, Seigfried is appalled at the fact that Winston, looking at the evidence, came to a different conclusion than he did:
I drew Winston’s attention to the metagenetics essay, the “browning of America” article, and the Gardell book with the discussion of white supremacist code-numbers. The Circle Ansuz series her article links to quotes and discusses the “Wotan” article. The extent to which Winston seems to have uncritically accepted McNallen’s representation of his views on race is reflected in her statement to me that “the context of the story” is that “the community out here is now big enough that they’ve bought their own building and are setting down roots.” 
How dare she write the article she wanted to write, rather than the article that Seigfried thinks she should have written! And how dare she come to her own conclusions, rather than uncritically taking Seigfried's side! Obviously, that's just journalistic misconduct. A writer not taking the lead from someone with "Dr." in front of his name and good liberal credentials and Politically Correct sources? Who does she think she is, an independent journalist?

Score: AFA 3 | Seigfried 0


Now we move on to Seigfried's assertion that Stephen McNallen (again, not the AFA, the organization that actually bought and runs the hof that was the subject of the article, but yet another digression into the personal philosophy of the man at the top; "personalize the target") is a racist.

Seigfried's only evidence to support the assertion is an attempt to link the AFA with the National Policy Institute, on the basis of a single event held in 2011, based mostly on an account by Brian Powell of George-Soros-funded Media Matters (hardly an unbiased source), and third-hand accounts from Jennifer Snook's politically-biased hit-piece book American Heathens (about which I still owe a comprehensive review at some point).

All that is cited are unnamed "close associates", and the ever-nebulous "members with close ties to McNallen". To his credit, Seigfried does provide a link to McNallen's rebuttal of the charges, to the point of labeling them defamation. But of course, characteristically, he dismisses McNallen's defense. After all, the guilty don't need a defense, and the innocent would never be in court to begin with.

Other than a tortured third-hand account provided by incredibly biased sources that is at odds with the stated declaration of purpose of the AFA as an organization, there is absolutely no evidence to say that Stephen McNallen, or the AFA, is racist.

And I have to say, having attended more than a few AFA events, if there was going to be talk about white supremacy, or white nationalism, or whatever, I would have heard it. I did not.

First-hand account, ladies and gents, right here.

Score: AFA 4 | Seigfried 0


The last item in Seigfried's screed is so laughable as to almost defy mention, but what the heck. When one is Fisking an article, one might as well go all the way.

The good doctor complained to Ms. Winston that the AFA does not represent a majority of Heathens, making use of the tired trope of the nonexistent Asa-Pope:
...it's difficult to see his purchase of an agricultural advocacy group's meeting hall as relevant to anyone outside his own non-profit organization for "the northern European folk."
Setting aside the crude characterization of the hof (which is really a beautiful space and entirely well-suited to its new purpose) as "an agricultural advocacy group's meeting hall", he was apparently once again irked by the author's refusal to simply take his word that the AFA was a fringe group to be shunned and, if mentioned at all, reviled:
She replied by telling me that the AFA’s building “is a sign of the maturity of newly revived ancient religion on American soil” – apparently even if the vast majority of that religion’s practitioners deny that their faith has anything to do with McNallen’s racialized version of it.
There are two major organizations in the United States that represent Asatru today; the Asatru Folk Assembly and the Troth. (There is also the Asatru Alliance, which is also Folkish, by the way, but since it's membership is based solely on kindred affiliation, it's not in the same league membership-wise). The rest are either regional and small, or local and very small.

Dr. Seigfried then complains that Ms. Winston is giving the AFA too much weight, given its relative size among the American Asatru community:
If we accept AFA claims regarding its own membership numbers, as Winston seems to do in the article, AFA members would make up only 4% of American Heathens. ... If a building bought by a non-profit whose membership is only 4% of the American Heathen population represents the religion as a whole, does the child-rape perpetrated by 2% of priests, bishops and cardinals in the Catholic Church represent all of Catholicism? More to the point, since the AFA is only one organization led by one charismatic leader, to equate it with all of American Heathenry is like equating the rapist priests with all of Christianity.
Now, according to the original article, the AFA has some 700 members. So, if Dr. Seigfried's stance is to be believed, an organization that "only" has 700 members doesn't speak for all of Asatru.

According to its own website, the Troth has 500 members.

And yet, somehow, Dr. Seigfried does seem to think that the Troth represents the majority of Asatruar in this country. In the past, he labeled it "a large American Heathen organization", and interviewed its Steersman to give one of "three Asatru worldviews" (spoiler: the Folkish worldview was not one of the three presented).

Clearly, despite his assertion earlier this week, it's not the numbers that matter to Dr. Seigfried. It's the ideology that the organizations espouse. Those with whom he agrees are "large" and represent the majority. Those with whom he disagrees are on the fringe and don't deserve any sort of coverage, let alone positive coverage.

And he will lash out viciously against those who do so, as we just saw.

Score: AFA 5 | Seigfried 0 (FINAL)


So, to recap:
  1. The AFA's claim that Newgrange Hall was a unique and historic achievement is correct. It is the first such facility that is owned by an organization, rather than an individual.
  2. Ms. Winston was writing a story about the opening of a new Hof, not an expose about what the AFA's detractors think about the AFA.
  3. The article was about an organization that opened a new Hof, not about Stephen McNallen and what his detractors think about him.
  4. Seigfried attempts once again to make the "AFA=racist" argument, based on third-party accounts and hearsay, that is directly contradicted by the AFA's own Declaration of Purpose.
  5. Seigfried attempts to make the AFA out to be a fringe group that doesn't represent anyone but its own members, despite the fact that he treats the Troth, which has 30% fewer members, as mainstream and the voice of American Heathenry.
It's quite obvious that, in this case at least, Dr. Seigfried is no scholar. He's an ideologue who is just spinning and spinning, trying to lash out at and harm those with whom he disagrees, using Alinskyite tactics to try to take down the "enemy leaders". His was a shameful display, and he ought to apologize to both Ms. Winston and Stephen McNallen, but we all know that will never happen.

UPDATE: Joe Marek very kindly reached out and clarified that he no longer lives in Gladsheim Hof. This post has been updated to reflect that.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for clearing up the fact from the fiction. It has become tiresome to hear, read and see the Asatru envy being directed toward Steve McNallen and the AFA, We all need to just move along without all the bickering and let the runes fall as they may..

    ReplyDelete