fwd: An SPLC clarification of the Odinist-Asatru article

From: Joe Dees (joedees@addall.com)
Date: Thu Apr 26 2001 - 22:56:41 MDT

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From: Insteadof@aol.com
Date sent: Fri, 27 Apr 2001 00:01:14 EDT
Send reply to: paganwebpcola@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [paganwebpcola] Re: Pagans supporting the Unabomber???

We had been discussing this very subject on another list I was on and Lady Danika had written the SPLC about it. Here is the answering letter she got from the SPLC.


Well, All the letter writing worked in that we did get a response.
For those who may have had concerns and who did not contact them, here is the general response from Southern Poverty Law Center concerning the article talking about the ties between Paganism and racist Odinists/Neo-Nazis. The concern was that the language and terminology in the article was NOT completely clear and many felt it necessary to write the SPLC and ask them to retract and/or clarify the statements as presenting US Pagans in a bad light. I do believe they will be more careful about making their labels clearer after this and for that this exercise was valuable. In addition it does show that as a bloc, responding to similiar situations will have an

Lady Danika

  Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2001 07:33:05 -0500
  From: Mark Potok <mark@splcenter.org>

Concerned Pagans,

This letter is written in response to a large number of complaints about an interview that ran in Spring 2001 edition of the Southern Poverty Law Centers Intelligence Report. The interview, titled "The New Romantics", was with Mattias Gardell, a distinguished Swedish expert on the American and European radical right. Let me start by apologizing for the belatedness of my response (I have been out of the country and, later, out of the state, to give talks) and for the fact that Im writing a form letter. While I may not cover every writers concerns, this is the only way I can respond to all.

Let me start out by saying that the Southern Poverty Law Center stands
for tolerance of different views and theologies, at least short of
explicit racism or violence. We have no quarrel whatsoever with
nonracist neo-Pagans.

Obviously, the interview was widely misunderstood. It didnt help that some individuals posted it to Pagan Web sites along with racy and misleading headlines and partial quotes. The fact is, virtually the entire interview was on the subject of the significant rise of a racist variant of Asatru, or Odinism, and the reasons for this. I thought that was clear, not least from the lengthy discussion with Gardell about what he sees as the three general categories of Asatru adherents (racist, ethnic and nonracist) but I was apparently wrong. In retrospect, it would have been wise to include a few lines at the beginning explaining that the racist category is only one part of the larger Asatru scene (although we do not agree at all with many of the letter writers who claimed that the racist subscene is tiny and insignificant). As editor, I should have put a few words in brackets
to make clear what Gardell was referring to (as in the now infamous
"Everybody supports the Unabomber" quote). There are some other cases
where I might have clarified that we were talking only about the racist strains of Asatru, Paganism, neo-Paganism and so on.

That said, Id like to point out that it is very difficult for me to
understand how a reader could actually get through the interview and
think that we were referring to all Pagans. The sub-headline over the
interview refers to "racist Odinism." The introduction describes the
interview as covering the rise of neo-Paganism "and its meaning for the radical right." Gardell starts out speaking about Paganisms appeal to the left, then talks about how it came to have an appeal to the hard right. Gardell speaks in the course of the story of Odinism "in a racialized context" and in other ways makes clear hes talking about one kind of Paganism. Most concretely, Gardell answers this question from me: "Please describe the differences between racist and nonracist neo-Pagans" in unmistakable terms. "There are really three positions: the militant racists, the nonracists and, in between, a third, ethnic" position," he begins, and then, over the course of half a page, further details those categories. He concludes that the racists make up more than 40% of Asatru or Odinism adherents. Many of those who wrote me complained that racist variants of Paganism were insignificant, or even do not exist. I think this is plainly false, although one can argue that G!
ardell is estimating too high. In earlier Intelligence Report stories on this subject, we have have estimated that about 15% are racist, although that numbers clearly rising.

In any event, Ive spoken with Mattias Gardell about this matter and he has forwarded a couple of clarifications, which I quote here verbatim (and which also have been sent to some of those concerned about the article):

"I was NOT talking about the whole neo-pagan community in the United
States. The interview focused on the racist interpretation of Asatru often referred to as Odinism. I also tried to make clear the distinction between the racist and ethnic positions as these two very different interpretations of Norse traditions often are confused. (The wider non-racial non-folkish pan-pagan milieu was hardly mentioned at all. There is a growing body of studies concerning the wider pagan revival, but that was not the topic of the interview and will neither be the focus of my forthcoming study. However, I will make the distinctions clear.)

"The line everybody supports the Unabomber' is somewhat taken out of
context. It should have made much clearer that I here talked about the radical environmentalist subsection of racist Odinism where one does find considerable support for the Unabomber. The word everybody' was a casual metaphor that I would never use in writing. It came in the course of a 4 hours something transatlantic interview over the phone and I am sorry for having made that slip."

I, too, am sorry to have been so widely misinterpreted. Again, we have no animus toward nonracist Pagans. We have in fact made efforts to distinguish between racist and nonracist neo-Paganism in our stories; please look at some of our earlier stories for confirmation. In any event, we shall certainly keep this episode in mind when writing on this subject in the future.

With best wishes,

Mark Potok
Editor, Intelligence Report
Southern Poverty Law Center
Montgomery, AL

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