The Fine Art of DisinformationIt is a sad but true fact that any religion, culture, or for that matter,any group of more than three humans is likely to fall victim to disinformation. Often this is mere accident, other times it is deliberate. Such isthe case in modern Heathenry with the Foklish/Tribalist/Universialist views. Folkish Asatru is not innately racist. There are racist individualsthat are part of the Folkish Asatru community, just as there are membersof AIM and the NAACP that are racist. This does not make those organizationsracist however, and nor do a few racist Folkish Asatruar make the AA, AFA,and OR racist. I do not personally agree with the beliefs of these organizationon the need for Nordic ancestry. At the same time however, I have neverfound solid evidence that these organizations are racist. Indeed,I have found the opposite to be true, that they are open to individualsnot of Northern European descent if they marry into or are legally adoptedinto a Folkish Asatru family.Yet, there are several folks within the greater Heathen community thatwould mislead folks to believe Folkish Asatru is a racist branch of thereligion, and attempt to place the AA, AFA, OR, and smaller Folkish Asatruorganizations along side obviously racist or racialist organizations suchas Wotansvolk. I am not going to discuss why they do this. I haveno insight into what motivates these folks outside of a suspection it issome form of religious intolerance (read " The Nature of Religious Bigotry for insights into this mentality)". However, I will point out some of the methods used in disinformation, andhow not to be taken in by such disinformation.
The disinformant has at his or her means many tools with which to disinformpeople. Innuendo, character assassination, and a general failureto provide solid evidence are all tools used by the disinformant. Briefly, when looking for attempts to disinform the general community lookfor the following:
1) False accusations without solid evidence. Often you will seesomeone claim "It is clear such and such is linked to such and such a racistorganization." And then they will precede NOT to give you the solidevidence you need to make a connection. When this happens, ask, "Whereis the hard copy?" "Do you have video tapes, tapes, signed statementsto the effect this is true?" Never accept ANYONE's word on someone else'sassociations, reputation, or activities. Unless you can confirm somethingfirst hand, IT IS NOT FACT.
2) Innuendo. An innuendo is "an indirect or subtle, usually derogatoryimplication." Disinformants love innuendo. By making insulting remarkshinting that certain members of the Folkish Asatru community are racist,they believe they can make it true. In truth however, all innuendoesserve to do is further emotionalize the debate. Disinformants donot operate on hard facts, they try to appeal to the emotions with allsorts of bad rhetoric. Innuendoes are just one tool they can useto rouse an emotional response in someone, and shut down the logical thinkingprocesses.
3) Taking statements out of context. Another favoured toolof the disinformant. Taking a statement out of context is when someonemisquotes or attempts to portray a statement by someone else as meaningsomething other than it does. For example, were I to state "Wotansvolkis the only racist organization to rank in the top 20 on Google searchfor the term Asatru," and someone says "Swain says Wotansvolk is the onlyracist organization,." they have taken my statement out of context.
Often researchers are cited as evidence to back claims of racism inFolkish Asatru. An example of this is the recent (4-21-2001) interviewby the SPLC with Mattias Gardell called the "New Romantics." Many haveattempted to show that Folkish Asatru is racist using this interview. Yet it is clear from Professor Gardell's clarification, that he does notinclude ethnic (Folkish) Asatru in with the militant racist organizations. Indeed he makes a clear distinction. Below is his clarification of thematter:
Clarification concerning the article THE NEW ROMANTICS in theSpring 2001 issue of Intelligence Report. 1. I was NOT talking about the whole neo-pagan community inthe United States. The interview focused on the racist interpretation ofAsatrú often referred to as Odinism. I also tried to make clearthe distinction between the racist and ethnic positions as these two verydifferent interpretations of Norse traditions often are confused. (Thewider non-racial non-folkish pan-pagan milieu was hardly mentioned at all.There is a growing body of studies concerning the wider pagan revival butthat
was not the topic of the interview and will neither be the focus ofmy forthcoming study. However, I do will make the distinctions clear)2. The line 'everybody supports the Unambomber' is somewhat taken outof context. It should have been made much clearer that I here talked aboutthe radical environmentalist subsection of racist Odinism where one doesfind considerable support for the Unabomber. The word 'everybody' was acasual metaphor that I would never use in writing. It came in the courseof a 4 hours something transatlantic interview over the phone and I amsorry for having made that slip.
Disinformants have also tried to use the information of Kaplan andothers against Folkish Asatru. Yet it is clear each time the informationis checked that the findings were taken out of context deliberately. Thisparticular tool is VERY dangerous since a skilled writer can even use someoneelse's words against them, and thus lend some credibility to their ownstatements.
As with #1, always go to the source. If someone quotes someoneor paraphrases them, go to the person quoted or paraphrased and ask themwhat they meant. If you cannot do that try to lay your hands on the originalpiece of work.
4) Use of Fear and Confusion. The disinformant preys on the fearsof the general Heathen of being accused of being racist or associated withracists. Many Heathens as sensible modern Americans have this fear, itis real, and as such can be used to motivate them not to associate withFolkish kindreds or individuals. If used well enough, this fear can evenbe used to motivate individuals to make accusations, spread rumours, anddo things they usually would not do. On top of this they may attemptto confuse in peoples' minds the differences between Folkish or ethnicAsatru and extreme racist organizations. As long as they can keepfolks in fear and confused about what is going on and who is who, theycan exercise control over them. Hitler used similar methods of fear andconfusion to motivate many ordinary Germans to persecute the Jews. If youfind someone trying to motivate you due to your fear of something, andnot appealing to your mind, you can probably bet they are attempting tocontrol you in some way. An honest Heathen always appeals to one's logic,or at least to the more sensible emotions using fact.
5) Exaggeration. The misinformant will often take an isolatedevent, and try to portray it as a major happening, or indicative of a groupas a whole. An example would be the following statement: "AtAlthing 7, an 'Asatru Folkish Samfelag' member was insistent on using the term Nigger. I told him I did not like the term, but he continued. If the AFSis going to tolerate this type of behaviour...." The disinformantattempts to use the exaggeration of acts of isolated individualsto reflect badly on entire organizations. Sometimes, they will usesuch exaggerations in connection with totally unrelated events or organizations.When you hear of isolated racist acts in Folkish Asatru, try to get thewhole story. Was this a known Folkish leader involved in the racismor an isolated nutcase? Was this the act of one kindred or the stand ofthe entire organization? It is difficult for any organization tocontrol the acts of its members. In the 1960s, many members of theNAACP were also members of the Black Panthers. Did that mean theNAACP endorsed racism or terrorist acts? No, it did not.
Similar to exaggeration is hyperbole. A hyperbole is figure ofspeech in which an action is exaggerated for affect, sometimes adding detailsto misrepresent what happened. An example would be the following statement, "the AFS contains millions of racists," when in reality not only may there be only a handful of racists, but the AFS membership numbers under a 1000.
6) Misattribution. Misattribution is when someone attributes someoneelse's words or deeds to someone else. It is another attempt to createconfusion. An example of misattribution might be attributing theviews of Wotansvolk to a Folkish kindred with a similar name. Thiscan be extremely useful to the misinformant where identities are easilyconfused. Again the easiest way around this is direct confirmationby yourself. "Do they mean Wotansvolk or Woden's Folk or for thatmatter Freya's Folk?"
7) Reading emotions or thoughts into actions. There really isnot a good term for this, but the following example, "When such andsuch saw that black guy drink from the blot horn, his eyes lighted up withhatred," is perfect. How does anyone know what anyone else is thinking? How do they know if it was hatred the guy was feeling? Human beings are not mind readers, and if wewere, I have yet to see a court of law accept such as evidence. Take20 people and let them witness an action, even an innocent one, and youwill have 20 different interpretations of what the person doing the actionwas thinking or feeling. And none of those will be correct. I have had this happen in my personal life. Once my ex-finacee andher sister swore I was mad at her. In truth, I was just happy to see hersafe and sound. But they misread my facial expressions (which are easyto misread anyway). The truth is however, unless you ask someone,you never know what they are thinking or feeling.
8) Hearsay. Hearsay is defined in courts of law as 'Evidencebased on the reports of others rather than the personal knowledge of awitness and therefore generally not admissible as testimony." Basiclyhearsay amounts to unproven rumour. People love to talk, but in suchdiscussions, the stories told always get changed a bit. The old telephonegame is a perfect example of this, to such a degree that the last versiontold in the last phone call will no way resemble the one in the first. Misinformants love hearsay, they use it to their advantage, and since rumorsare hard to trace, it is an ideal way for them to smear someone's reputation.Again however, hearsay is easily disproven if the rumours turn out to belies. Alway check the source of such tales.
9) Ridicule. When cornered the disinformant may attemptto ridicule detractors. Examples of such statements are "Such andsuch is out of touch with..." or responding to statements backedup with facts as "that is a load of BS." Such statements are a furtherattempt to emotionalize and sensationalize and issue. They have noplace in rational, fact based debate.
The enemy of such misinformation is of course in your own hands. The tools of the Good Heathen at finding the truth are easy to use andeasier to hone:
1) Logic. Rational thought is perhaps the best way to see througha misinformants statements. For example, if they try to tell me "EdweardSweardfreond is a racist," but I have bloted with Edweard Sweardfreondand watched as he bloted and symbeled with non-Northern Europeans, I KNOWusing logical thought the misinformant is lying. Another example, "Wotansvolkis a racist Asatru organization that feels blacks, Jews, and other non-whitesare inferior. The 'Asatru Folkish Samfelag' was founded in 1972 and based onthe ancient Nordic , white religion." Here the misinformant is trying touse sensationalist rhetoric to lead you to identify Wotansvolk with theAFS without ever saying the AS is racist. Logic dictates however thatthe AFS and Wotansvolk are not the same organization and may not hold thesame views.
2) An Open Mind. This is the most important thing to Heathens. If you have decided based on rumours and hearsay that such and such isa racist, you as a human being, are naturally going to read racist actionsinto anything they do or say. If however, you remain indifferent,and do not base your opinions on anything BUT solid evidence, you willnot be reading anything into their actions. Instead you will be seekingthe truth, trying to see for yourself whether or not someone is racist. If indeed they are not, and you are using your mind and logic instead ofemotions, you will find that to be so. A general rule is, if youdo not know someone, or have not experienced an event personally, remainindifferent to it. If in doubt, simply have nothing to do with them. For example, if I suspect that Forn Sed is racist, but have no solid evidence(direct quotes, videotapes of racist acts, and so forth), while I wouldsay nothing against them, I would not associate with them either. This way if they are racist, I am not helping them or in fear of beingtagged racist for associating with them. On the other hand, if theyare not, I have done or said nothing to besmirch their reputation.
3) Be a skeptic. Always doubt, question, or disagreewith assertions someone is racist until you have solid evidence. By beinga skeptic you do not open yourself up to the abuse of misinformants. Indeed, you may wind up exposing one.
Modern Asatru is a very complex religion. There are many viewson who should or should not practice the religion. This is to beexpected. It is an ethnic religion that is being reconstructed. In a sense, the Universialist, Folkish, and Tribalist views are all right. It all depends on semantics. One thing is clear however, unlessa group deliberately encourages racial hatred of other races, total exclusionof other races from the entire religion, they are not racist. MostFolkish Asatruar state anyone is free to practice Asatru as kith. Theyare not against bloting with members of non-Folkish kindreds when invitedto non-Folkish events. These are not views a racist would hold or practice.So while I feel anyone can be Heathen, as long as they worship our Gods,practice our ways, and are not flat out outlawed from every single Heathenorganization, I cannot stand by and see accusations flung at the FolkishAsatruar. After all if they are racist, so are the Lakota and numerousother Native Americans, as well as the practitioners of Shinto and otherethnic religions.Note: The 'Asatru Folkish Samfelag' is a fictious orgnization made up just for demonstration purposes.