I posed as a white supremacist online

By Greg Stevens on August 12th, 2013

A year has passed since the Skadi Forum folded, but you can still find references to it on Facebook, YouTube, several wiki sites, and in the comments sections of many other discussion boards. According to their Facebook page, Skadi Forum was “a Free Speech Forum for people of Germanic heritage, so you can voice your opinion freely… even if it is considered politically incorrect by the majority of your contemporaries.”

According to Metapedia, it was “a Germanic online community, which mission [sic] is Germanic cultural, racial and spiritual preservation,” and “one of the largest databases and discussion platforms on the subjects of physical antrhropology and racial genetics.” The Skadi Forum was, in other words, a website for white supremacists.

(White supremacists, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis like to argue the fine shades of meaning between these terms. They will also use abbreviations like “WN” that might not have an obvious meaning to those who are not “in the know”, or they will refer to themselves as “racialists”. They prefer the word “racialist” over “racist”, which they feel has acquired  “unfairly negative” connotations. For the purposes of this article, I will simply use the term “white supremacists” to refer to all of these groups.)

Eulogy

The sudden disappearance of the Skadi Forum website in August 2012 generated a lot of chatter in other white supremacist online communities. The post-mortem discussions of the site included a mixture of speculation and white supremacist in-fighting, and collectively can serve as an appropriate online eulogy for the discussion board.

Predictably, the first reaction to the closure of the site was speculation about why it vanished. A user going by the name Fading Light on the white supremacist website StormFront.org posted: “I have heard some conjecture that [the take-down of Skadi] is related to a recent German crack-down on National Socialists there. The Jews have been busy expanding their excuses for harassing pro-White Whites…”

Other conspiracy theories included: it was brought down by the “Anonymous” hacking group; it was shut down by an anti-free speech group in Germany; it was taken down by the hosting company after an FBI request was made by unknown forces hostile to “free speech”.

But the reality was more mundane. One of the owners, posting on the Skadi Forum Facebook page under the name “Campari Orange”, explained that the website was taken down due to technical difficulties, and their hosting service refused to put it back up due to security concerns. In the end, Campari Orange concluded: “I know ppl would like Skadi back but pls understand that I have neither the time nor the means atm to start installing and administrating a forum from scratch. 8 years are more than enough, so consider Skadi closed for an indefinite time.”

Not everyone missed the Skadi Forum when it was gone. On the Vanguard News Network (VNN), members praised the Skadi Forum for having “on track sensibilities” on the topic of race, but accused them of being “liberals and Marxists”. Others said that the website was “overrun by pagans”. On Stormfront, some members accused the German members of Skadi Forum of being “socialists”, which then erupted into an argument about whether Nazis were “socialists” in the sense that the term is used by today’s politically conservative Americans.

If you are an American who is not familiar with these social circles, this kind of in-fighting might be surprising. In the United States, documentaries about right-wing racist groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, tend to portray them as fairly homogenous. They are generally presented as Christian and anti-government, and they are almost always presented as not particularly thoughtful or clever.

So if your only exposure to white supremacists comes from the American media, the idea that there might be a Marxist pagan white supremacist discussion website likely comes as a surprise. It did not surprise me, however, because I’ve seen it before.

You see, I used to be a member of the Skadi Forum.

How I joined a neo-Nazi website

“Skadi” is the name of a beautiful, athletic goddess in Norse mythology. She was a hunter and a fierce warrior. She was blond and had pale skin. In many ways she is an idealised “Germanic” archetype. “Germanic” is a term that refers to a broad range of central and northern European cultures that all share historical roots in “Germanic” languages, traditions, and mythologies. The “Germanic” people includes Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Germans, Austrians, the Dutch and the English.

The landing page of the Skadi Forums website advertised it as a place for people “interested in Germanic culture and heritage” and it promised a diverse set of topic areas, including Science, Anthropology, Politics, History, “Germanics” and a variety of “local interest” areas for northern-European countries.

To someone who was not “in the know” about the nature of this website, there was nothing overtly objectionable or racist visible to the general public. Sure, there was plenty of discussion about being “proud” of one’s heritage, and many members seemed to have an odd obsession with determining the ethnicity of various celebrities. For the most part, however, the landing page of the website might seem, to the casual passer-by, like any normal community of people abstractly talking about culture, heritage and politics.

I discovered the site by accident, while doing some research into my own background. My mother was born in Munich, Germany, and I was trying to discover some things about my  heritage. After research into my family tree eventually lead to dead ends, I wondered whether I could discover anything about my roots based on more general information, such migration patterns of different ethnic groups in Southern Germany. Could I guess where my distant ancestors were from, based on where my parents were born?

So I began to Google innocently, asking questions such as: “how can I tell the ethnic background of people from southern Germany?” This landed me squarely in the anthropology section of the Skadi Forums. On this discussion board, the most popular topic of discussion was how to determine a person’s “sub-race” by measuring certain features of his or her face and skull.

This is an immediate red flag. This type of “science” was very popular in Nazi Germany, based on now-debunked ideas from the previous century: the idea that by taking precise measurements of different distances on your face and skull, you can determine your “true” ethnicity. In this context, “ethnicity” doesn’t mean the broad categories that we are all used to: Caucasian, Asian, African, Native American, Hispanic. According to this methodology, you could supposedly determine the composition you had of various “sub-races” within the generally “European” category.

Naturally, this branch of “science” appeals to white supremacists a great deal: it promises an objective, scientific way of determining how close you are to the “Germanic ideal”… or, conversely, how polluted your heritage is.

As a guest, none of the discussions visible to me actually talked about such things in explicit terms. But the obsession with nineteenth-century anthropology, and breaking people into “sub-races”, gave me a clue about what I would find if I scratched under the surface.

Although I find white supremacism both ridiculous and abhorrent, my curiosity about this website was piqued. I wanted to see exactly what kind of website this “Germanic culture” forum really was.

I’ve been a member of “secret societies” before, and I know how these websites work. This board was clearly attracting people with a particular philosophical bent, but it was equally clear that the honest, heart-to-heart conversations were not going on in public. They were in the private discussion rooms.

On websites like this, even if you sign up and create an account, you do not immediately gain access to the discussion boards where the real conversations are happening. You have to infiltrate. You have to gain their trust, and prove that you are “one of them”. So I took a deep breath, steeled myself, and set out to do what I needed to do.

I assumed the identity of a white supremacist.

What kind of neo-Nazi should I be?

As weird or unpleasant as it might be, I had to ask the question: what type of racist personality is closest to my own?

The first thing I had to do was fill out my profile. In addition to the usual “profile” fields, it also had fields for “race”, “sub-race”, and “nationality.” Since I am half German and half Ukrainian, for “race” I put “Germanic/Slavic”. For “nationality” I put “American”. For “sub-race” I had no idea what to put. I didn’t even fully understand what it meant. So I left it blank. (It was not a required field. “Race”, on the other hand, was.)

The second, and perhaps more important, step was to decide how to gain people’s trust. More specifically: who am I, on this website? Since I’m not actually a white supremacist or a racist, I was to be playing a fictional character. But, as any good actor knows, you have to know your character. You have understand who he is, and what his motivation is. I knew that if I was to carry on convincing conversations with people on this website, and gain their trust, I had to have a convincing personality.

How does the saying go? “The most convincing lies are those that are close to the truth.” So as weird or unpleasant as it might be, I had to ask the question: what type of racist personality is closest to my own?

I could never pull off the low-brow, blue-collar “country bumpkin” racist. I’m not religious, so I wouldn’t be convincing as a religious racist. But there is another stereotype out there that we’ve all seen as the “bad guys” in movies: It’s the elitist intellectual Nazi.

You know the type: the guy who thinks that if you are unintelligent then you are actually worth less in society, and so the best thing to do is perform experiments on you. The guy who has stacks and stacks of “data” that “proves” that whites are superior to non-whites. Basically, the “mad scientist elite” character in any World War II movie. He usually wears little round wire-rimmed glasses. The more I thought about it, the more I had to admit: I could play that character.

I also have a very plausible backstory. My mother was born in Germany in 1937 and came to the United States in 1950 after World War II. Coming to America as a German immigrant after World War II was extremely difficult for her. She was a child who spoke with a thick German accent, and she experienced a lot of discrimination.

Even to this day, there are people (mostly of her generation) who harbor a very strong bias against Germans, and who make racist jokes based on negative German stereotypes.

All I had to do, in order to play the role, was draw on that story. I could write about how angry it makes me that there is so much unwarranted discrimination against Germanic people, especially if they just happen to be proud of their heritage. I could write about it in a personal way, because I even had first-hand stories from my mother to attest to the terrible way people in New York city treated her when she was younger.

I had a personality to emulate, and I had a backstory. I was ready.

Infiltration

As a new member, I could only browse around the public boards. I followed the conversations passively for a few days, watching and waiting. Most of it was  bland, introductory stuff. But soon enough, I was able to find a post that someone had made in which he talked about how terrible it is that our culture “allows” people to discriminate against people of northern European descent, but not people of other races.

That was my opportunity. I hit the “reply” button, and carefully crafted my response. Yes, indeed, my good mother, a full-blooded German, has had to deal with this her entire life! She experienced terrible discrimination, just because of her German heritage! And so on.

Sure enough, the comment got “voted up”. On my profile, I was awarded points that indicated that I had written something that other members approved of. I was on my way to being part of the trusted “in-crowd”!

It was a painstaking and gradual process. Even knowing that I was playing a character, I had a strong aversion to saying anything so outrageous that it was completely contrary to my real feelings. Even as a purely practical matter, I knew that if I tried to go too far from my actual personality, it could come across as forced or fake. I didn’t want to risk raising suspicion.

So I played a game of innuendo. I could drop in my more cynical thoughts, placed in just the right part of a conversation and worded in just the right way, to make me sound like an elitist, fascist snob.

“Democracy is a ridiculous system of government, because most people are too stupid to make good decisions.”

“Political correctness is a huge problem, because it ignores the simple fact that some people really are superior to others.”

The more comments that I left along these lines, the more “street cred” I earned on the site. My “points” gradually increased, until finally one day I had reached some kind of threshold: I logged in, and saw an entire set of discussion boards that I had never seen before.

As with most online discussion boards, there was a broad distinction between purely social “chat” areas, question-and-answer “help” areas, and serious “debate” areas. The “chat” areas featured fun and friendly “getting to know you” types of exercises. Typical topics included “Which Norse god do you identify with the most?” and “Which sub-race do you think these celebrities belong to?”

In the “help” areas people would post problems that they wanted advice on, ranging from philosophical “life issues” to very practical concerns, such as “Should I get a rune tattoo?”

Finally, in the debate areas, people engaged in heated conversations about ideas, with topics ranging from “Is it really possible to be Germanic and a Christian?”, to “Should women be allowed to vote?” and “Is it not our responsibility to maximize the breeding of our own kind?”

Naturally, I was drawn primarily to the debate areas.

The ‘intelligentsia’

As I wandered into this world, what struck me the most was the extreme level of effort and thought that participants on this board put into their opinions. This was not a homogenous flock of parrots simply echoing each others’ truths.

They had extremely diverse opinions, in fact. In many cases, they had both read  and thought about these topics at length and in excruciating detail. Some of the arguments were interesting – though, more than anything, they illustrated the truly strange forms that an argument can take when warped by an extreme ideology.

For example: many white supremacists are deeply Christian. Hitler was a Christian, and many current day neo-Nazis in the United States and in Europe are Christian. But, on the Skadi forum website, some members made the argument that if you are truly a racial purist and want to revere and respect your Germanic roots, the only true religion you should follow is the old Norse gods: Odin, Thor, and so on.

“After all, if you are a Christian, doesn’t that really just mean that you’re worshipping a Jew?” asked one member on the website.

Another example: when the question was posted on one of the debate boards as to whether women should be allowed to vote, the overwhelming response was “no”. But there were deep divides as to the reason why.

On the one hand, there were traditionalists who felt that women needed to be protected and nurtured, because they just aren’t built, biologically speaking, for things like politics, decision-making, complex thought, and so on. This group believed that women should not be allowed to vote simply because they are not capable of doing a good job.

On the other , there were those  who felt that women shouldn’t vote because nobody should vote: democracy is an inherently bad political philosophy, and we should ideally be living in a military dictatorship.

This second group actually ended up having the most pro-feminist position in the discussion: “Anyone who passes basic mental competency tests, takes a pledge to support the state, and has served at least a year in the military should be allowed to vote,” claimed one member on the board, “It doesn’t matter if they are male or female. But anyone who has not done these things, should not be allowed to vote.

“What matters isn’t your sex, but if you’ve proven yourself to be loyal and intelligent enough to do a good job.”

There was also a lot of talk about what it means to be “superior”, embodied by a long-running thread on one of the boards entitled “What does the term ‘uber-Mensch’ mean to you?”

This involved a lot of talk about not having physical imperfections, with a slight debate over whether variations in hair color and eye color could be considered “imperfections”. (There was no discussion at all about skin colour; I can only guess that everyone assumed that the answer to this was taken as read.)

The discussion of what it meant to have “mental” perfection was equally vague, with general terms thrown around about being well-informed and well-educated.

As I became more familiar with the discussions on the website, I also noticed that the ideas of being “well-informed” and “educated” took on special meanings within this community. For example, there is a body of “scientific” literature, entirely discredited, that came out of the Nazi movement in Germany and earlier that is focused very much on measuring people’s race, their purity, their “perfection” and other, similar things.

Within the community of the Skadi Forums website, this work is seen as a kind of “secret truth” that the rest of the world has either been duped into ignoring, or has maliciously undermined with lies in order to serve their political ends. On the Skadi Forums, if you are “educated” then it means that you know (and believe) this body of “scientific” work. If you do not believe it, then you are simply a victim of the scientific “propaganda” of the dominant culture that seeks to suppress it.

Finally, there was one conversational thread that I followed with some trepidation: “Is it not our responsibility to maximize breeding of our own kind?”

As a gay man, I know that this is “code”, and I know exactly what it means. But I was still too new to the board to feel comfortable pitching in on this conversation. Instead, I watched it to see what types of arguments would emerge.

The initial argument was not specifically against only homosexuality, but against anything that would decrease birthrate among pure northern-European people. “Isn’t it our responsibility to make sure that these animals [he was talking about other races] don’t out-breed us?” It was presented as an argument against birth control just as much as an argument against homosexuality, at least in the beginning.

In the context of birth control, however, the idea received some resistance. One man said that we shouldn’t decrease our (and by “our” he meant “white people’s”) standard of living by having more kids than we want to have; instead, we should simply enforce mandatory sterilisation of others.

This idea received a positive response, except the original poster did point out that it was impractical as (sadly) sterilising minorities isn’t something we can do in today’s society. So the argument shifted to eradicating homosexuality and “other perversions” that did not lead to the creation of children.

‘Look, I just think that you are focusing on the wrong thing if you are blaming the gays. You may not like them, but they are not a threat to society. As long as they are not bothering you, let them be. The gays are not the problem….. the Jews are the problem!’

At this point, a woman spoke up. She specifically said that people’s sexuality should not be a concern and didn’t matter. That caught my attention. So far, she had been the only person to say something like this. The others responded with scepticism or distain, but she kept up the debate, intelligently defending her position.

There mere fact that some people are gay doesn’t threaten society, she argued. It doesn’t threaten white nationalism, either, especially since gay people have always been and always will be in the minority, and therefore will never lead to the race dying out completely. I began to really respect her and have hope. Was she, in fact, an open-minded and non-bigoted member of this community?

After maybe a week of back and forth in this one debate, however, she became frustrated, and said: “Look, I just think that you are focusing on the wrong thing if you are blaming the gays. You may not like them, but they are not a threat to society. As long as they are not bothering you, let them be. The gays are not the problem….. the Jews are the problem!

So much for that.

After a while, I tried initiating some of my own conversations. For example, I started a discussion thread called: “What does the ideal world look like to you?” By this time, however, I was almost able to predict what the responses would be, based on the spectrum of personalities that I had already encountered in the other discussions.

There were the militaristic types, who believed that the ideal world was essentially Germany in 1937, but writ large across the globe. There were the tribal pagan types, who thought we should all be living in small communities and having as little to do with one another as possible. And there were those who believed that once we got rid of all of the “inferior” people, we would be able to live together in a world-wide, pure egalitarian paradise.

Once you recognise the patterns of the various personalities that inhabit this culture, it becomes… well, predictable and a bit boring.

The initial shock was the part of the experience that was educational for me. The community was so different from what I, as an American, had ever expected from a white supremacist discussion board. It was philosophically diverse, in its own strange and twisted way. And it was, in fact, inhabited by its own brand of pagans and Marxists and socialists.

Perhaps this is why American white supremacists hated the Skadi Forums board so much: it didn’t conform to the Christian, Republican “redneck” mold that the American brand of white supremacist seems to be most comfortable with.

Post-Scriptum

The online conversations continue. There will always be places where pseudo-intellectuals can go to debate the names and mixtures of the different “sub-races” of Europeans and their relative levels of purity and superiority. The discussion board AnthroScape, ironically subtitled “The Human Biodiversity Forum”, is one of the places you can go if you are very interested in hearing people recite nineteenth century theories about race and ethnicity to each other.

But part of me, strangely, still feels like the loss of the Skadi forum is a loss for the wider world, as well. After all, even in a twisted and ideologically extreme subculture like that of the white supremacists, there has to be some value in diversity of opinion and viewpoint.

On the other hand, they were all just a little bit bonkers.