Vasillios Pistolis, a U.S. Marine, clubs a man with a wooden flagpole during the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017. (Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Earlier today, Politico published State Pushes to List White Supremacist Group as Terrorist Org, with the subheading The top candidate for the designation is Atomwaffen, a neo-Nazi group with branches abroad. The report begins:
The State Department is pushing to designate at least one violent white supremacist group as a foreign terrorist organization, an unprecedented move that national security experts say would be a big step toward fighting a growing threat on U.S. soil.
State Department officials want to have the designation finalized by next week, according to four people familiar with the effort. But the White House, where top officials have long preferred to focus on terrorism by Islamist extremists, has yet to give the green light.
Former U.S. officials and counterterrorism analysts say the top candidate for the designation is Atomwaffen, a neo-Nazi group that was founded in the United States but has expanded into the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and Estonia.
Designating Atomwaffen or another neo-Nazi group like The Base as a terrorist outfit would send a major signal that the U.S. views far-right terrorism as a rising danger that increasingly ignores national boundaries, thanks in no small part to the internet.
[Continue reading at the source.]
Atomwaffen came to the attention of Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s readers in June 2018 when we published Orthodoxy, White Supremacism, and the Court-Martial of Vasillios Pistolis, in which an 18-year old Greek Orthodox boy from Holy Trinity Cathedral in Charlotte NC is reported to have boasted of his bloody violence at the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville VA:
“Today cracked 3 skulls open with virtually no damage to myself,” the young man wrote on Aug. 12, 2017.
Vasillios Pistolis had come to the now infamous Unite the Right rally eager for such violence. He belonged to a white supremacist group known as Atomwaffen Division, a secretive neo-Nazi organization whose members say they are preparing for a coming race war in the U.S. In online chats leading up to the rally, Pistolis had been encouraged to be vicious with any counter-protestors, maybe even sodomize someone with a knife. He’d responded by saying he was prepared to kill someone “if shit goes down.”
It has been more than two years since Orthodoxy in Dialogue launched a sustained effort to elicit a public response from synods, individual bishops, seminaries, and monasteries to the growing threat of white supremacist nationalism within the American Orthodox Church, beginning with our White Supremacy in the American Orthodox Church: An Open Letter to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America on January 22, 2018. This open letter is our third most popular post of all time. For a complete record of our initiative see the extensive White Supremacy and Racism section in our Archives 2017-19.
We wrote in the aforementioned report on Pistolis:
It would be easy to dismiss the Pistolis case as an isolated anomaly and go about our ecclesiastical business. Every faith community has a few bad apples, no? Yet to do so would mean that we have not been paying attention: there is a growing pattern of white supremacist and neo-Nazi converts finding a home in Orthodoxy; indeed, of the Orthodox Church producing her own homegrown varieties.
Check the long White Supremacy and Racism section in our Archives by Author. Since our White Supremacy in the American Orthodox Church: An Open Letter to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America of January 22 we have reported “again and again” on the spread of white supremacy in the Orthodox Church in the US—in our parishes, our seminaries, our monasteries. We have testified to the growing fears of Orthodox Christians of colour in their own Church. We have appealed to, begged, cajoled, nagged the hierarchy and the seminaries—individually and collectively, publicly and privately—to acknowledge the problem publicly and to state publicly how they intend to study and deal with it.
Today, five months later to the day, our efforts continue to be met with dead silence. Only one priest wrote to us—whose parish is widely known to be a hotbed of Orthodox neo-Nazism. He was furious that we had questioned his Metropolitan about his parish.
American neo-Nazism neither exists in a vacuum nor limits itself to strictly whitist aims. It legitimizes itself by making common cause with a violent strand of self-righteous, “Christian” moralism, anti-abortionism, homophobia, and transphobia—for which it is not difficult to find justification in the antics of the Orthodox culture warriors among our clergy and laity. (See, for instance, last week’s report on Father Josiah Trenham, who two years ago came to the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch Staff.) When a Trenham or a Jacobse, a Dreher or a Banescu, allows no place for sexual and gender minorities not only in the Church, but not even in civil society, their words incite to violence. It makes no difference whether or not they intend their words as such an incitement. [See also the Josiah Trenham: The Scandal section in our Archives 2020.]
Incomprehensibly, the response from our Orthodox hierarchy in the United States has been, and remains, dead silence. With the State Department moving to designate Atomwaffen a terrorist organization, it seems a matter of time before the FBI comes knocking at the door of the American Orthodox Church to conduct its investigation.