For the past few years, neo-fascists have been regularly turning up at New Age events devoted to holistic medicine, offbeat spirituality and alternative lifestyles. In the process, they've added a dose of bad karma to a scene that supposedly stands for peace, love and good vibes.
The profile of long-time racist Eustace Mullins provides one example of the link between the far right and far-out.
A Virginia-based writer, Mullins has been active in hate circles since World War Two. In his books, Mullins downplays the Holocaust, praises the Nazis and blames Jews for all the world's troubles.
Despite this, Mullins was recently invited to speak at two different holistic health conferences.
The first conference was called Total Health 2OO1, which took place this March in Toronto. The show is an annual event sponsored by the Consumer Health Organization of Canada (CHOC). It attracts thousands of visitors.
Mullins was supposed to lecture on "medical monopolies" but never got the chance. Once his presence was revealed in the media, conference sponsors and anti-racist activists insisted he be dropped from the speakers list. After two days of hedging, the CHOC rescinded Mullins invitation, and issued an apology in which it denied knowing about their guest's anti-Semitic background.
A few months later, Mullins' name turned up as one of the lecturers at a proposed "Festival of the Ages" show in Salmon Arm, British Columbia. Billed as "an outstanding four-day retreat, with fabulous food and good fellowship" the event is supposed to take place this August. A group called The Preferred Network (TPN), which is led by Wes Mann, is responsible for putting the festival together.
Once again, public outcry forced conference organizers to drop Mullins from the festival.
In a press release, Mann blamed "self-appointed thought police" for blocking Mullins' appearance and defended TPN as a group "dedicated to bringing forth the truth." Or, at least, a version of the truth; along with books on spirituality and self-improvement, The Preferred Network sells material by Holocaust denier David Irving and right-wing tax protesters.
An Ottawa organization called The Cyberclass Network (TCN) offers a similarly murky mix of New Age and radical-right ideology.
The network, which is run by monetary reform activist Tom Kennedy, consists of an assortment of online "classrooms." These classrooms contain information on pyramids, meditation, Native Indian wisdom, herbal medicine and other New Age concerns. In addition, TCN's site offers hyperlinks to Nazi apologists Ernst Zundel and David Irving.
David Lethbridge, research director of the Bethune Institute for Anti-Fascist Studies, traces the New Age/Nazi crossover to the mid-199Os. That's when he first noticed "glossy New Age magazines, with information on fraudulent cancer cures, were suddenly carrying loads of ads for extreme right wingers."
Lethbridge, who works as psychology professor at Okanagan University College in B.C., says a 1999 Canadian tour by David Icke further crystallized the oddball merger between fascism and mysticism.
Icke is a former British soccer player turned writer. He claims that Jews and reptiles secretly control the world. His books detail wacko conspiracy theories and use scurrilous sources, such as the anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, for background information.
As noxious as his world-view might be, Icke's tomes are top-sellers in New Age circles. When he made an appearance at the University of Toronto two years ago, 4OO people paid $5O each to hear him speak.
Jewish groups and anti-racist activists picketed that visit - along with subsequent lectures on the West Coast.
Sumari Seminars - the group that brought Icke to Toronto - continues to promote his work. The May 2OO1 issue of Vitality magazine ("Toronto's monthly wellness journal") contains an ad from Sumari Seminars listing upcoming workshops on "astral travel," "holistic justice," globalization and "The Power of the Elite - who they really are!" Icke is included as one of Sumari's "experts."
Activists offer several reasons to explain the confluence between New Agers and neo-Nazis.
"What we are seeing is old anti-Semites trying to repackage themselves" says Manuel Prutschi, national director of community relations for the Canadian Jewish Congress.
This repackaging is necessary because blatant anti-Semitism has largely fallen out of favour, he explains. To reach new converts, neo-fascists started to disguise their beliefs and infiltrate non-political organizations, including New Age, environmental and alternative health groups.
New Agers and ultra right-wingers actually have a lot in common, says Lethbridge; members of both groups distrust the mainstream media, dislike the government and the status quo, and are intrigued by "revisionist" explanations of history.
Most importantly, says Prutschi, New Agers and Nazis share a "conspiracy mentality."
As Lethbridge notes, people willing to believe this type of conspiratorial nonsense make "extraordinarily easy victims for any kind of crap."
Nate Hendley is a freelance journalist who lives in Toronto. He has written extensively for This Magazine, the National Post and eye weekly, among other publications.
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.