Randy Blazak is a PhD from Emory University with a specialty in hate crimes. Specifically he studied racist skinheads (he doesn't say just "skin heads" because you can shave your head without being a racist). He's a professor of sociology at PSU where his intro class is opening people's minds, and a professor of criminology at OU.
His talk for the Freedom From Religion Foundation on 1/15/18 was entitled "With Odin on Our Side; The Role of Religion in Right Wing Extremism." I didn't understand why he said Odin in the title until the end of the talk, but it has to do with the fact that an ancient Viking religion is being propagated in our prisons as a cover for white supremacist gangs. I'm going to take the information from his talk and put it in chronological order, and flesh it out with links to articles around the web, trying to make sense of the times.
At the end of his talk Blazak summarized that there are two profiles for violent haters; sociopaths, and lower level thinkers. Sociopaths, or more specifically people with antisocial personality disorder, have no qualms about injuring or killing others because they have no conscience. These are the people we need to imprison long-term. Lower level thinkers are simply regular folks who joined the cause because they were alone and needed to belong. They weren’t philosophical about it, they were simply vulnerable. These are the people that we need to help.
In 1452 a Catholic Pope named Nicholas the Fifth issued an edict that allowed Portuguese traders to capture Pagans and Muslims in Africa and enslave them. This was, as far as Blazak knows, the first known legitimization of the dehumanization of large groups of people.
1865 The KKK was founded by a freemason at the end of the Civil War in Stone Mountain, Georgia, where Blazak was born. They call their philosophy "true Americanism". Blazak says Stone Mountain is a different place now, with a black mayor living in what used to be a slave owners home, and a bell in the downtown ringing out freedom as prophesied in a Martin Luther King speech.
In 1859 Oregon was founded as a white-only state. Black people were not allowed to live, work or own property in the state.
1915 The KKK Reformation took place in 1915 at Stone Mountain. "Stone Mountain has a contentious history. Once privately owned, the mountain was host to the reformation of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915. The revival, sparked by both the film "The Birth of a Nation" and the Leo Frank case, included a cross burning, which became part of KKK tradition." (FYI the KKK calls it "cross lighting" and the fire is supposed to purify.)
In 1923, after significant delays, a giant sculpture of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson was begun on the face of the granite dome known as Stone Mountain. It was not completed until 1972. It remains today but the NACP and many others would like to see it removed.
1924 The Immigration Act of 1924 allows whites into the nation but bans Asians or Arabs, and severely restricts African immigrants. This old law is being mentioned by our current administration as a model for the next immigration law. It limited the annual number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2% of the number of the people who were already living in the country as of the 1890 census. The goal was to limit the influx of southern and eastern Europeans, especially Italians, Slavs and Jews.
1926 Oregon is forced to allow black people to move into the state. During the 20's Oregon has the highest per capita percentage of KKK members in the states.
1936 Alexander Rud Mills established the First Anglecyn Church of Odin, which claimed Odinism as "the indigenous religion of the northern European people."
1964 The U.S. Supreme Court rules that officials must treat inmates of all religions equally. More recent court cases have made paganism, Satanism and other faiths legally protected as religions in our prison system.
1980's Reagan's election coincides withan increase in new hate groups. In the late 1980's the Aryan Brotherhood discovers Asatru (Odinism) and the two begin to mix in the U.S. prison system.
1970 The "Christian Identity" movement is big in Arkansas and Idaho, includes the Aryan nations and is fundamentally anti-semitic. For them the word "tribe" in the bible refers to race. They believed that Cain was the son of Eve and the snake (Eve was a cheater, women are bad), and that he was the first Jew. The non-white non-Jew races were called the "mud races" and were thought to be descendants of the animals in the garden of Eden. Timothy McVeigh was a believer.
1971 Else Christensen, a Dane, moved to the US from Canada and begins publishing The Odinist, a newsletter embracing the claim that "religion is in our genes".
1972, Icelandic farmer Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson founded the Asatru Fellowship which is the form of Odinism currently recognized as an official religion in Iceland. This group has a close connection to the earth and welcomes all races.
1972 In the same year, American Stephen McNallen creates an organization in California called The Viking Brotherhood. In 1976 he uses the name Asatru Folk Assembly for a new organization. "I found the Norse system of courage, honor, and daring much more compelling than the submission and submergence of the individual I saw in Christianity," said McNallen.
1980's The Christian Identity racist theology gains influence on the right, but has little connection with Christian groups. '"Christian" in name only, the movement's relationship with evangelicals and fundamentalists has generally been hostile due to the latter’s belief that the return of Jews to Israel is essential to the fulfillment of end-time prophecy.'
1994 Measure 11 is approved by voters in Oregon. Punch someone in the face hard enough to give them a black eye and you could end up in prison for 5+ years. Mandatory minimum prison sentences with no possibility for reduction in the sentence for any reason, and juveniles over 15 charged with felonies must be tried as adults. This law sets the stage for a massive expansion in the prison population and gangs. Prison treatment, especially solitary confinement of teens, does more harm than good to the forming psyche.
1995 Timothy McVeigh bombs a government building motivated by "Christian Identity" and never admits guilt, believing until the end that he was doing god's work.
Late 1990’s Many gang members were sent to prison on Measure 11 crimes, and then were released causing a crime wave in the Pacific Northwest.
1998 Potok's report from the Southern Poverty Law center says that the Nazis favored Odinism, and Odinism is in U.S. prisons and is associated with white supremacy and toxic masculinity.
1998 David Kennedy founds the most feared white supremacist gang in the Pacific Northwest: the European Kindred or "EK". He first organized it in Oregon's largest prison, the medium-security Snake River Correctional Institution. Within two years the EK had spread to all four of the medium-security prisons in Oregon. Membership is gained by “doing dirt”; obey the orders of the leaders to attack inmates and corrections officers while in prison, and also to commit violent acts after release.
2000 Odinism is the fastest-growing religion behind prison walls. A religion that "celebrates warriors and dying to enter Valhalla," Odinism has become the new religion of choice for white supremacists. In 2000 The Southern Poverty Law center warned that Odinism/Asatru is the "fastest-growing religion behind prison walls." Odinism and Asatru are two denominations of an ancient Scandinavian Paganism. Outside the prison system it is a peaceful and nonracist religion, and it is officially recognized in Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Recruitment is hopping in our prisons, where white men sharing a "strong warrior ethos" organize into "kindreds" for protection under the guise of worshipping Norse gods. Prison Odinists see Christianity as a Jewish plot to make men weak. Adherents may wear a replica of Thor's hammer around their necks and have tattoos that reveal their alliegance. Prisoners with this affiliation may have pledges to commit racial atrocities when released and should be carefully monitored. A symbol representing Thor's hammer is allowed as an expression of pagan religion on military gravestones.
2000 Two inmates stab another inmate 68 times at the foot of an Odinist altar after he insulted their gods.
2001 European Kindred gang members begin to get paroled from prison and hit the streets in Portland. The EK then gains notoriety as members distribute meth, commit murders, rapes, robberies, identity theft and dog fighting, all with the flavor of hate. The gangs specialize in armed robberies of minority drug dealers, and use homemade “flash bang” grenades as distractions when robbing homes in search of drugs and money.
One identifying tattoo for this group is the letters EK inside a red, white and black shield.
2002 The last Oregon KKK group disappeared, but the Aryan Circle persists as a prison version of the KKK.
2002 A 21 year old skinhead of the European Kindred gang stabbed a black drug dealer to death in Portland three weeks after being released from prison.
2003 An EK member beat and stomped a developmentally disabled black woman to death, and set her on fire though he thought she was still alive.
2007 David Kennedy of the European Kindred (EK) says he abdicated leadership but the group has expanded and is out of his control. He confesses to guilt about that to a gathering of Oregon gang cops and other enforcement officials "I started European Kindred to serve and protect our own people in the joint," Kennedy said. "It was ethnocentric. The '14 Words' was at the heart of it all. If that’s racist, then I’m a racist." (The "14 Words" are a white supremacist movement catchphrase: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.")
2007 The Department of Veterans Affairs settled the Stewart case (Paganism recognized by military as a religion), officially adding the Pentacle to the list of approved emblems of belief. This kicked off the battle for putting Thor's hammer on gravestones.
Thor's Hammer symbol
2008 The KKK gets a bump in membership with the election of Obama.
2010 The European Kindred has at least 300 confirmed members in Oregon prisons and over 100 members on the streets in Portland. Arrests of top-ranked members and leaders cut into the group in Portland but it was spreading anyway, appearing in AZ, CA, CO, and NM prisons and on the streets of Orange County, CA.
2012 In Virginia state prisons over 350 inmates report themselves to be members of Asatru/Odinism. The FBI believes they are plotting a race war. There is a link to the Aryan Brotherhood.
2013 Thor's Hammer is added to the official VA list of religious symbols allowed to be on military gravestones.
2015 Odinist inmates plot in Virginia to start a race war.
2015 Oregon is still very white. Overall 13% of Americans are black, but only 2% of Oregonians.
2016 White nationalism and the Alt Right spring into view after Trump’s election, at a white nationalist conference in Washington, DC. Richard Spencer is the leader and popularized the term. Nazi salutes are adopted. Steve Bannon once described Breitbart as the “platform” of the alt right.
2016 Until now hate crimes have been mostly targeted African Americans and Jews, but the rise of the Alt Right brought an increased focus on Arabs and immigrants (what about gays?). The year 2016 revealed a 5% increase in hate crimes across the US, and 2017's increase has been larger. Among US Cities, Portland has shown the biggest increase, most likely because it is far to the liberal left and a target for haters. Blazak said that 2017 also saw a lot of activity from the "leaderless resistance", which is mostly trolls online fomenting hate.
2017 The Alt Right converges on Charlottesville for a “Unite the Right” rally, parading with guns and torches like the KKK. Members are anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, and anti-feminist. They chant “You will not replace us.” Trump’s response is tone deaf and white supremacy takes another bound forward. Confederate monument debate rages.
2017 Domestic terrorism attributable to Odinist groups increases. They are not interested in "turning the other cheek", instead they ask, "Do you want to be the nail, or the hammer?" and say "Praise Odin, pass the ammunition".
2017 Patriot Prayer rallies (ostensibly about freedom) around Portland attract white supremacists though the founder claims that his group is not about racism and is not the alt-right. The mission is anti-government and pro-Trump. Anti-fa groups rise up in counter protests. The Patriot Prayer facebook group has over 10,000 likes. Joey Gibson is a 33 year old Japanese-American house flipper who started a movement called Patriot Prayer. He lives in VanCouver, Washington. He claims that his group is not neo-Nazi or white supremacist, saying he wants to make opportunities for moderate Americans to express their opinions in the face of extremism. He "has earned a growing profile for his willingness to lead right-leaning marches and rallies in liberal enclaves on the West Coast, often provoking strong opposition." His profile rose when anarchist and antifa thugs attacked him in San Francisco.
2017 Multnomah County prosecutors make a county-wide exception to Measure 11 to protect teens, and start sending them into probation instead of prison.
2018 Trump throws a bone to his Odinist base by suggesting that we should accept immigrants from Norway but not "shithole countries".