Editor’s Note: This is part four of a four-part series on the white supremacist text Might Is Right and the history of American fascism. This series looks at how ideas stated outright in that late nineteenth century text have continued to have influence into the present day, from Satanists and Christian fundamentalists to paleoconservatives and right-wing terrorists.
In the previous installment, we explored how the author of Might Is Right was so antisemitic and dismissive of anything connected to Judaism, he was unaware that his criticisms of Christianity were completely irrelevant to many American sects, then and now, because plenty of Christian denominations enthusiastically worship power and hierarchy more than a crucified Christ.
It’s not clear if this other, unnamed and more muscular strain of Christianity was ever noticed by Anton LaVey when he cribbed so heavily from Might Is Right to make it the partial basis of The Satanic Bible. The mockery of Christianity by name seems to have been attractive enough to him to call it blasphemy.
With some mysticism and his own flavor of pretension, sometimes jokingly summarized as “Ayn Rand with candles”, LaVey created the Church of Satan, which can be said to be the wellspring of all modern Satanism.
Overt references to Jewish conspiracies and Negro savages are gone, but he liked the parts about smashing your enemies instead of loving them and he talks about “religion” with a confident universalism despite it not being especially recognizable to a Reconstructionist Jew or Quaker, let alone a Buddhist or Shinto follower.
LaVey, for his part, does not seem to have been a person for whom anti-racism was ever important. He cultivated relationships with Neo-Nazi occultists like James Madole whose work grew into strains of contemporary terrorism like the Order of the Nine Angels (O9A), and LaVey raised Boyd Rice to a position of leadership within the Church of Satan despite, or maybe because of, Boyd Rice’s fondness for Mein Kampf and American Nazis.
Again, LaVey was born “Levey”, but he grew up in San Francisco. His idea of rebellion and blasphemy had a blind spot for what sort of forces were still most powerful in the United States, religious and otherwise.
Writing in the late 1960s, LaVey mused:
A black mass, today, would consist of the blaspheming of such “sacred” topics as Eastern mysticism, psychiatry, the psychedelic movement, ultra-liberalism, etc.
Patriotism would be championed, drugs and their gurus would be defiled, acultural militants would be deified, and the decadence of ecclesiastical theologies might even be given a Satanic boost.
In other words, LaVey’s conception of rebellion was to make the same appeals that Richard Nixon’s campaign would successfully use to gain the presidency two times. This orientation of pseudo-rebellion has continued into the present day.
The Church of Satan’s present leader, Peter H. Gilmore, provided a forward to the 2019 “Authoritative Edition” of Might Is Right, and elsewhere explained the political position of the Church of Satan was open to all, meaning fascists, too.
It is up to each member to apply Satanism and determine what political means will reach his/her ends, and they are each solely responsible for this decision.
While this is supposedly apolitical, LaVey had and his church still has a strict “no drug use” policy, so it’s not as if they had no limits.
But when you say, “We’re okay with fascists,” the result is that lots of fascists will start to show up in droves anywhere they’re tolerated, making their targets uncomfortable enough to leave until only fascists are left. The persistent lack of Satanists who are Black in the past half-century may not be so surprising, then.
This idea that “Satanism is rebellion and rebellion is being willing to embrace even fascism” ties back in to progressive Satanist strains as well.
Although it didn’t end up using The Satanic Bible or Might Is Right as a foundational text, The Satanic Temple founded in 2013 and made famous by the 2019 documentary Hail Satan? ties back more directly to Might Is Right by two of its formative figures: Shane Bugbee and Doug Misicko.
Misicko is most famous now as The Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves, and has made the public orientation of the organization opposing white supremacy, as in the August 2017 op-ed for the Washington Post, “I’m a founder of The Satanic Temple. Don’t blame Satan for white supremacy.”
But as part of their collaboration on the 2003 re-printing, the two men and Bugbee’s then-fiance Amy Stocky engaged in a twenty-four-hour live-stream talking about their appreciation for Might Is Right’s message.
They also discussed more recent politics, like where they differed on the merits of white supremacist Timothy McVeigh’s Oklahoma City Bombing and whether killing children hurt McVeigh’s cause or they were just “cop kids.”
About three hours and twenty-eight minutes in, Bugbee lists off how his previous edition included contributions by white supremacist terrorist David Lane of The Order, George Eric Hawthorne of the band “Racial Holy War (RaHoWa)”, and LaVey, and how that led to opposition from some Satanists against Nazis.
This transitions into a discussion between a caller and Bugbee about how Social Darwinism was ruined by its association to Nazis, which the caller extends to eugenics also, prompting Misicko to chime in.
“Threw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak,” Misicko says. “It’s just like, ‘antisemitic’ to me isn’t a bad word. It just depends. Like, I think it’s okay to hate Jews if you hate them because they’re Jewish and they wear a stupid [expletive] frisbee on their head and walk around thinking they’re God’s chosen people.”
Misicko clarifies that it’s not okay to hate non-practicing Jews, however, leading to Bugbee and Stocky to disagree while making increasingly aggressive claims about not liking anyone with a drop of Jewish blood as well as arguing about who actually died in the Holocaust.
When asked if he’s Jewish himself, Misicko’s retort is, “I’m an Aryan king!”
As late as 2015, Misicko was using freedom of speech to justify publicly stepping away from a speaking panel in solidarity with the neo-Nazi August Sol Invictus, and in January 2017, Misicko overrode a local chapter in California to tell the right wing media hate site Breitbart that The Satanic Temple opposed counter-protesting Milo Yiannopoulus, at least prior to Yiannopoulus’s pro-child rape comments coming out a month later.
This is not to say that Misicko is himself a fascist or The Satanic Temple is a crypto-fascist organization, any more than The Church of Satan was.
And yet, hearing someone is opposed to religious tyranny sounds a bit different when they’ve admitted they included people who wear yarmulkes as being worthy of their ire, just as “free speech” ends up being little more than a euphemism when it’s used to defend white supremacists rather than fight non-disclosure agreements or protect union organizing.
When, prior to founding The Satanic Temple, Soling went on Russia Today to bemoan how public schools are more authoritarian now and function more like detention centers than education facilities, a lot of left-leaning people would agree with that. But when Soling’s explanation is that schools now have to enforce order on a heterogeneous population rather than a homogenous group of students, your ears ought to perk up a little.
Often we don’t hear anything because white liberals are by some measures more likely to justify their support policies resulting in school segregation than conservatives when it involves their own children.
It is easy to see the racism in black and white photographs of those “gap-toothed racists” in Mississippi, but it’s much harder to recognize it in ourselves when we’re paying for private schools, tutors, or moving to school districts in places that were historically hostile to minorities while we vote to keep them that way in the name of “neighborhood character.”
Whether someone uses a grotesquely racist slur to justify not wanting to send their child to school with Black kids or dresses it up in the nice pair of shoes of “giving my child the best opportunity”, it doesn’t much matter when the result is the same.
It would be nice if there were some unifying shorthand for fascism and its succubus twin racism, but there isn’t. We must pay close attention.
The book’s ideas are not immediately identifiable by any single aesthetic because as much as Satanism is central to Might Is Right’s history persisting as a specific work, Satanism has no real power in the world.
The preacher who tells his congregation to support their “Wolf-King” in the White House is exhibiting the same ideas championed by Might Is Right despite the preacher appealing often to God and labeling all his enemies the tools of Satan.
Again, the best thing that can be said of Might Is Right is that is badly written. There is no dressing up of anything, just sheer bigotry shouted in the most odious, pretentious, and artless way possible.
Having seen the ur-fascism of a mediocre late nineteenth century white supremacist, misogynist, antisemite and ardent capitalist throwing racial epithets across several hundred pages, it becomes much easier to recognize when the same arguments are being made with more abstractness or apparent kindness.
Might Is Right would argue Ariel Castro — who kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and impregnated three women for a decade in Cleveland before one of his victims escaped in 2013 — did nothing wrong except be found out, just as the author argued that slavers were right to take their kidnapped women as they would.
Reading Might Is Right, you should find it much harder to perform apologism for the United States’ own prominent slavers and slave-catchers seeing where that same logic springs from and how far it goes.
If you ever attempt to read Might Is Right, its highest virtue is that it is so unappealing it makes obvious what sort of society it’s advocating for: the rule of rich white men to do exactly as they please and the forcible subjugation of all other people in service to them.
It would be nice if that meant it had no appeal to anyone, but history has shown time and again that it does, particularly to young white men.
In that sense, it is dangerous. However, the book is largely dangerous because it’s not received in a vacuum; it’s received in the context of a world already shaped by its ideas in their subtler, quieter, politer forms. This is fertile ground each time the ideas of hierarchy and control renew themselves in their true forms within private conversations, neglected subcultures, and anonymous Internet forums.
A year ago at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, eighty miles south of San Francisco, a nineteen year old man engaged in a mass shooting, wounding seventeen people, killing three, and resulting in his own death. One of the last messages he posted encouraged people to read this awful book while decrying the “hordes of mestizos” and “Silicon Valley white twats” that were moving to the area.
We have to understand the message is just as serious when it doesn’t include rude words, when it’s Tucker Carlson decrying “diversity” and “wokeness” to his millions of viewers while wearing a tie.
We have to pay close attention. The real gift of Might Is Right is that it says what it does so badly we have no reason to be confused by anyone else saying it even if they manage to do it more politely, artfully, or abstractly.