A Failure To Communicate

Any reporter would need a drink after the Soldiers of Odin


News | by Paul Dechene

How did this happen? It’s barely two days since 200 white nationalists in Washington DC raised Nazi salutes to Richard Spencer, the man who coined the term “Alt-Right”, and here I am, interviewing the president of the Regina chapter of the Soldiers of Odin — a group that’s recently begun street patrols in our city.

Wikipedia, the Anti-Defamation League and most of the European press describe the Soldiers Of Odin as a racist, anti-immigrant organization with possible ties to neo-Nazism.

This article wasn’t supposed to go like this.

My original pitch was to write about everyone Trump’s election has emboldened in Canada. Like Conservative leadership candidate, Kellie Leitch, who’s riding high in the polls on the back of a promise to screen immigrants for “anti-Canadian values”, whatever those are.

But that was all derailed when our editor received a Facebook message about an incident I’d nearly forgotten.

“Last night,” went the message, “I was approached by one of your journalists for an interview on Soldiers of Odin in Victoria Park during our Remembrance Day service. I was very unimpressed as he smelt so bad of alcohol. I will not continue to have an interview with a company that conducts their business in such a matter [sic].”

Yes. I did approach Soldiers Of Odin president Ryen Ward for an interview after his group’s Remembrance Day ceremony. I wasn’t technically working at the time. I only decided to check out the event because I happened to be close by and had my voice recorder handy.

But I should probably defend myself from this smelling of alcohol charge by saying that I’d only had one beer before speaking with Ward. I should do that. But I’d much rather inflate my own mythology by confessing that, when word came that the Soldiers Of Odin were congregating in Vic Park, I was sprawled backward on O’Hanlon’s bar and drinking directly from a draught tap. Then I rose, pounded three shots of Jameson’s and stormed out into the night, raging that I would confront the Vikings invading downtown.

Despite having so recently swilled a Valhalla-shaking quantity of alcohol, I thought my in-person interview with Ward went off amiably. That, for lack of a couple Tic-Tacs, I’d screwed myself out of a follow-up interview came as a surprise, frankly.

Fortunately, Whitworth (a famously reasonable individual) smoothed things over and got me in touch with Ward through Facebook.

I’d read up on Soldiers of Odin since our first meeting and knew that while the group’s Finnish founder, Mika Ranta, admits to being a neo-Nazi, and while various media investigations have uncovered evidence of racist and anti-immigrant sentiment among many who claim membership with the Soldiers of Odin, members like Ward have been working hard to deny any connection to neo-Nazism or racist ideologies. Their claim is that the Soldiers of Odin are a benign street patrol group who just want to make their communities better.

Ward returns to this claim frequently over the course of our interview.

“If you want to write an article about us in Regina how ’bout you write one about the homeless people we help keep warm, the seniors we help… and that we are here to help any Regina citizen with anything they need help with,” he writes at one point, then adds later:

“We are not a hate group, we do not call for the death of anyone, or any culture or race, we educate ourselves and each other so we can properly communicate with other cultures in a respectful manner.”

He tells me how he’s a cancer survivor, how he’s of “mixed race” himself, how he’s befriended a Muslim Bangladeshi family who are new to the country and how he’s helping them acclimatize to our culture and our climate.

My questions, though, had less to do with his own professed anti-racism and more to do with how his group has been perceived. I point out the explicit connections between the Canadian Soldiers of Odin and the original Finnish group — a group founded by a neo-Nazi and widely seen as part of the larger European anti-immigration movement. And I point out how, historically, the other group who wedded street patrols and protecting national values with Nordic mythology were the actual Nazis.

That’s why in the decades following the Second World War, Viking imagery has been embraced by neo-Nazi and white-power groups.

“I am not accusing you of being a racist,” I explain at one point. “I am saying that this is the cultural context in which the Regina chapter of the Soldiers of Odin swims, and I’m curious as to why you would want to carry all this cultural, racist baggage if you’re really serious about being seen as welcoming and helpful?”

But as far as Ward is concerned, his group’s negative image has nothing to do with its founder, its connections nor its imagery. It’s all the fault of the lying media.

“The danger lies in the lies printed about us and the fear you evoke into your readers,” he writes. “For the last time, we are not racist.”

When our conversation moves to politics — specifically, Trump — Ward raises his concerns about immigration.

“Our problems occur with a lack of proper vetting system in which people coming into the country should receive a face to face interview. Very similar to Kellie Leitch’s idea,” he writes.

And when I press him on this, and on Black Lives Matter, this happens:

“I would like them [new immigrants] to be interviewed to [ensure] that they do not have anger or hatred, as ISIS [has] stated [that] they have infiltrated the refugee camps and [they’re] sending terrorists to North America through such lame processes that we just believe everything. I would like them to be interviewed on their beliefs of Sharia Law, and other such ideologies that do not fit into our Canadian laws or way of life.

“Black Lives Matter are not the only protestors/rioters that have caused discord in the USA. I am talking about all of the hate groups. From the KKK all the way to the Black Panthers and every group in between that calls for the death to another race.

“The fact that saying ‘all lives matter’ is considered racist.

“The fact that being proud of being white is racist.

“The fact that if you are multicultural but look white you are racist for saying you are multicultural.

“These are things that hate groups have caused.”

Where do you even begin? A thousand words untangling the misconceptions about how immigration works? A remedial history lesson on how outrageous it is to equate Black Lives Matter and the Black Panthers with the KKK? Another essay on how calling “white” a race is every kind of fucked up?

Exhausted, this is where I tapped out.

One of the criticisms levelled at the Democrats after Trump’s election is that the Left failed to listen to the aggrieved voices of white America. Well, this was my attempt to more than listen — to open a dialogue. And I feel like Ward was either unable or unwilling to read most of what I sent to him.

“I feel like we’re speaking different languages,” I wrote to him in my sign-off. But that isn’t true. The language is the same and I think we can all hear those aggrieved white voices just fine.

It’s what they’re actually saying that’s the problem.

23 thoughts on “A Failure To Communicate”

  1. On the topic of history lessons, you are aware, of course, that the Black Panthers started out as an armed street patrol group monitoring (some might say intimidating) police in Oakland, California. Their attitude towards police officers and the value of their lives is a matter of record.

    Still with history: the Vikings morphed into the generally caring, peace-loving and welcoming modern Scandinavians.

    And, FYI, “all lives matter” is considered by some to be at worst racist and at best minimizing the lived experiences of black people. That consideration is aimed at labelling others and cutting off dialogue, which is worse (but not by much) than starting a dialogue and ending it when it doesn’t go the way you wanted it to.

  2. Lol its funny how prairie dog promotes alcohol abuse and vulgar language. But is against groups that are in Canada to help our citizens. Journalism in a whole is going down the toilet. You all forget that we are protected by the Canadian charter of rights. Trying to label do gooders as racists will only be believed by the feeble minded. Stephen Whitworth, instead of trying to destroy something great with out any real knowledge why don’t you come for an activity or patrol with us, come out and shovel snow for seniors or bring warm clothing to the homeless. Step up or step off. Hope you aren’t the owner because that would make us family.

  3. Interesting… Please explain how it’s against the Canadian Charater of Rights for Prairiedog to write an article about someone who consented to having an interview for the very purpose of making an article…

    It appears the source of your frustration is that people are asking tough questions, and researching SOO.

  4. Mr himself please read again I said soldiers of Odin Is protected by the CCR. I didn’t say anything about prairie dog going against yhe CCR however if we were racist criminals like they say we wouldn’t be protected and the police wouldn’t defend our rights as they did in a past news article.

  5. My frustration is media lies to try to evoke violence against us. We are a community organization that is helping seniors, vets, people with disabilities women, children and anyone else who needs a hand.

  6. I do love my quotes though. Only real part of this article the rest is just alcohol promotion for the young readers.

  7. So your problem is media lies, yet instead of factually refuting the information in the article you choose to slander the man who wrote it, and the outlet that published it? Very poor behaviour Mr Ward, I would expect better representation from my Regina Chapter President…

    Also, why do you crusade against Alcohol Consumption in my name? Surely a few brewski’s have been pounded back in the old Norse legends… Have you lost track of your roots, mortal? How dare you blaspheme in my name!!!

  8. Ryen,

    Other than the author professing to have swilled beer straight from the tap and ingested multiple shots of Irish whiskey, please point out the lies in this article.

    Please be specific.

    And wouldn’t someone who consented to be interviewed naturally assume the responses might be published?

  9. This is horrible news. I have been in UK where these men started. They helped my family when I live there. These good men who do good thing for many people. To say bad word on them shows no integrity. Maybe man who wrote article should go into the cold to help people. Shame on you.

  10. Helping the homeless and elderly are commendable acts and SHOULD be encouraged. What I fail to see is, if the SOO Regina chapter is so different from it’s counterparts, why even use the name? If the group is, in fact, “not racist” and is purely interested in helping and protecting people why would it associate itself with a group founded by a professed neo-Nazi to begin with? There is obviously a stigma associated with the name and any self-respecting person would research an organization they have no knowledge about. Every search will come up with the same results: xenophobia and neo-Nazism. There will be no changing this.

    Even IF the media is portraying the SOO Canada chapters in a negative light and the groups are in fact “not racist”, there will always be controversy because of the SOO name. There is no reason to take the name of an organization with this ideology unless you share it. If altruism is your true goal, found your own group and do good. If it is not, then stop trying to deceive people.

  11. Regina soldiers of Odin is doing the exact same things as all chapters world wide, helping people, the homeless, needy, sick, anyone they come across who needs help in any way, they actually do more because they have more members and more funding because of more members. World wide we are together, helping provide things that our communities need. S.O.O. does anything that they can provide that their communities need. Before I joined and became president over Regina I looked deep into the interior kings of the group and would not have joined if they were not providing a great service and keeping their citizens safe. No a single member of S.O.O has committed a violent crime since we’ve started, world wide. Once you look past media slander you will see that every group is a great asset to their rich communities. We are not against any race or religion we are simply against dangerous ideologies such as sharia law or jihad. Look up those 2 ideologies and see if you agree that this email ideologies do not belong in Canada.

  12. If you believe that helping the homeless, vets, seniors, women and children is commendable and good work than you agree with what soldiers of Odin is doing world wide.

    If you believe helping people you come across in your daily lives when ever possible and never turn away from someone in need is what honest, active parts of a community do then you agree with soldiers of Odin world wide

    If you agree that women’s rights are important and adrenaline mandatory than you agree with soldiers of Odin

    If you are against violence in our communities, and want to prevent crime in our neighborhoods maybe soldiers of Odin is for you.

    If you want community togetherness, strength and we’ll being through out our great country maybe soldiers of Odin is for you.

    If you are interested in learning about other cultures and the struggles they go through in coming to our country and learn our culture maybe soldiers of Odin is for you

    We cooperate with police, we follow the law, we help all that we can, in anyway we can. We do this world wide, we communicate world wide. If we let in white supremists we would grow much much quicker. Media stereotyping of us causes these people to think that they will join. They do not like us because we are not who media tells them we are and then on the other side misinformed people hate us because they believe we are what the media calls us. The people we help need us.

    The corrupt fear us,
    The honest support us,
    The heroic join us.

  13. … and now this has somehow turned into a recruitment ad.

    Way to toe the company line. Thanks for the propaganda.

  14. Well, ironically we’re having a failure to communicate. I’m getting too old for this, and they really don’t make Viking warriors like the used to…

    Odin out

  15. Come check out what we are doing here in Regina on our Facebook page.

    Soldiers of Odin Regina support.

  16. If you do not like us I challenge you to join a different local community outreach program.
    White pony lodge or North central community patrol. Or other great organizations like pay it forward Regina, salvation army, souls Harbour or anything that helps people get what they need.

  17. Ryen & Mohamad Aarakbtar: Why are you both publishing comments from the same IP address? That’s often a sign that you’re the same person publishing under two different screen names. That’s sockpuppetting and widely frowned upon.

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