Right Wing Extremism (January 17, 2021)

Good Sunday Morning!

I don’t know how many of you are on twitter – speaking in tweets – engaging in advocacy in small bursts.  A sort of rhetorical Haiku.

There are many social media platforms out there – FaceBook and Instagram and Tik Tok and others – all ways to communicate, organize, bully and terrorize.  These digital giants collectively get away with murder through the pretense that they are not publishers. They claim that they are neutral “platforms.” Thus, they undermine legitimate journalism that requires conforming to legal and social norms – like avoiding slanderous speech, hate-speech.  The print media is working for improvements in the proposed amendments to the Broadcasting Act to get protections to stop the predatory conduct of the digital giants that appropriate (steal) the content of newspapers that pay reporters to research and write the news. The digital giants steal the regular customers of newspapers whose advertising dollars were revenue for the press.  Much more could be said about this distinction between being a platform and publishing. Publishing means the newspapers bear a responsibility for what they print.  As the New York Times has famously proclaimed since 1897, it will carry “All the news that’s fit to print.”

Clearly, much that is on twitter is not fit to print. The other day I posted some commentary on climate news mentioning Seth Klein and his terrific book, A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency.

Seth read the comments and was moved to send me a very nice note, horrified by the routine abuse I get on twitter. He had not known.

This week I posted a lot on Twitter about white supremacists and the risks they pose in Canada. Just as I did in last week’s Good Sunday Morning, I included the call for our government to take action; that the Minister of Defence and Public Security minister should proactively review all the social media posts of Proud Boys, Neo-Nazis etc and purge the institutions of law enforcement and our military of anyone aligned with fascist and racist groups.

So, of course, I received a slew of abusive comments.  No surprise I got a lot of “you are an eco-terrorist” “will you attack the criminals against pipelines?”  (like me.)

I have a clear line that is never crossed and that is to denounce any violence.  Back in the day when I was not in the Green Party, but working with Sierra Club, we had a lot of coalition efforts to fight the alphabet soup of WTO, MAI, NAFTA, etc.   I argued against something called “diversity of tactics.” Some activists defended the idea that the violence of neo-Liberalism and giant Transnationals was so unconscionable (true) that we should not criticize anyone who smashed windows or caused more damage (false).  I have always firmly grounded my actions in non-violence, including if and when anyone commits civil disobedience.  As Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby warned in one pre Quebec City Summit of the Americas training, anytime we hear someone advocating violence, take their picture and tell them to leave. Because they are most likely a police informant trying to nail everyone in the room for conspiracy to commit something or other!

So I posted responses to the nasty messages- that I have always denounced violence as do all Greens. It is one of our core Green values.

Into this mix landed a round of updates on Jason Kenney’s “War Room” and the millions of dollars of public money he is spending to root out and attack the “enemies of Alberta.” Turns out that even encouraging kids in school to recycle is the beginning of a slippery slope to Marxism!

Thanks to Ecojustice for raising the alarm and especially University of Calgary law professor,  Martin Olszynski for a very detailed critique of the work of this modern day version of Joseph R McCarthy’s House Committee on Anti-American Activities. Olszynski observes that the “research” paid for by the people of Alberta amounts to “textbook examples of climate change denialism. All of them minimize or outright dismiss the reality and seriousness of climate change, even though none of their authors appear to be trained in climate science.

The Alberta coverage reminded me that by far, over my life‘s work Canadian security forces have devoted more attention to the surveillance of environmental activists and indigenous defenders of land and sovereignty than the growing threat of right-wing extremism.

Looking to see what is being studied about white supremacy and the threat it poses to democracy, I found that a fair bit is being published in academic journals.  In academe, right-wing extremism is down to a new acronym,  RWE.  Those who are studying it are concerned that governments must act proactively to identify the growth in the activity and growing violence of this movement.

One academic article, Uncovering the Far-Right Online Ecosystem: An Analytical Framework and Research Agenda (Stephane J. Baele , Lewys Brace & Travis G. Coan https://doi.org/10.1080/1057610X.2020.1862895) noted, “the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported that during 2019, 42 people were killed across 17 different terrorist incidents taking place within the United States, with all but four of these deaths having ties to right-wing extremism.”

The researchers note, no surprise, how this spreading cancer of hate has deep roots in the on-line world. It is the internet that spreads the conspiracy theories that the world is run by a cabal of devil-worshipping pedophiles (that’s the Q theory) or that Trump actually won the election.  And it is through Facebook and Twitter etc that terrorists can confer and plan across many miles. This is not confined to the United States. We must not turn a blind eye to it in Canada.

One Canadian academic, Catlin Manz, makes a compelling argument for governments to act proactively and collaboratively – working with law enforcement, educators, social service providers and the media. Link to Journal here.

The media plays a key role. But in addition to our conventional media we have a concerning example of right wing extremism/propaganda in Canada —  the arrival of Epoch Times in mail boxes. My constituency office has received many complaints, as this Halifax article relates from the other coast.

This article linked what is in Epoch Times to the anti-Asian racism ensuing from COVID this year. Also worth considering the ripple effects into Indigenous communities. There was a recent article about the racism Cowichan people have experienced during the pandemic.

It is appalling.

We know that the United States is still in grave peril.  To protect and defend democracy, Canadians must help pro-democracy activists south of the border. But we must also be resolute and far more active in taking on RWE here at home.

With a clear call for non-violence, peace and activism,



PS I wanted to write about the LNG issue in this newsletter but it did not quite fit. This is a great piece from Focus on Victoria from Russ Francis.  LNG Canada project stressed – Analysis – Focus on Victoria


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