What is right wing extremism and why should we be worried about it?
Right-wing extremism is a form of terrorism that is primarily described as an ideology. This ideology is often based on white nationalism, racism, homophobia and xenophobia. Right-wing extremism is the rejection of the fundamental values, procedures, and institutions of the democratic constitutional state and the rejection of the principle of fundamental human equality. Right-wing or alt-right groups can focus on anti-immigration, anti-homosexual, anti-feminist, racist and exclusionist agendas. It is important to note that right-wing and alt-right extremist are no longer as obvious and overt as they used to be. They can be groups promoting ‘traditional families’ or the survival of the ‘European cultural ideals’. It can be as subtle as ‘making America great again’ or as obvious as advocating for a ‘whites only’ nation (a white ethnostate).
Definition: Right-wing extremism in Canada as a loose movement, characterized by racially, ethnically and sexual defined nationalism. This nationalism is framed in terms of White power and is grounded in xenophobia and exclusionary understanding of the perceived threat posed by such groups of non-Whites, Jews, Immigrants, homosexuals and feminist (Perry & Scrivens, 2015).
Who is the Alt-Right?
Alt-Right derives from the word ‘alternative right’ and works as an umbrella term for sub-groups like white supremacists and neo-Nazis. It focuses on white identity politics and the preservation of ‘white culture’ in a diversifying world. Within this umbrella term, many individual groups have been created to fight against left social justice and political correctness, and go so far as advocating for a white ethnostate as a revolt against a ‘white genocide’. Members of the alt-right are/can be right wing extremists, and right-wing extremist ideology is embedded into alt-right rhetoric.
The alt-right has an extremely strong online presence. This is through Facebook pages, Twitter and websites. Many websites have forums that foster the creation of an online community, and even have dating websites aimed at reproducing the white race.
Why should we be worried about right wing extremism in the GTA community?
In the last 20 years there have been over 120 incidents related to right wing extremism in Canada (Perry & Scrivens, 2015). These incidents include homicide, assault, attempted homicide, extortion, death threats, property damage, and conspiracy. In the same amount of time there have been 7 Islamic-related incidents. Yet, many government programs and funding of NGO’s go towards fighting Islamic extremism as if it is our only terrorist threat. This is simply not true. Right wing extremism is a threat to Canada, Ontario and the GTA, but many individuals in power and policy-making positions have decided it is a non-issue.
In Ontario there are 20 active right-wing extremist groups as of 2015. This was before the Trump election, and therefore, with the rise of right-wing populism and the alt-right movement we can assume the movement has grown. Currently, we see individuals from these groups getting involved in municipal and provincial politics and are gaining popularity through their use of covert and normalized hate speech. These group target communities such as Indigenous peoples, Blacks, Jews, Immigrants, and Muslims. Aside from the target communities previously mentioned anti-racist groups and law enforcement officers are also vulnerable to being targeted by right-wing extremist.
What does this have to do with university students?
The alt-right works to rebrand their white supremacist beliefs by recruiting members that deviate from their past. They are no longer a movement of rednecks and skinheads. Instead, they are working to recruit university students to expand their ideology and have representatives in politics, education, and business.
The alt-right also aims to recruit individuals who may be feeling lost or disadvantaged and are looking for groups to blame. Many university students feel the struggle of searching for job opportunities near the end of their studies and Post-Grad. In this vulnerable state, alt-right recruitment attempts to provide these individuals a place to belong and somewhere to direct their anger. Recruitment flyers have been spotted on university campuses across Canada. One reads:
“Their solution makes our country more comfortable to them but not to us. BUT, they don’t give a damn about us or even the hordes of non-Whites they import to drown us in a brown swamp of third world biomass. They only care about themselves. They are nation wreckers and have been for centuries! Multiculturalism is the displacement, marginalization, and eventual destruction of the host population – The White Race!!!”
Alt-right groups and right-wing extremist have a strong online and social media presence. Millennials are the at risk of being exposed to this material and engaging with it. Their message is also often spread through white-power music. The rhetoric of hate movements provides a ready account of who to blame for the lack of success of young White men. These scapegoats are often the Jewish population, immigrants, the liberal state and anyone but the individual. Anyone who can be painted as ‘the other’.
What Is Hate Speech & Anti-Immigration Hate Speech?
Hate speech is abusive speech that targets a specific group and/or characteristic such as ethnic origin, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. In the Canadian Criminal Code provision 319 states that public incitement of hatred and wilful promotion of hatred are indictable and punishable offences (Criminal Code, 1985).
Anti-immigration hate speech is hate speech aimed at immigrants and refugees. It aims at demonizing and dehumanizing immigrants and refugees and painting them as ‘illegals’, criminals and invaders. Overall, it positions immigrants and refugees as threats to traditional Canadian society or ‘white culture’. In Canada, it is often framed around the ‘dangers’ of multiculturalism and promotes hatred rather than tolerance and acceptance.
What can we do to counter right wing extremism and anti-immigration hate speech?
Countering extremism is a multidimensional initiative drawing from the strength of diverse sectors such as law enforcement, education, social services and public health. Mainly, the fight against right-wing extremism is rooted in the promotion of counter narratives.
Counter narratives can be defined as responses and replies to existing ideologies and narratives. They are usually accompanied by data, images and videos and give a voice to those who have been historically marginalized and targeted. Counter narratives aim to offer a different perspective and replace negative propaganda with positive alternatives that delegitimize extremist narratives.
Counter narratives are powerful as they can unite the silent majority against extremism by emphasizing solidarity, common causes and shared values. counter-narratives aims to deconstruct, delegitimize and de-mystify extremist propaganda