Toronto journalist Evan Balgord, who writes primarily for “media criticism” site CanadaLand, asked for help from antifa in “writing a guide to reporting on the anti-Islam/anti-Muslim movement in Canada.” (He didn’t ask for help from right-wing groups.)
I’ve decided to write Balgord’s guide for him.
If you’re a left-wing or Toronto or downtown-progressive journalist (tautological), you, like Balgord, are convinced that right-wing assholes in Canada aren’t just swarming the country but are an active threat to the group you don’t belong to but feel most protective of,
Expanding from Balgord’s brief a little, here, then, is the progressive journalist’s guide to writing about right-wing assholes and antifa in Canada.
It’s all about you.
There were 1,053,945 Muslims in Canada as of the 2011 census.
A “hate crime” isn’t a hate crime unless and until a court issues a finding saying so. All that Statistics Canada tracks are reports to police of so-called hate crimes, and in 2015 there were only 1,362 of those all told.
Muslims aren’t evenly distributed across the country (“The majority of those identifying as Muslim, who made up 3% of the Canadian population, resided within Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver [68%]”), and those million-odd people accounted for only 159 incidents of such hate crimes. Data on convictions doesn’t exist.
Journalists insistently reported this number of anti-Muslim crimes as having increased by 60%. It did – from 99. The raw numbers are still small, and, if one actually looked at numbers (your job as a journalist), you would note that the highest number of reported hate crimes based on religion had Jews as victims (178 – still higher than Muslims’, but a decrease over previous surveys’ totals).
159 incidents of hate crimes, even if unproven in court, are 159 incidents too many in a civilized society. But if you leave readers with the impression that anti-Muslim crime is rampant, you’re lying to them. (You do that a lot; see below.)
There are barely any right-wing groups in Canada and they can’t keep their respective acts together. They’ve been beset by infighting for generations and have a tendency to fall apart due to internal strife.
Research from the academic who will surely be your favourite (she’s comin’ right up!) shows that, at the very most, there are 7,145 right-wing “extremists” in Canada. Or maybe the number is 664.
Compare that upper estimate to a million Muslims in Canada. If 7,145 right-wing assholes are, you insist, a real threat, then only 1.3% of Muslim males (of 540,555 total) need to hold jihadist beliefs to constitute an equal or greater threat. Where’s your coverage of them?
Just as Philippe Lagassé seems to be the only academic ever asked for comment on B.C. politics (despite living in Ottawa), Dr. Barbara Perry seems to be the only academic ever queried for comment about the urgent risk right-wing groups pose to Canada. She can be relied upon to give that, and only that, as her message.
Your problem here is you haven’t read her research (I have), which consistently shows that right-wing groups are disorganized and have barely any members. You won’t question her biases. For instance, if right-wing groups disappeared tomorrow, wouldn’t her career do the same?
(Corollary: Will you get Warren Kinsella on the blower to offer up a quote calling your subject a neo-Nazi, irrespective of who that subject is?)
There’s a lot of it, and it mostly refutes your feelings and misconceptions. It’s also ill-typeset and, taking the form of badly-put-together PDFs, it’s hard to read on your MacBook monitor. You don’t have a laser printer, so you can’t print a hundred pages at a go.
You feel you’re in a big rush to publish (you aren’t), hence you won’t take the time to read stacks of academic research.
Right-wing-asshole groups have been burned over and over again by left-wing journalists – and rarely want to talk to them. If that’s their choice, they cannot subsequently complain about the slant or angle of coverage.
But if sources are available, you won’t actually call them up. You’ll rely on a short E‑mailed statement, which you will then undermine with repudiations, running twice as long, from academics and opponents. You won’t ask your right-wing sources for comment on those repudiations; you’ll give more space to critics and academics and won’t give right-wing sources a true right of reply. You will never give right-wing sources the last word, even if the topic is themselves.
Freedom of conscience allows you to loathe people you haven’t met for their “incorrect” thoughts. It also allows those people to hold whatever thoughts they wish. You aren’t an arbiter of what is and is not permissible thought in Canada.
Stated more clearly, “hate” is constitutionally protected whether you like it or not.
While your coverage, as they say, white-knights for Muslims, you’re doing that because you are filled to the brim with contempt for right-wing assholes. You (too) are motivated by “hate.”
You are especially repulsed by the men in right-wing movements, who:
look, sound, and act uncultured, on the whole
dress like the bullies who beat you up in the small towns you fled (cutoff shirts, biker jackets)
really like guns
Your contempt is based in part on your own personal trauma; subconscious derision of guys you think are stupid; and, most risibly, on a difference in personal style.
You hate them. The difference is you have a bully pulpit, literally and figuratively.
You set the terms of engagement. You’ll let left-wing agents provocateur name themselves, but you won’t ever use the generic term for them, antifa. As with all accurate terminology, you think it’s hate speech.
If your work does its appointed task, not only will the clubs and organizations you oppose disband, all their members, each of them a fellow human being and citizen of Canada, will be destroyed.
The only plausible outcome of your journalism is the destruction of your subjects. These people are intolerable (they “hate”!); why else are you writing about them except to destroy them?
You spend all day pecking away (with not-very-good skills) on a computer. You think “journalism” is Gmail and Twitter. You are a “keyboard warrior.”
You will not rise from your chair and dare to actually meet, let alone get to know, your subjects. (Your subjects are your opponents and you are riven with contempt for them.) You certainly won’t fly across the country – e.g., from your shared apartment in downtown Toronto to “right-wing” Alberta – and spend valuable time and money hanging out with your subjects long enough to actually get to know them.
Actually, getting to know real right-wing assholes in the flesh amounts to kind of an advanced level of research. The most basic possible research – going out to the various demos and rallies that now occur monthly – is an even easier task you won’t do either.
You won’t even watch, from start to finish, the many YouTube and Facebook videos that are quickly published after every such event.
Since you won’t get out of your seat, and since you and your like-minded journalist friends spend all day on “social media,” you will charge, try, and convict your subjects in absentia on the basis of what they post on Facebook and Twitter. It will never occur to you that, say, the Solders of Odin exist largely on Facebook and not in the real world.
If one of your subjects commits a real crime, many of you will scour his Facebook profile for single-serving “proof” of extremist sympathies. A lone Facebook like of, say, Marine Le Pen, or a single Confederate-flag image, will be trotted out as proof this guy was as bad as Hitler. (Surely worse than?)
Something else you’ll do: Rely on the pseudonymous Anti-Racist Canada blog, now run by one person and consisting mainly of Facebook screencaps, as a legitimate source.
Operating as you do in a cyberspace illusion, you think it makes perfect sense to interdict white supremacy by screencapping Facebook and mining it for clues.
Because you don’t go to the demos, you won’t observe that:
antifa shows up in uniform ready to rumble
antifa starts any violence that occurs
antifa brings children to demonstrations that reasonably could end up being violent
antifa and right-wing groups are separated by many feet of fencing, air gaps, and lines of police
You won’t believe any of that at all, because it is just obvious to you that right-wing dudes run right over and throw the first punch. (Don’t they always?)
While you will write endlessly about the beliefs, expressed or imputed, of your opponents, you won’t bother asking imams and Muslims (especially males) what they really think. You also won’t go to mosques, perhaps in the company of a certified interpreter, and ask difficult questions.
(Since you’re probably female, wouldn’t you have to use the women’s entrance? Would you mention that in your coverage?)
The Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Communist Party of Canada are stalwarts at right-wing and “pro-Muslim” demonstrations.
You won’t investigate the communist or Communist element even though the Communist Party of Canada is federally registered (and registered in Ontario) and even though an oft-quoted left-wing agitatrix is from that party.
When repeatedly challenged to do so, left-wing groups, like Antifa Canada and the aptly named Threat, refuse to rule out violence. It is left-wing groups that are violent.
These groups publish thousands of words of academic jargon (“praxis” is a favourite neologism) in their non-disavowals of violence.
They persistently redefine important terms like “fascism” and “violence.” (Their contentions, which you republish without challenge: Conservative beliefs are “fascist”; disagreement is “violence”; free speech “was never meant” to include or protect “hate.”)
Left-wing groups will never confirm they believe violence is wrong. Because they do not believe that violence is wrong.
You’re infidels as far as Muslims are concerned, and if you died in one of their coreligionists’ frequent terror attacks, no Islamic tears would be shed for you.
In another scenario that actually happens (getting kidnapped by Muslim terrorists), the only question is the order in which you would be beheaded. (For reference, it’s Jews first, sodomites second, kuffars like you third.)
Guys from the wrong side of the tracks who happen to like guns are not an actual threat to you or your country, if you even accept you have a country.
(Islam is even a threat to other Muslims. Just ask any apostate, if you dared to look one up.)
I am putting time and effort into reading the research and getting to know right-wing assholes. I am showing up at demos. You aren’t.
Or, worse, to yourself.