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Comments on “Right-Wing Extremism in Canada: An Environmental Scan”

Maclean’s ran an article entitled “The Canadian roots of white supremacist Richard Spencer.” The authoress, Avery Haines, is a lesbian with a personal history with Spencer, which is exactly the sort of direct knowledge a journalist needs in order to discuss Spencer and right-wing assholes. But Haines too went well beyond the personal.

Barbara Perry has conducted one of the only large-scale research papers on the white supremacist movement in Canada.

“Oh?” I thought.

Perry’s research, conducted through the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, has identified more than 100 hate groups operating in Canada, most of them in Quebec and Ontario.

So I looked Perry up and asked her for a copy of her research. For only the second time in almost 30 years’ work reading scientific articles and books, a researcher wouldn’t hand over a paper. Excerpting a couple of E‑mails (Perry first):

I took a look at your Web site, and found that we have another interest in common. I’m very engaged with the LGBTQ community out here in Oshawa, but also do some research on LGBTQ hate crimes. It seems like my work on [right-wing extremism] is rather out of your bailiwick. Can I ask what your interest is?

I am a journalist who enjoys lecturing ineffectual anti-racist groups in his spare time. Being ineffectual is a choice, after all.

My work just didn’t seem to be in line with your interests[.]

Perry eventually provided her manuscript for “Right-Wing Extremism in Canada: An Environmental Scan” – an atrociously typeset, frequently misspelled PDF that was banged out in Microsoft Word. (Perry co-authored the paper with Ryan Scrivens.)

I spent hours reading it and filing questions, all of which Perry ignored, and even more time making an HTML version, which I submitted to her.


In fact, the questions Perry ignored tell most of the story of her research. I’ll excerpt those. But start with a few overriding impressions:

Questions Barbara Perry wouldn’t answer

Mildly edited excerpts. I won't burden you with the copy-edits I submitted, themselves a mere fraction of what would be needed to make this mass of text readable (it isn’t).

Freedom of conscience

At root, what I fail to understand is your unwillingness to accept that so-called right-wing extremists, a phrase you can never bother to hyphenate, have the absolute right to believe what they want – as does everyone else in a democracy without limitation.

While there are hate-speech and hate-crime provisions in the Criminal Code, no law restricts beliefs or creed. If and when you personally or your group chooses to articulate those beliefs, only then might hate-speech provisions come into effect. And, as you well know, they rarely do. Despite what Richard Warman (an obvious hero of yours) and the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal might collectively think, freedom of speech is a constitutional right. Filing hate-speech charges should require signoff from attorneys general – and does. It’s a high bar, and rightly so.

I don’t think you would have even had a paper to write if you accepted, even within yourself, that other people have the right to believe anything. Your paper would be quite different if you really believed, and went to some lengths to articulate, that any speech that doesn’t meet hate-speech criteria is legal. Your freedom to articulate your own beliefs relies on the same laws – natural, constitutional, and otherwise – that enable people you despise to articulate their beliefs.

It is perfectly reasonable in a democracy to believe immigration should be reduced or simply stopped; that Islam is incompatible with constitutional democracies; that Muslims pose a real and pressing threat, especially to Jews, apostates, and gay males; that, while people have a right to call themselves transgendered, biological males have no right to barge into women’s private spaces; and, to use an example from your paper, that “Canadian” or “Swedish” or “Aryan” (and “Québécois”) are real things. Even if any of those beliefs were unreasonable, they are protected without limitation.

Nor could it possibly be considered hate speech, except from a far-leftist perspective I would describe as illiberal and batshit crazy, to articulate any of the positions in the preceding paragraph. Yet, fundamentally, your paper assumes that anyone who believes and says things like what I just wrote are right-wing extremists who need to be surveilled, countered, and interdicted.

Further, individuals and groups have the constitutional right to peacefully assemble to articulate the beliefs to which they are entitled. While counter-protests are equally permissible in a democracy, they aren’t permissible if they prevent the other side from assembling and expressing themselves.

I don’t think you really believe that people you dislike have constitutional freedoms. Or you believe people you agree with should have more freedoms than your opponents, real or imagined, do.

None of this has anything to do with physical assault. If we exclude self-defence, of course no civilized person advocates assault. I would find myself in the vast majority of Canadians who believe that right-wing-extremist violence (note the hyphenation) should be prosecuted where warranted.

But, unlike the groups you apparently endorse, I don’t believe words are violence. Kick a tranny and you should get arrested; call a tranny a tranny and you shouldn’t. I don’t think you agree with me. In fact, I suspect you think I should be prevented from using, or even quoting, the word “tranny,” because as far as you’re concerned that sits on a slippery slope toward fascism. (It doesn’t.)

You write that, online (a tricky area for you; see below), “ ‘support’ is offered to the extent that users typically find their views reinforced and mirrored by others, rather than challenged by anti-racist sentiments.” You seem to think the system is broken if racist sentiments are not immediately countered with (“correct”) anti-racist sentiments. As you not very honestly state elsewhere: “Of course, this too, raises the spectre of censorship, which is such anathema [sic] to free-speech advocates.”

I don’t think you actually believe in freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. (You certainly miss the now-repealed §13.) Please comment.

What you call hate speech is sometimes just arguments over politics and policy

One of the Greater Toronto Area’s (GTA) most diverse communities – Brampton, ON –

if by “diverse” you mean “has a very large Indic (especially Sikh) population” (30.61% “East Indian” [PDF]) –

was host to a campaign of hate, characterized by pamphleting and flyer-posting. One such poster featured an old photo of a group of White people, presumably dating from the early part of the twentieth century, alongside a current photo of a group of Sikhs. The caption asks “Is This What You Really Want?” referring to Canada’s history of immigration as a “social engineering experiment[.]”

An argument over immigration policy is a political argument, not hate speech. In a democracy run by the people (tautological), the people can argue over how many immigrants they want (including zero), where they come from, and what other criteria they have to meet. These are political questions argued in a political arena.

You dance around the fact that right-wing groups barely exist

There really aren’t any right-wing-extremist groups in Canada. You name a whole raft of them, but you go into detail about how small their numbers are and how they eat their own.

Looking at the badly typeset table, and multiplying out the highest value for number of groups with the upper end of the lower estimates of number of members, I get 1,575. Even if I take the insane high-end estimates, all I come up with is 7,145. Using low-end estimates all the way, the result is 664.

If your estimates are an order of magnitude apart, your estimates are unreliable. Even the twofold difference between lowest and low-highest values (664 vs. 1,575) is cause for concern.

As you note:

RWE groups rarely have a shelf life of more than a few months, and certainly no more than a year[.]

7,145 right-wing extremists in Canada is a low number. One Muslim shooting up Parliament Hill caused more mayhem than these guys have. [True when I wrote it.]

Like so many journalists and academics, you treat the Internet as newfangled

The Internet facilitates global communication and the exchange of information and rhetoric. It creates a virtual space where homologous if not homogeneous sentiments of racial love and hate can be freely and widely shared without fear of contradiction. Thus, those with embedded biases may find affirmation on the ‘Net.’

Oh, for heaven’s sake. We don’t use single quotation marks in Canada, and not only does nobody call it “the Net,” nobody scare-quotes it. You can’t really be that isolated from reality. You sit at a computer all day.

Others – uncertain about “Canadian” or “Swedish” or “Aryan” identity, or feeling dislocated by economic or cultural change – may find a pre-packaged answer to their questions.

Whereas when you quote the Anti-Racist Canada blog four times, you’re just an academic doing objective research.

The Internet, of which the Web is merely an application and protocol, has been in widespread commercial use for 20 years. The Internet is how people communicate, including people you don’t like. It is not some strange, impossible-to-understand neologism one undesirable component of which is allowing right-wing extremists to talk to each other.

Would you really prefer Ernst Zündel’s phoneline?

Please don’t lie about Islam

You rather baldly write:

Public Safety’s 2013 “Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada” stated that no attacks by Muslim extremists occurred in Canada in 2012 (or any other year); nor have any Canadians been killed on domestic soil by Al-Qaida or similar extremists.

Canada has had an Islamic terrorist attack, and that Muslim terrorist was Michael Zehauf-Bibeau.

Even if Nathan Cirillo hadn’t been murdered by this lone-wolf Muslim extremist, implicitly a more acceptable kind thereof, what are you really trying to say here? For a country to be free of Islamic attacks is the desired outcome. You sound like people complaining about all the time and money spent on the Y2K bug when “nothing happened.” Nothing happening is what we want happening. Stopping the Toronto 18, whom you didn’t bother to mention, was a case of the system working properly.

Elsewhere, you write:

Again, there is an indication of misplaced priorities in some communities, away from violence that is occurring to violence that might occur.

Muslim terrorist Michael Zehauf-Bibeau’s violence against Nathan Cirillo did occur. You write “lone-wolf right-wing extremists represented a greater risk than lone-wolf Islamic radicals,” which will come as news to Cirillo’s family. I’m pretty sure one guy with a shotgun is one guy with a shotgun no matter what his motivations are, even if you have an urge to sanitize and protect Islamofascist motivations.

You rather blithely pretend that CAIR-CAN has no links to Muslim jihadists. It does.

While right-wing-extremist groups may hate Muslims, Islamic extremists hate us. Your selective focus indicates bias.

Selective definitions of “hate group”

Indeed, I know they came to prominence after you published your paper, but in what way is Black Lives Matter not a hate group? You could focus on Black Lives Matter Toronto in answering that question.

Right-wing extremists actually infiltrated Toronto Gay Pride last year. (And Black Lives Matter Toronto brought violence to the event for the first time.) I’m sure you will follow up on the right-wing extremism of these so-called Green Zombies, who have the good taste to be classic Christian conservatives and not Muslims with firearms.

You feign surprise that strong young men like physical activities done in groups

Academics and journalists (especially females) are the last to learn that young men like to do things, ideally in groups. Some men don’t (including many gays); some men are intellectuals; some men are disabled. But leave it to an academic to feign shock and outrage that young men like to form street gangs, as your heroes Anti-Racist Canada would surely characterize Blood and Honour and the Soldiers of Odin, or just like to do shit together.

You write of “engaging with the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) culture” and “youth looking for a place to belong.” You talked about the hardcore music scene, without actually using that term (because you can’t differentiate hardcore from hard rock from metal subgenres from punk). Did it not occur to you that these are environments where rangy young males, especially physical thinkers, can actually thrive?

I don’t see you advocating for male leaders who are big strong guys and also non-violent or even anti-violence. I wrote about that, actually, so feel free to cite me in future papers.

Ask yourself if you have an unconscious bias that big strong straight guys really should be acting more like women, or like academics, or like women academics, and maybe then the world would be a better place. If your goal is to interdict and frustrate right-wing extremists, and if most of them are big strong straight guys, why are you not advocating sending in other big strong straight guys to do your good works for you?

For God’s sake, stop saying “LGBTQ

There is no “LGBTQ” community. Transgenders have nothing to do with gay men and lesbians. And – you won’t believe me on this, but I have come to expect that – transgender activists are virulently anti-gay and especially anti-lesbian.

Right-wing extremists are not sophisticated or politically correct. They don’t go around conceiving of gays and lesbians as “LGBTQ.” They probably don’t even care about lesbians and are merely homophobic against effeminate gay men. (I doubt the young ones are homophobic at all.) Right-wing extremists may object to MTF transgenders for justifiable reasons or for unjustifiable ones.

The notion that right-wing extremists habitually classify gay men, lesbians, and transgenders into the beautifully inclusive alphabet soup of “LGBTQ” is complete self-delusion on your part.

As a gay male, I am much more concerned about transgenders attacking my real, legitimate community, and also rather concerned about Islamic terrorists murdering gay men. As such, what I’m telling you, directly and as a gay male, runs counter to your white-knight-like, and unsolicited and unwanted, defence of the “LGBTQ” community.

I could at least talk to the Soldiers of Odin. A transgender man in a dress would just shout at me that some women have penises (“Get over it”), while a Muslim would punch me in the face.

The gay and lesbian community does not need you, a female academic very distant from us and our real concerns, protecting us. If you were fully invested in protecting the “LGBTQ” community, you’d interview us and the enemies we identify, not the ones you arrogate to us. I’m telling you that transgender activists and Muslims are a greater threat to real gay men and lesbians, and of course you won’t trust me and will want to substitute your own beliefs.

It was particularly offensive for you to publicize Gender Journeys (sic: what about Race Journeys?), where “trans people can stand together in solidarity against that too-often-hostile world.” Transgenders have extensive legal protections and, like every other group on the planet, cannot expect to function without encountering hostility.

Why trust the mainstream media and blogs?

I don’t understand why you cite so many mainstream-media (and, worse, blog) sources as proof of right-wing activities, especially violence. Particularly in the latter case, I would expect charges to at least be considered by police forces and sometimes laid by the Crown. The choice to lay charges or not is the sort of thing I would expect you to actively research instead of just lazily citing newspaper and blog sources.

And if I were writing an article, of any kind, about right-wing violence, yes, I would check to see if charges were laid and would report that. I would work from an editor’s premise that every word in press coverage is wrong and I would fact-check everything myself.

But that would require real legwork instead of copying and pasting, would it not?

Further questions

I sent these along in February 2017, and obviously Perry didn’t bother to respond.

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Comments on Barbara Perry’s paper on right-wing extremists

Updated: 2017.02.16

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