How violent U.S. rally outed key players in Montreal’s alt-right

Good long read (abridged here):

They didn’t want to show up to the white nationalist rally empty-handed.

The Unite the Right march in Virginia would be the largest white supremacist gathering in a generation and the small, militant crew of Quebecers were eager to make an impression.

A few days before the long drive south, one of their leaders logged onto an American alt-right forum with a request.

“We are about 20 guys driving through the border from Canada and we obviously will not be able to bring protective gear like shields and so on through the border agents,” wrote Date, a prominent Montreal white nationalist. “If you’ve got extra ones, some of our members are interested in buying them from you over there.”

The following night, on Aug. 10, 2017, one of the group members withdrew $850 in Bitcoin to help cover expenses. Activists in the alt-right use the online currency because it’s unregulated and difficult to trace.

They left for Charlottesville a few hours later.

On Aug. 11, the Montrealers would participate in a torch march through Charlottesville, blending into a crowd that chanted “Blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.”

The next day, they faced off with a crowd of anti-fascists in the southern college town. As the rally wound down, a white supremacist drove his car into a mass of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer.

Within an hour of the attack, users of an encrypted white supremacist chat room in Montreal began posting memes congratulating the attacker and describing his vehicle as a “car of peace.”

Last month, the Montreal Gazette obtained roughly 12,000 closed messages from the closed “Montreal Storm” server on Discord, an encrypted chat service. Those documents, combined with information from sources close to the group, indicate that the initial thrill of Charlottesville quickly gave way to a culture of paranoia within the group.

Those days in Charlottesville were meant to be a sort of coming-out party for the alt-right. The torch march, the shields, the clubs, the guns, the beatings — these were meant to show the world that the white nationalist movement was a force to be reckoned with. Charlottesville was going to be their Kristallnacht.

It didn’t go as planned.

In the backlash that followed Heyer’s death, the alt-right began to implode. Waves of men who participated had their identities revealed, lost their jobs and friends, and dropped out of the movement.

….

The evolution of Generation Identity Canada’s branding is reflective of a shift in strategy for various alt-right groups. As the term “alt-right” became toxic after the violence in Charlottesville, the groups which organized under its umbrella attempted to rebrand.

The switch from Generation Identity to ID Canada reflects the push, exemplified by Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer, for groups to adopt “patriotic” positions as cover for their white supremacist ideology.

ID Canada, whose membership seems to be mostly drawn from the Montreal Storm crew, appears to be an attempt to bring such a strategy to life. The group refers to itself as “identitarian,” drawing on the European far-right theory. They frame their actions specifically in the language of patriotism, and reverence for (white) Canadian history.

On its frequently asked questions page, ID Canada even denies harbouring racist views. “We do not see ourselves as superior to others on the simple basis of our skin colour. … We are an identitarian movement that seeks to preserve our culture, customs, traditions and values etc.”

One of the lasting effects of the violence in Charlottesville was its blow to the far-right’s ability to raise money and spread propaganda online. In late August 2017, PayPal began cracking down on groups that use its site to fund hate groups. The Daily Stormer, one of the largest white nationalist news sites on the internet, was kicked off American, Chinese and Russian servers before being pushed onto the dark web, a network of websites that are only accessible through a special internet browser.

“Charlottesville marked the beginning of a sharp downturn for the [far-right],” Balgord said. “Their ability to move money around was severely constrained. Their ability to operate on social media and use chat platforms was severely constrained.”

Shutting down the alt-right’s main platforms of communication hampered its ability to recruit, spread propaganda and radicalize new people, Balgord said.

“By exposing them, we contain them. By driving them off these platforms, we contain them. They never fully go away but we minimize the damage they do.”

Source: How violent U.S. rally outed key players in Montreal’s alt-right

Twitter Account Names and Shames Far-Right Activists At Charlottesville : NPR

Not comfortable with this trend, whether practiced by the right or left. Agree with the comments by NYU visiting professor David Clinton Wells cited later in the article:

The names and faces of individuals who were part of last weekend’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., are being plastered all over the Internet by civil rights advocates. It’s part of an effort to shame the people who participated. But, it’s a tactic that can also snare some innocent people in its net.

“Yes!You’re a racist” is the name of a Twitter account that’s been very active in posting pictures of white supremacists at the Charlottesville rally. Logan Smith, who runs the account, thinks other people should see the faces of white supremacists.

“They’re not wearing hoods anymore — they’re out in the open,” Smith says. “And if they’re proud to stand with KKK members and neo-Nazis and anti-government militias, then I think the community should know who they are.”

Smith says he didn’t attend the rally, but he’s been getting pictures from activists who were there. They share them through social media. He re-posts them on his Twitter account. And on Twitter people are happy to help him make these individuals even more public.

“Immediately, as soon as I posted those photos people (were) saying ‘Oh! I went to high school with this person. I had a class in college with that person. I recognize this person as a prominent white supremacist in my area.’ ”

After getting more information, Smith would add names and places to the photos and that has had some consequences in the real world.

Cole White, who used to work at a hot dog restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., “voluntarily resigned” on Saturday after his employer confronted him to discuss his participation in the rally.

The father of participant Jeff Tefft felt he needed to post a letter in a local newspaper disavowing his son. Although Pearce Tefft says he and his family are not racists, once his son’s face and name were posted on social media they became the targets of people upset with his son.

David Clinton Wills, a visiting Professor at NYU who follows social media, says he’s actually troubled by the way that anti-racist activists are using Twitter. “Never in my lifetime did I remotely think I would vaguely defend the rights of a possibly very hateful person,” says Wills who happens to be black and Jewish.

Nonetheless, he says “it scares me to call that activism because it seems more like a certain condemnation and a certain judgement that ironically flies in the face of democracy itself.”

Wills sees a lynch mob mentality on both the left and the right when they try to use social media to shame people.

Just last week, Google was at the center of another social media storm when a memo by a company employee critical of diversity efforts at the company went viral. When Google fired the employee web sites on the right, critical of the company’s actions, released names of Google employees. Those employees were then harassed online.

For Wills the historical parallel is Nazi Germany. Wills says the Third Reich encouraged citizens to name people they thought were enemies of the state. “When that became a power that your neighbor could execute or your neighbor could use against other people the power became unchecked.”

Wills says all kinds of people began to get caught up in the drag net of laws and declarations of enemies. Wills knows that social media activists are still very far from the evil that was the Third Reich. But, he thinks maybe people should take a deep breath and think before they press the send button with someone else’s name in the message.

And it’s also important to remember that a picture doesn’t tell the whole story; it can be photo-shopped. Someone could have an ax to grind and try to make it look like an individual is a racist.

Smith who runs the ‘Yes! You’re a racist” Twitter account” says he’s willing to risk a mistake to speak out. “Ever since the days of the KKK burning crosses in people’s yards, they depend on people remaining silent” Smith says. “And no matter the risk I’m not going away.”

And neither are the people who disagree with Smith. One thing is certain — in the age of social media anyone who wants a soap box can have one.

Source: Twitter Account Names and Shames Far-Right Activists At Charlottesville : All Tech Considered : NPR

The fascists are mobilizing in Donald Trump’s name: John Ibbitson

Appropriately strong column by Ibbitson:

Not all the people who support Donald Trump are Nazis, white supremacists or more mundane racists. Some genuinely believe that the institutions of the republic have become so corrupt that only a wholesale, populist cleansing will redeem the American promise.

But for whatever reason they support him, Mr. Trump’s followers are enabling a President who stokes race hatred, who will not condemn Nazis and other fascists, whose words and deeds are leading white supremacists to kill on a street in New York, on a subway car in Portland and now during a melee in Charlottesville.

We can empathize with people cast adrift by the economic storms of globalization and the digital revolution; we can understand, though never condone, their resentment over the fact that a minority of children born in the United States today are white, that the evolution of the American myth embraces a racial and sexual diversity that they can’t comprehend.

But empathy has limits. The fascists are mobilizing in Donald Trump’s name. They may be few in number, but a larger, still-silent minority may come to approve their message, if not their methods or regalia. Unless this President’s malignant poisoning of the body politic is contained, there will be more riots, more confrontations, more deaths. Unless he is contained, future historians may see Charlottesville as an overture to something even uglier and deeper and more dangerous.

Donald Trump exhausts us. He tries to tear down the social safety net. He seeks to wreck the global trading system. He attacks a free press. He threatens war against other weak, dangerous men. And he does it all at once, day after day. His assaults on democracy and civility are so multifaceted – and his term has barely begun! – that it’s tempting to turn away, to hold your family tighter and just try to carry on.

But those who believe in democracy, in a free press, in racial harmony, in peace, have to fight back. What’s so frustrating for Canadians is that there is little we can do on this side of the border, except watch in horror and pray.

Source: The fascists are mobilizing in Donald Trump’s name – The Globe and Mail