Germany’s Far Right Tightens Its Grip in the East

Worrisome:

The far-right Alternative for Germany party on Sunday celebrated a strong showing in the former Communist East, more than doubling its support in a state election held two weeks after an attack on a synagogue that some tied to the party’s use of hateful language.

The party won 23.5 percent of the vote in Thuringia, according to preliminary returns, up from 10.6 percent in 2014. That left it in second place, behind the Left Party but ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

The party, known by its German initials AfD, has no hope of governing, since all the other parties have ruled out cooperating with it. But its strong showing is likely to reverberate in other ways. The election outcome could further strengthen the power of Björn Höcke, the party’s leader in Thuringia and its most notorious figure.

Extreme-right misinformation is flooding Chinese media in Canada and observers say there’s virtually nothing stopping it

Ongoing:

Some of the posts suggest teaching sexual and gender identity in schools could cause an AIDS outbreak. Others warn Mexicans are streaming across the border to sell drugs or that hatred against Muslims is only natural. The articles are called misinformation by some and flat out hate speech by others.

They are but a sampling of the far-right rhetoric on Chinese-language websites and social media platforms like WeChat, often described as a cross between Facebook and Twitter. Observers warn that there’s almost nothing challenging a torrent of anti-refugee, anti-LGBT and anti “white liberal” literature spiking online.

“When this privileged group settled down in Canada, they will have an easy life without evening finding a job,” reads one article touching on Muslim refugees when discussing Chinese voters. It was written by contributor Feng Si Hai on Chinese-language news publication Lahoo.ca. in March 2019.

“What’s more, some of them could make trouble, break the law and even harm a child. It is natural that hatred toward them will arise. The religious conflicts will make the situation worse. How could our society be peaceful?!” reads the article.

Such sentiments have also popped up in Chinese political organizations and churches, according to community members. They worry that barriers to truthful information combined with conservative politics are leading to the exploitation of Chinese people by far-right elements and could hamper the ability of Chinese people in Canada to make informed decisions.

There are votes to be gained as Canadian political parties reach out to immigrants, and Chinese voters are one of the largest pools.

Chinese people represent about 20 per cent of minorities in Canada, according to Statistics Canada, with hundreds of thousands living in Vancouver and Toronto alone. In those cities, some ridings are more than 50 per cent Chinese.

They are increasingly being courted by far right content or outright misinformation created by writers who often use pen names.

For example, Feng, who has also written that a child being proud of having two mothers is a “scorn on human ethics,” is not the writer’s real name. In an interview with Star Vancouver, Lahoo editor-in-chief Lao Mai said Feng is a real person writing under a pen name for protection.

But prior to Lao’s explanation, other staff at the publication said Feng was actually a floating pen name used by a number of people. In the interview Lao insisted that isn’t the case and underlined he and his staff don’t necessarily agree with the opinions written.

“We have that freedom of speech,” Lao said through an interpreter.

In Feng’s 2019 column about voting, it’s alleged Justin Trudeau ignored the case of 13-year-old Marrisa Shen, whose body was found in a park in Burnaby in July 2017. In September 2018, a Syrian refugee, Ibrahim Ali, was charged in her death.

In January 2018 an 11-year-old girl in Toronto told police she had been attacked by an Asian man with scissors who cut off her hijab. Justin Trudeau tweeted his condemnation of the attack. Police investigated the alleged incident and determined that the events did not happen. The family of the girl who made the false claims later apologized.

Feng’s column accuses Trudeau of caring more about the Muslim girl in Toronto than he did about the Shen murder because Muslims vote more than Chinese people.

Lao said the article is being misinterpreted and it’s really just meant to encourage Chinese people to vote. He said that when columns by Feng are submitted, they believe what he writes and don’t feel the need to fact check them.

Lahoo also publishes straight news pieces and Feng is just one columnist, but the internet is flooded with Chinese-language misinformation from a number of sources.

Back in May, Chauncey Jung, a contributor for website SupChina, who once interned for the Liberal Party and has written about the issue, said there has been a steady increase of false news or misinformation in Toronto since the story about the Muslim girl who claimed to be have been attacked broke in 2018.

Chinese articles on WeChat raged against the girl and against Trudeau for tweeting his response to the incident before police said they had determined that the attack did not happen. But the incident caused a spike in “pure hate speech” written in Chinese, Jung said.

The tension was made worse later in the year when Ali was arrested and charged with Shen’s murder. His court appearance in Vancouver brought anti-refugee protests by demonstrators carrying Chinese signs.

Jung said it’s not just Muslims who are targeted. He said he’s seen stories on WeChat alleging hundreds of Mexican drug dealers are flooding into Canada since Ottawa stopped requiring visas for Mexicans and others claiming that Toronto police want to get children hooked on drugs.

“It’s going to be challenging for people who don’t have the access to the actual information,” he said. “If you don’t speak English, that’s going to be a barrier, if you don’t like to read things in English, that’s another barrier there.”

Kevin Huang of Vancouver’s Hua Foundation, an organization aimed at bridging cultural gaps between Chinese and other communities, said not only is there an increasing amount of Chinese-language misinformation targeting immigrants and other minorities, but nothing is in place to counter it.

“People are usually just overwhelmed by the fact this exists and not at a stage where we’re about to design and or think about how to counter,” he says.

Much of it stems from a history of Chinese voters being “ruled by fear” Huang said, adding that politicians and the media often use scare tactics to dissuade Chinese voters from supporting their opponents rather than presenting a positive alternative.

The 2015 election was full of it, he said.

“The literature was fear mongering attacks on Trudeau, prostitution, needles,” Huang said. “Is our community in general really only about just being fearful of these things?”

Huang says one possible solution would be for governments to distribute information in more languages than just English and French. If more government materials were written in languages like Chinese, those who speak it as a first language would at least have access to basic, credible information, he said.

“No one’s engaging them except for ‘do your taxes and fill out these forms for your benefits,’ ” Huang said.

One man in Surrey, B.C., isn’t waiting for the government to pitch in.

“Fake news brings people to the wrong direction; prejudice and hate,” says Jacky Jiao after tidying up a picnic table in a Surrey park before sitting down to talk, condemning whoever left it a mess. “Few people think, they just follow others.”

When he’s not scrubbing picnic tables, the real estate agent and immigration consultant is cleaning up the internet. Jiao says he spends about 15 hours a week on WeChat motoring through Chinese language media and writing articles debunking false information.

WeChat has become the premier source of information for Chinese people around the world and Jiao says that often misinformation from other countries, like the United States and United Kingdom, is spun to fit the Canadian narrative.

Much of what appears on WeChat is published elsewhere and simply shared there, similar to Twitter. Often the articles contain false figures such as the number of refugees allowed into Canada each year, he says.

Jiao says his attempts to combat the misinformation or far-right rhetoric online have led to a lot of pushback.

“In WeChat groups, I get a lot of attacks,” he says. “A lot of people are Trump fans. They always think right is right. They can’t distinguish the right and the extreme right.”

Jiao says the courting of the far right via Chinese social media happens at a time when similar efforts are being made through churches in Canada. Chinese immigrants hold Christianity in high regard, he says, reasoning that many of the world’s developed countries have Christianity as a dominant religion.

As a result, many are curious about the religion and become involved in churches, and some of those churches have strong views against homosexuality or taxes, says Jiao.

Combined with the misinformation and right wing columns on WeChat, he said it makes some in the Chinese community ripe fruit for the far right to pluck.

But even if WeChat didn’t exist, the far-right politics are hosted by other websites and the messaging would still seep through.

In 2018, a consortium of Chinese activists in Vancouver and Toronto formed the Let’s Vote Association, a group with a website in Chinese and English encouraging people to vote for right-wing candidates in federal, provincial and municipal elections.

The organization was in the news when some municipal candidates decried the endorsements in B.C. last year. It hasn’t made any endorsements on its website this year.

One of its founding directors is Yali Trost, sister in law of Brad Trost, who ran unsuccessfully for leader of the Conservative Party in 2017 and lost a nomination challenge for the riding he held in Saskatchewan last year. He is not running this year and told Star Vancouver he has no knowledge of or participation in his sister in law’s activities. Most of the association’s directors have donated to Trost’s political campaigns in the past, according to Elections Canada information.

The association’s main page features a link to a petition opposing the Vancouver suburb of Richmond’s plan to install a rainbow crosswalk, an initiative undertaken by many cities to support the LGBTQ community. Other articles praise Donald Trump, champion religious freedom and question the legitimacy of refugees.

Their electoral recommendations in the past have included evangelical Christian radio show host and People’s Party of Canada candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, as well as Heather Leung, who was dropped as a candidate by the Conservatives earlier this month when a 2011 video of her making statements against the LGBTQ community resurfaced.

In the video, Leung says homosexuals are “perverted” and trying to “recruit” children because they cannot procreate.

In early September, according to her website, Leung went door knocking in her riding with Lindsay Shepherd, a controversial figure and free speech advocate criticized in the past for arranging an appearance by Faith Goldy, the white nationalist who ran for mayor of Toronto, at Laurier University.

Leung is still running as an independent and her campaign manager is Travis Trost, Yali Trost’s husband and Brad Trost’s brother.

Leung did not respond to Star Vancouver’s attempts to contact her, including a letter outlining what the interview would be about delivered to her home, outside of the Burnaby North-Seymour riding.

Star Vancouver requested the financial details of the Let’s Vote Association in accordance with the B.C. Societies Act.

As per the official process, Star Vancouver filed a request to the B.C. corporate registry asking that they compel the Let’s Vote Association to release the information. In a letter to Star Vancouver through the registry, the society said it would not release the information because it had not yet completed its accounting.

“Many immigrants to Canada and especially Chinese Canadians are reluctant to involve themselves in the political process in Canada because of bad experiences they have had overseas,” reads the letter, which goes on to accuse Star Vancouver of making them fearful.

But last October Yali Trost, a Vancouver resident according to Let’s Vote’s society information, involved herself in the political process physically when she got into an altercation with Burnaby School Board trustee candidate Larry Hayes after an all-candidates debate in a school gymnasium. According to Vancouver radio station News1130, Trost said she was confronting Hayes for calling another candidate an “idiot.”

A video posted to Laura Lynn Tyler Thompson’s Facebook page shows Hayes trying to push past Trost as she stands in front of him while holding a baby when he tries to leave the venue before she shoves him back. The police were called. The debate itself was shut down due to yelling from attendees protesting the province’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity program in public schools.

Attempts to contact Yali Trost through the Let’s Vote Association were unsuccessful.

As Canada barrels toward its election Monday the affect the push by the far right could have on the Chinese community isn’t yet known, but observers are concerned what a sustained campaign could mean down the road.

Huang said politicians don’t make enough of an effort to conduct meaningful engagement with Canada’s Chinese communities. It seems politicians are only interested in stopping by for Lunar New Year banquets, he said, leaving a void that is filled by the far right.

The responsibility rests not just with Chinese people to speak up, Huang said, but with politicians who need to take the trend of misinformation seriously.

“Don’t treat our community as if we’re just being ruled by fear,” he said. “Lead us. Show us that we want to vote for you because you believe in the same values I do.”

Source: Extreme-right misinformation is flooding Chinese media in Canada and observers say there’s virtually nothing stopping it

Syrian family closes restaurant, confirms son was target of death threats after political protest

So unfortunate and a reminder that Canada is hardly immune from this kind of behaviour and social media stirred up hate:

Eleven days ago, Alaa Alsoufi attended a political protest in Hamilton wearing a face mask. Less than 24 hours later, a Twitter user in Ottawa identified the young man as a Syrian “terrorist” who reportedly harassed an elderly woman as she approached Mohawk College to hear the People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier speak at a fundraiser.

Social media users across North America and Europe ran with the narrative, launching death threats against the Toronto man, his parents and their business.

And so a downtown Toronto restaurant founded by Alsoufi’s family, which had been widely lauded as a success story of Canada’s refugee resettlement program, abruptly closed on Tuesday in the wake of escalating online attacks.

“We could not put our family members, staff and patrons in danger,” the Alsoufis said in a public statement on Tuesday night that defended their son as a humanitarian and the victim of a vicious, politically motivated smear campaign by alt-right crusaders.

The family of Dorothy Marston, 81, the woman at the centre of the viral video, came to the Alsoufis’ defence and condemned the vigilantism by “social justice warriors on both sides.” The video shows Marston using her walker on Sept. 29 when she is confronted by a wall of masked protesters blocking her way, some calling her “Nazi scum.”

David Turkoski, Marston’s son, said he was heartbroken and disgusted by the attacks on the Alsoufi family.

“I’m absolutely ashamed of anybody who called and threatened them. That’s how polarized Canada is becoming. We have lost our ability to see reason,” Turkoski said on behalf of his mother. “We don’t like war and persecution of anybody.”

The Alsoufis, who opened Soufi’s on Queen Street West in 2017, said Alaa “did not in any way verbally or physically assault the elderly woman” and “offered to apologize personally for not doing more” to stop other protesters from harassing Marston.

They said Alaa was physically assaulted on Friday, several days after the event, and doxed, an Internet-based practice in which social media users unite to expose a person’s private records and launch threats.

While the family expressed “deep gratitude” toward the “loving, welcoming people” of Toronto, they said “the magnitude of hate we are facing is overwhelming.”

In addition to physical violence, a torrent of death threats prompted their decision to close the popular restaurant.

Messages on Facebook and Twitter illustrated the attacks on the Alsoufis over the course of a week.

On Oct. 1, a Facebook user in Philadelphia, who describes himself as a former U.S. Navy Submarine Service employee, posted photos of Alaa to his personal page with a message inviting his friends to “Meet Alaa Soufi Dalua (sic), one of the antifa scumbags that harassed an elderly couple while they tried to cross a street. … We have everything on him. Everything!”

A user in New York commented on the post, writing: “Pay his parents a visit, make an example of them!”

From British Columbia: “Your (sic) going back in a box or not your going back.”

From Belgrade, Serbia: “Hey little muslim b—-h. You know you’re gonna get f—–d right.”

In an email to the Alsoufis’ restaurant, an anonymous sender writes: “Keep it up and your family, and those who defend your family’s terrorist actions will suffer immensely.”

Hamilton police told the Toronto Star its investigation of the Sept. 29 protest “remains ongoing” and stated in an email: “There is no information to support that the conduct of the protesters was in violation of Section 318 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada — Hate Propaganda.”

Toronto police would not confirm whether they were investigating or if the Alsoufis had notified them of the death threats.

Videos posted online show Alaa attending a variety of rallies in support of LGBTQ rights and protesting racism against migrants.

He was described in his family’s statement as “standing up for the rights of oppressed communities in Canada and worldwide.”

Husam and Shahnaz Alsoufi came to Canada after they and their three children were sponsored by a community group in 2015. The family opened the restaurant two years later, touting its Middle Eastern food as a culinary offering “from Syria with love.”

Soufi’s was among the restaurants profiled in a New York Times story last year showcasing the budding Syrian culinary scene in Greater Toronto. It has also been featured in Toronto Life, Now Magazine and the Star.

On Tuesday, staff at Soufi’s blocked the restaurant’s storefront window with printouts of the closing notice and the company’s signature yellow T-shirt while they were cleaning and clearing the premises as reporters gathered outside trying unsuccessfully to talk to the owners.

Members of the Queen West business community said they were shocked by the abrupt closing of the restaurant.

“Soufi’s has become a local staple. As a young business, it’s been growing and has a consistent following. It’s a success story,” said Zane Aburaneh, who runs a fashion and accessory boutique across the street and has hired the restaurant for catering. “It’s so unfortunate that someone has to close down their business because of threats.”

Julie Skirving, who operates Logan & Finley, a nearby eco-conscious general store, said she was a regular of the restaurant.

“They (the Alsoufis) are lovely people and must be devastated,” said Skirving. “It’s such a loss to the community.”

“This is horrifying and appalling. This is not Canada. There are rules of law. There are procedures to deal with situations like this,” added Jon Spencer, a patron of the restaurant, after leaving a heart-shaped note of support for the family that said “I’m so sorry to hear the awful news.”

Source: Syrian family closes restaurant, confirms son was target of death threats after political protest

In court documents, Trudeau defends decision to call out Quebec heckler for ‘racism’

Interesting case. PM comments come across as reasonable and thoughtful:

In the wake of Justin Trudeau’s blackface scandal, his comments in a recent lawsuit give an illuminating insight into how the prime minister thinks about racism.

In August 2018, Trudeau made headlines when he called out a woman for “intolerance” and “racism” after she heckled him at a rally in Quebec and asked him about “illegal immigrants.”

That incident led to an ongoing lawsuit that has received little public attention since it was filed by the heckler last December. In July, Trudeau was questioned in Montreal as part of the lawsuit.

In the court documents, obtained by the National Post this week, Trudeau said he believed the intolerance had to be addressed clearly and also pointed to a particular brand of Quebec nationalism he found troubling.

In videos that circulated widely of the altercation — during a speech Trudeau gave to Liberal supporters at an event in Sabrevois, Que. — the prime minister can be seen telling the heckler that “this intolerance regarding immigrants does not have a place in Canada,” and later that “your racism has no place here.”

At the time, commentators and Conservative politicians were quick to accuse the prime minister of berating an elderly woman without justification, a narrative that changed somewhat after it was revealed that the woman, Diane Blain, had connections to far-right nationalist groups.

In December, Blain filed a defamation lawsuit against Trudeau, demanding $90,000 for psychological distress and damage to her reputation and her right to freedom of expression.

Trudeau’s defence argues that it was “perfectly legitimate” for the prime minister to “note the intolerance expressed by the terms used by Ms. Blain.”

During his examination, Trudeau told Blain’s lawyer the context of her comments made it clear she was intolerant. But he also said he doesn’t believe Blain was a racist, despite having accused her multiple times of racism.

At the event, Blain called out multiple times from the crowd, asking, “When will you give us back the $146 million that we paid for your illegal immigrants?” Her question was in reference to the Quebec government’s demand at the time to be reimbursed for costs incurred by the influx of asylum seekers entering Quebec at Roxham Road, between official entry points.

In examination, Trudeau said he didn’t initially understand Blain’s question, but realized what she was asking when he heard the words “your illegal immigrants.” He told Blain’s lawyer that the way she asked the question, referring to “your illegal immigrants,” proved it was not in good faith. “It was a context in which the goal was to disrupt and push an agenda that was either anti-immigrant or that simply wanted to spark fear and concern about immigrants,” he said. “So for me, it was important to respond firmly and clearly.”

He also said he felt it was necessary to speak out swiftly because the crowd was very diverse and many of his supporters at the event were immigrants.

He went on to discuss Quebecers’ concerns about asylum seekers at Roxham Road, saying there are “very reasonable people” who worry about illegal border crossings. “But there’s a point where it goes beyond concern and (becomes) a desire to preserve a historic Quebec identity against immigrants,” he said. “And unfortunately, it’s not something we hear often, but it’s common enough to be part of a pattern.”

At the August event, Blain asked Trudeau if he was tolerant of “Québécois de souche,” a term that refers to white Quebecers who are descendants of the original French colonists. He responded by saying he was tolerant of all perspectives and accused Blain of being intolerant. Later, when she confronted him again as he was moving through the crowd, he told her, “Your racism has no place here.”

Blain’s lawyer, Christian Lajoie, asked Trudeau during the examination about Quebec nationalism, after Trudeau said he didn’t like the term “Québécois de souche” because of its “connotations of intolerance.”

Trudeau referred to René Lévesque, the founder of the sovereigntist Parti Québécois, saying the former premier envisioned a “civic nationalism,” not one based on ethnicity. “I think a little bit for some people in recent years, we’ve been missing that desire to bring people together that Mr. Lévesque had,” he said.

Still, asked directly if he believes Blain is a racist, Trudeau said no. “I was speaking about her comments… that I associated with intolerance,” he said. “There’s a wave of thinking that has racist elements.”

In the days after the altercation, Trudeau stood by his response to Blain’s questions, telling reporters that “Canadians deserve to know that they have a prime minister that will always underline when these dangerous tactics are used in politics.” At the same time, media reports revealed that Blain had connections to far-right nationalist groups Storm Alliance and Front Patriotique du Québec and that she had once refused to be served by a Muslim woman at a dental clinic in Montreal.

In her lawsuit, Blain claims the event and subsequent media coverage caused “serious damage to her dignity, honour and reputation,” and that her family has been divided by the incident. She is asking for $90,000 in damages. She initially wanted an additional $5,000 for the pain caused by an RCMP officer grabbing her arm, but that has since been dropped. Blain did not respond to the Post’s request for an interview, and her lawyer declined to comment.

Trudeau’s defence claims that Blain came looking to confront him and his responses to her questions were reasonable under the circumstances. It points out that Blain identified herself as the woman in the videos after the fact, and has given several interviews about the incident. A spokesperson for Trudeau declined to comment.

During his examination, Trudeau indicated he believed his lawyer had approached Blain to try and reach a settlement. Blain recently told right-wing news site The Post Millennial, which has reported on the examination, that no settlement has been reached. According to court documents, preparation of the file will not proceed until November, after the Oct. 21 election.

Source: In court documents, Trudeau defends decision to call out Quebec heckler for ‘racism’

Community groups gear up to counter far-right propaganda in federal election

Of note. And encouraging, as reported, more dialogue and conversation-based than haranguing or labelling:

It worries Janice Folk-Dawson when the veteran union leader sees hate posters popping up on university campuses and far-right supremacist groups showing up in her community.

“It’s frightening to see small towns becoming the targets of hate groups,” said the president of the Guelph and District Labour Council. “Fascism started in small towns and the education system. We need to address the rise of the right and bust the myths they spread.”

Earlier this year, the 62-year-old, who is of Russian and Irish descent, enrolled in a workshop held by the Migrant Rights Network, a national anti-racism alliance that aims to help communities stand up against racism and the far right in the run-up to the federal election, when immigration and refugees are expected to be a wedge issue.

Formed last December to put migrant issues on the agenda for the Oct. 21 election, the alliance began canvassing migrant groups about the issues they were most concerned about. Almost everyone cited their fear of rising racism and xenophobia in Canada and asked for assistance in pushing back against the spread of far-right ideologies.

The alliance spent months developing training materials including a video and a tool kit, and since April has delivered more than 50 workshops training hundreds of volunteers — affiliated with unions, charities and community groups — from Squamish, B.C. to St. John’s, Nfld. The aim is to have them reach out to their local communities and have conversations with family, friends and colleagues about immigration and refugee issues, armed with the facts on policies to counter myths fuelled by propaganda.

The network has organized rallies across the country, including a number on Labour Day, and begun monitoring candidates’ campaign rhetoric and calling out those they feel are misinforming the public with racist and anti-immigrant comments.

A newsletter will be distributed to people who sign up to support the alliance’s work to keep them informed on issues and concerns raised during the campaign.

Karen Cocq, the alliance’s education co-ordinator, said political parties and politicians, to consolidate their support base, often draw attention away from their own policy failures and point fingers at “the others,” such as migrants.

Instead of blaming migrants for straining government services and pushing down wages, said Cocq, people should be asking politicians why they cut budgets and fail to properly protect workers with decent wages.

“We understand people are anxious about their future, about the economy and try to make sense of the problems they face. We want to focus on this climate of anxiety that allows scapegoating in our society,” said Cocq. “We try to provide everyday folks the tools they need to understand what’s going on and not get fooled by those who use racism to divide us.”

Ottawa climate activist Katie Rae Perfitt of Our Time, a campaign that engages young people to push for a New Green Deal in the upcoming election, said her volunteers often hear Canadians raising issues about migration when they are canvassing about climate change.

Born and raised in a farming community in the Ottawa Valley, Perfitt said far-right groups exploit the fears of people who worry for the future of their children, about jobs being taken away and migrants being a drain on existing government services and the health-care system. When she heard about the workshop put on by the Migrant Rights Network earlier this summer, she jumped at the opportunity.

Recently, she was canvassing on Sparks St., a pedestrian mall in downtown Ottawa, when she struck up a conversation with an older man about climate change and the chat quickly turned to the influx of asylum seekers in Canada via the United States land border over the last two years.

“We really clicked talking about climate change and the political action needed. It caught me off guard when he started talking about what he thought of the people who crossed the border,” recalled the 32-year-old. “I realized I had to pull out my migrant tool box.”

Perfitt started asking the man about his source of information and presenting him with the facts that refugees have the legal right to seek asylum here, and trying to calm his fear that Canada has lost control of its border.

“We did not agree 100 per cent, but we were able to centre our values, have a conversation and push back some of that fear,” she said.

Folk-Dawson said these conversations can be hard because it’s much easier for people to point at someone else for causing their miseries. Over the summer, she has used her own labour movement network to raise awareness of migrant issues and far-right rhetoric.

“A debate of facts is not a debate of opinions. We try to help people work through their feelings and experience to alleviate their fear. It can be uncomfortable and confrontational,” said Folk-Dawson, adding that even union supporters are susceptible to the myths that migrants are stealing jobs and pushing down wages.

In June, she was handing out flyers at the University of Guelph when a businessman in his 60s started complaining to her that border-crossing asylum seekers were queue-jumpers and immigrants were straining the health-care system. She explained to him that those refugees really have no queue to jump because they are ineligible for any immigration program and that migrants do contribute to Canada’s tax base but often have limited access to government services.

“At the end, the man said he would go back and have the same conversation with others. That’s one person we changed,” said Folk-Dawson gleefully. “We have to get to them before some other folks get to them first.”

Source: Community groups gear up to counter far-right propaganda in federal election

The myth of Eurabia: how a far-right conspiracy theory went mainstream

Good long read. Excerpt below:

Source: The myth of Eurabia: how a far-right conspiracy theory went mainstream

The Global Machine Behind the Rise of Far-Right Nationalism

5 Takeaways About The Trump Administration’s Response To Far-Right Extremism

Of note:

Lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee questioned senior FBI and Homeland Security officials this week about their response to white supremacist violence.

This was the latest in a series of hearings, led by Democrats, to gauge the Trump administration’s commitment to fighting a threat that federal agencies deem the most lethal and active form of domestic extremism.

There were no bombshell revelations, but lawmakers did get a few details on some key questions.

Here are five takeaways:

There is no national policy to combat the far-right threat

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat who led the hearing, started by asking what he called the fundamental question: “Do we have an overall strategic plan to counter and prevent the threat of white supremacist violence? I fear the answer is no.”

Raskin was right. After more than two hours of questioning, it was clear that, unlike the government’s quick and sweeping response to Islamist militant groups, there’s no comparable national strategy to fight white supremacist and other far-right movements.

Elizabeth Neumann, a senior threat prevention official at Homeland Security, told lawmakers that federal authorities were still adapting to the evolution of both far-right and Islamist extremists: They now self-radicalize online, with little or no direction from organized groups like al-Qaida, which had a clear hierarchy and staged attacks that took months or years to plan.

“Our post-9/11 prevention capabilities, as robust as they are, were not designed to deal with this type of threat,” Neumann said.

She said Homeland Security was developing “a prevention framework” to be implemented in coming years, but she offered no details. Raskin, the lawmaker, said it was “very late in the game” to still be in the development stage of a national strategy, given the deadly far-right attacks in Charleston, S.C., Pittsburgh, Charlottesville, Va. and elsewhere.

Neumann said the delay is partly because “things haven’t been institutionalized” through legislation, an executive order or a national security presidential memorandum focused on domestic terrorism. She noted that the Obama administration also lacked those tools.

“We know we’re not doing enough,” Neumann said.

Federal agents do take this seriously – even if the White House doesn’t

President Donald Trump consistently downplays the threat of white nationalist extremism, which he’s dismissed as “a small group of people.”

Michael McGarrity, assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, bristled when lawmakers suggested that, given the apparent disinterest from the top, federal authorities might not be taking the far-right threat seriously enough. McGarrity bluntly stated, more than once, that racially motivated violent extremists are the deadliest and most active of domestic terrorists.

“We’re not playing with the numbers here,” McGarrity said. “We arrest more domestic terrorism subjects [before they stage an] attack in the United States than we do international terrorism.”

He said the FBI is using many of the same tactics historically used to thwart international groups like the Islamic State: working sources, staging undercover operations and asking courts to authorize wiretaps. McGarrity added that the FBI considers racially motivated extremists a transnational threat, and that the agency shares intelligence with counterterrorism partners overseas.

Homeland Security won’t say much about its prevention effort

In 2015, Homeland Security opened a small office devoted to an approach known as “CVE,” countering violent extremism. The idea is to use community partnerships and other tools to interrupt the radicalization process before it turns to violence. Critics call it ineffective, and say it leads to the stigmatization and surveillance of ordinary Muslims.

Under the Trump administration, the CVE-focused office lost about 90 percent of its old budget and about half its staff, and it’s been renamed twice to signal a shift away from community partnership work. (Some Muslim activists joke that scrapping CVE was the only Trump administration move they supported.)

But it might be premature to declare the government’s CVE program dead. Neumann said CVE-style prevention work will be part of a broad counterterrorism strategy that Homeland Security plans to have ready by this fall. But she gave few details about the program or what’s going on with the restructured office that’s supposed to handle it.

“There’s still more questions than answers at this point,” Raskin complained. “What are the office’s precise functions? Who’s in charge? How many personnel will be assigned to prevent white supremacy violence?”

Debate is heating up over a domestic terrorism law

If a U.S.-based suspect is accused of involvement with an international terrorist organization such as ISIS or al-Qaida, prosecutors have an array of charges to consider that aren’t available for most cases involving white supremacist suspects.

Without a domestic terrorism statute, said McGarrity of the FBI, authorities are restricted as to how much they can police speech and conduct that’s offensive, but protected under the First Amendment.

“The FBI does not investigate rallies or protests unless there’s a credible belief that violent criminal activity may be occurring,” he said.

In some quarters of Congress, support is building for a domestic terrorism statute, ostensibly to correct the double standard in extremist prosecutions. But several rights groups already have rejected the idea, arguing that enforcing existing laws is better than giving even more power to federal authorities.

This debate is one to watch in coming months.

It’s official: Black Identity Extremism is no longer a thing

In the early months of the Trump administration, a leaked FBI report warned about a new kind of homegrown threat: black identity extremists.

The warning reportedly came after six unrelated attacks on police around the country; the FBI portrayed the threat as “an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement” by people with “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans.”

The claim was widely endorsed by conservative news media outlets but viewed with equally widespread skepticism as a move reminiscent of the FBI’s demonization of black activists in the civil rights era.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat from Massachusetts, asked McGarrity if there’s a single killing the FBI could link to Black Lives Matter or similar activist groups. McGarrity’s reply: “To my knowledge, right now, no.”

Pressley continued her attack on “this absurd designation” until McGarrity divulged that the category had been retired at the FBI.

“The designation no longer exists?” Pressley asked, sounding skeptical.

“It hasn’t existed since I’ve been here for 17 months,” McGarrity answered.

To recap: The FBI created a new category of threat and two years later quietly abandoned it without explanation.

Source: 5 Takeaways About The Trump Administration’s Response To Far-Right Extremism

Terry Glavin: The Tories insist racists aren’t welcome in their party. What are they doing about it?

Strong commentary, capturing the unfortunate missteps and resulting perceptions:

There’s no way around it: Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives have a racist jackass problem.

This is not to say that Scheer or any of his MPs have consciously invited the affections of the country’s racist jackasses, and there are far fewer votes in Canada’s racist jackass constituency than you might think. But it’s a problem. And Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives have it, in spades.

The most recent evidence is quite jarring. It comes in Ekos Research Associates’ latest annual findings about Canadian attitudes about immigration. Nothing much has changed in the long-term trends, but for the first time, the proportion of Canadians who say immigration rates are too high has merged with the percentage of Ekos poll respondents who say too many non-white people are coming to Canada. And that bloc is coalescing, for the first time, behind a single political party: Scheer’s Conservatives.

This is what it has come to. Sixty-nine per cent of the “too many non-whites” respondents say they back Scheer’s Conservatives. It only stands to reason that a fairly high number of these people are racist jackasses. And there’s growing evidence that sociopaths from that creepy white-nationalist subculture that congregates in obscure 4chan and 8chan chatrooms are hoping to mainstream their contagion into conservative parties. Scheer’s Conservatives insist they’re not happy about any of this.

“Mr. Scheer is clear. These types of views are not welcome in the party,” Brock Harrison, Scheer’s communications director, told me. “He’s stated that view many, many times. Sure, there are fringe elements who will tell a pollster they support the Conservative party, but, you know, those fringe elements who hold to these extreme ideologies have no place in the party. That’s clear.”

Fair enough. But if there’s nothing wrong with the Conservative message on immigrants and refugees and visible minorities, there sure is something wrong with the signal.

It’s not hard to make the case, for instance, that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have disingenuously attributed racism and xenophobia to public anxieties and otherwise reasonable Opposition criticisms of the way Ottawa has handled the upsurge in “irregular” asylum claimants who have crossed the Canada-U.S. border since 2017. “This kind of rhetoric drives these people [racist jackasses] to us, whether we like it or not,” Harrison said. “The denunciations from Mr. Scheer are clear. Every time something flares up and the Liberals try to pin this on us, we stand firm and we denounce.”

But the issue flared up into a bonfire of the Conservatives’ own making last summer, when Maxime Bernier, Scheer’s primary challenger in the 2017 Conservative leadership race, got turfed from Scheer’s shadow cabinet for a series of weird anti-multiculturalism outbursts that put him in the crosshairs of the Conservatives’ capable immigration critic, Michelle Rempel. In a huff, Bernier founded his own rump political party, of the type that sometimes seems to specialize in anti-immigrant jackassery. It was a golden opportunity for Scheer to purge the party of its jackass wing and invite them to run off with Bernier. It was an opportunity Scheer didn’t take.

During the 2017 leadership race itself, the House of Commons was in an uproar over Liberal MP Iqra Khalid’s arguably outlandish motion to mount a national effort in the struggle against Islamophobia. But back then, the Conservative Opposition’s reasonable objections to Liberal hyperventilation were overshadowed by bizarre and paranoid alarums within the Conservative party itself. Several leadership candidates proved more than happy to cross deep into the territory of an Islamophobia they said didn’t even exist.

There was little separating Stephen Harper’s Conservatives from the Liberals and New Democrats on the issue of opening the door to Syrian refugees by the time voters walked into polling booths and turfed the Conservatives in the 2015 federal election. Even so, there was a bad smell about the party, coming from the fringes, and the occasional burst of air freshener out of Scheer hasn’t done the trick.

We’re only months away from another federal election, and with a spotty record to run on, Trudeau has given every indication that the question he wants on voters’ minds will be the same as it was last time around: what’s that smell?

Canada is changing dramatically. A lot of people don’t like what they see, and among them are voters who are predisposed to simple explanations and conspiracy theories. The rural white males drawn to white-nationalist propaganda are perched precariously on the bottom rung of every ladder the Liberal free-trade vision imagines, with its phasing-out of the oil patch and its preoccupation with gender equity, “political correctness” and the concerns of visible-minority communities.

While the Liberals deserve credit for attempting to craft policy that addresses the strains and stresses of globalization and migration, Team Trudeau has invested its political fortunes in a “liberal world order” that is broken. The losers in the shiny, happy world of the Liberal imagination are too easily written off by Liberal strategists. The New Democrats have lost their hold on voters from the old working class. The Tories have picked them up.

The promise of relatively open borders, the free flow of capital, people and ideas among and between liberal democracies and police states like China and gangster states like Russia and theocracies like Iran—all of this was already losing its sheen when Trudeau won his majority four years ago.

The urban millennials who carried Trudeau into office were already alert to the dismal prospect of a future planet convulsing in catastrophic climate change. Now they’re stuck in low-paying temporary jobs, and they’re dealing with out-of-reach housing, high daycare and transportation costs and university degrees that lead nowhere. Holding out higher immigration rates as some sort of magic road map out of this mess is at best a flimsy political strategy. It’s not convincing, for starters. But more importantly, it’s dangerous, because when the formula fails to fix things, it will be immigrants who take the blame, and Canada’s recent immigrants are overwhelmingly people of colour.

It’s not good enough for Scheer to get better at dealing with the occasional flare-ups that leave him looking like the hillbilly caricature Liberals like to make of him. He needs to openly admit that the Conservatives have a problem. He needs to clearly and emphatically demonstrate that he means what he says, that his party is not open to voters who scapegoat immigrants and hold fast to the view that there are too many non-white people coming to Canada. He needs to do something about it.

He needs to show them the door and invite them to leave. Whatever numbers he’ll lose to Mad Max Bernier, he’ll pick up from more centrist voters who’ve grown weary of Trudeau’s “woke” politics, with its wardrobe of groovy socks and a photo album filled with glamour magazine spreads where a portfolio of policy accomplishments should be.

But whatever the faults that can be laid at the feet of the Liberals, it’s Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives who have the racist jackass problem. And however much they genuinely don’t want it, they’re clearly not trying hard enough to shake it.

Source: The Tories insist racists aren’t welcome in their party. What are they doing about it?

Poway Synagogue Shooting: Why Conservatives Keep Getting Anti-Semitism Wrong

Good column:

What motivates someone to burst into a Southern California synagogue and shoot unarmed worshipers, there to recite the memorial prayer for the dead?

Depends who you ask: progressives say nationalist, racist ideology, while conservatives say hate. The difference may seem slight, but in fact, it’s why right and left talk past one another—and seem to be moving farther apart.

Progressives, and most scholars, regard the kind of anti-Semitism that motivated the Poway shooting as part of the xenophobic, ultra-nationalistic constellations of hatreds and “otherings” that also, in our day, include Islamophobia, racism, and anti-immigrant animus. Jews are the “enemy within,” facilitating the evils of immigration and multiculturalism to destroy the motherland.

This is borne out by what Poway, Pittsburgh, Christchurch, and other white terrorists all said in their manifestos and other online comments. Like thousands of others of ultra-nationalists in Europe and America, they see their white, European cultures being overrun by foreigners. And they believe that Jews are making it happen.

In the words of the Charlottesville white supremacists, “you will not replace us,” a taunt aimed at non-whites, is easily changed to “Jews will not replace us.” That is a political statement—filled with ignorance and hate, of course, but also ideology.

On the right, however, anti-Semitism is regarded as hate, not ideology.

Despite reams and reams of ideological-political writing, from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery to Mein Kampf to the paranoid manifesto of the Poway shooter that allege in precise terms the ways in which Jews destroy the national homeland, conservatives insist that anti-Semitism is simply pure, irrational, timeless, and ahistorical hatred that has nothing to do with any politics whatsoever. It’s the same whether it comes from Pharaoh in Egypt, a Tsarist pogrom, or a Hamas terrorist.

“We forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate, which must be defeated,” President Donald Trump said in response to the Poway shooting.

This definition of anti-Semitism is extraordinarily wrong. It is at odds with what anti-Semites themselves have said since the term was popularized in 1879. It mashes together religious animus, true nationalist anti-Semitism, and resistance to right-wing Zionism. And it is particularly helpful to the very people who exacerbate it, today’s nationalists, for three reasons.

“If anti-Semitism is defined simply as anytime someone hates Jews for any reason, then it is a free-floating hatred that finds a home in Palestinian activism, fringe black nationalism, and among Muslim Americans.”

First, of course, it absolves them of any responsibility. To most rational observers, it seems obvious that when Trump spreads lies about the dangers of immigrant crime and Muslim terrorism, he stokes the fires of populist nationalism. In response to that incitement, some will merely wave a flag and don a red hat. But others will take matters into their own hands, striking back at Jews or Muslims or Mexicans.

Some, like Poway shooter John Earnest and Pittsburgh shooterRobert Bowers, may even believe that Trump himself has not gone far enough. They are extending Trump’s logic, not defying it.

Yet if anti-Semitism is merely a pathological hatred and has nothing to do with any ideology, all of this is coincidence. Why did anti-Semitic incidents rise 60 percent in the first year of Trump’s presidency? Well, anti-Semitism is an age-old hatred; no one can explain its pathology, the right says.

Once again, such a denial of causality and reality seems facially absurd, and yet, it is what the likes of Trump, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and their ilk would have us believe. Moreover, since hardly any “mainstream” Republicans have spoken out about Trump’s incitement of hatred, either they believe this delusion as well, or, by refusing to speak, are implicated in the violence that Trump has incited.

Hatred of Jews goes back thousands of years, but the anti-Semitism of John Earnest is a specific, nationalist phenomenon with specific roots and specific myths.

The unmooring of anti-Semitism from ideology has a second benefit for nationalists, which is that it reinforces their own nationalism. In Israel, of course, this is most obvious: everyone hates the Jews, the thinking goes, therefore Jews must be strong and dominant. Force is all the Arabs understand, I remember being taught in Hebrew school, so we have to be stronger than they are.

But even for nationalist parties like those governing Brazil, the United States, and Hungary, anti-Semitism is a convenient reminder that violence and hatred are endemic to the human condition, and strong ethno-nationalism is the only way to fight it.

“We have no choice,” as Trump has said many times.

This is how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can find common cause with barely reconstructed anti-Semites like Hungary’s Viktor Orban. It suits Netanyahu fine for Orban to demonize George Soros and other Jews—after all, Netanyahu hates Soros, too. But more broadly, both men are also engaged in the same anti-democratic activities: attacking human rights organizations, enforcing patriotic speech, undermining the independent judiciary and, most importantly, demonizing “foreigners.”

To nationalists, the solution to anti-Semitism is not, as progressives would have it, stamping out bigotry, ultra-nationalism, and scapegoating of the “other,” but rather a strong ethno-nationalist state (Jewish or otherwise). The presence of anti-Semitism serves to reinforce this view. It simply means that we must all be even stronger and more nationalistic.

The third and final function of the uncoupling of anti-Semitism from ideology is perhaps its most important: it enables “anti-Semitism” to be a scourge of left and right alike, rather than a feature of right-wing nationalism. If anti-Semitism is defined simply as anytime someone hates Jews for any reason, then it is a free-floating hatred that finds a home in Palestinian activism, fringe black nationalism, and among Muslim Americans like Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Now, we are told, including by centrists who should know better, that an “ancient hatred” has reappeared on the right and left alike—as if it is campus BDS supporters who are shooting up synagogues and chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

Of course, there are indeed instances of anti-Semitism on the far left, including conspiracy theories involving Jews and slavery, Palestinian propaganda depicting Israelis as drinking blood, and anti-capitalist screeds that call out Jewish financiers in particular (which, of course, a Trump campaign ad also did).

But in the United States, the quality and quantity of these incidents pale in comparison by those found on the right.

Most importantly, there are no left-wing equivalents for the incitement coming from the nationalist right. There is no left-wing equivalent of Trump seeking to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. There is no left-wing equivalent of “Make America Great Again” with its harkening back to a whiter and less equal past. There is no left-wing equivalent of the lies about Mexicans bringing crime, drugs, and rape to America. A single remark that congressional support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins”—a claim applied every day to the NRA, Big Pharma, or the fossil fuel industry—is nothing compared to these violent, constant, and powerful incitements to ultra-nationalist frenzy.

To the right, the Poway shooter has more in common with Ilhan Omar than with the massacre at a Christchurch mosque.

But to the Poway shooter himself, Christchurch was his inspiration. Contrary to the false and exculpatory claims of the right, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are arms of the same murderous monster, together with ultra-nationalism, hatred of the other, and racism.

And when you agitate one part of that monster, the whole beast rises.

Source: Poway Synagogue Shooting: Why Conservatives Keep Getting Anti-Semitism Wrong