‘A Perfect Storm’: Extremists Look For Ways To Exploit Coronavirus Pandemic

As they seek to exploit all issues:

For months, authorities say, 36-year-old white supremacist Timothy Wilson amassed bomb-making supplies and talked about attacking a synagogue, a mosque or a majority-black elementary school.

Then the coronavirus hit the United States, giving Wilson a new target — and a deadline. The FBI says Wilson planned to bomb a Missouri hospital with COVID-19 patients inside, and he wanted to do it before Kansas City’s stay-at-home order took effect at midnight on March 24.

“Wilson considered various targets and ultimately settled on an area hospital in an attempt to harm many people, targeting a facility that is providing critical medical care in today’s environment,” the FBI said in a statement.

The attack never happened. Wilson died in a shootout March 24 when federal agents moved to arrest him after a six-month investigation. It was an extraordinary domestic terrorism case, yet it got lost in the nonstop flood of news about the coronavirus pandemic. Extremism researchers warn against overlooking such episodes; they worry the Missouri example is a harbinger as far-right militants look for ways to exploit the crisis.

Already, monitoring groups have recorded a swell of hatred — including cases of physical violence — toward Asian Americans. Dehumanizing memes blame Jews for the virus. Conspiracy theories abound about causes and cures, while encrypted chats talk about spreading infection to people of color. And there is the rise of “Zoombombing” — racists crashing private videoconferences to send hateful images and comments.

“We know from our work in the trenches against white nationalism, antisemitism, and racism that where there is fear, there is someone organizing hate,” Eric Ward, executive director of the Western States Center, said in a statement. The Oregon-based monitoring group recorded about 100 bias-motivated incidents in the two weeks after the alleged Missouri plot was foiled.

Here are some areas extremism trackers are watching as the pandemic unfolds:

Hate crimes

A March FBI assessment predicted “hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States, due to the spread of coronavirus disease,” according to an intelligence report obtained by ABC News.

The report, prepared by the FBI’s Houston office and issued to law enforcement agencies nationwide, warned that “a portion of the U.S. public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations.” That idea has been reinforced by political leaders including President Trump, who has referred to the “Chinese virus” and variations that reference China or Wuhan rather than the clinical terms used by health officials.

Asian Americans say they have experienced hostility, with a dramatic increase in reports of racist incidents. A handful of them were violent attacks that are under investigation as hate crimes. For example, federal authorities say hatred motivated a 19-year-old Texas man who was arrested in a stabbing attack that targeted an Asian-American family at a Sam’s Club. The suspect told authorities that he thought the family was spreading the coronavirus.

Some Asian Americans have expressed fears that violence could increase once stay-at-home orders are lifted. A coalition of advocacy groups has appealed to Congress to denounce racism and xenophobia linked to the pandemic.

“This is a global emergency that should be met with both urgency and also cultural awareness that Covid-19 is not isolated to a single ethnic population,” Jeffrey Caballero, executive director of the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, said in a statement. “Xenophobic attacks and discrimination towards Asian American communities are unacceptable.”

Recruiting out-of-school kids

Millions of young Americans are home from school, bored, and scrolling through social media sites for hours every day. To white supremacist recruiters, they’re prey.

Cynthia Miller-Idriss, an American University professor who writes extensively about far-right extremism, said the increase in unsupervised screen time at a time of crisis creates “a perfect storm for recruitment and radicalization.” PERIL, the extremism research lab Miller-Idriss runs on campus, is scrambling for “rapid response” grants to develop an awareness campaign and toolkit for parents and caregivers about the risks of online radicalization in the coronavirus era.

“For extremists, this is an ideal time to exploit youth grievances about their lack of agency, their families’ economic distress, and their intense sense of disorientation, confusion, fear and anxiety,” Miller-Idriss said. Without the usual social support from trusted adults such as coaches and teachers, she said, “youth become easy targets for the far right.”

Anti-government flashpoints

Militias and self-described “constitutionalist” factions, categorized by federal authorities as anti-government extremists, are making noise about stay-at-home orders. Some armed groups reject the measures outright, calling them unconstitutional or overreaching. Another subset is openly defiant, as if daring authorities to use force and turn the issue into a high-stakes standoff.

Over Easter weekend, Ammon Bundy, who led an armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon in 2016, held a service that drew some 200 people to a warehouse in Idaho. Photos showed worshippers, including children, unmasked and sitting in close quarters.

If the perceived constitutional infringements worsen, Bundy has told his supporters, then “physically stand in defense in whatever way we need to.” That kind of provocation could turn ugly quickly, warn monitors of the anti-government movement.

Calls for violence

Extremism monitors are keeping tabs on so-called accelerationists, a subset of the racist right that believes in using violence to sow chaos in order to collapse society and replace it with a white nationalist model.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, an extremism watchdog group, has said, “Accelerationists consider themselves the revolutionary vanguard of the white supremacist movement.” In chat forums, they’ve discussed using the virus to infect people of color, staging attacks on medical centers and other forms of violence they hope will trigger a domino effect leading to the breakdown of society.

“These far-right extremists are arguing that the pandemic, which has thrown into question the federal government’s ability to steer the nation through a crisis, supports their argument that modern society is headed toward collapse,” wrote Cassie Miller of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Miller wrote that, for now, the fallout is already so chaotic that the accelerationists are content to watch, reckoning, “the situation seems to be escalating on its own, requiring no additional involvement on their part.”

Miller cited a white supremacist podcaster who told his followers: “It seems to be going plenty fast, thanks.”

Source: ‘A Perfect Storm’: Extremists Look For Ways To Exploit Coronavirus Pandemic

FUREY: What they’re not telling you about Canada’s hate crime stats

While there are limitations in the annual police reported hate crimes, by and large they provide a reasonable albeit imperfect indicator. The threshold of reporting to the police is higher than reporting to community organizations, particularly for communities that have lower levels of trust in police (e.g., Blacks).

While it would be nice to have data on charges laid and convictions, unlikely that such data would indicate large numbers of fraudulent claims that Furey intimates. StatCan in fact did such an analysis in its Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2017, showing this not to be a major issue.

As to his critique of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network’s call for an annual survey, I agree that this should not replace the police-reported reports, again given the higher threshold.

And we do get some data from the General Social Survey on discrimination and dealing with the police, depicted below:

StatCan did a useful analysis of the 2017 and earlier report (Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2017) that provided a breakdown of violent vs non-violent hate crimes by group, showing, for example, a greater proportion of violent hate crimes against Muslims (40 percent) than Jews (15 percent):

Hate crimes targeting the Black population and religion more often non-violent

Non-violent crimes accounted for 62% of crimes targeting the Black population from 2010 to 2017. A significant portion (53%) of these non-violent crimes were mischief. Non-violent crimes most often occurred in a single-family home (18% of incidents), in schools outside of school hours (14%), and on the street (14%). Of the 38% of hate crime targeting the Black population that were violent crimes, common assault was the most common type (14%). One quarter of violent hate crimes targeting the Black population took place on the street, 16% in a single-family home and 12% in a dwelling unit.

During the same period, 60% of crimes against the Muslim population were non-violent while the other 40% were violent. The most common violent hate crimes were uttering threats (18%) and common assault (8%) (see note 20). The most frequent locations of violent incidents were the street (19%) or at a single-family home (17%). The most frequent non-violent crimes were mischief (35%) and public incitement of hatred (9%). Non-violent crimes targeting the Muslim population occurred most often at religious institutions (17%).

From 2010 to 2017, 85% of hate crimes against the Jewish population were non-violent. The majority of these hate crimes were mischief (70%). The second and third most frequent offences against this population were uttering threats (6%) and hate-motivated mischief relating to property primarily used for religious worship or by an identifiable group (5%). While a notable proportion of non-violent hate crimes targeting the Jewish population occurred at a single-family home (18%), on the street (13%), or in schools outside of school hours (11%). Violent crimes most often occurred in a single family home (21%), businesses (17%), or on the street (15%).

Hopefully, StatCan will do an update of this analysis for 2018, including a data table:

It’s that time of the year again, when Canada’s annual hate crimes statistics are released and advocacy groups send out their press releases and take to the airwaves to break down what it all means.

While there’s often an alarming tone to the occasion, this year’s conversation will likely be more muted than in previous years because the latest numbers have gone down by 13%, from 2,073 in 2017 to 1,798 in 2018.

That said, as StatsCan explains: “Even with this decline, the number of hate crimes remains higher (with the exception of 2017) than any other year since 2009, and aligns with the upward trend observed since 2014.”

When broken down by identifiable group, Monday’s release means a 50% drop in hate crimes targeting Muslims, 15% fewer targeting sexual orientation, 12% fewer against black individuals and a 4% drop in incidents against Jews.

But this time around, before we take these numbers and try to craft a narrative around them, let’s take a step back and look at how they’re put together in the first place. Because there’s a lot StatsCan isn’t telling you in their release that doesn’t make its way into the basic reporting.

For starters, an overview of hate crimes will cover broad terrain – from graffiti that harms no one to violent incidents like the Quebec mosque massacre. They’re both bad and it’s right to have a zero-tolerance attitude to all categories, but obviously, the first one is cause for much less concern than the second one.

The numbers have always shown that, thankfully, the more severe forms of hate crimes are much rarer. Out of the 1,798 number, there were 138 incidents in 2018 that involved bodily harm to an individual and only 2 of those resulted in deaths. Compare that to “mischief/mischief to religious property”, which had 782 incidents. Threats alone made up for 251 incidents.

There’s another problem with all of this data though, one that calls into question not just how we talk about specifics, but the validity of the entire conversation itself.

The StatsCan release on Monday added some interesting context: “Police data on hate-motivated crimes include only those incidents that come to the attention of police services.” In other words, there could be more hate crimes happening that the police never heard about.

That’s a fair point. But they don’t offer the flip side of the coin, and they should. Which is that these stats aren’t “hate crimes” full stop. They’re “police-reported hate crimes”.

What does that mean? It means what it sounds like. Someone calls the cops and says a hate crime occurred.

It doesn’t mean these are all cases where someone was found guilty of perpetrating a hate crime. It doesn’t have to even mean the police properly investigated the incident. For many of these cases, it just means someone said something happened and the police jotted it down.

When I made a media request to Statistics Canada last year to ask for the number of actual charges, convictions and acquittals related to hate crimes I learned that they don’t compile these figures. This means they don’t tally the proven cases – they count when everything is still at the potential stage.

Prior to the release of this year’s data, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network – our version of the controversial left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center – called on Statistics Canada to revise their methodology. They recommend that instead of using police-reported data, StatsCan does an annual survey that “asks Canadians if they’ve been the victim of a hate crime and takes a believe-the-victims approach”.

Is this a wise idea? Wouldn’t that only further muddy the waters? The facts tell us that alleged victims can and do lie.

A special prosecutor is currently being assigned to investigate the Jussie Smollett case. A Winnipeg couple has been charged for allegedly staging an anti-Semitic attack against their own cafe. And everyone remembers the hijab hoax case in Toronto that saw none other than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weigh in on an assault that never happened.

One expert on the issue recommends Canadians ask critical questions of these statistics. “What’s the rate of hoax? That’s a blunt question but it’s extremely useful,” says Wilfred Reilly, a professor of political science at Kentucky State University, in an interview with the Sun.

Reilly studied American hate crime statistics in-depth, resulting in the publication of his new book Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left is Selling a Fake Race War.

“I would put the confirmed hoax rate at about 15% – cases that definitely unraveled and were provably debunked,” explains Reilly. “5% result in convictions and the rest are ambiguous.” He suggests the Canadian figures could likely be similar.

If we’re going to have a national conversation about hate crimes every year, we’re going to have to get better data. Or, at the very least, let Canadians know the facts behind the numbers we’re discussing so they can determine their usefulness.

Could the real number of hate crimes happening be significantly higher? Certainly. Or could we be overrun with hoaxes? That’s also possible. Given what we’re working with, we just don’t know.

Source: FUREY: What they’re not telling you about Canada’s hate crime stats

Record number of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada fuelled by online hate: B’nai Brith

The lated B’nai Brith report. Waiting for the 2018 police-reported hate crimes report (Statistics Canada re-released the 2017 report www150.statcan.gc.ca/…ticle/00008-eng.htm):

Online hatred is fuelling a rise in anti-Semitism that saw a record-breaking number of Jewish Canadians harassed and assaulted in 2018, according to a new report from B’nai Brith Canada.

Western Canada, in particular, saw anti-Semitic incidents skyrocket last year. The number of incidents in British Columbia more than doubled to 374 from 165 in 2017, just behind Saskatchewan and Manitoba, which together had a 142.6 per cent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2018 compared to 2017, to 131 from 54.

British Columbia had the third highest total number of anti-Semitic incidents behind Quebec, with 709, and Ontario, at 481.

The countrywide total topped 2,000 incidents of hatred toward Jews in 2018 for the first time in more than 35 years, marking the fifth straight annual increase and the highest number of incidents the organization has recorded since it began tracking such data in 1982. The report suggests the federal government needs to address legislative gaps that allow hateful rhetoric to flourish and spread.

The report comes just two days after a gunman opened fire on Jewish worshippers at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Southern California on Saturday — an attack that was prefigured by a threatening social media post, according to the FBI. The online screed said the alleged attacker was inspired by the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh in October, a tragedy that was preceded by virulent anti-Jewish comments posted online by the suspected shooter.

During the Poway attack, one woman was killed and three others were wounded, among them a child and the synagogue’s rabbi.

“Anti-Semitism has real-world consequences,” Ran Ukashi, the national director of B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights, writes in the report’s introduction. Pointing to the murder of 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue, Ukashi suggests anti-Jewish harassment is not only deeply troubling; its sharp rise in Canada fuels the fear here of violence of the kind seen internationally in the past year.

According to the report, online harassment on social-media platforms including Facebook and Twitter — or through electronic communications such as email — accounted for 80 per cent of total incidents.

“Of particular concern is the rise of anti-Semitic harassment on social media, including death threats, threats of violence and malicious anti-Jewish comments and rhetoric,” Mostyn said, echoing Ukashi’s warning.

Steven Slimovitch, the national legal counsel for B’nai Brith Canada, said online hate has a much larger reach and can have a bigger impact than direct, one-on-one incidents.

“Now what’s happening is you can easily reach thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people via the internet,” he said. “You can do it quietly, you can do it in your basement and that’s a very, very serious problem.”

The report defines harassment as “verbal or written actions that do not include the use of physical force against a person or property,” including: promotion of hate propaganda via social media, the internet, telephone or in print; verbal slurs, hate speech or harassment, or systematic discrimination in public spaces; and verbal threats of violence in cases where “the application of force does not appear imminent, or no weapon or bomb is involved.”

And while physical violence represents only 0.5 per cent of the incidents cited in B’nai Brith’s Monday report, Canada is no stranger to real-world intimidation, violence or threats of violence against Jews. (B’nai Brith only includes incidents in the report where a victim’s Jewish religion was the explicit reason for the attack).

On Monday, the York Region police hate-crime unit reported investigating an incidentinvolving the spray-painting of anti-Semitic graffiti on the front of the garage of a Vaughan home on Friday.

In November, four 17-year-old Jewish boys wearing religious garments were assaulted in north Toronto by another group of teenagers, who prefaced their attack by making derogatory comments about the boys’ religion. In February, two Saskatchewan schoolchildren were beaten by their classmates for being Jewish.

And a Montreal man was charged with inciting hatred toward Jewish people and threatening to cause death and bodily harm to Jews after allegedly writing online posts in October in which he threatened to kill “an entire school full of Jewish girls,” according to the Montreal Gazette.

Mostyn said there is no reason to believe there is an elevated threat of an attack in Canada, but the amount of online hatred targeting Jews is having an impact. This, he said, is why B’nai Brith is pushing for protections that go beyond adding more security officers outside synagogues and Jewish schools.

“We have to start at the start, and the start is incitement,” Mostyn said. “And too often nowadays this incitement is taking place on the internet and it is influencing others that unfortunately take violent and drastic actions, and that’s what really needs to stop.”

B’nai Brith’s recommendations include instituting a dedicated hate-crime police unit in every major city and providing enhanced training for hate-crime officers, and co-ordinating between the federal government and social media platforms to develop a plan to counter online hate.

Facebook recently began deleting pages belonging to white supremacist individuals and groups, but has faced significant backlash for not doing more to stop hatred advanced on its platform.

Source: Record number of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada fuelled by online hate: B’nai Brith

France Has A History Of Anti-Semitism And Islamophobia | FiveThirtyEight

Hate crimes FranceBeyond the anecdotes, hate crime data (chart above) and public polling:

Public opinion surveys might offer some further insight into how Islamophobia is changing in France. In the spring of 2008, Pew surveyed 754 adults in the country about their views on various religious groups. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they had a “somewhat” or “very” unfavorable opinion of Muslims. That figure was slightly higher than in previous years — in 2006, 35 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of Muslims in 2005, and in 2004 it was 34 percent.

In 2014, Pew commissioned a new survey, this time posing a question to 1,003 French adults with a slightly different wording. Rather than asking about attitudes toward religious groups in general, the survey asked specifically about attitudes towards religious groups living in France. This time, 27 percent of respondents expressed a somewhat or very unfavorable opinion of French Muslims.

Three-quarters of French respondents believe Islam is an “intolerant” religion, incompatible with the values of French society, according to a January 2013 poll by the French newspaper Le Monde and the market research company Ipsos.

Anti-semitism in France

Rabbis in France have described the country’s Jewish population as “tormented with worry” after Friday’s attack on a French supermarket. On Monday, 5,000 police officers had been sent to Jewish schools and religious sites amid security concerns in addition to 10,000 troops deployed across the country.

The nonprofit Service de Protection de la Communauté Juive (the Jewish Community Security Service, SPCJ) publishes an annual summary of anti-semitic attacks reported to the organization and to police precincts in France. Its latest figures show that in 2013 there were 105 anti-semitics acts and 318 anti-semitic threats. Taken together, the number of threats and acts in 2013 was lower than in 2012 (when there were 614 total incidents) but higher than in 2011 (389).

Pew’s 2014 survey also asked about respondents’ attitudes toward French Jews, with 10 percent of respondents expressing an unfavorable opinion.

In September 2014, Fondapol, a French think tank, posed a range of questions that might reveal anti-semitic attitudes to 1,005 French people age 16 and over. The choice of wording in the survey is interesting. One question asked “when you learn that someone you know is Jewish, what reaction do you have,” to which 91 percent of respondents said “nothing in particular,” 3 percent said “I like them” and 3 percent said “I don’t like them” (the rest refused to answer). However, 21 percent of respondents said they would prefer to avoid having a Jewish president, 14 percent a Jewish mayor, 8 percent a Jewish doctor and 6 percent a Jewish neighbor.

France Has A History Of Anti-Semitism And Islamophobia | FiveThirtyEight.

Tim Uppal, Multiculturalism Minister, Victim Of Racist Incident

Good that Uppal, Minister of State for Multiculturalism, was public about it.

StatsCan report on police-reported hate crimes doesn’t capture these kinds of incidents (Chart of the Day: Hate crimes – Five-Year Trends):

Uppal’s parents immigrated to Canada from India before he was born. He suggested to the Sherwood Park News last July that his personal background made him uniquely suited to the multiculturalism file.

“Growing up, I’ve had this opportunity to live this life of having a culture that I’m very proud of and [I] get to practice that culture, but at the same time being a Canadian kid. Playing ice hockey, and watching normal western movies and that type of thing,” he told the paper.

“I think all of that will help contribute to my new role.”Uppal, who always sports a bright, Tory-blue turban, also spoke out in the House of Commons last year about the proposed Quebec Charter of Values put forward by the former Parti Quebecois government of Pauline Marois. The controversial bill sought to ban public workers in the province from wearing “overt” religious symbols, including Sikh turbans, Muslim headscarves and Jewish kippas.

“My parents were welcomed when they immigrated to Canada, and now I have three beautiful Canada-born children,” he said.

“We are a proud Canadian family. A Canadian is no less a Canadian because they wear a cross, a kippa, Star of David or a turban.”

Tim Uppal, Multiculturalism Minister, Victim Of Racist Incident.

Hate and Bias Crime Data « CrimeDime

Hate and Bias Crime Data « CrimeDime.