After having read A Climate for Hate? An Exploration of the Right Wing Extremist Landscape in Canada by Barbara Perry and Richard Scrivens as well as Facebook. Fueled Anti-Refugee Attacks in Germany, New Research Suggests, an article written by journalists Amanda Taub and Max Fisher, I will now try to answer several questions regarding these two literary pieces and more particularly the angles and recommendations chosen and made by the authors. With a focus on Canada these past three years, and the emergence of the right wing extremist movement, A Climate for Hate leads the reader to wonder about hate and what defines and shapes it, as well as how hate groups surface.
In Amanda Taub and Max Fisher’s article, the focal point is a potential correlation between the rise in hate and the use of social media, supported by an event that occured in Germany in 2018, relating a terrorist attack on a refugee group. Additionally, I will be talking about a video called “Life After Hate: Interview with Nephew of a White Supremacist who Marched in Charlottesville and with Former Neo-Nazi”.
In all three pieces, the focus seems to be on identifying the social, political and cultural contexts that enable hate groups to blossom, and to help the reader understand an issue that is now relevant/recurrent in the world in its entirety. In “A Climate for Hate?”, one thing that struck me was the amount (or lack thereof) of content regarding the case of First Nations in Canada, as well as the historical, political and cultural contexts surrounding such a controversial subject.
Although the authors do mention the role played by the racism faced by First Nations (in Canada) in a possible normalization of the “mistreatment of those who do not appropriately conform to the preconceived hierarchies” (Perry and Scrivens, 173), I believe that the idea of what could be considered a foreshadowing “permissive” event was minimized greatly in the text. I would like to support this point using the example of the racism experienced by the Algerian people living in France after the War of Algeria, as well as its correlation with the rise in hate crimes towards Muslim communities in France.
According to official sources, in 1954, date of the beginning of the war of Algeria, France counted 211.000 Algerians in metropolis. In 1962, they were close to 350,000. In this very particular context, where the war for independence was causing thousands of victims on Algerian soil, France put in place a repression on its territory in an attempt to reprimand those who would speak up against their treatment. France eventually lost the Algerian war and repatriated the pied-noirs to the metropolis. With this massive influx of “French Muslims”, racist statements multiplied, legitimizing discrimination against Algerians.
In a book on the history of the Harkis, the writer and journalist Pierre Daum, reports a scathing sentence of General De Gaulle: “Harkis or not Harkis, they are Muslims and France, which is a Christian country, is not made to accommodate Muslims” (Anadolu, 2017). Charles de Gaulle was a French statesman and general who led the French Resistance against Nazi Germany during World War Two. Although Perry and Scrivens do focus here on the actual “physical environment”, I find that they omit to mention the impact that certain human influences may have on popular opinion and indirectly, raise in hate.
Although de Gaulle led the French Resistance against the Nazi regime (when Jews were being atrociously persecuted in France), he went on to publicly oppose himself to the welcoming of thousands of Algerians. Why islamophobia, and not antisemitism? Some would argue that economics and demographic tensions were great influences on de Gaulle’s political and social decisions. However, I believe this shows an important point that was not deeply enough addressed in Perry and Scriven’s work, which is the fundamentality of society’s role models, and how great of an impact they can have on public opinion.
Going back to the case of the First Nations in Canada as well as they way I phrased my revendication, I would like to specify a couple points. By “permissive event”, I am not in any way petionionning that Canada is unaware of the past and current living conditions of First Nations, but rather, that, as mentioned by Perry and Scrivens, many of the acts uttered by Canadian officials towards First Nations were discriminating, racist and may have led to generations of Canadian seeing hate crimes as a something that is sometimes, somehow, allowed (this is where, in my opinion, the title “Permission to Hate” makes the most sense).
In Life After Hate, the viewer is introduced to the possibility that pure hate may not be the only motif for individuals to utter violent acts. Interesting idea indeed, since those very crimes are usually called “hate crimes”-an idea that differs greatly from the past source, since we were told earlier that hate emerges with the help of an enabling environment. Indeed, Christian Picciolini, an American former neo-Nazi and the co-founder of Life After Hate, an organization whose mission is to help people leaving hate groups, suggests that individuals concerned with the achieving of hate crimes went through traumatic or difficult times before uttering those crimes, and that it is from those episodes that their anger emerges: “I was a marginalized kid. I had been bullied.
While it was all misdirected, being marginalized and disaffected and feeling abandoned, I was willing to trade in the feeling of power, when I felt the most powerless, for something that was evil and eventually swallowed whole.” (Picciolini, 2018). I believe that this idea is rather delicate. Although we live in a society that now more than ever prides itself on advocating for those affected by mental health as well as those concerned, damaged by antecedents, I don’t believe that those very same aspects that are defended in other cases should here be the result of such acts. However, it is still important to consider those aspects in order to gain a better understanding of where hate is born.
Some argue that all humans are born with the same rights and duties, but that not all humans are born free. By this I mean that there may be a correlation between privileges and success. Being underprivileged may indeed have an important impact on someone’s ability to see the difference between right and wrong. However, and no matter one’s definition of those two concepts, every individual is bound to the very same laws that unite a society. And so an interesting misconception -I believe, about the public sphere that people sometimes have is that there is only one public sphere.
Lord Patrick Devlin, an English magistrate, poses a causal link between two syllogisms. The first is that society is based on the moral consensus of the majority of its members, the second that the law should be the reflection of the latter since it founds society (Benoit, 2018). To this, Herbert Hart, a British philosopher, responds that since the development of a society is of collective matter, then the values that were adopted by this society in order to progress and preserve its roots makeup up for a shared morality of sorts (Benoit, 2018).
As such, while being entitled to our own private actions, we are still bound to the same laws. While it could be considered a bit of a far fetched reasoning, the reason why I found the example of the debate between Hart and Devlin relevant is that I linked it to what Perry and Scrivens write about the idea of an enabling environment. Just because the majority of the ideas surrounding us dictate a certain lifestyle or a certain range of thoughts, it does not mean in any way that this is what reality is.
In Facebook Fueled Anti-Refugee Attacks in Germany, the following can be read: “ even if only a minority of users express vehement anti-refugee views, once they dominate the newsfeed, this can have consequences for everyone else.” (Taub and Fisher, 2018). Although I do agree with the idea that certain types of content found on social media such as Facebook may have consequences on certain viewer’s values, or integrity, I believe that Taub and Fisher seem to be forgetting about a feature available on Facebook, which is that the platform allows viewers to see a certain type of content only if they researched it, or showed an incline to be interested in a particular topic, via the use of the endorsement to certain groups, or the “liking” of certain pages. It seems as though Fisher and Taub could be making the recommendation to protect ourselves from certain content found on Facebook in order not to become violent.
However, and although I do agree with the idea of autonomous protection of one self, I believe that individuals who are more inclined to be interested in hate content will already have some sort of pre-existing relationship with to those kinds of content before even trying to get closer to those ideas via Facebook, and that the real solution here would be closer to finding better ways to help those very people from getting closer to hateful ideas before it is too late.