Why we should force racists out of their anony­mous dark holes

Waterloo Region Record - - Editorials & Comment - PETULA DVO­RAK

Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, is Amer­ica, neo-Nazis, cute cafés and all.

Here’s your chance, closet racists, key­stroke neo-Nazis and dog-whistling white su­prem­a­cists.

The stage is yours in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal this week­end, and it is time to stand up for your be­liefs and show your faces in pub­lic. Come, step away from your com­put­ers. Take your hoods and masks off, smile for the cam­eras.

Of course, much of the city — and the na­tion, and me — would pre­fer the “white civil rights” rally, as the Unite the Right Rally 2 was de­scribed to the Na­tional Park Ser­vice in the per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion, just go away.

When these big­ots gath­ered with their torches and their tor­tured be­liefs in Char­lottesville last year, there was vi­o­lence that led the death of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old coun­ter­protester.

No­body wants that again. And no­body wants to see the blood­stained ghosts of the past res­ur­rected on our soil. Nazis? Con­fed­er­ates? Fas­cists? That was dealt with ages ago, ex­tin­guished at the cost of hun­dreds of thou­sands of Amer­i­can lives in armed con­flicts.

The racists have been in­vig­o­rated in the age of Trump.

While over­all crime has been slowly de­clin­ing in the United States since the 1990s, hate crimes in the na­tion’s largest cities jumped by 12 per cent in the past year. And they’ve been steadily ris­ing over the past four years, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial data com­piled by the Cen­ter for Study of Hate and Ex­trem­ism.

All this fresh hate is ap­palling, yes. Here is what makes it es­pe­cially in­sid­i­ous. For the most part, ex­cept for the rally in Char­lottesville and a few other gath­er­ings, the haters re­main in the shad­ows.

From the bar­rage of anony­mous, on­line, n-word ha­tred tar­get­ing the first African-Amer­i­can fire chief in one of north­ern Vir­ginia’s wealth­i­est sub­urbs to the racist fly­ers be­ing left overnight on porches across the re­gion, to swastikas show­ing up on pub­lic build­ings, the racists may be em­bold­ened, but they are cer­tainly not brave.

Why won’t they come out of the shad­ows? Be­cause they are wrong.

When they are outed, when they put their real faces and their real names be­hind their sick­en­ing ideas, they suf­fer the con­se­quences meted out by civ­i­lized so­ci­ety.

“There is no place for racial ha­tred or ex­trem­ism in the Marine Corps,” wrote Maj. Brian Block in a re­lease pub­lished by the Jack­sonville Daily News in North Carolina, af­ter the corps kicked out Lance Cpl. Vasil­lios Pis­to­lis last week for his in­volve­ment in the Char­lottesville rally. “Big­otry and rad­i­cal ex­trem­ism run con­trary to our core val­ues,” Block wrote.

Pis­to­lis lost his mil­i­tary ca­reer. De­fence con­trac­tor Michael Miselis, who was also iden­ti­fied at the rally, lost his job. Stu­dent Allen Ar­men­trout was kicked out of Pen­sacola Chris­tian Col­lege in Florida af­ter he was pho­tographed stand­ing in front of the Robert E. Lee statue in Char­lottesville, Con­fed­er­ate flag in hand, three days af­ter the vi­o­lent rally. Sure, go­ing pub­lic can be costly. You can see that in the court ac­tion that un­folded in Cal­i­for­nia ear­lier this week, when Jane Doe — who also goes by the Nazi-af­firm­ing on­line han­dle “kristall.night” — fought for her anonymity.

In the law­suit filed by vic­tims, coun­ter­protesters and res­i­dents of Char­lottesville against last year’s Unite the Right rally or­ga­niz­ers, at­tor­neys tried to un­mask Kristall to learn more about the way the vi­o­lence was pro­moted.

Us­ing a mes­sag­ing app that helped hide her iden­tity, Kristall urged de­mon­stra­tors to bring hel­mets and shields, to use things like flag­poles as weapons. Ap­par­ently bold enough to or­ga­nize vi­o­lence and to use a han­dle re­fer­ring to the deadly 1938 vi­o­lence against Jews known as Kristall­nacht, Kristall is ap­par­ently ter­ri­fied of us­ing her real name. But she may not have choice af­ter a fed­eral judge in Cal­i­for­nia or­dered the app to dis­close her iden­tity.

If that hap­pens, it will get un­com­fort­able for Kristall.

When big­ots stay anony­mous, their bub­ble pro­tects them from a pub­lic reck­on­ing.

Sure, there is a school of thought that pub­lic­ity and a pub­lic fo­rum only nor­mal­izes their ha­tred and gives big­ots the spot­light they crave.

“Me­dia cov­er­age would only give them the at­ten­tion they were hop­ing for, thereby en­cour­ag­ing them to do more of the same,” wrote Eliz­a­beth Moore, a for­mer mem­ber of the Cana­dian white ex­trem­ist group, The Her­itage Front, in a piece pub­lished this week in Maclean’s. “The only way to suc­cess­fully deal with those who deal in hate, some ar­gue, is to smother them with si­lence.”

But, given her own ex­pe­ri­ences, she dis­agrees.

“It is a rea­son­able the­ory, but it doesn’t work in prac­tice. As a for­mer ex­trem­ist, I know this first­hand,” she wrote. Go­ing pub­lic made her un­der­stand how out-of-whack their move­ment was. “They were even­tu­ally stopped not through si­lence, but by ex­pos­ing them and con­fronting them at ev­ery turn.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.