Recently, Dissident Voice contributor, the never-compromising class- and labor-blogger, Michael K. Smith, took on a dragon of the progressive left whose slaying really seems long overdue. Writing in his typically potent style, Smith hammered out the following:
How many times do we need to request a meaningless ‘denunciation’ of white supremacy? We, on what passes for a left, are supposed to be critics of corporate media, so why the dog-like obedience to its idiotic framing on this non-issue?…
Let us have no more Southern Poverty Law Center-style ‘studies’ of how right-wing fascists are poised to take over the country, which they’ve been robotically repeating since the 1970s.
Non-stories about ‘hate-group terror’ do indeed fill the corporate media—and, yes, a few real ones too. This has been so since the 1980s when sheared, pale youth spewing semi-literate vitriol filled day-time TV on a weekly basis — where did Geraldo/Oprah/Sally Jesse find these people, I always asked myself.
History Channel-Nazis and Hollywood skinheads do indeed horrify and fascinate, and they always will. That’s a good, ingrained impulse, surely. But it’s also why people like Morris Dees and his Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have been able to scare literally hundreds of millions of dollars from rich, northeastern liberals over the last fifty years. As a result, Dees and his group have been called ‘everything that’s wrong with liberalism today.’
A Canadian version of Smith’s piece would have mentioned our own SPLC: the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. Just days before Smith’s piece, the self-described ‘monitor of Canadian hate’ provided the corporate media some of the most “idiotic framing on this non-issue” I’ve ever seen framed. See the slab of a quote below which the Global News network saw fit to print from the group.
The context here is what CAN gleaned from the social-media accounts of a white guy being investigated for murdering a Muslim man in Ontario the month previous. Among other things, CAN found:
… he followed individuals associated with the national socialist black metal scenes, we are talking neo-Nazi metal. From there, we found his YouTube account, we found that he posted a video that’s associated with this chant that’s associated with this Nazi Satanist ideology, and we looked back on his other social media profiles and found that he used very specific language that would indicate that he was an adherent, or at least extremely well-versed, in the ideology of this Nazi death cult.
What is “Nazi Satanist ideology”, you ask? CAN nor the reporter tells you. What’s a “Nazi death cult”? Same thing. Nothing. Certainly, concerned Canadians would like to know things like how many death cults are out there, whether they’re here in Canada, etc., but, again, no details — and, no, this “chant” business isn’t explained either.
How do we know this isn’t all just word play designed to produce certain mental effects? We don’t, and that’s what makes uncritical reporting from corporate media seem sensationalist and deceptive.
Global News also pushed out a claim that appears on CAN’s site about Canada having a whopping 300 ‘far-right extremist’ groups. This would be news to most — including CSIS, Canada’s FBI, because it would be astounding if it were true. One research report that looked through the SPLC’s own list of around a thousand hate-groups in the US concluded it to be essentially a fraud designed to scare the public—I haven’t been able to find any details about the contents of CAN’s list anywhere online; a red flag for an objective reporter and political leaders, surely (just this week, the list was mentioned by the leader of Canada’s progressive party).
Now, I don’t disbelieve the accused killer has some alarming internet habits (nor that CAN does some good work), but the complete lack of push-back from Global News as well as its failure to seek an outside source (a law professor? CSIS spokespeople?) clearly had to do with what the corporate media has always done since at least the days of William Randolph Hearst: provoking fear from the public so they spend more attention on the media-spectacle and less on capitalism.
That this type of advocacy takes the public’s focus away, as Smith argues, is frustrating enough. But on top of it, just days after Smith’s piece, CAN received a $268,000 grant from Trudeau’s Liberal Party. The federal grant followed a corporate one of $10,000 from the Bank of Montreal just weeks after the murder of George Floyd. Both were surely intended to divert attention away from the economic oppression each is deeply invested in and likely a waste of taxpayer-funds that could be spent on things like race-relations education or de-escalation training for cops.
Even calling CAN “liberal” seems to be overly generous. As Dissident Voice contributor Yves Engler has documented, CAN apparently failed to condemn a horrific Al Quds rally in Toronto last year in which innocent Palestinian-rights protesters were hounded by 50 to 100 members of anti-Islam groups, including the notorious Jewish Defense League (which the FBI labels a terrorist organization). Interestingly enough, among the harassing protesters was something called the Soldiers of Odin, a motorcycle gang who CAN does label a hate group. On most days at least.
This likely wasn’t loafing on the job. CAN’s chair Bernie Farber has a history of defending Israeli apartheid going back to the 1980s when he led a Zionist lobbying group, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). His former CJC partner Len Rudner is also part of CAN. Counterpunch even wrote back in 2007 that Farber is somewhat of an originator of the now well-known conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism — Not one of our proudest exports, if true.
The inconsistencies don’t stop there. In 2018, he led a push to remove a statue of John A. Macdonald stating that, due to him espousing “legalized racism” and having ‘degraded’ indigenous peoples, he shouldn’t receive “any honours”, let alone statues. In addition, Farber’s given seminars on the genocide and ‘betrayal by colonialist ideals’ experienced by Canada’s First Nations. Fair enough. But such sensitivity toward indigenous rights and reconciliation should strike some as slightly incongruous considering his previous attempt to ban pro-Palestinian activists from participating in Toronto’s Gay Pride parade. Or, his defense of notorious anti-Muslim activist Daniel Pipes. Or, his opposition to York University students protesting Israel’s 2009 Operation Cast Lead, a three-week-long assault in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed, some with white phosphorous.
For progressives, emphasizing racial issues over class struggle has been controversial since it began in the late sixties. Both should be pursued without cannibalizing one another. After all, one can point to numerous examples of big business, past and present, stoking up racial tensions among workers in order to pursue a divide-and-conquer labor strategy.
Further, highlighting the problem of hate groups screams of a middle-class concern, one which working people can’t afford to elevate above the structural economic unfairness they deal with daily.
Smith’s argument that ‘white supremacist terror’ has become a distraction for the benefit of the oligarchs has plenty of merit. The near-constant and symbolic denunciations it receives from Trudeau’s Liberals and Woke Capital helps bear this out as does the SPLC’s hoovering up of donation funds that could’ve been spent in minority communities.
And merely speaking out against white-supremacist gangs shouldn’t inspire self-righteousness or automatically make you a leftist. SPLC and CAN prove this. Leaning into serious racist structures like those found in Israel and elsewhere does. Until we see this from CAN, the SPLC, etc., corporate media’s attention and our tax dollars should be spent elsewhere.