By Stephen Lee, October 3 2018 —
A recent story published by the Gauntlet identified a University of Calgary student as an administrator for the Instagram account @rightwingism, which posted anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist content. Furthermore, the page had been offered potential funding by Philip Schuman, a United Conservative Party candidate for the Calgary-Glenmore riding. Covering cases like this is important because it ensures that we do not forget past lessons and that hate ceases to spread.
With neo-Nazism and white supremacy rearing its ugly head in North America, it’s important to remember how extremist ideologies became prominent historically. As the Nazi party gained popularity leading into the 1930s, the spread of anti-Semitic rhetoric increased until it dominated Central Europe, justifying the genocide of Jewish peoples, Slavic peoples, Romani, homosexuals and anyone who they deemed genetically inferior, such as people with disabilities or serious illnesses. Looking back, the catalyst of the rise of the Nazi party was words — ideas spread in hateful written propaganda, providing a scapegoat for economic strife.
There is inherent power in words, as they allow us to articulate our thoughts and beliefs. This subsequently allows us to rationalize our actions — no matter how abhorrent — if we believe them to be right.
When we fail to call out the dangerous views that are expressed by groups like @rightwingism, we create space for hate to grow and allow the memory of the past to become insignificant. The memory of the atrocities committed at the hands of the Nazi party and its collaborators cannot be forgotten. The genocide of 12-million people should not be remembered with fondness or depicted as an “edgy” joke, nor should those who orchestrated the crime. We need to remember these events and learn from the mistakes made by society. By covering hate speech, we ensure that these lessons are not lost.
And it isn’t exclusive to anti-Semitism. Condemnation of interracial marriage, as appeared on @rightwingism, also needs to be exposed. We cannot forget the egregiousness of racial segregation. If the memories of past discriminations fade, we fail to learn and become trapped in cyclical mistakes, at which point we cannot say society has progressed since the events of either the Holocaust and the civil rights movements.
It should also be noted that this is not an infringement on freedom of expression. Nothing is stopping anyone from saying bigoted things on the internet. Rather, there are consequences for such behaviour, from which one cannot escape. When the Gauntlet named Leslie Gillam as one of the page’s administrators, it was not to scrutinize his personal politics, which he says centre on open political discourse. There is nothing wrong with political discourse, but what @rightwingism proliferates is not political discourse — it is hate speech.
The Gauntlet ensured that the dissemination of hate did not go unnoticed. A failure to do so would allow it to grow. It would allow continued decay of the memory of heinous crimes and would perpetuate the repetition of past mistakes. Only by acknowledging the past and understanding what happened can we grow as a society.