Hate 2.0 In the News

To read more about Hate 2.0 in the news, see below.

July 2012
Hate 2.0 is currently featured in the Summer 2012 edition of the Carleton University Magazine. Read the interview with Jennifer Evans and see the photoshoot with project leaders and students. http://cualumni.carleton.ca/magazine/summer-2012/find-out-how-social-media-challenges-the-hate-merchants/

May 2012
Erica Fagen’s post “Flickr, Protest, and ”Vernacular Creativity: A Report on Hate 2.0 Research” was featured as an Editors’ Choice on Digital Humanities Now on July 5th, 2012. To see the link to that post, click here.


Men, Murder, and …. Metrosexuality? Masculinity in a Mediatized Age

Post by Jennifer Evans

All alliterations aside, it is indeed curious to see how the media has seized upon Anders Breivik”s masculinity. Almost from the very beginning, when word first surfaced of the attacks on Utoye, Breivik’s image, whether in a wet-suit or sporting a preppy pink collar, circulated widely in the digital arena, putting a face, literally, to the man behind these heinous crimes. It didn’t take much digging to turn up a treasure trove of information about his own self-perception. Alongside his vitriol against the supposed Islamification of Europe was proof positive that this was a man deeply invested in performing the role of ascetic, mastermind, and — if need be — martyr. At the center of this, as SUNY-Stoneybrook sociologist Michael Kimmel noted in a widely-circulating blog entry comparing Breivik”s self-portrayal to that of homegrown terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, was a particular vision of masculinity under siege and a prescription for the kind of man needed to make things right. The Breivik case may be many things: a clarion call for the continued promotion of multiculturalism in a changing Europe, an example of the fine line between mental illness and criminal consent, and a social media spectacle. But it is also, fundamentally, a case study in 21st century masculinity in a heavily mediatized age.

There is already good work circulating online on the hows and whys of radicalization like the Demos think tank’s report on radical movements in the UK and Canada. Doctoral students like Ov Cristian Norocel are hard at work interrogating the construction of radical right populist masculinities in east and northern Europe. And even Kimmel’s next book will explore the links between masculinity, self-perception, and extreme group behaviour in Scandinavia and the US. But as feminist blogger Amanda Marcotte observed almost from the very beginning, very little attention has been paid to what appeared most obvious of all, at least in Breivik’s manifesto: the link between misogyny and the racial politics of populist hate. As she commented in a post on Pandragan: “misogyny and violence go hand in hand so often because misogynists really buy deeply into the idea that women are weak and men are “strong”, by which they mean aggressive.”

Gender-aka-masculinity has certainly entered media discourse surrounding the Breivik case but what about femininity — not just in Marcotte’s meaning, as in the lack of engagement with misogyny and the far right — but in relation to Breivik himself? On this question, yesterday”s testimony of Breivik’s four friends, and media reaction to it, proves most telling.

Writing for the Telegraph (and tweeting from court) Richard Orange quoted that Breivik”s friends were concerned he was becoming depressed and reclusive in 2006 as a result of personal struggles surrounding his suppressed homosexuality. A failed internet date, withdrawing to his mother”s house, the use of powder and make-up — all proof, apparently, that Breivik was struggling with his sexuality, and dredging up in the process the time-honored link between homosexuality and right-wing violence.

This link between repressed desire and extreme violence has been made before. Every decade or so a book comes on the market with spurious claims about Hitler’s homosexuality. For some, the notion of sexual dissonance provides critical insight into the orchestration of genocide in a way that race thinking, rightist ideology, imperial designs, and total power does not. Even the debate over the US Don”t Ask Don’t Tell policy saw Defend the Family President Stephen Lively claim that gays should not serve in the military since “open homosexuals are distinct from everyone else, men and women, in being exceptionally brutal and savage” (leading Jon Stewart and his merry gang of mischief makers to send up this thought in a video intervention).

Going back a bit further still, many of the so-called 1968ers — the name given to the generation of student activists that challenged authority and governance instead of just “tuning in, turning on, and dropping out” — took seriously Wilhelm Reich’s thesis that fascism was caused, at least in part, by bourgeois gender norms and repressed bodily desire. Historian Dagmar Herzog has shown quite convincingly that this involved a degree of mental gymnastics and a misremembering of the recent past, at least insofar as German student activists were concerned. Casting the Nazis as sexually repressed may have emboldened students to make links between their own sexual practices and the morality of the movement, but it also traded on earlier suggestions that there was something downright nefarious about the sexual politics and practices of the right.

History shows that the Breivik case was not the first time that soft masculinity was maligned alongside homosexuality, whose repression could bring national shame and scorn. It also wasn’t the first time that homosexuality was used to attack certain political perspectives and goals. As far back as 1908, imperial Germany found itself in the throes of the Eulenberg Scandal, which ended the carriers of several high-ranking aristocratic members of Kaiser Wilhelm”s inner circle, including the military commander of Berlin Lieutenant General Kuno Graf von Moltke and the Kaiser’s personal adviser in matters of state Phillip Prince zu Eulenburg-Hertefeld. Like the mediatized Breivik case, which provides a timely window into “end of multiculturalism” policies and integration debates in today”s Europe, professor emeritus James Steakley noted some time ago that the iconography of the Eulenberg scandal in Europe”s daily broadsheets was a good barometer of social cleavages in the years leading up to World War I.

And now for the cautionary tale. If the Breivik spectacle’s reach and impact is yet to be determined, it can be said with some certainty that the Eulenberg affair had wide-reaching effects on European society. Among other things, it generated national interest into the question of the origins of homosexuality and saw the rise to prominence of sexologist and gay rights campaigner Magnus Hirschfeld. It also led to the the rise of a more militant masculinist wing of the homosexual rights movement, one bent on exonerating hardened masculinity, male bonding, and militarism as the foundation of government. Many future Nazis did in fact spring out of these circles, and while they certainly didn’t make up the entirety of the movement, they did underscore a connection, at least in the minds of adherents, between the emasculating impact of industrial modernity and the pressing need for a rhetoric and practice of militant manliness in the face of these challenges.

Breivik’s flawed logic — that multiculturalism threatens to destroy the cohesiveness of European values and thus requires desperate actions by militant martyrs — has a place in the historical register as an example of the links between gender, violence, and rightist ideology. But in our struggle for answers, especially in inferring a connection between soft masculinity and repressed homosexuality with the propensity for extreme violence, we allow fiction to stand as fact, doing violence in our own right to all those whose lives — and lifestyles — serve as a testament to democratic values, progressive politics, and respect for human diversity and pluralism. And we neglect this history at our own peril.

Humour as a Means to Challenge Hate

Post by Erica Fagen

So far this month, I’ve gone through hundreds of photographs of neo-Nazi marches, as well as marches against neo-Nazis.  Neo-Nazis spread their vitriol through slogans and banners, and people oppose them with signs like these.  A question I was asking myself was whether people have more creative ways of challenging the far-right.  I found something, but it was not what I expected.  People are using humour and pop culture images to counter right-wing extremism.

Some of these humorous images I found were caricatures of Hitler with “Nazis sind doof” (Nazis are stupid) written under the drawing.  However, with more research and time, I found that people demonstrate a certain wit when ridiculing neo-Nazis.  Characters none other than Sonic the Hedgehog and “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski are brought in to challenge hate.  (The Dude exclaims that he can stop the Nazis.)  Demonstrators go beyond the simple use of pop culture references to challenge neo-Nazis; they also use witty toilet humour to prove their point.  Whether it’s hanging banners from apartments or placing clever signs on top of a Port-o-Potty, individuals show their resistance through humour.  Countering the far-right can be funny.

The question that arises from these photographs is the ethical issue of laughing at neo-Nazis.  Can we laugh at a group of people with such deep-seated xenophobic beliefs?  Scholars have grappled with this question, with the 1998 film Life is Beautiful used a case study.  However, the bigger question these photographs pose is whether humour can be seen as a way to challenge “the hate merchants.” Looking at funny images make us rethink of how people respond to hateful acts in their midst.  These humorous images show us that opposing neo-Nazis is not limited to holding signs, but includes using one”s imagination and wit.  For these reasons alone, it is key to consider toilets, caricatures, as well as “The Dude” when pursuing academic studies of the far-right. I am curious to see if I find any other pop culture icons fighting neo-Nazism.  Perhaps finding SpongeBob SquarePants in an anti-Nazi demonstration is only a matter of time.

The Need for Safe Space in Cyberspace

Post by Jennifer Evans

Today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. What better reminder of the need for vigilance and action than a hate crime on a university campus in a major Canadian city? The interesting twist? The crime was committed not on the street, in a dorm room, or in a back alley. It was a personal attack in one of the most public of spaces: online. A student was targeted for no other reason than the fact that he is queer and out. Alerted to a series of hurtful and harassing memes on the internet site Quickmeme.com, he did what any concerned and offended person would do — contact the university”s Equity Services and the police to have the matter documented, the offending memes removed, putting the perpetrators on notice. To their credit, the Ottawa Police were swift to take up the call to action.

Beyond the irony of a targeted attack being committed so close to the day trumpeted on Twitter and Facebook for raising awareness about the struggles of sexual minorities, this incident provides yet another example of the need to devise new ways to think about cyberspace as a place to combat hate, raise awareness, and reduce harm. The internet is a place where we socialize, shop, trade photos, and gossip. It is also a place where bullying happens, where harassment is unleashed, and where anonymity reigns. Aside from the trouble of tracking down IP addresses and identifying offenders, there is the matter of jurisdiction. How do we enforce existing laws (like university codes of conduct or anti-bullying legislation) while devising new and relevant strategies of education and enforcement to ensure the harassment doesn’t happen again? Because that is what this is, harassment, and it is not just offensive but it is exclusionary and sometimes downright violent, if not in an obvious way, than in ways that make it difficult for students to learn, professors to teach, and the university to function.

Why is this kind of thing so damaging? We no longer need to be told that in the internet age, information travels quickly and opinion counts as fact. Ideas posted in Web 2.0 carry the illusion of legitimacy and erudition, even if most of the time it is more idle chatter than information. And we would be wrong to think that images presented to us online are somehow benign or without impact. 21st century Mad Men remain convinced that even the most annoying ads in the sidebar of our Facebook account might surreptitiously motivate us to consume and buy.

But this is not the danger posed by memes, those quirky colourful mini posters we send to friends, colleagues, and acquaintances or post on Facebook. They may be transitory expressions of emotion and critique. But they are also social texts in the classical sense. They are documents of popular sentiment, and if they were found 20 years from now by historians, they would be taken as evidence of how our society viewed both the mundane and pressing issues of the day — with humour, irony, wit, and, in this case, outright malice.

Universities are places of learning and thinking. And they are also places of work. In response to anti-bullying legislation like Bill-168 and student-driven initiatives to have the needs of diversity met, universities across Canada are developing safe space training to better educate students, professors, and staff about ways we might all ensure that university space — online as well as in the classroom — remains free from the stain of prejudice and hate. Another way that this is happening is by re-occupying (to borrow a phrase from another movement) the space of anonymity and aggression in order to re-cast it as a place of tolerance and opposition. Whether through “It Gets Better” videos or by simply tweeting our outrage at acts such as these, we leave our own mark online in opposition to the actions of the bullies. While it might not stop the next malcontent from clicking a mouse and uploading invective, or do away with the pain of being targeted, it still might be an important step towards making cyberspace a safe space. And that certainly is a step worth taking.

Summer Research Begins!

Post by Erica Fagen

For the next three months, I will be a graduate researcher for Hate 2.0.  My research background fits in nicely with this project; I recently completed my Master”s Research Essay which discussed how the public uses YouTube for Holocaust remembrance in the 21st century.  Social media, I believe, is increasingly becoming more pertinent to study because of all the information it exposes, whether it be through Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, or other platforms.  To see how neo-Nazi and far-right activity is exhibited on Web 2.0 will ask new  questions on how hate is discussed in the public sphere.  My research for this project, however, will not be to look at neo-Nazis themselves, but how everyday people oppose their activities, marches, and demonstrations.  This will be done by seeing how they use social media outlets like Flickr and Twitter, as well as examining how their acts are reported on the Web.

My research thus far has looked at reports by the Bundesverfassungsschutz  or BfV (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution), a news series by Die Zeit about right-wing extremism in Germany, as well as citizen-run social media campaigns like no-nazi.net.  I have also benefited from David’s research, which can be seen in blog posts below.  His work on Flickr users  Boesealtermann (or angry old man) and PM Cheung will no doubt be useful for further research on how people use Flickr to take a stand against neo-Nazi and far-right activity.

In the coming weeks I will blog regularly about my findings as well as photographs and websites I find intriguing.  I hope you follow along as I discuss my research on Hate 2.0 in more detail.  And please don”t be shy to comment on my posts!