Search, Mine, and Collect: Our Digital Humanities Methodology

Post by Erica Fagen

“Search, Scrape, Clip, Cite.”[i] These are the steps Hate 2.0 collaborator Shawn Graham suggested in his Prezi earlier this year entitled “Digital Tools & Perspectives for New Graduate Students in History.” Both David Cranswick and I used this shorthand in our early research on the Hate 2.0 project. First came “searching” (going through Flickr and various websites), then “scraping” (Outwit Hub Firefox plugin), followed by “clipping” (Evernote) and finally “citing” (Zotero). The subsequent paragraphs will present this process in greater detail as well as the digital humanities methods used to identify the amateur photographers at the centre of our analysis.

When I first started my research on Hate 2.0, Jen suggested that I search through the following websites: the webportal of the Bundesverfassungsschutz or BfV (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution), no-nazi.net (an anti-Nazi civil society initiative promoting web literacy for today’s youth), and the web presence of the Amadeu Antonio Stiftung (a foundation named in memory of a victim of right-wing violence). All of these websites were very helpful in familiarizing me with tactics for dealing with neo-Nazism in today”s Germany. Jen also suggested I look at Die Zeit”s newspaper series “Neue deutsche Nazis” (New German Nazis) , where for some time journalists have been compiling special reports on this emerging trend.[ii] It was at this point that I decided I would apply some digital humanities tools. In order to see the common themes in eleven articles in the series which appeared between March 8th to May 16th 2012, I decided to use Voyant Tools to identify which words were most commonly used, as well to see if I could learn anything new from the resulting tag cloud. (I recently re-entered the article information into Voyant, as the link from May was not working).

My initial results were not what I was expecting. Voyant deduced that words like “und” (and), “dem” and “der” (variations of the) were the most common in articles about neo-Nazis. Knowing this was incorrect, I changed the language settings to German and applied so-called stopwords, words like “and,” “a,” and “the.” Instantly, my results were more in line with what I was looking for: words like “Neonazis,” “Rechtextremismus” (right-wing extremism) and “Deutschland” were the most common words in the eleven texts. Other words such as “NPD” and “Dortmund” were less popular, but appeared 66 and 38 times, respectively. The tag cloud can be seen here. Though this exercise was not as useful as I thought it would be, it did confirm that “Rechtsextreme” and “Rechtsextremismus” were popular keywords, and would be useful search terms when mining through Flickr photographs.[iii]

Following this brief experiment with Voyant, I consulted David Cranswick’s work with digital humanities tools. He used Outwit Hub, Evernote, and Zotero. In order to “scrape” material and collect data from the Web, David used the Outwit Hub Firefox plugin. To better understand this process, I ran an exercise in Outwit Hub. Recreating the process of “catching” links, images, and other kinds of data and then exporting it to csv and HTML files, I now understood how David found his information. To read David’s reflection on his digital humanities process, click here and here.

David’s research notes on Evernote proved to be invaluable when searching through the work of these amateur activist photographers. Each photographer had two to five notes which included (if available) their Profile Information, Flickr profile, Twitter profile, Contact Network, and blog/personal website. The entries of Björn Kietzmann, Boeseraltermann, mikael.zellman, neukoellnbild, PM Cheung, Thomas Rassloff, and WildeBilder were among those examined. After reading that PM Cheung and Boeseraltermann were at the core of the network, with Boeseraltermann, an activist dedicated to photographing anti-Nazi themes, and PM Cheung, a highly connected documentarian dedicated to capturing a variety of demonstrations and causes, I turned to their Flickr pages and analyzed their online collection. They did not disappoint — both activists do an excellent job in documenting neo-Nazi rallies and creative forms of anti-Nazi opposition. (One of Boeseraltermann’s photographs can be seen here, one of PM Cheung’s here). Though this work is interesting for a variety of reasons, I decided to look further into the work of photographers who were labeled as “intermediate” within the larger network. When I researched the work of Thomas Rassloff on Flickr, I went through tags dealing with neo-Nazi and anti-Nazi themes such as “Nazidemo,” “Gegenprotest,” “Demo,” and “Rassismus.” Following this, I discovered that Rassloff”s photographs were engaging and imaginative, so I decided that Rassloff’s work would a nice complement to the others for this article.[iv] One photograph of Thomas Rassloff that is particularly intriguing may be seen here.

The styles of the three photographers are different, yet they all have a strong activist tone to their work. The process of selecting them, as well as learning more about mainstream media reports on the rise of neo-Nazism, was greatly aided by the use of digital humanities technologies, without which the selection process would have been much more difficult. Thanks to the process of “Search, Scrape, Clip, Cite,” collecting the vast amounts of information on anti-Nazi activists was an organized, interesting, as well as fun process.

Although we can say with some certainty that they formed part of a network community of anti-Nazi activists, confirmed by the degree of in- and out-group relationality and the mere fact that they comment on each other”s images, our article will explore ways we might gauge their three-way conversation, and its impact in the diverse publics that emerge online as their images are tweeted, tagged, and shared.

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[i] Shawn Graham, “Digital Tools & Perspectives for New Graduate Students in History,” Prezi, November 28, 2011, accessed July 5, 2012, http://prezi.com/jeohvtgf32aa/digital-tools-perspectives-for-new-graduate-students-in-history/.
[ii] “Serie: ‘Neue deutsche Nazis,’” Die Zeit, March 3-May 16, 2012, accessed May 17, 2012, http://www.zeit.de/serie/neue-deutsche-nazis.
[iii] Stéfan Sinclair and Geoffrey Rockwell, “Cirrus,” Voyant, July 5, 2012, http://voyant-tools.org/tool/Cirrus/>

[iv] It should be noted here that Jen and I took over this Zotero account, which we now use a citing and bibliographic tool for articles relating to protest, social media, and visual culture. We continue to use the “Cite” step highlighted in the Prezi.

Collaboration 101 or Writing as Social Process

Post by Jennifer Evans

This post will surely evolve over the course of the next hours. I can say that with absolute confidence because I have given Erica full license to jump in and edit my words, language, and sentence structure, as needed. I also know that I”ll be revising it on the fly (as the kids say), given multiple obligations and the different hats I wear at any given time (grad chair, researcher, supervisor, wading pool aficionado, oh, and moderately engaged parent). Why mention this at the outset of a post related to our article on social media and online hate? Because it goes to the heart of the issue of writing quickly, for immediate consumption, laying bare the process, and leveling (somewhat?) the playing field.

In the short space I have here, I want to make the case for the merits of writing quickly and collaboratively, online. As Erica outlined in yesterday’s missive, over the next few weeks, we”ll be workshopping portions of our article manuscript as a series of blog posts. Each section, or mini-section, will be tweeted (and FB’d) so as to attract interest and, we hope, solicit feedback as the ideas take form and shape. Blogging the article is more than a simple gimmick. Since one of our arguments about Flickr is that it serves as a unique (and important) form of 21st century protest, creating new and diverse publics through on- and offline participatory culture, it seems only logical that we explore this notion through our own digital writing.

In this context of rapidly evolving public spheres, it is important to consider the contradictory claims made by media experts on web 2.0’s potential to shape existing power relations and status structures, enabling marginalized voices to coalesce, mobilize, and be heard. Beyond the issue of group behaviour, even on role of social media in individual identity formation the jury is apparently out. While anthropologist Tom Boehlstorff and art historian Jennifer Gonzalez have stressed the playful and indeed liberatory work of online communities (MUDs and MOOs) as places where people re-imagine their identities as virtually human “digital assemblages,” Lisa Nakamura has argued that more often than not social media simply perpetuates time-honoured representations of racial and ethnic identities through the construction and use of cybertypes, basically new variations of old ideas.

By now, we”ve all groaned our way through citizen commentaries in newspaper reports, reminded of the limits of the medium for critical discourse and debate. And who hasn’t been forced over water cooler conversation to either defend or invoke Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in the New Yorker on the pros and cons of social media activism? Even the skeptics cannot resist the force and erudition of Pulitzer Prize winning author Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain which has sounded the alarm against the more sinister workings of the internet in changing the way we process, interpret, and store information. According to the naysayers, deep thinking, critical thinking, and anti-foundational political thought and action is just not possible in our virtual communities.  While I agree it would be too much to suggest that tweeting is to understanding what writing is to knowledge, ie. it takes more than words on the page to make for a true meeting of minds, what about the internet”s potential for bringing an audience into conversation with the way academic ideas percolate and evolve? What benefit is there in making transparent how we hash out our arguments and make ideas jell? Might there also be something inherently productive, maybe even political, about unveiling the process, warts and all?

As explored recently in an online forum on cultures of collaboration in the contemporary university, in academic writing, we draft in isolation, only to share our thoughts with trusted friends at the end of the process of editing, revising, and rethinking. Despite efforts to promote interdisciplinarity as the stuff of intellectual debate and exchange, we tend to stay within the comfort of established disciplinary networks, especially in the early phase of writing. Journals themselves are by and large discipline specific, despite a few notable exceptions. After another few rounds of edits, where we unmake and remake our drafts in light of peer-reviewers” comments, a finished manuscript might finally be ready for publication, only a quick check of the watch shows that this will take place some 6-12 months after the initial outline was penned. It then can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months for that same piece to emerge in print, or for download, more often than not behind a pay wall, meaning average folks (and recent grads!) won”t be able to access the information without a friend of a friend with a current university library card. In other words, in today”s university, there remain considerable personal, disciplinary, and institutional impediments to getting the message out, doing things differently, and experimenting with new writing styles, ideas, and forms.

In our case, blogging the article provides several unique opportunities to negotiate our creative as well as intellectual voices while playing to our different strengths. There is an ethical dimension to this as well, as we unpack the politics of editing each other”s words, intervening in each other”s process as it were. And then there is the thorny issue of experience. I may be the tenured professor, with a few articles and a book under my belt, but it is Erica who is fluent in digital humanities tools, arguments, and practitioners. She is the student — albeit a talented one about to embark on a PhD at one of the US’s best Public History programmes — but I am surely the one with the steepest learning curve.

How is this any different from garden variety collaboration? The social media component of fast writing, blogging, and tweeting our posts makes it well nigh impossible to hide the blemishes when an idea is obviously still gestating. And maybe that too is not entirely horrible. There has been tremendous interest of late in the “Busy Trap” with journalists, bloggers,faculty unions, and scholars lobbying for a rethink of how we measure output and “excellence.” Not only is the blogging of ideas a very natural way of communicating research results for a wide audience, but posts evolve and change with each tweak, edit, and rewrite, showing anyone who has hazarded to stop by the challenges, stumbling blocks, weaknesses, and potential payoffs of a project’s parameters. While the digital medium is also well-suited to the ebbs and flows of contemporary life and the challenges of never having enough time, perhaps more importantly, it allows us to chip away at the “data” and make all manner of mistakes in the service of “getting it right.” Making the process more transparent and accessible while fessing up to the fact that ideas evolve  in well-structured chaos reminds us too that writing is also, fundamentally, a social process, perhaps even a human one, deeply flawed but dynamic and in a constant state of amelioration, evolution, and change. While perhaps not inherently democratic, interminably accessible — heck, not even always erudite and good — fast writing in digital space is most certainly creative, and in an age of rampant austerity, that alone is reason enough to consider its productive potential as a commitment to the advancement of ideas.

These Racists in the East

Post by Christiane Wilke

The Berlin Wall has dissolved. I know, it shouldn’t be news that the Berlin Wall is no more, even to historians. And I am not a historian. But we did have some major issues with creating access to our beautiful blog, which is why there was silence from a number of us. Isn’t this ironic that a blog on social media falters for lack of access? Now we’re here, ready to post, discuss, and comment.

My work for Hate 2.0 will focus on representations of Neonazis and otherness in Germany. The revelations about the NSU terror cell that killed ten people over a number of years has shown that migrants are seen as others, strangers, and suspect by the German police. The police long suspected that the migrants among the victims had been killed by someone from “organized crime” circles from their respective ethnic communities. At the official memorial ceremony to the victims, relatives spoke very powerfully of their alienation that was caused by not only losing a family member, but also becoming suspect in the eyes of the police. This is one side of the story.

The other side of the story is that the NSU, a core of three people from East Germany, is often described as an East German phenomenon. Well , is it? Or are there factors that make it easier for Neonazis to work, to find followers, and to find acceptance that are present in East Germany but also elsewhere? To me, the danger in the rush to declare the NSU an East German product is to miss the broader social connections that enable these terror networks to operate. This is not only dangerous for those whose security is endangered by Neonazis. It also does something else: those who affirm that Neonazis are an East German problem and blame it on specifically East German causes (the GDR education system, legacies of authoritarian ideologies) affirm the immunity of their own West German communities from the “virus” of Neonazi ideologies and violence. So there is a lot at stake: identity, inclusion, and the search for the realistic causes of hate and violence.

The problem of finding the racism elsewhere, in Europe typically east of wherever one is located, is fairly widespread. The recent soccer/football Eurocup is a good case in point. Ahead of the tournament, the British press was abhorred by racism and anti-Semitism in Ukraine, contrasting it nicely with the UK’s much improved record of diversity. The cup did in fact bring out the racism in the fans of several European countries. The Russian and Spanish teams were formally fined for the racist chants and monkey noises of their fans. Italian star striker Mario Balotelli drew the ire of Croatian, German as well as Spanish fans. German fans carried racist banners, glorified or belittled the Holocaust in Poland, wore jerseys that combined the German team’s colours with Nazi insignia, and insulted Polish and Ukrainian service workers. The journalists covering the fans did nothing (in German). After Mario Balotelli scored the two Italian goals against Germany in the semifinal, German fans took their frustration to twitter and other social networks, complaining that they did not lose to the Italian side but to an African player (well, they used slightly different terms). In Spain, some fans celebrated the Eurocup victory using fascist symbols. Between Spain, Croatia, Germany, Russia, and Poland, the racism accusations span pretty much the entire continent. True, there might be degrees and nuances, and the ideologies and expressions differ. Yet the picture is not as East/West as the pre-tournament media frenzy would have predicted.

What does this all add up to? First, it is popular to locate racism elsewhere and thereby appear to be better, more enlightened, more civilized. Second, the Eurocup showed that soccer/football fans from many of the participating teams use racist language and signs towards players of other teams. Successful and confident black players like Balotelli are especially popular targets. Third, the process of locating racism elsewhere also works to hide or minimize the racism ”at home.” In Europe, racism is officially unacceptable, and thus it is popular to disown it by placing it elsewhere. Look there, in the East, these racists! It’s not that there aren’t any, but not only there, but also here, wherever that may be.

There is work ahead, and now that the Berlin Wall around the blog is gone, let’s go ahead and do it!

Flickr, Protest, and “Vernacular Creativity:” A Report on Hate 2.0 Research

Post by Erica Fagen

This past month was a busy one in terms of familiarizing myself with literature related to Hate 2.0. I dedicated the month of June to reading up on theoretical and methodological approaches to Flickr and social media more broadly, while engaging with the literature on online protest, creative forms of opposition, and the role, place, and function of emotion, camp, and performance in demonstrations.  This research was critical background reading for how we plan to conceptualize the work of Boeseraltermann (@Boeseraltermann), PM Cheung (@pm_cheung), and Thomas Rassloff (@ThomasRassloff), amateur activist photographers who document neo-Nazi demonstrations and the counter-protests of their opponents. Drawing on this literature, and combing through the hundreds of photographs taken by these three men, I feel well-equipped to begin co-writing our collaborative article on what historians can do with social media. In the subsequent paragraphs, I will discuss what scholarly work I found particularly interesting, as well as highlight plans for the Hate 2.0 article I will be piecing together — here — with Jen Evans.

In terms of scholarly approaches to Flickr — the photosharing, photo album-like utility that came on the scene in 2006 — the work of Jean Burgess and “vernacular creativity” is as fascinating as it is illuminating. Burgess, a media scholar at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, argues that vernacular creativity — the term she gives to the capturing, uploading, and sharing of images, the use of hashtags to connote themes, and posting of comments  —  “drives the development and produces much of the value of the online creative networks that form part of the ”Web 2.0” model of online participatory culture” (Burgess, 118).  Flickr’s photosharing capabilities, then, are as much about the archiving of events as a commitment to the sharing of ideas in diverse and public fora. Vernacular creativity is a useful way of understanding the work of people who share photographs on Flickr.  Although most people on Flickr are not professional photographers, Burgess argues that they are “creative practitioners” who use Flickr because it allows them to be creative with their photographic work. That this creative work is also politically charged and relevant as a form of strategic opposition is an important part of the Hate 2.0 project, and will serve as the backbone of our blog entries and article in development here.

Beyond the literature on Flickr, I also looked at a variety of more traditional historical themes including the history of protest culture, the nature of online protest, avant-guard imagery and popular opposition, and the emotion and performance of protest in situ as well as online.  I read about online participatory culture and the links to real time opposition in Thomas Poell and Erik Borra”s article on the #g20report hashtag, which activists used during the G20 protests in Toronto (Poell and Borra, 1-19).  Written by a historian and data scientist, respectively, this article examines the use of this hashtag on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.  Their findings will serve a good base for our introductory remarks about what connects online events will everyday forms of opposition.  Another interesting article I read was Paul Routledge’s “Sensuous Solidarities: Emotion, Politics and Performance in the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army,” which looks at CIRCA, an organization which used clown costumes to protest the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. He argues “that sensuous solidarities constituted a series of complex, contradictory and emotive co-performances and resonances with police, other protestors and the public…” (Routledge 428). Analyzing protest through the lens of “sensuous solidarities” and emotion will no doubt be useful and will provide us with an alternative framework to look social media”s role in structuring emotional as well as online communities.  CIRCA”s subversive and creative form of protest will encourage us to think deeper as to why activists who combat hate and neo-Nazism use humourous imagery to prove their point.

In the coming weeks, Jen and I will post excerpts from our article-in-development, with the intention of garnering interest and comments from the wide Web 2.0 community.  Be sure to check this website for blog posts on digital humanities research methodology, vernacular creativity, and emotion and performance in anti-Nazi demonstrations.  If you would like to provide commentary and feedback about our work, we encourage you to do so and might just incorporate your thoughts into our manuscript. Our next post will be on how we located our data set and found photographers like PM Cheung and Thomas Rassloff, together with a discussion of the benefits of using digital humanities tools for this research project.

Xenophobia and “The Beautiful Game” – How Hate is Manifested on the Pitch

Post by Erica Fagen

Euro 2012, co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, is just four days away.  As an England fan, I hope to see the team win and succeed. (Though that may be wishful thinking, considering England’s track record in recent years).  Buzz and excitement is in the air, with people taking their jerseys out, placing their bets, and looking forward to a good tournament.  However, despite all this excitement, and the camaraderie that sport brings, there is an ugly foreshadowing to Euro.  Concerns have been expressed over the warnings of xenophobic, racist, and homophobic taunts at football stadiums.  Some Polish gay football fans asked for separate seating at matches to avoid taunts from other football fans. Anti-Semitic football merchandise is being sold in Poland. Football has seen xenophobic behaviour before, the stories around Euro 2012 is just another chapter in this ugly side of football.

Franklin Foer, in his acclaimed book, How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, highlights the fact that xenophobic slurs can be heard at football matches across Europe.  The Paris Saint-Germain stadium deals with crude chants, as does Chelsea’s.  Anti-Semitic taunts at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium have been talked about elsewhere.  Given the prevalence of xenophobia, racism, and homophobia in football, it makes us rethink the role of sport in society.  Is it really a uniting factor, as the Olympic mystique suggests?  The stories surrounding Euro 2012 not only make us reconsider sport culture, but how hate is discussed and handled in relation to professional sports.

With all these things said about Euro 2012 and other ugly incidents in football, it is important to note that individuals and organizations are taking a stance against various forms of hate in sports.  The Kick It Out Campaign seeks to “kick out” racism in sports, and a recent campaign of theirs featured Premier League stars like Frank Lampard speaking against hatred. This organization”s website also features a story about “Football Against Prejudices,” a Ukrainian organization comprised of anti-racist activists and football fans, who are telling tourists not to be concerned about neo-Nazi groups, as they will likely stay away from the big events.  They are dedicated to taking a stance against neo-Nazi activity and work closely with other organizations to monitor right wing activity. One of the organizations they are working with is FARE. FARE, or Football Against Racism in Europe, was founded in 1999 to combat any kind of discrimination in football.  This organization now has branches in more than forty countries.  These organizations, along with the humourous, anti-Nazi photographs I discussed in my last post, are also a kind of resistance against “the hate merchants.”  Dedicated to fighting xenophobia and discrimination in sports, they are key to consider when discussing how people counter hate in their midst.  Like the photographs on Flickr, these organizations show us that people are indeed taking a stance against racism, homophobia, and other forms of hate. Along with cheering for England during the Euro 2012 tournament, I will be sure to see how people combat hate in their midst, whether as a football superstar or dedicated football fan.

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.