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.

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!

Anti-Nazi und Antifa – Fotos

Post by David Cranswick

Much of the debate around hate on the internet inevitably focuses on those propagating hate; the neo Nazis, the white supremacists, xenophobes, etc. If you listen to some of the more hyperbolic news stories out there, then the Internet is a cesspit of hate and violence, seething with extremists preaching their message from every metaphorical soapbox out there. Response to this gloomy image, naturally enough, tends to focus on government as the answer; more legislation, more censorship, tighter controls over the internet. Sarkozy’s recent response to the Toulouse Shootings is one notable incidence of this kickback, while much of the coverage regarding the trial of Anders Breivik has carried a strong undertone of repugnance at even permitting Breivik an opportunity to voice his views. The general desire floating around appears to be – simply shut these people up.

But if social media and web 2.0 applications allow those at the extremes of the political spectrum to voice their opinions, surely they also allow those opposing them to make their voices heard.

Flickr is an interesting website; while nominally a photosharing site, it also contains strong elements of a social networking forum. The photostream feature has a Twitteresque feel to it, while a Flickr contact is essentially a Facebook friend in disguise, and the variety of groups, pools, and commenting venues makes the site as much a social venue as strictly a photosharing site.

Simple word searches or group searches will instantly yield a solid result of anti – Nazi or anti – fascist material, and after cruising through enough of it, the same usernames keep on popping up. These individuals provide extensive amounts of content, with pictures ranging in the tens of thousands, while also administering, moderating, or contributing to many groups dedicated to combating the extremist movements, Anti-Nazi und Antifa – Fotos being one example. A simple network analysis of some of these users reveals a dense community of well connected individuals, most of whom also maintain a presence on Twitter, Facebook, or the blogosphere.

Many of these individuals are self proclaimed photojournalists who document aspects of the nazi/anti-nazi debate, most noticeably demonstrations. The Dresden marches and countermarches feature prominently, as do many other protests dedicated to promoting or combating the neo-nazi movement. All of this material weaves together in a coherent anti extremist movement through comments, dialogue, discussion, and raising awareness, the same as any other social initiative.

But curiously, the individuals posting this material demonstrate a strong suspicion, if not downright hostility towards government and police. For every photo of a protestor holding a sign expressing an anti-extremist sentiment, there are two displaying a menacing line of riot police, batons and shields held at the ready. User profiles are typically bare, multiple aliases are common, and most archives are tagged with a statement which includes something along the lines of, “I am not a Nazi.” Considering some of the more draconian proposals regarding control of internet content floating around, I would have to say that their paranoia is somewhat justifiable. Ironically enough, these users are dedicated to combating extremism, but for even discussing the issue, they clearly feel threatened by government.

Ordinary citizens appear to be taking up the mantle of combating hate; Flickr is just one tiny aspect of an ever burgeoning social media landscape. Discussion, debate, ideas, and solutions are being bandied about across the relatively free internet; so clearly civil society is attempting to counter extremism on its own initiative. Perhaps the media spotlight needs to be readjusted, because for every individual propagating hate, there are well organized ordinary people out there who are fighting back. And ordinary people taking action are far more effective than any government could be.