Canada has a resilient and long-standing international reputation for being progressive and inclusive, but there is clearly growing right-wing extremist (RWE) movements in Canada, particularly those espousing white nationalist, neo-Nazi, and anti-authority views. Increasingly, several of these RWEs have captured global headlines with their acts of terrorism. This increase of terror activities and hate crimes are recent. As Perry, Mirrlees, and Scrivens (2019) demonstrate, former US President Donald J. Trump’s discourse and policies (the ‘Trump effect’) have galvanized Canada’s RWEs and particularly helped to mobilize White Nationalists in Canadian politics. There appears to be a correlation between Canada’s RWE resurgence and the Trump Administration: after Trump was elected, there were many instances of hate speech and violence across Canada, the most significant of which was the January 2017 attack on at Quebec City’s Islamic Cultural Centre by a white nationalist (Page, 2019), and whose actions Trump did not condemn. Alexandre Bissonnette killed six people and injured 19 others and was highly influenced by anti-Muslim, anti-feminist, and white supremacist hate speech, primarily found on ‘jock shock’ talk radio shows in Quebec (see Mahrouse, 2018). Moreover, even after the Quebec City Mosque attack, academics and newspapers reported that hate speech toward Muslims actually increased in response to the attack (see Olteanu et al. 2018; Perreaux and Freeze, 2017). In June 2021, a 20-year-old white nationalist also ran down a Muslim-Canadian family on the street of London, Ontario with his car, killing four people. The murder outraged the country, and the incident again challenged the international reputation of Canada as a progressive and inclusive country.
Other recent acts of violence in Canada have included racially motivated attacks on racialized and indigenous individuals, graffiti and defacing of mosques and synagogues, posters with hate speech scattered in one of Canada’s most racially diverse cities, and ‘Make Canada Great Again’ slogans appearing throughout the country (see Perry et al., 2019). In fact, after years of decline, race and religious-based hate crimes in Canada increased significantly from 2016 to 2020 with over 2000 incidents in 2020 alone, an increase of nearly 100% percent from the 2019, with Ontario and Quebec seeing the largest increase in these incidents (Statistics Canada, 2021). While the majority of hate crimes have been non-violent crimes, such as mischief and public incitement to hatred, there has been great concern that the intention of these crimes is to encourage incitement to violence against racialized minorities. In fact, according to the Canadian [Terrorism] Incidents Database, from 1960 to 2015 RWEs active in promoting hate speech have been linked to at least 71 separate terrorist incidents in Canada (TSAS, 2020).
Canada’s RWEs have not received the same level of academic attention that their like-minded counterparts in the United States and Europe have. There are notable differences between the two as well. While RWEs in Canada draw significant learning and even sloganeering from counterparts in the United States, there is less emphasis on gun rights and survivalism and more emphasis on ethnic nationalism, xenophobia, ‘Canadian culture,’ and positing that the political establishment is illegitimate (See Perry and Scrivens, 2019 and Perliger, 2012). White nationalists also tend to believe that their culture is under threat by various ethnic groups, like Muslims and that a ‘globalist’ Jewish elite uses the Canadian state to the detriment of white culture. As an immigrant-receiving country where nearly a quarter of Canadians are immigrants, this is a dangerous development. Sadly, even the mere presence of ethnic minorities in Canadian society appears to be mobilizing support for RWEs and White Nationalists. The purpose of this study is to unpack interaction within Canada’s RWE network, identify network members’ location in Canada, and identify the ideas they propagate.
While RWEs have traditionally been on the margins in Canadian political party systems, two 2019 developments suggest a potential empowerment of radical right-wing ideologies and presence among mainstream society. First, a far-right-wing populist party, The People’s Party of Canada (PPC), led by former leadership candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada Maxime Bernier, entered into the 2019 Federal election. The PPC emerged with a policy platform that white nationalists favored because it included a strong emphasis on freedom of expression, the reduction of immigration to Canada, ending Canadian multiculturalism, and ‘preserving Canadian Values and Culture’, all lightening rod issues that RWEs leverage to gain social and political support for their causes (People’s Party of Canada, 2019). Second, the Canadian Nationalist Party (CNP) was also confirmed to have federal eligibility to compete in the Federal 2019 election. The CNP leader, Travis Patron, is recognized by anti-hate advocates as a white supremacist. CNP was investigated for hate crimes in June of 2019, although no substantive conclusions could be made about the target of their political statements. The source of the complaint was a video where Patron talked about a ‘parasitic tribe’; this is a phrase well-known for proponents of anti-Semitic speech (Felsenstein, 2014). Neither the PPC nor CNP were successful during the 2019 election. However, lack of popular support in an election does not denote lack popular support generally: Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system forces right and left-wing voters to strategically vote for larger parties to avoid the election of their ideological opposite. More importantly, using social contagion theory as a theoretical framework, we argue that hate speech is a radicalizing force that needs more empirical attention and mapping. Hence, the presence of these far-right parties have also galvanized the RWE network which can be hazardous for public safety.
In addition to PPC and CNP, La Partie Patriote is an attempt to expand extreme right-wing ideas to Quebec’s political mainstream. This historical Quebec nationalist party was not eligible to run candidates in the 2019 election, but organizers continued to use the election period to drum up support for their ideas and increase their membership. Since RWEs deploy ‘freedom of expression’ or ‘free speech’ concepts particularly during election periods to gain greater publicity for their ideas and to polarized voters, this study focussed on the pre-election period to determine right-wing extremists’ interactions and their key views. In keeping with social contagion theory assumptions, identifying these views is necessary to explain their potential threats and proclivity to violence.
Drawing on academic studies of the endogenous ideological formation of RWEs, the Canadian RWE group radicalization process, and the construction of right-wing identities online (Perry and Scrivens, 2016a; Tanner and Campana, 2014; Perry and Scrivens, 2016b), we use social network analysis to map a large number of textual documents found online. Through this we determine interactions or links between key RWE thought leaders or nodes and their sympathizers. From there we then conduct both a discourse and correspondence analysis to substantively illustrate their ideological views and display in a simplified matrix (further elaborated on in the Findings section). Expanding on the methodology used by Perry and Scrivens (2016a, 2016b, 2017, 2019), we aim to understand the ties between RWE forum members particularly those with white nationalist, neo-Nazi, and anti-authority sympathies. We collected documents and texts by examining their Twitter accounts, forum postings, commentary, and discussions, news media outputs, and Facebook postings as inputs into or social network map.
Specifically, we apply a theoretical framework to note how “…the spread of radicalization may proceed through a social contagion process, in which extremist ideologies behave like complex contagions that require multiple exposures for adoption.” (Youngblood, 2020, p.x) Looking for endogenous factors is in keeping with the theoretical supposition that radicalization has less to do with psychological factors (See Misiak et al., 2019) than it is by repeated exposure to and reinforcement of radical ideas within groups (See Jensen et al., 2020). Social contagion processes have been shown to help radicalize terrorists as well (Cherif et al., 2009). But unlike contagion in an epidemiological sense, social contagion of radicalization is not just vertical and horizontal, but also ‘oblique transmission mechanism’ where “ideologies can be propagated easily” (Cherif et al., 2009, p. 2). Youngblood (2020) also found that repeated exposure to messages on social media had helped to radicalize individuals over space and time. In general, right-wing extremism does not rest solely on political, economic, or social changes, but on the interaction effect of these various elements. Theoretically, we can connect the rising polarization with the quest for significance and specifically how individual tendencies towards political extremism are associated with grievance and worldviews (Van Prooijen & Kuijper, 2020). This builds on a large corpus of literature that notes how social media can play a role in an individuals’ radicalization. This is not just about social media used as a means of recruitment (See Aly et al., 2017), but also how RWE movements use the internet and interactive websites, like Stormfront, as a safe place, particularly if anonymized, for them to interact and converse across large physical distances (See Winter, 2019). In effect, RWEs can build a virtual community thanks to online technologies and bypass the need for formal and in-person recruitment of sympathizers (De Koster and Houtman, 2008). Moreover, Daniels’ (2009, p. 50) examination of Stormfront website differentiated between active users who create content and build a sense of community and passive participants who lurk, are curious, or only read the content. As Daniels herself notes, these are not exhaustive categories and individuals can move and shift between them. We suggest that users can also incite participants into violence, negating the idea that hate speech is just speech.
Using Garde-Hansen and Gorton (2013) theoretical insights which examine the online mediation or media ecology of emotion and affect as a multi-modal phenomena of online interactions we also get a better understanding of the interactions or ties between the various nodes in the RWE network we have laid out. As Ahmed (2010) explains, “affect is what sticks, or what sustains or preserves the connection between ideas, values, and objects” or what Garde-Hansen and Gorton call the “glue that binds and connects those ideas, values as affective in their very nature” (p. 33). Using affect theory, we are able to better understand what ideas and positions have resonance in these online interactions (see Hillis et al, 2015). In the RWE network, affect is exchanged between individuals and to their online spaces. Garde-Hansen and Gorton (2013) argue that affect is spread so that people feel the same emotions simply by seeing or seeing themselves in the other online. Online cultures are transmittable, spreadable, networked, and without self-containment. Affect is transmitted in and by critique itself, however the echo chambers that express attached engagement of the kind RWE affect expresses, make people vulnerable to what Žižek describes as falling “in love with themselves” or their group (Garde-Hansen & Gorton, 2013; Žižek, 2012) and what can be theorized as supporting online tribal forms of political orientation which take their raison d’etre from exclusion.
By starting with known RWE individuals in the social network analysis, we observed positive or neutral communications and responses denoting their understanding of affect, from and to these individuals about the political environment and their policy preferences. Negative affect mentions were not included in the social network analysis, although they were observed for anti-liberal positions (e.g. negative references to Justin Trudeau were common). Where possible, we estimated their locations. When we encountered individuals mentioned by more than one person in the existing network, we applied the same strategy to include them in the network, provided that they had content that was added during the sampling period. We then qualitatively analyzed these materials for descriptive information about their views on key issues of the 2019 Canadian election (political actors, potential policies, Party preferences, etc.) and sources of information that show affect via Twitter (e.g., retweets, mentions, and likes).
Canada’s right-wing extremists include white nationalist groups such as the Aryan Guard, Blood and Honour, the Ku Klux Klan, and anti-authority movements such as the Freeman on the Land group. We have drawn upon previous research to determine which Canadian right-wing extremist individuals and groups to include in our analysis (see Perliger, 2012; Perry and Scrivens, 2016a; Scrivens and Perry, 2017). Specifically, we used Barbara Perry and Ryan Scriven’s (2019) Right-wing Extremism in Canada, the AntiHate Canada network website, and for French-speaking RWEs involvement in La Parti Patriote to develop a primary list of RWE thought leaders (see Table 1).
|Name of Thought Leaders||Description||Platforms Used|
|Bill Noble||Member of National Socialist Party of Canada and moderator of Stormfront Canada.||Stormfront Canada Forum, Facebook, various website forums|
|Frederick (Paul) Fromm||Described as Canada’s ‘Core RWE leader’ by Perry and Scrivens (2019) and active as a white nationalist activist since the 1960s. Connected to the Nationalist Party and Canada’s Version of the Yellow Vests.||Facebook, Twitter, various websites including the Canadian Association for Free Expression (CAFE) website.|
|Brian Ruhe||A former instructor of Buddhist meditation and Hitler revisionist active online since 2011 attempting to establish himself as a ‘truth teller.’ Has a prominent white nationalist podcast.||Twitter, BitChute (vidcasting site), Facebook|
|Travis Patron||Current leader of the Canadian Nationalist Party (CNP)||Twitter, Facebook, various websites including Canadian Nationalist Party website.|
|Stephen Garvey||Founder and Leader of the National Citizen’s Alliance||Twitter, National Citizens Alliance website|
|Kevin R. Goudreau||Leader of the Canadian Nationalist Front.||Stormfront Canada, Canadian Nationalist Front website, BitChute|
|Donald Proulx||Leader of La Partie Patriote|
Then, using data from media aggregators, social media, and web platforms frequented by Canada’s RWE, we conducted a social network analysis to map these thought leaders, their ties with other right-wing extremists, and identify influencers of key ideas. Specifically, we examined the following sites and online platforms: Stormfront, a neo-Nazi discussion forum, Twitter, Facebook, BitChute, and, other relevant right-wing websites. Because social network analysis examines structural relations among social actors using ‘nodes’ and ‘ties’, it is a widely accepted method to examine social movements. There are however some data limitations using a social network analysis.
Extreme right-wing content can be found in a variety of places on the Internet. However, such content has unique sets of constituents, purposes, terms of service, and design, making accessing relevant data difficult (Goodey, 2007). For several reasons, Canadian RWE content is either difficult to find or hidden among larger sites targeting at US groups. Users who participate in RWE forums also tend to anonymize their identities in some cases, such as with Stormfront; however, this provides some advantage in estimating their location since anonymous identities tend to be more open with their locations (Dentice, 2019). Moreover, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other prominent social media sites have also removed extremist content (YouTube 2019, Twitter 2019, Bernal, 2019). This forced RWEs to search for different platforms to espouse their views. Similarly, sites such as Patreon or Kickstarter prevented proponents of extreme right-wing views from monetizing their content, activities, and products. Two web forums known to support and sustain right-wing extremist ideas, 8chan and Infinitechan, were also removed from Cloudflare, their web-hosting platform after they were found to host the manifestos of three different white supremacists who committed mass violent acts between March and August 2019. Some RWE operators have migrated their content to another domain, 8kun, but as of writing, the site is not available for viewing (Weill, 2019). Other measures by web-hosting services and Internet providers to oust white supremacist and neo-Nazi propaganda from their servers, notably after a white supremacist attack occurred in Charlottesville, are further instigating, and supporting RWE migrations from mainstream platforms (Cohen-Almagor, 2018). For example, the oft-researched alt-right web forum Stormfront had trouble securing web-hosting services after this protocol was applied (Dentice, 2019).
Nevertheless, RWE discussion boards with archives are on occasion shared with the general public, such as the November 2019 sharing of the Iron March website by an anonymous user. Stormfront is a long-standing source of research for RWE’s online literature as it is dedicated to white supremacy (Burris, Smith, & Strahm, 2000). In early studies, Stormfront was found to have a high betweenness score, meaning that “the site served as a crucial intermediary between otherwise unliked sites” (Burris, Smith, & Strahm, 2000, p. 223). A number of Canadian discussion groups exist inside Stormfront, including one for general discussion about Canada, another for Canadian news, and a forum for ‘politics and activism.’ Past studies of the site have discussed the importance of Stormfront as a source to spread RWE information, to share ideas, and to find solidarity in their offline stigmatization (Duffy, 2003; De Koster & Houtman, 2008).
Our research questions are what are the interactions or ties between RWE thought leaders? Where are RWEs located across Canada? What are the key ideas propagated by RWEs and where do they converge within the RWE network? Since RWE thought leaders are particularly active during elections, we sought to capture a snapshot of the ties between thought leaders and sympathizers and the prevalence and content of their ideas during the weeks leading up to and after the 2019 Canadian Federal Election. From September 1st to October 31st, 2019, we examined RWE thought leaders’ statements and postings on the various platforms described above (see findings in Table 2). We also identified six additional users who were mentioned by at least two other right-wing extremists but who were not widely known figures and conducted the same analysis. We used the 2019 federal election as a focussed temporal study to see how RWEs interact during a pivotal political moment. We believe this period provides important insights into RWE because 1) it occurred during a federal election that included multiple right-wing populist parties, and 2) it presented an opportunity to observe RWEs after the ‘crackdown’ on hate speech after May 2019 by many of the major social media sites occupied by RWEs. Moreover, we would expect that interaction will be high during ideologically charged events like elections because of high media attention (see Towers, 2015). We applied social network analysis methods common for identifying the cognitive social structure (CSS) of RWEs as a group. Using these data points, we applied simple correspondence analysis in a two-dimensional matrix (See Deschamps, 2017; Faust, 2005) to display where RWEs ideas converge or diverge (see findings in Figure 2).
|Perspective||Paraphrased Description/Example||Advocates (percent of mentions)|
|Anti-Globalism||Canadian sovereignty is threatened by an agenda to enforce global dominance via international institutions such as the United Nations.||Travis Patron (17.6), Brian Ruhe (16.4)|
|Media Corruption||Mainstream Media is dishonest and unfair to conservatives. They hide the ‘truth’ from mainstream Canadians.||Travis Patron (15.7), Bill Noble (11.5)|
|Immigration||Increased immigration poses a risk to Canadian sovereignty and well-being.||Paul Fromm (15.11), Kevin Goudreau (12.7), Stephen Garvey (11.9)|
|Anti-Liberal||The Liberal government, led by Justin Trudeau, is corrupt, spendthrift, and will destroy the Canadian economy.||Paul Fromm (17.4), Brian Ruhe (15.1)|
|Free Expression||Special interests on the left seek to suppress speech by conservatives.||Paul Fromm (17,4), Brian Ruhe (15.1)|
|Anti-Canadian||Canada has been overtaken by leftist ideologues. (Includes Quebec nationalism)||Brian Ruhe (2.5), Bill Noble (1.3)|
|Liberal Violence||Antifa and anti-hate advocacy groups use lies and slander to justify violence against truth-seeking and truth-telling conservatives.||Brian Ruhe (25.3), Bill Noble (15.4)|
|Populism/Nationalism||The politics of Canada is most legitimate when it focuses on the traditions of ‘old stock’ Canadians.||Stephen Garvey (26.8), Donald Proulx (27.34), Travis Patron (17.6)|
|Biological Determinism||The biological sciences have affirmed differences among races and genders based on genetic backgrounds.||Kevin Goudreau (8.0), Bill Noble (4.0)|
|Anti-Establishment||Government and its institutions are unworthy of trust.||Bill Noble (19.2), Stephen Garvey (10.8)|
|White Victimization||White people are mistreated by mainstream Canadian society.||Bill Noble (17.3)|
|Anti-Consumer||Inferior Canadians spend more time consuming and less time producing.||Kevin Goudreau (3.7), Bill Noble (4.0)|
|Anti-Environmentalism||Environmentalists are overstating environmental problems like Climate Change in order to profit from public opinion.||Paul Fromm (11.6), Brian Ruhe (3.7)|
|Anti-LGBT||The LGBT lobby is pushing an agenda to corrupt children and bully the majority.||Brian Ruhe (7.6), Kevin Goudreau (2.8)|
We assessed interactions between RWEs by examining: a) the number of ties going from a node to other nodes (known as out-ties which is often associated with heightened interest in a particular subject); b) the number of ties going from other nodes to a node (known as in-ties which is associated with ‘prestige’); and, c) those ties with a combination of the two, which are considered central to the network. By examining interaction between nodes, we get a better sense of who is inside the RWE network and who relies on information being exchanged. In social network graphs where ties are not always mutual (‘directed graphs’), a distinction is made between out-ties (interest in content) and in-ties (prestige) because these usually imply different things about a particular node. To elaborate, a node with many out-ties and few in-ties suggests a person with high interest in the subject. Also, a node with many in-ties, even though they may not be involved, is considered to have high prestige. Moreover, ‘authority’ implies prestige (in-ties) and the prestige of the people providing the in-links (see Knoke and Yang, 2008; Wasserman and Faust, 1994). Finally, nodes with an overall high combination of both in-and out-ties is said to have high centrality. Nodes can also be said to have high betweenness centrality, which is generated by counting the shortest paths from each node and counting the number of times these paths pass through an additional node. These nodes are important points where information flows and hence denotes influence or presumed expertise.
As can be seen in the social network graph of RWEs (Figure 1), nodes are represented as points. The size of the node represents relative betweenness (brokerage) score and the size of the label shows relative ‘authority’ scores. Individuals in Canada’s RWE movements like Bill Noble, Travis Patron, Brian Ruhe, and Gus Stephanis all have the highest ‘authority’ as visualized by the size of the name label in the graph. There is also a notable level of authority located amongst other nodes such as activist and former journalist Faith Goldy, the People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, and Stefan Molyneux. Dave Rubin is also mentioned due to his participation in a free speech event with Maxime Bernier, although Dave Rubin himself has denied he has connections with RWE, citing that he is both Jewish and gay.
We found that some RWE individuals and their movements fill ‘structural holes’ in the Canadian landscape of hate speech. Structural holes exist when there are no clear ties between two parts of the network (see Burt, 2009). Moreover, through our analysis we identify the key ideological overlap and distinctions in RWE viewpoints. We also find that RWEs self-identify with political parties or actively link themselves to prominent political figures and groups and ‘citizen journalist’ pundits as springboards for their ideas. In terms of betweenness (shown in the network graph by the size of the labels), the seeds again have high betweenness, but importantly many of the prestigious nodes outside the seeds do not have high betweenness. This occurred because, while many of the RWEs have cited Rebel News and the like, there is little or no reciprocation of information sharing. The other is the lower level of betweenness of Stephen Garvey and Donald Proulx in the graph. The low betweenness and authority of Proulx’s position likely resulted from the role of language, as the only connecting node between the Partie Patriote and the rest of the graph is France’s right-wing politician Martine Le Pen. From observation of Garvey’s data, the low betweenness is due to Garvey’s desire to place his party as a more viable ‘populist’ option to the People’s Party of Canada. On the whole, Garvey’s node-points indicate greater out-ties (topical outputs) captured by the series of negative attacks he made against his political opponents than his in-ties which are low (low prestige in and therefore people sharing his position). Stephanis’ profile, however, shows a level of cohesion with other members of the seeds, including Paul Fromm, Brian Ruhe, and Travis Patron, and the overall centrality of members of the Canadian Nationalist Party to this particular network.
We also wanted to determine the location of the nodes and find that RWEs exist in all areas of Canada, most particularly but not exclusively in the Prairies, and while they share information with people from the United States and Europe, the focus of their public activity was primarily in Canada. The distribution of nodes sharing the information that came from Canada is mostly from Ontario (31 nodes), unknown Canadian locations (50 nodes), Quebec (26 nodes), Alberta (23 nodes), British Columbia (10 nodes) and Manitoba (11 nodes). The number of messages from Manitoba reflect Bill Noble’s local network, many of whom are not necessarily actively involved in RWE activism. Considering the distribution of nodes outside of Canada, most information came from sources originating from the US (46 nodes), Unknown sources (35 nodes), and the European Union (23 nodes, including those from the UK). Other than a disproportionate number of mentions coming from the Prairies, the geographic distribution of the nodes is somewhat characteristic of conservative geopolitics of Canada.
Lines connecting the nodes in Figure 1 shows the interaction of the users either mentioned by or mentioning seed members or individuals with two or more references to these individuals. Where individual nodes were found to have a public source—for example, as a running candidate for a political party, an organization, or a prominent media personality—the name was provided. Some notable individuals with high betweenness scores include the People’s Party of Canada Leader, Maxime Bernier; alt-right pundit and YouTuber, Stefan Molyneux; Ezra Levant, the owner of Rebel News; and far-right social conservative citizen journalist, Faith Goldy, who also worked for Rebel News until 2017, when she appeared in an interview with the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website. It is important to emphasize that in-ties or prestige does not necessarily represent participation in the network because authority scores are based on mentions rather than involvement. On the outskirts of the bottom portion of the social network, we do notice a separation between those users who cite US sources of information, and in the top portion, we can see several EU sources for information, mostly either mentioned by or mentioning Paul Fromm.
The Canadian Nationalist Party was the primary source for this group’s activism, and the CNP appeared to push positions that accorded with the People’s Party of Canada. This was exemplified by Travis Patron’s posting of a billboard that said, ‘Say No to Billboard Censorship; Say Yes to Free Expression.’ According to the CNP’s site, this billboard, located in the riding that Patron sought, was ‘parody to another political party’s [PPC] billboards (paid for by a third party) which were taken down after voicing opposition to “mass immigration”’ (Levitz, 2019). The lack of betweenness among non-seeds suggests that most of the people that these individuals mention do not reciprocate support in meaningful terms. Instead, the RWEs use specific ideas from popular mainstream accounts to show the accordance of their positions with conventional sources. In general, Canadian RWEs appear to be providing support to larger figures such as the seeds of this study, perhaps to expand their own ideas in those forums. Further, there is a visible separation of the networks surrounding Donald Proulx and Stephen Garvey. On the whole, this occurred because these individuals did not directly participate in the Canadian Nationalist Party’s online activities, although Partie Patriote and CNP members did engage in protests against immigrants together.
The discourse analysis of these groups shows that they favor social and fiscal conservatism, hold unfavorable positions toward government spending and climate action, support traditional family values, and prefer nationalism and/or patriotism (See Table 2). In addition, they hold extreme anti-global views, some arguing that free trade is upheld by Jewish elites, rather than benefiting Canadian society. Some of the groups posit that the elite own the news media and existing institutions and these institutions are therefore inherently corrupt and cannot be trusted. Holding negative views on immigration and interracial relationships, they also posit that the white race is slowly being eliminated. Table 2 shows a list of these extreme ideas discovered in the discourse analysis and the RWE thought leaders who most reflect those positions.
To visualize RWE statements and qualitative data, a correspondence analysis (See Abdi and Williams, 2010) was produced by counting the number of times each individual held each ideological position and then, using a normalized adaptation of Chi-squared distance, by plotting individuals and the RWE perspectives. This consisted of 14 rows (RWE perspectives) and 16 columns (RWEs) that were analyzed for cross-associations. A simplified version of this is visualized in a matrix (see Figure 2) While the visualization reflects a complex social environment, ideological positions that are located close to the origin tended to have high commonality among the RWEs during the election period, while those on the periphery are positions more attributed by some of the individuals than they are others. A Pearson Chi-squared test suggested that we reject the null hypothesis that we cannot predict individual RWE from the collection of ideological positions (Chi-square = 1053.755, pvalue < 0.001). This means that there is considerable variance among the individuals regarding their collection of ideological positions. Mapping the views in a 2 by 2 matrix for the most influential factors, we were able to distinguish among RWE views. The percentages mentioned on the axes (26.67 and 18.62 percent respectively) refer to the amount that a dimension explains the divergence of items from the origin of the graph. Correspondence analysis coordinate values ranged from –1.59 to 0.48 on the horizontal axis and –0.76 and 0.46 on the vertical axis. Values that were less than 0.200 from the origin on both axes were considered common to all members.
As seen in Figure 2, the common factors to all RWEs in the analysis were perspectives about leftist violence (especially by Antifa), anti-immigration sentiment, and media corruption. Four quadrants can also be examined categorically in turn. The first quadrant (upper left), positioned by Bill Noble, Kevin Goudreau, and Travis Patron, includes anti-establishment values, anti-liberalism, and biological determinist positions. Connected to this quadrant are additional positions in the lower-left areas focused on issues of white victimization and anti-consumerism, held primarily by Patron (who fell between these two quadrants), Ruhe, and Fromm. In general, these positions coincide with common positions taken by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the alt-right. The right-hand side of the graph includes the nationalist and populist positions of Stephen Garvey and Donald Proulx, while the lower-right quadrant emphasizes particular political positions of members, including anti-LGBT, anti-environmentalism, anti-globalism, and concerns for Freedom of Expression, which were taken largely by the RWEs most expressive in their support for the PPC parties’ positions (Ruhe, Fromm, Stephanis). Again, Ruhe and Fromm landed between the two lower quadrants. While there was some variation, the anonymous supporting RWE individuals tended to fall on the right-hand side, with approximately equal distribution on the upper and lower halves of the graph. The right-hand side of the graph coincided with more politically engaged perspectives, either through support of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), through the Canadian Nationalist Party (CNP), or as part of the National Citizen’s Alliance. Given that the anonymous individuals who have responded to the known white nationalists occupy mostly the right side of the horizontal differentiation, the populist orientations of these groups are what seem to attract these voices to the more radical RWE ideas and concepts. There also appears to be a relationship with anti-establishment values as part of this divergence.
Examination of Canada’s RWE interactions has shown an attempt to expand anti-immigration, anti-liberal, populist, and free-expression ideas into mainstream politics while keeping contextual information (proximity to neo-Nazism, anti-Semitism, racism, and global conspiracy theories) as part of the subtext of their political communications. They tend to support the People’s Party of Canada in their ridings, but only because they do not have CNP candidates available to them. The centers of this discourse have been Paul Fromm, Travis Patron, Gus Stephanis, and Brian Ruhe, with Bill Noble using his position of moderator for Stormfront Canada to share these ideas with neo-Nazi subculture. Adjacent to this discourse are individual actors like Kevin Goudreau, Stephen Garvey, and Donald Proulx with personal aspirations for the political influence of their ideas. The first sees the development of the People’s Party as a positive movement but instead prefers to engage in activism and protests, while the second attempted to position himself as an alternative to ‘false populists’ among the PPC. Finally, Donald Proulx connects Anti-Canadian (Quebec Nationalist) and populist sentiment.
Leaders of online RWE activism and the more radical supporters who promote their ideas did not share information that could be considered hateful in their feeds and are purposeful in not promoting violence in a public forum. Instead, they preferred to promote their political opponents as the violent ones, whenever they had the evidence to do so, or express conspiracies that the cause of the violence is due to government or ‘globalist’ (Jewish elites and their supporters) influenced policies. They also seem to refrain from positions of biological determinism and white victimization, recognizing that these positions would not help them gain favor from a general population. Instead, as seen in the analysis of RWE perspectives, straightforward anti-liberal (especially anti-Trudeau), populist (pro Canadian Values), freedom of expression, and specific anti-LGBT and anti-Environmentalist rhetoric were positions they held in common with their potential supporters. The latter two positions seemed to accord with the idea that the media is corrupt and fails to tell the truth to the population.
RWE thought leaders lament that white people will be blamed by the system for the violence that led to terror attacks, such as in New Zealand against a Mosque. This reaction to the political environment by these actors seems to indicate that they instead see these acts as the inevitable result of a system that suppresses the speech of people who are proud of their white heritage. In some cases, the members provided populist appeals to support the case for a non-violent white nationalist community. For example, in August 2019 Paul Fromm retweeted a post by the CNP candidate with the comment that Yellow Vests are ‘decent Canadians’ united secure borders and block a carbon tax and UN protocol sustaining increased immigration and refugees. Yet we see incidents such as the May 2nd attempt by a Yellow Vest protestor to perform a ‘citizen’s arrest’ of then-Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for ‘high treason’ and ‘criminal negligence causing death.’ The protester used the Yellow Vests Facebook group to describe his plan (Frisque, 2019). The sharing of humorous memes has been identified as a popular strategy on Facebook in previous examinations (Scrivens and Amarasingham, 2020). Later reports by CASIS Vancouver have suggested that members of RWE such as the Wolves of Odin have infiltrated Yellow Vest protests and contributed to violence during those events (Vancouver, 2019).
In terms of their narrative, RWE thought leaders use political losses to their ideological benefit, often blaming their lack of success in the political system on Canadian restrictions on freedom of expression. Gaining publicity, they argue that they cannot get ahead politically because of the lack of full and complete free expression; this argument has the added uptake of further proliferating their views. In response to the more aggressive expulsion of RWE content by mainstream social media sites, RWEs have changed their approach and rhetoric to support free speech, accusing social and mainstream media sites of being corrupt, and especially highlighting cases where left-wing activists have been alleged to have committed violence without punishment by the state. RWEs argue that the drive for equality and multiculturalism precisely leads to the inequalities and cultural inequities faced by white people, the perceived original inhabitants of Canada and that the only way to counter this harm is to ensure the universality and completeness of free expression as a principle and policy-measure. Political governance in Canada is painted by RWEs as producing differential treatment for white people to their detriment, including the unequal distribution of the nation’s resources and opportunities. A multicultural Canada, for example, means that white people lose out on job opportunities to ethnic minorities which affects their ability to provide for their white families and ensure their prosperity and advancement.
Canada’s key legal cases on hate speech have focused on the harm inflicted to the general population by the spread of hateful views about a minority group or vulnerable community (Moon, 2008). There have been challenges to anti-hate laws on the basis of the ‘right to free expression’ (Walker, 2018). As this study highlights, Canada’s RWE clearly engage in hate speech. This is of great concern to public safety, particularly because social contagion theory in radicalization and terrorism study has shown how these ideas can embolden active participants to commit violence and terror.
The spread and internationalization of hate speech has intensified due to the globalization of the Internet whereupon RWEs use a variety of online platforms to amplify their hate speech (Mahoney, 2009). This paper provides an important contribution to the study of RWEs in Canada by closely observing them over a two-month period before a critical federal election. Using social network analysis of a large number of online documents, posts, and social media engagement, we were able to trace the interaction of the RWE network. We determined who has authority in this network and how individuals in the network interact and feed off of each other. Then using discourse analysis, we find that Canada’s RWEs galvanize around the following key ideas: leftist-propensities towards violence, projecting especially views against the Antifa, anti-immigration, media corruption and dishonesty, anti-elite and anti-establishment values, anti-liberalism, populism, anti-LGBT, anti-environmentalism, biological determinism, white victimization, and anti-consumerism.
We also use correspondence analysis to determine who in the RWE network are more likely to propagate which of the ideas specified above. Our findings reveal that RWE leaders may acquire prestige for their views, but that prestige does not indicate active participation. The concern is less with RWE leaders radicalizing into violent extremism than the people they inspire who may be inclined to move their activism into concrete action. This supports the key findings found in the application of social contagion theory to RWEs. Terrorism and acts of violence are not random and not only related to mental health, but rather hateful speech can also invoke violence and terror. Tracing the ideas and their promoters will help identify the source for these ideas, thereby helping to secure public safety.