The Far-Right in London, Ontario.
Ahead of the next PEGIDA rally this Saturday, I feel it is important to bring to the table a sobering analysis of what this group is actually doing, the history of similar extreme groups in London, Ontario, and what we can do to stop it. Part of analyzing the extreme right from an admitted biased perspective is acknowledging the nuances and tough facts about these groups and how they fit into the larger picture. In this light, I disagree with Mayor Matt Brown and the media declaration that last month’s PEGIDA rally was an explicit white supremacist rally when the truth is that we cannot in good faith confirm this and using this label will actually have the opposite effect on the public. More on that later.
First, some context. For those not from the Forest City, many know London as being that Ontario city often mixed up with the U.K capital that has two major educational institutions and a pretty big medical research industry. It sits just between Windsor and Toronto, snug amidst rural communities that dot off from the 401 highway. It’s history could only be described as complicated with many interesting individuals born and/or raised. We’ve had artists, innovators, inventors, thinkers, and activists of all kinds over the centuries and I doubt that will be stopping anytime soon. For most here, London is also just your basic Canadian city with lots of malls, a few notable parks, and some kitschy neighborhoods.
Okay so what happened? Ontario, like other provinces at the time, was not immune to white nationalism both in the form of covert cult groups like the bed sheets above and in official policy for at least half of the 20th century. While this was obviously common for many areas, London has been a unique flashpoint for white supremacist events and individuals in southwestern Ontario.
Many white supremacist groups can trace their lineage to the Klu Klux Klan, the infamous terrorist cult historically associated with the American south that sprung up from the ashes of the Confederacy. The group is normally divided into three different “eras” based on a cycle of rebirth and demise due to shifting political climates. The first Klan sprung up in 1865, lasting until the 1870's when legal measures were taken to contain the group as a domestic terrorist organization. Despite the efforts, white supremacist insurgents continued extra-judicial measures well into the 1900's though under different names. This culminated with the founding of the second Klan in 1915 when it was mythologized in the famous film “Birth of a Nation”. It is here that much of the Klan’s efforts were successful, boasting massive numbers with an even greater focus on religion and marked in our story by their expansion into Canada.
The new Klanadians found themselves with minor success in Canada, mostly in Saskatchewan, but arguably even in the 1920’s it’s hard to convince average people that arbitrarily lynching black people is the way to go. The trend died pretty quick, especially by the 1930’s when people had to worry about food and other real things over pseudo-science and race. This is about where the Klan would end in Canada BUT very recently we had one individual in Glencoe who not only joined one of the many offshoots of the Klan, he declared himself Grand Dragon of the one-man cult. I remember once actually seeing him trot around London in a Combat 18 shirt and flip flops which I thought was pretty funny. Not sure whatever happened to him but I hope he finally progressed to a more civilized form of communication for his problems. Other than this clown, I don’t think we have to worry about white robes right now.
Race, “Intelligence”, and White Nationalism
One of the shining stars of London has been the infamous Western professor Phillip J. Rushton. For those who may not know who he is, his work can be summed up into the idea that ‘race = intelligence’ and uses dubious methods to prove this point. His famous book can be found in droves among the dark corners of used book stores in this city and I think that about sums up his value as a thinker and a person.
What makes Rushton important however is the connection between academia and fascism. Much of his time was spent defending his work solely as “research” and nothing more but his connections to other dubious organizations like the Pioneer Fund suggests otherwise. He was an important figure for local neo-nazi and white supremacist Tomasz Winnicki who mourned his death on the also dead Stormfront forums and has spoken at an event named “Preserving Western Civilization” along with run of the mill racists Laurence Auster, Patricia Richardson, Michael Hart, and more fun characters. This lineage of “thinking fascism” has created a long narrative that academia is over saturated with left-leaning radicals and thus the right-wing is considerably the underdog. While the plethora of left-leaning teachers is true to an extent, this narrative puts far-right thought on a pedestal of forbidden knowledge.
On the streets, London’s neo-nazi thug groups remained consistent until the advent of Anti-Racist Action in the 1990’s to combat the influence of fascism in the punk subcultures. Many of the groups and allegiances were sporadic and short but a notable example of just how significant it was would be this video of the final RAHOWA show in 1996. Complete with fanatical sig-heils, a gloomy stage, and a few people who are probably thinking, “Holy fuck this is really bad music.” this video I think sums up the apex of the white power movement and why it was a problem even into the 2000’s.
As mentioned above, Tommy Winnicki is one of London’s notorious individuals who has been pretty quiet recently. Loosely associated with the Northern Alliance, (A group run by Jason Ouwendyk until he dropped out of the public sphere thus causing the group to remain unofficially inactive.) he’s got quite the history of white power-ing. From hijacking Pride events to running for mayor to losing court battles for his right to be a knuckle dragging cretin online, Tom can be seen as one of London’s representatives for the white power movement.
The Northern Alliance has been erroneously reported as being “active” with a mailing address on Richmond Street and it needs to be stated that this is false. While there was no formal dissolution, there activities have been non-existent and their web functions are completely down. While short in duration, the Northern Alliance essentially laid the ground work politically along with the neo-nazi gangs that popped their heads up and commanded respect.
Much of the neo-nazi base built in London however came to a pretty abrupt end in 2012 when a horribly planned march was effortlessly shut down by groups of anti-fascists. From this point on, neo-nazis haven’t been a staple at larger hardcore shows nor have they been able to recover from the embarrassment that it left them on the national stage.
Despite the setbacks, what has formed in it’s wake is a loose skinhead gang known as the “Southern Ontario Skins” led by (not real name possibly) Max Hynes. I implore you to read through some of the articles on the Anti-Racist Canada blog for more info on this clown show. It’s to be noted that they did manage to “march” a year after the parking lot incident but from what I recall, it was a Sunday at 6PM on a rainy day with no media coverage and a very very brief walk from City Hall to the former Kinkos at Wellington & Dundas. (Maybe two blocks.) To them and their dozen or so people, it was a success but for many of us who think they should be regulated to yelling at the sky, they did our job for us.
Of course no discussion on London white power groups would be complete without Paul Fromm, someone who I believe we should get to know by name for his parasitic and insidious attempts at converting youth towards this shit-sandwich of an ideology.
So, Paul isn’t from London but he represents the head of the snake as far as I am concerned regarding grooming of young disenfranchised white kids towards white power. It would take an article in itself to explain his often hilarious blunders but he’s been a key player in galvanizing the far-right and takes every opportunity he can to appear publicly for political purposes. He has appeared everywhere from white power parties, to political fundraising events, to even recently at a Toronto “free speech” rally which the organizers later had to do some serious back peddling on to mop up the “we don’t support nazis” facade. Oh and he had a really risque picture leak on the internet some years ago featuring him in some sexy wear with a woman who totally wasn’t his wife. (NSFW or rather, not safe for life..)
Despite Paul’s shortcomings, blunders, and explosive social relationships, we should remember that he very much keeps an eye on London and any track of him trying to make headway in this city again needs to be met with serious concern. It is common for people like Paul to target young kids as they are the most likely to turn to radical politics and also the ones most likely to do something incredibly stupid or violent on their behalf. He begins by masking his intentions slightly with vague notions of free speech, “cultural marxism”, “immigration”, and other dog whistles before making his move to fully include them as part of a collective identity that many youth are searching for. Will Paul forever be the man behind the wheel? Absolutely not. It’s clear that many of these figures have a short political lifespan before something happens to attack their integrity (Often coming from internal disputes.) but what needs to be considered is that he’s not alone in his crusade for a white ethnostate. It’s not even that such a thing is going to be possible right now but that the potential for violent fascist cells is growing as politics become more divisive.
The New Drive — PEGIDA, Soldiers of Odin, Proud Boys, Alt-Right
So we could sit here all day and talk about the historical examples of London’s far-right but what good would that do? The new wave right now that is imperative is bringing in fresh faces independent of the white nationalist movement but with even more obscure goals and vague intentions. This is where things get hairy.
PEGIDA is the center of the growing nationalist storm. Beginning in Germany with the vague goal of fighting “Islamization”, it’s spawned various offshoots and regional variations with their own leaderships. They began just slightly before the refugee crisis really hit it’s peak in 2015 and are end result of a hostility in the west towards Muslims and immigration. Myself, I’ve long been accustomed to this hostility through the earlier days of social media when entire groups were devoted to speaking on the “evils” of Islam. To this end, I have never been surprised at how vile this rabbit hole goes but I have come to predict the main talking points of these groups and what their ultimate goal is in the long run.
Soldiers of Odin is another group to keep an eye on. In many ways, they’re the brownshirts of PEGIDA and the “Alt-Lite”. Often involved in their operations and being the muscle to protect their interests. They formed in Finland around a self-declared white nationalist but later divisions, such as the ones in Canada, splintered off. While not openly neo-nazi, quick google searches will show you just how close they can be to these individuals. In many ways, they serve a dual purpose for white nationalists and fascists to be public and to obtain new recruits for future movements. Because of their vagueness however, it has led them to controversially form alliances with other ultra nationalist groups like the Jewish Defense League which also needs no introduction. This has led to some divisions and splinter groups but also to some headway in terms of numbers as the JDL has a track record of being consistent. While uniformed members of the Soldiers of Odin have not been present so far at PEGIDA rallies in London, they have some individuals who appear to showcase interest and can potentially become ringleaders in a future vigilante mob.
The next group to keep an eye on is the “Proud Boys”. A declared western chauvinist group that also spearheads the “alt-lite” movement. Proud Boys were declared by the mouth breathing opportunist Gavin McInnes as a fraternal organization dedicated to patriotism and other nationalist nonsense. Much like the SoO without the really cringey pseudo-viking imagery, Proud Boys are basically an antagonist group looking to stir up conflict on campuses and protests. It appears to be popular with whiny man children and douche bags who think their tough guy opinions are some cutting edge political thought but I digress. Also like the SoO, they lack a defined goal but more importantly serve as a definitive gateway towards ultra-nationalism and thus white supremacy. With less focus on physical confrontation, I see the Proud Boys as being more of an intellectual vanguard who peddle potentially dangerous identitarian ideology to needy boys that missed their opportunity to be cool in high school. Their danger comes with their perpetual victim-complex and the need to really straddle that line between fascist and not. For what they’re capable of, we’re left to sit and see.
In terms of London movements, Proud Boys are next to non-existent save for the above face Nicolas who has very recently claimed his throne on the pile of intellectual shit. Nic has been one to write some pretty inflammatory rants on his social media regarding refugees but he always back peddles the second he gets too much heat as it effects his popular business at Vision Tattoo. In the face of direct humiliation, there has been rumors of his supposed biker connections but that can be taken a number of ways. In the meantime, we all hope that Nicolas keeps his feelings on Facebook and sticks to doing tattoo work.
So where does this all bring us? Post-9/11 created a world full of division and hostility that grew to the levels we see now over the course of a decade. Islam went from being an irrelevant social topic to the main focus of countless conservative and far-right groups who have drank the kool aid fed to them by an irresponsible mass media. You need to spend time on things such as the “Jawa Report” (Yes that’s a thing.), “Jihad Watch”, and other mind numbingly insane sites that spread vicious propaganda with the same ferocity as the antisemitism of the 1900's. What I found from many of these talking points which assert that firstly Islam is a religion of violence and oppression is that there is absolutely no quarter given to the idea that religion is complex and interpretations of texts do not signal a hive mind world view. They only believe that Islam is a homogeneous entity dead set on parasitic expansion and that jihadism is hiding in your community RIGHT NOW. Let’s be fair, they do solely focus on the religion and they absolutely adore ex-Muslims who speak negatively on Islam. They further love Zionism and religious minorities in the Middle East for they represent the future which we will all be under should Justin Trudeau enact Sharia Law or something.
So on this note, how does this connect to fascism and white supremacy? They’re not talking about race. They aren’t suggesting any real policy. They’re just talking about the evils of the Taliban. What’s so bad about this?
There is a severe danger in producing political opinions which homogenize and signal for a “horde of enemies” coming to your doorstep. From a left-wing perspective, we can be guilty of this when we ignore the nuances of far-right ideas. Instead of analysis, calm political discussion, and defined goals, we are given a signal that says “I have shown you the truth. Do what you will with it.” We are given a powder keg, one with a short wicker, that we are subconsciously instructed to set alight. The problem thus is not regulated necessarily to specific followers of these movements nor even the movement’s goals themselves (They’re too vague to objectively determine anything.) but that the alarming focus on “soft targets” for terrorist incidents is set to incite people to take violent action against unarmed people who they see as sub-human. It very quickly doesn’t just become being opposed to Islamists (Something most of the world is probably against.), it’s about Islam. Then it’s no longer about Islam, it’s about immigration. Then it’s no longer about immigration, it’s about preserving western hegemony. Then it’s no longer about preserving western hegemony, it’s about race. You see where this goes? Not everyone obviously falls this far and I’d reckon most probably don’t. But even the case for just one to fall that deep is too much of an opportunity for fascism to rear it’s ugly head again.
I want to for a moment appeal to emotion as we remember that this year. We had a terrorist attack at a Quebec Mosque that killed people. Real people. Unarmed people. People just going to their place of worship like your grandma does on Sunday mornings. I want you to suspend your disagreements with property damage and black bloc tactics to realize that the reactions people have to groups like PEGIDA are valid. We are not going to agree on property damage, hence why it is radical politics, but can we put this annoyingly simple debate aside and realize that people have been killed over these xenophobic ideas? We had someone murdered by a car attack in Charlottesville, we had Dylan Roof murder African-Americans in cold blood at church, we had a knife attack in Portland that killed two people who gave their lives to defend innocents, and even more alarming events and credible threats to these so called enemies of the West. This media campaign to equate anti-fascists with fascists is some of the most irresponsible and dangerous reporting I have ever seen and I directly blame them for creating a horrible narrative that pacifies the public into normalizing white nationalism. I do not want to see another stupid think piece from Rex Murphy when families have been torn apart by the insane actions of a gunman acting upon his fascist beliefs. Rant over.
What I fear in the future is that PEGIDA and other nationalist groups will inspire and radicalize young people into taking matters into their own hands. I am not necessarily afraid of the Canadian Combat Coalition who vaguely stand as “security” for PEGIDA (Although ifthey want to bring zip ties and whatever other weaponry, I am going to assume they want to fight.) nor am I afraid of the old prune who stood alone rambling about the evils of Islam to a crowd that was not having it. What I fear is that the carelessness of the media combined with a mobilized pressure group serving vague intentions will create an environment which encourages violence against people who will not be able to defend themselves. Much of the resistance here solely believes in non-violence and I respect those wishes but I fear that is what makes them targets for potential terrorist incidents. If this ever happened, I simply do not believe anyone will be prepared. Not the police, not the city council, not PEGIDA, not anti-fascists, nobody. Ironically this sounds like we are talking about ISIS but I hope you see by this point that the way these ideas operate are very very much the same.
With this in mind I want to bring up the positives and how we stand currently. We had a great turnout at the last rally which was largely non-violent (Save for Canadian Combat Coalition G.I Joe Spencer Polap swinging at a guy.) and showed London’s organic resistance to fascist organizing in this city which required them to ferry in their meager supporters from across the province like a circus show. We did great and this is the way everyone hopes it will go in the future.
Our next steps from Saturday and forward will be to remain vigilant about PEGIDA and begin to educate ourselves not only on them but on the needs of our community. We need to be responsible and understanding, but firm in our beliefs. We need to call a spade a spade and not dismiss something potentially dangerous with such optimism solely on the idea that we feel uncomfortable about the reaction which they provoke. Conversely however I believe calling PEGIDA rallies “white supremacist”, as Mayor Brown put it, irresponsible. It firstly gives massive confusion to people who don’t know what PEGIDA is and are expecting full blown nazis with swastikas to be rambling about Jews. It does not assist in understanding the nuances of these movements and how they actually connect to the nazi base which is covert and sometimes intentionally avoided. It rallies more emotions than we need right now and lays ground work for potential city laws which can someday be used against anyone.
What I propose is the following:
1. All political groups and media outlets, including conservative ones, need to condemn and isolate PEGIDA. They need to challenge their propaganda and debunk the conspiracies that will invoke hatred and distrust among our immigrant/refugee population. No more poor journalism on “the other side” when it is simply not relevant. In the age of fast traveling media, this is critical.
2. City council must be careful of attempting to fix this problem through laws and off-hand comments to the media. We cannot set a precedent that we will regret in the future.
3. In the event of potential Soldiers of Odin patrols, counter-groups must be formed to follow and disrupt their activities from getting out of hand. Community watch dogs which monitor fascist activity should also be established by that point, especially on campus.
4. Instead of remaining with armchair activism and relying on protests as a form of action, we must broaden our abilities by assisting in volunteer groups like LUSO Centre or Unity Project. This is particularly important for youth and people who are at risk of falling into far-right extremism.
5. All rallies should have counter-propaganda dispelling the myths PEGIDA promotes. Profiles on individual members with a potential for violence should be publicized and distributed so that we are aware of the potential risks. We must also always be aware of what to do in case a violent incident occurs.
I hold myself a pretty bleak and cynical view of the future. I believe we are in for a bumpy ride as automation and other factors change the economic landscape while we have to mundanely argue with people that Sharia Law isn’t on it’s way over. Despite this, I think our city holds great opportunity for innovation and I think that we have largely won against the reactionary forces of the far right on a cultural stage. We are still however a conservative city with lots to fix and observe. All I want from people is to disconnect from the obscene false realities that PEGIDA creates and go outside to contribute in any way possible through mass mobilization and decentralized activities. We must prepare for the 21st century independently from global media narratives and toxic political advocacy for archaic concepts.