The alt-right is spreading the word “Snowflake” as hate speech. It is time for Kitimat to take a stand for tolerance and for the town’s brand


With the triumph (so far) of Donald Trump, the “alt-right” has been spreading two words as hate speech not only in the United States but around the world. One word should concern the people of Kitimat– the increasing use of “snowflake.” After all, a snowflake is our town symbol. (The other word, which has had more recent publicity, is the word “cuck.”)

As Dana Schwartz posted in GQ a few days ago the alt-right uses “snowflake” as a general put down for anyone left of centre.

There is not a single political point a liberal can make on the Internet for which “You triggered, snowflake?” cannot be the comeback. Its purpose is dismissing liberalism as something effeminate, and also infantile, an outgrowth of the lessons you were taught in kindergarten. “Sharing is caring”? Communism. “Feelings are good”? Facts over feelings. “Everyone is special and unique”? Shut up, snowflake.

Unfortunately the word “snowflake” has appeared in Kitimat in recent days on Facebook debates as a put down for views that some people in the Valley don’t like.

That use of “snowflake” spreads intolerance in the Valley. If “snowflake” as a metaphor for someone who is supposed to be less resilient and emotionally vulnerable continues to grow the alt-right snowflake as a symbol will tarnish Kitimat’s brand (perhaps subconsciously) as we try to attract industry and jobs to the valley.

(For the record “cuck” is also a derogatory term for liberals, moderates and even the majority of conservatives who are not radical enough for the radical right. As Leah McLaren explained in the Globe and Mail, the word “cuck” originated from hard core racist pornography. . It was the use of the word cuck that led to Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leith’s campaign manager Nick Kouvalis leaving his job.)

It is the use of snowflake that concerns us. According to Dana Schwartz in the article Why Trump Supporters Love Calling People “Snowflakes” and Wikipedia, the modern use of the term snowflake comes from the book and the movie Fight Club where a character says, “You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.”

Wikipedia says the term snowflake began to receive wider attention in the past couple of years to derogatorily refer to the controversies on college campuses over “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.” Claire Fox, founder of the think tank the Institute of Ideas, published a book called I Find That Offensive! That was about the controversy over trigger warnings, safe spaces and political correctness, whatever that is these days.
Snowflake has become a standard usage in the British tabloids.

Collin’s Dictionary called the term “snowflake generation” as one of its 2016 words of the year.

There is some basis in fact to the backlash against trigger warnings and safe spaces, especially among a generation that many believe has had it easy. One common and moderate criticism, one that I agree with is that much of this attitude among some millennials is a result of over controlled, over scheduled helicopter parenting. (After all when this old fogy lived in Smeltersite and we had bears outside our back door almost every night, everyone still walked down the hill to Smeltersite School and back every day).

On the other hand, triggers are symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. There are millennials who are victims of sexual assault or other trauma and there should be accommodation for those students — not a blanket policy that applies to every class.

We all know about the high rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as previous conflicts, that the vets most of the time are not getting proper medical and psychiatric care and some are now going to university.

That is why the alt-right’s constant put down (one that was used against me on Facebook) “You triggered” is so despicable.

My father suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder all his life. A British soldier, he was taken prisoner at Singapore and became a slave labourer on the infamous Burma Thailand Railway (made famous by the 1956 Oscar winning movie Bridge on the River Kwai). Part of my healing process was doing a Master’s degree on war crimes studies, which resulted in my book A River Kwai Story The Sonkrai Tribunal.

So let me tell you about triggers. Usually triggers can be sounds that may remind a veteran of combat, or smells, or sounds. Or something that triggers a memory of an accident or an assault.

But other triggers, those that bring rage, are usually something that is a threat to the sufferer’s universe view.

For some unknown reason one of my father’s triggers was the 1960s Star Trek (The Original Series). I was a teenager when Star Trek TOS was on the air from September 1966 until June 1969. Three times something about a Star Trek episode triggered my father’s rage (perhaps he had such contempt for what he called fantasy). Three times he attempted to beat me up, until my mother intervened and ordered him out of the house to cool down. (In the 1960s, of course, no one called the police about domestic violence).

To sarcastically say “You triggered?” as the alt-right is doing without knowing the person’s life story shows how sick the alt-right is. In Canada and in Kitimat, to casually toss out “you triggered?” is also a grievous insult to our First Nations neighbors who suffered generations of trauma in residential schools….and only the individuals know what their triggers are.

But no matter what age the person actually is, Schwartz is right when they are characterized as little more than immature nineteen–year–olds

Snowflake is an ad hominem attack, a taunt of a schoolyard bully by way of Ayn Rand. You’re a wuss, and so your argument is invalid.
Calling someone a snowflake combines every single thing a college freshman loves: trolling people on the Internet, a self-satisfied sense of the superiority of one’s own impeccable powers of reasoning, and Fight Club. Nineteen-year-olds around the nation read Atlas Shrugged and then watch Brad Pitt wax poetic about how real masculinity means getting to punch Jared Leto in the face, and now feel enlightened. The world is garbage, because only because other people don’t see through the bullshit like you do. If only people could put their feelings aside and look at the cold, hard facts.

It is likely that the alt-rights and conservatives who like to toss out “you triggered” and “snowflake” on social media are bigger wusses than those they’re trying to put down.

That brings me to a story my father told me. When he was a teenager, the older generation, those who had fought in the First World War called my father’s generation wusses (or whatever the Brit equivalent was in those days) and said “You’ll never stand up to the Germans.” Now everyone, thanks to Tom Brokaw, call them the “Greatest Generation.”

As Mark Kingwell pointed out in the Globe and Mail Generation Snowflake? Not the millennials I know

You have probably heard a lot about the outraged sensitivity of these young people — how they must be coddled and shielded from adverse opinion. Real evidence of this is hard to find. My students are reliably willing to discuss anything and everything, with no cries for safety or warnings. They don’t demand new pronouns in class, but if they did, I would probably oblige — why the hell not? They don’t balk when I ask them to raise their hands before speaking. Respect is a two-way street.
Or isn’t it? I get a strong whiff of resentment and fear from these critics of younger people, especially when it comes to anything political. Who do they think they are? What, it is demanded, has become of common sense?

The election of Donald Trump, the possible break up of old alliances, and the existential threat of climate change are all challenges to the Millennials. They have one hell of a mess to clean up.

Kitimat and Kitamaat Village, the entire valley, have to stand up to hate, bigotry and intolerance. The Kitimat Valley has to set an example to counter (as much as possible in this crazy world) the alt-right and show what a snowflake really is.

Politicians of all parties have been calling for more tolerance after the mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque earlier this week. But this week hate messages were still posted on local Facebook forums.

When I was growing up in Kitimat, the town was celebrated across Canada as a shining example of multi-cultural tolerance since families had come from all over the world to build and work in the Alcan smelter.

Has that changed?

There has been anti-Muslim hate propagated in Kitimat on Facebook by a handful of people. I am sure these people have never met a Muslim in their lives (and there are Muslim families in Kitimat, that’s why No Frills stocks Halal food and, on occasion, puts in special orders for those families.)

What’s more as the United States is finding out with its counterproductive travel ban, that kind of stupidity has economic consequences. There is already talk of Silicon Valley moving operations to Vancouver. The same people who are demanding industrial development in the Kitimat Valley are the often the same ones putting up hate on Facebook. So if a company that employs many Muslim engineers and technicians wanted to bring their operations to Kitimat, would those engineers and technicians feel welcome?

More important the Kitimat settlement has proudly put the snowflake on the gates to Kitimat, on the District letterhead, on our Christmas street decorations. We parade the snowflake on Canada Day.

In the Kitimat Valley, we all have to say this snowflake bullshit stops right here and right now.

The District of Kitimat, Kitimat’s employers and businesses, its faith groups and citizens should adopt the idea of Pride from the LGBT community and start promoting Snowflake Pride. Now.

Think about this. One snowflake isn’t much. A million snowflakes, ten million snowflakes, a hundred million snowflakes can shut down a whole country.

Make it so.

Originally posted on my Northwest Coast Energy News site.

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