Seriously, think before you dip a toe into this cesspool. It’s an infinite, filthy rabbit hole – or internet addict’s dream – of cosplay social media, rage podcasts, and of course, comment sections and Labels. I’ve been drowning in it for a couple of weeks and am happy to take that mental beatdown for both of us.
If you’ve tried to ignore The Extreme (first takeaway: there’s only one Extreme) and its inhabitants, unless they’re literally in your face, you’ve perhaps not deciphered the Labels assigned to the various squads that live in it.
There are so many stupid Labels… so many sides.
Except there are not many sides. There are two.
One is the truth of a situation, or “the facts,” as we media geriatrics call them.
The second is your perception of the facts.
Today those who inhabit The Extreme, for whatever combination of complex, often dark, and deeply personal reasons, perceive facts much differently than those who do not.
If we must look at Canadians as a single cohort, I see us as a circle. The Extreme is a tiny dot in the very middle. The Extreme is a loud and fucked up place.
You know those menacing weirdos that delighted us in Mad Max: Fury Road?
Those guys inhabit The Extreme, except not nearly as badass as the movie.
How did they get there?
The rise of Donald Trump, whose trajectory into the White House parallels the drastic regression of moral and civil society and the rise of The Extreme in the United States, has been laden with increasingly bizarre, bold-faced, fact-distorting untruths.
Right now, it feels like Canada is doing its best to accelerate its course down that same path, catching up to the US at the bottom of humankind’s barrel.
America’s journey through that digestive tract has produced new and exciting groups like Antifa to clutter your Facebook timeline until you must mute all your uncles completely.
With that, let’s take a fundamental look (I’m here to bitch, not teach sociology) at how we Label these groups.
We’ll consider them from the perspective of what you arguably need to know to survive social media. Or Christmas.
The first thing you need to know about fascism is that nobody really knows what it is (please don’t email me IDGAF).
Always a good sign; its definition depends on who you’re asking:
“Most definitions agree that fascism is authoritarian and promotes nationalism at all costs, but its basic characteristics are a matter of debate.” – Mindy Weisberger, Live Science staff writer whose portfolio includes “climate change, paleontology, weird animal behavior, and space.”
“…a far right, authoritarian, ultranationalist political ideology and movement, characterized by a dictatorial leader, centralized autocracy, militarism, forcible suppression of opposition, belief in a natural social hierarchy, subordination of individual interests for the perceived good of the nation and race, and strong regimentation of society and the economy.” – Wikipedia
“As an economic system, fascism is socialism with a capitalist veneer.” – econlib.org, authored by Sheldon Richman, executive editor of The Libertarian Institute and chairman of the board of trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society.
In other words, fascism is everything.
Wikipedia, or the only definition most of us will ever read, hits the zeitgeist with “alt-right.” Most casual observers would consider fascism, a word created by Benito Mussolini, to be steeped in right-wing political ideology. Or vice versa.
Clear as mud.
In my mind, this one has just been a… catchall of crazy. If there were masks – Guy Fawkes, not nose and mouth – and a lot of hollering involved, I assumed it was Antifa.
Except, what is Antifa?
Because I’ve never really thought about it, have you?
If I’m admitting supreme ignorance here of something that everyone else has sat down and correctly examined, it wouldn’t be the first time and won’t be the last.
I don’t even know how to say it.
Who cares? The point is they’re all fucksticks.
Refreshingly, let’s sneak a fact in here. Antifa is short for anti-fascist. If fascism covers the entire political spectrum, wouldn’t Antifa mean anti-politics?
Wait, no, if lack of consensus on its definition means fascism doesn’t have one, wouldn’t Antifa mean… anti-nothing?
I’m not going to pull quotes because Dean already thinks I write too much, but again, the closest thing you’d likely find to anything resembling a standard definition of Antifa is “anti-alt-right.”
This one is interesting.
Last week I published what I believe is a fair piece about Jeremy Mackenzie on this website.
A few days later, my Substack (which I will unlock but can’t right now because Substack sucks) is called The Sask Party’s Latest Decree For Classrooms Is Peak Stupid, Amazing. Subheading: The bottom line is Scott Moe will teach your kids how to hate and no one else; thank you very much.
Pretty straightforward stuff. No question was a stupid decision because it was made by uneducated people who were not elected to make it. That is the job of education professionals, not Derek. The decision to yank an item of the K-12 curriculum was solely political, and it’s going to happen again on something else if we don’t get a grip.
I did the background, but perhaps not enough. But one could say in making my point; I also made a pretty full-throated endorsement of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN). I’d regret it if I erred, but I’ll say so. For now, we’ll see how things go from here.
In my recent pursuit of the raw, unvarnished truth about Jeremy Mackenzie, I’ve spent much more time going through CAHN’s archives simply because they have devoted much time and effort to Jeremy Mackenzie. Since publishing both those pieces, I had an enjoyable telephone conversation with the founder of the CAHN’s preceding organization, Anti-Racism (a word that means something different to me, but okay) Collective (ARC) and a current board member of CAHN, who acknowledged he’d read what I wrote.
Again, just like Kurt, this is not that complicated.
As part of my research on Jeremy Mackenzie, I noticed I was running into the name Elizabeth Simons, cited as deputy director of CAHN, quoted extensively and roundly positioned by media as an authority on several crucial national security issues, including Jeremy Mackenzie.
So as I always do, I tried to look into Elizabeth Simons’s body of work. Her CV.
Long story short, after a few offline conversations, I questioned whether Elizabeth Simons existed. Maybe I’ll eventually be publicly embarrassed, and the Canadian Anti-Hate Network can enjoy owning me online, but I wouldn’t know unless I ask, so I did.
Immediately I get an auto-response.
Was my request genuinely urgent? I thought so, so I forwarded it to the media email address.
Nowhere could I find any reference to Elizabeth or Liz Simons being a pseudonym. A few well-meaning folks suggested maybe there was so much danger from The Extreme she has had to hide behind a pseudonym.
I’m sorry, but no fucking way. That’s not how this works.
Choosing to do certain things takes courage, which sometimes disrupts your life. Hundreds of threats crisscross and fly out of The Extreme every day – they have not proven enough for dozens of female reporters across Canada to hide their faces or use fake names, including myself.
Let me tell you – if this woman does not exist or has not provided media with information and background requesting a pseudonym – shit is going to fly.
Here’s the response I received to my email. “Evan” is Evan Balgord, executive director of the Liberal federal government-endorsed and funded Canadian Anti-Hate Network:
The old Tammy would have responded by inviting Evan to fuck his mother.
The only thing that had changed since I had written that piece that reflected nicely on CAHN, was that I had observed Mackenzie’s courtroom appearance and Tweeted a few times about my concerns and increasing list of questions.
The new, softer Tammy chose differently.
After sending that response, I learned at least three reporters had already been asked to verify they had done their due diligence on the CAHN’s deputy director’s identity and qualifications. None even acknowledged receiving the question.
Once again, for those in the back: my questions about Canadian and Saskatchewan politicians and their relationship with robust systems they can easily abuse do not equal my endorsement of anything Jeremy Mackenzie has ever said or done.
Fuck me, this is ridiculous.
If we need to dumb it down to this level – and lord knows we do – when it comes to this pathetic bird, Stephen Harper was once a right-wing. Today Pierre Poilievre is a petulant baby man right wing, but a bird can’t have two branches. If there’s a second right-wing, it must be an alternate right wing. A teeny, tiny inverted alternate wing that only comes out for elections. Someone like Maxime Bernier or even Mark Friesen can be found clinging to the alt-right branch.
Of course, if one is wearing the Alt-Right Label, one can assume one also considers their rivals in The Extreme ride on the left or alternative left wing of this pterodactyl.
The common denominator across the Fascist Antifa Antihate Altright, or the FAAAs, as I’ve re-Labeled them into even further obscurity, is rage.
Look, we’re all pissed off.
If Canadians are a Venn diagram of FAAAs, non-FAAAs, and rings of anger, frustration, and powerlessness, it’s a single circle.
The problem starts when guns and balaclavas emerge, at which FAAAs marginalize or shrink themselves back down to a wee dot within the majority of us who won’t participate in civil discourse that includes two factors like guns and balaclavas and yes, many other factors we choose for ourselves.
When the Jewish hate, the immigrant hate… all the hates – when that kind of shit comes out, you and I both entirely reject it. FAAAs put themselves in a tiny ring inside the rest of us. This sounds much better than it feels, to be precise.
One last fact to remember is The Extreme is not just comprised of four groups or just the FAAAs. The majority of Canadians can process their outrage at the state of things and still get things done, all while staying inside that vast outer Canadian circle. However, on occasion, a very unique, complex set of circumstances collide and a random individual, likely already marginalized inside their own personal circles, finds themselves in The Extreme.
The difference between those random individuals and those who belong to the FAAA is Canadians are far more likely to run into the latter in their day-to-day lives, aka online.
Because if you were to create a new circle of only The Extreme, right now, we assume the vast majority in that circle will never come out from behind a keyboard.
That smaller ring within the Extreme is where the rare risk of physical or great harm lies.
Or does it?
We have done a terrible job of answering that question. When it comes to The Extreme, this country is light years away from a consensus on how to assess The Extreme’s risk and of what harm.
A largely invisible and extraordinarily gaslit civil war continues to rage across this country, as it has been for at least the last two years.
Cautiously, finally emerging from underneath the rubble of the pandemic, our minds are readapting to the fact that we’re probably going to be okay, meaning it’s time to face what happened.
Much to the disappointment of The Extreme, in most regions of Canada, all public health-related requirements have been lifted entirely. We’ve all had covid never or thirteen times and too many or zero vaccines. Yes, I understand immunocompromised individuals are still very much at risk. Still, we can at least generally accept that most Canadians are a bit more chill – or at least less emotional- about the current state of the pandemic, right?
This Canadian civil war has been raging invisibly because it’s a communications war. I appreciate this isn’t some meaningful epiphany, but what that says to me is the pathway to a truce, at least on some fronts; this should run through the same arena or media and digital communications.
Oversimplified? Sure. We need to fucking understand it properly to do better, so humor me.