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Contemporary structure of Canadian racial supremacism: networks, strategies and new technologies.

Abstract: In the past five years, public debate has increasingly centered on racial supremacists who use the internet for advertising and recruitment. Yet, to date, this phenomenon has attracted little sociological attention. As such, the present paper seeks to accommodate for this curious silence in the literature by drawing on data gathered from an investigation of the Freedom-Site, a racial supremacist Web site run out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to updating the body of literature concerned with Canada's racial supremacists, three arguments are presented: first, there exists a considerable gap between the public images that racial supremacist groups attempt to present on the interact and a far less benign image that emerges upon closer analysis; second, exemplified by the Freedom-Site, the interact has facilitated a greater degree of solidarity between racial supremacist organizations; and third, given the impersonal nature of the interact, there exists a certain degree of danger that otherwise ordinary citizens will become more susceptible to the ideology of racial supremacism. These arguments are incorporated into an examination of why racial supremacist groups have appeared on the interact and what the implications of this presence are.

Resume: Depuis ces cinq dernieres annees, le debat public se concentre de plus en plus sur l'utilisation du reseau Interact par des mouvements racistes a des fins publicitaires et de recrutement. A ce jour, le phenomene n'a que tres peu attire l'attention des sociologues. Ce memoire cherche a compenser ce curieux silence en termes de documentation ecrite en puisant dans des donnees provenant d'une enquete du Freedom-Site, site Internet raciste etabli Toronto (Ontario, Canada). Ce memoire presente non seulement un ensemble dc documentation ecrite traitant des mouvements racistes au Canada mais avance egalement trois arguments : premierement, il existe un fosse considerable entre l'image que les groupes racistes tentent de donner d'eux-memes sur le reseau Internet et celle, bien moins benigne, qui emerge d'analyses plus approfondies; deuxiemement, scion l'exemple du Freedom-Site, le reseau Internet a favorise une plus grande solidarite entre les organisations racistes; et troisiemement, etant dorme la nature impersonnelle d'Internet, il existe un certain danger a ce que le citoyen moyen devienne plus sensible aux ideologies racistes. Ces arguments ont ete integres a une etude examinant la raison pour laquelle les groupes racistes auraient fait leur apparition sur le reseau Internet et sur les implications de leur presence sur le reseau.

In cyberspace, communication and co-ordination is cheap, fast, and global. With powerful new tools for interacting and organizing in the hands of millions of people worldwide, what kinds of social spaces and groups are people creating? (Smith and Kollock, 1999:1)


Is Canada racially tolerant? Aggregate data collected over the past several years have indicated that a significant portion of Canadians not only have abandoned blatant manifestations of racism (Reitz and Breton, 1994), but that many forms of institutional racism are diminishing in the country (see, for example, Guppy and Davies, 1998).(2) Challenging these findings, however, are numerous studies which continue to indicate a widespread intolerance in Canada. Henry and Tator (1994:2), for instance, argue that white Canadians tend to dismiss the large body of evidence documenting racial prejudice and differential treatment while "fundamental inequality exists and continues to affect the lives and life chances of people of colour" (see, also, Henry, Tator, Mattis and Rees, 2000). Writing on Canadian Native Peoples, LaRocque (1989) has reasoned that this tendency equates to a denial mechanism on the part of [white] society that racism is a problem in Canada. And although attitudinal surveys conducted since the second World War paint an optimistic picture where [white] Canadians' perceptions of racial minorities are concerned, this is of little comfort to natives, immigrants and other disadvantaged persons who continue to express very serious concerns about racial prejudice and discrimination in Canada (Buchignani, 1983).

Just as racism has been justified, rationalized and/or minimized in Canada, so, too, has the presence of racial supremacist organizations. Despite the fact that several studies (Kyba, 1968; Calderwood, 1975; Betcherman, 1975; Sher, 1983; Barrett, 1987; Robins, 1993; Kinsella, 1994; Hier, 1997b) have demonstrated the magnitude and extent of racial supremacism in Canada before and after the second World War, organized racial supremacism is often dismissed as an American, and less commonly a European, phenomenon. One explanation for this is offered by Li (1995:6) who suggests that "[r]acial supremacist groups are commonly dismissed as irrational and fanatic in an otherwise democratic society." Yet, Barrett (1987:357-60) documented the existence of 130 Canadian organizations that have been devoted to racial supremacism in Canada since 1945, 60 of which openly embraced racism, fascism and/or anti-Semitism. Even more startling, Barrett (1984b:374) concluded his discussion of fascism in Canada by declaring that " least incipient fascism has existed in Canada, in both the pre- and post-World War II eras."

In this paper I shall concentrate on Canadian racial supremacism, with two primary interests: racial supremacist organizations that promote their views on the internet and the theoretical implications of this development. Data will be presented from an investigation of the Freedom-Site, a racial supremacist Web site run out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.(3) It will be argued that the internet equips racial supremacists with a prime medium for presenting an appealing image to at least some Canadians who choose to remain disconnected from organized racial supremacism for reasons other than moral/ideological disdain. Put otherwise, given the impersonal nature of the internet, coupled with its many technological capabilities, there exists a serious danger that otherwise non-affiliated Canadians will become more susceptible to the ideology of racial supremacism. First, however, I situate the study within the confines of a broader theoretical framework, probing the relationship between the introduction of new communication technologies and social action.

Computer Mediated Communication and Social Action

The literature devoted to assessing the relationship between computer mediated communication (CMC) and social action has tended to congregate around two theoretical assumptions. The first assumption is forwarded by those who conceive of CMC technology as an instrument which unilaterally shapes individual and social behavior. Proponents of "direct-impact perspectives" (see, for example, Siegel, Dubrovsky, Kiesler and McGuire, 1986; Daft, Lengal and Trevino, 1987) assert that CMC technology exercises a direct and definitive impact on social process(es), in turn stimulating social-behavioral change in a uniform manner. Conversely, and second, are the expositors of "mediated-impact perspectives" (Markus 1987; Spears and Lea, 1992; Kline and Pinch, 1996). Under the tenets of this approach, CMC technology is understood to provoke individual and/or collective action (Boczkowski, 1999), but it is argued that the impact of the introduction of new technologies is mediated rather than uni-directional. The implication, therefore, is that, in contrast to what affiliates of direct-impact perspectives assert, mediated-impact perspectives hold that technological innovations do not exercise a fixed, predictable impact on individual and social action, but that the introduction of new technologies elicit a variety of individual and social responses.

Despite the differences between the direct and mediated-impact perspectives, they both rest on the same foundation: each perspective seeks to account for the perceived effects or outcomes that CMCs have on social life (Boczkowski, 1999). Recent research, however, has challenged both perspectives principally on the grounds that CMC and social action are engaged in a dialectical interchange characterized by more elaborate processes of reciprocal influence (Martin, 1991; Bijker, 1995; Orlikowski, Yates, Okamura and Fujimoto, 1995). Perhaps the most intriguing assertion to emerge from "dialectical-reciprocal" perspectives is that the users of CMCs actively engage the technologies with which they interact, suggesting that the mediation process is not only triggered by a provocation of social action by technological innovation, but vice versa. Put otherwise, CMC technologies do not precede, but rather emerge within a dialectical process of interchange between computer users and computer mediated communication technologies.

One of the most important lessons to be learned from dialectical-reciprocal perspectives is that the success of any CMC technology is dialectically [inter]dependent on how well it is able to satisfy the demands of users and how favorably its features or contents resonate with the social, material and symbolic experiences of social agents. In terms of racial supremacists who use the internet for advertising and recruitment, it is one of the central goals of this study to demonstrate how the content of messages presented on the internet in general, and the WWW in particular, are designed with the intention of appealing to, and attracting, computer users. In doing so, I argue that one of the social functions of the internet is that it serves to remove social experiences from their physical context, re-contextualizing, in this case, racial hatred into a more palatable form. Concomitantly, I argue that racial re-articulation (Omi and Winant, 1994) takes place within a general socio-cultural context characterized, for instance, by what Memmi (2000) terms "heterophobia": fear, hate, aggressiveness and domination based on real or imagined differences between diverse social groups -- men, women, homosexuals, racial groups, the elderly, etc. The outcome is that racial supremacist organizations utilize new strategies and new technologies (web sites, BBSs, E-mail) to present computer users with a more latent form of racial supremacism which makes every effort to draw attention to, and substance from, the changing cultural and racial character of Canadian social and political affairs.

Due to the fact that studies focusing on how computer users process and decode internet materials are scarce, however, I draw on a theoretical foundation demonstrating how readers process material from conventional news media in an effort to better ascertain the relationship between human subjectivity and internet messages.(4) It is generally accepted in conventional news studies that media discourses recruit and mobilize newsreaders through an "interpellative hailing": the processes by which individuals are addressed and constituted as subjects through their emotional connectedness to a specific discourse, and the ways in which discourses confront users/readers with the realization that the issue at hand will carry real life, material consequences (Althusser, 1971; Hall et al., 1978; Hay, 1996). Importantly, in the act of processing and/or decoding text, the extent to which the subject will identify with, or reject, a given ideological position is dependent on the degree to which they perceive themselves as implicated in the discourse (Hall, 1980). The process of interpellation, therefore, is not unilaterally dependent on the ideological content of the message (see Althusser, 1971), but rather it is dialectical structured in the sense that it involves an imaginative process of decoding on the part of the subject, in addition to the actual content of the discourse. While it is probably safe to assume that members of the organizations appearing on the Freedom-Site are not students of post-structuralist media theory, they have realized that, in order to appeal to a wider audience, the messages they present on the internet need to resonate comfortably with the social experiences of their readers.

Conceptualizing Racial Supremacism

Although several concepts have been used to identify and describe organized social groups devoted to the promotion of what they perceive to be the superiority of the "white race," two conceptual models have guided Canadian studies of organized racial supremacism. The first is forwarded by Barrett (1984a; 1987) who uses the concept "right wing" to encompass a wide variety of organizations that share a common belief in the superiority of white Christian Europeans. Yet, because right wing organizations neither embrace racism, fascism and/or anti-Semitism to the same degree, nor do they equally condone the use of force and violence to realize their goals, Barrett (1987:9, 10) differentiates the "fringe" from the "radical" right. Those individuals and organizations which conceptually fall on the fringe of the radical right wing are defined by Barrett as those who are deeply disturbed by liberal politics and the changing social and political environment, but who neither condone violence nor do they openly embrace racism, fascism and/or anti-Semitism. Conversely, the radical right is defined as those groups and individuals who identify themselves as racists, fascists and/or anti-Semites and who are prepared to use violence to realize their objectives. However, while Barrett's conceptual distinction between the fringe and radical right serves as a useful starting point, the inherent difficulty of his model is that there is no clear line separating the fringe from the radical right, or conversely separating the fringe right from mainstream conservative politics.

Reacting to the difficulties of Barrett's conceptualization, Li (1995:2) has employed the more restrictive concept of "racial supremacist" to refer to

... organized social groups committed to an ideology of racial supremacy which holds that selected people of the white race are genetically and culturally superior to others deemed to belong to inferior races, based on superficial and social features ... racial supremacist groups engage in tactics and activities to propagate their beliefs and to convert followers, with the objective of dehumanizing their victims and excluding them from equal participation in society.

Subsequently, Li defines racial supremacism as the ideology and activities characteristic of racial supremacists. Following Li, I will employ the concept of "racial supremacist" in this study to identify those groups and individuals who endorse the ideology of racial supremacism, in addition to other forms of intolerance such as homophobia, and who participate in a variety of activities in an effort to propagate their beliefs and recruit followers.(5)

A few qualifying remarks are warranted. While Li's revision of Barrett's conceptualization is fruitful, it neither provides any direction on how to measure or assess racial supremacists' commitment(s) to "an ideology of racial supremacy," nor does it account for the degree of "commitment" that is required for social groups, or members of such groups, to be conceptualized as "racial supremacists". In the process of remedying these difficulties, one solution might be to combined the models forwarded by Barrett and Li in an effort to differentiate the degree to which racial supremacist organizations (and individuals) embrace the ideology of racial supremacy, as well as the degree to which they endorse the use of force and violence to realize their objectives. However, while a certain degree of conceptual value stands to be derived from such a revision, several practical difficulties arise in the process. As I will demonstrate throughout the analysis which follows, over the past five years two distinct patterns have emerged in the Canadian racial supremacist network: first, individuals and organizations which Barrett (1984a) categorized over 15 years ago as belonging to, or which have since grown out of, the "fringe right wing" -- the Canadian Association for Free Expression, Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform and the Canadian Free Speech League -- have become more closely aligned with groups that he conceptualized as belonging to the "radical right wing"; paradoxically, and second, groups which have grown out of organizations that Barrett conceptualized as belonging to the radical right -- the Heritage Front, the Canadian Patriots Network and the Euro-Christian Defense League -- have taken steps to "tone-down" their public image(s) on the internet (especially on introductory WWW pages), thereby making an effort to appear more politically respectable to the public.

It is my contention, therefore, that the contemporary structure of Canadian racial supremacism necessitates a direct and explicit focus on, and conceptualization of, racial supremacist "networks," rather than an assessment of various individuals and organizations that embrace some degree of racial supremacy. This necessarily implies that racial supremacists not only are committed to an ideology of racial supremacy, involving themselves in various activities to further their cause, but that they are connected to a wider network of organizations which, taken together, represent an affront to the collective dignity and basic human rights of minority group members, as well as a threat to social harmony in Canada.

Methods and Materials

The present paper is based on data gathered from a nineteen-month investigation (June, 1996 to January, 1998) of the Freedom-Site. The Freedom-Site is run by the Canadian Patriots Network, and at the end of this study it was hosting five primary organizations: the Heritage Front, the Euro-Christian Defense League (ECDL), the Canadian Free Speech League (CFSL), the Canadian Association for Free Expression (CAFE) and Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform (C-FAR). Since the time of data collection, additional groups have joined the Freedom-Site and links to several non-Canadian organizations have been added. Nonetheless, the five primary groups continue to retain their dominant presence on the Freedom-Site (as of July, 2000).

The information presented in this study is derived from a variety of sources: Freedom-Site Web pages and other internet material; government publications; Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Security Intelligence Review Committee reports; interviews with leaders and members of the organizations, as well as other relevant individuals associated in some respect with racial supremacist organizations; past studies of Canadian racial supremacy, especially those offered by Barrett (1984a, 1987) and Li (1995); in-house publications produced by the groups and newspaper articles. Of these many sources of information, three proved most fruitful: Web pages on the Freedom-Site, in-house publications (collected on-line and off-line) and interviews.

First, the Web sites produced by the six organizations (five primary groups plus the CPN) constituted the central focus of the study. In addition to numerous text files, including an internet "radio station" and mailing list -- as well as introductory pages -- dozens of links to other files are offered on the various pages. Over the course of the study, I managed to acquire a complete collection of the mailing list of the Canadian Patriots Network for a 10 month period, as well as dozens of past "Radio Freedom" programs. Also, to demonstrate the nature of the messages found on the internet, I draw on a content analysis of the Freedom-Site Web pages that I conducted in 1997 (Hier, 1997a), engaging a thematic analysis of the central findings of that study.

Second, I possess a near-complete, sequential one-year collection of the publications (non-internet) produced by the five primary organizations, in addition to numerous past editions. For example, I have acquired a complete collection of The Heritage Front Report for the first half of 1997, and all issues of its predecessor, Up Front. I am in possession of a one-year collection of The Free Speech Monitor published by the Canadian Association for Free Expression, the C-FAR Newsletter published by Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform and a larger, but not sequential, collection of the Canadian Free Speech League's Friends of Freedom newsletter. Arguably, in-house publications provide the richest source of information for the project.

And third, to supplement information from the first two sources, twenty-six interviews were conducted. Interviews consisted primarily of face-to-face, semi-structured sessions of variable length, in addition to many supplementary correspondences via electronic and standard mail. As it turned out, interviews not only facilitated the acquisition of information and materials that I would not have otherwise been able to obtain (pamphlets, flyers, cassette tapes of recorded speeches), but also with the opportunity to gather published material not available on the internet (recently certain published materials have appeared on the internet).

The Freedom-Site

The Freedom-Site owes its creation to one man: Marc Lemire. Originally operating under the auspices of the Euro-Canadian Alliance, Lemire created the Canadian Patriots Network in September, 1994 as an organization devoted to bringing racial supremacist groups together into one central location. As an amalgamation of the Euro-Canadian Alliance, the Canadian Christian Hotline, EuroLink and the Equal Rights For Whites Hotline, the CPN produced telephone messages promoting "white rights" and "pro-European heritage." But with increasing pressures from the Canadian Human Rights Commission surrounding the Heritage Front's "Heritage Hotline," the CPN shifted its attention to the internet.

In December, 1994, in conjunction with Christopher Saunders, Lemire opened Politically Incorrect, a Bulletin Board System (BBS) offering files concerned with freedom of expression and immigration. In April, 1995 a second BBS was opened under the sole coordination of Lemire: Digital Freedom. Digital Freedom not only offered a greater number of text files, a chat service and Canada's largest "Holocaust Revisionist" data archive, but it was attracting the attention of other racial supremacist groups, notably the Heritage Front. In light of his newly acquired popularity, Lemire opened the Freedom-Site in February, 1996 under the coordination of the CPN with the ultimate intention of bring racial supremacist groups closer together, both digitally and physically.(6)

In Lemire's view, the Canadian Patriots Network represents "the collective voice of Canadians."(7) Believing that "liberal forces of political correctness" limit the degree to which "like-minded" Canadians are able to openly support Canadian racial supremacism, Lemire perceives the internet in general, and the Freedom-Site in particular, as satisfying two central goals: first, it enables sympathizers to support the organizations and stay informed without becoming openly involved (for fear of social reprisal)(8); and second, the internet allows racial supremacists to present their opinions free of media bias while simultaneously reaching "the masses." These sentiments are echoed by the co-founder and national director of the Heritage Front, Wolfgang Droege, who contends that the internet not only has strengthened the racial supremacist network, serving to increase contacts by at least 50%, but that the lack of censorship on the internet (found in traditional media) provides them with the medium necessary to project their message(s).(9) In fact, somewhat ironically, Droege looks with admiration on social justice advocate and media critic Noam Chomsky, applauding his efforts to expose the "totalitarian" character of mainstream corporate media "mind control" as insidious and oppressive.

Public Image

The public ideological positions promoted on the introductory Web pages of the oldest organizations appearing on the Freedom-Site, CAFE and C-FAR,(10) revolve around three main issues: immigration, foreign aid and freedom of expression. C-FAR's Web site, for example, declares that "Canadian immigration policy is insane!" Calling for an initial five year moratorium on immigration, C-FAR critiques Canadian immigration monthly in two publications (now offered on their Web site): C-FAR Newsletter and Canadian Immigration Hotline. Contained within these publications are dozens of editorials which attempt to link immigration to AIDS, terrorism, drug smuggling, tax evasion and national debt.

In a similar fashion to CAFE and C-FAR, the CFSL operates under the pretense of being a "society dedicated to fighting censorship and thought control," claiming to be devoted to liberating "innocent Canadians" charged with "thought or word crimes." While CAFE and the CFSL are similar in this respect, the fundamental difference between CAFE and the CFSL is that the CFSL is centered entirely on the issue of free speech, while CAFE often expands its official scope to issues related to immigration and foreign Aid. Nonetheless, by focusing on issues such as immigration, censorship and foreign Aid, all three groups attempt to tap into the insecurities that many Canadians hold concerning government spending, rising immigration levels and censorship. Furthermore, when public resistance mounts to certain outspoken racial supremacist figures such as Malcolm Ross, Ernst Zundel or Jim Keegstra, the CFSL and CAFE come to their defense in the name of free speech.(11)

Not unlike CAFE, C-FAR and the CFSL, the Heritage Front, CPN and ECDL present a public image on the WWW which attempts to appeal to an audience beyond the ranks of Canada's racial supremacists by drawing on issues which are socially and politically sensitive to the Canadian public. Generally, the image promoted by these organizations centers on what they refer to as "the preservation of Euro-Canadian heritage." Each group declares on the introductory pages of their Web sites that they are non-violent special interest groups devoted to the advancement and protection of white rights. The Heritage Front, for instance, declares that it is a "....non-violent organization which encourages healthy, open and peaceful dialogue on such controversial issues as immigration, welfare reform and the preservation of an individual's racial integrity."(12) Just as there exists special interest groups for blacks, Jews, homosexuals and women, these groups feel that there should exist white rights groups. Faced with what they perceive as increasing levels of discrimination against white people in government policies such as affirmative action and employment equity, they are incensed by what they believe to be the systematic exclusion of qualified whites from the workforce. Special events such as Toronto's Gay Pride Week or Caribbana are seen as outrageous considering that there is no White Pride Week or celebration of white heritage. Their proposed solution, thus, is to terminate all programs, policies and practices which they understand to afford special privilege to non-white, non-Christian populations.

To summarize, the introductory Web pages of C-FAR, CAFE and the CFSL claim that the groups are concerned with restraints placed on freedom of expression, unnecessary foreign aid assistance and the detrimental effects of liberal immigration policy, but have aligned themselves on the internet with organizations which have grown out of explicitly racist organizations (see Barrett, 1987; Kinsella, 1994). The Heritage Front, CPN and the ECDL, on the other hand, have sanitized their public image on introductory pages in an effort to appeal to a wider audience. What is most striking about these groups today is the degree of solidarity and interdependency that they exhibit. This is not to suggest that prior to the appearance of the Freedom-Site Canadian racial supremacists were engaged in rivalry and clearly divided -- although in many cases (if not the majority) they have been -- but that the internet has facilitated a greater degree of solidarity between these groups (and others). The groups have realized that by bonding together into one central network, a more prosperous racial supremacist movement can be achieved. Indeed, Paul Fromm demonstrated this fact clearly when he declared in his 1989 speech at the Heritage Front's Martyr's Day rally: "....we're up against an enemy, as I see it, the equivalent of an army of occupation.... And the only way we are going to regain our country is through unity, unity, unity."(13)

Ideology of the Freedom-Site

In contradistinction to the public image that the six organizations attempt to project on the Web, in this section I will demonstrate the racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic character of the individuals and organizations which constitute the Freedom-Site. In doing so, I argue that three core components comprise the ideological make-up of the Freedom-Site: anti-liberalism, Euro-Christian racial superiority and freedom of expression.(14) Interrogating each component, I will demonstrate not only that the ideology of racial supremacism permeates all of the organizations, but that it transcends the traditional conceptual division between "fringe" and "radical" groups, rendering this conceptual distinction empirically problematic. Consequently, I argue that the organizations cannot be fully understood apart from one another: the Freedom-Site consists of, and serves to comprise, an interdependent network of Canadian racial supremacism.


The dominant ideological component found on the Freedom-Site is anti-liberalism. While anti-liberalism encompasses a wide variety of issues, the central elements include anti-homosexuality, anti-third world immigration, anti-foreign aid and anti-multiculturalism/ethnic diversity. These issues are usually blended with a subtle brand of racism, anti-Semitism and/or homophobia, and it is often the case that certain politically sensitive issues (e.g. crime, disease) are employed with the intent to mask racist and homophobic undertones. In other words, a racialized discourse of, for instance, criminality or health risks is employed in an effort to construct "the other" as threatening and dangerous -- a risk (on the processes of objectification and racialization in the mainstream news media, see Hier and Greenberg, forthcoming).

Typical of this strategy are several essays found in the "Controversial Columnists" text file of the Canadian Patriots Network, where the threat of AIDS and other public health risks are used in an attempt to mask homophobia and/or racism.

There is a killer loose in the land. This killer cuts down all whom he touches. If he touches you, you will die. If he touches your child, your child will die. His victims die a slow, horrible death. They waste away. They drown in their own body fluids. They lose control of their bowels. They lose their memories. They become demented. They die in agony. There is nothing that can be done to save them.... The killer's name is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV for short..... Thousands have died because they, or doctors they trusted, believed the government's and the media's lies about AIDS.... When looking at the data for heterosexuals with AIDS, the one fact that is the most striking is that Blacks are between 14 and 20 times more likely to be infected than are Whites. Fourteen to twenty times more likely! In fact, even though Blacks account for only about 12% of the US population, they account for fully 90% of all AIDS infections in this country which were acquired through heterosexual means.

The previous passage, representative of dozens of text files found on Digital Freedom, attempts to objectify and homogenize the social category of "black," linking [black] immigration to the politically volatile issue of infectious disease. The intended result is to link the categories of "black" and "immigrant" to AIDS in particular, and health risks and personal and familial safety in general, with the ultimate intention of rallying support in favor of reducing non-white immigration to the continent.(15)

Elsewhere on the Freedom-Site, these themes are extended to incorporate Foreign Aid and third world research and development. In the October 1996 edition (Issue 304) of the C-FAR Newsletter (now found on the C-FAR Web site), for example, a critical attack is launched on the University of Manitoba's Nairobi AIDS Project (funded by CIDA and the Medical Council of Canada) -- a study which investigated prostitutes in Nairobi who were showing an immunity to the AIDS virus -- in an effort to create a racialized juxtaposition between "Canadians taxpayers" and "diseased foreigners."

With overpopulation in Africa and consequent ruination of the environment there, the long-suffering Canadian taxpayer might wonder why the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is spending our tax dollars on research into AIDS in Kenya. ... Surely, it is enough that Canadians have their own problems with this epidemic that originated in Africa.

As hooks (1990) has argued, racialized stereotypes are formulated to serve as substitutes for reality. Racialized language serves to objectify minorities, and codified tropes are designed to resonate with the collective experiences of the target audience. Observed in the previous passage, in an effort to link a homogenized conception of the third world with immigration and infectious disease, the dubious message which emerges is that [third world] immigration equals AIDS, health risks and an immediate threat to the personal safety of Canadian citizens.

And in an attempt to appear scientifically legitimate, writings from the University of Western Ontario's Philippe Rushton (1995)(16) are presented on the Freedom-Site which argue, among other things, that because blacks have larger than average genitals, they are biologically predisposed to sexual promiscuity and thus over-represented as carriers of HIV (C-FAR Newsletter, February 1997, Issue 308). For example, under a headline reading "Rushton Insists there are Racial Differences," C-FAR offers endorsement for, and support is derived from, Rushton's "racial matrix."(17) Consequently, it was this "scientific proof" from Rushton which prompted C-FAR to declare that all immigrants should be administered AIDS tests before being considered for admission to the country (C-FAR Newsletter, September, 1996, issue 303; October, 1996, issue 304). As Paul Fromm wrote in the C-FAR Newsletter (February, 1997, Issue 308), "If race were simply arbitrary, consistent relationships of the type Professor Rushton has described would not be found."

What is particularly disturbing about the racialized discourse(s) that the Freedom-Site organizations present on the internet is that there exists a danger of these sentiments attracting a sympathetic mainstream Canadian audience. Such was the case after the arrivals of the first two (of four) boats carrying several hundred Fujianese migrants on Canada's western shores in the summer of 1999. In a series of editorials, National Post columnist Diane Francis began to publicly endorsed Paul Fromm's latest creation, Canada First Immigration Reform Committee (CFIRC). Under a subtitle reading "Nothing `racist' in upholding the law or protecting borders," Francis wrote

The two boatloads of illegal aliens from China should be sent back immediately ... Canadians agree with this view but most media comment does not ... Very few [Canadian Citizens] go public with their views and when they do they pay the price. Take the recent experiences of a small group of concerned Canadians who call themselves Canada First Immigration Reform Committee. This group agrees with me that the entire immigration/refugee system is a boondoggle. So they have decided to lobby on behalf of the silent majority by opening an internet site (24 August 1999, National Post).

Recently appearing on the Freedom-Site, CFIRC's web site features critical reviews of refugee and immigration policy, illustrated by headlines such as "Immigration Can Kill You!" and "Diseases Can Be Passed On By Not Washing Your Hands". What is of particular concern is the professional relationship that crystallized between the CFIRC and Francis (and the National Post). Not only did Francis offer support for CFIRC publicly, but in editorials with titles such as "These Refugees and Immigrants Can Kill You" (21 August 1999, National Post) she encouraged readers to contact CFIRC by providing their electronic mailing address.

Euro-Christian Racial Superiority

The second (interrelated) issue central to the ideology of the groups on the Freedom-Site is the belief in the natural superiority of the "Euro-Christian white race." Every group on the Freedom-Site sees immigration of non-Europeans as the largest threat to European racial survival; as with AIDS, however, this issue is approached in an indirect manner, exemplified by the Heritage Front's "Animal Series." The animal series consists of a collection of pamphlets (non-internet) that take as their primary objective to compare black people to jungle animals, but attempts are made to mediate the comparison with reference to dubious crime rates. One pamphlet entitled "White and Proud" exemplifies this strategy:

More than 1600 whites are murdered by Blacks each year; Blacks murder whites at 18 times the rate whites murder Blacks; Blacks under the age of 18 are more than twelve times as likely to be arrested for murder than whites the same age; Some 90% of victims of race crimes are white.

This pattern is further elaborated in "Crime Watch," a section in C-FAR's monthly publication, Canadian Immigration Hotline (CIH). Each month, numerous examples of criminal activity are provided, ranging from fraud and sexual assault to murder, all perpetrated by people who have apparently emigrated to Canada. Under headlines such as "Indian Killer Wants to Stay in Canada" (CIH, October 1995), "Immigrant Gangs out of Control" (CIH, January, 1996), "Over 1,500 Criminals Granted Special Minister's Entry Permits Last Year" (CIH, September, 1996) and "Trinidadian Criminal Back in Canada" (CIH, October, 1996), the following messages are conveyed:

Here's another mistake Canada made. An immigrant convicted of sexually assualting a boy more than 100 times has appealed his deportation order to the Federal court of Canada (CIH, October, 1995).

Canada's hard up for business skills. So, more than a few enterprising Hong Kong criminals have been fast-tracked as "entrepreneur" class immigrants (CIH, April, 1996).

Even if Canada's porous immigration screening system rejects you for your criminal background, there is still hope. Former immigration minister Sergio Marchi granted more than 1,500 special permits to rapists, murders suspected terrorists and drunk drivers last year (CIH, September, 1996).

What the previous passages attempt to do is objectify all non-white citizens as "immigrants" within the confines of a racialized discourse, creating a discursive distinction between "us" and "them," "true Canadians" and "dangerous foreigners," "honest citizens" and "sexually devious criminals." As Henry, Tator, Mattis and Rees (2000) argue, criminal activities of racialized minorities, although perpetrated by isolated individuals, are frequently interpreted as "group crime." Confounded by the Canadian Immigration Hotline's (and other outlets on the Freedom-Site) incessant (and fallacious) theme of attempting to link infectious diseases to immigration, the overwhelming message that the groups attempt to project is clear: immigration equals crime, AIDS, escalating social fragmentation and Euro-Canadian racial demise.

While the issue of non-white immigration occupies a central importance on the Freedom-Site, anti-Semitism has assumed an equally dominant presence, observed prominently on the CPN's BBS, Digital Freedom. Housing what is claimed to be Canada's largest Holocaust Revisionist data archive, the anti-Semitic views of the Freedom-Site are captured in the following passage taken from Digital Freedom:

What proof exists that the Nazis practiced genocide or deliberately killed six million Jew? None!.... How many gas chambers to kill people were there at Auschwitz? None!.... If Auschwitz wasn't a "death camp," what was its true purpose? It was a large manufacturing complex. Synthetic rubber was made there.... Is there any evidence that Hitler knew of mass extermination of Jews? No!

The same document proceeds to argue, contrary to established and accepted scholarly historical wisdom, that no more than 300 000 Jews were killed in Nazi concentration camps and that Anne Frank's diary is a literary hoax. Complementing the Holocaust Revisionist data archive, numerous essays are available which present contrived diagrams disputing the efficiency of gas chambers for containing lethal gases and exterminating human beings. The Holocaust is dismissed as a Jewish fabrication, and links are provided to documents such as Did Six Million Really Die?(18)

As an extension of her earlier studies of the harmful consequences of hate propaganda on target groups (see, for example, Kallen, 1991 and Kallen and Lam, 1993), Kallen (1997) has recently argued, not only that "invalidation myths" posted by racial supremacists on the internet serve to objectify racialized minorities as inferior and sub-human, but that the very act of promoting invalidation ideologies on the internet "... legitimizes and incites harmful discriminatory action against minority target groups," singling them out as dangerous and threatening to society (Kallen, 1997:14). As she reasons, one of the central elements of hate messages is to take steps to eliminate the perceived threat by "disempowering and expelling" minority groups. The primary mechanism by which this process is facilitated, I have argued, is the objectification of racialized minorities and the concomitant association of politically sensitive issues such as health risks and crime with the signifier of race.

Freedom of Expression

It is not surprising that the arguments put forth by racial supremacists on the Freedom-Site have generated considerable resistance and led to controversy over freedom of expression in Canada. However, public resistance to racist sentiments has also led to a considerable degree of resistance on the part of the racial supremacists. The Canadian Association for Freedom of Expression, for instance, publishes the Free Speech Monitor ten times per year, devoted to upholding unrestrained free speech. Support is offered in favor of such figures as Ernst Zundel, who for years has distributed the pamphlet Did Six Million Really Die?, and Malcolm Ross whose anti-Semitic publications include Web of Deceit, Spectre of Power, and The Real Holocaust: The Attack on Unborn Children and Life Itself. CAFE, however, is not alone.

The Euro-Christian Defense League was quick to come to the defense of Ross in 1995 when he went before the Supreme Court of Canada, claiming that a Christian man had been stripped by Atlantic Jews of his right to freedom of religion. Further, the Canadian Free Speech League's Friends of Freedom newsletter chronicles racial supremacist cases that Doug Christie is defending. These individuals include Tony McAleer whose Canadian Liberty Net was originally targeted in 1992 for its content by a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, holocaust denier and BC columnist Doug Collins and Ernst Zundel's most recent Human Rights Tribunal concerning the contents of the ZundelSite. Operating under the pretense that they are concerned with the cumulative nature of censorship, groups such as CAFE and the CFSL avoid endorsing the views of people such as Zundel and Ross outright, but nonetheless offer their unbridled support for the right to express any opinion no matter how offensive they might be to the target group(s).

As Kallen (1991) and Kallen and Lam (1993) argue, despite the legal debate that has ensued over the years between the ideological positions of libertarianism (granting priority to free speech) and egalitarianism (placing certain limits on what may be expressed), the promotion of, and supporting foundation for, hate propaganda represents an affront to target group dignity and the basic human rights of Canada's racial and religious minorities. Not only does racial supremacism on the internet serve to violate the guaranteed Charter rights of target groups but, as Kallen (1997) has demonstrated, it serves to incite hatred and harm against racialized minorities, homosexuals and other socially disadvantaged and marginalized groups. As exemplified by the Freedom-Site, a more unified racial supremacist movement has contributed to the continued violation of the collective rights of Canadians.

Therefore, the pivotal issues found on the Freedom-Site consist of a combination of themes concerned with anti-liberalism, Euro-Christian racial superiority and freedom of expression, blended with varying degrees of racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia. These issues, presented within the parameters of objectifying racialized discourses, are often diluted with reference to socially sensitive issues including crime, AIDS and quasi-scientific racial theories in an effort to tap into the fears and insecurities that many Canadians hold concerning the changing cultural and racial character of Canada. Far from existing in isolation to one another, the six organizations found on the Freedom-Site not only overlap considerably with respect to their beliefs and activities, but must be conceived of as one, unifying force. What this implies is that the themes forwarded by each organization cross-articulate with themes promoted by the other groups to produce a collective ideology of racial supremacy.


This paper was introduced with a brief overview of reactions to the existence of racism and racial supremacism in Canada. It was argued that a majority of [white] Canadians have dismissed or otherwise demonstrated an ambivalence towards racism and racial supremacism in the country. In an attempt to account for this ambivalence, Henry and Tator (1994) put forth the idea of the ideology of "Democratic Racism" (see, also Henry et al, 2000). Canadians, they suggest, are caught between conflicting values of egalitarianism, fairness and equality on the one hand, and racist values which carry the potential for discrimination and differential treatment on the other. Building on this line of thought, Li (1995) presented a discussion of how racial supremacist groups are able to exist in a social democracy like Canada. Echoing the epistemological writings of Miles (1982, 1989, 1994), Li suggests that because of the fact that the false notion of "race" is retained as an explanatory concept by the general population, the acceptance of biological determinism inherent in the "race" concept predisposes wider society to the racially deterministic arguments of racial supremacists. As he reasons, because of the more extreme forms of racism promoted by racial supremacists, less extreme, more widely distributed forms of racism are tolerated, if not condoned, by wider society.

Considering these arguments, why is being labeled as racist so repelling if, as Henry and Tator and Li suggest, most people harbor attitudes and beliefs characteristic of racial supremacists? In my view, the fundamental, though not definitive, answer to this question lies in the distribution of differential power and the social privilege afforded to white skin. As Li (1995) has perceptively pointed out, racial supremacist groups serve as powerful symbolic expressions for white supremacy which are confounded by the retention of the "race" category and fluctuations in the social and economic climate. In fact, Barrett (1984a, 1987) has gone so far as to suggest that there is an inherent compatibility between right wing [racial supremacist] groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the institutional fabric of the wider society. Such groups, Barrett asserts, simply could not exist in Canada without a certain degree of support from the wider society.(19)

In a related vein, Solomos and Back (1996:156), assessing the relationship between racism and western culture, contend that "The currency of contemporary racisms cannot be fully comprehended without understanding their relationship to the various cultural mechanisms that enable their expression." One innovative approach to this problem is offered by Levin and McDevitt (1993) who use the concept of the "culture of hate" to reflect the growing intolerance in popular culture. As they outline, when thousands of people pay to hear comedy acts which refer to "urine coloured people with towels on their heads" (p. 35) or purchase albums (or CDs) recorded by bands whose lyrics target immigrants, blacks and homosexuals, the culture of hate is reproduced. But Levin and McDevitt extend the argument beyond racial/ethnic and same-sex oriented groups. There exists an enormous market, they point out, for movies which sexually degrade women and/or carry misogynistic undertones. Violent sexual themes emerge in popular music lyrics referring to "bitches" and "whores." Far from these sentiments being extreme or radical, they are directly supported by the hundreds of thousands of tickets sold to concerts, movies and comedy acts which perpetuate stereotypes against racialized minorities and present women in a subservient and dehumanizing manner.

In light of the "culture of hate" thesis, it is reasonable to draw the conclusion that the entertainment industry would not thrive on such extreme manifestations of intolerance and hatred if there did not exist an incredibly large demand for such a product or service. The same argument applies to the internet. For example, in recent times there has been a modest effort to curtail the amount of pornography presented on the WWW. Although some legal action has been taken to restrict this material, hundreds of Web sites offer pornographic pictures which cater to a large audience and satisfy a growing demand. Significantly, what is often overlooked in discussions of pornography on the internet is that many of these sites require credit card access.

By this argument I do not mean to suggest that most people intentionally or directly promote violence against racialized minorities or women. Indeed, it would be correct to assert that most Canadians neither consciously nor intentionally discriminate against racialized minorities. However, to the limited number of individuals in society which are inclined to carry-out criminal acts against socially disadvantaged groups, or to the greater number of people who take actions to intentionally discriminate against these individuals, when their victims are seen, not as human beings per se, but rather as "whores," "bitches" or "urine coloured people," and conversely any other stereotype concerning Jews, blacks, women, homosexuals and immigrants, the act becomes that much easier and that much more justified in the mind of the racist, bigot, misogynist or anti-Semite. To put this otherwise, when target groups (and their members) are objectified, the ability to carry-out discriminatory treatment is made that much easier. And this brings us to an important characteristic of the internet: removal from the human/physical context.

Reflecting on the recent explosion of internet popularity in the western world, Sardar (1996:30) writes that "... the totalizing online character of cyberspace ensures that the marginalized stay marginalized: the external racism of Western society is echoed in cyberspace as on-line monoculture." He goes on to suggest that cyberspace provides an escape from the inescapable reality of the diversity in the modern world. Several recent authors (Slouka, 1997; Brown, 1997) have picked up on this theme by arguing that the nature of online computing removes experiences from their physical context and projects human consciousness into a cybernetic abyss. While I do not wish to explore the existential realities, or non-realities, of cyberspace, I do wish to build upon the argument that cyberspace removes human experience from its physical context.

Similar to the concept of the "culture of hate" which suggests that there is a large demand for an entertainment industry which continues to promote racism, sexism and bigotry largely because the perpetrators of such acts for the most part do not see these things as humiliating and dehumanizing to their target victims, the same applies to the internet. To sit in the confines of one's own home and read about how the Holocaust is an historical fabrication propagated by Jews to gain political leverage is not the same as to discuss these opinions in public forum. Put succinctly, the presence of a swastika on a Web page is not the same as seeing that same symbol painted on the front of a synagogue (or conversely, to upload a swastika on to the WWW is not the same as painting that symbol on the front of a synagogue!). This phenomenon was observed by Omi and Winant (1994) when they argued that "far right" groups use "code words" in an effort to rearticulate racial ideology into a form that the wider public is more capable of digesting. Indeed, the racial supremacist groups on the Freedom-Site have realized this fact and they have made an effort to significantly modify their public images and to present their views in the most positive and appealing way.


I have argued that the reason why at least some Canadians do not openly embrace racial supremacism is not because of a fundamental ideological resentment for racism and bigotry, but rather for fear of social repercussions. The internet, in turn, provides a medium whereby people can stay informed of racial supremacist activities and indirectly support racial supremacist organizations without becoming openly involved. There are radio programs on the internet which argue that immigrants are taking over the country, mailing lists which openly target homosexuals and there are hundreds of essays promoting the protection of white Euro-Canadian heritage. Surely, use of the internet is not an activity exclusive to racial supremacists, but if Li's argument concerning the powerful cultural symbolism of racial supremacy is correct, the World Wide Web has presented racial supremacists with an incredibly efficient mechanism to disseminate racial supremacism on a national and international scale.

As the internet attracts increasing numbers of racial supremacist organizations, connections between the groups will undoubtedly solidify. As we have seen, the connections between racial supremacist organizations in Canada have been strengthened by the internet in a relatively short period of time. Coupled with the racial re-articulation that such organizations present on the internet, and a social environment increasingly saturated with members of non-white, non-Christian, non-European populations, the diluted messages which appear on the internet present a serious danger of appealing to a wider audience. Given the impersonal nature of the internet, combined with a deep-seated intolerance running through Canadian society, the information age might turn out to be the most prosperous era in the history of Canadian racial supremacism.

(1.) I am indebted to numerous individuals who have offered valuable contributions to this study throughout its lengthy duration, but I am particularly grateful for the insightful comments and scholarly wisdom forwarded by Stan Barrett, Josh Greenberg and the anonymous reviewers assigned by the journal.

(2.) Defining racism has proven to be an enormously difficult task. For example, various definitions of racism have appeared in the works of Miles (1989), Satzewich (1991), Essed (1991) and Bowser (1995). I do not wish to enter into the debate concerning the precise definition of racism. For my purposes, therefore, racism will refer to the negative social/cultural evaluation of any group of human beings based on the perceived notion of racial/biological difference. These pejorative racialized evaluations, in turn, comprise the foundation for excluding certain racialized groups from equal participation in society's institutions, as well as serve to degrade and dehumanize members of racialized groups. While I see racism fundamentally as an ideology, the ideological consequences of racism often manifest in the form of material deprivations.

(3.) As of July, 2000, the Freedom-Site was accessible on the World Wide Web at:

(4.) My contention is not that conventional new stories and internet documents are analytically parallel. Arguably, people are far more skeptical of material they encounter on the internet than they are of information contained in newspaper articles. Assuming, however, that readers of conventional news stories and internet documents are active participants in the processing of information, the content of any document that appeals to, and falls in-line with, their symbolic and material experiences will be more likely to facilitate a compassionate engagement.

(5.) It is important to realize that there are several groups that promote the superiority of non-whites. I do not wish to dispute this issue. But for purposes of the present discussion, the concept of racial supremacism will be applied exclusively to pro-white organizations.

(6.) In just over two years the Freedom-Site had attracted Canadian operations as diverse as Vancouver's Women for Aryan Unity and the ZundelSite, as well as American groups including the National Alliance and David Duke's National Association for the Advancement of White People.

(7.) Interview with Marc Lemire, 13 February 1997.

(8.) Lemire cites as evidence for the latter claim that by October, 1995 Digital Freedom had attracted 2682 registered users per week, and that the BBS had seen over 27 000 visitors since the time it opened (Alternative Forum Speech, Marc Lemire, 20 October 1996). By 1996, Lemire was boasting a CPN subscriber-list of over 500, and he had claimed that the Freedom-Site had seen 84 000 visitors by mid-1997 (CPN Distribution List, 7 July 1997).

(9.) Interview with Wolfgang Droege, 8 February 1997.

(10.) For nearly two decades, Paul Fromm has served as national director of both groups. Consequently, the degree of ideological cross-fertilization which has ensued between CAFE and C-FAR is greater than any other groups on the Freedom-Site.

(11.) It is important to recognize that, although the directors of CAFE and the CFSL- Paul Fromm and Doug Christie, respectively - share a deep public concern over what they perceive to be escalating levels of censorship in Canada -- a concern not exclusive to racial supremacists -- they both continue to battle censorship by publicly supporting widely recognized racists and anti-Semites. Indeed, it was these very efforts which resulted in Fromm, along with New Brunswick school teacher and anti-Semitic author Malcolm Ross, receiving the Canadian Free Speech League's 11th annual George Orwell Award in 1995 (Friends of Freedom, September/October, 1995).

(12.) The same document proceeds to call for "racial separation," claiming that multiculturalism is "nationally divisive," arguing that most of Canada's "social ills" are due to heavy immigration and dismisses the presence of skinheads at Heritage Front meetings giving "Seig Heils" as "political dissenters" utilizing a radical symbol to protest the fact that their country is not free.

(13.) The Martyr's Day rally is held annually by the Heritage Front to commemorate the anniversary of the death of American racial supremacist Robert Mathews. Mathews, one-time leader of the Order, was killed in a shootout with FBI agents in 1984. See

(14.) The categorization in this section is derived from an in-depth analysis of the Web pages presented on the Freedom-Site, as well as hard-copy publications produced by the primary groups, and a content-analysis that I carried out in 1997.

(15.) Such a strategy manifests not only in the literature and Web documents produced by Canada's racial supremacists, but similar patterns emerge in the mainstream media. As I have demonstrated elsewhere (Hier and Greenberg, forthcoming), the insidious racialized objectification of Canada's minority populations, combined with politically volatile social issues such as the risk of AIDS or crime, effectively facilitates the mobilization of an ideological identification with immigrant and refugee exclusionism.

(16.) Rushton, a psychology professor at the University of Western Ontario, generated a considerable degree of controversy when he published Race, Evolution and Behavior. Drawing on long-discredited 19th century racial typologies, Rushton (1995:178-183) argues, among other things, that the rate of sexual activity for the three main "races" (Negroid, Caucasoid and Mongoloid) increases in the direction Oriental > white > black, with a corresponding racial increase in the AIDS rate.

(17.) Rushton (1995:171, 170) writes: "African adolescents are more sexually active than Europeans, who are more sexually active than Asians. While some variation occurs from country to country, consistency is found within groups.... There is also evidence that biological factors differentially influence sexual behavior across races, the direction being blacks > whites > Orientals ... Biological factors ... predict the onset of sexual interest, dating, first intercourse, and first pregnancy better for blacks than for whites or Orientals."

(18.) In 1985, the famous Canadian Holocaust Denier, Ernst Zundel, was found to be in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for willfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group, Jews, with the pamphlet Did Six Million Really Die? In the ensuing multiyear court battle, Zundel was acquitted by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1992. Today, links to the pamphlet, which contests many of the documented atrocities which transpired in Nazi Germany, can be found on the Zundelsite.

(19.) It is Barrett's assertion that, due to the difficulties encountered in assessing the magnitude and extent of racism in Canada, white supremacist (right wing) groups represent "laboratories" for the analysis of racism in wider society. He argues that such groups represent crystallized, explicit forms of a more widespread racism found in the general population. By studying right wing groups, therefore, Barrett contends that much can be learned about a generalized Canadian racism, suggesting that right wing groups simply could not exist if there did not exist some degree of compatibility with wider society.


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Author:Hier, Sean P.
Publication:Canadian Journal of Sociology
Date:Sep 22, 2000
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