Upcoming Presentation to Future Teachers

Apologies for the short notice, but on Tuesday April 13, I am presenting on responding to white nationalist recruitment in schools. The event is primarily aimed at Education majors and graduate students in Education at Gonzaga University but is free and open to the wider public. Registration is available here: Identifying and Countering White Nationalist Recruitment in Schools April 13th, 5:00-6:30 (office.com).

In the past few weeks I have given a number of other presentations in Critical Theory and Hate Studies, including two for the American Philosophical Association Pacific conference (on the Radical Philosophy Association and North American Society for Social Philosophy panels, both great groups of people!), but I’ve primarily been deep into writing my book, hoping to send the full manuscript to the publisher within the next few weeks.

New Article on Why Fascists Lie, and Other Updates

Publication:

I have had a long-form review essay accepted for publication in online Critical Theory journal Logos: A Journal of Modern Society & Culture. (It will come out in the issue after next.) The review explores fascist lying and “denialism,” through looking at three recent books that address the theme (Claudia Leeb’s The Politics of Repressed Guilt: The Tragedy of Austrian Silence, Keith Kahn-Harris’s Denial: The Unspeakable Truth, and Federico Finchelstein’s A Brief History of Fascist Lies).

An excerpt from my review:

Fascists do not only lie tactically, to “con” enemies or the masses. According to Finchelstein, fascists also lie as a matter of epistemological principle, since they view the truth as something created and enforced by violence, not as something to be discovered. Paradoxically, then, fascists’ lying has an element of honesty: a sincere and genuine rejection of the idea that their beliefs could ever be rationally proven or disproven, since they believe their beliefs are simply intuitively known to the select few destined for power, or conveyed by the leader or movement to the followers. However, as Finchelstein points out, and as Kahn-Harris’s and Leeb’s work help illuminate, fascists also lie for disingenuous, psychological reasons—that is, fascists lie as a mechanism of denial, to protect their consciences from awareness of what they are doing and to hide from “unspeakable truths” about themselves.

I also look at how fascists’ denial and defense mechanisms are mirrored in the racism of broader society and are not confined to the rhetoric or actions of ideologically committed fascists.

Recent webinar:

The Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS) webinar on white nationalism, earlier this month, went well. One of the topics I addressed in my presentation was the limitations of the “Countering Violent Extremism” model and government programs, including the problematic ties of CVE to Islamophobia and racial profiling, as well as why securitization and policing will not defeat the threat of fascism. Here are some of the resources I shared on my handout:

Recommended reading (links):

“I don’t yet trust him”: 5 Muslims reflect on Biden’s record of surveilling their communities (mic.com)

Muslim boy, 4, was referred to Prevent over game of Fortnite | UK news | The Guardian

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): A Resource Page | Brennan Center for Justice

Factsheet: Countering Violent Extremism – Bridge Initiative (georgetown.edu)

Terror and Abolition | Boston Review

Explaining the Problematic CVE/PVE Programs – CAIR California Sacramento Valley/Central California

Repression and Ideology: The Legacy of Discredited Centrist/Extremist Theory | Political Research Associates

Some books that have been helpful to me on this topic:

  • Arun Kundnani, The Muslims Are Coming!
  • Mondon and Winter, Reactionary Democracy
  • Liz Fekete, Europe’s Fault Lines
  • Mike German, Disrupt, Discredit, Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy

Other updates on my work:

  • On Thursday, March 4, I will be speaking on a zoom panel with Dr. Megan Squire as a guest of the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society at Elon University. I will discuss the influence of Julius Evola on both Steve Bannon and neo-Nazi accelerationist movements.
  • I have joined the editorial board of the Journal of Hate Studies, the Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies’s highly respected open access journal. View articles and submission criteria here: Journal of Hate Studies (gonzaga.edu).
  • I will be speaking to undergraduate and graduate education students at Gonzaga in April on countering white nationalist recruitment in schools.
  • My popular doctoral seminar on Critical Theory and Leadership (which includes looking at Erich Fromm’s work on the authoritarian personality and Leo Lowenthal’s study of the rhetoric of antisemitic “American agitators”) has been added to the course catalog and regular annual rotation of Gonzaga’s Doctoral Program in Leadership Studies (DPLS). I am excited to be teaching a course for DPLS for the fourth time this coming summer.

Podcast Appearance and Upcoming Webinar

I was recently interviewed for Canadian podcast Darts and Letters, and I got to talk a bit more about the importance of balancing an understanding of the severity of the threat posed by the violent far-right, with an understanding of the limitations of a securitized response that treats fascism primarily as a crime problem to be countered by law enforcement, rather than a social movement to be countered by social movements.

There are three other people interviewed in the episode as well, who all raised very interesting points. (I didn’t fully agree with the historian’s analysis, but it’s all interesting and worth a listen. I particularly enjoyed Patrik Hermansson of Hope Not Hate’s hilarious story of giving a presentation on “left-wing infiltration” while he was undercover infiltrating the far-right as a left-wing activist!) You can check out the whole episode here: EP8: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fascism! | Darts and Letters (blubrry.net)

Next week (Wednesday, February 3, 7:00pm PT) my friend Kate Bitz from Western States Center and I are doing a webinar presentation on countering white nationalism, for the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane (PJALS). You can register for free here: Webinar Wednesday: Countering White Nationalism in 2021 And Beyond (everyaction.com)

Responding to the 1/6 Coup Attempt

The day before the storming of the Capitol, I was interviewed on my friend Luke Baumgarten’s podcast RANGE: EPISODE 23 | Anti-terrorism feat Joan Braune – RANGE (rangemedia.co) The conversation focused somewhat on the limitations of a state counter-terrorism or “Countering Violent Extremism” model of fighting fascism, but because of my concerns about the words “terrorism” and “extremism,” we also ended up talking a bit about what the discipline of philosophy can add to work against the far-right in interrogating use of language, and we also talked a bit about left strategy, in particular the problem of providing outlets for the pursuit of meaning and belonging as part of counter-recruiting from the far-right.

After the events of January 6, Luke asked me to write an article accompanying the podcast episode and updating my reflections in light of the coup attempt. That’s available here: It’s time for a different strategy – RANGE (rangemedia.co).

I appeared more informally on my old friends Babette and Gary’s Milwaukee radio program, The Grass is Greener, to chat about the coup attempt as well. That recording is here: The Grass is Greener – 2021-01-15 Prof. Joan Braune on Jan. 6 and the Far Right by wxrw | Free Listening on SoundCloud.

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, and in response to the coup, I’m receiving many requests for interviews and speaking engagements as well as fielding research questions. Some of my upcoming talks with semester will focus on white nationalist recruitment of youth, and how we can push back. I’m also working on finishing my book.

The threat posed by fascism and the far-right certainly will not be going away under a Biden administration. A lot of hard work and organizing lies ahead of us, and we will have to interrogate the structures and systems–including white supremacy and capitalism–that make these manifestations possible. One of the themes of my conversations and research lately is that new legislation, harsher punishments, or increased surveillance are not going to be sufficient to stop the rise of fascism, which needs to be countered by a broad-based social movement.

Panel: White Supremacy and the Pacific Northwest

On November 5, I presented on a panel, “White Supremacy, the 2020 Election, and the Pacific Northwest: White Power and Hate Studies Analysis,” hosted by the Eastern Washington University Women’s and Gender Education Center. I was joined on the panel by two scholars whom I respect immensely, political scientist Joe Lowndes and investigative journalist Jason Wilson.

My presentation focused on a critique of the concept of “extremism” as a paradigm for interpreting fascist and white supremacist movements. In brief, I mentioned that theorizing fascists and white supremacists as “extremists” can lead to (1) falling for fascists’ normalization tactics, because one expects them to seem strange and marginal; (2) ignoring the ways in which U.S. American society embraces white supremacy as a norm; (3) pairing the left and the right together in ways that lead to a state crackdown on the left; (4) promoting Islamophobia, by participating in a discourse that targets Muslims; and (5) misinterpreting fascism as primarily a crime problem, instead of seeing it as a social movement seeking power, always already connected to sources of power.

Watch the full panel here.

I recommended the following books and resources in my talk, which I’m happy to note here in further detail for those who would like to look them up:

Arun Kundnani, The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror (London: Verso, 2015)

Aurelien Mondon and Aaron Winter, Reactionary Democracy: How Racism and the Populist Far Right Became Mainstream (London: Verso, 2020) 

Liz Fekete, Europe’s Fault Lines: Racism and the Rise of the Right (London: Verso, 2019) 

Western States Center Toolkit on Confronting White Nationalism in Schools: https://www.westernstatescenter.org/schools/.

The Far-Right, Election, and Strategic Response …Spooktacular Edition

Here is my third guest appearance on my Milwaukee friends’ radio program, The Grass is Greener, this Halloween weekend. We talked about far-right violence in connection with the election, stochastic terrorism, maintaining hope (“pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”!), and how the left can build culture, community, and even study groups to help quell the growing threat of fascism. Give it a listen.

Also, here is the list of accompanying links that I sent to show co-host Babette to share with listeners who would like to learn more about some of the topics addressed in the episode:

“10 Things You Need to Know to Stop a Coup”: https://wagingnonviolence.org/…/10-things-you-need-to…/

“Labor Prepares for Last-Minute General Strike if Trump Tries to Steal Election”: https://truthout.org/…/labor-prepares-for-last…/…

(by me) “Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories Wrongly Attempt to Fill Human Needs”: https://spokanefavs.com/coronavirus-conspiracy-theories…/

“For Black Panthers, Radicalization Entailed Self-Transformation”: https://truthout.org/…/for-black-panthers…/

“Trump Official [Julia Hahn] Brought Hate Connections to the White House”: https://www.splcenter.org/…/trump-official-brought-hate…

“National Security Attorney Calls DHS Detentions in Portland ‘Kidnappings’”: https://www.msn.com/…/national-security…/ar-BB16Uv18

“Trump Seems to Endorse Extrajudicial Killing: ‘There Has to Be Retribution’”: https://www.huffpost.com/…/trump-endorses-extrajudicial…

“Republican Matt Shea ‘Participated in Act of Domestic Terrorism,’ Says Report”: https://www.theguardian.com/…/matt-shea-domestic…

Overcoming Islamophobia and Seeking Understanding

This Tuesday, October 27, 7pm-8:30pm, Bridges Not Walls is hosting a zoom forum on “Overcoming Islamophobia and Seeking Understanding.” 

Speakers are:

*Duaa-Rahemaah Williams — a Black Afro American revert to Islam who is active in work in Spokane on housing and homelessness, mass incarceration and other systems 
*Ava Sharifi — a recent graduate in Political Science from Eastern Washington University and soon-to-be law student, who speaks about her personal experiences as an Iranian American throughout her activism and social justice work
*Fr. Patrick Baraza — a Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Gonzaga University whose specializations are Islamic civilization and African religion; has assisted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ outreach to Muslim communities
*Jordan Denari Duffner — author and scholar of Muslim-Christian relations, interreligious dialogue, and Islamophobia. Her books are Finding Jesus among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic (2017) and Islamophobia: What Christians Should Know (and Do) about Anti-Muslim Discrimination (spring 2021).

The link for the zoom event is:  https://gonzaga.zoom.us/j/92231629152?pwd=bEtyQ3JWR0JxeE1kK0FQMk0weXlDQT09 and the password is    727611 . (If you are calling in and need the meeting ID number, it is:  922 3162 9152.) There is also a Facebook event page here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/418520922476981.

I am chairing and helping to organize this event and wanted to share this announcement. All are welcome.

Bridges Not Walls is a group founded by Spokane Catholics to build dialogue and friendship with the local Muslim community and do education and advocacy against Islamophobia. We helped host national-level Muslim advocate Aneelah Afzali for a forum and training on being allies with Muslims. One of our events was a forum held at the Gonzaga law school on Mary/Maryam in the Catholic and Muslim traditions, with a Catholic and Muslim speaker. It was cosponsored by the Gonzaga University Department of Religious Studies. We also held an Iftar dinner on a downtown rooftop, and our group has issued some statements in protest of Islamophobic activity in Spokane, including helping to organize a letter signed by multiple organizations against Islamophobic “police trainer” John Guandolo.

Speaking on Far-Right Violence Surrounding Presidential Election; Other Updates

I am honored to have accepted an invitation to speak at a post-election panel on November 5 (wonder if we’ll know who the next president is by then!) at Eastern Washington University alongside Joseph Lowndes (co-author of Producers, Parasites, Patriots: Race and the New Right-Wing Politics of Precarity) and Jason Wilson (the Guardian reporter whose beat on the far-right has included exposing former state Representative Matt Shea’s extensive far-right and violent ties).

Over the past month, I have spoken to a few community groups about the likelihood of hate group and right-wing insurgent violence surrounding the upcoming election, as well as the possibility of authoritarian/fascist coup, and how the left might be able to push back with mass protest and a general strike. I have been sharing around this article from Waging Nonviolence: “Ten Things You Need to Know to Stop a Coup.” I’m continuing to cover this and related topics, including with an upcoming radio appearance at the end of the month on Milwaukee Riverwest Radio’s The Grass is Greener.

I am organizing an upcoming zoom forum for Bridges Not Walls, a local Muslim-Catholic dialogue group that works against Islamophobia. The working title is “Facts, Fears, and Faith: Overcoming Islamophobia and the Road to Understanding.” I will share information on sign-up shortly. Speakers include Jordan Denari Duffner, author of Finding Jesus Among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic as well as a new, forthcoming book on Islamophobia. This is timely: The new papal encyclical Fratelli Tutti emphasizes the necessity of “encounter” with other faiths and begins and opens with mention of two Catholic saints who contributed to Muslim-Catholic understanding.

I am pleased to see that a non-profit that does work against hate is developing an extensive guide for parents on preventing white nationalist recruitment of teens. This is urgent and important work. I’m an external reviewer for the document, and I am helping the writers make connections with others who do research in this area.

Yeah Nah Pasaran! Podcast Episode

This week I went on Australian-based antifascist podcast Yeah Nah Pasaran! It was a lively and wide-ranging discussion, touching on my research on Cultural Marxism as an antisemitic conspiracy theory; the influence of the apocalyptic thinking of Julius Evola on both Steve Bannon and neo-Nazi accelerationist groups; the role of Erich Fromm’s Critical Theory in helping us understand fascism and how to fight it; and ideological and ethical problems in the deradicalization/”Countering Violent Extremism” field.

You can listen to the episode here: https://www.3cr.org.au/yeahnahpasaran/episode-202009171630/dr-joan-braune-cultural-marxism-bannon-compassion.

I also presented a couple of weeks ago at workshop in the series on Research Ethics and the Far-Right. My presentation was not recorded but focused on my research on the problem of former neo-Nazis’ “compassion narratives,” a topic I also explain and address in the podcast episode. It was great to reflect with other researchers over the course of several weeks on the ethical dilemmas involved in research on the far-right.

A recurring theme of the research ethics discussions was the question of empathy: namely, is it possible to empathize with far-right research subjects without giving credence to their views, or distorting our understanding of the harm they cause? Ultimately, I think it depends on what one means by “empathy.” An intellectual curiosity and even human concern about people’s motives and experiences can still be undertaken from a position of primary solidarity with fascism’s targets and victims, but if empathy means presuming that fascists have “legitimate grievances” and are misunderstood, then one is beginning to abandon the ethical commitments needed in this work.

Countering Conspiracy Theories and Youth Recruitment; Self-Care

My article on “cultural Marxism” as an antisemitic conspiracy theory about the Frankfurt School was recently published in a special issue of the Journal of Social Justice on antisemitism. The article as well as others are available here through the online, open-access journal.

The webinar on countering youth recruitment into hate groups, which was co-sponsored by the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane and the Eastern Washington University Women’s and Gender Education Center, is available here. I presented alongside autistic disability rights activist and para-educator Eric Warwick and local school counselor Lupe Wolfe. (Eric’s research on how autistic people are targeted by the alt-right as both potential recruits and as victims, is unique and necessary in its emphasis on how racism, ableism, and authoritarianism, especially in schools and the medical system, are driving recruitment of some autistic people to the far-right. This analysis challenges essentialist, biologistic, and ableist theories that claim that autistic people have brains that make them more susceptible to involvement in fascism.)

It was also a pleasure to present recently at the joint conference of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies and Institute for Research on Male Supremacism. I gave a brief talk on self/community care for researchers on hate and extremism. Although I do not think a video or transcript will be available I can summarize and suggest that for anyone new to this work:

(1) Limit the time you spend on it and balance your work against hate with hobbies, social life, and projects that are unrelated.

(2) Realize that this work is not like other kinds of research; it takes a toll on everyone, and disproportionately on some, especially people of color. To expect everyone who does this work to just be “fine” would be a form of victim-blaming, but we can all work together to support each other and work to implement certain practices to make it more manageable personally.

(3) I have personally found that exercising outside and spending time in nature has been very fruitful for me personally in coping with the toll of the research. Several other people engaged in this work have told me the same thing.

(4) Watch yourself for signs of compassion fatigue. I suggested watching this Ted Talk by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky as well as reading her excellent book Trauma Stewardship, on managing the toll of activism and social service work. I also suggested that as researchers we need to reflect on “boundaries” as both personal and political, and I recommended Cristien Storm’s book Empowered Boundaries. (Storm is both an activist/educator against white nationalism and a therapist whose writing on “boundaries” comes partly from her experience leading a self-defense training program in Seattle following the murder of a member of the left music scene there.)

(5) See a therapist if you are beginning to feel overwhelmed (or before).

I also told people that if they want to talk to me about their experiences, I can see if I can help, or if not, can connect them to others who are working to build community and support each other in this work. I can be reached at standinsolidarity@yahoo.com.

I am presenting in September as part of an ongoing workshop series on research ethics in research on the far-right, organized in part by Aurelien Mondon, co-author of Reactionary Democracy: How Racism and the Populist Far Right Became Mainstream (Verso 2020). My presentation will cover my research on the ethical implications of “compassion narratives” told by former white supremacists and why as researchers we may want to be more cautious and critical in the sharing of these redemption narratives in the public and through our research, while also acknowledging that people can and do leave white supremacist movements and change.

I am currently working on finishing my book for Routledge’s “Fascism and Far-Right” series. I hope to have more updates soon.

My best to everyone struggling for racial justice, economic and political democracy, and liberation at this challenging time. Let’s all continue to do what we can to stay in the streets, or keep active in whatever way we are able, to support Black Lives Matter and to push back against the growing threat of fascism, as seen for example in the violent police and DHS repression in Portland recently. Like many people watching unfolding events, I am deeply concerned that Trump may not leave office even if he loses the election; an attitude of waiting to see what happens in November will not serve us well, and we must do what we can to organize and prepare for that possibility as activists and public researchers. That’s my take–for what it’s worth.