Upcoming Presentation on Ethics Panel on Far-Right Research

On Thursday, May 13, I am presenting on a panel on “Research on Counterterrorism and Extremism,” for EthEx, the Network for Critical Research on the Ethics of Researching the Extreme and Far Right. The event is free and open to the public, and registration is available here: Research in the Context of Counterterrorism and Counterextremism Tickets, Thu 13 May 2021 at 17:00 | Eventbrite.

The event is at 9:00 am in my time zone, here in the Pacific Northwest. (EthEx is based in the U.K. and trying to accommodate many time zones.) A recording is likely to be made and sent out to registrants who were unable to attend, so if you are unsure if you can make it but would like to view the panel, please register at the link above.

I will speaking on the positionality of former neo-Nazis/white supremacists as experts in the field of research on hate and ethical issues related to that positionality, particularly in terms of how the voices of those most impacted by hate as targets or victims/survivors may be problematically sidelined in “deradicalization” work that places too much stock in the expertise of “formers.”

I am pleased to be co-presenting with Elisa Hategan, whom I’ve been in dialogue with on this topic and who can speak to these concerns from the standpoint of having been a former and later a practitioner in deradicalization spaces. (Elisa joined the white nationalist Canadian Heritage Front as a teenager, and helped to shut down the organization at 18, testifying against them in court. You can read more about her work on her website: Elisa Hategan – Welcome.)

Eastern Washington University Kathleen Belew Events

Kathleen Belew is speaking twice this coming week on zoom via Eastern Washington University’s Chertok Lecture events series. Belew is one of the leading scholars of white nationalist and militia movements in the U.S., author of excellent book Bring the War Home. Opportunities to hear her speak, and dates and times, are available here, along with some related panel events: Chertok Lecture Series to Examine Racism in the Classroom and Beyond – InsideEWU.

As last year’s Chertok Lecturer, I have been invited to return to host the zoom panel on local activism on Wednesday at 1pm. I hope you can join us for one or more of these events. Please help spread the word about these events to those you know who may be interested.

It is all free and does not require prior registration.

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.