Updates: Patriot Front Arrests, Conference Deadline Extended

Some quick updates:

At the end of October and beginning of November, fascist/white supremacist group Patriot Front did graffiti on Gonzaga University’s campus. There were two incidents, both involving spray-painting a Patriot Front slogan, the anti-indigenous slogan “Not Stolen—Conquered.” Two of three people were caught and arrested the second time this occurred: 2 arrested after white supremacist ‘Patriot Front’ graffiti found on Gonzaga on Saturday night | The Spokesman-Review. I was interviewed for and quoted in two articles covering the incidents for the campus newspaper, the Gonzaga Bulletin:

I stressed that it is not enough to shun Patriot Front’s values as foreign to Gonzaga’s mission; we need to actively work to make our campus a place where these ideologies are actively contested. There have been talks and vigils held on campus, and I know there is more in the works. This happened at a time when Patriot Front is on a losing streak, including dealing with charges following their mass arrest when they attempted to disrupt a Pride event in North Idaho, as well as facing a new lawsuit for one of their many campaigns of vandalism and intimidation.

Secondly, I am continuing to help with organizing for the April 20-22 International Conference of Hate Studies, sponsored by the Gonzaga Center for the Study of Hate. I’m excited about the great keynote speaker lineup, including Zoé Samudzi, Rae Jereza, Arun Kundnani, Nicole Nguyen, Arjun Sethi, Nimmi Gowrinathan, and David Neiwert. And…good news, if you want to submit a proposal to present at the conference, the deadline has been extended to January 4. More info here: International Conference on Hate Studies | Gonzaga University. If you have any questions or if I can be of any assistance, please reach out.

Lastly, consider donating if you can, to support survivors of the mass shooting that targeted LGBTQ+ people at Club Q in Colorado Springs: Fundraiser by Faith Haug – Good Judy Garage : 100 percent going to the Club Q Victims (gofundme.com).

International Conference of Hate Studies, April 20-23, 2023

Submissions are now open for the 7th International Conference of Hate Studies, sponsored by the Gonzaga Center for the Study of Hate, to be held April 20-23, 2023 at Spokane Community College.

Submissions are now being welcomed here, through November 15: https://www.gonzaga.edu/academics/centers-institutes/institute-for-hate-studies/international-conference-on-hate-studies.

Keynote plenary speakers this year include, with more to come: Arun Kundnani, Zoe Samudzi, David Neiwert, Rae Jereza, Nicole Nguyen, and Nimmi Gowrinathan. I’m very excited about these speakers, including panels addressing challenging whiteness in Hate Studies and looking at how to challenge hate while preserving civil liberties and centering those targeted/harmed by hate groups.

The conference will be mostly in-person, but it will be possible to register to watch it online. There is also some availability for online presentations, so if you have not yet submitted a proposal and cannot come in person, I would encourage you to submit a proposal on the website and note on the form that you would need an online presentation option.

Upcoming Webinar: Problems with “Countering Extremism”

I am excited about an upcoming free webinar that I organized in May and am chairing, sponsored by the U.K.-based Network for the Ethics of Researching the Far Right (EthEx): “Problems with ‘Countering Extremism,’” on Wednesday September 21, 11:00am Pacific Time.

Description and free registration are available here:

Problems with “Countering Extremism” Tickets, Wed, Sep 21, 2022 at 7:00 PM | Eventbrite

Speakers are:

Liz Fekete (she/her) is Director of the Institute of Race Relations and head of its European Research Programme. She is the author  of A suitable enemy: racism, migration and Islamophobia in Europe (Pluto press, 2009) and Europe’s Fault Lines: racism and the rise of the Right (Verso, 2018) which won the Bread and Roses award for Radical Publishing 2019.

Dr Tarek Younis (he/him) is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Middlesex University. He researches and writes on Islamophobia, racism in mental health, the securitisation of clinical settings and the politics of psychology. He teaches on the impact of culture, religion, globalization and security policies on mental health.

Megan Kelly (she/her) is a doctoral student at the University of Basel and a research fellow at the Institute for Research on Male Supremacism (IRMS). Her research interests include identity formation and (de)radicalization processes in online supremacist and other far-right movements and responses to these movements.

Dr Aaron Winter (he/him) is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology on Race and Anti-Racism at Lancaster University. Some of his recent publications include, co-authored with Aurelien Mondon, Reactionary Democracy: How Racism and the Populist Far Right Became Mainstream (2020) and the co-edited volume Researching the Far-Right Method, Theory and Practice (2021).

Panel on Racism and Mass Shootings, Redux

Spokane Faith and Values (FAVs) is hosting a Part II of the discussion from the panel I was on in June: Sunday, August 7, 2pm PST at The Hive, 2904 E. Sprague Avenue, Spokane, and also live streamed on FAVs’ Facebook page.

Panel announcement can be found here.

Spokane FAVs Facebook page can be found here.

I’m looking forward to continuing this timely conversation, and I am grateful for the audience’s engagement and desire for more discussion in the form of this second panel event.

Why Reporting on the Highland Park Shooting Should Not Have “Trusted the Experts”

I have a new article out in RANGE, a local progressive news outlet and podcast: Experts who study far-right mass violence must center the communities affected (rangemedia.co).

After the Highland Park mass shooting on July 4, I was troubled by some of the media coverage. There was a reliance on particular “experts” on far-right violence. This resulted in reporting that presented the shooting as “not political,” and as representing an “aesthetic” as opposed to an “ideology.”

I have been critical for some time of an emerging view among some “extremism” researchers that far-right activists and violent actors are becoming less tied to ideology. Downplaying ideology also downplays the continuing threat of fascist movements. I was also troubled on a deeply personal level that the Highland Park shooter’s racism and antisemitism, and how the shooting was perceived by people who live in the heavily Jewish community of Highland Park, were not adequately addressed in the reporting.

I also engaged in self-reflection in the article. In my talk last month to Spokane Faith and Values, I was challenged on my comparison between the Buffalo and Uvalde shooters, where I had said that the Buffalo shooter was motivated by white supremacist and fascist ideology, which was not the case with the Uvalde shooter. This emphasis on “motive”–a term after all that focuses on the “crime” aspect of an event—can miss the mark. An organizer from local group SCAR (Spokane Community Against Racism) rightly shifted the focus and pointed out that BIPOC people are disproportionately harmed regardless of the shooter.

(By the way, SCAR is a great local group on the frontlines of struggle for racial justice. You can check out their work or make a donation to support them here: Spokane Community Against Racism (scarspokane.org).)

I concluded: “In understanding a mass shooting, and even in assessing the motives of a shooter, we must strive to be victim-centered and to begin from a position of solidarity with impacted communities. These are nice-sounding words, but they are not mere sentimentality. Being victim-centered is not just about feeling grief or memorializing the dead. It includes lifting up the voices of those most impacted and fighting (alongside them) for them to have more power. It includes shifting the balance of power in fields of study devoted to understanding violence and far-right movements.”

You can check the full article out here: Experts who study far-right mass violence must center the communities affected (rangemedia.co).

We also need to challenge and expand notions of who counts as an “expert” about the far-right, which I got at a little bit in the article but hope to address further in the future. As one colleague of color pointed out to me recently, researchers of color with expertise on these topics are less likely to be quoted and less likely to be categorized as belonging to the club of “experts,” despite their expertise and research in the field. (I was impressed by some of the points on this topic addressed in this recent Washington Post article, although I think it also misses how many people of color are already engaged in this research: Researchers of color studying far-right extremism seek bigger role – The Washington Post.)

Recent and Upcoming Talks

A few updates:

In early June I spoke to Spokane Faith and Values (Spokane FAVs) on a panel responding to recent hate incidents and mass shootings. The other panelists were Dr. Pui-Yan Lam, Professor of Sociology and Justice Studies at Eastern Washington University; Angela Schwendiman, Director of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University; and Amy McColm, Education Director for the Spokane NAACP. The panel took place in person but was also livestreamed and can be watched on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/100068160098605/videos/1182170505904562.


I proposed this experiment to the audience, which I would invite you to do as well or try out in discussions with other groups: 

  • See if you can list five communities/subcultures to which you belong. Include your hobbies, interests, profession/work buddies/school, faith communities, labor unions, and how you spend time with friends and family members.
  • Then, see where fascism or hate are seeking to exercise greater control over those spaces.
  • Investigate who is already working on combating that or would like to and is looking for allies.
  • And then, of course, get involved—help make those spaces less hospitable to fascism and white supremacy! Fascists are seeking to control so many spaces, from music scenes to religion, from health food and exercise to online support groups for people experiencing depression, and more. We can drive fascists out of social and cultural spaces they are entering in pursuit of power.

I also enjoyed speaking at Douglas College in Vancouver, British Columbia, for Devin Shaw’s summer institute on Continental Philosophy.

The talk focused on the need to theorize fascism as a social movement seeking power, always already connected to sources of power, and to hold this in tension with a curiosity about why fascism has the psychological pull it does for its recruits (while not ignoring fascists’ agency ad responsibility for their own choices, either).

Fascism is not simply a crime problem to be fixed by hard or soft power interventions (that is, to be left up to police or social workers). Nor can we treat fascism in a narrow or mechanical way that does not raise the more radical questions about how capitalism and white supremacy produce and sustain certain needs, desires, and inclinations that fascist recruiters in turn promise to fulfill. I argued that Critical Theory can help us bridge the divide between the social movement and psychological aspects of fascist movements, and that Critical theory makes a necessary contribution to theorizing fascism effectively in order to defeat it.


This is way down the road, but I was invited to speak in November on an online panel as part of an ongoing lecture series co-sponsored by PERIL (Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab) and C-REX (Center for Research on Extremism). The panel will address ethical challenges and limitations of use of former neo-Nazis (often called “formers”) in work against hate. My co-panelist is Megan Kelly, the co-author of this excellent recent article: Not So Reformed | Political Research Associates.

Panel: Responding to Racist Violence and Mass Shootings

I am speaking Sunday, June 12, at 2:00 pm on Spokane Faith and Values (Spokane FAVs) “Coffee Talk: Building Dialogue for Justice in Response to Hate & Violence.”

We are especially reflecting on the racist attack in Buffalo and the mass shooting of children in Texas. More information can be found here.

Upcoming Conference: Erich Fromm and Left Strategy

I’m excited to be presenting in the online April 30 conference, “Erich Fromm’s Critical Psychology and Left Strategy Today.” The conference is free and open the public. More information is available on the conference website: https://fromm2022.wpcomstaging.com/.

I’ll be on the panel addressing Fromm’s critique of right-wing authoritarianism. Here’s my working title and abstract for my presentation:

“Erich Fromm and Antifascist Strategy” 

Abstract:

In Escape from Freedom, Erich Fromm wrote, that, “If we want to fight fascism, we must understand it” and that this requires understanding both “economic and social conditions” and a “human problem” concerning the “character structure” of human beings in the modern capitalist world. From this early work to his much later Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, Fromm’s work on fascism consistently operates at three levels that must be understood to properly understand the resurgence of fascist and far-right movements today. These three levels, or “dimensions,” are: (1) structural-political forces (including, I would say, white supremacy and capitalism alongside other forces), (2) individual and social psychology, and (3) subjective personal agency. Only by understanding and reckoning with these intersecting dimensions, which Erich Fromm helps us reconcile, can we effectively fight fascism. Too often approaches ignore one dimension or focus exclusively on a single one, such as seeing fascism as a political force that can be defeated merely by confrontation in the streets with superior numbers or merely electorally, for example, or seeing fascism as a product solely of individual life traumas and seeing fascism as primarily a problem to be solved by counselors and social workers doing interventions with those “at risk” of recruitment. In fact, fascism is a social movement seeking power, always already connected to sources of power (media, think tanks, political parties, and so on). And simultaneously, fascism’s appeal for those who join it is structured upon individual psychological appeals and tendencies, as well as the ways that fascist recruitment plays upon certain human needs. Finally, fascists are making a choice for which they can and should be held morally and in some cases legally responsible, and they are not the passive playthings of economic and political forces, nor of personal trauma. I will address how Erich Fromm helps us to understand the relationship between these three dimensions. I will also discuss the implications of these three dimensions for antifascist practice.

Upcoming Keynote at Douglas College in Vancouver, B.C.

This June I will be the keynote speaker for the Summer Institute on Philosophy and Social Movements at Douglas College in Vancouver, British Columbia:

KEYNOTE ADDRESS

“Critical Theory and Antifascist Strategy Today”

Joan Braune, Gonzaga University

Abstract: Understanding resurgence of participation in fascism includes examining three dimensions: (1) structural-political forces, (2) individual and social psychology, and (3) subjective agency. Only by understanding and reckoning with these intersecting dimensions, which Frankfurt School Critical Theory and existentialism help us to reconcile, can we effectively fight fascism. Too often approaches ignore one dimension or focus exclusively on a single one. Fascism is a social movement seeking power, always already connected to sources of power. Yet at the same time, its appeal for those who join it is structured upon individual psychological appeals and tendencies, as well as the ways that fascist recruitment plays upon certain human needs. Finally, fascists are making a choice for which they can and should be held morally and in some cases legally responsible, and they are not the passive playthings of economic and political forces, nor of personal trauma. I will address each of these three dimensions and show how Critical Theory and existentialism, and especially the Critical Theory of Erich Fromm, help us to understand the relationship between these three dimensions. I will also discuss the implications of these three dimensions for antifascist practice.

More information is available here: https://www.douglascollege.ca/programs-courses/explore-programs-courses/faculties/humanities-and-social-sciences/philosophy/summer-institute.

Reaching Out to Faith Communities

It was a pleasure to join Spokane pastor Jason Jones and Todd Gossett on their podcast, Thoughtfoolery. They are thinking about how their congregation can help people and how to respond to members of their broader community who are being recruited into hate and conspiracy theories.

We talked about boundaries and self-care; solidarity with impacted communities; prevention and inoculation against conspiracy theories and hate; the psychological needs that attract people to hate groups, as well as their political dimensions; and how to be an anchor to reality for people on the brink. They even asked me about Erich Fromm!

You can listen here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1883196/10238712.