Upcoming Talk Countering Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories


On Monday, November 29, 10:30 a.m. PST, I will be speaking online to Bündnis Gegen Antisemitismus – Köln (Alliance Against Antisemitism – Cologne, Germany) on the antisemitic conspiracy theory of “Cultural Marxism” and how the conspiracy theory is spreading as well as undermining antiracist education through the overlap of this conspiracy theory with conspiracy theories about “Critical Race Theory.” The talk will be in English.

The talk will air live on the Bündnis Gegen Antisemitismus – Köln YouTube channel: Bündnis gegen Antisemitismus Köln – YouTube. More information is available on the Facebook event here: (1) Joan Braune: “Cultural Marxism” | Facebook.


“Cultural Marxism” is an antisemitic conspiracy theory about Jewish Marxist scholars belonging to the Frankfurt School. According to the conspiracy theory, these scholars implemented a slow takeover of “culture,” seeking to undermine Christianity, family, and nation in favor of a new worldview and international system of control, involving embracing diversity, sexual liberation, and moral and aesthetic decline. The conspiracy theorists believe that “cultural Marxism” now controls all areas of public life, including the media, schools, entertainment, the economy, and national and global systems of governance. Not only does this theory vastly overestimate the influence of a small group of Jewish intellectuals; it repackages old antisemitic tropes and serves as an updated, post-Cold War version of the Nazi “Judeo-Bolshevism” conspiracy theory.

The cultural Marxism conspiracy theory is popular among fascists and white supremacists, and has inspired mass shootings, including the attacks by Norwegian white nationalist Anders Breivik in 2011. However, the conspiracy theory is also making its way into the conservative mainstream. It has been favorably referenced by some conservative politicians around the world, often in the context of attacks on education and academic freedom. In the United States, the cultural Marxism conspiracy theory is increasingly merging with conspiracy theories about “Critical Race Theory” which aim to shut down anti-racist education in schools and workplaces. Conspiracy theories about “Critical Race Theory” and “cultural Marxism” trade on similar fears. For example, both conspiracy theories claim that teachers are using Critical Race Theory or Cultural Marxism to suppress “free speech” or “make white children feel ashamed.” Since the “cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory is often merging with conspiracy theories targeting other minority groups, overcoming its influence may require uniting in solidarity against a variety of conspiracy theories targeting Jews as well as other minority groups.

Dr. Joan Braune is a Lecturer in Philosophy at Gonzaga University, and her current research explores Frankfurt School Critical Theory’s work on fascism and applies Critical Theory insights to countering the rise of fascism and far-right movements today, especially in the United States. She is author of the book Erich Fromm’s Revolutionary Hope: Prophetic Messianism as a Critical Theory of the Future (Sense Publishers 2014) and co-editor with Kieran Durkin of Erich Fromm’s Critical Theory: Hope, Humanism and the Future (Bloomsbury 2020). She has written numerous articles, including “Who’s Afraid of the Frankfurt School? ‘Cultural Marxism’ as an Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory.” She is a frequent speaker on countering hate groups, is active in the Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies, and serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Hate Studies. She has helped organize locally against white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups active in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Radical Philosophy Hour: Video

If you missed it, a video of Devin Shaw’s and my presentations on fascism for the Radical Philosophy Association is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi0kcblJrbQ&t=2548s. (My presentation was on the limits of counterextremism discourse for understanding fascism, and there was a lot of nice overlap and harmony between Devin’s presentation and mine.)

Ethics of Researching the Far Right

I am excited to be co-editing a book on the Ethics of Researching the Far Right, a project of the U.K.-based EthEx Network (Network for Critical Research on the Ethics of Researching the Extreme and Far Right). Please see the call for papers here, and share with those who may be interested: Call for papers: The Ethics of Researching the Far Right – The Ethics of Researching the Far & Extreme Right (wordpress.com)

The proposal invites contributions on many timely topics, including reflecting on white supremacy within our own research field, “decolonizing” research on the far-right, challenging Islamophobia in the counterextremism industry, exploring the role of activism in research, and attending to needs for self/community care of researchers.

Proposals for contributions (abstracts) are due October 15.

Radical Philosophy Hour

On Monday, October 4, 12pm Pacific Time, Devin Zane Shaw and Joan Braune will be speaking on fascism and fighting it, for the Radical Philosophy Association’s online “Radical Philosophy Hour” series. The talks will be aired on Facebook Live at this link.

Joan Braune’s talk is entitled, “Why We Should Stop Calling Nazis ‘Extremists’: Limitations of ‘Counter-Extremism’ Discourse for Work Against Fascism”

Abstract: This presentation presents a radical challenge to the reigning discourses of the “counterextremism industry.” The counterextremism industry is a loose network of people and institutions involved in work against “extremism,” “terrorism,” and “radicalization,” comprised of various government and law enforcement entities, think tanks, former members of “extremist” movements, counselors and social workers, academics, and research centers. By classifying a broad range of movements including some fascist, leftist, and Islamist groups as “extremist” or “radical,” the counterextremism industry lets the center off the hook, ignoring the ways fascistic and white supremacist aims are supported by mainstream institutions and social policies. It also empowers the far-right to attack the left, by allowing far-right organizations to rebrand as counterextremism groups. The counterextremism industry’s abstractions also feed into Islamophobia, among other problems. I suggest that the ideological abstractions of the counterextremism industry, including its overly broad definitional profile of an “extremist,” like past Cold War profiles of “the fanatic” or “the true believer” (Eric Hoffer), undermine effective struggle against fascism and the far-right, and that left theorists should resist these abstractions and depend instead on a different set of categories.

Devin Zane Shaw’s talk is entitled “Seven Theses on the Three-Way Fight: For a Discussion”

Abstract: In radical circles, fascism is still defined similarly to Dimitrov’s formulation of the Comintern’s popular-front line as established in 1935. He asserts that “fascism in power is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” I will argue that this definition does not explain the potential mass appeal of fascist or far-right movements. I will offer this definition of fascism instead: Fascism is a social movement involving a relatively autonomous and insurgent (potentially) mass base, driven by an authoritarian vision of collective rebirth, that challenges bourgeois institutional and cultural power, while re-entrenching economic and social hierarchies. 

Registration Open: International Conference of Hate Studies

Registration is now open to attend the International Conference on Hate Studies, sponsored by the Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies (GIHS), which will be held online November 4-6, 2021. You can register here: https://www.gonzaga.edu/academics/centers-institutes/institute-for-hate-studies/international-conference-on-hate-studies/registration-information.

Featured speakers include Kathleen Blee, Eric Ward, Connie Chung Joe, Rachel Rivas, and others. More information about the conference can be found here: https://www.gonzaga.edu/academics/centers-institutes/institute-for-hate-studies/international-conference-on-hate-studies. A full schedule will be posted soon.

(I’m helping with conference planning and chairing a plenary session; I also have a panel with Dr. Ronald Beiner, author of Dangerous Minds–we’ll be doing a panel on “fascism creep” in academia and what we can do to stay alert and resist fascists who try to infiltrate or co-opt the academy. But mainly I really just think you should check out the conference, whether you are an academic/researcher or activist–GIHS is a great project and needs a particularly strong conference this year to continue to get the support it needs to grow its work and demonstrate its contribution to the Gonzaga University campus community.)

Rehired! And other updates

This summer I applied and was rehired for a full-time Lecturer position in Philosophy for up to three years at Gonzaga University. I am so glad that I get to stay in Spokane a while longer, to continue my work in Philosophy and Leadership Studies and with the Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies at Gonzaga University, as well as to continue my broader community work in the Spokane area.

This fall:

  • I will be giving an invited zoom lecture on the dangers of antisemitic conspiracy theories against the Frankfurt School, for the Bündnis Gegen Antisemitismus (Alliance Against Antisemitism), based in Cologne, Germany.
  • I will conduct a training for teachers and staff at an elementary school on countering white nationalist recruitment in schools.
  • Together with Devin Shaw (author of Philosophy of Antifascism), I will be presenting on resisting fascism in an online “Radical Philosophy Hour” for the Radical Philosophy Association.
  • I will be speaking at the International Herbert Marcuse Society conference, Radical Philosophy Association conference, and International Conference on Hate Studies.

A few other pieces of news:

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.