Pandemic: Talk to Your Kids

Experts on countering white nationalist recruitment are concerned that the Coronavirus outbreak will likely lead to a spike in recruitment into violent white nationalist and fascist organizations. Given the ways that recruiters play on the vulnerabilities of youth who may be feeling isolated and afraid, who may be looking for answers, and who may be spending large amounts of time online (due to having to be inside and not in school), many youth in particular may be targeted for online recruitment at this time.

Recruitment into racist extremist movements can occur at very young ages, and there is no single profile of youth vulnerable to recruitment. Parents and others who work with youth have an opportunity to be proactive in talking with their kids about their online experiences, sharing together in their online life, and helping them grow into critical and caring thinkers and actors in the world. It is not so much a cause for panic as it is a necessary opportunity for families and others who work with youth to foster anti-racist values and teach about online safety.

The best document I have seen on the topic since the pandemic outbreak is this Twitter thread, available here (and also here). It is co-authored by Nora Flanagan and Shannon Martinez. (Nora Flanagan co-authored the important Western States Center pamphlet on Confronting White Nationalism in Schools; Shannon Martinez is a former white nationalist now involved in helping people disengage from hate groups.)

“Get to know your kids’ online spaces,” they recommend. “What games are they playing? Who do they interact with? What support platforms do they use? Steam, Twitch, Discord, Gab, Telegram, Signal, Wire, WhatsApp? What videos are they watching? Which youtubers do they follow? Why?”

“Parents with younger kids: ask if anyone has ever contacted them inside games like Roblox, Minecraft, or Fortnite. Reportedly members affiliated with the hate group Atomwaffen, whose members traffic in child pornography, have reached out to kids as young as 8 years old,” they write.

The idea of course is not to panic about particular platforms—hate is ubiquitous on the internet, and I cannot imagine that any child spending hours a day or week on the internet will not be exposed to it. Rather, experts are urging families to have conversations with their kids about online hate and their online experiences. Check the link for more insights on how to do this.

While not directly on the topic of white nationalist recruitment, I would also like to recommend this series of resources put together by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance team, on dealing with youth trauma during the Coronavirus outbreak; it is likely to be useful to teachers, parents, and others. Parents who are homeschooling (or trying desperately to keep kids occupied) due to the virus, may find useful materials for teaching on the Teaching Tolerance site; for a broader social justice curriculum, I also like the Zinn Education Project and Rethinking Schools.

Periods of global crisis like the one we are currently facing always present both challenges and opportunities. We can respond with fear, racism, xenophobia, nativism, militarism, securitization, and hoarding of resources. Or we can use this opportunity to rediscover our need for community, to rest and reflect with those closest to us (in person or through technology), and to let our vulnerability unite us as we care for each other and create stronger social supports.

Chertok Lecture Report-Back

I had a great time speaking at Eastern Washington University as the annual Chertok Lecture speaker. The student newspaper there carried this article on the event: “Scholar Offers Chilling Assessment of an Ongoing Threat.” We had a packed house and more chairs had to be brought in; audience members, including students, asked a lot of great questions. I met for a couple of hours with student leaders later that afternoon and am impressed by the great work of EWU students against hate and for social justice. I am speaking to faculty from Gonzaga University and EWU next week as the final Chertok Lecture-associated event of the year, this time discussing approaches to dealing with white nationalism on campuses and in our classrooms.

2020 Chertok Lecture

I am looking forward to speaking at Eastern Washington University in a couple of weeks on white nationalism and how we can push back! In addition to this public lecture, I will also be meeting with student leaders of color, having a lunch with faculty and administrators, and presenting in February at a related event for faculty, on how white nationalist ideology shows up on campuses and how we can respond effectively.

Upcoming Talks in 2020

I have a number of upcoming talks in 2020:

In January and February, I am giving a number of talks as the 2020 Chertok Lecture speaker at Eastern Washington University. The main talk, on January 23, is on “Understanding and Resisting White Nationalism in the U.S. Today.” I will also be giving separate talks to student activists at EWU, to faculty at Gonzaga University and EWU on the question of white nationalist organizing on campuses and how to push back, and as part of a panel on whiteness.

In April, I will be flying to San Francisco for the Pacific conference of the American Philosophical Association, where I will be on panels for the Radical Philosophy Association (a panel I organized) and for the North American Society for Social Philosophy. Both panels are covering the themes of racism, authoritarianism, and far-right populism.

In April and May, I am speaking to two conferences of practitioners in Spokane on how to counter white nationalist recruitment of youth. One is a workshop for teachers, and the other is the east-side conference of the Washington Association of School Social Workers.

At the beginning of October, I’ll be speaking in Buffalo, NY at the Buffalo Conference on the Reception of Critical Theory. The conference is convened by John Abromeit, and he has recruited some big names, including Seyla Benhabib and (one of my personal Critical Theory heroes) Stephen Eric Bronner. I am on a panel with Martin Jay, addressing the far-right’s reception of Frankfurt School Critical Theory. I plan to speak on my research on the antisemitic conspiracy theory of “Cultural Marxism” as well as the influence of far-right intellectual and mentor of Richard Spencer, Paul Gottfried, on right-wing critical theory journal Telos.

In addition, I’ll be giving some smaller talks to local organizations, including the St. Aloysius Catholic Parish young adults group (on interfaith dialogue and Islamophobia/antisemitism) and the Spokane Democratic Socialists of America (on local hate groups and how we can push back). As event announcements and Facebook events are put out, I will try to keep you all updated.

New Article, Conferences, and Fighting Islamophobia

The latest issue of the Journal of Hate Studies is now available (open access) online: It includes my article, “Void and Idol: A Critical Theory of the Neo-Fascist Alt-Right.” There are some other articles I can’t wait to read!

It has been a busy couple of weeks. I participated in the Western States Center’s Activists Mobilizing for Power (AMP) conference, held in Spokane this year. I particularly enjoyed the panel on Islamophobia, and the panel on the far-right conducted by Political Research Associates. I made a lot of great connections for future collaboration.

The following weekend, I participated in the ERIP (Ethnic, Race, and Indigenous Peoples Conference) at Gonzaga University and presented a paper on Erich Fromm’s influence in the Caribbean and Mexico. (It’s long past time to “creolize” the Frankfurt School, as Lewis Gordon and others in the Caribbean Philosophical Association might put it.)

I’m currently excitedly participating in organizing a couple of upcoming events in Spokane on Islamophobia. In light of the current turn against Islamophobic State Representative Matt Shea, with even some local Republican leaders condemning Shea’s extremism, it seems to me that this could hardly be more timely. (Shea has fear-mongered against numerous groups, but he has targeted Muslim groups particularly, even starting a chapter of anti-Muslim hate group Act for America.)

Aneelah Afzali, Director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network, and Lutheran pastor Terry Kyllo will be presenting at two events:

*Thursday, October 3, 6pm in the Auditorium at Jepson Center at Gonzaga University, they will be presenting their “Faith Over Fear Roadshow,” helping us to understand the Islamophobia industry. The talk is sponsored by the Gonzaga Institute for Hate Studies.

*Saturday, October 5, 2pm-4pm, Aneelah and Pastor Terry will be conducting a training for community allies on resisting Islamophobia, at the Spokane Valley’s Islamic Center (6411 E. 2nd, Spokane Valley).

Both events are free; the public talk on October 3 is a good introduction to the topic, while the training on October 5 is aimed at community members who want a more in-depth plunge focused on putting ideas into practice.

Latest Research Projects

It’s hard to believe it’s already the first week of September.

I’ve received edits/feedback back for three of my current projects:

  • A journal article critiquing the antisemitic conspiracy theory of “Cultural Marxism.” (I study the Frankfurt School and fascists, so it’s about time I finally wrote something debunking the fascists’ conspiracy theory according to which the Jewish scholars of the Frankfurt School control the world.)
  • My publication proposal for my forthcoming book on fascism. (I am only slightly disappointed that they recommended a more professional-sounding title than Fascists–Why Are They Like This?)
  • A journal article on ethical considerations in how to share “compassion narratives,” i.e., the stories of former white supremacists who credit the unexpected compassionate outreach of members of marginalized groups with convincing them to leave white supremacist movements. (I’m always happy when people leave hate groups, but we need to find a way to share these stories in a way that helps people weigh the risks of outreach to those who wish them harm and removes any sense of pressure or coercion to engage in such work.)

Welcome — Dr. Joan Braune’s Research and Community Work

I’ve started this blog to help people stay in touch with me about my work in Hate Studies and Critical Theory, as well as my developing community-based work, including trainings for teachers and others on preventing fascist/white nationalist recruitment of youth and students around the country.

I’m Dr. Joan Braune. I’m an academic and a social justice advocate with over a decade of experience in community leadership. For the past few years, my research and activism has focused heavily on countering the rise of fascist movements and hate groups in the U.S. Northwest and more broadly. I’ve worked with community organizations, educators and school administrators, faith communities, organized labor, and others to form responses to threats, targeted recruitment and manipulative messaging by far-right extremists.

For the past few years, I have been teaching at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where I currently serve on the Council of Experts for the Gonzaga University Institute for Hate Studies. (I am blogging only as myself, not representing Gonzaga University or any other organizations/employers.) For the past three years my research has focused heavily on fascism and hate groups, and how to overcome them. I have put my prior training in Frankfurt School Critical Theory, as well as my experience in both secular and faith-based social justice theory and practice, into the service of work against the spread of fascism and hate groups.

You can see my Curriculum Vitae and some of my writing by following me on, but I will also be posting updates here on my talks and writing.

Here I am at a lake in Montana, not protesting Nazis. Breaks are important!

I received my Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Kentucky in 2014. My dissertation (under Dr. Arnold Farr) and early academic work focused on Erich Fromm’s Critical Theory–Fromm’s work has been very influential on me, and I have been at the forefront of an ongoing Fromm renaissance, as scholars rediscovery Fromm’s contributions to socialist humanist theory and practice, psychoanalysis, and the Frankfurt School. My first book was Erich Fromm’s Revolutionary Hope: Prophetic Messianism as a Critical Theory of the Future. Kieran Durkin and I are co-editing a volume of essays on Erich Fromm’s Critical Theory that will be published very soon by Bloomsbury. (I’ll let you all know when it becomes available!)

I am currently writing a new book, on fascism and how to overcome it–the proposal is under review with Routledge, and I expect that text will become available in Summer 2020.

Here are just a few of my recent talks and shorter pieces, if you’d like a taste of my recent work. My talks on hate groups are not online, because they are usually tailored to specific audiences and often contain confidential conversations with participants. Please reach out if you have any questions about group trainings/workshops: