Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Diagolon and Trolling: How To Minimize Platforming the Far-Right and Instead Provide Context

Over the years there has been a lot of discussion about the danger of platforming right wing extremists. It's an issue that I've wrestled with for years myself here on the blog and also on Twitter. On the one hand I've always believed that it was important to share information about could amount to a significant danger to the community; the best disinfectant is sunlight after all. 

But as I tried to expose those individuals and groups who could cause real harm, I also tried to do so in a way that didn't give them any sort of power. A lot of these individuals and groups WANT others to talk about them because uncritical examination allows the noxious beliefs to spread more widely.

In order to try to avoid that I generally employ two primary strategies. The first is mockery. The bigots and hate groups I covered have all been so very self-serious. Using humour as a means of disarming and showing how utterly ridiculous that they are while at the same time showing the public why we should also be concerned often took the wind out of their sails, so to speak.

Also, I'm naturally snarky so there's that too.

The second thing I do which I think is far more important is to try as best I can to provide the critical context for the stories I shared (hence why I was and continue to be verbose as hell) and to avoid telling the narrative that THEY want shared.

So with that, let's engage go through that process by discussing the critical context behind this still I took from a video posted by Derek Harrison of the Plaid Army/Diagolon on his Telegram page:

Shane Marshall and Pierre Poilievre

This photo shows Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre shaking hands with Shane Marshall. If the name "Shane Marshall" is familiar at all, it is likely because of an incident that occurred during the 2021 federal election where Marshall threw pebbles at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:

Earlier this month, Marshall pleaded guilty to common assault (he had originally been charged with assault with a weapon). The video taken of him shaking hands with Poilievre occurred prior to Marshall's trial where he pled guilty on the first day.

Marshall is also a figure who has been covered by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network for his ties to the overtly racist Canada First and the accelerationist Diagolon:
Marshall was among those who attended the occupation in Ottawa in February 2022 where he was both photographed with then Canada First leader Tyler Russell (who now lives in the United States and runs with Nick Fuentes) and Diagolon de facto leader Jeremy MacKenzie:

Marshall and Tyler Russell left; Russell and Nick Fuentes right

Marshall and Russell with Jeremy MacKenzie during
the "Freedom Convoy" occupation of Ottawa, 2022

Marshall was also briefly detained in Ottawa during the occupation.

So when one looks at this photo of Shane Marshall and Pierre Poilievre, one's first instinct might be to suggest this is proof that Poilievre is courting far right extremists. Without any other context and, given Mr. Poilievre's own dog whistles since becoming leader, that might be a reasonable conclusion... EXCEPT that the context here is critical to understanding what we are actually seeing.

I found the video from which the still is taken on Derek Harrison's Telegram page. Harrison is someone who has been profiled here on the blog a number of times -- I first came across Harrison when he was volunteering for white nationalist Faith Goldy's mayoral campaign -- and he is, I guess, a sort of founding father of the Plaid Army and Diagolon. Harrison's antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and anti-immigrant rhetoric is well know to people who study this ecosystem.

Harrison and other Dags attended Marshall's trial in support. Suffice to say that it doesn't seem that any of them are especially contrite:

Shane has all the charisma of a soggy phonebook from 1992.

Marshall and Derek Harrison flanked by two unknown Dags.

The context of the video still with Marshall, a former PPC riding president who was working on Chelsea Hillier's campaign and an associate of Diagolon (many of whose members are supporters of the PPC and Bernier), and Pierre Poilievre who is the leader of a rival conservative political party is very important however:

Pictured from left to right: Derek Harrison, Maxine Bernier, Chelsea Hillier, and Tyler Russell

MacKenzie, Bernier, Harrison

Diagolon in general and in this case Harrison specifically loathe the Conservative Party, claiming that the CPC and the Liberals are simply two sides of the same corrupt, globalist, coin:

The distain for Poilievre is evident in every post or comment made by members of Diagolon, including some homophobic allusions made by Harrison:

"The Ferryman's Toll", Alex Vriend, is discussed in more detail by CAHN here.

So, why go through the trouble?

First and foremost, Diagolon and members such as Harrison and Alex Vriend especially are trolls who hope to cause some degree of chaos in the democratic system so as to delegitimize it. 

Second, and for the same reason Jeremy MacKenzie was pictured shaking hands with with Poilievre, they want to hurt the CPC which is the rival to the PPC (though in terms of size, it ain't much of a fight). For Diagolon, the CPC are worse than milquetoast conservative. They are frauds who need to be destroyed so that the Overton Window can continue to shift to the right.

A friend reminded me of the parallels with the Heritage Front who were eventually reported as providing security for the Reform Party in the early 1990s, but unlike Diagolon we aren't sure that Wolfgang Droege was astute enough to understand that he was asked to provide security for Preston Manning's events as a deliberate effort to undermine the party, but I digress.

Third, they are trolls. They want to embarrass people into taking a position and then, at least from their point of view, pulling the carpet from under them.

This point is probably best illustrated by the visit to Canada by MEP and conspiracy theorist Christine Anderson of the far right Alternatives for Germany (AfD), an anti-immigrant/refugee party that was recently ruled by a German court as a potential threat to democracy in that country. In fact, a former AfD MP was recently implicated in a plot to overthrow the government.

Anderson became famous on this side of the pond for her attacks on Justin Trudeau and Covid mandates. As a result she was welcomed as a sort of hero in far right circles as she traveled across the country.

Among the folks she met were three CPC MPs and our friend, Diagolon's Derek Harrison:

Poilievre, initially silent about his MPs meeting with the far right MEP, eventually suggested he wish the meeting had not taken place and Anderson's views vile while also refusing to criticize the CPC MPs who met with Anderson. This was a response that didn't really please anyone and for which Diagolon's Alex Vriend jumped on:

Some in the media however also picked up on the fact that Anderson was pictured with Harrison giving the Diagolon salute alongside Ol' Slashy, which Derek very much enjoyed.

A few examples posted by Harrison:

In response, Derek posted the equivalent of "I have a Jewish 'friend' so I can't be an antisemite" schtick which he evidently believes is a some sort of gotcha. 

Or something. It is sometimes hard to tell what he is excited about, being that I'm an adult:

The "sick burn" of having a Jewish woman in the photo and, apparently thus rendering accusations of antisemitism moot, are SLIGHTLY undermined by another post made by Harrison in which he celebrates very noted antisemite Nick Fuentes being both antisemitic AND transphobic as well as ahistorical in celebrating... reads notes... uhm, Adolf Hitler and Nazi book burning:

Maybe this would be an apropos time to mention that CAHN has written about Fuentes as well?
So right, I'm not sure that Harrison's "haha, everyone sees us as irredeemable assholes, based!" celebration is quite the flex he seems to think it is, but he sure does enjoy the smell of his own farts:

So, what should one do?

Certainly Poilievre shaking hands with a Diagolon affiliate is newsworthy. In fact, neither MacKenzie not Marshall have been the only Diagolon affiliates to have a photo taken with Poilievre which is also significant:


The guy whom Rachel Gilmore highlights here is Rob Primo, fyi.

The significance and newsworthiness of these incidents however may not be the story that will be told.

What I would focus on is how close people with a history of violence, including against the current Prime Minister, are getting to Canadian political leaders. Poilievre's own dog whistles not withstanding (which would be important to discuss regardless of whether Diagolon or similar groups are in the picture), how the hell was it that these people were allowed to get so close to him?

And it isn't just Poilievre who has unwittingly been in a compromised and potentially dangerous position:
At what point will one of these right wing extremists, instead of trolling a politician, seeks to physically harm him or her and is able to get this close.

So, yes. Poilievre is a right wing populist seeking the some of his support from extremist elements connected to the Ottawa occupation and who dog whistles that are becoming increasingly less like whistles. However these incidents where at least three far right figures have gotten within literally touching distance are a canary in a coal mine.

Now Derek will no doubt be thrilled that the picture of Marshall shaking hands with Poilievre has been made public. This is really what he wants and I am, at least to some degree, playing into that.

But again it is the context that is important.

Equally important context is to focus not on the stunts performed by the Diagolon circus, but in the real views they have which they really don't like people knowing about:

For example, let's talk about the times that Derek suggests that things in Canada will result in civil war (in addition to a smattering of antisemetic and Islamophobic conspiracy theories with a dash of anti-immigrant rhetoric):

Along with Jeremy MacKenzie suggesting immigrants and refugees are responsible for an increase in crimes in Toronto using wildly made up numbers, engaging in antisemitic caricatures, and not actually knowing about, you know, history when he implies Britain has already paid reparations to enslaved peoples and their descendants:

Well, to be fair he is right that reparations were paid by the British government until around 2015, but rather than going to the enslaved peoples and their descendants, reparations were actually paid to the former owners of enslaved peoples for their "loss of property" when slavery was abolished in the British Empire. The loan taken by the government to pay that debt in 1833 was only completed in 2015.

Then again history doesn't seem to be a strong suit for Derek:

He minimizes the murder of Muslims in Christchurch using transphobic rhetoric, continues to push Islamophobic conspiracy theories, and refers to "third world Africans" and a "sea of brown" because Derek is classy and junk:

And, you know, wistfully talking about the best way to murder the Prime Minister:

None of the people or groups I've covered here or on Twitter like it when their views are put in the proper context.

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