On Saturday August 19th, Jennifer Evans weighed in on why neo-Nazism and far-Right ideology still holds appeal in the Ottawa Citizen. Evans is a modern German historian, with a research specialization on political extremism and toxic masculinity. She is also the co-editor of the #NewFascism Syllabus. See below for an excerpt of Evans’ op-ed:
We ask ourselves this question each time we are confronted with an event as troubling as the one this past week in Virginia: What is it about far-right ideology that motivates young men to imagine life through the prism of violence?
The appeal of white supremacism is not new. While many of us were reminded by the death of Ernst Zundel that Canada has had its own dalliance with far-right activism, white pride organizations have a long history on this continent. Long before Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, Canada would see branches of the KKK established in some of its largest cities. As Bernie Farber wrote in the Citizen this week, even bucolic Ottawa had its own neo-Nazi riot in 1993.
What explains the continued appeal of the far right and who are its constituents?
We may be shocked at what the research suggests. Contrary to the popular image of ne’er do wells and misfits, and certainly there are some, adherents to the radical right also come from the educated middle class.
The same holds true for today. The leaders of several of the alt-right organizations holding rallies on college campuses were, themselves, students of history, some at some of the most esteemed institutions in the United States and Canada. Richard Spencer, an avowed white supremacist and president of the National Policy Institute studied intellectual history at Duke while his wife boasts a PhD from the University of Toronto. This situation is slightly different in European countries, however. In Germany, where education is tied more overtly to social class, most neo-Nazis are petty criminals, often older when radicalized, caught up in the ideology while in prison.