From run-of-the-mill conservatives to overt neo-Nazis, anyone who identifies as right-wing is welcome into Rightwingism, a transnational community of white nationalists active in 30 countries, most US states, and across Canada.
Canadian Anti-Hate Network
They may brand themselves “paleoconservatives,” “national capitalists” or even “right-wing tommyists,” but for many page administrators of the so-called Rightwingism community, these highly elaborate ideological labels used to hide their fascination with fascism.
Billing itself as a hub for right-wing online discourse, Rightwingism is a network of Instagram accounts promoting nationalism and traditional values to a young audience. With page administrators claiming a wide variety of ideological and national affiliations, the community is broadly tied together by a shared vision of a united, global right-wing movement.
This emphasis on unity means that community members are rarely picky about who they choose to affiliate with. Rightwingism pages often feature small-c conservative administrators sharing page managing duties with overt fascists.
As a result, publications peddling racist pseudo-science and overtly antisemitic memes are mere clicks away, even on more moderate Rightwingism accounts. “Merchant” cartoons reminiscent of Nazi propaganda appear in several posts, and Jews are often identified to through the antisemitic triple-parentheses.
Screen capture from a Rightwingism account representing Iran. Source: Instagram
The membership of the Rightwingism community skews very young. A disturbing number of page administrators identified through our research were found to be underage, indicating that this movement is not only a youth-oriented community, but also a youth-led one.
“National” Rightwingism accounts typically adapt the white nationalist politics of the alt-right to better sell them to their followers, either by commenting on hot button domestic issues or by referencing historical events.
Many pages glorify past dictators and brutal authoritarian regimes, stylizing them into the cookie-cutter fashwave art - an aesthetic melding fascist imagery with the vaporwave style - or other sleek, made-for-Instagram designs.
Screen capture from a Rightwingism account representing Chile. Source: Instagram
Other accounts share and create content in support of far-right parties in their respective home countries. A page representing Spain, posted content in support of Vox, a nationalist party which has called for a “Reconquista,” a reference to the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula by Christian kingdoms that led to the expulsion of Muslims and Jews - during the last Spanish election.
American political issues, however, are a dominating topic of discussion throughout the community, with many pages voicing their support for Donald Trump, even after his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.
This young age of many of its admins we identified is all the more concerning due to the sometimes violent nature of publications made by some of the largest Rightwingism accounts. One post, made by one page with a following in the thousands, praises Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager who shot and killed two people during a protest, for “taking out three commies'' and “walking away like nothing.”
Rittenhouse has been hailed as a hero by accelerationists and white nationalists after his arrest, with many seeing him as an example to follow.
MADE IN CANADA
The Rightwingism community takes its name from a Canadian-run page whose popularity among high-school and university-aged men has allowed it to spread across the globe.
Likely the most popular account in the “Politigram” history, the page Rightwingism was taken down several times for violating Instagram’s terms and services, only to be respawned by its administrators. According to Press Progress, many memes posted on the page peddled Islamophobia, antisemitism, and homophobia. Some posts even glorified Adolf Hitler.
At its peak, the page boasted over 78,000 followers.
As was reported by The Gauntlet, one of the page’s administrators was Leslie Gillam, then a student at the University of Calgary. Gillam described Rightwingism as an outlet for dissenting views, where both radicals and moderates are welcome to contribute.
“I don’t care who you are, you can be antifa, you can be a Nazi. I’m giving a platform, but it’s with a reason. It’s not because I want them to succeed, it’s because I want them and I want people to see who these people are, and I want them to be able to challenge them. Maybe change their mind, maybe have their mind changed, at least open their minds and be open to hearing a new opinion,” said Gillam in defense of his role as an administrator of the page.
Gillam, who used the identifier “L” when posting on the page, does not appear to actively contribute to Rightwingism anymore.
The original Rightwingism Instagram account was taken down for good in October 2020. Several attempts to create new pages using the same name were unsuccessful. Its administrators have gone on to create their own pages. At least one current member of the administrator team, goes by the identifier “K,” is Canadian.
Do you have more information about Rightwingism accounts? Email Sebastien at [email protected].
The content on these individual Instagram pages is comparably tame to the rest of Rightwingism. However, it appears their main purpose is to draw its followers towards an affiliated channel on an encrypted chat app.
This is where “the real fun happens,” according to K.
Many hate groups rely on alternative platforms as a safe space usually due to its lax enforcement policies.
In one post exposing the nature of Rightwingism’s following, K asks for subscribers to share their unpopular opinions.
“The US should abolish Judaism and deport all Israelis,” one wrote.
“Racism can be useful in some places,” adds another.
A third one, dropping the pretense of polite racism, plainly states “fuck n***ers, fuck k**es, fuck tr****es, fuck jannies.”
None of these users received any pushback for these views.
Screencapture taken from encrypted chat app.
Another admin going by the moniker “C” encouraged subscribers to purchase weapons and ammunition to “protect yourself and those (they) love,” as the Black Lives Matter movement took to the streets to protest the murder of George Floyd by a police officer.
Jokes about Floyd’s death also frequently appear throughout the chat logs, with the administrators going as far as to organize a “breath holding contest” in June 2020, mere weeks after his death.
Screen capture from an encrypted channel managed by Rightwingism administrators.
Political violence is also a recurrent topic of discussion. Though Rightwingism, like many hate groups advocating for a “political solution,” claims to disagree with the use of violence, one post by ‘K’ exposes this disavowal as little more than lip service.
“If I’m being honest, we don’t support violence here, but why is everyone so afraid of violence? … If the entirety of recorded civilization has taught us one thing, I think it’s that violence solves pretty much everything,” he said, citing Kyle Rittenhouse as an example.
A RADICALIZATION PIPELINE FOR CANADIAN TEENS
Even within this large, transnational community, Canadian Rightwingism accounts stand out due to the overtly hateful nature of their content.
One account, billing itself as the “home of the Albertan Right,” is currently the largest active Canadian page in the community, with almost 1,800 followers at time of writing. Mixing the kind of memes one would expect to find on an Albertan right-wing account with content produced by hate groups including ID Canada, the page seems to bring moderates and extremists together, like much of the Rightwinigsm community.
While a majority of posts on this Albertan page feature “mainstream” conservative talking points about the “cancellation” of Don Cherry or Prime Minister Trudeau’s latest gaffe, it is hard to deny the hateful nature of many of the page’s publications.
After a man was arrested and charged for attending an anti-racist protest in Toronto while wearing blackface, one administrator posted a picture depicting the incident as a “Canadian Heritage Moment.”
More often than not, however, it is the LGBTQ2+ community that is a target of this Albertan page’s rhetoric. After the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers shared a picture in celebration of Pride month, the page called for its followers to “raid” the posts, leading to hundreds of aggressive, incendiary responses.
The page also celebrated the cancellation of Toronto Pride due to the ongoing pandemic, calling the coronavirus “based,” and liking a comment in response to the post saying the government should allow the parade to take place to “let the immune compromised” contract COVID-19, referring to persons living with HIV.
But other Canadian Rightwingism pages are even more explicit about their hateful leanings.
Several Canadian administrators openly identify as fascists in their Instagram bios and share neo-Nazi content on their accounts. Memes published by a page representing Newfoundland feature sonnenrads - a neo-Nazi symbol - or glorify fascist leaders like Oswald Mosley and Benito Mussolini.
Another post lampooning a picture of the band The Cringe features the members with their heads replaced with the Black Lives Matter logo, a communist hammer and sickle, a Star of David, and the Pride flag.
Screen capture from a Rightwingism account representing Newfoundland. Source: Instagram
By using popular conservative memes to attract new followers only to expose them to white nationalist content, Canadian Rightwingism page administrators are creating a radicalization pipeline, which active hate groups and movements will likely both benefit from.
Pages affiliated with the Canadian community routinely share content produced by or praising different hateful groups and individuals. Many page administrators identify as “Groypers,” a movement supporting the “optics friendly” brand of white nationalism peddled by Nick Fuentes.
The Groyper movement, which primarily aims to radicalize young men online, has become increasingly active throughout Canada, from Alberta to Ontario. One administrator from a Canadian Rightwingism page was also found to be an active supporter of the Albertan Separatist Youth League, a group which claims explicit ties to the Groypers.
At least one Canadian page also shares content featuring Jeremy Mackenzie, a member of the antisemitic streaming collective Plaid Army.