Know Your Opposition - Networks, Memes, and Symbols
Each hate-promoting group operates in unique ways, targeting distinct populations and often using different slogans and tactics. It is important to inform your response to hate-promoting activity by understanding the ideology behind each group and network, their common recruitment tactics, and their past actions. Even when a group or network dissolves, its membership remains, and often regroups under another name.
In Canada, and transnationally, the issue is more movements and networks than formal groups. Organizing has shifted to individuals and loose associations and networks who are highly vocal and active amongst hate-promoting movements. This is done intentionally to give hate movements more flexibility and adaptability as times and circumstances change, as well as to allow for collaboration between networks. This collaboration results in crossover between networks and movements.
Memes and other symbols of hate-motivated ideology are an important way that young people express their interest or affiliation. Some of them may come across as tongue-in-cheek rather than serious, but the “trolling” orientation of online far-right culture is part of the way it appeals to new potential recruits. Humour plays a central role as a recruitment tactic for youth for hate-promoting organizations. Youth may be “irony-poisoned,” a term describing the process in which they are exposed to so much ironic and bigoted humour that it eventually ceases to shock them, and they may adopt those views unironically. Hate-promoting organizations exploit young people's attractions to pranks and jokes by gradually adding harassment, bigotry, and cruelty to the “humour.”
The symbology of online far-right and hate-promoting spaces is constantly evolving. Below are some common memes and symbols, but it is important to do ongoing research to recognize new and changing symbols. Some that are more obvious, like the swastika, have been left out.
It is also important to contextualize memes and symbols. Some symbols have alternative meanings, such as the swastika and runes, so context must be considered. In youth culture, where imagery is so important, it’s critical to research a symbol or a meme before making assumptions.
This section of the toolkit includes:
- An overview of some of the networks and websites most likely to attract young people
- Common hate-promoting visual language, such as memes and symbols
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Download the full Confronting and Preventing Hate in Canadian Schools Toolkit.