Sunday, October 13, 2019
Parents need to understand how white supremacists prey on teen boys, so they can intervene.
Raising teenagers can be terrifying. Our squishy little babies become awkward hormonal creatures who question our authority at every turn.
I expected that. What I didn’t predict was that my sons’ adolescence would include being drawn to the kind of online content that right-wing extremists use to recruit so many young men.
The first sign was a seemingly innocuous word, used lightheartedly: “triggered.”
As my 11- and 14-year-old sons and their friends talked and bantered — phones in hand, as always — in the back seat of the car, one of them shouted it in response to a meme, and they all laughed uproariously.
I almost lost control of the car. That’s because I know that word — often used to mock people who are hurt or offended by racism as overly sensitive — is a calling card of the alt-right, which the Anti-Defamation League defines as “a segment of the white supremacist movement consisting of a loose network of racists and anti-Semites who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of politics that embrace implicit or explicit racism, anti-Semitism and white supremacy.” People associated with this group are known for trolling those who disagree with them, and calling critics “triggered” is a favorite tactic.
The next red flag: I watched my son scroll through Instagram and double-click on an image, lighting up a heart that signifies a “like.”
“Hold on a minute,” I said, snatching his phone. “Was that Hitler?”
The meme showed a man in contemporary clothing tipping off the Nazi leader to the invasion of Normandy. My son said he hadn’t even read it, he’d just assumed the time traveler was trying to kill Hitler, not help him. He was shocked and embarrassed when I pointed out the actual message: that it would have been better if the Holocaust had continued.
“I’m not stupid enough to like a Hitler meme on purpose, Mom,” he said. “And anyway, I’m sure my friend shared it to be ironic.”
I didn’t see the irony and my son couldn’t explain it. I talked to him about the Holocaust, the trauma and violence that Jewish people all over the world still experience and my late friend Edith, whose delicate arm displayed a number tattoo that stopped my heart every time I saw it. He knew all this already, but I worried that he was forgetting. I worried that he was being pulled toward a worldview that would see this painful history as fodder for jokes, or worse, as something to celebrate.
At a time when the F.B.I. reports a 17 percent rise in hate crime incidents from 2016 to 2017, the most recent year for which there is data, white parents like me have had recent, terrifying reminders that we must prevent our sons from becoming indoctrinated by a growing racist movement that thrives online and causes real-life devastation.
In August, a young white man who admitted to targeting Mexicans killed 22 people in an El Paso Walmart. In New Zealand, 51 people were killed when a gunman attacked mosques filled with worshipers observing Friday prayers. In the past year, a total of 12 worshipers were killed in the U.S. in two hate-motivated attacks on synagogues in Pittsburgh and San Diego.
In each of these cases, the killers were white men with a history of extremism. The San Diego gunman, for instance, left a manifesto on 8chan also claiming responsibility for a mosque fire. And the San Diego and New Zealand gunmen posted hate-filled online manifestoes that included internet-culture references, such as references to memes and a notorious shout-out to a noteworthy YouTube personality. Both of them mentioned or alluded to the “white genocide” — which the Anti-Defamation League defines as the white-supremacist belief that the white race is “dying” because of growing nonwhite populations and “forced assimilation.”
But of course, it’s not just that we want to prevent our sons from becoming perpetrators of mass shootings. We want to raise them to be the kind of men who would never march with the neo-Nazis who chanted “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville before one of them killed a counterprotester, Heather Heyer. Beyond that, we want to keep them from becoming supporters of the racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and gender- or sexuality-based hatred that is on the rise.
Unfortunately, extremists know how to find new recruits in the very place our sons spend so much of their time: online. And too often, they’re more aware than we are of how vulnerable young white men are to radicalization.
According to Jackson Katz, author of “The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help,” it’s not necessarily the ideology behind white nationalism, anti-feminism or the alt-right that initially appeals to young white men and boys as much as it is the sense of being part of a “heroic struggle.”
Participating in the alt-right community online “offers the seductive feeling of being part of a brotherhood, which in turn validates their manhood,” Dr. Katz says. YouTubers and participants in chat forums like 4chan, the defunct 8chan and Discord “regularly denigrate liberal or progressive white men as soft, emasculated ‘soy boys’ and insufficiently aggressive or right-wing white men as ‘cucks.’” It also seems to me, as a mom, that these groups prey upon the natural awkwardness of adolescence. Many kids feel out of place, frustrated and misunderstood, and are vulnerable to the idea that someone else is responsible for their discontent. When they’re white and male, they’re spoon-fed a list of scapegoats: people of color, feminists, immigrants, L.G.B.T.Q. people. If they really embrace this, it’s not hard to convince them that there’s a “white genocide” happening and that these people — and the “leftists” who represent their interests — are to blame.
So what can parents do? First, we need to understand how this works. A favorite activity for many boys is to watch gamers playing video games on YouTube. According to John Duffy, author of “Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety,” the problems come with advertisements that may appear during the videos. Kids can be exposed to dozens of ads in a sitting. They might hear about the border, or “Crooked Hillary” or a conspiracy theory on how the left works, Dr. Duffy said. Many of these spots are created and promoted by organizations like PragerU, which, Dr. Duffy notes, is not an accredited university but a propaganda machine that introduces viewers to extremist views via video. And YouTube’s recommendation algorithm offers videos that become more and more extreme as viewers watch them.
“There is sophisticated psychology at play,” Dr. Duffy warns, noting that today’s teenagers have been using smartphones and tablets their whole lives. They like to dive deeper into topics that pique their curiosity, which is a great thing. The problem is they often turn to the internet before their parents for answers. Recommended videos and comments left on YouTube can lead them to threads full of racism and conspiracy theories on forums like 4chan. Google may lead them to white nationalist outlets like The Daily Stormer, where hate and harassment are normalized. Often, they have no idea which sources are reputable.
They may also find videos by more mainstream figures, including members of the so-called intellectual dark web like Jordan Peterson, a Canadian psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, whose conservative perspectives on feminism and gender are very popular among young men and often are a path to more extreme content and ideologies.
In an interview with the actor Alan Alda for the podcast “Clear+Vivid,” Christian Picciolini, a former Nazi, explains that modern white supremacists create friendships and build trust in online spaces such as autism chat rooms and gaming-related forums. They “go to these places and they promise them paradise,” he says.Inevitably, kids who have encountered these messages will mimic extremist talking points, and those of us who find these views repulsive may be tempted to yell at them, ground them or take away their devices in a futile attempt to keep them away from this propaganda.The problem is, punitive responses often create a sense of shame that can feed a growing sense of anger — an anger the alt-right is eager to exploit.
What really hooks many white teenagers is the alt-right’s insistence that white men are under attack in America, the true victims of oppression. If your child has already been punished for his opinions, this message is especially resonant. They find a home for their rage, a brotherhood of guys like them, and that oh-so-alluring heroic struggle — and that’s how an extremist is born.
One family Dr. Duffy sees in his clinical practice found that the key to opening up conversation with their son, who was showing signs of indoctrination into alt-right communities, was to start by saying they were proud of his efforts to develop opinions that weren’t spoon-fed to him and to promise to listen to their son’s perspective if he would listen to theirs.
According to Dr. Duffy, once the family started communicating more openly and their son’s views lost their status as a mark of edginess or rebellion, the teenager softened his stances and even disabled his alt-right meme accounts.
Parents also need to encourage our sons how to think critically about the things they’re hearing online. One term I’ve debunked in this way for my kids is “snowflake.” An insult embraced by moderate conservatives and the alt-right alike, it’s used to dismiss people who complain about racism, sexism or homophobia as laughably delicate.
When one of my kids used it, I smiled and, in a conspiratorial tone, asked him to think about this: Who is more of a delicate snowflake? The person who wants people to stop racial slurs or mocking of gay people or the person who is upset and offended by the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” — a common talking point during Fox News’s infamous War on Christmas segments?
He thought about it and laughed at the irony. He, like the rest of us, sees that Christmas is promoted everywhere in society and isn’t going anywhere. I also took the opportunity to explain that calling someone who is upset or offended a “snowflake” or “triggered” is just a lazy — and often hypocritical — way to justify treating that person poorly. For my sons, this conversation was effective. After all, they don’t want to hurt anyone, and they’ve long understood that a person who refuses to take responsibility and apologize is probably a jerk. But they needed a reminder.
Perhaps the best tool is prevention. Kids need to understand — before they encounter their first alt-right memes — what white supremacy looks like. It’s not just a person in a K.K.K. hood but also the smooth-talking YouTuber in the suit or the seemingly friendly voice in the video game forum.
If we avoid talking about our values about race and the experiences of marginalized people, strangers on the internet will be happy to share theirs.
“Right now, our fear about addressing race causes us to leave kids guessing,” says Shelly Tochluk, a professor of education at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles, and author of “Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How to Do It.” “They fill in the blanks with whatever they see online, and this includes horrifically twisted messages from white nationalists.”
Parents of white kids need to talk about race and racism and how they’ve played out in this country — a lot. That history includes horrors and tragedies, but as Dr. Tochluk says, it also “includes the fact that there have always been groups of white people in the United States who have fought for freedom and liberty for all.”
“In our choices and actions,” she says, “white people can align ourselves with that lineage.”
Dr. Katz suggested, “To counteract the seductiveness of that appeal from the right, we need to offer them a better definition of strength: that true strength resides in respecting and lifting up others, not seeking to dominate them.”
I’m working hard to instill these values in my kids. But keeping them away from the radical right is a continuing project for me and should be for any parent. I have confidence that they’re more equipped than they were a year ago to detect and reject hateful messages, but in the meantime, every time they laugh at a so-called edgy meme, I’m going to make it my mission to find out what’s so funny.
Human rights organizations are demanding the release of a 33-year-old university lecturer who has been in solitary confinement since 2014. His family told DW the blasphemy allegations were fabricated by Islamists.
Amnesty International last week demanded that Pakistani authorities immediately and unconditionally release Junaid Hafeez, a 33-year-old lecturer at the Bahauddin Zakariya University in the eastern city of Multan.
In 2013, Hafeez was charged in a blasphemy case over a Facebook page. The young lecturer has been held in solitary confinement since June 2014. If convicted, he faces the death penalty under Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws.
The US government has also urged Pakistani authorities to free Hafeez, with Vice President Mike Pence explicitly mentioning the lecturer's ordeal in a July statement.
In 2010, Hafeez, a resident of Rajanpur town in Punjab province, returned to Pakistan to teach English literature at the Bahauddin Zakariya University after finishing his studies in the US. At the time of his arrest, he was already a Fulbright scholar and was appreciated for his academic work.
Hafeez's father told DW that his son was a victim of university politics, as he was disliked by an Islamist student organization because of his liberal views.
"In 2013, the university advertised a post for a lecturer. The members of the Islamist Jamiat-e-Talaba organization told him to not apply for the job as they wanted their own people to get it," said Hafeez-ul Naseer.
"The group launched a malicious campaign against my son, distributing pamphlets and accusing him of blasphemy. They said he was an American agent," Naseer said.
"My son, who came back from the US to serve his country, was later arrested by police on blasphemy charges," he added.
The ordeal of Hafeez's family continued even after his arrest. No lawyer in Multan city wanted to take up his case.
Blasphemy is a sensitive topic in Pakistan, where 97% of its 180 million inhabitants are Muslim. Rights activists have demanded reforms of controversial blasphemy laws, which were introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Activists say the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas.
According to rights groups, around 1,549 blasphemy cases have been registered in Pakistan between 1987 and 2017. More than 75 people have been killed extra-judicially on blasphemy allegations. Some of them were even targeted after being acquitted in blasphemy cases by courts.
"Finally, Rashid Rehman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan took up my son's case, but he was gunned down on May 7, 2014 in his office," Naseer said.
Hafeez has been languishing in jail ever since. His father said the family has been living under constant fear as they could also be targeted by extremists.
Ray of hope
The Pakistani Supreme Court recently acquitted Waji-ul Hasan, a man accused of blasphemy, after 17 years in prison.
"The release of Asia Bibi [a Christian woman who had been on death row on blasphemy charges for ten years] and Hasan gives me some hope. Maybe they will release my son too," Naseer said.
Mehdi Hasan, the chairman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, says that Hasan's release after 17 years in prison is a positive sign. "It [the decision] is very late, but must be appreciated. It is high time Pakistan amends the blasphemy law. But religious groups don't want it; they even oppose a fair trial in blasphemy cases," Hasan told DW.
Prominent Christian activist Joseph Francis believes there will be no recourse for people like Juanid Hafeez and Waji-ul Hasan until the blasphemy law is repealed. "This law is discriminatory; it targets minorities and vulnerable sections of society," Francis told DW.
In May, Bibi left for Canada to join her family after the authorities acquitted her of blasphemy charges. Her case had attracted international attention, with many Western countries rejecting both capital punishment and the concept of blasphemy.
Rights activists hope that Hafeez's plight would receive a similar international reaction.
Persecution of religious minorities
Pakistan's Christians and other religious minorities have often complained of legal and social discrimination in the country. In the past few years, many Christians and Hindus have been brutally murdered over unproven blasphemy allegations.
In one case, a young Christian girl with Down syndrome was accused in August 2012 of burning pages upon which verses of the Koran were inscribed.
Rimsha Masih was taken into police custody and only released months later, when charges were dropped. The case caused an uproar in her hometown and beyond and sparked riots and violence against Christians in the region. In 2013, she and her family relocated to Canada.
In 2014, a Christian couple was beaten to death for allegedly desecrating a copy of the Koran. Their bodies were subsequently burned in a brick kiln.
In September last year, a Christian man in Pakistan was sentenced to death for sharing "blasphemous" material on WhatsApp.
In New York last week, Mr. Khan laid out his vision in a rambling 50-minute address to the United Nations General Assembly. He defended the right of Muslim women in the West to don the hijab. “A woman can take off her clothes in [some] countries, but she can’t put on more clothes,” he said. He declared that “there is no such thing as radical Islam,” only “one Islam and that is the Islam we follow of Prophet Muhammad.”
The prime minister blamed the rise of “Islamophobia” on some “people in the West who deliberately provoked this,” in part by writing novels such as Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses.” He warned that “marginalizing Muslim communities” in Europe “leads to radicalization.” He asked the West to treat the prophet “with sensitivity” akin to how it approaches the Holocaust. Not surprisingly, Mr. Khan devoted much of his address to attacking India for its decision in August to revoke autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state. He accused Indian troops of locking in Kashmiris like “animals” and warned of an impending bloodbath that could spiral into a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan.
The prime minister will back his fervor with action. After a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Mr. Khan tweeted that the three Muslim-majority countries would set up a “BBC type English-language” television channel to highlight “Muslim issues” and “fight Islamophobia.” Through this channel, the “issue of blasphemy would be properly contextualized” and “Muslims would be given a dedicated media presence.”
Not everything that Mr. Khan says is unreasonable. You can question his florid rhetoric on Kashmir while acknowledging that India’s heavy-handed actions there have caused needless suffering. And if Pakistan and its friends wish to stand up the world’s most boring TV channel, who are we to complain?
Nevertheless, Mr. Khan’s lecture to the West on how to treat its Muslim minorities is, to put it mildly, deeply hypocritical. He appears to expect Western nations to accommodate orthodox Muslim concerns by curtailing free speech and women’s rights. But China’s wholesale assault on Islam itself elicits only silence.
In Xinjiang province, China has diluted the Muslim majority by shipping in millions of Han Chinese migrants. Authorities have banned names they deem overly religious, including Muhammad, as well as “abnormal” beards and veils in public for women. Uighur Muslims face punishment for fasting during Ramadan. According to detainee reports, the friendly methods employed at Chinese re-education camps for Uighurs include forcing religious believers to consume pork and alcohol.
Outside Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist Party has launched a totalitarian program to Sinicize Islam. In many places, authorities prohibit mosques and Islamic organizations from running kindergartens or after-school programs. Ningxia province in north-central China has banned public displays of the Arabic script, including the word “halal.” Along with neighboring Gansu province, Ningxia also bans the Muslim call to prayer. In Inner Mongolia, Henan and Ningxia, authorities have flattened domes and razed minarets to give mosques a more Chinese appearance.
Carved out of British India as a homeland for Muslims, Pakistan has long placed pan-Islamic causes—including the Palestinians, Bosnia and Kashmir—at the heart of its foreign policy. But when asked earlier this year by a reporter about the Uighurs, Mr. Khan claimed that he “doesn’t know much” about the issue. At the Council on Foreign Relations in New York last month he said his nation’s “special relationship” with China stops him from speaking about the Uighurs in public.
What explains this silence? First the obvious answer: Pakistan depends on China for diplomatic, military and economic support. In addition, “there’s a kind of protest reflex in some parts of the Muslim world that focuses on the West,” says Afshin Molavi, an expert on Middle East-Asia ties at Johns Hopkins University. “This reflex doesn’t exist with China.”
Unfortunately for Pakistan—and luckily for the rest of us—pan-Islamism appears to be fading. Hardly any Muslim country wants to risk angering China’s touchy rulers by criticizing their policies. On Kashmir, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose support Pakistan could once count on, now place economic ties with New Delhi above solidarity with Islamabad. Mr. Molavi likens pan-Islamism to a song on a “diplomatic Spotify playlist” that no longer plays well in places like Riyadh or Abu Dhabi.
This doesn’t mean that Mr. Khan should stop speaking up on behalf of his coreligionists. But if he wants to be taken seriously, he ought to focus more on China’s war on Islam and less on imaginary problems facing Muslims in the West.
Senator Maggie Hassan also asked for de-escalation of India-Pakistan tensions, which spiked after Modi govt scrapped Article 370 on 5 August.
چیئرمین پیپلزپارٹی بلاول بھٹو زرداری کا کہناہے کہ میں کٹھ پتلی حکومت کا مقابلہ کررہا ہوں اور اسے گھر بھیج کر ہی چھوڑوں گا، کراچی پر وفاق کو قبضہ نہیں کرنے دینگے، پیپلزپارٹی نے آمروں کا مقابلہ کیا، یہ کٹھ پتلی کیا چیز ہے،میں نے پی پی پرچم تھام لیا،عوام ساتھ دیں۔