As the freedom convoy remains firmly entrenched in Ontario cities Ottawa and Windsor and Coutts, Alberta, there are rumblings of convoys being organized in other countries. Maps appear on social media of routes in France, Austria, and America. Rumours have been recently acknowledged by the Department of Homeland Security in the US, that planned convoys may impact the Super Bowl and Coachella before moving to Washington for the State of the Union Address. The standoff in Windsor is impacting the importing of goods, and manufacturing is coming to a standstill, with President Biden offering assistance to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Is this a groundswell of a social movement that will have greater impact internationally? Only time will tell.
NPR spoke to truckers stuck in the blockade at the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. The “Freedom Convoy” has blocked any traffic from crossing the border between America and Canada for a few days, and as the impact of this action shuts down car manufacturers in both countries, NPR asks who is behind the protest and why?
The Centre on Hate, Bias, and Extremism hosted an online symposium with scholars from across Canada engaging in a dialogue of the issues surrounding right-wing extremism on social media. I was honoured to participate with two separate presentations. Seeping Hate is a presentation of my research, in early stages, on the means through which deplatformed users continue to post content, and spread their messages. The far-right and the ugly side of social media: dark participation on BitChute is a presentation with the team at The Disinformation Project at SFU, where I am a Post-doctoral Fellow.
Canadian’s have witnessed the Canadian flag being worn, displayed upside down, and desecrated with symbols of hate at the ongoing convoy protests against Covid mandates, while simultaneously witnessing the flag as a symbol of pride at the Winter Olympics. What do these contradicting images of our national flag mean to Canadians, being Canadian, and the reckoning of who we are as a people? The flag waving at this juncture in time is creating a sense of pride and anger.
Disinformation, conspiracies, and extremist ideologies are important components of social movements, such as the convoy protest in Ottawa. The link to extremist views, white nationalism, and neo-Nazis have overshadowed any real protesters who are expressing their positions. More importantly extremists are using this opportunity to recruit and spread their ideologies. As Canadians recoil and denounce the actions of some actions in Ottawa, we need to consider what the future of this movement could be.