[NOTE: This was written a year ago, in the summer of 2018, while working on the News 21 reporting project “Hate in America”. The project produced digital stories, blog posts, and a full-length, awards (three at last count) winning documentary. This specific piece is published for the first time here.]
In 1960 the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination came into being.
According to the document, “The chain of events which led to the preparation and eventual adoption of the Convention started as a reaction to an epidemic of swastika-painting and other ‘manifestations of anti-Semitism and other forms of racial and national hatred and religious and racial prejudices of a similar nature’ which occurred in many countries in the winter of 1959-1960.”
In 2004 the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which “works for stability, peace and democracy for more than a billion people, through political dialogue about shared values and through practical work that aims to make a lasting difference”, according to the website, decided that member States “combat hate crimes, which can be fuelled by racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic propaganda in the media and on the Internet.”
And just two years ago, the European Commission presented a Code of Conduct signed by Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and YouTube specifying how to “combat the spread of illegal hate speech online in Europe.”
The communication was subtitled “Towards an enhanced responsibility of online platforms,” and puts the greatest responsibility for policing hate on the shoulders of the service and platform providers themselves.
A 2018 evaluation of progress with that code of conduct stated that these companies “removed 70% of the illegal hate speech notified to them. compared with the removal rate of 59% in [May 2017] and with 28% in .”
But some oppose giving private companies this responsibility, because privacy is at risk, government oversight is still needed, free speech is threatened, and member states don’t agree on a definition of hate speech, nor on what to do about it.
Jean-Marie Le Pen founded Front National in France in 1972, a political party advocating anti-semitism, anti-immigration, and holocaust denial. He was fined in France numerous times for hate speech and holocaust denial in print and orally, and eventually kicked out of Front National by his own daughter and most of the rest of the party members for his continued racist views.
Le Pen eventually got elected to the European Parliament, and held office through 2011. He ran for President of France several times, in 2002 getting enough votes to get him into the second round of the election.
Because of regular ‘epidemics’ of hate, Russia, France, England, Poland, and other EU countries legislate and enforce hate crime, and the UN Convention continues to evolve and adapt to new epidemics of hate, including hate on the internet.
Many EU countries especially focus law and enforcement on hate speech, which the internet amplifies and weaponizes as memes, and normalizes as online manifestos, documents, blogs, books, podcasts and video.
The internet functions as a communal and exterior imagination which is malleable, and powerful, according to occult historian Gary Lachman. One technique of manipulation he calls “meme magic”, exemplified by Pepe the Frog, a simple cartoon at first, that stewed in the juices of 4chan and came out something different.
“[Pepe] got led over to the dark side. Once you launch a meme, you don’t have any control over it anymore.”
Lachman says, “We’re using [Pepe] as this kind of postmodern swastika. He’s become this kind of mascot. But then he, he becomes something more than that. People that were posting stuff on four Chan and other sites, they started to notice that things that they were posting on the net were bleeding into the real world.”
Hillary Clinton’s mention of Pepe the Frog during the 2016 campaign debates exemplifies this effect. This was a substantive discussion, from Clinton’s point of view, because Pepe is a swastika, post-modern or not.
Neither is it trivial that the Conservative Political Action Conference last November, an event put on by American Conservative Union, included a ten minute speech by Jean-Marie Le Pen’s granddaughter, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, who herself fully embraces the extreme views of her grandfather from which his own daughter Marine has distanced herself and the Front National.
Speaking to the crowd of applauding Americans, the twenty-eight year old granddaughter announced her opposition to homosexuality, mixed marriage, women working outside the home, and ethnic and racial segregation:
“Today, even children have become merchandise. ‘We have a right to deprive a child of a mother or father.’ No. No you don’t…We don’t want this atomized world of individuals without gender, without mother, without father, and without nation.”
She and her grandfather believe marriage should be monogamous, and between biological male and female. The nation they believe in is France for the French, Morocco for Moroccans, Syria for Syrians, Nigeria for Nigerians.
She wrapped up the speech with plans to get the message out, to disrupt the status quo.
“We need to convey our ideas for the media, the culture, and education to stop the domination of the liberals and socialists,” Le Pen said. “We want our country back.”
Ironically, one of America’s own far-right, Pamela Geller, was dropped from the Conference.
According to an internal American Conservative Union email obtained by the Washington Examiner, “CPAC sponsor APP is hosting a panel discussion on conservative voices being silenced on the internet. APP invited Pamela Geller to participate on the panel. She initially accepted but she then made her participation contingent on APP including another person who was obviously a poor choice.”
The ACU disinvited Geller, and went forward with the panel without her.