Left-wing extremism and aggression are linked to psychopathic and narcissistic tendencies, a new study has found.
People with narcissistic or psychopathic tendencies are more likely to strongly endorse left-wing aggression against authority, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Current Psychology.
The study found that people with dark personality traits like narcissism and psychopathy tend to be drawn more to certain aggressive left-wing political and social activities. Their desire to engage in these activities is not always rooted in a genuine desire for social justice, though, but rather is a way to satisfy their ego, the study suggests.
The study introduced a new term for this behavior called the “dark-ego-vehicle principle.”
“According to this principle, individuals with dark personalities – such as high narcissistic and psychopathic traits – are attracted to certain forms of political and social activism which they can use as a vehicle to satisfy their own ego-focused needs instead of actually aiming at social justice and equality,” study authors Dr. Ann Krispenz and Dr. Alexander Bertrams told PsyPost.
Bertrams is the head of the Educational Psychology Lab at the University of Bern in Switzerland, and Krispenz is a postdoctoral associate at the same university.
The study was actually made up of two studies, both of which found that “individuals who strongly endorse anti-hierarchical aggression to overthrow those in power are narcissistic individuals with psychopathic attributes and thus driven by ego-focused motives.”
“In particular, certain forms of activism might provide them with opportunities for positive self-presentation and displays of moral superiority, to gain social status, to dominate others, and to engage in social conflicts and aggression to satisfy their need for thrill seeking,” the authors told PsyPost.
The study authors warned that, “minority groups should be made aware of the narcissistic ‘enemies’ from within their activist movement, as these individuals could hijack the cause thereby reducing the success of the activism in many ways.”
Narcissists pretend to be prosocial, they said, but actually tend to have “low empathy,” the authors said.
The authors said they wanted to investigate the personality traits linked with left-wing authoritarianism because the concept has been met with skepticism by many researchers and there is not a lot of research on the subject.
“We were interested in the psychological factors behind authoritarianism,” they said. “There is a wide range of literature and research in the field of right-wing authoritarianism (RWA). However, research on authoritarianism observed in individuals who are supportive of left-wing political ideologies are still rare,” they said.
They used another researcher’s new measure for left-wing authoritarianism.
That new measure defined left-wing authoritarianism as a combination of three things, anti-hierarchical aggression or wanting to use force to overthrow established hierarchies, anti-conventionalism or embracing progressive moral values, and top-down censorship or wanting to use the government to suppress speech.
Violent left-wing activism has cropped up frequently in the U.S. in recent years, most notably during the summer of 2020, when activists destroyed the downtown areas of major cities during protests around the death of George Floyd.
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The video shows a female officer in the background apparently instructing a congressional staffer to stop the singing. The staffer then approaches Rasbach, speaks into his ear, and Rasbach halts the choir.
🚨The Rushingbrook Children's Choir sang the National Anthem in Statuary Hall. a Capitol Police officer stopped them mid-song. Capitol Police claims they didn't stop the choir. The choir director tells the whole story in my exclusive interview here. 🚨https://t.co/ZRNbWy75lapic.twitter.com/ijiq4pw3X8
The Twitter hate-squad quickly claimed that the choir wasn’t stopped but merely asked to move from a high-traffic area. Really? Why were they allowed to assemble there in the first place if it was interfering with a “high-traffic area??? –TPR
Rasbach then reportedly asked the officer: “How do you think this is going to affect these children? Their first time visiting their Capitol and then they have this disappointment.”
“She shrugged her shoulders, saying, ‘They sounded beautiful, but… They can go outside and sing,” he said of her response.
According to Rasbach, the female officer went on to claim that multiple people had complained about the offensiveness of the anthem.
Rasbach explained to the Daily Signal that the choir was given permission to sing in the Capitol by Reps. William Timmons and Joe Wilson of South Carolina, as well as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The three lawmakers have since responded to the incident online, condemning the Capitol Police and reaffirming their support for the choir group.
We recently learned that schoolchildren from South Carolina were interrupted while singing our National Anthem at the Capitol. These children were welcomed by the Speaker’s office to joyfully express their love of this Nation while visiting the Capitol, and we are all very…
It is unfortunate that the Rushingbrook Children’s Choir was prevented from finishing a wonderful rendition of our National Anthem. I will be introducing a bill which permits the singing of our National Anthem on all federal property bc love for one’s country should be celebrated
Naturally, the Capitol Police immediately blamed the staffer and McCarthy for their actions:
“Although popup demonstrations and musical performances are not allowed in the U.S. Capitol without the proper approval and permit, due to a miscommunication, the U.S Capitol Police were not aware that the Speaker’s Office had approved this performance,” USCP said in a statement to Newsweek.
And the Twitterheads took the bait:
Well communication is key Kevin. Give it a try next time and none of this would have happened.
"Although popup demonstrations and musical performances are not allowed in the U.S. Capitol without the proper approval and permit, due to a miscommunication, the U.S Capitol Police…
The Capitol Police also responded to the incident, placing most of the blame on the congressional staffer, who they labeled a liar.
“Recently somebody posted a video of a children’s choir singing the Star-Spangled Banner in the U.S. Capitol Building and wrongfully claimed we stopped the performance because it ‘might offend someone,’” Capitol Police said in a statement to the Daily Signal.
“Here is the truth. Demonstrations and musical performances are not allowed in the U.S. Capitol,” they claimed, adding: “Of course, because the singers in this situation were children, our officers were reasonable and allowed the children to finish their beautiful rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.”
They then said that the congressional staffer “lied to the officers multiple times about having permission from various offices.
“The staffer put both the choir and our officers, who were simply doing their jobs, in an awkward and embarrassing position.”
Rea and Rasbach have both responded to the statement with a fierce rebuke, with Rea calling it a “bald-faced lie.”
“You can see clearly in the video, they literally stopped him before they finished singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’” Rea said. “That is absolutely, irrefutably wrong.”
“[The female officer] did everything she could to stop us and not let us continue singing, period,” he said, adding that the staffer did nothing wrong and did not lie to Capitol Police.
“That is not true—he did not lie to anybody,” Rasbach said in response to the Capitol Police’s statement about the staffer.
The two also refuted the claim that musical performances aren’t allowed in the Capitol, pointing out that as recently as March 29 a group of 80 pastors sang in the Rotunda. Sean Feucht, a Christian pastor and singer, also held performances in the Capitol in February and March, as the Daily Signal noted.
The Capitol Police have since apologized to the choir in a separate statement to Newsweek, this time blaming the incident on “miscommunication.”
“Although popup demonstrations and musical performances are not allowed in the U.S. Capitol without the proper approval, due to a miscommunication, the U.S Capitol Police were not aware that the Speaker’s Office had approved this performance,” the statement read.
“We apologize to the choir for this miscommunication that impacted their beautiful rendition of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and their visit to Capitol Hill.”
The USCP has shielded murderers [Ashli Barrett was shot — in a crowd of on-lookers, no less! — and Roseanne Boyland was beaten to death by USCP (video of the attack exists and was known as early as late January 2021) then dragged inside the Capitol (presumably to make it appear she was inside the building when she died.)] When is the USCP and those who direct it going to be held accountable? This latest attrocity with the children shows they just don’t give a f*ck about the rest of us who don’t share their ideology.
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This article appears in the June/July 2023 issue of Fortune with the headline, “The end of affirmative action?”
**Fortune Magazine is a woke-promoting organization. Notice the blatant propaganda in their choice of the picture above**
Somewhere along the way, “Diversity and Inclusion” added “Equity” — which is the left’s code word for “preferential treatment” — TPR
Why diversity advocates see a Supreme Court case on college admissions as a looming crisis for corporate America.
It may seem like a harsh assessment of human nature, but people don’t generally do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do, says Natalie Gillard, who has worked in diversity, equity, and inclusion for over a decade.That’s why laws and mandates exist.
And that’s why Gillard has been anxiously watching the Supreme Court. While the ruling had not come down when this issue went to press, court watchers say the conservative majority is very likely to strike down or severely restrict race-based college admissions programs in June. Many fear that prohibiting the use of race as a factor in college admissions will unleash a legal dismantling of over half a century’s worth of laws and rulings aimed at remedying the systemic inequities racial minorities face in the U.S.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in October in the case brought by Students for Fair Admissions, an organization founded by the anti-affirmative-action legal activist Edward Blum, against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, accusing the institutions of discriminating against Asian American and white applicants.
While this decision on affirmative action will most directly affect higher education admissions, legal analysts say it could open the floodgates to upending diversity initiatives in other areas, including the corporate landscape.
And Gillard and her colleagues in DEI are bracing for a crisis. Gillard created Factuality, a 90-minute interactive game and “crash course” in structural inequality that has been used as an employee-training tool at companies such as Google, Nike, and American Express, as well as at Yale University, among others. Factuality has seen an uptick in demand in recent years, but Gillard is under no illusions about why companies hire her: “I really feel that there are people who participate in these programs and initiatives because it’s required and mandatory,” she tells Fortune, “and that with this decision they’re just emboldened to stop.”
Last year the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, which eliminated the constitutional right to abortion, had a transformative cultural and legal effect—leading to a cascade of states passing near-total abortion bans and restrictions on reproductive rights. The affirmative action ruling may not be as far-reaching, but it is a bellwether for a shift in the conversation about race and racism broadly, says Richard Leong, a senior strategist at Collective, a DEI consultancy headquartered in Brooklyn.
“I think it really begins to throw into jeopardy whether or not we can continue to use race and ethnicity as a demographic identifier,” Leong says, adding, “The DEI industry as it is today is already under fire.”
Gillard says she has already seen the effects in her business: She used to collaborate often with companies and organizations in Texas and Florida, she tells Fortune, but she no longer works in those states because organizations are unsure about what they can and cannot do, and fearful of causing controversy.
“I’m concerned the decision will only further curtail our efforts,” Gillard says. “After this you’ll really be able to identify who has always been on board and who never really was.”
A ripple effect
Legal experts say that if the Supreme Court decision goes as expected, it could have a ripple effect on corporate diversity programs. The decision could “augur where the court might go with respect to certain programs for private employers,” says Kevin Cloutier, a partner in the law firm Sheppard Mullin’s labor and employment and business trial practice groups. The courts may rule to strike down affirmative action programs for federal contractors, or be more receptive to reverse discrimination claims against private companies
The most direct impact of the Supreme Court prohibiting race-based admissions decisions is that universities will very likely become less diverse over time—as has happened in public university systems in states where affirmative action is already banned. If so, companies will be left with a more homogenous talent pool to recruit from.
And there are likely to be knock-on effects for companies, says Camille Bryant, an attorney and member of the labor and employment practice group at McGlinchey Stafford. It may be harder to live up to the ESG commitments that companies have made to investors, for example. And less diverse workforces may turn off customers, who increasinglyexpect brands to be inclusive. More homogenous workplaces are also less appealing to millennial and Gen Z workers, who have high expectations of workforce diversity.
“After this you’ll really be able to identify who has always been on board and who never really was.”
Natalie Gillard, creator, Factuality
Less diverse talent pipelines could have a substantial effect on outcomes at some organizations. A recent study found, for example, that a higher prevalence of Black doctors led to lower mortality rates among Black residents in those counties. But with less diverse medical programs, hospitals will likely employ fewer Black doctors, negatively impacting patient care.
Backlash to the backlash
The Supreme Court case comes at a critical time for the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It has been three years since the murder of George Floyd brought about a reckoning on racism in the summer of 2020, and many Black and brown workers remain skeptical of their companies’ lip service to the ideals of diversity, dismissing them as “performative allyship.”
“DEI is a journey, not a destination,” says Ericka Brownlee-Keller, DEI head at a renewable energy company. “It really depends on the fabric and culture of the company you’re in.”
BlackRock is one company that decided to take a hard look at its own record, and the results were revealing. In March 2022, the asset management firm hired a third-party law firm to audit the progress it had and hadn’t made on its multiyear racial equity plans, launched in 2021. The audit found that BlackRock was adhering to the letter of its diversity goals—increasing Black and Latinx hires by 30% and improving representation at senior levels—but was failing in some respects when it comes to the spirit of those goals. It has struggled, for example, to retain its Black and brown employees.
BlackRock is also an early case study of a trend DEI professionals say is growing, and the Supreme Court decision could accelerate: backlash to perceived “wokeness.”
Percentage of companies that have a senior role fully dedicated to DEI. Source: Paradigm’s State of Data-Driven DEO, 2022
In April, the conservative group America First Legal (founded by former Trump administration official Stephen Miller) said it had filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requesting a civil rights investigation into whether the BlackRock Founders Scholarship, an internship for minority students, discriminates against students who don’t qualify as minorities.
Incidents like that are why DEI professionals Fortune spoke with don’t believe it’s overblown to see the looming Supreme Court decision as a time bomb. They’ve kept tabs on the responses to the court overturning Roe v. Wade last year, and watched as state legislators quickly moved to severely restrict or ban abortions in the wake of the decision. They’ve braced themselves as anti-LGBTQ cultural narratives have gathered steam in recent years, leading to new state laws restricting access to gender-affirming care and accommodations. And they’ve watched as bans have throttled discussion of sexual orientation and Black history in schools.
“What we’re seeing is in a lot of ways a backlash to us being able to have made so much progress,” says Brownlee-Keller. “We often talk about ‘When’s the other shoe gonna drop?’ A lot of this is people’s fears being realized.”
Some argue that diversity initiatives won’t completely crumble on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision, that the field has come too far and the people doing the work are too committed. “This might hinder the progress we’ve made in DEI, but I think we’ll find other avenues,” Brownlee-Keller says. “People in these roles are resilient.”
Many DEI professionals are coming up with lists of actions for employers to consider, no matter how the Supreme Court rules. The first is to review DEI programs and ensure the company has a robust and evidence-based case for these initiatives, says Evelyn Carter, a social psychologist and president of the diversity and inclusion consulting firm Paradigm.
For example, a company may discover that the promotion pipeline for Black leaders falls off at a specific ranking, based on 10 years of company data. If the company determines that it has failed to support this talent for promotions, it might implement a program to address the problem. Using data to explain these moves helps ensure that company initiatives are not “misconstrued as things that are being done because Black folks or folks of color are deficient,” says Carter, “but rather recognizing it as what it is: righting systemic inequities.” It could also help ensure that the program would survive a legal challenge.
It’s crucial, too, for companies to diligently vet public statements related to diversity initiatives. For example, in today’s climate, making public promises that a company’s board will be 25% female could create a legal vulnerability, Bryant, the McGlinchey Stafford lawyer, says. “Sometimes messages that are very well intended can get an organization in hot water if it’s not necessarily done and crafted in the right way.”
Percentage of employees who don’t think their organization’s racial equity policies are genuine. Source: Catalyst Survey, 2022
That’s a lesson several of Carter’s clients learned last year after announcing plans to pay for employees’ travel costs if they have to cross state lines to get abortions following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Instead of just applause, they faced controversy and complaints.
“There were employees who said, ‘This goes against my values, and I am upset that you would be seen as a company supporting abortion,’ ” Carter says. “A lot of clients said, ‘We thought we did the right thing. But now these people are upset.’ ” Developing internal FAQs to respond to questions or complaints from employees will help managers and human resources teams avoid being caught off guard if and when such a controversy erupts.
Creating new pathways for diverse recruitment will also be key, and might include doubling down on partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities and other minority institutions and on sponsorship and mentorship programs, as well as more actively developing the pipeline for diverse talent.
“This is the time to help your DEI team.”
Evelyn Carter, president, Paradigm
Most important, company leaders should ask what their DEI teams need. These often small and under-resourced teams may soon have to respond to an influx of reverse discrimination claims and handle a slew of complex internal and external communications. That might involve training managers to see and address bias and harassment and training HR to understand how discrimination impacts employee performance.
Employees may also have to navigate more internal strife, microaggressions, and harassment, so companies might consider increasing access to mental health resources such as therapy services and warmlines for employees—free, confidential lines where employees can seek guidance, support or a listening ear.
“That’s a lot. So this is the time to help your DEI team,” Carter says. “Ask your team what they need, and then deliver on it.”
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A college student named Olivia posted a viral TikTok video in which she revealed she received a zero on her final assignment based on woke ideology, not the content of her work merely because she used the term “biological woman” in her project.
Olivia does not reveal her last name, nor does she identify her woke college or professor, but in her now-viral TikTok video, she tells her followers that she got a zero because she used the term “biological woman” as a description. She said her professor told her that the term was “exclusionary” and perpetuates “heteronormativity.”
In other words, “We’re here, we’re queer, deal with it!”
The student even noted that the professor told her that her paper was good except for that one verboten term.
“Olivia, this is a solid proposal,” Olivia said the woke teacher allegedly wrote. “However, the terms ‘biological women’ are exclusionary and are not allowed in this course as they further reinforce heteronormativity.”
The student called the grade thoroughly “the most biased grade ever” and said her project “is about transgenders competing in biological women’s sports. How am I supposed to do my final project if I can’t use the word ‘biological women,’ but that’s what my project is about?”
Since that first video, Olivia has posted several follow-ups to explain what is happening in her school.
“This is exactly the issue nowadays. It is not OK or acceptable to be a biological woman,” Olivia said in one video. She said she was told in a meeting with her professor that “it’s transphobic to use the term ‘biological woman’” and that doing so is “implementing T.E.R.F. ideology, which is trans-exclusionary radical feminism,” which the professor said means “women who fight for women’s rights but exclude trans because they think that women’s rights are being affected by trans people.” Olivia then quipped, “Which is literally true.”
Olivia also said she took her case to the school’s Office for Equal Opportunity.
In yet another clip, Olivia said that the rules in her class actually said outright that what the professor did was not proper. Her syllabus says students “will not be graded on the content of your opinions, so long as your opinions do not create emotional and/or mental harm for your diverse classmates or espouse bigoted or anti-scientific views.”
The student said that in her estimation she was using the term in a “scientific” sense, not a political or “emotional” one.
That doesn’t make sense!
Olivia also said the professor insisted that she alter the point of her paper to focus on “women” not “females” so that it satisfies the professor’s political goal of saying anyone can be a woman.
“I know what she’s trying to say, but it doesn’t work because for my project, if I change the wording, it would be … ‘women’s rights and opportunities are being affected because women are competing in women’s sports.’ That doesn’t make sense,” Olivia said.
Who is the real sucker here?
Many people on social media were energized by the school’s political attack on Olivia. But host Jesse Kelly had an extremely important point, saying, “Who is the real sucker? The communist professor?” and adding, “Or the upper middle class Republican parents paying six figures to have their daughter ‘educated’ by said professor?”
Kelly is right. Parents and students who are paying these colleges tens of thousands and sometimes going decades into debt as these crooked, left-wing schools peddle this anti-American ideology that passes for “education.”
It’s bad enough that these extremist, left-wing ideals so permeate our system of higher education, but what is worse is that these biased schools are not even permitting the opposing ideas to be heard. College should be a place for the free exchange of ideas, not a place of stifling bias and indoctrination.
This garbage is happening all over the country. Just this month a boy in Massachusetts was censured by his school for daring to wear a T-shirt that states his personal beliefs about the gender discussion.
Olivia deserves much credit for standing her ground, for keeping her videos centered on the issues, and for not using her platform as a weapon against her school and professor.
Regardless of how you view yourself or how you mutilate yourself, if you have a “Y” chromosome, you are a male. (This does not include those EXTREMELY rare individuals born XXY rather than XX or XY.) — TPR
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Woke corporations, ever committed to ESG and DEI initiatives, have long advanced leftist propaganda without consequence. However, transitioning a once-beloved beer into a symbol of radical gender ideology and making a mockery of womanhood was for many Americans the last straw.
Investor’s Business Daily reported that the market value of Anheuser-Busch InBev has dropped $15.7 billion since April 1 on account of the Bud Light boycott. That figure is based upon data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.
The unforced error that drew the ire of Bud drinkers was the company’s partnership with transvestite TikTok personality Dylan Mulvaney, whose activism has involved “normalizing the bulge” among other transvestites and promoting transgenderism.
This politicization and the corresponding baggage the brand picked up as a consequence prompted outrage. That outrage was tactically and effectively channeled.
Jared Dinges, beverage analyst at JPMorgan Chase, revealed to clients that Bud Light sales were down more than 23% as of the week ending May 6, reported Investor’s Business Daily.
“We believe there is a subset of American consumers who will not drink a Bud Light for the foreseeable future,” said Dinges. “We believe a 12% to 13% volume decline on an annualized basis would be a reasonable assumption.”
While Anheuser-Busch reaps the whirlwind, its competitors have added $3.2 billion in market value.
Reuters reported that Heineken, aware that many Americans are swapping out Bud for other brews, is making forays into the light beer market.
The Dutch brewer is spending $100 million to push Heineken Silver in the U.S., where sales of light beers make up roughly half of the market and generated $118 billion last year. This marketing push entails the provision of over two million free samples at various upcoming events, including the U.S. Open tennis tournament this summer and the Las Vegas Formula One Grand Prix in November.
While Heineken has big aspirations, the boycott’s biggest winner among Bud Light’s competitors is reportedly Molson Coors Beverage, which has seen its shares jump up more than 20% since April 1 — adding roughly $2.2 billion in market value to the stock.
JPMorgan figures the boycott will continue to serve as a fiscal reminder to Anheuser-Busch that the American people don’t care much for its politics, suggesting that its beer volumes will drop by 12% this year.
Dinges said, “We do not expect the lost sales to be recovered in fiscal year 2024.”
TheBlaze recently reported that the former president of Anheuser-Busch, Anson Frericks, predicted it will be a “a long, hot, dry summer for Anheuser-Busch.”
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What the Durham Report is and isn’t. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the Durham Report is out and both some on the right are upset and most on the left continue with the misinformation. Let’s review.
The report isn’t a document that asked for or atgave indictments. Durham after all is a Democrat who’s been in the government service for years. It also isn’t a whitewash of the FBI, DOJ, and the Obama administration.
And it isn’t a tell all or vindication of all the rumors from the left and right in reference of what it would contain. It is a document of facts. Let me explain. It’s a report of just the facts.
It’s a vindication of not just Trump, but of Conservative talk show hosts and Conservative media. They for three years were saying that there was no Russian interference on Trumps side.
It’s a report that fills in the blanks for all. It confirms that Clinton was the one who used Russian misinformation to smear Trump. It proves that Obama, Biden, and heads of the FBI and DOJ knew that Clinton was using Russian documents that were false.
What’s really daming is that it confirms that Obama had Trump wired. It proves that the FBI and DOJ went to the FISA courts without real intel.
Finally on what is. The Durham Report released on Monday highlighted that in 2016, McCabe, the FBI’s deputy director, and Strzok, the agency’s deputy assistant director for counterintelligence, beghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSXhRKA_XIEan the probe — dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane” — without “ever having spoken to the persons who provided the information.
In other words, Obama and his party — via the DNC — really did have Trump's "wires tapped."
The media also owe Trump a massive apology. I'm sure they'll get right on that, and the story. https://t.co/bdwBAxIUxo
On January 17, 1961, outgoing President and former Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower gave one of the most consequential speeches in American history. Eisenhower for eight years had been a popular president, whose appeal drew upon a reputation as a person of great personal fortitude, who’d guided the United States to victory in an existential fight for survival in World War II. Nonetheless, as he prepared to vacate the Oval Office for handsome young John F. Kennedy, he warned the country it was now at the mercy of a power even he could not overcome.
Until World War II, America had no permanent arms manufacturing industry. Now it did, and this new sector, Eisenhower said, was building up around itself a cultural, financial, and political support system accruing enormous power. This “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience,” he said, adding:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes… Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
This was the direst of warnings, but the address has tended in the popular press to be ignored. After sixty-plus years, most of America – including most of the American left, which traditionally focused the most on this issue – has lost its fear that our arms industry might conquer democracy from within.
Now, however, we’ve unfortunately found cause to reconsider Eisenhower’s warning.
While the civilian population only in recent years began haggling over “de-platforming” incidents involving figures like Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos, government agencies had already long been advancing a new theory of international conflict, in which the informational landscape is more importantly understood as a battlefield than a forum for exchanging ideas. In this view, “spammy” ads, “junk” news, and the sharing of work from “disinformation agents” like Jones aren’t inevitable features of a free Internet, but sorties in a new form of conflict called “hybrid warfare.”
In 1996, just as the Internet was becoming part of daily life in America, the U.S. Army published “Field Manual 100-6,” which spoke of “an expanding information domain termed the Global Information Environment” that contains “information processes and systems that are beyond the direct influence of the military.” Military commanders needed to understand that “information dominance” in the “GIE” would henceforth be a crucial element for “operating effectively.”
You’ll often see it implied that “information operations” are only practiced by America’s enemies, because only America’s enemies are low enough, and deprived enough of real firepower, to require the use of such tactics, needing as they do to “overcome military limitations.” We rarely hear about America’s own lengthy history with “active measures” and “information operations,” but popular media gives us space to read about the desperate tactics of the Asiatic enemy, perennially described as something like an incurable trans-continental golf cheat.
Indeed, part of the new mania surrounding “hybrid warfare” is the idea that while the American human being is accustomed to living in clear states of “war” or “peace,” the Russian, Chinese, or Iranian citizen is born into a state of constant conflict, where war is always ongoing, whether declared or not. In the face of such adversaries, America’s “open” information landscape is little more than military weakness.
In March of 2017, in a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on hybrid war, chairman Mac Thornberry opened the session with ominous remarks, suggesting that in the wider context of history, an America built on constitutional principles of decentralized power might have been badly designed:
Americans are used to thinking of a binary state of either war or peace. That is the way our organizations, doctrine, and approaches are geared. Other countries, including Russia, China, and Iran, use a wider array of centrally controlled, or at least centrally directed, instruments of national power and influence to achieve their objectives…
Whether it is contributing to foreign political parties, targeted assassinations of opponents, infiltrating non-uniformed personnel such as the little green men, traditional media and social media, influence operations, or cyber-connected activity, all of these tactics and more are used to advance their national interests and most often to damage American national interests…
The historical records suggest that hybrid warfare in one form or another may well be the norm for human conflict, rather than the exception.
Around that same time, i.e. shortly after the election of Donald Trump, it was becoming gospel among the future leaders of the “Censorship-Industrial Complex” that interference by “malign foreign threat actors” and the vicissitudes of Western domestic politics must be linked. Everything, from John Podesta’s emails to Trump’s Rust Belt primary victories to Brexit, were to be understood first and foremost as hybrid war events.
This is why the Trump-Russia scandal in the United States will likely be remembered as a crucial moment in 21st-century history, even though the investigation superficially ended a non-story, fake news in itself. What the Mueller investigation didn’t accomplish in ousting Trump from office, it did accomplish in birthing a vast new public-private bureaucracy devoted to stopping “mis-, dis-, and malinformation,” while smoothing public acquiescence to the emergence of a spate of new government agencies with “information warfare” missions.
The “Censorship-Industrial Complex” is just the Military-Industrial Complex reborn for the “hybrid warfare” age.
Much like the war industry, pleased to call itself the “defense” sector, the “anti-disinformation” complex markets itself as merely defensive, designed to fend off the hostile attacks of foreign cyber-adversaries who unlike us have “military limitations.” The CIC, however, is neither wholly about defense, nor even mostly focused on foreign “disinformation.” It’s become instead a relentless, unified messaging system aimed primarily at domestic populations, who are told that political discord at home aids the enemy’s undeclared hybrid assault on democracy.
They suggest we must rethink old conceptions about rights, and give ourselves over to new surveillance techniques like “toxicity monitoring,” replace the musty old free press with editors claiming a “nose for news” with an updated model that uses automated assignment tools like “newsworthy claim extraction,” and submit to frank thought-policing mechanisms like the “redirect method,” which sends ads at online browsers of dangerous content, pushing them toward “constructive alternative messages.”
Binding all this is a commitment to a new homogeneous politics, which the complex of public and private agencies listed below seeks to capture in something like a Unified Field Theory of neoliberal narrative, which can be perpetually tweaked and amplified online via algorithm and machine learning. This is what some of the organizations on this list mean when they talk about coming up with a “shared vocabulary” of information disorder, or “credibility,” or “media literacy.”
Anti-disinformation groups talk endlessly about building “resilience” to disinformation (which in practice means making sure the public hears approved narratives so often that anything else seems frightening or repellent), and audiences are trained to question not only the need for checks and balances, but competition. Competition is increasingly frowned upon not just in the “marketplace of ideas” (an idea itself more and more often described as outdated), but in the traditional capitalist sense. In the Twitter Files we repeatedly find documents like this unsigned “Sphere of Influence” review circulated by the Carnegie Endowment that wonders aloud if tech companies really need to be competing to “get it right”:
In place of competition, the groups we’ve been tracking favor the concept of the “shared endeavor” (one British group has even started a “Shared Endeavour” program), in which key “stakeholders” hash out their disagreements in private, but present a unified front.
Who are the leaders of these messaging campaigns? If you care to ask, the groups below are a good place to start.
“The Top 50 List” is intended as a resource for reporters and researchers beginning their journey toward learning the scale and ambition of the “Censorship-Industrial Complex.” Written like a magazine feature, it tries to answer a few basic questions about funding, organization type, history, and especially, methodology. Many anti-disinformation groups adhere to the same formulaic approach to research, often using the same “hate-mapping,” guilt-by-association-type analysis to identify wrong-thinkers and suppressive persons. There is even a tendency to use what one Twitter Files source described as the same “hairball” graphs.
Where they compete, often, is in the area of gibberish verbiage describing their respective analytical methods. My favorite came from the Public Good Projects, which in a display of predictive skills reminiscent of the “unsinkable Titanic” described itself as the “Buzzfeed of public health.”
Together, these groups are fast achieving what Eisenhower feared: the elimination of “balance” between the democratic need for liberalizing laws and institutions, and the vigilance required for military preparation. Democratic society requires the nourishment of free debate, disagreement, and intellectual tension, but the groups below seek instead that “shared vocabulary” to deploy on the hybrid battlefield. They propose to serve as the guardians of that “vocabulary,” which sounds very like the scenario Ike outlined in 1961, in which “public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific and technological elite.”
Without further ado, an introduction to the main players in this “CIC”:
1. Information Futures Lab (IFL) at Brown University (formerly, First Draft):
Type: A university institute, housed within the School of Public Health, to combat “misinformation” and “outdated communications practices.” The successor to First Draft, one of the earliest and more prominent “anti-disinformation” outfits.
You may have read about them when: You first heard the terms Mis-, dis-, and malinformation. The term was coined by FD Director Claire Wardle. IFL/FD are also the only academic/non-profit organization involved in the Trusted News Initiative, a large-scale legacy media consortium established to control debate around the pandemic response. Wardle was Twitter executives’ first pick for a signal group of anti-misinformation advisors it put together. She also participated in the Aspen Institute’s Hunter Biden laptop tabletop in August 2020 (before the laptop story broke). IFL’s co-founder Stefanie Friedhoff serves on the White House Covid-19 Response Team. First Draft staffers were also revealed in the #TwitterFiles to be frequent and trusted partners to a leading public face of the Censorship-Industrial Complex, Renee DiResta, now of Stanford University.
What we know about funding: First Draft was funded by a huge number of entities including Craig Newmark, Rockefeller, the National Science Foundation, Facebook, the Ford Foundation, Google, the Knight Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, Open Society Foundations, and more. Funding for the IFL includes the Rockefeller Foundation for a “building vaccine demand” initiative.
What they do/What they are selling: IFL/First Draft position themselves as the vanguard of disinformation studies, acting as key advisors to media, technology, and public health consortiums, bringing together a wide range of academic skill sets.
Characteristic/worldview quotes: High use of terms like coordinated inauthentic behavior, information pollution, the future Homeland Security catchwords mis-, dis-, and malinformation, and information disorder.
Closely connected to: Almost all the leading lights of the CIC, including the Stanford Internet Observatory, the Trusted News Initiative, Shorenstein Center, DFRLabs, the World Economic Forum, the Aspen Institute, Meedan, and Bellingcat.
In sum: With a strong ability to both know and direct emerging trends, and with a large array of elite networks in tow, the IFL will continue to serve as one of the key tastemakers in the “anti-disinformation” field.
Type: Medium-sized non-profit specializing in technology and countering “disinformation.”
You may have read about them when: Meedan ran a range of Covid-19 misinformation initiatives “to support pandemic fact-checking efforts” with funding from BigTech, the Omidyar Foundation, the National Science Foundation and more. Partners included Britain’s now-disgraced Behavioural Insights Team, or “nudge unit,” known for scaring the pants off Brits about a range of medical manias. Among Meedan’s “anti-disinformation” projects is an effort to peer into private, encrypted messages. The Meedan board includes Tim Hwang (former Substack General Counsel), free speech skeptic Zeynep Tufecki, and Maria Ressa, a Nobel Prize winner with very close ties to eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and the National Endowment for Democracy. Ressa believes Wikileaks “isn’t journalism.” Meedan co-founder Muna AbuSulayman was the founding Secretary General of the Saudi Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation. Alwaleed bin Talal is one of the largest shareholders in Twitter, both pre-Elon Musk and now, with Musk.
What we know about funding: Widespread public and private funding including from Omidyar, Twitter, Facebook, Google, the National Science Foundation, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and more.
What they do/What they are selling: Meedan positions itself as an NGO leader in the “anti-disinformation” field; convening networks, developing technology, and establishing new initiatives. Strong support and development are given to “fact-checking” organizations and building the technology to support them.
Characteristic/worldview quote: “Detection of controversial and hateful content.”
Gibberish verbiage: “Our work shows that there are far more matches between tipline content and public group messages on WhatsApp than between public group messages and either published fact checks or open social media content.”
Connected to: Twitter, Factcheck.org, AuCoDe, the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, the Behavioral Insights Team, the Oxford Internet Institute, Stanford Internet Observatory, and First Draft.
In sum: Meedan exemplifies the NGO-to-Stasi stylistic shift, where spying and snitching on private messages in the name of “anti-disinformation” is now considered a public good.
3. Harvard Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy (Technology and Social Change Project)
Type: An elite academic project once regarded as one of the leading centers in the “anti-disinformation” field.
You may have read about them when: It was announced that the center would be closed in 2024 on the spurious grounds that project lead Joan Donovan lacked sufficient academic credentials to run the initiative (what was spurious is that it took that long for this realization to come about). Donovan was already widely known for partisanship and getting things wrong, in particular repeatedly claiming the Hunter Biden laptop was not genuine. The Shorenstein Center birthed two other key “anti-disinformation” initiatives, the aforementioned First Draft and the Algorithmic Transparency Initiative. Cameron Hickey, ATI’s lead, is now CEO of the much larger National Congress on Citizenship. In this video, Joan Donavan sits alongside Richard Stengel, the first head of the Global Engagement Center, an agency housed in the State Department with a remit to “counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts.” The closing of the Technology and Social Change Project is a minor victory in an otherwise exploding field.
What we know about funding: Money from: the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Gates Foundation, Google, Facebook Journalism Project, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
What they do/What they are selling: Academic research into “disinformation,” a fellows program, field convening, and frequent media commentary. The Shorenstein Center also produces a leading “misinformation studies” journal.
Characteristic/worldview quote: Donovan’s infamous tweet, posed with an Atlantic staffer: “Me and @cwarzel Looking at the content on the Hunter Biden Laptop, the most popular straw man question at #Disinfo2022.”
Type: Non-profit consultancy, specializing in health communications, marketing, technology and “disinformation.”
You may have read about them when: Whilst PGP seem to do some front-facing work, they are also guns for hire for a large range of corporate and government programs. Twitter files show PGP had contracts with biotech lobby group BIO (whose members include Pfizer and Moderna) to run the Stronger campaign, which according to Lee Fang “worked w/Twitter to set content moderation rules around covid ‘misinformation.’” Jennifer McDonald of Twitter’s Public Policy team noted in an email that PGP was also among Twitter’s four “strongest information sharing partnerships” for Covid “misinformation”. PGP partnered with UNICEF on the Vaccine Demand Observatory which aims to “decrease the impact of misinformation and increase vaccine demand around the world.” The board includes the former CEO of Pepsi and Levi’s, a Morgan Stanley Vice-President, and Merck Pharmaceuticals’ Director of Public Health Partnerships.
What we know about funding: $1.25 million from BIO as well as partnerships with Google, Rockefeller, and UNICEF.
What they do/What they are selling: A suite of communications activities including marketing, research, media production, social media monitoring, vaccine promotion, and campaigns. They also use AI and natural language processing to “identify, track, and respond to narratives, trends, and urgent issues” in order to “perform fact-checking” and “power behavior change strategies.”
Type: For-profit firm with defense connections specializing in “digital marketing and disinformation & analysis.”
You may have read about them when: Graphika was one of two outside groups hired in 2017 by the Senate Intelligence Committee to assess the Russian cyber menace. Graphika was also a “core four” partner to Stanford’s Election Integrity Partnership and its Virality Project, both subjects of #TwitterFiles reports. Made headlines for claiming a leak of US-UK trade discussions, publicized by Jeremy Corbyn, was part of an operation called “secondary Infektion” traceable to Russia.
Former Director of Investigations Ben Nimmo was previously a NATO press officer and DFRLabs fellow, and is now Facebook’s Global Threat Intelligence Lead. Head of Innovation Camille Francois was previously Google Jigsaw’s principal researcher.
What we know about funding: $3 million from the Department of Defense for 2020-2022, “to support and stimulate basic and applied research and technology at educational institutions”; boasts of partnerships with the Defense Advanced Partnerships Research Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Air Force. According to USAspending.gov, defense agencies have provided almost $7 million.
What they do/What they are selling: Long-form reports and subscription services for corporate and governmental clients, often focused on identifying “leading influencers” and “misinformation and disinformation risks,” along with highly sophisticated AI for surveilling social media.
Characteristic/worldview quote: “seeding doubt and uncertainty in authoritative voices leads to a society that finds it too challenging to identify what’s true.”
Gibberish verbiage: Tendency to impressively horrific puns (“More-troll Kombat,” “Lights, Camera, Coordinated Action!” “Step into my Parler”).
In the #TwitterFiles: In 2017-2018, Twitter was unaware the Senate Intelligence Committee would be sharing their data on supposed Russia-linked accounts with commercial entities.
In sum: With deep Pentagon ties and a patina of public-facing commercial legitimacy, Graphika is set up to be the Rand Corporation of the Anti-Disinformation age.
Connected to: Stanford Internet Observatory, DFRLabs, Department of Defense, DARPA, Knight Foundation, Bellingcat
Type: Public-facing disinformation research arm of highly influential, extravagantly funded, NATO-aligned think tank, the Atlantic Council.
You may have read about them when: In May of 2018, Facebook announced a “New Election Partnership With the Atlantic Council,” to “prevent our service from being abused during elections.” The announcement was made by former National Republican Senatorial Committee Chief Digital Strategist Katie Harbath, weeks after a contentious hearing in the Senate in which Mark Zuckerberg answered questions about the “abuse of data” on Facebook. The Atlantic Council’s DFRLabs at the time included such figures as Eliot Higgins (from Bellingcat) and Ben Nimmo, future Director of Investigations at Graphika. This became a watershed moment, as Facebook soon after announced a series of purges of accountsaccused of “coordinated inauthentic activity,” including small indie sites like Anti-Media, End The War on Drugs, ‘Murica Today, Reverb, and Anonymous News, beginning an era of mass deletions.
DFRLab was a core partner for Stanford’s “Election Integrity Partnership,” and the “Virality Project.” The Atlantic Council also organizes the elite 360/Open Summit whose 2018 disinformation edition included the private Vanguard-25 forum that brought together Madeleine Albright, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, the head of the Munich Security Conference, Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa, Edelman (the world’s biggest PR company), Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Bellingcat, Graphika, and more.
What we know about funding: “DFRLab has received grants from the Department of State’s Global Engagement Center that support programming with an exclusively international focus,” Graham Brookie of DFRLabs told Racket. The Atlantic Council receives funding from the U.S. Army and Navy, Blackstone, Raytheon, Lockheed, the NATO STRATCOM Center of Excellence and a long list of other financial, military, and diplomatic entities.
Characteristic/worldview quote: On “rumors about Covid-19s origins,” particularly the “disinformation” that the virus may have originated in a laboratory: “The cumulative effect of this was to distract the U.S. public’s attention away from the federal government’s disjointed approach to mitigating the virus and point the blame at China.”
Gibberish verbiage: Awesome quantities; site seethes at public’s unwillingness to popularize nom d’équipe “Digital Sherlocks”; insists so often it is relying only on “open-source information” that one doubts it; relies heavily on schlock military (“Narrative Arms Race”) and medical (“Infodemic”) metaphors to describe disinformation threat.
In sum: DFRLabs is not only funded by the Global Engagement Center, and had initial GEC chief Richard Stengel as a fellow, but uses substantial state and corporate resources to evangelize GEC’s “ecosystem” theory of disinformation, which holds that views that overlap with foreign threat actors are themselves part of the threat.
Connected to: the Stanford Internet Observatory, University of Washington Center for an Informed Public, Graphika, Bellingcat, and the NYU Center for Social Media and Politics
Edward Smith didn’t think the color of his skin had anything to do with it.
He was 23, and he’d come to Canada in 2005 from West Africa. Now, he lived with his mother and sister in Edmonton, the capital of the western province of Alberta.
Racism—overt or systemic—didn’t make him take part in an armed robbery of an Airbnb in July 2019, he said. He’d decided on his own to help his cousin, who had told Smith that the people staying at the Airbnb had robbed him and that he was trying to get his money back. Smith agreed to help, but he didn’t want any guns involved. So they compromised: they’d bring a gun, but it would be unloaded.
Things didn’t go as planned, and Smith was arrested. At his trial, Smith pleaded guilty to the two charges—theft and robbery with a firearm—filed against him.
Since Smith is black, he also submitted an Impact of Race and Culture Assessment, or IRCA—a presentencing report in which “Black and racialized Canadians” can demonstrate how systemic racism led them to commit their crime.
The logic behind Smith’s IRCA was clear: as a black man, it was assumed that he had been subjected to a great deal of hate, and that that hate had limited his job opportunities, housing opportunities, opportunities to build a meaningful and law-abiding life.
Dunia Nur, the activist who wrote Smith’s IRCA, told me the report was meant to help the judge appreciate the convict’s “background” and “history.”
I obtained Smith’s IRCA from Smith himself. Oddly, the four-page report cites no concrete instances of racism—no violence, no untoward remarks, no employers or schools that turned Smith down because of his skin color. Not even any microaggressions.
It also fails to mention that, in a separate incident in January 2018, Smith was arrested and charged with theft, robbery, and kidnapping.
What it does say is that Smith had a rough childhood and adolescence—the refugee camp in Ghana, his father’s absence, immigrating to Canada, his early run-ins with the law. It further notes that “Edward identifies as an African Canadian” who is of “Liberian heritage,” and that he has “a feeling of disconnection with his culture.”
The judge apparently sympathized with Smith. In February 2020, after six months in prison, he was allowed to go free with court-appointed supervision. If he’d been white, he would have been looking at eight years behind bars.
“I didn’t face racism,” Smith admitted to me in a recent phone call. He’s now a sales representative at a debt-collection company. Referring to the IRCA, Smith said, “It was my only way out of this situation. I took full advantage.”
Canada’s first official IRCA was submitted in the now-famous case of R v “X” in 2014—a case in which a 16-year-old black boy in Nova Scotia was charged with attempted murder after shooting his 15-year-old cousin in the abdomen with a rifle. This was not long after Black Lives Matter was formed, in 2013, to protest the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
At the time, it was mostly confined to progressive circles in Nova Scotia, which has a higher concentration of African Canadians than any other province. Now, it’s taken for granted among Canadian criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges, and law professors that the assessments are a necessary tool for curbing the “overrepresentation” of black and indigenous prisoners.
Danardo Jones, a University of Windsor law professor who has written extensively on criminal justice reform, said that when it comes to IRCAs, there is “institutional buy-in.” For now, there are no statistics on the number of IRCAs being filed nationwide or on a province by province basis. Criminal defense attorneys in Ontario estimated that IRCAs run up to $4,500 and that there’s a nine-month waiting list to obtain one.
Canada is at the forefront of a broader movement that seeks to reimagine police, prisons, and the nature of justice—a movement that gained much greater momentum and cohesiveness in the wake of George Floyd’s May 2020 killing in Minneapolis.
“The protests of 2020 marked the new way in which many people thought about criminal justice,” Daniel Fryer, a University of Michigan criminal justice law professor, said. “The thing about the protests of 2020 is that they reached a global audience. Although the problem was at least ostensibly domestic, everyone in the world was watching.”
In the United States, the new thinking was reflected in the push for “decarceration” and the rise of progressive district attorneys—Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, George Gascón in Los Angeles, Alvin Bragg in Manhattan, Kim Foxx in Chicago, and others. Central to the progressive prosecutor movement, Fryer said, was a rejection of “the gladiator, adversarial model.” Instead, he said, “the prosecutor’s role should be to seek justice in society.”
On top of that, a handful of states sought to impose justice from the top down: Virginia and Washington barred police from using choke holds and no-knock warrants. Minnesota adopted a law meant to make police more accountable. California, the country’s progressive laboratory, enacted the Racial Justice Act, which enables anyone convicted of a crime to challenge that conviction on the grounds of racial bias.
But Canada has gone further, insisting that judges explicitly consider race when meting out justice.
As far as Nadia Robinson was concerned, there is nothing fair or just about that. The father of her two boys was killed eight years ago by a driver in Ottawa, and he had gotten off with a lighter sentence because he was black.
“I’m not trying to be a ‘Karen’ in any way, shape, or form,” Robinson, who is white, told me. “I believe that when you do something wrong, you stand up and say you did something wrong.”
I suggested IRCAs were an effort to undo decades, even centuries, of racism that had been baked into the criminal justice system. “You can’t rewrite the past,” Robinson said. Then, she added: “We’re all equal.”
Nadia Robinson. (Dan Aponte for The Free Press) Race-based sentencing in Canada did not emerge in a vacuum.
It started in 1996, when Canadian lawmakers, upset that so many indigenous people were in prison, amended the Criminal Code, hoping to prod judges into considering indigenous people’s history of colonization—and dispensing less punitive sentences. In 1993, aboriginal peoples accounted for 17 percent of prisoners even though they were less than 4 percent of the total population.
In 1999, in R v Gladue—the first case to make its way to the Supreme Court following the amendments to the Criminal Code—what started as a suggestion became the law of the land. The Criminal Code, the Court ruled, “mandatorily requires sentencing judges to consider all available sanctions other than imprisonment and to pay particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.”
In the wake of that case, courts started to require so-called Gladue reports when sentencing indigenous defendants. Gradually, the idea of building on Gladue reports to acknowledge African Canadians’ history started to gain traction.
Fast-forward to the mid-2010s and the rise of the IRCA. The whole point of the IRCA, Robert Wright, a social worker and early pioneer of IRCAs, told me, was to level the proverbial playing field.
“Some people think we’re trying to get a race-based discount for people,” said Wright, who wrote the first official IRCA, in R v. “X.” IRCAs, he said, are “real tools” that enable judges to “be more thoughtful” and “sentence black people more appropriately.”
Ryan Handlarski, a criminal defense attorney in Toronto, added: “How can we pass judgment on a person without at least trying to understand what led them to that place?”
Judge Anne Derrick, who presided over R v “X,” was apparently persuaded by this logic.
“I find that when ‘X’ shot ‘Y’ he was an immature, dependent 16 year old caught up in the dysfunctional dynamics of his community,” Derrick wrote. She sentenced “X” as a minor, giving him two years in prison and another year of supervision at home. Had he been sentenced as an adult—as the prosecutor requested—he would have received a life sentence.
While R v “X” influenced thinking among judges, attorneys, and prosecutors, its impact was limited because it took place on the local, trial court level.
But in 2017, Derrick was promoted to Nova Scotia’s Court of Appeal—where her future rulings would have an automatically binding effect on lower courts across the province.
And then, in 2021, she got her chance—with the case of R v Anderson—to make race-based sentencing the standard across the province.
During a traffic stop in Halifax three years earlier, Rakeem Rayshon Anderson was found carrying a .22-caliber handgun. He was charged and convicted of five offenses related to possession and transportation of a loaded weapon.
Prosecutors asked for Anderson to be given a prison sentence of two to three years. Being African Canadian, Anderson filed an IRCA—co-authored by Robert Wright, who had written the IRCA for R v “X.” The trial judge who heard Anderson’s case gave him a lesser sentence—house arrest and probation—based, in no small part, on the IRCA. (Judge Pamela Williams said as much, adding that the dearth of “Afrocentric services” contributed to her ruling.)
Prosecutors appealed to the Court of Appeal—where now-Justice Anne Derrick was presiding.
Derrick was unsympathetic to prosecutors.
“Even where the offense is very serious, consideration must be given to the impact of systemic racism and its effects on the offender,” Derrick wrote in August 2021, upholding the lower court’s decision.
Brandon Rolle, senior legal counsel at African Nova Scotian Justice Institute and one of Anderson’s attorneys, called the decision “historic,” adding that “this decision will directly impact every African Nova Scotian being sentenced from this point forward.”
I asked Mark Scott, the lead prosecutor in Anderson, what he made of Derrick’s ruling. “People’s culture and background are something that is essential to recognize when you’re looking at a just result,” Scott told me, sounding like a defense attorney. “If you’re going to say that justice has to be colorblind, I think there are people who would disagree with that.”
Chris Rudnicki, a criminal defense attorney in Toronto, told me: “If Justice Derrick’s decision in ‘X’ can be seen as opening the door to systemic considerations in Canadian sentencing, then her majority opinion in Anderson—now sitting as a judge at the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal—can be seen as leading us all through it.”
Since Anderson, federal authorities have tried to nudge the rest of Canada to follow Nova Scotia’s lead. In April 2021, the Department of Justice announced $6.6 million to subsidize IRCAs. Since then, the sense of urgency has grown, with everyone from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger saying more must be done to combat the “overrepresentation” of minority inmates.
This urgency is fueled, in part, by an awareness that over the course of the first two decades of this century—from the first Gladue reports in 1999 to 2020—the percentage of indigenous prisoners has jumped, from 17 percent to more than 30 percent.
To Nadia Robinson, the idea that the man who had killed her partner should be given a lesser sentence because of his race felt “surreal,” she said, as if the people in charge were speaking one language, and she were speaking another.
Robinson’s partner, Andy Nevin, had been riding his bike on the morning of June 28, 2015, when he was killed in a hit and run.
In court, the driver, Deinsburg St.-Hilaire, testified that he’d been out all night at a wedding. It was almost six a.m., and he was speeding home—going almost 20 miles over the limit—when he nodded off. He came to when he heard a thud. He didn’t see anything in his rearview mirror. He said he thought he’d hit a mailbox.
Except that when he got home, St.-Hilaire covered his Ford F-250 pickup truck in a tarp, and, within a few days, he had the hood and side panel changed.
It seemed as though he knew what had happened.
This was what Nadia Robinson couldn’t accept. “If I knew it was my son who did something like that, I’d be like, ‘You need to come forward, you need to tell this family—you don’t hide,’ ” she told me.
After repairing his truck, St.-Hilaire decamped to an airport hotel, hoping to evade the cops. Nine days after the accident, he was arrested.
Later, when he tried to explain why he hadn’t turned himself in, St.-Hilaire noted that he had emigrated at age 7 from Dominica, in the Caribbean. “Being the only black child in his class, and not speaking English proficiently, resulted in Mr. St Hilaire being bullied at school,” according to a court document.
At the trial, Judge Catherine Aitken said she believed the defendant “wanted to do the right thing but did not have the confidence to do so out of fear.” She added: “I also accept that this fear was likely heightened as a result of Mr. St. Hilaire’s experience with racism as a black person growing up in this community.”
Ultimately, Aitken found St.-Hilaire guilty of obstructing the police investigation into the collision but, parroting the defendant, added that his “experiences earlier in life when he was subjected to racism and bullying in the school context” as well as “experiences more recently when he did not feel fairly treated by police officers during traffic stops” were mitigating factors.
It seemed not to matter to the judge that St.-Hilaire, 39, didn’t provide any details about the racism he had suffered: names, dates, comments that were made, pain that was inflicted. Nor did he say how it had affected him over the years.
St.-Hilaire could have wound up spending two years behind bars. Instead, he was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and left the courtroom, in November 2018, a free man.
St.-Hilaire hadn’t even filed an IRCA. All that was required to get a lighter sentence was to bring the defendant’s race to the judge’s attention—to obtain “judicial notice,” Danardo Jones, the University of Windsor law professor, told me. “Failure to consider race and anti-Blackness,” Jones said in an email, could lead to a sentence being overturned on appeal.
The Ottawa police chief, Charles Bordeleau, was furious about the sentence and issued a terse statement voicing frustration—something he almost never did. “It’s unfortunate that these comments were made putting into question the professionalism of our members during this difficult investigation,” he said.
Nadia Robinson told me the court’s judgment made her feel like Andy Nevin’s life didn’t matter. Did anyone care that on the morning of his death, he was biking to the new apartment they planned to live in? They were moving out of the dump they’d been in, starting a new chapter. The boys were so excited, she said.
“Are you kidding me?” Robinson said. She was crying. She felt as if she were living a parallel life, a life that wasn’t supposed to happen. Her sons, now 26 and 24, she said, have had a lot of trouble since their father’s death: alcohol, drugs, a seemingly bottomless grief. “My kids are devastated,” she said.
Among prosecutors and even some criminal defense attorneys, it felt as though the country were crossing the Rubicon.
“The judge basically calls the system out for being systemically racist even though the system bends over backwards to be reverse racist,” a prominent defense attorney in Toronto told me.
The attorney, who asked me not to publish his name out of fear of backlash, found it galling that the judge had portrayed St.-Hilaire’s actions during the course of those nine days between the hit and run and his arrest as a “momentary lapse of judgment.”
“The idea that somehow this cover-up had anything to do with racism or this never-demonstrated canard of systemic racism is patently false,” the attorney said. “To use language we’d normally associate with murder, this was not a momentary lapse in judgment but planned and deliberate. That’s what makes the judge’s ruling so egregious, and the idea that the defendant gets some kind of break because of something that happened years ago, something completely unprovable and possibly untrue that has nothing to do with Andy Nevin’s death—that’s absurd. Actually, it’s offensive.”
He added: “This is the scam of scams.” He said that lots of people knew it, and no one would say it openly. Including him. “Criticizing IRCAs would mean career suicide.”
I asked Chris Rudnicki, the criminal defense attorney, whether the subtext of the whole IRCA phenomenon was that black people from poor neighborhoods have less control over the decisions they make.
He emailed back: “In some cases, yes.” He added, “To the extent that systemic discrimination has a material impact on people’s lives—restricting access to housing, education, and employment, for example—it can render them more susceptible to criminal influences. You are more likely to steal a loaf of bread if you’re poor, for example. Or more likely to join a street gang if your school has expelled you. Etc. So a sentencing court will treat a person who has experienced the material impact of systemic discrimination differently than a person who has not suffered that impact.”
(Jason Franson for The Free Press) Edward Smith, who robbed the Airbnb, insisted the problem was never systemic discrimination. It was him. It was his family.
In high school, he’d started stealing candy and clothing from local stores. Partly, he said, this was because his mother, who packed chickens for minimum wage, couldn’t afford to buy him stuff. But mostly, he said, it was because he could. He was a latchkey kid surrounded by other latchkey kids. “It was just me and my friends,” Smith said. “If we were going to make bad decisions, we were going to do it together.”
It was in the summer of 2019 that his cousin asked him to help rob this Airbnb to get his money back. He didn’t ask questions.
So, the three of them—his cousin, some other guy, and Smith—showed up at the Airbnb, and the two other guys had guns, and they robbed the place and got out and drove away before Smith could catch up with them. He got arrested. It turned out his cousin had never been robbed. He just wanted to do some robbing. (He was later arrested, too.)
Smith was happy to have avoided a longer sentence but seemed almost embarrassed by it. “It didn’t have anything to do with race,” he told me for the third or fourth time. (But Temitope Oriola, a University of Alberta sociologist, said it wasn’t uncommon for black victims of racism to deny they had been victims of racism. “They refuse to acknowledge the existence of racism as a particular way of navigating the world and holding onto their sense of self,” he told me.)
Two months after being released from jail, Smith was arrested again, in April 2020, for possession of stolen goods. In September 2022, he was arrested once more and charged with two counts of assault and one count of damaging property, according to court records.
All these charges were subsequently dropped, but that wasn’t the point, the criminal defense attorney in Toronto said. “The police don’t arrest innocent people,” the attorney said. Referring to Smith, the attorney added: “Is he a ticking time bomb and going to keep reoffending? One million percent.”
It seems odd that liberals, who spent decades trying to deracialize society, are now re-racializing it.
Jonathan Simon, a University of California–Berkeley law professor, explained that, when it comes to criminal justice reform, it’s hard to sidestep race.
“The criminal-legal system is the equivalent of a toxic-waste disaster with over decades of institutional focus on communities of color,” Simon said. The public, Smith added, tends to view “crime” and “blackness” as one and the same. “There’s overwhelming evidence from psychologists that blackness and crime are fused in a cognitive way,” he said.
It was necessary to acknowledge that “the criminal-legal system has been jacked up on racism,” so society—in Canada or the United States—can start down the long path of decarceration, Simon said. That was the point of IRCAs, its defenders explained.
John Medeiros, the staff sergeant at the Ottawa Police Department who had overseen the St.-Hilaire case, said he understood why black defendants were skeptical that the system would treat them fairly. There was a long history. There had been discrimination. There had been a great deal of institutionalized oppression.
But he’d been dismayed by the judge’s ruling in the hit and run. According to Nevin’s postmortem examination, the 39-year-old cyclist had been struck from behind and flown into a ditch. He had a laceration on his head, and abrasions on his shoulders, waist, and legs; his spinal cord had been severed, and one of his lungs punctured. The only good news, perhaps, was that he had been killed instantly.
“I don’t think race ought to have been a factor here,” Medeiros told me.
Referring to St.-Hilaire, Medeiros added, “He left a human being on the side of the road, like he drove over a skunk.”
Rupa Subramanya is a reporter for The Free Press. Her last article, Trudeau’s Battle Against a Free Internet, examined Canada’s effort to curb free expression online.
California business owners received an unpleasant surprise in filing their taxes this year — the state of California has defaulted on its $18.5 billion federal unemployment insurance loans, and as a result, every employer in California is being forced to pay additional federal taxes to make up the difference until the loan is repaid in full. If you found this news baffling, you’re not alone. I did too.
Federal unemployment insurance loans were essential to helping Californians weather the COVID-19 pandemic, and in fact, most states participated in the federal loan program. As the state mandated business closures for months on end, these payments helped Californians who were out of work to put food on the table and keep the lights on. However, out of the 22 states that were forced to take federal loans during the pandemic, California is one of only four to fail to repay its loan, and it owes the largest amount of any state by far.
When states across the country received loan-free federal aid as a result of the federal government’s unprecedented emergency spending packages, most chose to use at least a portion of those funds to pay back the federal loans they’d been forced to take to support their unemployment programs. California received $15.3 billion in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds, but allocated none of it to repaying its outstanding loans.
Even more baffling is the fact that last year California declared a historic $97.5 billion budget surplus after passing a $300 billion budget in May. That budget surplus was enough money to repay the federal government loan more than five times over. Instead of making the fiscally prudent decision to pay off the debt with part of this vast surplus, California has instead allowed its loan obligations from the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund to go unfulfilled for two years in a row, triggering a provision that transfers responsibility for repaying the debt from a state government to that state’s employers.
As a result of California’s failure to repay its debt, millions of our state’s employers will be required to pay penalties to the federal government this month in the form of higher Federal Unemployment Act (FUTA) taxes. FUTA imposes a 6% gross federal unemployment tax rate on the first $7,000 paid by employers for each employee. This results in a maximum federal tax of $420 per employee per year. Typically, California employers receive a credit which reduces the tax paid per employee to only $42 per worker per year.
When a state fails to repay federal unemployment insurance loans it takes from the Federal Unemployment Trust for two or more consecutive years as California has done, the FUTA credit is reduced for that state, meaning every businesses in the state is forced to pay progressively more in FUTA taxes for each year the state remains delinquent on its loans. After five years, a different FUTA credit reduction calculation kicks in, levying an even bigger penalty on the state’s employers and its economy.
The last time California was in arrears on these Title XII loans, it took seven years to repay them, meaning that in the final year of repayment (2017), every employer in California was forced to pay an extra $147 per employee in FUTA penalties. That amounted to thousands of dollars for the average small business that could have instead been used to grow employment in our communities.
Small and large companies in California alike are already reeling from economic instability, high interest rates, and skyrocketing inflation. They’re also still struggling with supply chain fluctuations and recovering from one of the longest state-mandated COVID-19 economic shutdowns in the country. Forcing a higher tax burden on our employers as a result of California’s gross fiscal mismanagement will undermine job creation and drive prices even higher.
To add insult to injury, it is notable that better fraud enforcement by the Employment Development Department alone could have repaid the state’s federal loans.
A LexisNexis data analysis performed by the reporters at KCRA showed that California paid out at least $32.6 billion and counting in fraudulent disability and unemployment compensation during the pandemic, much higher than the department’s publicized $20 billion number. But by either statistic, the state would have had more than enough to repay its loans from the federal government if it had only administered its programs correctly.
It was the state’s own actions that shut down businesses and caused much of the resulting unemployment that California faced, and yet it is our small businesses that will once again be forced to pay the penalty for California’s mismanagement. Forcing Californians to pay higher federal taxes because of the state’s failure to either prevent rampant fraud or repay its debts in a year when the state had a multibillion-dollar budget surplus is nothing short of theft. This baffling mismanagement of our state’s finances is totally unacceptable, and our small businesses and employers should not be forced to pay the price. I am leading eleven members of the California congressional delegation in sounding the alarm on this issue and calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Legislature to act immediately and repay California’s outstanding federal unemployment insurance loans to prevent this burden from unfairly falling on California employers. It is the state’s duty to take fiscal responsibility for its actions. Failure to do so could jeopardize the financial stability of millions of California’s small employers.
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