Indigenous Voices: Racism doesn’t deserve a platform

(Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

On Jan. 25, the student newspaper of University of New Brunswick Saint John, The Baron, published an unedited interview with Michael Thurlow, leader of the National Socialist Canadian Labour Revival Party. A lengthy unedited letter to the editor written by Thurlow was also published.

This was in response to the racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant posters that were hung up on the UNB Fredericton campus, which the NSCLRP claimed credit for. In both the interview and the letter, Thurlow consistently expressed racist, white-supremacist opinions, including arguing residential schools were beneficial to Aboriginal children. He expressed horrible anti-Semitic opinions about Jewish people as well.

Anna de Luca, the editor-in-chief at The Baron, justified her publication of the interview and letter as journalistic objectivity. She stated:

“In this age of extreme polarization, I saw gaining captainship of this publication as an opportunity to provide a diverse collection of contributors the ability speak their truth – whatever that truth may be. I promised myself that I would never censor, never correct or challenge.”

While there is nothing inherently disagreeable about allowing people to speak their own truth, the issue lies in who you choose to give a voice to. It is the responsibility as an editor to critically assess what merits public attention. Racist and anti-Semitic interviews do not deserve to be a focal point after racially-charged events, such as the posters that were hung up at UNB Fredericton.

This same situation occurred on a larger scale in Nov. 2017 when The New York Times published a profile of a Nazi sympathizer. This was shortly after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a woman protesting against white supremacists was run over and killed by a Nazi sympathizer. Although The New York Times published it in an attempt to remain neutral and report on all sides, the article drew widespread criticism. Much like the interview and letter published in The Baron, The New York Times faced criticism for normalizing anti-Semitic, racist views and Nazi rhetoric.

Many letters to the editor The New York Times received concerning the Nazi sympathizer profile questioned why the editor would choose to give him a platform rather than, for example, the family of the woman who was killed at the white supremacist rally or the protesters and first-hand witnesses.

I echo that sentiment in terms of why the editor at the The Baron, a student university newspaper paid for by students, would allow a white supremacist to use their paper as a platform for such racist ideologies. The editor could have chosen to interview a person who felt personally affected by the NSCLRP posters or to have done a spotlight piece on the Round Dance UNB held in response to the posters.

It shouldn’t be a priority to humanize a white supremacist when many of the people who would have felt victimized by the posters, the interview, and the letter to the editor, such as Aboriginal people, were not granted basic human rights until 1956.

Indigenous Voices is The Aquinian’s column featuring stories by Indigenous people, sharing their perspective on the world around them.


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