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On Attempts to Downplay Homegrown Fascism: Robin Philpot, racist apologist

Like so many others I avoided writing about the recent massacre of Québec Muslims because I felt the message of the attack was clear: fascism was alive and well in Canada, that its reemergence was not simply tied to Trump's election, and that there was no point in misery blogging an event that possessed such a clear message. That is, if we care about humanity, our outrage about an event should not require another online article that states the obvious; such articles might serve to cheapen the violence by using the massacre to make a point that was already clear. Islamophobia is alive and well, it's part of the politics of an ascending right, and this political sequence was already determined by multiple Canadian politicians and organizations who have sanitized ahead of time this indefensible violence.

But then Counterpunch published an article by Robin Philpot, The New World Order Hits Quebec City, and I'm so incensed by such a distortion of reality and avoidance of culpability that I feel something needs to be said. At the very least Counterpunch should be reprimanded for giving Philpot's bullshit analysis a platform. People were murdered by a fascist who the mainstream media is now trying to present (as usual) as a mentally unstable "lone wolf" child (despite the fact that he is 27) and a media site that claims it is "left" produces an article that is nothing more than a moral deflection: a white Québecois settler who doesn't want to talk about homegrown fascism and instead wants to pretend that the massacre is vague conspiracy theory. Indeed, Philpot's article is driven by the need to argue that Bissonnette is the very lone wolf––a violent agent unmoored from Quebecois society––that the liberal media has presented. (A presentation, it needs to be noted, they did not provide when the SQ first claimed that the murderer was one of the potential victims: when the suspect was an Algerian he was a terrorist; when he was revealed to be in fact a white settler he became a lone wolf.)

Philpot is an uncritical Québecois nationalist whose entire "leftism" is determined by his belief that Québec settlers are incapable of racism. As unique victims of Anglophone hegemony, according to Philpot, Québecois are intrinsically more progressive, understanding, and ethically pure. Despite the fact that Philpot, who at one time was a Parti Québecois [PQ] hack, rejected the PQ's racist Charter that would enshrine Islamophobia, he still maintains that there is no real Islamophobia in Québec beyond some malcontents and an anti-Québec Anglophone conspiracy. Philpot's Counterpunch article is not really interested in condemning the recent massacre, let alone taking it seriously; it is pretty clear, to anyone who bothers to read and think through its drivel, that the article's only intention is to make sure that nobody blames Franco Québec for the racist violence. Counterpunch has enabled a white settler to make white supremacist violence all about him!

If Counterpunch really cared about a progressive analysis of the recent Mosque attack then they wouldn't have published an article by a pseudo-leftist such as Philpot whose history is known to anyone in Québec who has been doing anti-capitalist organizing in the past few decades. This is the same Philpot who stood against Indigenous self-determination, going so far as to write a book where he claimed that Kanehsatake revolutionaries in the "Oka Crisis" (one of the key moments of anti-colonial resistance in Canada) were Canadian military contras whose purpose was to discredit the "progressive" settler town of Oka. To be clear, Philpot is a known colonial racist who tries to pretend that he is a member of the Canadian left: he is not; he is a colonial apologist and thus identical to the white supremacism of Bissonnette that he attempting to blame on external pressures. In the context #NoDAPL, which Counterpunch presumably supports, Philpot should be treated as persona non grata since he would be more than happy to endorse similar assaults on Indigenous communities in Québec. The fact that he had no moral problem with Oka's expansion into Kanehsatake in 1990––where they planned to obliterate a community cemetery––and in fact dismissed all criticism of this expansion as Anglo-chauvinism should have been seen as suspicious. The fact that he can dismiss the empirical evidence of setters lining up to throw rocks at the non-combatants leaving Kanehsatake when the barricades went up should be damning.

(Let's be clear: when Counterpunch publishes Philpot it's are claiming that it is okay to publish essays by those fuckers who think that settler racism is okay. Since Counterpunch has a history of defending Palestinian self-determination it should realize that Philpot's politics are logically equivalent to an Israeli settler claiming that Israelis, because of a history of anti-semitism, cannot be settler racists and that the Intifidas are anti-semitic conspiracies.)

According to Philpot, there is no racism in Québecois society because white Québec settlers are somehow uniquely predisposed to overcoming white colonial supremacy. More accurately, his worldview is such that Québec's existence has nothing to do with settler-colonialism, as if there was no French colonial project in the Western Hemisphere and the Franco settlers just magically appeared, living in harmony with the people whose land they stole, unlike their Anglo counterparts. The truth, of course, is that Québec was the result of a losing colonialism and is thus no different from any settler-colonial entity: racism is the foundation of these societies and thus racism is part of the Québecois subjectivity as much as it is a part of Anglo Canadian subjectivity. Philpot is in fact one of these racists as his treatment of the Oka event demonstrates.

It is indeed the case that Bissonnette cannot be blamed solely on the racism of Franco Québec culture (we find the same racism in Anglo Canadian society) and if Philpot had written an article pointing out this broader context it would be justified. But this is not the article he wrote: since his motivation was to dismiss Québecois racism rather than connect it to the larger trend of rising Canadian fascism, Philpot instead lapsed into bullshit conspiracy theory. Bissonnette exists outside of internal material relations and instead is a product of a vague "New World Order."

The New World Order! How such an article could be taken seriously nearly two decades into the 21st Century boggles the mind. You cannot help but feel you're reading a hot take written by someone trapped in the early 1990s whose political acumen hasn't evolved beyond high school politicization. Yeah I remember thinking there was a real political sequence called "the New World Order" way back in the 10th grade when I was listening to the Ministry song of the same name. The very terminology, let alone the claims Philpot ascribes to this terminology, belong to a political period that has since been eclipsed. It's really quite cartoonish.

The phrase "new world order" was George Bush Sr.'s way of talking about the fall of the Eastern Bloc and the emergence of the US as the primary world power. It was not the description of a political order separate from US-led imperialism, some Illuminati like structure of power (as Philpot presumes in his essay), but banal and in fact accurate statement about that conjuncture. That George Bush was indeed correct: with the fall of the Eastern Bloc there was a new world order in which the US was ascendant. A synonym of this "new world order", promoted by Francis Fukuyama, was "the end of history." Thus, the "new world order" was not a particular politics outside of capitalist-imperialism, as Philpot attempts to describe (and quite awkwardly), but the description of the victory of one imperialist power over its main challenger: the former rules of the cold war were no longer in effect, a new global game was emerging. But since then a lot of things have changed. Bush Sr. never conceived the ways in which the so-called "War on Terror" would play out, the return to power of Russia (but this time a capitalist Russia), the rise of China, the EU before and after Brexit… Philpot really needs to get his head out of the early 1990s' ass.

In an effort to dislocate the motives of the fascist who shot up the Québec City mosque from his concrete circumstances, Philpot courts the worst kind of conspiracy theory. (I'm sure that most of my readers have already suspected that "the New World Order" is a few steps shy from Jewish banking conspiracy garbage.) Meanwhile, Islamophobia is on the rise, fascists are murdering their racialized targets, and to deny that this problem is an external problem is to be complicit with fascism. Philpot's analysis is not only a joke for its "New World Order" garbage; it's a gross dismissal of racism on the part of someone who has a history of dismissing the racist fact of colonial society.