When keeping it (performatively) real goes wrong

    Mar 16, 2022

    Deleted Chrystia Freeland TweetOTTAWA—As I sit here writing this column on the third anniversary of the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand—driven by Islamophobic, white supremacist ideology—it’s come to my attention how far we’ve fallen as western societies. Ignoring the warnings of BIPOC voices, while platforming those who are far-right ascendant, the western world is now full-throttle into Nazi Acceptability Politics with a white supremacist, patriarchal chaser. Welcome to your modern liberal democracy.

    In these times, no one is assumed to be anti-racist; everyone is suspect.

    White supremacy is baked into western liberal democratic countries and institutions. It is through this ideology that laws are drawn, institutions are funded, and social codes are erected and enforced. All of this filters to the individual as messaging revealing the relative societal value of each person within these liberal democratic societies.

    The conflict in Ukraine has revealed the penchant for western democracies to use white supremacy as a guiding light for all state-led foreign actions. Who gets support from the state, who are considered innocent victims, who is afforded aid, how this conflict is framed by western media compared to other conflicts, notably in countries with brown and Black people are all considered through the lens of white supremacy. Nowadays, though, one doesn’t have to hide their far-right political allegiance or go to the dark corners of the internet to practice. Nope, nowadays liberal democrats and their institutions are taking up the mantle of Nazi Acceptability Politics, by platforming Nazi symbols as insignias of freedom against Russian tyranny.

    Why give Putin the ammunition (pun intended)?

    On International Women’s Day this year, NATO’s official Twitter account tweeted a picture to commemorate the day using the conflict in Ukraine as a framing device. According to Newsweek, the now-deleted tweet read: “‘All women and girls must live free and equal. This international women’s day we think of the remarkable women of #Ukraine,’ NATO tweeted alongside a Ukrainian flag emoji. ‘Their strength, bravery and resilience are symbolic of the spirit of their nation #IWD2022.’”

    Unfortunately for the optics of NATO’s current intervention, the female soldier featured was wearing a Black Sun medallion. Newsweek goes onto explain its significance: “The symbol, also known in German as ‘Schwarze Sonne’ or ‘Sonnenrad,’ is rooted in Nazi occultism and has been brandished by far-right elements across the globe, including in Ukraine, where it is featured on the official logo of the National Guard’s Azov Regiment.” Ah, and there is the link to the Azov Battalion, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. This symbol is so Nazi, it was embedded in the marble floor of Wewelsburg Castle, a.k.a. “an SS Vatican, the centre of the new Aryan World”, as written by David Barrowclough, author of Digging for Hitler: The Nazi Archaeologists Search for an Aryan Past. Imagine proclaiming you’re standing up for democratic principles and the freedom of self-determination while celebrating International Women’s Day featuring Nazis.

    For people claiming that white nationalism in Ukraine is some form of Russian propaganda, which I’m sure it is, it is also a truth laid bare by NATO itself. (Making this connection should result in a Chrissy Teigen “yikes” reaction GIF).


    Closer to home, our prime minister-in-waiting, Chrystia Freeland, and Toronto Mayor John Tory, were photographed with a black and red scarf featuring the Ukrainian phrase, “‘Slava Ukraini’, which translates to ‘Glory to Ukraine,’” as reported by CBC News.


    Unfortunately, that history is suspect in a Nazi typa way. As Canadian Dimension reports, “The scarf’s colour scheme, as well as the slogan on it, were adopted by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), an offshoot of the more radical wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists led by Stepan Bandera.” If you don’t know who Stepan Bandera was, let Jacobin magazine relieve us of our collective ignorance. The UPA was aligned with Nazi Germany, whose atrocities include the ethnic cleansing of Jews and Poles: “UPA attacks on Jews continued at such a ferocious level that Jews actually sought the protection of the Germans. ‘The Banderite bands and the local nationalists raided every night, decimating the Jews,’ a survivor testified in 1948.” As historian Per Anders Rudling explains in the Toronto Star: “‘Red and black are the colours of the Bandera Wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. The flag symbolizes blood and soil, and was adopted by that organization in 1941, along with an explicitly totalitarian program. The black-and-red banner is a symbol intimately connected with the most radical Ukrainian right-wing tradition.’”

    Don’t tell me that Freeland, who grew up in the arms of the Ukrainian community in Alberta, whose grandfather was an active Nazi collaborator at the time and who partially raised her, didn’t know this. Instead of owning her fumble and apologizing, Canadian Dimension notes, “her office used a familiar refrain: this is all Russian propaganda aimed to distract from Russian aggression.” Hmm … isn’t that what she said about her grandfather being a Nazi collaborator? As the possible next prime minister of the country, Freeland’s waltz with this imagery is concerning to say the least. And she is simultaneously gaslighting anyone who dares to question her about it, even when photographic evidence is presented.

    I’m sorry, but does Freeland realize that she lives in a democracy?

    But this is how fascism proliferates. It is not only those who espouse these beliefs that are the problem. The bigger problem is those in powerful positions claiming “diversity,” while ostensibly tacitly upholding symbols of a cultural background that’s had problems with white nationalism throughout the 20th and 21st century. It is the Chrystia Freelands and the John Torys who infer the legitimacy of neo-Naziism through symbolic gestures intended to only be performative. If in Chrystia Freeland we are to trust, then there’s no need for the PPC.

    Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.

    The Hill Times