I mentioned briefly in my previous article on the UK Blacklist Scandal that there is a small industry starting up of right wing pundits who are busy creating conspiracy theories that sound like what corporate intelligence buyers want to hear. Two examples of this type of person would be white rights defender Gary McHale and Toronto based smear king Greg Renouf. Both are relatively minor actors who rose/are rising to prominence by passing and promoting information that corporate buyers want to hear – “Natives” are the “new colonizers,” and Tar Sands opposition could be behind the Lac Megantic disaster, etc.
Both men came out of relative obscurity and now have had their views given exposure on Sun Media networks piggy backing off of professional pundits with a similar focus – Michael Coren and Ezra Levant.
The information that these men pass is largely fiction – more so in the case of Renouf who seems to have less of a singular activist focus then McHale – so what then is the threat? The threat is that sections of the public will listen, that corporations and the police are getting bad information and listening anyway and that as a result of this some people have faced serious charges.
There seems to be a larger focus in the activist community currently on Renouf than McHale – partly because of how McHale’s capacity has waned while Renouf’s is rising, and also because of location (Caledonia as opposed to Toronto) as well as the targets – Haudenosaunee Land Defenders and Allies vs. the GTA activist scene. There has been some overlap, but for the most part they have stayed distinct and folks have thought of them in that way.
Both men present a significant threat to the activist communities that they target. They have the protection of the right wing media and by default the status quo. I don’t want to lessen the threat these people present, or dismiss or erase the very real negative experiences they have created for people within the activist community. I do want to begin to separate them though and argue for a focus.
Renouf may one day escalate to the tactics of Gary McHale, however, at present he has gone nowhere near the level of provocation that Mr. McHale is now known for. One trespass onto Kanonhstaton “The Protected Place” (the land reclamation site formerly known as Douglass Creek Estates) can trigger a handful of charges for Haudenosaunee Land Defenders. This is beyond the video editing, the smearing blog posts of Renouf. Tomorrow Haudenosaunee Land Defender Toad will be back in court in Cayuga on such charges. This difference should give us insight into the types of activities that Renouf may escalate to – but it should also give us pause to reflect on how we are responding as a community. So much focus has been on Greg Renouf – endless focus. His targets are more likely to have and use twitter, facebook and other social media platforms – but the effect of his writing and speaking are nowhere near the levels of Gary McHale. An honest comparison of these men has to be followed for a call for the larger activist community in Ontario to redouble and refocus their efforts on supporting Haudenosaunee Land Defenders who have faced the most severe repression.
There is also the disturbing fact that McHale is much more at home in the established right wing in the Country. Passed over for medals for years while his counterparts got praise, Gary recently was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee by the Canadian Tax Payer’s Federation. Gary is also far more connected to the Zionist community in the Country as well as the political far right (Wild Rose, Tea Party).
Alongside all of this there has to be a greater literacy in the activist community on how to de-escalate and recognize provocation. Our opposition will provide space for those on the right who will play the role of the tattle tale. They will reward them and amplify their voices. For these two men, who in my opinion exhibit attention seeking behaviors, this will only push them to escalate their behaviors until they get the desired response (and back in front of a camera). It would also help for the activist community to work on an inside/outside strategy and get serious about pushing back on the claims made by these individuals which are clearly defamatory. These two men are leveraging and feeding off of an unwillingness to use the court system to restrict their actions – it makes no sense to cede this ground for ideological purity. This also would mean our side getting serious about finding out who these individuals really are, how they make a living, what their intentions are. Too frequently we give way to our own wild speculation which moves us no closer to understanding this kind of opposition.
I hope that the activist community can unify around organizing against these kinds of individuals – providing support to those most frequently and most severely targeted. As someone who has been subject to death threats, seemingly unending online smearing from anonymous commenters and also private investigators, I know that it can be hard to give up the desire to defend oneself against the kinds of claims these men regularly make. We do, however, have to acknowledge where the real threats exist and how they operate. If not, we will never be able to effectively combat their influence and protect our communities.