Ontario Election 2018

Skelly Denounces Hate Website She Promoted at Christmas Event

White supremacist hate groups and their sympathizers on the alt-right are lining up to endorse Doug Ford and the PC Party, and rote statements of disavowal are not good enough.

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 30, 2018

Progressive Conservative candidate and Hamilton City Councillor Donna Skelly spent yesterday backpedaling furiously from a campus conservative event last December where she was photographed endorsing an alt-right website that promotes hatred.

Donna Skelly holding up a red MAGA-style 'Free Bird Media' ball cap (Image Credit: Facebook)
Donna Skelly holding up a red MAGA-style 'Free Bird Media' ball cap (Image Credit: Facebook)

Press Progress first broke the story about Skelly holding up a red MAGA-style ball cap for "Free Bird Media" at a Christmas formal organized by the Campus Conservative associations for McMaster University and Mohawk College.

Free Bird Media is a far-right website that provides a platform for extremist propaganda under the cover of "free speech". It has published content from notorious white supremacist Paul Fromm, anti-Semitic blogger James Sears, anti-Muslim blogger Kevin Johnston, and neo-Nazi supporter Faith Goldy.

Sears and Johnston have both been charged with hate crimes for their racist attacks. Goldy was fired by right-wing hate site Rebel Media last year after promoting white supremacists during the Charlottesville, Virginia race riot.

Skelly issued a statement on Twitter, writing, "To clarify, I was invited to a Christmas party by Mohawk McMaster Young Conservatives. I mingled with the crowd was handed a hat on my way to podium after speaking to a young man. I had never met him or heard of this group before. I stayed for 20 minutes and left before he spoke."

She added, "I have always denounced hateful and harmful acts and words. They have no place in our Party and no place anywhere in Ontario."

Screen capture from Donna Skelly's Twitter posts
Screen capture from Donna Skelly's Twitter posts

Alex Van Hamme, publisher of "Free Bird Media" and another speaker at the Christmas formal, has decried Skelly's disavowal of him. In a statement he posted yesterday on Facebook, he wrote, "Skelly completely threw me under the bus" and added that she "know[s] exactly who I am and what I'm about. Skell[y] stood on stage and declared, 'We need more media like this!' while holding my hat."

Screen capture from Alex Van Hamme's Facebook post
Screen capture from Alex Van Hamme's Facebook post

At a bare minimum, it is unsettling that Skelly participated in a speaking role without bothering to learn anything about the other speakers at the event. Holding up a hat directly modeled after Donald Trump's signature "Make America Great Again" hat is bad enough, but it is shockingly irresponsible to promote a website without knowing what you are endorsing.

Disavowals Are Not Enough

During this extraordinary historic period in which right-wing extremists espousing misogyny, racism, Islamphobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia and hate crimes are insinuating themselves back into the mainstream, all principled conservatives have an essential role to play in acting as gatekeepers for fascism and hatred.

Unfortunately, the creeping tolerance of hatred originates at the highest levels of right-wing political leadership. PC leader Doug Ford has been blowing racist dog-whistles - for example at the recent leaders' debate where he answered a question about bringing more immigrants to Northern Ontario towns by saying, "I'm taking care of our own first."

The white supremacists are listening, and they like what they are hearing.

Far-right figures and groups, from the explicitly white supremacist to the more crypto-fascist, have not been shy in proclaiming their support for "Ford Nation" and their belief that Doug Ford could create an opening for white supremacist activity similar to the effect of Donald Trump in the United States.

This, combined with racist and bigoted statements by PC candidates Andrew Lawton and Merrilee Fullerton, send a clear message to extremists that their hateful views will be more welcome under a PC government.

White supremacist hate groups and their "free speech" sympathizers on the alt-right are lining up to endorse Doug Ford and the PC Party, and rote statements of disavowal are not good enough to undo the damage to our civil discourse.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted May 30, 2018 at 19:00:42

Wow! By her own admission, Donna Skelly was handed a hat by someone she had never met before. The hat promoted a group she had never heard of. And yet she had no problem waving the hat and publicly endorsing the group??!!

That is just so irresponsible!

And why is Alex Van Hamme bragging about being the grandson of a WWII combat veteran? So what! Am I supposed to applaud you for doing a good job of choosing your grandparents? What have you, yourself, done to serve your country and community?

The famous poem in praise of our ancestors, contained in Ecclesiasticus 44 begins with:

Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations.

But it does not say that their descendants are therefore praiseworthy. In verse 12, we read:

Their descendants stand by the covenants

But that covenant faithfulness is their own doing.

It so happens that my grandfather, and his brothers, also served during WWII. But I do not believe that I should be praised for something that my grandfather did. What I regard as being a tad more important for my own life is when I myself enlisted in the Canadian Forces. That was my own doing.

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2018-05-30 19:17:13

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted June 01, 2018 at 10:50:37

First the disavowal that is required in this climate: I dislike identitarians and hard right wingers. I think identity politics on either end of the horseshoe is dangerous to a stable society. I've never heard of the website you mention and don't plan to visit it, but don't doubt it may be crass and repugnant.

Per recent psychological and political tests, I'm still very much left of center on most social and economic issues. I'm voting for Doug because this identity politics witch-hunt is turning cult like and starting to scare me. You sound like evangelicals in the 80s that considered everything outside their worldview to be of Satan and verboten.

rote statements of disavowal are not good enough

To me this looks like a gradually and incrementally fomenting mindset that will be ready to send conservatives to prisons and gulags at some point down the road. The trajectory of discourse is one where it looks to me like even the "good guys" are on course to turn into despots. Will everyone concerned about increasing polarization and censorship be declared a Nazi and extirpated from society like something out of a Monty Python skit gone too far?

"I wasn't a conservative, but when they came for the conservatives, I spoke up right away, because I know how this quote ends otherwise."

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2018 at 13:40:58 in reply to Comment 123002

I appreciate your concern about creeping fascism, but I would respectfully suggest that you have the source of the threat exactly backwards.

One of Doug Ford's personally appointed candidates literally said in 2016 that he wants students to debate whether the Holocaust happened. That doesn't make him a Holocaust denier, exactly, but it does make him a Holocaust denier apologist.

Just for context, in recent years the same guy also railed against "the pussification of the West", called global warming "a lot of nonsense", said German women "deserve" to be raped because Germany welcomed refugees, claimed women having abortions are "robbing that child's father", refered to a day of commemoration on violence against women a "fake holiday" created by "feminazis", dismissed violence against homosexuals by claiming HIV is a bigger threat, and said employers should be allowed to discriminate against people based on their gender or ethnicity.

His position on the Holocaust is a shocking, blatant normalization of one of the cardinal lies of modern fascism. It provides cover for race hatred thinly disguised as "free speech" - hatred that has real world effects, measurable in the steady rise in racially-motivated hate crimes in Canada over the past several years.

No one on the left is calling for prisons or gulags or anything even remotely like it for being politically incorrect. What the right calls "political correctness" is, at bottom, an earnest desire to be more sensitive to the lived experience of other people - to stop and think before saying or doing something that is harmful to people who are marginalized by their sex, gender, orientation, ethnicity, disability and so on.

Doug Ford is pandering to white supremacists, who feel that he is speaking directly to them and legitimizing their hatred. That is a much bigger threat to liberty than some zealous undergrads shouting down Milo Yiannopoulos.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2018-08-08 14:14:41

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 04, 2018 at 17:11:59 in reply to Comment 123003

No one on the left is calling for prisons or gulags or anything even remotely like it for being politically incorrect.

Actually, there are plenty of people on the left who are calling for prison for what they deem "hate speech."

Mike on the Mountain is correct. If today we do not support freedom of speech and stand up against these freedom denying bullies, then tomorrow they will cheerfully classify the beliefs of anyone who disagrees with them as "hate speech."

And Ryan is also correct. We should be sensitive to the lived experiences of other people. We should stop and think how it affects others before speaking. In other words, don't be an obnoxious jerk. But if the government starts sending obnoxious jerks to jail, then we are going to need a lot more prisons. To quote Hamlet, "...use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Ironically enough, I support the right of freedom of speech for these people to advocate for our right to freedom of speech to be taken away. To quote Evelyn Beatrice Hall, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2018-06-04 18:07:47

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 05, 2018 at 11:36:53 in reply to Comment 123021

Freedom of speech is not absolute. Speech that causes injury or harm is rightly prohibited by law. Shouting "FIRE" in a crowded theatre is illegal in Canada, because it has a real, documented risk of causing injury and death. Likewise, publicly inciting hatred, violence and genocide is also illegal in Canada, and for the same reason: it has a real, documented risk of causing injury and death.

There is a huge difference between an activist trying to deplatform a hate-monger by discouraging respectable facilities from hosting their talks, and a statist dragging someone off to prison for expressing a politically unwelcome thought, and I take strong issue with the recent tendency to conflate the two in debates over the role and limits of free speech.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 07, 2018 at 20:46:29 in reply to Comment 123029

Yes, I will certainly agree that a hate-monger such as Roseanne Barr should be deplatformed by having her television show cancelled. She has the right to freedom of speech to communicate her loathsome beliefs. And ABC has the right to exercise their freedom of speech by cancelling her show.

Yet Canada has seen the spectacle of people being dragged off to prison for expressing politically unwelcome thought. Usually these people are, quite frankly, disgusting obnoxious jerks. I myself, and a huge number of other Canadians, would never have heard of them if the government had not seen fit to persecute them for their beliefs. Beliefs that they expressed in a peaceful and non-violent manner.

There will always be a lunatic fringe of crackpots who are quite happy to receive millions of dollars of free publicity for their reprehensible beliefs when the government persecutes them. Ironically enough, this persecution only gives credibility to these beliefs.

I will never forget one of my relatives saying of Ernst Zundel, "There must be some truth to what he says, otherwise why would the government be bothering to persecute him?"

Mr. Zundel himself jumped on this bandwagon, calling for the government of Canada to ban the movie, "Schindler's List." He wrote

The movie generates hatred against Germans, and it should be possible to ban it under "hate laws" in Canada, Germany, and other countries.

And, of course, the government of Canada's actions have been hypocritically inconsistent. For example, the government of Canada has banned many books. Yet I would assert that none of the books banned by the government of Canada has done anywhere near as much harm as Adolf Hitler's, "Mein Kampf." A book that is not banned. In fact, it is freely available in the Hamilton Public Library.

Perhaps we should send to jail the librarians at Hamilton Public Library!

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted June 04, 2018 at 23:16:14

Donna is solid. I worked out with her, she is salt of the earth.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted June 04, 2018 at 23:31:59

nothing like the MAGA hats to make a snowflake lose it. Don't you know its iconic for Hillary's historical loss.

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted June 06, 2018 at 18:12:48 in reply to Comment 123024

What's a snowflake? You are missing a capital, at the start and a question mark at the end. Why do you workout with a dishonest woman?

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