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Health and Sanity

Melissa Hutsell
Freelance Writer and Editor
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piqer: Melissa Hutsell
Monday, 19 November 2018

Can Racism Be Deprogrammed?

“Some people are hateful, racist, and violent – and the data shows they’ve been emboldened recently,” said host, Jordan Heath-Rawlings. But not all of them start out that way; some are selected and indoctrinated.

Elisa Hategan is a former white supremacist. At 16, she was recruited to join Canada’s largest neo-Nazi group, the Heritage Front.

She had emigrated from communist Romania a few years earlier. Her family broke up, her father died, and she dropped out of school. She didn’t feel a sense of belonging in Canada. Then, she saw an ad on TV for the Heritage Front.

Within a month, Hategan was so indoctrinated that she spoke at every rally, did press interviews, and was groomed as a leader in the movement.

How did that happen so quickly, asks Heath-Rawlings. It was a perfect storm, said Hategan, and it happens to many young people. She calls it the ABCs of radicalization. A for aliened, alone, abused; b for buddies and finding sense of belonging; and c for comrades, and a cause.

Eventually, Hategan was asked to harass gay and lesbian people—that’s when she confronted the fact that she was gay. She began to identify with the victims the group targeted. Then, she understood that she was being manipulated. Hategan turned on the Heritage Front, and effectively helped to take down the organization. Now, she works to help deprogram racists.

It’s harder to do that now than ever before, explained Hategan. People are being recruited from 2,000 miles away through online platforms like social media. The internet doesn’t have any borders. So why doesn’t punching a Nazi in the face do anything, the host asks: “What do you say to [people] who have been targeted by these groups?” Self-defensive is valid, but it’s not a long-term solution, she explained. More people are infected online everyday. She mentioned a variety of resources for families, and community-based solutions to address radicalization. But ultimately, we still have to change cyber laws, and hold social media accountable. 

Can Racism Be Deprogrammed?
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