Letter to the Editor: You fell into Goldy’s trap

Re: "The Faith Goldy effect"

Letter to the Editor: You fell into Goldy’s trap

Dear Anastasia,

You fell into her trap. Faith Goldy, a University of Toronto alum and famous white nationalist convinced you through her polite manner of conversation that she should have a place at the debate stage. Faith Goldy is a fringe candidate, the highest degree of extremist, and she is following the trends of other prominent white nationalists in their quests to moderate their image in order to spread their hateful messages.

You had said that because Goldy has been left in the dark that she is getting more attention, and this may be true, but you came to the wrong conclusion. Goldy is getting more attention because she has turned this election into her own personal circus — and the media ate it up. She protested at every debate, using the values that we hold dear against us to make us feel as though she deserved a place on stage. She wants us to feel like she belongs, she desperately craves it, and so she loudly protested against “bias.”

What about other fringe candidates who ran for mayor — one of whom, Kevin Clarke, was kicked out of the Mayoral Forum on Affordable Housing held at OISE — which was also protested by Goldy – despite being a strong advocate for the homeless and poverty in this city. In your argument, why should only the loudest and craziest be allowed in debates, and not all candidates?

Your argument assumes that Goldy would attend a debate in good faith (forgive the lack of a better word). It is a noted white nationalist and alt-right tactic to derail a debate by throwing falsehoods on the debate stage, leaving the serious candidates to clean it up — often forgoing their own time on stage to defend against these lies. The tactic is often called a “Gish Gallop,” the tactic which forces the opponent to defend against a wall of arguments, despite their lack of merit or validity.

Giving her a platform to spew her hatred in order to debate her and try to take her down civilly is a false dream and can only win her more support. There is no “gotcha” moment, she openly admits to her horrid beliefs, it is impossible to “catch” her. All debating her does is give her a message with a wider audience – that is why she wants to debate so bad, she wants to use her dog whistles in front of an audience of millions. She would not debate the issues at hand, instead she would continuously spread false information about the city, or other candidates — one example can be noted from her protestors and their continuous use of the word “communist” to describe John Tory, something I think anyone sane can agree is absolutely not true.

The real reason why Goldy has gained support is because the media thrives on controversy, and they have endlessly covered this campaign and all of its intricacies without thinking of the consequences. The fact that we in the normal sphere of politics think that we need to debate these bigots shows that we truly believe in democratic principles and norms. The fact that she is even being asked about in official polls is a farce –— why should she have any more right to that representation than any of the other candidates who are running for mayor? Her constant coverage because of her fringe views is a tool for revenue and clicks on a website — we are doing this openly, and without regret (until after the fact). These people are not assembling underground, they are assembling at our doorstep with the intention to trick their way into our minds by using the values we hold dear, while in the same breath promising to destroy these very values.

P.S. — speaking of articles you could have written about University of Toronto Alumni and their political careers, Mayor John Tory attended Trinity College, graduating in 1975.

Lucas Granger

UTSU Innis College Director

Editor’s Note (October 23): To clarify, whilst Lucas Granger is on the Board of Directors of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, this letter represents his personal opinion on this matter and not the union’s.

The Faith Goldy effect

Uncovering the manipulative politics of the U of T alum who became the far-right, white nationalist Toronto mayoral candidate

The Faith Goldy effect

Faith Goldy is not your average U of T alum. In 2012, she received the Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award, which recognizes “graduating students for making outstanding contributions to improving the world around them and inspiring others to do the same.”

In March, a petition calling for her award to be rescinded was signed by scores of fellow recipients, claiming that her views are not representative of the university. This request was surprisingly denied by the U of T Alumni Association.

After all, in the six years since receiving the award, Goldy emerged as a white nationalist and online media personality. Today, she’s using that image to run for mayor of Toronto. It’s difficult to imagine how the views of a potential Mayor Goldy would honour the award’s call to “improve the world.”

Against all odds

Goldy’s core public views are unambiguously hateful. She promotes protecting the white majority, ending a so-called “white genocide,” and closing Canada’s borders. She has also uttered the Fourteen Words, a white supremacist creed about protecting the white majority.

Her views are so extreme that even the controversial Rebel Media, for which she worked as a correspondent, let her go following her attendance at the violent Charlottesville Unite the Right rally and her subsequent interview on a neo-Nazi affiliated podcast.

The passion that fuels Goldy’s mayoral campaign has mobilized Toronto’s far right. Indeed, her fanbase has grown during her campaign, particularly in the online world, with thousands of devoted admirers retweeting and regurgitating her messages. However, she is overwhelmingly dismissed as a fringe candidate by mainstream Toronto media and politicians, polling very weakly throughout the campaign. It’s plausible that much of her support online comes from people living outside of Toronto. Whatever the case, this contradiction puzzled me, and I set out to explore it.

The person and the persona

Having researched her online extensively, I reached out to Goldy directly for an interview. I was nervous to meet her. When she finally arrived at our decided location, Robarts Library, she drew stares. She shook my hand and her face was engulfed with a bright smile. Her energy was infectious, and I could immediately feel myself being pulled in.

She spoke of how her grandfather was a carpenter who worked on the steps of Robarts and about the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. We chatted about its history, and she complimented my knowledge. She has charisma and charm, and she expertly dodged every question that addressed her more extreme views. She was polite, engaged, and moderate in all her responses.

Following the meeting, I felt very conflicted — feeling that I had been bamboozled in some way. I returned to her online feed and scrolled through her Reddit Ask Me Anything to discover her new Islamophobic messages. Other journalists have experienced this very same chicanery from Goldy and other far-right figures.

Her online presence leads down a dark rabbit hole. From seemingly harmless videos about conservative values to tweets about an ethnic genocide of white people, Goldy’s messages are filled with coded language that appeals to loyal, more integrated members of the far-right and white nationalist community.

The contradiction between the considerate person at Robarts and the racist, online persona who spews messages implying that nothing is stronger than ethnic bonds seemed like two different identities. It became clearer that the growing popularity of figures like Goldy relies on a charisma that makes hatred palatable.

Normalizing extremeness

Goldy claimed that her interactions with the public are mostly very positive. She campaigns at subway stops and shares her message by pounding the pavement and knocking on doors. Goldy knows her audience. On one hand, she presents common sense ideas like fixing Toronto’s roads, working toward affordable housing, and creating new architectural standards for city buildings.

On the other hand, she makes the sensationalist call to evacuate all “illegal immigrants” to Justin Trudeau’s official residence. She proposes to reinstate the controversial Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy, which allows police to investigate anyone whom they feel is suspicious and which has a history of targeting racialized youth. She also wields Islamophobia as a powerful tool, calling for a “Special Research Desk on Islamic Extremism” to “monitor finances in and out of Toronto Islamic centres.” These policies target marginalized communities and not individuals guilty of a crime.

This is strategic. Goldy’s target audience is the ‘Joe Six-pack,’ the average blue-collar white male in Toronto, and she works to make them believe that they are disadvantaged in this city — which they are not. Her use of fear is a consistent tactic throughout her campaign, using “make Toronto safe again” to evoke a sense of purpose and paranoia in her fanbase. She wants voters to think that she is the only candidate with the will to protect them. Thus, she needs to present enemies to protect them from.

While she knows when to stoke the flames, she also knows when to veil her views as non-threateningly conservative. Goldy’s slogan, “Tough on Crime, Easy on Taxpayers,” could appeal to any Torontonian. She argues that everyone in the city wants money back in their pocket. By mixing legitimate policies into her platform, she aims to normalize her candidacy and, by extension, her extremist, racist rhetoric.

This ostensibly makes it possible to explain away being her supporter without being discredited as a white nationalist. Goldy’s auxiliary promises to fix roads and host tailgating parties are her Trojan horse, allowing her to wheel into the minds of moderates without setting off major alarms. This is not very original: far-right movements elsewhere, such as US President Donald Trump’s, have succeeded by this very careful mix of legitimate and extreme policies.

Resorting to the ‘free speech’ argument

When far-right figures like Goldy face criticism, opposition, and de-platforming because of their oppressive views, they are quick to deflect the conversation from the content of their speech to the freedom of their speech. The discussion changes from the underlying racism of their views — a debate they would not be able to win — to one about an abstract right to speak their mind.

Consider the blackout of Goldy’s campaign by mainstream politics. She has not been invited to the mayoral debates; Mayor John Tory has refused to debate her; and, following deserved pressure from the opposition at Queen’s Park, but after posing in a photo with her, Premier Doug Ford condemned Goldy’s views.

Goldy, like many other far-right figures, is a master of self-victimization. When she is shut down and excluded from the news cycle, she portrays herself as a martyr of political correctness — and her followers agree. She tweeted recently that three of her top Twitter supporters had their accounts suspended by the platform. According to Goldy, the evil ‘alt-left’ are the real oppressors and authoritarians, not her. This effectively confuses oppressor and victim.

She even stormed the stage of an arts debate, flashing a petition with 5,000 signatures calling to let her debate. She later berated the moderator, calling her a “leprechaun troll.” She was reportedly not invited because she did not meet the qualifications, which required her to fill out the candidate’s survey and provide an arts policy. Yet she still filed this experience away in her long narrative of perceived censorship.

Goldy is also turning the rejection of her radio ads by Bell Media into a courtroom circus, arguing that her rights are being infringed upon — taking the onus off of the content of her character and instead villainizing her opponents.

I understand why mainstream politicians and media are refusing to engage with Goldy. However, as her self-victimization comes from a place of privilege and her continued ‘censorship’ only invigorates her fan base, silencing the far right has never felt like more of a bandaid tactic.

A forbidden message has power and allure. She has said, “The more they try to silence us, the more people are starting to pay attention.” For once, I have to say that I agree with her. Silencing Goldy only empowers and reassures her followers that there truly is an assault on free speech in this country.

Her supporters band together across her social media, calling for the downfall of the mainstream media and “fellowship” among Toronto’s “political elite.” This anti-establishment rhetoric is becoming more and more familiar with the infusion of unabashed far-right figures clawing their way into the mainstream consciousness.

Confronting the far-right on campus

U of T has a comprehensive free speech policy, acknowledging that debate and freedom of speech are key in the pursuit of truth and the dissemination of knowledge. The university also explains that “every member should be able to work, live, teach and learn in a University free from discrimination.” It is within these seemingly contrasting principles that we are left to find the balance.

When Goldy was invited to speak at Wilfrid Laurier University, a student activist pulled the fire alarm. No professors from the university had agreed to debate her. Despite Goldy’s talk ending before it began, she has not been deterred whatsoever. During our interview, she expressed her plans to return to Laurier and finally give her presentation.

I understand why students would want to preserve safe spaces and protect each other from hateful rhetoric. However, by silencing Goldy, we seem to be pumping her campaign with fuel.

The way to challenge far-right figures like Goldy is not to provide them with free rein to deliver long speeches and present their views as fact, which almost occurred at Laurier. Rather, they must be challenged and debated in controlled forums with fact-checking and knowledgeable opponents — ideally professors. This would not only easily reveal the baselessness of their arguments, but also revoke their ability to brand themselves as martyrs and their experience as censorship.

On October 22, Toronto will have its say at the polling stations, and I am confident that Goldy has no chance of victory. However, by silencing figures like Goldy or pretending like they don’t exist, we allow them to continue to assemble underground — unchallenged. I fear that in time, they will only become more united and, as we’ve seen south of the border, real political contenders.

Anastasia Pitcher is a second-year Biodiversity and Conservation Biology and Genome Biology student at New College.

Mayoral debate at Scarborough campus focuses on transit issues

Candidates discuss uploading TTC, transit affordability

Mayoral debate at Scarborough campus focuses on transit issues

TTCriders, an organization of transit users, and the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) hosted a mayoral debate focused on transit on September 26.

Three candidates — former Toronto chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat, lawyer and activist Saron Gebresellassi, and safe streets activist Sarah Climenhaga — took the stage at the Scarborough campus. The debate was moderated by The Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee.

John Tory, the incumbent mayoral candidate, was invited but did not attend. At the end of the debate, candidate Dionee Renée, who spells her name D!ONEE Renée, ­was invited to give a two-minute speech. She claimed ownership of the idea of free transit and underscored accessibility needs, which she felt had been lacking during the debate.

A Mainstreet Research poll released on September 26 put Keesmaat at 20.3 per cent, nearly 30 points behind Tory, who remains in the lead. Gebresellassi and Climenhaga both polled at around one per cent and undecided voters made up 27.4 per cent of the survey. The same poll found transit to be the most pressing issue in the mayoral election — overtaking concerns of housing affordability, crime and safety, and accountability.

Uploading the TTC to the province

All three candidates were asked about their stance on the provincial governments’ moves to take over Toronto’s subway system.

The proposal, made by the Progressive Conservatives during the provincial election, aims for the province to adopt major capital maintenance fees and control any expansion planning. Tory showed slight interest in the plan, however City Council voted 30–6 in favor of maintaining public ownership of the TTC. Premier Doug Ford, who campaigned on uploading the TTC to the province and whose party guaranteed the upload under a majority, became the centre of the candidates’ discussion.

Keesmaat proposed that any projects to upload the TTC should go through the mayor and the city council. She also emphasized the need for the TTC to remain a “public asset,” refuting any claims that turning the TTC private would raise capital funds or improve the transit system.

Agreeing with Keesmaat, Climenhaga commented on Ford’s ability to “do things even if we don’t agree with them” and supported the need to work with the premier on this issue.

Gebresellassi criticized Tory for his lack of strong leadership and underscored the need for mayoral leadership that would “stand up against Doug Ford,” particularly on the issue of uploading the subway to the provincial government.

ANDY TAKAGI/THE VARSITY

Free transit

The first candidate to mention free transit was Gebresellassi, whose campaign is largely based on the idea of making Toronto the first metropolis in Canada to maintain a free public transit system.

Placing heavy emphasis on the idea of “transit as a fundamental human right,” Gebresellassi proposed eliminating corporate loopholes and using federal funding to finance her proposal.

Climenhaga took a moderate stance on the issue ­— labeling it a goal to be achieved through long-term investment in the transit system and a gradual reduction of fares.

Keesmaat heavily opposed the idea of free transit, criticizing not only Gebresellassi’s funding plans for the proposal, but also pointing out the resulting issues of overcrowding and the loss of the TTC’s operating revenue. She further underscored the need for more investment to develop transit expansion over the development of free transit.

“I thank [Gebresellassi] for putting the idea of free transit on the table, and I have to say it is a ridiculous idea that would ruin our transit system.”

During an interview with The Varsity, Gebresellassi pushed back.

“I think her position says it all. This is why we keep saying Jennifer Keesmaat is not a champion for working-class people,” a sentiment that was not brought up during the debate.

Additionally, Gebresellassi argued against claims that the plan would be difficult to fund: “As the 13th wealthiest city in the world, we could have free transit if we wanted to.”

Transit affordability for students

After the failure of the U-Pass referendum last year, postsecondary student fares for transit and the development of a student pass has been the focus of the debate on transit affordability for university students.

SCSU President Nicole Brayiannis opened the question portion of the debate by asking about affordable transit for students, especially those who commute long distances.

Keesmaat responded to the question by calling out the provincial government for stalling fare integration with GO, which would allow transferring from the TTC to GO without having to pay multiple fares. Inter-municipal fare integration as well as transferable regional fares were proposed for commuting students.

Taking a similar stance, Climenhaga agreed on the need for fare integration but also emphasized the need to work with the province on affordable student housing, zoning to make student housing development easier, and increased employment opportunities.

In her response, Gebresellassi proposed expanding the low-income transit pass, also known as the Fair Fare Pass, universally. Differing from the other candidates, she also highlighted the need for job opportunities and engagement outside of the downtown core and called for a multitude of plans that would encourage local hiring and youth training.

ANDY TAKAGI/THE VARSITY

Protesters

In the middle of Climenhaga’s opening statement, protesters in the audience began shouting, “Where is Faith Goldy?” Picketers with signs that read, “Let Faith Speak,” stood in the back of the room.

Faith Goldy, a controversial mayoral candidate associated with white nationalists, was not invited to speak at the event.

The commotion prompted multiple audience members to stand up, resulting in loud protests both against and in support of Goldy.

A chant began from the protesters demanding: “We want Faith.”

The protesters were eventually asked to leave and were escorted out of the room. Goldy herself interrupted a debate just two days earlier, where she was escorted off stage by police officers.

The Toronto municipal elections will be held on October 22, and advance voting will take place from October 10–14.

Open letter petitions U of T to rescind Faith Goldy’s student leadership award

Letter slams ex-Rebel Media host’s support for white supremacist goals

Open letter petitions U of T to rescind Faith Goldy’s student leadership award

An open letter signed by 82 Gordon Cressy Student Leadership Award recipients spanning the past 21 years is calling on the University of Toronto Alumni Association (UTAA) to rescind the award that far-right activist and former Rebel Media host Faith Goldy received as a student.

Recipients of the Cressy Awards have been selected every year by the UTAA and the Division of University Advancement since 1994.

The award recognizes students in their graduating year for involvement in extracurricular activities and is named after former city councillor and former U of T Vice-President of Development and University Relations Gordon Cressy.

Goldy, who at the time went by Faith Goldy-Bazos and was a student enrolled at Trinity College, was awarded the Cressy Award in 2012 for her involvement with the Association of Political Science Students.

Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) Student Advisor Gavin Nowlan and former ASSU President Abdullah Shihipar are organizing the petition. Nowlan told The Varsity that he sent the letter through campus mail on the morning of March 19.

“It seemed incongruous that one of the awards that highlights student leadership and work in the community has been awarded to someone who has views that, in our mind, are so far from the views of the University of Toronto,” said Nowlan.

Part of the letter states that Goldy has “openly expressed support and advocated for the goals of the white nationalist movement.”

During her time at Rebel Media, Goldy has expressed support for the white genocide conspiracy theory, which has roots in the white supremacist movement, as well as a “crusade” against Muslims.

In an interview, she also recited and defended the ‘14 Words,’ a slogan commonly used in the white supremacist movement.

The letter also notes that Goldy “has appeared as a supportive guest on white supremacist media.”

In August 2017, Goldy appeared on a podcast affiliated with the Daily Stormer, an online neo-Nazi media outlet. She was subsequently fired from Rebel Media for that interview.

The award’s namesake has also expressed support for the petition. Cressy told Canadaland that the signatories, “in many ways represent what the Cressy award is all about.”

U of T Interim Director of Media Relations Elizabeth Church said on March 19 that the university had not yet received the petition, but would give it “thoughtful consideration” once received. She also told The Varsity that there was no precedent for a Cressy Award recipient, or a recipient of any similar awards, being stripped of their honour.

On March 26, UTAA President Scott MacKendrick and Assistant VP, Alumni Relations Barbara Dick released a letter in response to the petition. In the letter, MacKendrick and Dick thanked Nowlan for brining the petition to their attention and condemned hatred, but declined to rescind Goldy’s award.

“The candidates’ files are judged according to what they have contributed at the time of the award, on the basis of demonstrated evidence as judged by a rigorous process,” the letter reads. “Accordingly, it would be inappropriate to rescind the award granted to Ms. Goldy-Bazos in 2012.”

The UTAA’s letter also condemned hatred and bigotry in general terms, but did not directly address the controversy surrounding Goldy specifically. Nowlan expressed disappointment in the UTAA’s response.

“I can understand their reluctance to set a precedent in taking an award away from an alumnus for their actions after their time at U of T, but I am saddened to see that the University didn’t take this opportunity –beyond their boilerplate response, to clearly state that Ms. Goldy’s views are anathema to the University of Toronto,” he said in an email to The Varsity.

Goldy did not respond to The Varsity’s inquiries, but tweeted, “Typical Marxist tricks! Rewrite history to fit your ideology” in response to the petition.

The day after the letter was sent, Goldy was at Wilfrid Laurier University speaking at an event held by a student group, which was disrupted after protesters pulled a fire alarm.

Editor’s Note (March 27): This article has been updated to include the UTAA’s letter in response to the petition, as well as Nowlan’s response the letter.