Ravelry unravels: knitting community bans Trump supporters and “white supremacy”
Ravelry, the world’s largest online knitting community, is banning support for US president Donald Trump and his administration. The move is to ensure a space that is “inclusive of all,” the website says in a statement:
We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry. We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is unambiguously support for white supremacy. (…) You can still participate if you do in fact support the administration, you just can’t talk about it here.
Ravelry, which was founded in 2007 by married couple Jessica and Casey Forbes, has more than 8 million members. The ban includes patterns and posts on the website’s forums and groups, but does not include conservative views in general, according to the statement. Yet as of the time of writing, it’s perfectly fine to take an opposing view of Trump, as a quick search revealed several patterns containing the word “Trump,” including a knitted baby Trump and a “Fuck Trump” hat pattern.
At first glance, many reactions to this curb on free speech appeared largely positive among knitters, crocheters and designers in the increasingly woke fibre arts world, with many people applauding the move. Branding people white supremacists and worse seems to be part of the course for the illiberal left these days and is a way of marking yourself out as on the “right side of history” while ducking the debate of actual political issues that might need attention.
After following the Instagram knitting community for a few months, and documenting how an increased focus on “anti-racism” and intersectional feminism have led to a call-out culture where designers and other yarn businesses have been targeted by the social justice warriors, this was no surprise. After my first article in Quillette, which focused on witch-hunts on the picture-sharing platform Instagram, I was contacted by several Ravelry users who said Forbes had a long history of censoring conservative viewpoints, and had banned several members for going against his ultra-woke agenda. I have been contacted by people who didn’t want to be named, fearing they would be targeted by social justice activists, saying they had already committed professional suicide by disagreeing with Ravelry’s ban by stating their opposition on their Instagram profiles.
There’s nothing new about Forbes et al taking drastic steps to get rid of dissidents. In her blog, Tammy, who describes herself as a Christian homemaker and knitter, tells of how a group, which supported the Republican candidate McCain ahead of the presidential election in 2008, got shut down:
A lot of people did not like us being there and eventually managed to cause enough grief that, last month, Casey shut down our group (the first and only group to ever be shut down on Ravelry) and announced that he had to do so because we, the moderators, were doing a poor job. This was a lie. (…) Needless to say we were hurt and angry, and I ended up leaving Ravelry (which you should know is almost impossible to do… and if you do get Casey to remove your account, all of your projects, stash, patterns, and posts still remain… fortunately I removed mine in advance).
Tammy writes that the group managed to set up a private board off the website, so they could keep in touch. The reaction from Forbes was the deletion of all the group members’ Ravelry accounts, which Tammy estimates to be up to about 400 people. So while Ravelry says it doesn’t endorse Democrats or ban Republicans, past actions have proven otherwise.
Forbes has been vocal recently too about what he finds unacceptable, and in January, he tweeted:
I deleted that Build the W*ll hat that was posted to @ravelry. It goes in the bin along with confederate flag patterns. I’m especially thankful for the latinx Ravelers who took the time to write me about it and I’m sorry that you had to look at that shit.
His use of language is far from what you would expect from a CEO of a large company, yet it’s fairly typical of Forbes from what I have seen so far.
Jennifer Townsend from Michigan is a knitter and academic, who’s been a Ravelry member since 2009. Things started getting increasingly political around the time of the first women’s march in 2017 when all the pussy hat patterns started popping up, she says. A libertarian, Townsend says she has never seen any instance of white supremacy on Ravelry: “I think this notion that support for Trump is white supremacy is ludicrous. The selective outrage and convenient memory loss of the progressive left is nothing short of tiresome.” Townsend has often felt that she couldn’t express her opinions freely. “No society can function in this extremist manner. It’s a lonely and scary place to be.”
Sophia Cai, a Melbourne-based knitter, curator and writer who’s been involved in several campaigns to call out those she sees as perpetuating white supremacy, welcomed Ravelry’s stance and but re-iterated what this group of activists often refer to as threats to their safety:
@masteryarnsmith, another Instagram profile, also warned in a temporary “story” on Instagram of a backlash, including media attention from “trolls” from the right wing press, and encouraged her friends to report hate, as she feared the decision by Ravelry to ban Trump support would function as a “call to arms” for Trump supporters.
And there might be some truth in that. If the goal of Ravelry was to get rid of what they deem to be hate, white supremacy and unacceptable opinions, this move would instead do two things: reiterate to those who already agree with Forbes that they are on the side of good, and thus making them feel righteous about their opinions and values, whereas to those who oppose them politically, whether they are Trump supporters or simply not on the left, it reinforces the impression—that has some merit by now—that the Hard Left is simply banning things they don’t agree with. It has abandoned the idea that free speech is a universal good that benefit us all in the long run.
Thus, the ban on Trump support risks fuelling polarization rather than facilitating reconciliation. It also smacks of naiveity: opinions you oppose won’t disappear because you ban them, even if you ban the people who hold them. Instead, they will go elsewhere, and Ravelry risks losing advertising revenue in the process, as well as being held up as one more example of censorship and oppression of dissidents akin to what you would expect in totalitarian regimes.
Traditionally, free speech was something the Left fought for, before it became afraid of words and words came to mean “violence” if they offended, thanks to postmodern thinking that has invaded the humanities. The old German song “Die Gedanken Sind Frei” (“The thoughts are free”) was recorded by folk singer and left-wing activist Pete Seeger in 1966, and it seems hard to imagine that same song being sung today by anyone on the left.
In an article in Aero Magazine, Malhar Mali writes: “Words are not violence. We brought Western civilization through a crucible of ideological warfare to establish the norms of differentiating speech from physically harmful actions. Now some operators in the humanities want to drag us back there.”
And it seems Ravelry is doing its best to help in this sad endeavor. Free speech isn’t just about the freedom to say whatever you want, but to allow ideas to float to the surface so that views that you disagree with can be challenged, not suppressed.
Perhaps the views of even Trump-supporting Republican knitters wouldn’t be so scary to Forbes and his comrades if free discussion was allowed. And making the decision that supporting a democratically elected president in the land of the free constitutes white supremacy—whatever you think of him—surely is not how we tackle political differences. It’s a statement that ignores how Trump was not only supported by white people, but also by minorities that Ravelry claims to support. To be inclusive of all, as Ravelry says it aims to be, including those you disagree with surely is part of that?
The Oakville and Milton Humane Society has rescued a coyote this weekend from a bucket that animal experts believe had been on its head for well over a week.
The humane society became aware of the bucket-headed animal sometime last Tuesday after it was spotted near Bronte Creek Provincial Park.
Members of the OMHS Animal Services team were able to track down the coyote, eventually removing the plastic object, while recording their noble actions.
The video, posted to the OMHS’ Facebook, has been viewed thousands of times since being uploaded.
The video shows staff approaching the coyote, which appeared afraid and under a tree. The team then placed a towel over the coyote, and moved it to a nearby vehicle.
Rescuers say the animal was malnourished and dehydrated.
The humane society says the object was a large potato chip or candy container, posting a full statement under the video.
“OMHS Animal Protective Services successfully rescued the coyote with a plastic container stuck to its head Monday evening near Bronte Road, north of Speers Road and south of Wyecroft Road. The animal was first reported to the Oakville & Milton Human Society last Tuesday and had been seen in Bronte Creek Provincial Park.”
The OMHS went on to thank the public for their tips that that led to the coyote’s rescue.
A former national security adviser to the prime minister told military officials that Canada’s perception of the threats posed by Russia and China need to be clearly recognized, especially as the United States shifts towards a more isolationist economy, reports the CBC.
“The risks posed by these two countries are certainly different, but they are generally based on advancing all their interests to the detriment of the West,” said Richard Fadden, former national security adviser to Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper.
“Their activities span the political, military and economic spheres.”
Fadden, who also served as head of CSIS and as deputy defence minister, made the comments at the annual Vimy Ridge Dinner in Ottawa.
Russia and China have both shown a willingness to “use virtually any means to attain their goals,” while the U.S. has shown at various instances that it’s willing to withdraw from global trade.
The rise of American isolationism, Fadden says, means Canada will need to seek new avenues in addressing global crises without the United States, and instead, with other allies.
But in order to do so, Fadden says, Canada needs to recognize drastic changes that have occurred on the world stage over the last decade.
Canada should “recognize our adversaries for what they are, recognize we have to deal with them, but draw clear limits to what we will accept,” he said.
According to Fadden, Ottawa and our federal leaders need to recognize that the post-Cold War world order “with comprehensive U.S. leadership is gone, and is not coming back in the form we knew.”
While serving as CSIS director years ago, Fadden noted the rise of Chinese influence throughout Canadian municipal and provincial politics.
“The West does not have its act together as much as it could and should,” said Fadden.
Fadden echoed similar sentiment as former U.S. national security advisor Susan Rice, who recently told the CBC that she believed Huawei phones, made by a company who American officials believe is puppeteered by the Chinese communist party, posed a major threat to national security.
“It’s hard for me to emphasize adequately, without getting into classified terrain, how serious it is, particularly for countries involved in the Five Eyes,” said Rice explaining the severity of the threat, while suggested the signals intelligence alliance (Five Eyes) between U.S., Canada, UK, New Zealand and Australia would be put into serious jeopardy if Canada went ahead with Huawei 5G.
Fadden also pointed out that radicalization was occurring beyond the confines of Islam and violent right-wing terrorism has become a growing concern.
“Right-wing terrorism is growing and, like its cousin jihadist terrorism, it is a globalized threat,” he said. “We will ignore it at our peril.”
On Remembrance Day, Don Cherry was fired from Sportsnet for a comment he made on Coach’s Corner regarding poppies. He complained that not enough immigrants were wearing them and suggested that it represented a general ingratitude by immigrants of the benefits they enjoy by living in Canada.
His comment, now dubbed the “‘you people’ comment”, caused predictable outrage. The state broadcaster pointed out that Cherry’s remarks could not possibly have merit because of the fact that there are visible minorities who fought for this country. Try not to think too hard about the fact that they conflated visible minorities with immigrants. I happen to be both, but many Canadians happen to be one or the other.
Many in the media interpreted (some in bad faith) it as an attack on all minorities through Canadian history. While there is a general stereotype that people of colour were not born in Canada, I dare claim that it is a fast disappearing one, at least from personal experience having lived most of my life in Ontario.
Unfortunately, while that stereotype is on the decline, another is on the rise. Even more unfortunately, the one that is on the rise has an uncomfortably high level of merit. After all, Don Cherry did not come up with an original idea, he merely expressed the “wrong” opinion in the “wrong” forum.
I know many fellow immigrant-minorities who find it quite puzzling that the mainstream media and a large section of society simply cannot fathom why racist attitudes are apparently becoming more prevalent and acceptable by progressives who hurl racist abuse against anyone who does not accept the “woke” dogma of the day and by the sentiment sometimes called “whitelash”. Did the white people of Canada spontaneously develop previously a non-existent or hidden collective race consciousness?
On the contrary, I cautiously claim that as each generation in society has its own cultural features, so do successive waves of immigrants. This is true regardless of the predominant country of origin or religion of any given wave of immigration. Not that immigrants are the same regardless of their origin, but that immigrants of the same origin will still tend to behave differently depending on when they came to Canada, and this is likely true even correcting for the amount of time spent in Canada.
In other words, an immigrant of “minority x” in 1990 who immigrated in 1975 will be systematically different from an immigrant of the same “minority x” in 2015 who immigrated in 2000. This is despite the fact that they are from essentially the same origin and have spent the same amount of time in Canada. This should not be a controversial statement.
This is because of two changing variables: the state of society in the country of origin, and the state of society in the destination country. Our society has definitely been changing, so it should not be a surprise if the way we integrate immigrants into our society changes as well. In fact, there may be a very strong case that our “immigration culture” has been changing mostly not because of changes in where our immigrants come from or their culture, but because of changes in our own culture and championing the “cultural mosaic”.
Not many people would argue with the fact that our society has become much more accommodating of social minorities, such as people in the LGBTQ community or people living with disabilities. Hopefully, not many people would argue with the claim that this is largely a positive thing for society as a whole.
Under Canadian Human Rights Law, individuals must be accommodated by society, including the government, employers, service providers, and other individuals. This accommodation must seek to prevent discrimination based on a “prohibited ground” to the point of “undue hardship”. Setting aside whether we as a society have enumerated the proper “prohibited grounds”, whether “undue hardship” is an appropriate threshold, or whether that threshold is interpreted as it should be, it is definitely reasonable for individuals to expect at least some accommodation from society because we do not all share the same characteristics, disadvantages, and capabilities, and a blanket allowance for all forms of discrimination will create discontent and will exclude too many people for society to function well.
For much of history, this accommodation was arguably too little, and we had been moving in the right direction for a long time. However, somewhere along the way, it became inappropriate to consider the extent to which individuals can be expected to accommodate society. Society is made up of individuals, and it is impossible for millions of idiosyncrasies to be accommodated perfectly. One individual’s right is necessarily another individual’s duty not to infringe upon that right. Where we create more rights, we create more duties for others.
I am not trying to argue that the poor white people of Canada are being victimized because they now have more duties not to infringe upon others’ rights not to be unfairly discriminated against. Rather, it is that rights must have a limit, or we create unlimited duties that can have negative consequences or even become impractical.
The phrase “Islam is right about women” is one illustration of this conflict. The phrase was coined to point out a popular contradiction in our modern outrage culture. The idea is that you can either be offended because you think the statement is discriminatory against either muslims or women, but thinking that it is discriminatory against muslims is sexist and thinking that it is discriminatory against women is Islamophobic. The phrase does not claim that Islam is worse for women than any other religion, and there is a good case that Christianity, as with most other religions, are sexist as well, at least by modern western standards. However, the illustration only works because muslims are considered, rightfully in my opinion, to face disproportionately high levels of unfair discrimination.
Other examples include: lessons promoting LGBTQ equality being pulled from classrooms because of complaints by immigrants that such ideas infringe upon freedom of thought or religion, claims by trans activists that lesbians are transphobic for refusing to sleep with people with penises, or labelling the term “bisexual” as exclusionary of non-binary individuals.
Excuse the cliche, but the point is this: we can’t only keep asking what our country can do for us, and not what we can do for our country. The country is nothing more than a collection of us, and we can’t expect all of us to do everything for each individual while making no attempt to fit into our society.
Canadians are bound together by what we have in common, but without the effort of individuals, the few remaining values that hold us together will only continue to weaken and we will become ever more divided into factions competing to score the biggest take for their particular team. Soon, there could be nothing we have in common with each other, other than our shared struggle to compete with each other for resources.
Diversity does not make balkanization inevitable, but our current societal trajectory probably does when “diversity is our strength” is zealously pushed without expecting some common values and customs to be upheld to keep us all together.
Don Cherry was merely pointing out one aspect of that fact.
While landlocked, Alberta could be seeing interest from as far as Spain.
According to a recent report by Bloomberg News, the Spanish oil company Repsol is considering purchasing as much as half-a-million barrels of heavy crude a month from the western province, and in turn, transporting it to Europe through rail and shipping through Montreal’s ports.
The company is currently considering multiple locations including New Jersey, as it struggles to make up the production lost in Venezuela and Mexico.
If a deal is made, it could be seen as a boon to the Kenney government in Alberta, as European deals involving Canadian oil are rare. For example, only 400,000 barrels of Alberta oil was sent in the last year to the U.K, one of Canada’s largest European trading partners.
The shipment could also revive moral in the overall industry which has recently seen former giants such as Encana move south, where the regulatory environment, as well as access to capital, is seen as more favourable.