I do want to write about Faith Goldy running for mayor. I don’t want to write about Faith Goldy running for mayor.
I do want to write about her because she’s a troubling extremist. I don’t want to write about her because she’s a manipulative monomaniac.
I don’t know how to explain who Faith Goldy is without using terms like “racist” and “white supremacist,” but here goes. She’s a woman in her late 20s who graduated from the University of Toronto. Her last name used to be Goldy-Bazos. After her mother’s 2014 death from cancer, Ms. Goldy made a video promoting the use of a Hungarian naturopathic cream for the disease.
Ms. Goldy used to host a show on Rebel Media, Canada’s infotainment platform for the far-right. While there, she did a segment on how immigration contributes to “white genocide.” Around 80 per cent of Canadians are not, in Statistics Canada terms, “visible minorities.” Ms. Goldy says she’s worried that majority will soon end.
She also did things like post Instagram photos of herself in a sweatshirt emblazoned with the Crusades-era Jerusalem cross and a phrase meant to link today’s Christians to an age-old battle against Islam. I do know that’s what you call a dog whistle, which bring those with attuned ears running to join the pack.
I do marvel that she was eventually fired from the Rebel, of all places, for appearing on a podcast affiliated with the Daily Stormer, a proudly neo-Nazi website. A few months later, on another so-called alt-right show, she recited another white-supremacist phrase, asking why it should be “so controversial.” After that, she was kicked off of PayPal and the crowd-funding platform Patreon.
I do believe that manufacturing such controversies to become what those who research extremists call a “digital martyr” is all a bid for attention. I don’t know why this well-worn game plan still works.
I don’t think that Ms. Goldy is especially different from other unsavoury characters who’ve tried to squeeze into the spotlight by running for office. That’s an old trick – another fringe mayoral candidate in this very election is due to go to court on charges of willfully promoting hate against women and Jewish people.
What’s different, of course, is the era, one in which self-promotion is cheap and easy, and traditional journalists don’t quite know how to employ balance, fairness and free speech against those who purposefully manipulate them.
I do include myself among them. My job is to look directly at horrible things, not away from them, but I don’t know if my profession (or my command of it) is capable of battling a constant flow of disinformation and hate.
I’m reluctantly writing about Ms. Goldy because she’s succeeded in making herself impossible to ignore: In August, she posted a picture of herself posing with uniformed police officers, which contravenes the Police Services Act provision against political activity. Toronto Police Service said the officers didn’t know she was a candidate, though she was wearing a shirt with the all-caps slogan “Faith for Mayor.”
Last weekend, she posted a photo of herself with Ontario Premier Doug Ford (not the first) and the fallout lasted all week. On Monday, the provincial NDP asked Mr. Ford to denounce her and he refused; asked again on Tuesday, he mentioned “hate speech,” but not her. On Wednesday, a campaign robocall in which she mentioned his name made the rounds, after which Mr. Ford tweeted that he condemned “racism in all forms - be it from Faith Goldy or anyone else.”
Also on Monday, Ms. Goldy crashed the stage at a mayoral debate, and was led off by police. It made it clear who incumbent mayor John Tory was referring to when, in early September, he released a statement that he would “debate any candidate who does not have a history of spreading hate speech or bigotry.” Candidate Jennifer Keesmaat was more clear: Her campaign e-mailed me that she “would never accept a debate proposal that included Faith Goldy or any of the other white nationalists as participants.”
That’s all fine, but I don’t want Ms. Goldy’s overt extremism to allow other candidates to get away with avoiding the reality of racism in Toronto.
I do know that the slim, feminine and, yes, white, Ms. Goldy gets away with behaving aggressively in public space in a way that people who live in other types of bodies could never get away with.
Her videos show her loudly needling asylum seekers, anti-racism educators and average racialized Torontonians, forcing them to listen to her, speaking over them though she pretends to want conversation, refusing to leave them in peace.
Then, when their patience wears thin and they do respond rudely, her smile is triumphant. She has supposedly proven that they are lesser than her because their emotions are human, though their very humanity is what she attempts to deny.
I do know that she doesn’t really want to be mayor; she wants an audience. I don’t want to contribute to that, yet I am, because I do know that Ms. Goldy is not a lone actor: She brings “muscle” when she films her videos, as well as staff, and the money for all this is coming from somewhere.
On Wednesday, she tweeted a photo of herself hugging Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, “while on the campaign trail,” meaning the nice house she’s in – and the people pictured in it – are probably in Toronto.
It’s tempting to see her as an individual, unseemly gnat, but an idle swat is not going to send such a sizable swarm away. I don’t think Toronto can ignore what she represents any longer. I do wish I knew what to do next.
Editor’s note: (Sept 26, 2018) An earlier version of this column stated that John Tory put out a statement about debate participants on Sept 24. In fact, it was released on Sept 12.