One day after a jury ordered him to pay nearly US$1-billion for falsely claiming the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones appeared on Louder With Crowder, an online broadcast popular with the far right.
The reason “we’ve had him on is because I hate seeing people being bullied,” host Steven Crowder said. He then gently extracted an exculpatory account from the man who once called the elementary-school shooting, which left 26 dead, “as phoney as a $3 bill.”
Partway through the conversation, Mr. Crowder asked Mr. Jones why he wasn’t on podcaster Joe Rogan’s show. The reason, Mr. Jones responded, is Mr. Rogan is “not as hardcore as Steven Crowder.”
It was an endorsement from one of the most voluble figures on the extreme American right.
But Mr. Crowder, who bills himself as host of the No. 1 conservative late-night comedy show, was raised in Canada and carries a Canadian passport.
So does Lauren Chen, whose YouTube channel has amassed more than 80 million views and who is among the headliners at Turning Point USA’s Americafest conference, alongside other icons of the far right, including Tucker Carlson, Steve Bannon, Mike Lindell and Sen. Josh Hawley.
Lauren Southern, the online broadcaster and muckraker The Atlantic called “the alt-right’s most famous woman,” is also Canadian. Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys, is Canadian, too, as is Jordan Peterson, the former University of Toronto professor who has become a darling of Donald Trump-supporting conservatives.
“Canadians are vastly overrepresented in the North American far right, unequivocally,” said Daniel Lombroso, who directed White Noise, a documentary about white nationalism.
“It’s sort of insane. It’s almost like one out of every four.”
In the U.S., voters are preparing for midterm elections on Nov. 8 – a critical vote that will govern the future legislative ability of the Joe Biden White House and measure the support Mr. Trump continues to attract through the candidates he backs.
Those casting ballots for candidates aligned with Mr. Trump form a critical audience for the far-right Canadians who have built followers and influence in the U.S., partly by rejecting the progressive politics in their own country.
“Americans look at us almost as an omen, a warning of what could happen to them,” Ms. Southern said in an interview.
In July, Mr. Peterson travelled to Washington to speak to the Republican Study Committee, a conservative caucus. “He gave us lots of advice on how to be more articulate and be more effective,” committee chairman Jim Banks, an Indiana congressman, told the publication The Hill after the meeting. More recently, Mr. Peterson spoke alongside far-right icon Ben Shapiro in Jerusalem, where the men were called “conservative superstars.”
Ms. Chen and Ms. Southern will together play host to live Nov. 8 election coverage on Odysee, a little-moderated alternative to YouTube. It will be “two Canadians hosting a bunch of American commentators,” Ms. Chen said. She and her fellow Canadians, she said, have had their passions kindled by life in this country. She and her family have struggled with Canadian health care, and she has chafed in the political environment.
“It seems like the conservatives that come out of Canada have been put through the fire,” Ms. Chen said.
Many on the American radical right, meanwhile, see “Canadian and other foreign extremists as a kind of validation of their world view,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Britain-based Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right who has spent years studying extremism in the U.S.
The modern wave of influential right-wing Canadians owes credit in large measure to Rebel News, the online media organization co-founded by Ezra Levant. “Rebel was the incubator for North American far-right talent,” said Mr. Lombroso, who spent years embedded with that movement.
Rebel built a voice for Jack Posobiec, Faith Goldy and Lauren Southern. All have been linked to white-supremacist views.
Ms. Southern particularly likes one internet meme that shows an image of eight far-right figures with Canadian roots, beneath a headline: “Conservative America, behold these are your masters.” Many are interlinked: Ms. Southern grew up watching Mr. Crowder, a dual citizen who has played host to her on his show as well as Mr. Peterson, Mr. McInnes and Stefan Molyneux.
Mr. Molyneux is another far-right Canadian who, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “amplifies ‘scientific racism,’ eugenics and white supremacism.” Channels belonging to Mr. Molyneux and Mr. McInnes were dropped from YouTube in 2020.
Among the key subjects of Mr. Lombroso’s documentary was Ms. Southern, whose youth and production skill made her a potent figure, he said. Many of the white-nationalist killers in recent years have cited ideological themes that people such as Ms. Southern have helped to bring mainstream, he said. “She makes them palatable and accessible and fun and exciting and clickable.”
Ms. Southern, who returned to British Columbia in 2021 after living for several years in Australia, has cast her mission as global. “From the start I believed this was a civilizational battle for the heart of the West,” she said in a recent video. But she cites Canada as the inspiration for her views, describing high-school instruction in social justice that, she concluded, improperly labelled all white people as privileged and all people of colour as oppressed, even those with wealth.
Her YouTube channel has accumulated more than 60 million views. Americans make up 38.6 per cent of her audience, Canadians just 10 per cent.
Conservative Canadians have a long history of influence in the United States. Hamilton-born William J. Cameron was the editor of The Dearborn Independent, which “was the leading mouthpiece for anti-Semitism in America in the twenties,” said Michael Barkun an emeritus scholar of political science at Syracuse University who has written several books on the history of religious-right movements in North America.
For modern Canadian conservatives, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also been a gift, his leadership an emblem of politics they hate.
Such a view can find receptive ears in the U.S., particularly among those who support Mr. Trump, who is to some followers “sort of the Christ – and to his Christ, Trudeau is the anti-Christ, because he is so far to the left,” said Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at the Ontario Institute of Technology.
But Canada has also itself become a haven for such views. Canadians have been among the most prolific contributors to online forums for right-wing extremism. Researchers have counted roughly 300 active right-wing extremist groups in Canada, compared with about 1,000 in the U.S., where the population is nearly 10 times larger. “We’re disproportionately active,” Prof. Perry said.
“It’s a rejection of what the country has become, in some respects.”