Popular local Facebook group saturated with right-wing conspiracies enables resentful anti-student rhetoric
Tantramar Community Concerns (TCC), a local Facebook group with over 4600 members, is a frequently visited forum where members can discuss town issues. As a public group, anyone is welcome to join, including students and town locals alike.
At first glance, the forum seems harmless, with many posts about people looking for housing or promoting weekend outings in the town—a space to build and reinforce community. However, in the midst of all the positives, you may encounter a strange post about globalist elites plotting world domination through pedestrian-focused city planning. This must have been a slip-up by the moderators, as there are bound to be a few radical apples that slip through the cracks.
Then you begin to notice more angry right-wing posts, which frequently align with common far-right conspiracies. It appears this is not a mere slip-up, but right-wing, fringe content is regularly approved to be shared. How could the moderators let this happen? This is supposed to be a forum where I assure fellow residents that Mr. Mittens made it home safe and sound!
This is not to mention frequent posts where the comment sections serve as echo chambers that collectively resent students’ existence and even wish harm upon them. There seems to be no moderation in those cases. One post last month complained about students allegedly running on the roads one weekend night and causing a disturbance. With the tidal wave of hateful responses in the comment section, some commenters hoped that “students would play chicken with them,” insinuating they would find satisfaction from hitting a student with their car. Another commenter alluded to the incident last term where a Mt. A student was hit by a car and said that students would cause “more trauma” to the locals who hit them with their vehicles.
But moderation does come into play when someone tries to respond to these hateful and misinformed posts and comments. I tried to post an article that disproved the right-wing conspiracy theory of “15-minute cities,” and my post was never approved. In fact, I can no longer access the page or search for it on the website. It appears that I have been banned and blocked entirely from TCC!
Posters who express blatant discriminatory and hateful views are exempt from the same censoring I was subjected to. One particular gentleman went on a tirade against transgender individuals and ranted about the so-called “war on masculinity.” Commenters who saw this terrible display of hate quickly replied to criticize and denounce his comments and tried to engage in friendlier discussions. Who do you guess was entirely BANNED from the page because of their comments?
So, who runs the show around here? Before meeting my fate at the end of the banhammer, I saw that the moderators and admins of TCC are Bonnie Swift and Micheal Landry. Swift, as you may know, tried to run for mayor in the recent municipal election, during which a slew of her tweets calling for New Brunswick secession and endorsing Pierre Poilievre’s residential school denialism were exposed.
The other free speech protector has several alt-accounts, which are also given admin and moderator privileges. His main account is linked to several self-proclaimed far-right “reactionary” Facebook groups with thousands of members. Each page is for a specific region in New Brunswick (Moncton Reactionaries, Sackville Reactionaries, Bathurst Reactionaries, etc.). With a bit of prowling into their public profiles, it becomes clear why TCC is becoming ever more polluted with misinformation, right-wing rants, and anti-student rhetoric. The people who run it encourage bad-faith information and share it themselves. We don’t need to review how this online environment can lead to hateful madness. What should be addressed is how counterproductive pages like this are to community relations. The resentful dialogue targeted toward young students should not be overlooked. Many students are active on that page to feel a sense of community and connection with the town they live in, to receive critical information and learn about community events, but when they log on to see an 80+ comment thread where strangers are ranting about their very existence, it leaves a less than positive impression.
What is truly tragic is that the majority participants in this group signed up for information on community relations and bottle drives, not unhinged, bigoted commentary. It’s like tuning into K945 on the radio and being blasted with Alex Jones when I just wanted to listen to Ed Sheeran. I encourage those who are in the group to pressure the moderation team to at least TRY and restrict the most hateful content. Maybe a “no politics” policy could be reasonable but being moderate will most likely get you banned.