By Yasmine Ghania and Tim Kitz

What do the premier of Ontario and a neo-Nazi podcaster have in common? A lot.

Doug Ford was elected premier of Ontario on June 29, on the strength of a populist right-wing campaign. Fourteen days earlier, a Vice article exposed an Ottawa man, Clayton Sanford, as the host of “ This Hour Has 88 Minutes,” Canada’s premiere neo-Nazi podcast.

(88 is a common Neo-Nazi code for “HH” or “Heil Hitler,” since the letter “H” is the eighth letter in the alphabet.)

While Ford might not be a neo-Nazi, he’s on a continuum of right-wing populism, peddling a scapegoating politics of fear and hatred. And misogyny seems to be glue that ties these far-right figures together, one electable and the other extreme.

Gender discrimination is common in this day and age. We need to pay close attention to this critical issue in this sensitive political climate and attend to it before it’s too late.

“I think misogyny is a gateway drug to hatred,” Nora Loreto told the Montreal Gazette. “Because for straight men who might have a hard time dating, it’s very personal.   … It’s one thing to hate a group of people who you’ve never met and that kind of hatred is a huge problem. But everyone has contacts with women.”

Loreto is a freelance journalist whose tweets went viral after she criticized the coverage of the Québec city mosque shooting by Canadian alt-right stalwart Rebel Media. She received threatening phone calls, thousands of hateful tweets and even photos of corpses. She noted that most of the messages criticize her as a woman rather than as a writer, and  indicates that for these types of men, misogyny leads them to politics of fear and exclusion.

As traced through his online presence, Sanford seems to have followed exactly this path, his growing detestation of women metastasizing over time into racial hatred.

Ford and Sanford, they’re similar… and not just in name.

First active online in the early 2000s through forums for cosplay and the video game  “The Legend of Zelda,” Sanford’s more personal posts touched on anxieties about dating and high school.

Gradually Sanford’s posts turned poisonous. In 2008 he wrote on the game website, “hit women and they can’t kick you because they’re actually in shock. Or slap them backhand like a real man.”

After bashing on women for several years, he became more strident with his views and branched out, expressing his thoughts on racial topics.

On the same website in 2012, he wrote “guns don’t kill people, minorities do.” By the time Trump was running for election, he emerged on the American alt-right hub “The Right Stuff” as a fully-formed supremacist, dispensing advice on how to make “normie-friendly” youtube videos on Hitler and referring to Indigenous people as “red n—–s.”.

In September 2016, Sanford started “This Hour has 88 minutes,” which became one of the most popular and longstanding Neo-Nazi podcasts on the Internet, reliably spewing hate speech and entertaining segments like a Nazi Germany themed parody of Stan Rogers’  “Barrett’s Privateers.” Sanford’s podcast allowed hundreds of alt-right people worldwide to spread hate, all in one convenient place.

While Sanford was busy pushing the frontiers of acceptable thought and speech with explicitly hateful, misogynist and racists statements, Ford was pulling a Trump and pushing the boundaries of what you could say and get elected.

While running for the PC leadership, Ford said “I live with five women at home. I can handle Caroline Mulroney and Christine Elliott.” It was as if their gender was the most relevant aspect of their campaign.

He publically remarked Kathleen Wynne’s smile, commenting on it twice as a tactic to minimize her authority, as if it would put her in her place.

What does her smile have to do with her policies?

Ford also supports members of his caucus who disrespect and blatantly degrade women. He appointed Andrew Lawton in the London West riding and stood by him even after Lawton made public statements like “I was called a misogynist twice today. I’m sure my girlfriend would be the first to say that isn’t the case, when I let her speak.”

Ford’s sexism has trickled into his politics and policies. By an order from the PC party, schools are now required to teach the same sex-ed curriculum that they taught in the 1990s. During the leadership race, Ford said he would let members of his caucus open up the topic of abortion. Ford seems to be determined to minimize women’s choice and agency.

Now the drug of exclusion is making its way to other topics. Ford has made it clear that Ontario wants to wash its hands of asylum seekers entering the province. He stated that we should “take care of our own,” indicating he begrudges immigrants. Even after facing criticism for this statement, he repeatedly refused to explain his comment.

Because his misogyny and racism is subtler than Sanford’s and (probably) unconscious, Ford can tap into all the unspoken, semi-subtle racism and sexism in our society – the racism and sexism that is in denial about its own existence.

Meanwhile, Ford (or Trump, etc.) is so brash and belligerent about his own utterly unreflexive views that it’s like a dog whistle calling all the explicit male and white supremacists. “He’s our guy! Here’s someone we can get excited about, root for, mobilize for.”

That was exactly what white supremacists and alt-right figures did.

Why else would far-right figures encourage people to vote for Ford and actively support his campaign?

On the podcast “This Hour has 88 Minutes,” Sanford’s co-hosts encouraged listeners to buy PC memberships in order to vote for Ford.

The alt-right men’s organization called “The Proud Boys” urged their supporters to go to Ford campaign rallies.

The Proud Boys are proud to call themselves “neo-masculine reactionaries” and “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world,” according to two of their most common catchphrases.

Their co-founder Gavin McInnes was recently in the news for calling women he disagreed with “colostomy bags for various strangers’ semen.

Ford was also endorsed by Rebel Media personalities, the white supremacist podcast “League of the North” and leading neo-Nazi “Zeiger” (now exposed as Montrealer Gabriel Sohier Chaput).

Far-right organizations are confident in their ability to expand their ranks in this political climate. For these reasons, when Ford won the elections, it was a win for white supremacists as well.

Both the differences and similarities between Sanford and Ford help explain how dangerous they are, and how their more-or-less blatant sexism and racism works together in tandem.

Gender discrimination is common in this day and age. We need to pay close attention to this critical issue in this sensitive political climate and attend to it before it’s too late.

It needs to stop this grotesque misogynistic gateway drug that’s been creeping its way around, causing hate and destruction.

A countering step in the right direction is the creation of NowWhat?! Ottawa, a non-partisan collection of organizations whose goal is to showcase gender-based issues and inequalities in provincial and municipal elections (see p. 5 for details). NowWhat?! Ottawa will be hosting a debate in Ottawa on gender-based municipal issues where mayoral candidates are invited to debate municipal policy issues that contribute to gender-based violence. These debates help to bring questions of gender to the forefront in public policy and make us aware of the very personal, often overlooked views of our leaders.

It’s just as important to challenge everyday misogyny and women-hating rhetoric, wherever we encounter it, knowing that we’re blocking one common pathway to fascism and white supremacy.