Tag Archives: masculinity

Miner, Author, Singer, Lone-Actor Terrorist: The Lives and Death of Paul Joseph Chartier

Written by guest blogger Steve Hewitt

Paul Joseph Chartier led a colourful life as a miner, hotelier, private detective, author, and singer in pursuit of a recording career. He ended his life as a lone-actor terrorist. On 18 May 1966, Chartier expelled his last breath on a marble washroom floor outside of the House of Common’s in Ottawa after an explosive device packed with shrapnel he had constructed exploded prematurely before he could toss it into a chamber packed with politicians.

The how and why of Chartier’s ending is what led me to research and write my article that appeared in volume 100, number 1 of the Canadian Historical Review. Although the incident occurred more than a half century ago, it is more pertinent than ever given an increase in acts of extreme violence carried out by men acting on their own as part of a phenomenon known as lone-actor terrorism. The House of Commons’ was the site of one such incident in October 2014 when a gunman, proclaiming allegiance to Islamic State, killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a soldier on ceremonial duty at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. He then managed to enter the Centre Block on Parliament Hill with his rifle before he was shot and killed. The reaction struck me as ahistorical, something I wrote about at the time, with media coverage suggesting that Canada had encountered serious terrorism for the first time. Missing, of course, were famous events the Air India bombing of 1985 in which over 300 people, including 268 Canadians, were killed, and the October Crisis that involved the kidnapping and murder of Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte. Less surprisingly absent from Canadian historical memory was Paul Joseph Chartier.

Chartier had a failed life and, fittingly, his failure extended into his effort to be a terrorist. In that sense, his story and trajectory resembles many of those who have received media attention in the present as a result of acts of extreme and deadly violence. There is a tendency in media, political, and event academic discourses to portray lone-actor terrorism as a modern phenomenon. This is inaccurate to say the least. Indeed, there is an opportunity for historians unburdened by the restrictions governing primary source material for more recent lone-actor terrorism to provide considerable insight into terrorism in general. The 1300-page police file at the heart of my research about Chartier was released almost with only a handful of redactions. Terrorism studies scholar Marc Sageman has pointed to history specifically as a discipline where innovative work is being done in a field dominated by social scientists.

Another key aspect and one that my future research will examine is the place of masculinity within lone-actor terrorism. As with mass shooters, lone-actor terrorism is almost exclusively carried out by men. In Canada, between 1868 and 2018, I have identified 19 lone-actor terrorist attacks, 18 of which were carried out by men of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and religious beliefs. The common thread across the attacks is the male identity of the perpetrators. And yet, gender is largely ignored in the various discourses around terrorism unless women are involved. This must change because, as demonstrated in recent attacks in Christchurch and San Diego, men carrying out acts of lone-actor terrorism shows no signs of abating.

Photo of Steve Hewitt

Steve Hewitt is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History and the American and Canadian Studies Research Centre at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. He has written a number of articles and books related to security and intelligence in the past and present, and in a Canadian, British, and American context, including Spying 101: The RCMP’s Secret Activities at Canadian Universities, 1917-1997 (University of Toronto Press, 2002), The British War on Terror (Continuum, 2008) and, co-authored with Christabelle Sethna, Just Watch Us: RCMP Surveillance of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Cold War Canada (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2018). Currently, he is working on two related projects: a history of lone-actor terrorism in Canada and a history of terrorism and counter-terrorism in Canada. In particular, he is interested in the intersection of masculinities and extreme violence, particularly among lone-actor terrorists He also has had a lengthy involvement in Canadian studies in the United Kingdom, including as president of the British Association for Canadian Studies from 2011 to 2014. He tweets regularly at @stevehewittuk and on the history of terrorism at @TerrorisingHis1

His latest article in the Canadian Historical Review, ‘Happy-Go-Lucky Fellow’: Lone-Actor Terrorism, Masculinity, and the 1966 Bombing on Parliament Hill in Ottawa,” is free to read for a limited time here.

 

How to be a Man: If Beale Street Could Talk brings a new generation to James Baldwin

“We were all men, all fragile and broken in some way, in need of love and grace and the salve of a mother or father or estranged lover. We were all Baldwin’s children. The fact of this lineage and the generosity of our father confirmed that we, his readers, were worthy of love.”

—Barry Jenkins, Esquire, December 2018

Barry Jenkins, director of 2016’s Academy Award-winning Moonlight, admits a feeling of kinship with James Baldwin’s readers, but also his characters: the exuberant Giovanni, the tortured David. Baldwin, the father, offers an emotional tutelage, guides boys into manhood, so that they too can offer a path forward for a new generation. And so: Jenkins’ new film, based on Baldwin’s novel, If Beale Street Could Talk.

Fittingly, Jenkins’ talk of fragile men and Baldwin-the-Father is written for Esquire, a magazine with a long relationship to Baldwin. It was in Esquire that Baldwin published some of his most famous essays, such as “The Black Boy Looks at the White Boy” and “Fifth Avenue, Uptown.” While tackling what was then called “the Negro Problem,” the always shrewd Baldwin tied his writing on race to issues of masculinity, seeking a common understanding with the presumably white, middle- or upper-class readers of a magazine subtitle “The Magazine for Men.” So it is that in “Black Boy,” Baldwin writes:

I think that I know something about American masculinity which most men of my generation do not know because they have not been menaced by it in the way that I have been. It is still true, alas, that to be an American Negro male is also to be a kind of walking phallic symbol: which means that one pays, in one’s own personality, for the sexual insecurity of others. The relationship, therefore, of a black boy to a white boy is a very complex thing.

The lengthiest and most compelling of Baldwin’s Esquire pieces is a 1968 interview, published shortly after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., in which Baldwin addresses social unrest, Stokely Carmichael, and the ideas of whiteness and Blackness. Central to the interview is Baldwin’s appeal that white men acknowledge and confront their history.

Esquire may give Baldwin space to make his appeal, but the magazine does much to undermine it. For example, the cover of the magazine reads “James Baldwin tells us how to cool it this summer.” The image is of seven stylishly dressed, cool Black men lounging on ice blocks. “Cool it” is immediately associated with its demotic or vernacular use—perhaps Baldwin is going to tell readers about his favourite nightclubs or albums. Within the magazine, however, the interviewer uses some version of the phrase “cool it” six times. In the context of the interview, “cooling it” refers to relaxing racial tensions; the cover, and the rest of the magazine, diminishes the seriousness of this situation. One need only flip a few pages to discover a feature offering “Advice for Summer Drinkers: Cool It!” Here, the idea of “cooling it” is not about riots, but a suggestion for how to prepare drinks. Altogether, this single issue offers Baldwin’s compelling critique of masculinity and whiteness to the exact audience who needs to hear it … and then seemingly takes steps to dismantle that critique. The magazine offers contemporary readers a glimpse into the push-and-pull of the cultural politics of race, class, and manhood.

And now, 50 years later, Esquire offers up space to Jenkins to promote his own film, based on Baldwin’s work, and to discuss the author’s influence on his own life and career. In so doing, Jenkins is able to reach out to a similar audience (not identical, but similar enough) to the one Baldwin addressed decades ago, and offer them his own take on the intersection of race and masculinity, his own take on how to be a man.

 

 

Brad Congdon received his PhD from Dalhousie University, where he is an Instructor in Gender & Women’s Studies and English. He is the author of Leading with the Chin: Writing American Masculinities in Esquire, 1960-1989.

 

 

Canadian Journal of Women and the Law Author Denise Brunsdon Explains Choice of Gun Control for Book Review

blogWritten by guest blogger, Denise Brunsdon

I have been a spokesperson for the Canadian Coalition for Gun Control for many years now. Though working with the organization is immensely satisfying, there are days when it seems like the Harper Government is dismantling every aspect of gun control progress ever made.

But historians have a way of putting the contemporary cut and thrust of partisan politics in perspective. Legal history in particular reminds of the overall reduction in judicial and statutory sexism and racism. And this is why R. Blake Brown’s Arming and Disarming: A History of Gun Control In Canada is a calming and insightful read. It’s the kind of book that everyone in Canadian politics should read. I wrote the review in the hopes that it might encourage just a few more to learn about Canadian gun control from this wide lens.

Also, it was a dream of mine to publish with the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, even before I even went to law school. The CJWL is one of the country’s most prestigious law journals. To open up a copy and see my book review alongside book reviews by Canadian law giants Rosemary Cairns Way and Mary Jane Mossman is proof positive of the journal’s continued relevance and influence.

The material is as relevant as the authors. From gender in judicial appointments to Indigenous women’s self-determination to the masculinity of workplace grievances, the most recent CJWL issue faces today’s top legal topics.

Congratulations to my fellow authors and the Editorial Board on a courageous issue.

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