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What is the Diagolon extremist group and what does it want?

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When Alberta RCMP released images of the weapons and tactical gear seized from a group that took part in the Coutts, Alta., border blockade, the pictures showed patches displaying a white diagonal line on a black background -- the calling card of the Diagolon far-right extremist group.

Four men associated with the Coutts blockade have been charged with allegedly plotting to kill RCMP police officers, but the Mounties have not yet publicly commented on any possible connections with the group.

Without naming any specific group, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino alluded to ties between protesters in Ottawa and the Coutts arrests while speaking to reporters Wednesday, saying “several of the individuals at Coutts have strong ties to a far-right extreme organization with leaders who are in Ottawa. We’re talking about a group that is organized, agile, knowledgeable and driven by an extremist ideology where might makes right.”

Mendicino appeared to double down on his remarks in Thursday’s House of Commons session, saying “there is an ideologically-motivated operation that we see in the rhetoric here that is meant to incite,” which was one of the major reasons the government chose to invoke the Emergencies Act, he said.

WHAT IS THE DIAGOLON?

Diagolon can be categorized as an “accelerationist” group, according to researchers who study extremism.

Director of the Centre for Bias, Hate and Extremism at Ontario Tech University Barbara Perry defined accelerationism as the “intent on accelerating or fomenting a civil war, overturning what they see as the current corrupt, illegitimate order.”

In an email to CTVNews.ca Thursday, Perry listed violent groups such as The Base, Atomwaffen, and the Boogalo Boys as examples of adherents to that principle.

“For some, this resonates with the traditional RAHOWA, or Racial Holy War. For others, it represents an all-out civil war that would delegitimize and destabilize the current regime,” Perry said in her email. “Many accelerationists celebrated the events of January 6, 2021 in Washington DC as the onset of this civil war (e.g., The Base), hence the calls…for the Freedom Convoy to be our January 6. Some of these groups/individuals are among the most aggressive and volatile elements of the far-right, and as we saw in Coutts, heavily armed.”

WHERE DID DIAGOLON COME FROM?

The Diagolon group is a loose network of people with neo-fascist, militant views which emerged from a group of live streamers called “The Plaid Army,” according to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN).

The Plaid Army has been accused of platforming and espousing rampant racism and anti-Semitic content in their streams, and had a couple of mainstays on their shows including Jeremy MacKenzie, who has been identified by CAHN as the de facto leader of Diagolon in Canada.

MacKenzie, who is a Canadian military veteran, previously made headlines for protesting in Halifax against a joint-speaking engagement of Romeo Dallaire and Omar Khadr about child soldiers, and more recently for his January arrest related to four weapons charges after a video was posted on social media which police allege showed MacKenzie pointing a gun at a man’s head.

MacKenzie has been seen on livestreams in Ottawa encouraging the blockades on his Telegram and YouTube channel where he goes by variations of the username “Raging Dissident.”

In one video posted by a user called "Raging Dissident III" which the CAHN says belongs to MacKenzie, the “Diagolon National Anthem,” which appears to be a self-shot video of a Korean War memorial in Halifax and footage of a Canadian flag, wheat fields and the Diagolon flag is set to a version of “Rolling Down to Old Maui” by Stan Rogers and sung by Mannerbund, according to the CAHN, a group they identify as a U.S.-based white supremacist men’s group.

The new lyrics reference that “by blood or sweat” the singers will reclaim their home, and if “there is no fire” to light their way they will start their own.

He is also the source of the concept of Diagolon, according to the CAHN, which started as an online joke referencing a fictional nation state of “sane” people who reject the current government and society, running diagonally across North America from Alaska to Florida.

WHAT ARE THE GROUP’S MOTIVATIONS?

In an email to CTVNews.ca Thursday, the CAHN said Diagolon is an excellent example of how irony poisoning can be used to warp an online joke into a movement.

Irony poisoning is a term used to describe the process of desensitization to extremist, hateful rhetoric by the use of “humour,” and especially on the internet -- memes -- that assist in sliding a person further into the spheres of fascism, white supremacy and violence.

The CAHN said in its email that Diagolon quickly attracted a network of like-minded anti-authority individuals, which they estimate are potentially now in the thousands, with members in Canada, the U.S. and Australia – judging from their Telegram channels.

“If you look at the Telegram channels and chats associated with these people, they all referred to Diagolon consistently,” deputy director of CAHN Elizabeth Simons said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca Thursday. “They call themselves Diagolonians or Diags or Dags. People outside of Diagolon are called Circulonians because the rest of the rest of North America is what they call Circulon.”

A perusal of Telegram channels of alleged Diagolon members or supporters shows support for the blockades in Ottawa, people posing with weapons and the sharing of violent images, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s head on a spike.

Simons pointed out that violence is a core element to Diagolon, citing MacKenzie’s motto repeated in his chats and streams -- “by gun or rope” -- describing how his enemies can choose to die.

The CAHN stated in its email that the perceived enemies of the group are the media, the mainstream government and politicians and those they perceive as communists.

When asked why Diagolon targets communism, Simons said the fear of “encroaching communism” is rife amongst conspiracy theorist movements as an insult against government policies, but in neo-fascist and militia movements it stands for something else.

“The fear of communism actually comes from Nazism and neo-Nazism where Communist is a placeholder for Jews,” she said. “In neo-Nazi circles…that's why you see anti-Communist symbols and imagery amongst neo-Nazis and racist skinheads and things like that. So this idea of being opposed to communism in place of being opposed to Jews because it's a bit more palatable, goes back a long time.”

For Diagolon, Simons said the term communist has morphed into “anyone that they don't like,” or is their opposition. However, Simons pointed out there is a “massive contingent” of Diagolon members who are anti-Semitic and racist who likely use the term as the historically-derived placeholder for Jewish people.

The major concern, Simons said, is that CAHN is witnessing the Diagolon network branch out and go offline.

“Those pictures of them about shooting together, the pictures of them training together, they get together and share knowledge, they're developing cells,” she said, adding that despite MacKenzie being their de facto leader, cells and Diagolon member networks are autonomous. “Jeremy [MacKenzie] doesn't tell them what to do or how to act…and so after what happened in Alberta, we are worried about other potential cells and networks that could lead to violence.” 

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