Tuesday, March 3, 2015

ASU gives Nazis what they want: The "Problem of Whiteness" debacle reaches new low

Do white supremacists call the shots at ASU these days? The Neo-Nazi National Youth Front (NYF) showed up at ASU on Tuesday (along with National Socialist Movement member Harry Hughes, the former comrade of JT Ready) to thank the university for silencing professors associated with the "The Problem of Whiteness" class and demanding their termination. And according to information provided to us, it looks like ASU is giving them exactly what they want.

Although they were straining the definition of "youth" to the point of pure absurdity, the NYF's small cadre of mostly middle-aged worn out white nationalist protesters held signs with one saying "Thank you ASU", while a crowd of about fifty surrounded them, mocked them and challenged them. They invoked "free speech" in their own defense while advocating censorship of classes they didn't like.

And they shouted their support for former ASU police officer Stewart Ferrin. Ferrin, you will recall, is the white officer who resigned last month after much hemming and hawing from the university, in the fallout from the violent arrest of a black ASU professor, Dr. Ersula Ore, for jaywalking on a blocked off street at night. Things got heated at one point during the demonstration as protesters and counter-protesters faced off, but the NYF, surrounded and outnumbered, didn't seem interested in following through with their threats against "the militant Left" which appeared online.

NYF and NSM at ASU. That's Harry Hughes with the camera.

Yup, that Harry Hughes.

A little background. The "outrage" of Professor Lee Bebout's The Problem of Whiteness course was originally instigated by a right wing ASU student correspondent to a Fox News show.  The controversy over "The Problems of Whiteness" class took an even harder right turn when the NYF posted anti-Muslim posters on campus and handed out fliers on campus specifically targeting Bebout denouncing him as "anti-white."

The NYF won't claim credit for it, but someone distributed the fliers targeting Bebout in his neighborhood, an action clearly meant to intimidate him. Because "free speech", right? Posts about the class on Stormfront, the infamous white supremacist website tied to scores of murders, encouraged racist militants to email the university, and naturally threats of violence came with it.

Emboldened by ASU's silence on the issue, the boneheads today also demanded the termination of ASU grad student Robert Poe, who teaches at the Tempe campus, and who two weeks ago led a workshop on the same topic.

Poe's flyer clearly says "informal and unsanctioned"

Poe's teach-in was specifically labeled "informal and unsanctioned." NYF member "John Hess" attended the teach-in with a video camera and recorded it. Hess then cherry picked a moment where Poe, responding to a question from Hess, said that he supported violence "against racists who choose to politically mobilize" and posted it online in the hopes that ASU would take the bait. A moral trip about violence from a Neo-Nazi, now that's rich. And ASU apparently fell for it.

It isn't hard to find examples of the use of political violence against racists in history, or even locally. Why Poe's statement would be controversial on a campus that has poli-sci departments overflowing with advocates for war, history departments that debate the use of violence, and that maintains such a cozy relationship with the most violent organization on Earth, the US Military, is a little baffling. If advocating violence against politically active racists is forbidden at ASU, then a whole generation of WWII vets should probably stay off campus -- and maybe stop sending their grandchildren and their money there, since it's obviously not welcome.

A 2009 anti-Nazi riot in Phoenix that you're not allowed to talk about at ASU

Of course, the university regularly grants free speech rights to all manner of right wing nuts who advocate violence. On the day before Poe's teach-in, for example, there was an anti-gay protester who called publicly for the government to kill homosexuals. And of course there's the "you deserve rape" guy (watch a video where he advocates death for "whores" below). And anti-abortion protesters, who belong to a movement that has been killing doctors for decades, regularly set up shop in front of the Memorial Union. Apparently this is protected speech at ASU, but referencing historical violent resistance to Nazis and the Klan is not.

According to information provided to Down and Drought, as threats poured in, the university told both professors to be quiet, likely hoping to hunker down and avoid controversy at a time when they were negotiating looming budget cuts with a Fox News adoring far right governor and legislature who might be agitated by the idea that such ideas are being taught on campus.

Our sources tell us that the university administration told both Poe and Bebout to stay quiet. Bebout was reminded that he is up for tenure and Poe was essentially issued a delayed termination, with the university removing his name from the class, forcing him to get class materials approved weekly, and forbidding him from teaching next semester. This looks a lot like ASU hoped to shift his official firing into the future, when there would be less eyes on it.

Where's Rob Poe's name?

We received a screen shot of the class that Poe is teaching this semester and his name has been removed from it. In his place is the name of the head of his department school, the School of Social Transformation (SST).  Is the head of department  SST now teaching Poe's class? Meanwhile, a search for Poe's name on the faculty website turns up no results. Where did he go? What happened to him? Did ASU throw him under the bus?

It appears that ASU has caved in to Neo-Nazi demands. Which, in essence, means that Neo-Nazis basically are making hiring and firing decisions at ASU, and have imposed some measure of veto power over curriculum. At today's protest, various members of the NYF ranted about eugenics, about biological differences between races and about their deep hatred for Jews. Will the biology department be the next target? You have to wonder where it will stop now.

According to the website "Problem of Whiteness 101", which catalogs the various racist posts, comments and Facebook "likes" of members of the NYF, local leader John Hess is interested in a lot of things that ought to really disturb the university, if they are indeed planning on continuing to cede curricular and staffing decisions to them. These things include the books Mein Kampf and the Bell Curve, and racist bands like Skrewdriver. The NYF likes to pretend that they are just "white activists," whatever that means, but their associations with Hughes and Hess's affinity for Nazi literature and white supremacist music tell a different story.

A recent State Press article detailed concerns among the ASU and Tempe Muslim community about a rise in anti-Islamic sentiment and vandalism following the Chapel Hill shootings. ASU giving in to Neo-Nazis certainly won't help on that front. At the protest today, one prospective student waiting for his tour of campus was overheard describing second thoughts about attending after seeing the NYF protest.

Previously the NYF has organized anonymously and avoided appearing in public. But now, thanks to ASU's surrender, they have taken their first step into the open. Just as they were encouraged by ASU's cowardice in the case of Dr. Ore, they are likewise now bolstered by the university's handling of the "Whiteness" class and subsequent fallout.

We reached out to ASU repeatedly via twitter and got no response, which is not surprising since silence seems to be their strategy. You have to wonder, though, where silence and capitulation to Neo-Nazis will get us in the long run.

The article incorrectly identified the person listed as teaching Poe's class (Dr. Brayboy) as the head of his department. Brayboy is the head of Poe's school, the School of Social Transformation.