Democracy is a flower that blooms in the light; fascism, on the other hand, is a fungus that spreads in the dark.
Following the white nationalist rally and subsequent terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, a Twitter campaign was launched to shed light on the faces of those who participated in last weekend’s fascist demonstration. The effort is led by the Twitter account @YesYoureRacist, asking denizens of the Twitterverse to out the fascists shown in photos and videos from the “Unite the Right” rally.
Cole White (his actual name) was fired from his job at a hot dog joint in Berkeley, California after a photo of him participating in the torch-lit march last Friday night was passed around the internet along with his name and place of employment.
Mojo Burrito (again, you can’t make this up) in Chattanooga, Tennessee fired 28-year-old Terrance Hightower on Monday after a co-worker outed him for attending the rally in Charlottesville.
Twenty-eight-year-old Ryan Roy, who sings in the band Hate Speech and even showed up in Charlottesville carrying his baby, was promptly fired from an Uno Pizzeria & Grill in Burlington, Vermont.
@YesYoureRacist This is Ryan Michael Roy of Burlington, VT. He works at Uno's and brought his baby cuz you're never to young to be a nazi. pic.twitter.com/yjaB3goN1N
— melooh (@meloo) August 15, 2017
In one of the most widespread photos from the fascist march to the Jefferson statue on the campus of the University of Virginia, Peter Cvjetanovic is seen standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other white nationalists, holding a tiki torch and wearing a white polo shirt bearing the triangle symbol of Identity Evropa, a small white nationalist group founded last year. People on social media came forward and identified the 20-year-old as a student employee at the University of Nevada-Reno, and a petition was started to have him fired and expelled from the school. The petition had garnered more than 32,000 signatures as of Wednesday evening, though the university’s president, Marc Johnson, still stands by his decision not to severe ties with Cvjetanovic.
As the Las Vegas Journal-Review reports:
Kevin Page, chairman of the state Board of Regents, also said Cvjetanovic’s status at UNR would not be affected no matter how many people sign the petition.
‘UNR police looked at it — he wasn’t arrested, he didn’t break any laws,’ Page said. ‘We don’t have any right to terminate him. Expression of free speech is protected in the country. We don’t like what he said, but that’s what makes this country so great — people can have the right to say what they want.’ …
Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said terminating Cvjetanovic would be applicable only if his actions would undermine his job duties.
‘If you were hired to be in charge of the anti-discrimination office, and you hate people of any particular group and don’t plan on helping them, then that’s different because it’s tied to their job,’ Cohn said. ‘It would not be true of students working in the cafeteria or the library.’ …
‘The Constitution does not allow a public university to crack down on unpopular views,’ Cohn said, adding that it’s refreshing to see UNR is not bending to political pressure.
What’s much less “refreshing” is the University of Nevada-Reno’s unwillingness to bend to ethical pressure, at least in this case. I find it odd that a student could be expelled from nearly every university in the country, including UNR, for getting drunk at a party on campus, but would be well within his or her rights as a student-citizen to participate in a violent assembly preaching racial hatred and exclusion, so long as it’s done on some other campus.
UNR’s non-discrimination policy — which “applies to all University of Nevada, Reno students, faculty staff and other members of the campus community” — strictly disapproves of “discriminatory acts,” including “discrimination on the basis of a person’s age, disability (including service-connected disabilities), gender (including pregnancy related conditions), military status or military obligations, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, genetic information, national origin, race, or religion.”
“This behavior,” the policy states, “is unacceptable in the work place and the academic environment,” including presumably any and all academic environments — such as the University of Virginia. “Even one incident, if it is sufficiently serious, may constitute discrimination.” It seems UNR doesn’t believe participating in a fascist demonstration in which peaceful counter-protesters are intimidated and beaten to chants of “Jews will not replace us!” and “Fuck you, faggots!” qualifies as “sufficiently serious.”
Rightly so, UNR’s non-discrimination policy talks extensively of the forms of sexual harassment (including “remarks of a sexual nature about a person’s clothing or body”) which create a “hostile environment” for students and employees, defined as an “environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile or abusive.” Yet next to nothing is said about racial or ethnic harassment. Say whatever you want about a woman’s skin color, the school practically says, but make a comment about the way her butt looks in her jeans and you’re out! I’m not sure how others would feel, but I can say with all honesty (and only a little shame) that having to share a classroom or workspace with Cvjetanovic or any other person who participates in fascist rallies would feel a little more than “intimidating.”
You’re unlikely to find a more ardent defender of free speech than me, especially free speech on college campuses, which are supposed to be bastions of intellectual inquiry and debate. But I am not for debates on college campuses over the expulsion, deportation or potential extermination of any group of students — or citizens — based even in part on the color of their skin or their ethnic background. We can debate ideas, sure, but not a people’s basic right to exist.
Fascism stands directly opposed to the very principles of a liberal education, which the Association of American Colleges & Universities defines as “an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change,” while also “help[ing] students develop a sense of social responsibility” [emphasis mine]. Fascism positions itself in stark contrast to the principles of a free and open society — like the one the United States has been struggling to bring into being for the past 241 years — and so the American people mustn’t reserve any place for fascism within their borders. Or any borders.
“The real safeguard of democracy,” FDR once said, “is education,” and by “education” I assume he meant a liberal education; he couldn’t have meant any other kind of education, in fact. So if fascism hopes to kill the spirit of a liberal education, and thus kill democracy itself, the University of Nevada-Reno and every other college or university at least pretending to provide a liberal education must expel or deny entry to Cvjetanovic and anyone else who stands with fascism.
As for the rest of the country, no one subscribing to fascism in any form should be granted employment, social benefits, a business or car loan, a mortgage or lease, a visa or citizenship — much less hold public office. They are not only un-American but anti-American, and must therefore be treated as persona non grata in every community and in every building. Anyone waving the Confederate (Rebel) flag or giving the Nazi salute, and anyone who participates in a rally with such displays, is by definition a traitor.
In our calls for tolerance, we must not make the grave mistake of tolerating intolerance.
Featured image: Peter Cvjetanovic, on the right, participating in a fascist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia (Getty)