Fascists on Campus, Then and Now

By | November 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

 Nazis Vienna

Austria, 1930s

The media are filled with reports of demonstrations at the University of Missouri, as well as sympathy demonstrations at universities across America. Typical headlines read:

Dartmouth University demonstrators assault students in library.

University of Missouri president and provost forced to resign and apologize.

Professor threatens student photojournalist for doing his job.

Football coach must apologize in front of students.

Student president apologizes for false rumor about KKK on campus.

Professor resigns for encouraging students to take exam despite threats.

Professor resigns for sending e-mail about “bullies.”

University police encourage students to report “hurtful speech.”

Elsewhere, a student activist declared that the First Amendment creates “a hostile and unsafe learning environment.” No, free expression is essential for learning, but it is hostile to indoctrination. Do parents know they are paying $60,000 a year to have their children indoctrinated in anti-American, anti-democratic, anti-Judeo-Christian dogmas?
If you want reasoned comment on these events, read what David Horowitz, Alan Dershowitz, Mark Hemingway, and Jack Kerwick have to say. The only addition I would make is that for white supremacists, the swastika is a sacred symbol. For them, to paint it in feces would be unthinkable. People use excreta to depict what they despise, not what they respect.
Remember Andrès Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” a photo of an actual crucifix immersed in a jar of urine? Remember Chris Ofili’s Virgin Mary smeared with dung? Do you believe these “artists” were expressing deeply religious feelings, or that they were making statements quite to the contrary? The swastika in feces probably was painted by someone who hated Nazis, or was merely trying to make trouble by simulating racism, but not by an actual white supremacist. Why didn’t this raise suspicions?
Rather than comment further on current campus shenanigans, let me offer something different. Let me tell you a story told to me by my mother.
In 1933-1934, my parents were recently married and were able to spend time in Vienna for postgraduate study. At the time, Vienna was a world-renowned center of medical research. My father, a physician, studied at the General Hospital, while my mother took classes at the University of Vienna.
Regrettably, Nazism was on the rise in Austria as well as Germany. Medical facilities were still relatively immune, so my father’s studies were uninterrupted. But universities were hotbeds of Nazism and other political extremes. The academic environment was no guarantee against totalitarian ideology. On the contrary, universities can serve as efficient incubators of totalitarian ideology. It is well that we remember this fact.
At first, my mother was able to continue her studies, although with growing concern. One of her memories of those days was sitting in a class with a Nazi on one side, wearing a swastika armband, and a social democrat on the other side, wearing a three-arrows armband. The two glared angrily at each other throughout the class, leaving my mother in the crossfire. Despite her studious nature, she was unable to concentrate on what the lecturer was saying.
Eventually campus demonstrations forced the library to close, making it impossible for my mother and other students to complete their course work. You think the same thing can’t happen here? Watch this video of demonstrators assaulting students in the Dartmouth library.
But worse was to come. One day my mother shouldered her way through a crowd of demonstrators – which was no mean accomplishment, considering her four-foot, eleven-inch height. But the crowd wasn’t demonstrating at the moment. People were watching a young Jewish student being kicked down the stairs by two men with Nazi armbands. The crowd watched in either apathy or approval – my mother couldn’t tell which, but as a practical matter it made no difference.

Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.
− John F. Kennedy

The young Jewish student tried to crawl to the university gates. Austrian police – on foot, in cars, and mounted on horses – were arrayed outside the gates. But because of an ancient law, they were forbidden to enter the campus. My mother was unclear whether the young student reached safety before being kicked to death, because she got out of there as quickly as possible. Like my father, she wore an American-flag pin in her lapel, which usually assured that she would be exempt from local political strife. But if the crowd discovered she was Jewish, things might rapidly turn ugly.
This painful memory stayed with her all her life. When campus demonstrations broke out in America, and student agitators shouted “Pigs off the campus,” my mother was sure to remind me of what could happen when police really were removed from the campus. And I never forgot her hard-earned lesson:

Crowds can turn ugly.

Crowds motivated by ideas of perceived victimhood can turn really ugly.

Crowds obsessed with notions of race, class, and gender can turn terribly ugly.

Crowds composed of young people devoid of self-control, but filled with unearned self-esteem, can turn rapidly ugly.

Crowds composed of young people who are absolutely convinced that they are more brilliant than anyone who came before them can turn irrationally ugly.

Crowds unrestrained by university and police authorities who are brave enough to do their duty can turn dangerously ugly.

As John O’Sullivan observed, “In Germany the fascists goose-stepped – in America they jog.” Fascists don’t always wear brown shirts – they may wear casual clothes. Fascists don’t always give the closed-fist salute – although some current student activists do exactly that. But you can tell fascists by their threats to use violence if their demands aren’t met, by their disruption of classes, by their intimidation of students and professors, and by their ruthless suppression of dissenting ideas.
Are there fascists on American university campuses? Just look around you, and remember my mother’s story.

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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