Assistant professor Jeremy Best educates about white supremacists on college campuses


Nate Camm/Iowa State Daily

Jeremy Best, assistant history professor, spoke Tuesday night in a packed Sun Room about recent alt-right postings on campus. 

K. Rambo

Iowa State assistant professor Jeremy Best began his lecture on white nationalism, white supremacy and Neo-Nazi groups’ efforts to recruit on college campuses by detailing propaganda for these groups being placed on the Iowa State campus dating back to the fall semester of 2016.

Best explained how many reports of such incidents have been recorded by the Southern Poverty Law Center since March 2016.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 241 college campuses have found fliers by white nationalist and supremacist groups since March 2016, with 329 overall incidents.

Best explained that he feels these groups draw much of their inspiration from the Nazis and fascist groups of the past, an area of expertise for Best as a German history professor.

Through his research, Best had compiled a list of four sources most often responsible for recruitment efforts at college campuses.

The first was Identity Europa, who Best said uses a [v from Latin alphabet] instead of a “u” in spelling Europa to remind those who see it of an idealized view of Roman and Greek cultures, something white supremacist and nationalist groups often do.

Identity Europa also typically features images of sculptures of Greek and Roman gods, as well as heroes. Best said this is because they particularly like the white marble used for the sculptures and are trying to further idealize the white-dominated societies of Greeks and Romans. 

Best said that Identity Europa often claims that stories of white cultural achievement are hidden from students.

“I can assure you that stories of European and American success are not being excluded from our courses here,” Best said to quiet laughter from the audience.

The second on the list was Vanguard America, also known as American Vanguard, a group that Best described as “Neo-Nazi and fascistic.” Best feels that the group and their use of fascist imagery romanticize that white people have a “supposedly special bond with American soil.”

Best pointed out that Vanguard America believes that the U.S. is supposed to be exclusively for white Americans. Best then gave examples of when Vanguard America directly borrows images and symbols from the Nazis and Italian fascists.

The third group, the one most responsible, or inspirational for propaganda circulated at Iowa State is The Right Stuff. Best said The Right Stuff is a network of websites and podcasts that subscribe to white nationalism, Neo-Nazism and a belief in ethnic cleansing.

The flagship publication of The Right Stuff is a podcast called The Daily Shoah. Shoah is Hebrew for catastrophe and, since World War II, has meant “holocaust.” The literal translation of the title of the podcast is “The Daily Holocaust.”

The Right Stuff is also associated with The Daily Stormer, one of the most notorious neo-Nazi websites.

The fourth on Best’s list was a hacker named Andrew Auernheimer that uses the alias “Weev.” Auernheimer hacks into printers on college campuses and has them print neo-Nazi propaganda.

Best focused on the similarities between these groups. Even though they describe themselves differently, Best said their common belief in white supremacy, ethnic cleansing and “uniformly violent” ideologies and actions lend them to a common thread.

Best said these groups focus on college campuses because they feel that campuses are the antithesis of white supremacy and white nationalism. Colleges openly support diversity and the exchange of unique perspectives, referencing Iowa State’s recruitment efforts, which typically include a picture of a racially and culturally diverse group of students.

Best said these groups also focus on college campuses because students are young and they want to bring young people into their organizations.

Examples of statements by these groups and statements by Nazis were provided in the lecture to show the similarities between their beliefs. Best said these groups attempt to pass themselves off as being defenders of whites or simple cultural enthusiasts but highlighted the various violent actions undertaken by members of these groups and their supporters.

Best stressed that these groups’ claim to be victims is to hide their true intentions of violence and ethnic cleansing and to bring more people in their groups through providing a less outwardly-violent image.

Best said these groups use anxieties related to economics and loss of social dominance to recruit mainly young white men, noting that these groups subscribe to a chauvinistic belief that a woman’s sexuality is to be controlled by men. According to best, this belief comes from an obsession that women’s sexuality is seen as a tool to propagate “white purity.”

Best wanted the lecture to inform students so they may understand these groups for what they are and avoid these groups.

“I don’t have this grandiose expectation…[that students] will take serious action. That would be wonderful and I’m not discouraging that, but what I think of is what happens in conversations, if another set of posters go up, in a dorm room or around a cafeteria table…will there be someone at that table who can sort of add a little bit of texture to the conversation,” Best said.