The Campus Antifascist Network calls for an end to the serial and libelous harassment of Stanford University Professor David Palumbo-Liu perpetrated by Fox News, the Stanford Review, and the alt-right.
Our network represents over 2,000 students, faculty, and staff in hundreds of campus communities around the country, many of whom have also been targeted for virulent campaigns of harassment, stalking, and intimidation for their opposition to fascist and white supremacist groups whose activities have made our educational institutions unsafe. After the horrific murder of Heather Heyer and fascist attacks on peaceful clergy, students, and community members at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA in August 2017, as well as numerous other instances of hate-motivated violence, the exponential growth of our organization and shared experiences among members of our network is a testament to the patterns of incitement, intimidation and suppression of dissent that have accompanied the attempts of fascists, under the guise of “free speech,” to gain legitimacy for their inherently racist and genocidal ideology.
We stand in solidarity with Professor Palumbo-Liu and support his fight against ethno-nationalism, white supremacy, and the creeping threat of normalized fascism. These threats have existed for decades but have reappeared with renewed force in a coordinated campus campaign. Hate-group watchdogs such as the Southern Poverty Law Center have documented escalating patterns of hate crimes, incitement, and violence from fascist and white supremacist groups on hundreds of US campuses and communities – including a rise in hate crimes on the Stanford campus, a direct factual contradiction of claims made in a Stanford Review hit piece against Professor Palumbo-Liu. Another recent report revealed that white supremacists committed more murders in 2017 than any other extremist group in the United States, more than doubling their toll from 2016. Groups affiliated with the “alt-right” – funded by right-wing backers such as Turning Point USA and Young America Foundation – use blatantly racist, Islamophobic, anti-indigenous, anti-Semitic, transphobic, misogynist, and ableist messaging and iconography to recruit to their ranks and provoke conflict; using McCarthyite watch lists and manipulative media tactics straight out of Goebbels’ playbook, they conflate “academic freedom” with “free speech” in order to attack faculty, silence dissent, and suppress the rights & freedoms of anyone who dares to stand in their way.
Professor Palumbo-Liu is not the first, nor the only, professor whose rights to speech and academic freedom have been targeted for suppression; he joins a growing list of faculty members – including Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor, Johnny Williams, George Ciccariello-Maher, Dana Cloud, Amanda Gailey, Adam Miyashiro, Mark Bray, and many others – who have been singled out for harassment, censure, and institutional exclusion for their contributions to an urgent and necessary public dialogue about fascist groups and the threats they pose to our campus communities. Campus administrations, in their uncritical acceptance of the right’s manipulative framing around “speech,” have consistently failed to protect the safety and human rights of faculty, students, and staff who must face these threats on a daily basis, and have repeatedly aired their concerns to no avail.
While we recognize the need for, and right to, self-defense for individuals and communities who are directly targeted by fascist violence, the Campus Antifascist Network does not advocate, and has never advocated, for initiating violence. Our mission statement is clear. CAN has diverse political views on multiple issues, but we are united in our commitment to stopping fascist intimidation from taking root in our campus communities. In addition to protests, we encourage the development of educational and political spaces on campuses for teach-ins, reading groups, workshops, and strategy sessions on the history of fascism in its many guises and how to combat it.
In its philosophy and tactics, CAN honors a proud popular tradition of anti-fascism that many Americans seem to have forgotten, and which the alt.right seeks to erase entirely: the coalition building, education, and community work of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League of the 1930s, involving writers such as Dorothy Parker and F. Scott Fitzgerald; the Jewish Labor Committee of the 1940s who sponsored refugees fleeing the Holocaust; coalitions that rose to confront Joe McCarthy in the 1950s and George Wallace in the 1960s; LGBT-led campaigns against the Christian Right in the 1980s; and beyond. Albert Einstein and Langston Hughes were antifascists, as was the great Billie Holliday. Fighting fascism, white supremacy, and antisemitism for these people were not just progressive virtues, but mandatory acts of political empathy, human decency, and common sense.
We ask that the press honor the right to speech for the victims of fascist violence and intimidation, and allow targeted students and faculty to speak out about our lived experiences.