After two months of silence, the Students for Western Civilisation (SWC), the same group behind the White Students Union on Toronto university campuses, have finally poked their head out. On a blog post dated October 19th, the same day as our federal election, they’ve revealed themselves to the world just a smidgen.
Back in mid-September, posters appeared on three Toronto university campuses: Ryerson, York and University of Toronto. With a hint of World War II propaganda, the posters depicted two young white men dressed in naval pea coats with the CN Tower established in the background and the words “White Students Union!” boldly printed in white stenciled font. The posters caused an uproar at the three schools and were torn down just as quickly as they had been put up (without detection, I might add). At the bottom of the poster, a url address identified the group: Students for Western Civilisation (Civilisation spelt with an “s”).
The Students for Western Civilisation (SWC) state on their most recent blog post that, “The response from the media and the universities only further underscores the assumptions upon which our organization stands, and therefore, vindicates our existence.” It seems pretty clear what they stand for and as the laws of free speech dictate, they are certainly entitled to voice their opinion.
But there are still limits to what they the SWC can do on Toronto campuses. They can argue that since our higher educational institutions are more than half funded by both the feds and the province, they should have the rights to form a club (which they never applied for), as distasteful as it may be, and poster wherever they like. But it doesn’t work that way. At York University, the Board of Governors oversees the policies at York while the University Secretariat administers these same policies. University of Toronto and Ryerson have similar policies.
York’s postering guidelines have been in place since 2005. From what I can tell, the Students for Western Civilisation broke two rules: postering when the SWC is not a recognized student club and organization AND postering outdoors on York University property. Furthermore, the policy states the University will remove the posters found outdoors.
In speaking with all representatives from all three campus newspapers, the Ryersonian at Ryerson University, the Varsity at University of Toronto and the Excalibur at York University, no one has an inkling who is behind the organisation. The most dumbfounded of them all is the Excalibur, who the Students for Western Civilisation have called out on their homepage of their website for failing to print, “York Needs A White Students Union!” The group signed off the letter with the phrase, Tentanda Via, York University’s Latin motto that translates as “The Way Must be Tried”.
Alex Kvaskov, Assistant News Editor at the Excalibur was unaware of any such submission but after speaking with his editor said, “I was told a guy came in to the office. I was not told the exact date, perhaps late 2013 or early 2014.” The Excalibur editor-in-chief at the time was Tamara Khandaker, currently an intern with Vice.
Despite the white student’s union posters appearing in September, the group registered the website two years before and their Facebook page (their only point of contact) in February of 2014. On the Students for Western Civilisation website, the persons behind it “are based out of Toronto and is (sic) composed primarily of students and alumni of Toronto universities”. Their recent blogpost confirms that the SWC “was formed at York University in 2014 as a platform for white/European students to challenge those arguments about the inherent illegitimacy of our civilisation’s existence.”
Europa and the Bull
With the site hidden behind a proxy, the Students for Western Civilisation creators have masked their identity, perhaps from fear of discipline from their prospective schools or threats from the public at large. Or maybe they’re just cowards. Like their professionally printed poster design, both the SWC website created in a Wix template and Facebook page look polished, but without the often-used symbols of white pride: Pretty blonde Nordic female, confederate flag and Celtic cross (or even puppies). Their messaging is more subtle. The SWC’s logo is Europa and the Bull, a semi-official symbol as personification of the European region[i]. Their motto is Historiam Facere, when translated from Latin means “To Make History” and their statement of principles are three fold: explore, organize (spelled with a “z”) and promote their cause. It’s clear that the creators are no dummies.
Sticking a feather in their tinfoil hats, the Students for Western Civilisation argue against “cultural Marxism”, an archaic term that the hard right have towed out of obscurity thanks to American paleo-conservatives William Lind and Pat Buchanan. The conspiracy theory that is “cultural Marxism” argues that a small group of mainly Jewish philosophers, originating from the Frankfurt School in Germany, were exiled to this side of the pond after World War II. Proponents of the theory argue that these “Marxists” set out to destroy and dismantle traditional western values by infiltrating our university campuses and places of higher learning. In turn, they are responsible for the growth of feminism, political correctness, multi-culturalism, gay rights, and atheism.
Norwegian mass shooter Anders Breivik twisted the “cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory to meet his own ideology. Breivik “killed young social democrats because he believed that their party was involved in a cultural Marxist plot to undermine traditional European values by means of mass immigration from the Islamic world.”[ii]
Meanwhile, another York University sanctioned student group called “The Order of Traditionalists” arrived on campus in 2012. The small group of students “seeks to expand the presence of the Traditionalist worldview at York University”. While largely inactive since May when the small group of members graduated from York, the group moderator (not sure who that is) continues to post on their Facebook page bizarre comments like, “For those who are here and watching…A Resurrection is coming….” They also recently posted on the SWC Facebook page (and how I came to know them). While it’s difficult to get a grasp on the groups values, based upon their Facebook posting, they likely follow one of two belief systems.
Belief system #1: Traditionalist Catholicism, a version of Catholic Fundamentalism that wants to revert the church to the old ways before Vatican II. (To give you some framework, Mel Gibson, known most recently for his anti-semitic drunken rants, is a Traditionalist Catholic). The Southern Poverty Law Centre states that, “‘radical traditionalist’ Catholics, who may make up the largest single group of serious anti-Semites in America, subscribe to an ideology that is rejected by the Vatican and some 70 million mainstream American Catholics. They also embrace extremely conservative social ideals with respect to women.”[iii]
Belief system #2: Perennialism or followers of the Traditionalist School. To get a better grasp of the concept, I offer historian Mark Sedgwick’s book, Against the Modern World. Sedgewick writes that the founder of the Traditionalist School, French author René Guénon opposes, “not the West but the modern world, and what he hopes for…is to ‘restore to the West to an appropriate traditional civilization’. In the absence of any real—that is, spiritual—foundations, Western civilization was in immediate danger of cataclysmic collapse into barbarism and consequent extinction through assimilation by more soundly based civilizations.”[iv] Guénon would have been horrified to know that his Traditionalist School influenced European fascism. So in other words, taking the words of a philosopher and twisting them for bad.
As the idiom goes, if it looks and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.
So is that what the Students for Western Civilisation are doing?
When VICE published an article A Group of White Supremacists Is Promoting Itself on Canadian University Campuses, commenters on the Students for Western Civilisation Facebook page suggested that the group should sue VICE for slander over staff writer Manisha Krishnan’s choice of words.
But using the Turing duck test (a test developed by mathematician Alan Turing to determine if the human beings in his life were actually ducks), Krishnan’s observations are accurate. Look no further than their mission statement which is also eerily similar to another U.S. organisation, the now defunct anti-multiculturalism and hard right-wing student group, Youth for Western Civilization. Their motto is “Defending the West on Campus” and their three-fold creed is to organize, educate and train. Heading farther into paleo-conservative territory, their website had stated, “Western Civilization is our civilization and in spite of the continual assault and hatred it endures from the radical left, we wish to revive the West, rather than see our civilization be sent to the graveyard of history.”
Conservative activist Kevin DeAnna, then a student at William & Mary College, solely founded the group back in 2006 and began actively organising in 2008, having local chapters on eight US university campuses.
In Justin Elliott’s Salon interview on YouTube , DeAnna defines Western Civilisation as a “cultural compound of Christian, classical…and folk traditions of Europe.” DeAnna adds that, “We don’t define it [western civilization] as democracy, law; these universal institutions. We say it’s a specific culture that comes from a specific cultural experience.” DeAnna admires the writings of Samuel Huntington, who famously authored the twenty year old essay and later book, The Clash of Civilizations? (Side note #1: The neoconservative John M. Olin Institute for Strategic studies, with whom Huntington was a director, paid for the procurement of this essay. The Institute is an extension of the John M. Olin foundation named for its president of the chemical and munitions company, the Olin Corporation, the same company that dumped shitloads of toxins for decades near Love Canal, Niagara Falls, NY.) In the essay, Huntington concludes that, “The survival of the West depends on Americans reaffirming their Western identity and Westerners accepting their civilization as unique not universal and uniting to renew and preserve it against challenges from non-Western societies”
The Youth for Western Civilization’s black and white logo, depicts the weapon of Frankish leader Charles Martel (The Hammer), who during the Battle of Tours in 732 defeated the large invading Islamic army in Northern France, thus saving Europe from a Muslim invasion. The axe on their logo also closely resembles the fasces, a bundle of rods containing an ax with the blade projecting[v], and the symbol of the National Fascist Party under Mussolini in Italy.
The Southern Poverty Law Centre, an American legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation, found that the “campus group has a history of associating with racist leaders, [and] espousing racist beliefs”.[vi] In a 2011 investigation into the Youth for Western Civilization, the SPLC reported that while the right-wing group asserted that they were not racist, their findings concluded:
“The group has allowed a notorious white supremacist organization to raise funds for it; one of its top officials was arrested in a violent racist attack; and its officials have invited racist extremists to speak and in turn addressed hate groups themselves. At least one YWC member has met with and spoken to right-wing extremist groups overseas.”
Former student Matthew Heimbach founded one of seven campus chapters at Towson University near Baltimore, Maryland. In an article for the YWC website, in defending his organisations right to exist, Heimbach hurled insults at the “radical left-wing elements” of the “terrorist front organizations like the Muslim Student Association, ferociously angry gay groups of “tolerance” like the Queer Student Union, and the disease ridden degenerates also known as Occupy Towson”, “left-wing Stalinists”, “campus Marxists”, and the “rabid multicultural organization…the Center for Student Diversity”.
His chapter eventually lost its status back in 2012 when the group “chalked messages that included the words ‘White Pride’ at several locations on campus, including the Student Union and Freedom Square”.[vii] Heimbach didn’t see the problem with the chalking, a long held tradition on the campus, arguing that “White pride is no different than gay pride or black pride.”
In 2012, Kevin DeAnna announced that he was leaving YWC, perhaps from the accusations of racism (not surprising, considering DeAnna almost started a riot when he invited honorary chairman and Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo and White Nationalist Richard Spencer to speak at YWC chapters) or because he was having difficulty getting new chapters approved.
After taking job opportunities at WorldNetDaily and Leadership Institute, DeAnna converted to Ásatrú, a type of Norse paganism. DeAnna was last seen in 2014 down in Virginia with a “Fight Club” folkish group, the Wolves of Vinland with two more white nationalists, Vinland founder Paul Waggener and men’s rights activist and anti-gay culture author Jack Donovan. Perhaps they are preparing for the eventual clash of civilization. (Side note #2: National Anarchist (?) Kevin O’Keeffe scrubbed Donovan’s Wikipedia page clean on October 19th. All traces of Donovan’s satanic past – he was an ordained priest in the Church of Satan for several years – and associations with white nationalists are gone.)
The “Little Führer” gets more radical
Back at Towson University, Matthew Heimbach started a White Student’s Union, stating in a VICE documentary that, “you’re never going to get anywhere in America waving a swastika banner.” Heimbach believes his white intellect and IQ falls below that of Jews, who he understands are intellectually superior. Heimbach invited racist Jared Taylor to the Towson campus, who I shit you not, lectures on this very subject.
As depicted in the VICE documentary, Heimbach drives his silver Toyota Corolla festooned with the bumper stickers “No Amnesty” and Ron Paul and a 13 star US flag (after having a few beers) before doing campus patrols to protect Towson students from “black on white” campus crime. (This despite Towson University being the safest university in the state of Maryland). After a night of patrols, back at the pub, Heimbach digs into a brownie dessert joking, “See? The big, bad racists can’t be all the bad. We eat ice cream just like everybody else.”
The Southern Poverty Law Centre thinks Heimbach is no laughing matter. They currently lists him under their extremist files on their website, stating that he is “considered by many to be the face of a new generation of white nationalists.” This is not surprising, given Heimbach’s most recent trip to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum where he shows his denial of the holocaust. In one photo, while standing under the quote from Elie Wiesel, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness,” a fully bearded Heimbach grins at the camera while holding up white cardstock with the following statement scribbled in black Sharpie: “6 million? More like 271,301* Int. Red Cross”
Along with a host of homegrown and foreign neo-nazi types like London, Ontario’s Tomasz Winnicki, Heimbach posted a comment on September 22nd on the Students for Western Civilisation Facebook page, “Keep up the fight comrades”. Most recently, hacktivist group Anonymous listed Heimbach as a current member of the KKK.
The Southern Poverty Law Centre also lists white nationalist Richard B. Spencer, a kind of Alex P. Keaton of white supremacy, under their extremist files. Spencer, “advocates for an Aryan homeland for the supposedly dispossessed white race and calls for “peaceful ethnic cleansing” to halt the “deconstruction” of European culture.”[viii] A few weeks after the SWC white student union posters were torn down, Spencer wrote a hasty blogpost on Radix Journal stating “Toronto’s Students For Western Civilization blows away the imposters and the losers. I only wish this was going on while I was living in the city.”
So why the concern north of the Border?
The Missouri based the Council of Conservative Citizens, a rabid hate group who advocates for white nationalism and separatism, inspired Dylann Roof’s alleged shooting at a Charleston church in June 2015, who now faces hate crime charges in the killing of nine African Americans and the wounding of three others. Roof had read “pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders,” on the Council of Conservative Citizens website. Roof had hoped to start a race war.
Mississauga’s Paul Fromm is the international director of the Council of Conservative Citizens. Fromm is “a disgraced former teacher who was fired from the Ontario College of Teachers in 1997 for links to neo-Nazi groups”[ix]. He earned a master’s degree in English from the University of Toronto in the seventies and co-founded the ultra-conservative, anti-communist on-campus student group Edmund Burke Society (EBS). By their own account, the group had said of their violent clashes with the campus leftists in ‘71, “Our members distinguished themselves as true sons of Western civilization. When attacked, Strike Back! None of the cowardly turn-the-other-cheek rubbish thrown at us by liberal moralists of today. It’s amazing what a beating the reds took.”[x]
In 2014, Canadian professor, York University graduate and SWC mentor Ricardo Duchesne founded the blog Council of European Canadians. While Duchense was born in Puerto Rico and himself an immigrant, he is also a critic of multi-culturalism and political correctness.
On Duchense’s blog dated September 19th, contributor Obimbola Chibuzo (most likely a pseudonym) defends the SWC’s white student union stating, “Ryerson, York, University of Toronto were all created by Whites; in fact, universities are a singularly Western invention and all the disciplines taught at them, physics, chemistry, history, anthropology, biology, sociology, philosophy etc. — are fields of research invented by Whites.”
Chibuzo concludes the article with this: “Once Whites are educated properly to see through the fog of ignorance and anti-White teaching at our universities, they will see that forming White or Eurocanadian unions, groups and associations, even political parties, is consistent with the principles of liberalism, free association and freedom of speech. It is also consistent with our natural disposition to prefer our own ethnic groups and race”. The same article was reblogged a week later on Fromm’s site, the Canadian Association for Free Expression.
In a Global News report, The Canadian connection to the ‘white supremacist’ group that influenced Dylann Roof, Alan Dutton, the national director of the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society, states that he is “critical of how Canada regards right-wing hate groups and the way in which the legal system deals with them.”
“‘We don’t address it in terms of radicalization’… The government has focused on ‘one aspect of domestic terrorism and radicalization of youth’ — activity motivated or inspired by Islamist groups such as ISIS or al-Shabab — and isn’t ‘looking at the broader picture that has been developing for generations.’”
And thanks to Prime Minster Harper (or no thanks) with the repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act in 2013, the part that covers hate speech, (and fought so hard against by strange bedfellows Ezra Levant and Paul Fromm) there’s little chance that even the most hard-core white supremacist will ever be charged with internet hate crime anytime soon. That is unless our new government restores it to its rightful place.
The lady doth protest too much, me thinks
The Students for Western Civilisation, while arguing on the one hand that they are not a racist group, endorse the motives of white supremacists and neo-nazis by not responding or deleting the posts on their Facebook page. Furthermore, the SWC have borrowed heavily from their southern US counterparts with their chosen name, union, motto and their chosen language while keeping silent in the face of hate groups and individuals supporting their cause.
[iv] Mark Sedgwick, Against the Modern Age, Pgs. 25, 26 (Oxford University Press, Inc. 2004)
[x] Stanley Barret, Is God a Racist? The Right Wing in Canada, (University of Toronto Press, 1987)