Williams: What’s in a swastika?


By Dan William 


On May 5, the same day I published an article arguing that the alt-right advertisement found in the Main Library should not cause us undue worry, a university-wide email was sent out informing everyone that a swastika had been found penciled onto a mural in the tunnel between the IMU and the EPB.

The swastika was drawn on the shoulder of a dark tan-colored girl in pink, in the center of a row of other variously hued people, with the names of fraternities and sororities stenciled above.

The swastika has since been painted over, though the area of her sleeve where the defacement occurred is visibly altered.

When I first read the email, I was annoyed, for it undermined the argument of my article. What, another one of these pranks? I immediately thought, “Well how many of these incidents need to take place before we should feel worried? Need we wait until a crime of some severity takes place, until someone is physically harmed, even killed?” For, surely, that would be too late.

I admit that, after my initial reaction of petty annoyance, my second reaction was hardly politically correct, either. Seeing the swastika drawn on the mural made me think, not of Hitler, concentration camps, or church bombings, but “liberal fascism.” Liberal Fascism, of course, is the title of a book by Jonah Goldberg, who argues, convincingly, that fascism was and is a descendant of left-wing social Utopianism and is not a genuinely conservative ideology at all. He argues that American liberalism has become “fascism with a smiley face,” the “well-intentioned niece” of the European versions.

I highly doubt whether this was the intended meaning of the swastika; I believe that whoever did the defacement meant to inspire fear, incite racial animosity. I do not regard this as a legitimate protest to empty-headed multiculturalism. If it was intended to be, it was very crudely done and incredibly unhelpful.

Now, I’m sure there are some in the corners of the Internet sniggering at how a simple arrangement of vertical and horizontal lines can throw a mind into such contortions. Submit to the awesome power, they say: for there is no avoiding the inevitable answer: exterminate all brutes.

That is the chilling postscript Joseph Conrad’s Kurtz attached to his report for the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs in Heart of Darkness. It was, Marlow says, “the exposition of his method.” There is no “inevitable answer” here. Just as there is no “total inclusion.” What “total inclusion” should say is, “totalitarian inclusion.” The hopes that drive the vision of a completely conflict-free, “all-inclusive” society are what fueled the visions of totalitarianism in the 20th century: dreams of a world without class, conflict, prejudice, or struggle. That is why I shake my head every time I see one of these dim-witted signs.

Dreams are for sleepwalkers, the easily manipulated. We shouldn’t work for “total inclusion,” for that would be our undoing. We shouldn’t include the Nazis, the Stalinists, the Maoists, the Islamofascists, and other enemies of open societies.

You, if you are such a one, may live among us only if you keep such fantasies in the realm of fantasy. And if you wish to remain in a small world of mad hatter haberdashery, you may — insofar as you do not cause harm. We do not punish thoughtcrime. Otherwise, you may choose to abandon your anti-social beliefs and join the ongoing fight for a society of abundant, though certainly not total, freedom and tolerance.

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