A printed out picture of Pepe the Frog posted next to a flier warning against “fascist dog whistles” prompted a California college to contact local police, put the school on “heightened alert,” and send out a letter to the community warning about the potential threat posed by white supremacists.
The image of the Alt-Right meme was found on February 6 posted on the door of a Folsom Lake College faculty member in between fliers listing “fascist dog whistles,” social justice events, and promoting the “always antifascist” Democratic Socialists of America, Campus Reform reports.
In an emailed letter to the campus community titled “Hate Has No Home On Our Campus,” FLC President Whitney Yamamura, Academic Senate President Paula Haug, Classified Senate President Lindsey Campbell, and Student Senate President Cameron Sanders explained the reason the college felt compelled to take action over the image.
“[Pepe] has been commonly co-opted by white supremacists and others as a symbol of bigotry,” reads the letter. “While we do not immediately know the intentions of the person(s) who posted the picture, we are treating this incident with the highest level of seriousness and have already conducted a sweep of all Folsom Lake College campuses to look for other instances of these materials.”
The letter goes on to encourage students to report any other evidence of “hateful or bigoted” messaging, but also stresses the college’s commitment to supporting free speech.
“We believe that we can create an environment free of hateful language or symbols while still supporting the rights afforded to us in the First Amendment,” the letter reads. “Folsom Lake College has always been, and must continue to be, a place for collegial and mature conversation about complex issues. As a college, we are committed to providing a safe and inclusive learning and working environment, as demonstrated from our ongoing professional development workshops and trainings related to equity and inclusion.”
As seen in an image provided by Campus Reform, one of the terms listed on the “fascist dog whistles” flier, “free speech rally,” was circled with a question mark. Along with that phrase, the flier listed “family values” and “men’s rights,” as “fascist dog whistles,” as well as some overtly racist or racially charged references, including “White Nationalist,” “Identitarian Movement,” and “white genocide.”
The thought leaders of the Alt-Right movement embrace racist, identity-based ideology, while their counterparts on the left, Antifa, have openly embraced violence to shut down whomever they declare to be “fascists,” which sometimes includes mainstream conservatives that oppose the far-right as well as the radical left. Meanwhile, academia has tended to treat speech unequally, favoring speech and protests on the left, including the radical left, while finding ways to curb speech on the right, at times including moderate, mainstream speech.