From Filler Collective
[Trigger Warning – discussion of sexual assault, racist violence, anti-queer violence]
Weeks after Trump kicked off his campaign by falsely alleging that Mexican migrants are criminals and rapists, two brothers in Boston beat a 58-year-old houseless Mexican national with a metal pole, pissing on his limp body when they were done. “Donald Trump was right,” they explained to the police, “all these illegals need to be deported.”
Instead of condemning that brutality, Trump excused it by saying “people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.” But the problem is less about Trump, and more about the ideological mobilization that has put him in the position to legitimize, and thus encourage, such overtly racist, violent, and proto-fascist tendencies.
Resistance to school-sanctioned bigotry at the University of Pittsburgh
What’s the purpose of free speech, if not to foster a world free from oppression? Fascists oppose this vision; thus we oppose fascism by any means necessary.
– “Free Speech FAQ“
In the past two weeks at Pitt, we’ve shared ghost stories around campfires that we sparked with stolen electoral campaign signs from all political parties. We’ve cried in front of strangers and cheered each other on as we took turns shouting down the Pitt College Republicans outside of the library. We’ve kicked racists, sexists, and queer-phobes out of Halloween parties with both intelligent arguments and the occasional fist. We’ve graffiti-bombed racist propaganda and flipped over the tables of pro-Trump canvassers. We’ve seen glimpses of the future that’s offered to us, and then stumbled into an alleyway to piss all over it.
“We” don’t necessarily remember all of these stories, share a political disposition, or even know each others’ names. “We” is just a name for this sudden, transient inclination towards defiance, or some shit like that. Filler has heard a lot of inspiring anecdotes over the past few weeks, but we’ve also noticed that the far-right students at Pitt have monopolized the narrative over what is happening. On Halloween, we heard about yet another entirely spontaneous action and decided we’d try our hand at unpacking the situation. “We” don’t speak on behalf of anyone except those that resonate with our interpretation of their actions. To our friends we don’t yet know: keep turning shit up!
First things first: “But what about free speeeeech” is a hollow, vapid, bullshit argument against shutting down Trump supporters.
“Free speech” means the federal government cannot censor your speech; it does not mean consequence-free speech, and it’s a kind of just a sick joke anyway when we live in a society where nearly all media is controlled by the same corporate elite that bought out our government.
But that’s besides the point. What started last week with a few kids and a flipped table is now a recurring breach in the banality of midterms, personal drama, and social media echo chambers. On Monday, the haze of a Halloween hangover gave way to a brief moment of catharsis, of latent tension rising to the surface; a potential to confront more than just a racist student group, but also the larger framework of how we conceive of social change.
To the Fence-Sitters and the Liberals
No ideas exists in some academic bubble. If the alt-right / far-right platform is not confronted, their hate speech and ignorance will be perceived as legitimate discourse—or worse, normalized. Last February in the WPU ballroom, rightwing students applauded as Milo Yiannopoulos claimed that rape culture doesn’t exist, that unwanted groping is just “normal human sexuality,” that the actual definition of assault is a liberal conspiracy. As of October, the well-documented sexual violence of their presidential candidate is now justified as “locker-room talk”—normal sexual behavior. We’re barely scratching the surface here. Let’s keep the pressure on, or else their rhetoric and actions will only continue to embolden and rationalize the already-existing violence of campus rape culture, racism, and anti-queer hate.
If Trumpers continue to embolden, politicize, and publicly organize the assholes that think that shit’s ok, then they might build the material force needed to turn their ideas into reality. With enough numbers, they could work to keep undocumented students out of the classroom, undermine police accountability efforts, ban practicing Muslims from campus grounds, discredit survivors of assault, push survivors out of school by eliminating safe spaces and trigger warnings, deny trans students what little they have gained… maybe even get a fascist elected to the presidency.
As the kids at UNC remind us,
“Debate only has meaning when we are prepared to act on our beliefs, to take risks beyond those of the classroom… Debate has substance when it occurs in an honest context that reflects the daily, physical conflicts occurring inside and outside of the University. Discussion and critique must be imbued with the urgency of real life.”
This is why we’re seeing debates on Pitt’s campus around issues of speech, the election, capitalism, the environment, white supremacy, patriarchy, and borders grow in depth and analysis ever since the confrontations. It’s happening in between classes, at Halloween parties in South O, on Towers Patio, all across campus; finally, people are starting to give a shit about just how fucked up the global political climate is. Hell, this wave of debates almost broke through the routine of passive-aggressive irony found on forums like Overheard at Pitt and r/Pitt.
To Our Friends
To the dozens of kids that spontaneously gathered in opposition to the Trump table outside Hillman, we’ve spent our entire college careers looking for you! It figures that we’d meet only briefly, sharing no knowledge of each other outside of a collective moment of (possibly cringe-worthy) passion and defiance. We don’t know where you hang out, or what you do for fun, or how you balance the uncertainty of the future with the anxiety of the everyday. But we want to. We hope that someday soon we’ll find each other again, if only to enjoy another chance at cheering each other on as we confront the political manifestation of a Fox News article’s comments section.
But we also hope to know you by more than our shared practices of self-defense and intolerance of bigotry. Imagine what we’re capable of should we meet again on our own terms?
The administration and its police recognize the threat: that’s why cops have been profiling and harassing any students that even look like they might oppose Trump, that’s why Vice Provost & Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner sent out a super sexy photo of himself with a plea for students to tolerate the rise of fascism. There’s a question that they’re scared we might ask: what if instead of endlessly talking about tuition hikes and their inherent racism and classism, or the terrible wages of Pitt workers and adjunct professors, or Pitt’s investments in environmentally destructive industries, or the administration’s utter inaction in the face of campus rape culture, or the fact that this election is trash… what if we instead decided to do something about it ourselves? No more dead-end negotiations and debates, no more polite “thank-you’s” for the free t-shirts and the new recycling bins and the years of indentured servitude spent working off student debt and the promise of a stable life in a perpetually shrinking job market, no more wishing Bernie was here to save us. What if we started taking concrete steps towards actual fucking revolution?
We could take over the lobby of Posvar and convert it into a Free Store, where we would share and exchange textbooks, toiletries, clothes, food, ideas, tactics, strategies. We could throw parties in Market, taking turns cooking free food for students, workers, and faculty alike, and then doing our own damn dishes afterwards. We could finally unclench our fists and pass around a fat-ass blunt on the rooftops of a newly autonomous dormitory, because this really could be our campus if we kept creating more situations that would attract those that are ready to fight. If only for a few days, we could create another world here and now, become the long-awaited, uncontrollable crisis of priorities that forces those in power to make real changes, like students are doing in Montreal, Santiago, London, Oaxaca, Athens, Paris, Rome…
In the meantime, we look forward to screaming our hearts out by your side, laughing and crying because holy shit those ignorant fuckbois preaching hate are actually real people, wtf??
To Our Enemies
To the Trump supporters and other fascists: there’s no point in mincing words. What’s most upsetting to us is that Trump is not acting outside of the ideology and practice of the liberal establishment. With every headline scandalizing his latest xenophobic comment, the Obama administration sets a new world-record in deportations. After every Republican’s warmongering, Washington expands the scope of the surveillance state. Every racist right-winger is matched tenfold by both the Clinton and Obama administration in mass incarceration and prison slavery. The neoliberal restructuring of the economy is increasingly leaning towards self-employment within the service and sharing economy, the techies are invading Pittsburgh, and yet somehow y’all don’t think the Democrats are capitalist enough for you?
We have two different visions of the future, and they are in direct conflict with one another. Y’all can snitch to the cops all you want—we’re not gonna stop disrupting your shit and kicking you out of parties.
To the editors of the new right-wing campus newspaper, the Maverick: Really? An Ayn Rand book review? And you call us cringey.
To the Pitt administration and the Pitt Police: Last December, a couple friends brought hot food, some boxes of clothing, textbooks, and zines into Towers lobby to give away for free. They were kicked out within half an hour of setting up, and Pitt Police tried to grab and interrogate two of them.
A Pitt cop chased everyone out the door, frantically squawking into his radio, flailing his free arm and demanding they come back to face the consequences. At the time, these friends lived in Towers. They had set out to use a communal student space to help their classmates, and they were greeted with the threat of police violence.
Last February, the Pitt College Republicans hosted Milo Yiannopoulos with the aid of University funding and the armed protection of the Pitt Police. Milo is the de facto spokesperson of the “alt-right,” a white nationalist movement. Twice in the past week, supporters of a racist, misogynist, xenophobic presidential candidate called the cops on students, and the police were more than happy to profile and detain queer students, seize their IDs, and then present the seized IDs to the Republican organizers.
— StudentSolidarityPGH (@PghStudentsPSSC) October 31, 2016
This comes as no surprise considering both the national and Pittsburgh local of the FOP endorsed Trump. Of course the occupying forces of white supremacy will conspire with the fascists on campus, build files on leftist and anarchist student organizers, and repress counter-hegemonic social movements. But many of us are disappointed in the administration’s apparent endorsement of alt-right and fascist organizing on campus, and those of us in the autonomous student network have lost all patience.
After Trump came to Pittsburgh last April, some friends released a communiqué that might contextualize the recent confrontations on Pitt’s campus. There is a global civil war unfolding, from the streets of Paris and Santiago to the warzones of Rojava and Standing Rock. We fully intend to put Pittsburgh on the front lines.
It is our belief that recent events have marked a shift in the political struggle of this country. More and more of the populace has fled mainstream political forces for “outsiders” seen as on the fringe, such as Trump and Bernie Sanders. We see a demarcation developing between the Left and the Right – between those who support corporate control of resources, the expulsion of non-Whites, and increased police militarization for urban pacification, and those who support individual autonomy, collective ownership of resources, and racial and socioeconomic justice…
As we saw inside Trump’s campaign event in Chicago, on the streets of Minneapolis, and in downtown Pittsburgh the other night, militant physical conflict between these two forces – between those who wish to maintain white supremacy, and those who wish to see its abolition, has come into the open and forefront of American political discourse. We see an opportunity here to forcefully attack both the dominant American political structures while at the same time fighting back the far-Right tendencies that we see with Donald Trump’s rise to political fame.
It is our hope that the threat posed by the white supremacist Right, as well as the exploitation of the opportunities that we speak of, can help our movements to more clearly place ourselves in the struggle for liberation. Militant self-defense from authoritarianism can help grant us the individual and collective autonomy necessary for any liberatory revolt to occur. We see this as a time for libertarian anti-capitalists to learn to take seriously the threat posed by the new Right and to take the steps necessary to forcefully fight the structures of white supremacy. This is not a time for the introspection and critical self-reflection of the popular anti-racist praxis, but a time for mutual self-defense and collective force against the American white supremacist system of apartheid.
The time has come to Burn the American Plantation.
Written by students at UNC in the fall of 2009, The Divorce of Thought from Deed is a story about sustained student resistance to a racist campus organization called YWC, or Youth for Western Civilization. After a militant anti-racist campaign, the group was essentially driven off campus – despite the University’s best efforts to protect it for the sake of “free speech”.
On a most basic level, this piece asserts that the equality of actors intrinsic to the “marketplace of ideas” is a myth only made possible by the illusion of the University’s separation from the rest of society.
Filler #4 (Pitt)
The fourth issue of Filler explores the growing resistance to the patriarchy at Pitt and covers a lot of the same shit as this piece, but in greater depth.
The other side of the coin, in terms of why anti-fascism cannot be boiled down to a battle of ideas is that fascism is an ideology rooted in violence. It is hard to reason with those kicking your head in or gunning you down as you run for your life. And of course it is the white, middle class liberal advocating freedom of speech for Nazis who is least likely to be on the receiving end of such attacks.
Bad ideas ought to be challenged, yes, and giving the state a mandate for repression is a bad idea in any case. However, this is not an argument against no platform but one in favour of it.
If this seems counter-intuitive, it is because outside of militant circles the concept of no platform has been boiled down to simply not letting Nazis air their views. To liberals, this means censorship. In practice, however, no platform is so much more – namely, direct action that prevents fascists from gaining a platform to organise.