The trolling culture that has marked the Alt Right since 2015 has been treated with kid gloves by most media outlets, seeing it almost as a form of pranksterism that avoids the real cost and violence it has ensured. On college campuses, Alt Right white nationalists are recruiting young men, often dissidents from College Republicans or Students for Trump organizations, leading them into a world of paranoid conspiracies, racial supremacism, and vigilante harassment and violence. This hatred has been directed at marginalized students and faculty alike, forcing many to have to leave campus fearing for their life. Recently, antifascist academic George Ciccariello-Maher had to leave the tenured position he earned at Drexel University after facing massive harassment from Alt Right and Alt Light groups, and teachers like Mark Bray, Mike Isaacsson, and many, many others have faced this kind of treatment.
It is exactly this type of unending harassment and threats that graduate student, educator, and organizer Tariq Khan of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign has faced. The harassment against Khan has been laid town by the organization Turning Point USA, which is affiliated with Alt Right/Alt Light movements with close associations with white nationalism. It’s media wing, Campus Reform, has been used to create a campaign of fear against Khan and his family, drawing in the Alt Light media sphere with places like Breitbart.
Tariq Khan has been smeared for his campus organizing, confronting hateful, white nationalist and far-right contingents on campus. TP USA and far-right supporters began mischaracterizing Khan’s work immediately, framing him as aggressive and violent and publishing his personal information publicly. The attacks on Khan have relied on racist and Islamophobic characterizations, further targeting him because of his Pakistani ethnic background. This further builds on TP USA’s shameful use of populist Islamophobic anger, a tool that has been successful for them in drawing in angry white recruits. The public campaign against Khan and his family has reached a fever pitch, with articles and posts being sent out by people like former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. For people of wealth, power, and privilege, they are using racist attacks to brutalize a struggling teacher who is standing up against racist violence. Khan is also an Airforce veteran, something that the far-right desperately wants to ignore as they use Islamophobic slurs to create an insufferable picture of his life.
As the Campus Antifascist Network has pointed out, this campaign by the Alt Right has also turned it’s attention to the history department in which he studies.
The Department of History at UIUC has also been harassed since this incident. TPUSA/Campus Reform posted links to the department’s public website with Khan’s contact information. Khan and others in the department have since received threatening and harassing emails, including death threats, threats of physical violence, and racist and Islamophobic language. These threats were reported to the University Police by Khan and by department faculty. For his own protection, Khan has been forced to withdraw from academic spaces, even removing his email address from the department website, at the expense of future career prospects.
It is questionable whether Khan and his partner will be able to continue their studies uninterrupted, putting their dreams on hold until racists can stop making harassment their pet cause. This is disgusting, and it is not something we are going to stand by and just let happen. Khan is a respected academic and scholar, a celebrated educator, a committed student, and an amazing father and husband. We will not allow college campuses to be the killing fields for Alt Right terror, and we stand with Khan and anyone else who has been victimized by this kind of threat.
We will be standing with Tariq Khan and doing whatever is possible to support him in the organizing against this injustice.
Khan has asked three things of people to help, and we call on people to join in and give this support:
1. I need good leftist journalists to cover what is happening to me.
2. I need a lot of people to call or write in to the university’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution to respectfully but firmly demand that they drop all charges against me.
3. I need organizations to put out public statements of support for me: statements which include a) statement of support for me, b) condemnation of TPUSA and the far right’s campaign of vilification, racist harassment, and threats against me and my children, c) condemnation of the university administration’s complicity in the far right’s campaign to hurt me, and d) demand that the university drop all charges against me unconditionally.
1. The far-right fake outrage machine has been vilifying me all over the place. High profile spokesmen of the worst, most racist elements of the far right such as anti-immigration zealot Lou Dobbs, short-lived Trump White House Press Secretary Anthony Scaramucci, conspiracy peddler Alex Jones, and fascist “Proud Boy” Gavin McGinnis among others have been publicly vilifying me, and spreading TPUSA’s dishonest narrative to smear me all over the internet because of my openly anti-fascist politics.
At the same time this is all going on, the far right has mobilized its online troll army to bombard my department and university administration with demands I be harshly punished, fired, expelled, arrested, killed, etc., and when university administrators look it up to find information, there are only far-right narratives for them to refer to. The university discipline officer who is treating me as a criminal is using as his main piece of evidence a video with a TPUSA logo on it. Think about that for a moment. Further, the way the university discipline system is set up, he acts as both the prosecutor and the judge. He was thoroughly unconcerned about the fact that a TPUSA member with a known history of stalking and harassing people made a veiled threat against my children. My attorney was not allowed to represent me in the university system. The Office of Student Conflict Resolution decided I was guilty before I ever even got a chance to defend myself, and when I was making my statement to him, he cut me off before I was even a quarter of the way through to tell me he doesn’t have time for all that. In other words, I was not afforded even a fair hearing.
Despite the attacks against me from high profile mouthpieces of the far right, no high-profile counter-narrative has emerged in the media. When university administrators get these emails and calls about me from the alt right’s troll army, they look it up online and only find the far right’s narrative. There is nothing out there challenging that narrative. Not a single story. No reporter, other than a couple of shady right-wing propagandists who I won’t talk to, has even contacted me about this for a story. The result is that the right wing has control over this narrative, and that narrative is what the cowardly, narrow-minded university administrators are now treating as the truth. This has left me isolated and vulnerable to university “discipline” which could potentially make it impossible for me to qualify for funding to finish my dissertation and cut my academic career short before it has even started. I need a counter-narrative to emerge in the media. There are plenty of great leftist journalists out there who I am friends with or friends of friends with. I need you to cover this story. I need more than one of you to cover this story.
2. I need people (as individuals or as organizations) to write in respectfully but firmly to pressure the OSCR to drop all charges against me unconditionally. My labor union, the Graduate Employment Organization did this already, but one email is easy to ignore, especially when there are hundreds of emails from the far right demanding the opposite. I need as many people as possible to write to the Assistant Dean of Students and the Associate Dean of Students to let them know that the charges they have against me are unjust, and that they need to send a clear message to the “alt-right” fascist TPUSA bullies on campus and the larger right-wing outrage machine by dropping all charges against me unconditionally. Also demand they issue a public apology to me and my family (and my children who a TPUSA member threatened, which is what sparked this entire episode) for the OSCR’s complicity in carrying out TPUSA’s malicious agenda.
Assistant Dean of Students, Rony Die: email@example.com
Associate Dean of Students, Justin Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. I need organizations to publicly post statements of support for me. Don’t just send them to me privately. Private statement are nice and I appreciate them, but they don’t do anything to challenge the right’s very public vilification of me, which is what I need right now. Statements should include a) statement of support for me, b) condemnation of TPUSA and the far right’s campaign of vilification, racist harassment, and threats against me and my children, c) condemnation of the university administration’s complicity in the far right’s campaign to hurt me, and d) demand that the university drop all charges against me unconditionally.
I appreciate the extraordinary amount of support I have received so far in the form of donations to my legal defense fund, kind words, letters of support, and other acts of kindness. Several people have asked me what they can do to help. These three things are what I need right now. Solidarity.
– Tariq Khan