What Do Hate Groups Think of Anne Hathaway?
Have you ever met anyone who likes Anne Hathaway? No? Me either.
Even if someone doesn’t know who she is, you can just show them a picture of her smarmy, drama school face or that clip of her saying “blerg” in an effort to appear human, and they’ll be an instant lifelong “Hathahater.”
Last week, I called around hate groups to see how they felt about Jennifer Lawrence, and it turned out they, like everyone else on earth, all liked her (kinda). So I decided to call up a few more hate groups and see what their feelings were on Anne.
COUNCIL OF CONSERVATIVE CITIZENS
Who are they?
A white supremacist group that, amongst other things, are against racial integration, the gays, and interracial marriage.
What do they think of Anne Hathaway?
Could I just ask, really quickly, if your group has an opinion on Anne Hathaway? Do you hate her as much as the rest of the world?
Who’s Anne Hathaway?
Catwoman in the new Batman movie? She just won the Oscar for Les Mis? Princess Diaries?
I don’t know who that is.
You didn’t see The Devil Wears Prada?
No. Why are you asking me this?
Because I really hate her. And I was just hoping to find some kind of group I can join that feels the same way.
Well, why do you hate her?
I don’t know! It’s weird. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think it has something to do with her face.
Is she white?
Yeah, she’s white.
I don’t know. We don’t have an opinion on everything in the world. I don’t look at many movies. But I guess my daughters or my son or my wife might have seen her in something.
Are they there? Maybe you could ask them what they think of Anne?
[to his daughter] Renee, do you know what the Princess Diaries are? [to me] Yeah, she’s heard of it.
Ask her what she thinks of Anne Hathaway.
She just went to the other room…
Well what kinda stuff is your group into?
We’re the voice of a no-longer-silent majority. We’re paleoconservatives and populist conservatives.
I don’t really know what anything you just said means.
We’re like Andrew Jackson.
Was he Michael Jackson’s dad?
No, no. He was the president.
What do you guys think of Michael Jackson? It must be a hard one for you guys, right? Because he used to be black but then he was white.
Oh, I don’t know… I don’t really have an opinion on him.
Kimani Gray and Two Weeks of Struggle in Flatbush, Brooklyn
“This is about Kimani Gray!” interrupted Fatimah Shakur, the most vocal of a loose network of organizers who have been holding nightly demonstrations in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn since the 16-year-old boy was murdered by the NYPD on March 9th. A representative from the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) was attempting to tie Gray’s shooting into a larger context of police repression and economic exploitation, making the case for revolution in the United States. Shakur was not having it. “Revolution is alright,” she conceded, getting on the microphone, “but this is about Kimani Gray!” RCP members jeered. This was the impassioned tone of Sunday’s daytime demonstration—a march down Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn— which was attended by around 75 protestors, 25 reporters, and literally a thousand cops.
Daily demonstrations in the neighborhood began two weeks ago, after Kimani Gray was gunned down by two plainclothes cops with lengthy histories of misconduct, who ambushed the young man on the street. The cops jumped out of a vehicle and discharged seven shots, three into his back. The NYPD maintains Gray brandished a weapon. Many friends and neighbors, including an eyewitness, dispute this claim. The NYPD has attempted to smear Gray by portraying him as a gang member with a criminal record. Meanwhile, Gray’s school principal wrote his parents a heartfelt letter, portraying the boy as a bright, motivated student and a sweet young man. These are the kinds of discussions that follow when the police “kill you twice,” as the saying goes: once in body, once in reputation. The shooting of a young, black male by the NYPD is an occurrence so common in New York City that few could have predicted what happened next.
CPAC’s Blackfacing of Bad Ideas
The Conservative Political Action Conference is the annual king-making and agenda-setting conference for the far right. It was started by American Conservative Union in 1973, with Ronald Regan as one of its first speakers. This year, it takes place at Gaylord Convention Center (heh) in Maryland. We sent Wilbert there to see what all the fuss was about.
My first few hours at CPAC felt a little like being at New York Fashion Week—white people everywhere were asking to take my picture. Even though I’m partial to Mars Blackmon’s explanation for everything, I don’t think it was my shoes. But it may have been the color of my skin.
When I told a tall southerner wearing a pinstripe suit and a wide novelty tie who asked to take my picture this morning, that I wasn’t at CPAC because I loved fracking, free markets, and Jesus and that I was there to report for a magazine, the gentleman looked a little disappointed. He stuck out his bottom lip and then off he went, looking for the next one I guess, which is a pretty tough bid considering most of the blacks at Gaylord Convention Center this week are working as valet parkers. Despite the talk of creating a “bigger tent” for conservativism after Obama whooped the GOP’s collective ass in the last presidential election, I haven’t seen a many black folks actually running around the conference. But can you blame my brothers? Who wants hear that their vote was bought by Obama due to their race-based laziness? Black dudes should, however, come to CPAC for the white women. It’s probably got something to do with the conservative red-meat diet, cause these girls have way more junk in the trunk than your average kale-chomping liberal.
Despite the absence of blacks in the audience, I’ve already seen a ton of brothers on the main stage. Clearly, even though the movement is fairly monochromatic, conservatives want to highlight their diversity and reassure everyone (and maybe themselves) that they aren’t racist—which is probably why everyone and his momma wants a photo op with me. In the first couple hours of the conference, they had a black dude say the pledge of allegiance and Allen West was the first prominent politician to give a speech.
What Do Hate Groups Think of Jennifer Lawrence
Have you ever met anyone who doesn’t like Jennifer Lawrence? No? Me either. Even if someone doesn’t know who she is, you can just show them that clip of her after the Oscars, or that one of her getting freaked out by Jack Nicholson, and they will become an instant lifelong megafan.
But in the interest of presenting a fair and balanced argument, I decided to try and find some people who hate her. And who hates more shit than members of hate groups? They have the word “hate” right there in their description.
I called up a few to see what their feelings were on J-Lawr.
NATIONAL SOCIALIST FREEDOM MOVEMENT
Who are they?
A US-based “white civil rights group” (that’s a fancy way of saying “racists”).
What do they think of Jennifer Lawrence?
VICE: I was wondering if you could tell me your organization’s thoughts on Jennifer Lawrence?
Edward McBride, National Socialist Freedom Movement: Jennifer Lawrence? I don’t know anything about her. Why?
You know who she is, right? She just won best actress for Silver Linings Playbook? She was in Hunger Games?
No, sorry. I don’t really pay attention to that nonsense.
Oh. Well what kind of stuff are you into?
Basically, you know, defending the rights of white people everywhere.
Jennifer Lawrence is white.
So you guys would defend her?
If something were to happen to her.
Well, a while ago she won an award at the Golden Globes, and when she went to get it, she said this thing about Meryl Streep, which was just a reference to First Wives Club, but a lot of people misunderstood and thought she was dissing Meryl. A bunch of people were angry. There was this huge Twitter backlash.
Is that something you guys would have defended her against?
What kind of stuff would you defend her against, then?
A variety of different things. Say, for example, she was the victim of a flash mob.
Eugh. I hate flash mobs.
Yeah, basically where a group of nig-nogs are looking for any excuse to attack whites.
Oh. I think maybe your definition of “flash mob” is different from mine… Are there any actresses you do like?
Not even Meryl Streep?
But everybody likes Meryl Streep.
This Guy Wants to Start His Own Aryan Country
You know who really gets the shitty end of the stick nowadays? White people. Sure, they come out best in socio-economic standings and suffer absolutely no persecution for the color of their skin, but they have to put up with non-white people living peacefully among them and going about with their lives. That’s just wrong. This injustice needs to be righted before black people, Mexicans, and Asians start getting uppity and trying to buy cars, run businesses, and all of that other evil stuff.
The Northwest Front feels the same way. They claim to be a movement tired of political corruption and “the genocide of the white race” (clearly a real issue since white people are 72 percent of the US population). The group is dedicated to breaking away and forming their own all-white state in the Pacific Northwest. As far as I know, the only thing on the radio over there is Ted Nugent.
At first it seemed like a legitimate movement, but after spending some time on the site, I kept noticing the name Harold Covington on all the blog posts, podcasts, and videos. Harold, it turns out, is a writer who has released five novels set in the American Northwest’s white-only future. That’s when I started to realize that anyone can set up a website, write a few blogs, and record a podcast. So what if this is some bizarre marketing ploy for Covington’s books? All press is good press, apparently. Even if it’s for being all kinds of deluded, disgusting, and racist. I called Harold to get some answers.
A promotional poster for Harold’s as yet non-existent Aryan nation, the Northwest Front.
VICE: So Harold, was this idea of a sovereign, Northwest state an invention for your novels?
Harold Covington: No, I didn’t invent the idea of Northwest migration by any means. There was a very serious move for a separate state of Jefferson in the 1940s, which was going to be taken out of California. Even back then, white people were sick of that shower of shit down in Los Angeles and Sacramento.
So what’s the point of this new country? Why don’t you just move to Scandinavia if you want to be surrounded by white people?
What we advocate is basically the establishment of a sovereign, independent nation in the Pacific Northwest as a homeland for all white people. Kind of like the white version of Israel. I don’t see why the Jews are the only people on Earth that get their own country and everyone else has to be diverse.
Yeah, it’s so unfair. They’ve had such an easy time of it so far. Why do you think it’s so important for white people to have their own country?
It’s kind of like reintroducing wolves into nature. The wolves have to have a habitat and the white man has to have a habitat. We need a piece of turf where we can raise several more generations in security and safety without all this corrupting crap that liberal democracy has produced over the past 100 years.
I Couchsurfed with Settlers in the Holy Land
A couple of months ago, my friend was on a rant (albeit, a very coherent one) about how CouchSurfing’s website supports Zionism by allowing settlers in the West Bank to list their location as “Judea and Samaria”—the Israeli name for most of the disputed West Bank. She was trying to make a point about how CouchSurfing is supporting Israel’s colonialist project of erasing Palestinian identity. But what I took away from it was: ‘Wait, you can CouchSurf in the settlements?’
And yes, as it turns out, you can CouchSurf in the settlements. I sent out requests to everyone I could find under “Judea and Samaria,” omitting the fact that I’m currently living in Palestine. I quickly received several replies and set about making preparations. With my first CouchSurfing trip approaching, I experienced a steep uptick in my anxiety level. After all, these are the people who descend on Palestinian villages firing assault rifles wildly at anything that moves.
Almost every story I’ve ever heard about settlers sounds like someone describing a nightmarish mescaline trip coordinated by the lovechild of Charlie Manson and Timothy Leary. Like, for example, the time a band of settlers rode into town on horseback and set fire to 1,500 olive trees in a single attack. Or the time a settler woman grabbed a ten-year-old Palestinian kid, stuffed rocks in his mouth and then forced his mouth closed, breaking his teeth, all while fighting off an Israeli soldier who was trying to intervene.
Just a little glimpse of some land in Gush Etzion.
Picture a heavily-armed, modern-day KKK that doesn’t even bother to conceal their identities with stupid costumes and that’s pretty much my impression of what settlers are. Of course, not all settlers are blood-thirsty racist thugs. Those are just the ones that get the most media attention, for obvious reasons. Most people living in settlements move there because they’re heavily subsidised by the Israeli government. It’s a pretty sweet deal if you’re an upper-middle-class Israeli: you get super-cheap housing in a newly-constructed, upscale neighborhood, and since regional councils usually have approval over who can move into the settlement, you won’t have to worry about any Arabs setting up shop next door.
When I met Shaul, from the settlement of Gvaot, my nervousness about this whole plan swiftly decreased. From the moment he came to pick me up in Jerusalem, it was apparent that he was a really nice guy. And I don’t mean he was a really nice guy compared to what I expected from a settler—I mean he was a really nice guy by any conceivable standard of such things. Shaul and his wife, Lea, were incredibly gracious and hospitable the entire time I was in Gvaot. Besides opening their home to a complete stranger from an alien culture with no experience of their way of life, they cooked for me, fed me chocolate and coffee, introduced me to their family, and were incredibly pleasant people for the duration of my stay.
They doted on their one-month-old daughter and their African gray parrot, clearly proud of both. And they may have been living on stolen land, but their reasons for doing so seriously complicated my feelings about the entire situation. Gvaot, you see, is a small community of 17 families inside the large Gush Etzion settlement cluster. (The Israeli Defence Ministry apparently just authorized the construction of 523 new housing units in Gvaot, which I can’t imagine anyone in Gvaot thinking is a good thing.)
A garden in Gvaot.
The people of Gvaot live in mobile homes in similar conditions to those you find in any trailer park—that is to say, they weren’t exactly living the high life. Shaul commutes every day to Jerusalem, where he studies documentary filmmaking at the university there. They moved to Gvaot to be close to Lea’s workplace: a school for children with Down’s Syndrome. Now, in my book, teaching children with Down’s Syndrome is an incredibly noble way to spend your life. I saw Shaul and Lea interact with some of the children from the school, many of whom also live in Gvaot, and I could tell the kids were genuinely happy to see them.
More impressive still were the wedding photos. When Shaul and Lea were married, they threw a big wedding ceremony somewhere in northern Israel. They brought all their friends and family, of course, but they also brought the kids from the school, and in the photos it was obvious the kids were having the time of their lives. The problem is, they’re still on stolen land. According to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 33 acres of land were seized from the Palestinian village of Nahhalin in order to make room for the settlers of Gvaot.
Shaul pointed out Nahhalin to me on the car ride in to Gvaot, telling me “We get along with them. They are good people.” I realized what he meant by this the next day, when I saw some Palestinian guys doing landscaping outside one of the trailers. The more I talked to Shaul and Lea, the more odd details of their worldview popped into focus. For example, during dinner on my first night in Gvaot, Shaul started talking aboutMonty Python and the Holy Grail, pontificating on the historical accuracy of the film.
A lone oak in Gush Etzion.
“They burned a lot of women as witches in the medieval times, but most of the time it wasn’t true, just like in the movie,” he tells me, and I had to almost literally bite my tongue to avoid yelling out “Most of the time?” After dinner, we sat on the couch of Shaul’s living room and he started asking me about the US elections, still upcoming at the time I visited. He wanted to know if I liked Obama or Romney. I refuse to vote for anyone who supports a policy of literally endless war, which made the Obama/Romney choice rather irrelevant to me.
My guy was Vermin Supreme, but I wasn’t about to tell Shaul and Lea that, so I gave a noncommittal, “I’m not sure yet.” Shaul said he wasn’t sure either, since he thought Obama was better for America, but Romney was better for Israel. Under Obama, US financial aid to Israel has reached its highest levels ever, but since I was acting ignorant about Israel in order to not arouse suspicion, I didn’t mention that to Shaul. The election discussion led us into talking about the political situation in Israel and opposition to settlements, which seemed to deeply confuse Shaul, who couldn’t understand why anyone would be against Israeli Jews living on the land.
A natural pool in Gush Etzion.
As he was describing a recent settler attack on a Palestinian vehicle, Lea broke in to ask him to change the subject. “We almost never talk about politics here,” Shaul confided. Personally, I would call throwing a Molotov cocktail at a civilian vehicle “terrorism” and not “politics,” but it’s a case of tuh-may-ta, tow-mah-toh, I guess. The next day we ate shakshouka for breakfast and talked about the City of David. The City of David is ahorrible, horrible colonialist project with the twin goals of promoting an exclusively Zionist version of history and wiping out the Palestinian East Jerusalem community of Silwan.
It seemed like everyone in Gvaot had some connection to the City of David. A woman we ate breakfast with was the daughter of the City of David’s director, and Shaul’s dad did some archaeological digging there, supposedly proving that some ruins (presumably under someone’s home in Silwan that had to be demolished to get at this compelling archaeological evidence) came from the exact date of the Biblical reign of King David. Everyone who talked about it made vague references of opposition to the project, but seemed completely baffled as to how anyone could possibly be against forcing people from their homes at gun point and then bulldozing the houses in order to find some rocks from several millennia ago.
Clothes and guns belonging to frolicking Israeli soldiers.
I got a final striking example of the settler capacity for ignoring cognitive dissonance during a mountain bike ride with Shaul down the beautiful rolling hills of Gush Etzion. It was easy to understand why the Israelis want this land—it’s gorgeous, filled with trees and clear, sparkling pools. We stopped at one of these pools and Shaul stripped down to his underwear for an afternoon dip. A couple of guys were playing backgammon and had left their clothes piled up about 40 feet away, along with their automatic weapons. I was pretty shocked to see a few M4s carelessly piled up with the shirts and towels, but Shaul explained the guys were soldiers and therefore required to take their guns with them everywhere.
Then came the cognitive dissonance section of our ride. Shaul was telling me a story about how men sometimes swim naked in the pool: “They ask the women to leave, but sometimes the women say, ‘You do what you want, but I stay here because this place is for everyone.’” Everyone? Really? Well, I asked, what about the Palestinians? Do they ever come here to swim? “No, not very many,” Shaul said. “There is no Arab village close to here.” So that’s how you’re able to steal land from a disenfranchised people under military occupation in order to teach kids with Down’s Syndrome at a special-needs school: because it’s the simplest thing in the world for you to hold two incompatible ideas in your head at the same time.
Everything about your way of life explicitly supports an apartheid regime inching its way toward a genocidal final solution to “the Palestinian question,” but you never talk about politics. You pass Nahhalin every day on your way to the university and claim to “get along with them,” but you also believe that “there is no Arab village close to here.” It’s simple, I guess, once you decide to stop thinking about it and just do it.
Immigrants Are Being Stabbed to Death on the Streets of Athens
“I urge you to stop racism. At last, you have to realize that we are human beings and we are immigrant workers. We want justice,” shouts Javed Aslam, the Pakistani president of the Union of Immigrant Workers in Greece. He is addressing the crowd of about 5,000 people, who have marched all the way to Syntagma Square, in front of the parliament building, to protest against fascism and the growing wave of racist attacks against immigrants, some of which have been fatal.
The demo is occuring a couple of days after the murder of Shehzad Luqman, a 27-year-old Pakistani worker who was stabbed to death by a 29-year-old fireman and his unemployed, 24-year-old accomplice, both Greek and suspected Golden Dawn members. During the early morning of January 17th, Shehzat was cycling to his employer’s house in Petralona to load their truck before heading to the open-air market. The two offenders, who claim they had a fight with Shehzat because he’d been blocking their way, stopped their motorbike and stabbed him in the chest, causing his death a short time later.
Unlike many crimes against immigrants that go unreported, this one was witnessed by neighbors and a taxi driver who recorded the motorbike’s plate and called the police. When arrested a short time later, one of the assailants still had the bloody knife in his pocket.
Chipping Away at Stop-and-Frisk
Fifty-one-year-old Charles Bradley finished his shift as a security guard and took the subway to visit his fiancée. The two made plans to meet the day before. Charles had moved out of the apartment they shared on 1527 Taylor Ave., in the Bronx after a disagreement. It might have been a night of reconciliation. But instead, it was a night spent interrogated in a van, strip-searched at the station house, and called “a fucking animal,” thanks to the NYPD and Operation Clean Halls, which allows police officers to patrol private apartment buildings in high crime areas in New York City since 1991.
The Iron Pipe of Swedish Fascism
Photo by Christian Storm
Last November, the Swedish newspaper Expressen published a leaked video that showed neo-fascist members of Swedish parliament running amok through the streets of Stockholm, wielding pieces of scaffolding pipe and shouting slurs like “Paki” and “little whore” at innocent bystanders. They are members of the Sweden Democrats, a political party that was a marginal outlier ten years ago with no hope of ever getting elected to parliament. But in a 2012 opinion poll, the Sweden Dems came out with 11 percent of the vote—which would make them the third most popular party in the country.
At first glance, the upswing of fascism and racism in Sweden appears surprising. The nation has no long-lasting history of colonialism, and far-right movements played a relatively insignificant role in 20th-century Sweden. So how did this ragtag group of anti-immigrant nationalists rise to such a prominent place in Swedish politics? And what made the Swedish people vote these hooligans into parliament?
Fascism seems totally out of place in Sweden, an affluent country with a well-functioning welfare system. But in the past couple of decades, xenophobia has festered under the surface of prosperity. Starting in the early 1980s, a handful of racist groups emerged, the most notable among them Bevara Sverige Svenskt(Keep Sweden Swedish). Distributing flyers that instructed Swedish girls to “avoid unprotected sexual intercourse with Negroes with deadly AIDS” and demanding “repatriation” of non-Nordic immigrants, the BSS functioned as a breeding ground for far-right activists. In the mid-80s, fascist rallies were held in central Stockholm to commemorate the death of the 18th century’s King Karl XII, a figure they positioned as their founding father. These rallies, which included hundreds of drunk skinheads communing with sweater-wearing fascist grandfathers, often ended in street fights and wanton violence. Swastikas and Hitler salutes were common sights.
The Sweden Democrats rose from the ashes of this milieu. Formed in 1988, the party was a coalition between ex-members of the BSS and leading figures of Nazi organizations like Nordiska Rikspartiet (Nordic Nations Party). The party spent the early and mid-1990s mobilizing the far right against the Swedish political establishment.
Although sectarian Nazi parties formed in Sweden as early as the 1920s, their “national movement” never gained much traction. The country’s postwar economic boom was made possible by large-scale immigration. In the decades after WWII, the number of Swedes who immigrated from foreign countries increased from about 100,000 to almost 600,000. The Social Democrats’ ideological vision of folkhemmet (the people’s home)—an exclusively Swedish community that spanned all social classes—involved eugenics programs and oppression of the Romani and Sámi people; however, the bulwark of Swedish socialism largely kept the nationalists at bay until recent times.
In 1992, after the serial killer and bank robber John “the Laser Man” Ausonius shot 11 immigrants in Stockholm, the Sweden Democrats arranged a march during which participants screamed that he should have shot more foreigners. A year after, police arrested the leader of the party’s youth wing at a Communist May Day demonstration for possessing a hand grenade.
In the late 90s, however, the leaders of the Sweden Democrats began to methodically sever their far-right connections. Skinheads were excluded, explicit anti-Semitism was dropped, and references to race were discouraged. By cutting its umbilical cord to Nazism, this violent party whitewashed itself into a softer, more respectable opponent of multiculturalism. In 2001, the party split in two, with the anti-Semitic and more militant factions founding the ultranationalist Nationaldemokraterna (National Democrats). The Sweden Democrats strategically presented themselves as invandringskritisk (immigration critical) and socially conservative rather than explicitly fascist. Led by Jimmie Åkesson, a respectable and smartly dressed young man with a self-proclaimed interest in “history,” the party received 160,000 votes in the 2006 parliamentary elections.
Aware of the increasingly anti-Islamic sentiments in Europe, the Sweden Democrats shifted their demonization to Muslim immigrants and scapegoated them for what the party alleged to be social decay in Sweden. They went so far as to appoint Jewish members to top positions and began to aggressively push a pro-Israel foreign policy. As Åkesson put it, Islam was the “biggest foreign threat [to Sweden] since the Second World War.”
With their carefully calibrated underdog image, the Sweden Democrats gained significant support over the next few years. Some former Social Democrats, discouraged by their party’s involvement in dismantling the welfare state, found the Sweden Democrats to be a source of stability, community, and tradition. The party appropriated the Social Democratic vision of folkhemmet and turned it against its designers, accusing the Social Democrats of having betrayed the Swedish people by submitting to multiculturalism, feminism, and “mass immigration.”
Read Gary Indiana’s personal remembrance of Sunando Sen, the man pushed in front of a subway train by a woman who “hated Muslims.”
I can’t tell you much of a personal nature about Sunando Sen. I only knew him as a helpful, pleasant, intelligent person who worked at the NY Copy and Printing Center at the end of my block for many years. A quiet man, heavy-set, handsome in an old school sort of way, who emanated calm and patience. He could solve almost any design problem. He was gifted and smart and good-hearted. For myself and many of my neighbors he was one of the local tradespeople who would gladly keep an emergency set of your keys in the shop, sign for your FedEx and UPS deliveries when you were away from the house, and automatically offer help in a crisis. He was a valued neighbor, one of those people who make living in a city less alienating and isolating.
He was born in 1966 in Calcutta. His parents were from Bangladesh. He graduated in economics from J.N. University in New Delhi and came to the US in the early 90s on a scholarship to NYU. His mother died soon after he finished his Master’s degree. He was unable to finish his Ph.D. thesis for lack of funds. He began working at the copy center in 1995. He educated himself in computer science and graphic design, and continued working toward his Ph.D. When he first came to America he lived in Brooklyn, then moved to Queens in 1998. Last year he suffered a mild stroke, and left his job at the copy center. Then, with a business partner, he opened New Amsterdam Copy Center uptown, near Columbia.
These are, I realize, no more than a handful of dry facts about someone who was, as it happens, well-loved by the people who knew him, and by the loose constituency of New Yorkers who live in my neighborhood and may not all know each other terribly well but count on one another’s presence in the local streets and shops and restaurants to recognize a few city blocks as “home.”
On December 28th, a deranged woman with a history of violence named Erika Menendez pushed Sunando in front of a train at the 40th St.-Lowery elevated station in Queens. She told police that she “hated Muslims.”
It hardly matters that Sunando was Hindu, since Menendez also said that she hates Hindus and Egyptians, in that order. It does matter that the 40th St.-Lowery station is one of many New York subway stations where the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a hate group started by a radical Zionist named Pamela Geller, was allowed several months ago to place ads implicitly equating Islam with “savagery,” thanks to a federal judge who overruled the good sense of the Transit Authority. The ads continue to pollute the subway system. I know the debate about these particular ads is old news. I don’t propose revisiting it, but rather am urging increased, aggressive vandalism of Geller’s posters. If messages as gratuitously hostile as Geller’s are legal to post in a public space that thousands of people use every day to get to work, it should also be legal to deface them, and if it isn’t, so what.
Ordinary sense would suggest that inflammatory messages aimed against particular racial, ethnic, or religious groups don’t belong in the transit system. If they’re placed there, we have a moral right to fuck them up and render them illegible. Many New Yorkers began wittily embellishing Geller’s “Defend Israel, Fight Jihad” screed as soon as it appeared, as Linda Sarsour noted in a City Limits article last September. But as Sarsour noted at the time, “The danger…is that [Geller] still may tip a handful of people into violent outbursts against Muslims and Arabs. Geller will claim she is not responsible, but she will undoubtedly have played a part.” In light of Sunando’s murder, it’s reasonable to suppose that this has turned out true.