Nazi Party Poster Displayed on Iowa State Campus

ISU4Trump/Twitter, Nazi Party/Alamy

A Nazi Party propaganda poster from 1936 Germany was found placed outside Iowa State University’s Student Services Building Tuesday morning near a gay pride flag. The image of an Aryan family with three young children was modified to include the words, “IN THESE TIMES OF DEGENERACY, THIS IS TRUE REBELLION,” a reference to the scientific racism belief that whites are superior and should not mix with other races. Added on the mother’s shirt was the same neo-Nazi symbol that was displayed on white supremacist posters found on campus nearly three weeks ago with messages warning whites would soon be a minority in the US.

According to student newspaper the Iowa State Daily, which mentioned the Nazi poster by the “white heritage” euphemism previously used by ISU President Steven Leath in reference to the white minority posters, the poster was reported by ISU Students for Trump leader Austen Giles. In a tweet, the @ISU4Trump Twitter account said the poster was found “Outside of the Safe Space” in the building and that university police had already spoken with the dean of students about the matter. (Soon after, @ISU4Trump liked a reply to its tweet from someone arguing it was “Sad!” the poster “is considered hate speech,” but later unliked it and denied it had meant to endorse the message.)

The display of the Nazi poster was the latest in a series of similar incidents. The week before the election, people chanted “Build the wall” at Latina students outside Campustown restaurant Jeff’s Pizza. On Election Day, a freshman said students yelled “Donald Trump, make America great again” and “Fuck you, niggers” from dorm windows at her group of friends.

The day before, Leath sent a campus-wide email with a YouTube video in which he urged calm. “The 2016 presidential election is arguably one of the most contentious, emotional, and intense elections in history,” said Leath, whose boss, Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter, was a Trump campaign adviser. “It’s ripped open deep societal wounds and ignited fierce debate in our country.”

In the video, Leath didn’t mention the Jeff’s Pizza incident but did return to the subject of the original posters displayed on campus. “The posters found on our campus two weeks ago may be factually described as white heritage posters rather than white supremacy posters, because they do not legally violate the First Amendment,” he said, despite that white supremacy posters don’t violate the First Amendment either. He went on to call the posters “hateful, racist, and bigoted” and acknowledged that for some students they “generate[d] a real fear for their safety and well-being.”

Leath issued a similar statement on Tuesday in response to the Nazi poster, saying he didn’t want to give the unknown perpetrator undue attention but wanted to let students and faculty know he was concerned about their well-being. He added that he had just met with “administration and university stakeholders” including multicultural offices, “community partners,” and both Ames and ISU police to discuss student safety. “These posters and messages of racism, bigotry, and bias are causing students, faculty, and staff to feel threatened and fearful,” Leath said. “We will not tolerate this and we cannot let these reprehensible acts divide us.”

The building on which the Nazi poster was found is where the university provides counseling services to students. Last Friday, Republican state Rep. Bobby Kaufmann announced plans to introduce a “Suck It Up Buttercup” bill when the next legislative session begins in January that would investigate how many taxpayer dollars university counseling services were spending on “safe zones” to help students who said they felt threatened by the post-election political climate. Kaufmann, who chairs the House’s Government Oversight Committee, said he would then slash the university’s budget by three times the amount.

The flippant name of the proposed bill echoes language that’s been used by alt-right trolls — including Breitbart senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who recently told a reporter that “if someone calls you an anti-Semite, you go to their page and put up swastikas” — to further antagonize people who make complaints of racism, anti-Semitism, or sexism. Yiannopoulos, who is gay, has been invited by ISU Students for Trump to speak at the Memorial Union Dec. 9 as part of his Dangerous Faggot Tour.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.