The bulletin boards hanging in hallways of several buildings on the University of South Dakota campus contained what one expects to see when a new school year begins -- notices for USD clubs seeking new members, postings for apartments for rent, that sort of thing.
Monday morning, however, several bulletin boards at USD contained posters that are a bit out of the ordinary. They were from the American Identity Movement (AIM), an organization identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as neo-Nazi and a white supremacist group.
The “Volante,” USD’s student newspaper reported Monday afternoon the posters from the white nationalist group appeared on bulletin boards in the Muenster University Center (MUC), the Al Neuharth Media Center and Patterson Hall earlier that morning.
Students and faculty reported seeing the posters, which were later removed. One of the posters, according to the “Volante,” read “Diversity Destroys Nations” above a drawing of burning city. A second poster contained the message “Defend America” in large type above a painting of a white woman standing atop a globe and holding a U.S. flag.
They are messages that need to be heard, said Patrick Casey, president of AIM, during a phone conversation with the Plain Talk Tuesday afternoon. He said the posters are just one way for the organization to communicate with people nationwide.
“We have members in the area; we have members all over the country,” he said, “and one of the more accomplished forms of activism is putting up flyers on college campuses.”
The person or persons who posted the AIM messages at USD remain unidentified.
Casey said AIM hopes to “open up the conversation” on college and university campuses like USD and others across the country.
“There’s really an oppressive and stifling atmosphere on college campuses … that really inhibits discussion of what I would argue are the most important issues that America is facing at this point: immigration, identity, race and so forth,” he said. “Obviously these issues are discussed on college campuses, but only from the approved ideological perspectives – generally from kind of a critical theory, progressive, anti-white, anti-Western and often anti-male vantage point.
“We are coming in and we are offering a different perspective on those things,” Casey said. “We are a peaceful and a lawful organization. We believe in civil discussion, civil conversation, but so often our ideas are censored and verboten, so to speak. So ‘flyering’ and activism are great ways to raise awareness of who we are and encourage people to look a little more deeply into our perspective.”
He foresees other instances of AIM posters appearing on the USD campus.
“I think that’s definitely something in the cards for the future,” Casey said, adding that AIM’s “flyering” activity is one method the organization uses to build membership.
“It’s a tried and true way to recruit new members to the organization,” he said, adding that most of AIM’s posters and flyers contain its web address and other contact information.
Casey describes AIM as an identitarian organization.
“Libertarianism is a philosophy, at least ostensibly rooted around liberty. Identitarianism is rooted around identity,” he said. “As identitarians, we are very concerned about the role that identity plays in shaping human interaction and how that plays out on both the micro- and macro- levels. At this point in time, we are going to be entering into unchartered territory demographically-speaking in this country.”
In a few decades, Casey said, there will be “majority minority” in the United States.
“America has historically had a white supermajority,” he said. “In the ‘60s, America was 88 to 90 percent white and again, in a few decades, the white majority is going to become a minority.”
Casey said when he was in college, he was told the growing minority population in the nation was a positive happening.
“I started to really question why people like me being a smaller fraction of the country is a good thing,” he said. “Obviously, that kind of led to where I am now. We are spreading awareness by identitarianism. We are affirming the validity of white identity. White identity does not mean that we are against anyone else by any means, but white people are becoming a minority in the country. People seem to believe that diversity is our greatest strength. Well, there’s quite a bit of sociological and historical evidence that points to the opposite being the case.
“We’re, in a sense, sounding the alarm,” Casey said. “We’re saying there are many well-intentioned people in addition to many poorly-intentioned people – people who have malicious or cynical motives who are promoting this idea that diversity is a strength.”
Adhering to that view, he said, will end in tragedy.
“I think that underlying the political polarization and discontent we’re seeing in America overall, there is a racial element. People calling for immigration restrictions regardless of what race they are are considered to be white nationalists,” Casey said. “I would disagree with that. This is kind of our general perspective on all of these things.”
Formerly known as “Identity Evropa,” AIM was rebranded and founded in March of 2019 by Casey.
While being diverse, he rejects the notion of the traditional ideal of America being a great melting pot of many races and creeds.
“The nation was initially a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, ethnos state, despite the fact that there’s been quite a bit of immigration into the country,” Casey said. “It’s predominantly been from Europe, right? We had Chinese immigration in the 19th century that led to the Chinese Exclusion act. Even the Ellis Island era of immigration had a lot of issues.
“The immigration we’re seeing now is really unprecedented in terms of not just the amount, but also the assortment. We have people coming from Asia, we have people coming from other countries and when it comes to assimilation and the so-called melting pot, not all cultures and peoples are going to be able to, nor are they willing to, technically, at this point, be able to assimilate. We’re at a point now where if you want people to assimilate, you are considered to be a white nationalist or a white supremacist or something. I would argue that the melting pot has lost its selling powers. Even that is not deemed progressive enough at this point.”
In an email sent to the Plain Talk Tuesday night, Michelle Cwach, assistant vice president of marketing communications and university relations at USD, stated that USD is aware of violations of its advertising policy in several locations on campus.
“Posters were removed because the organization posting the signage did not follow the appropriate process,” she said. “This process generally requires a USD staff member to time stamp and/or hang up the poster.”
Cwach added that a Board of Regents policy -- SDBOR Policy 1:32 , which upholds the right to free expression on campus -- prohibits the university from discriminating based on viewpoint.
An article by Jeremy Bauer-Wolf published in last June’s edition of “Inside Higher Ed” notes that white supremacy activity is spreading on college campuses.
Despite college administrators' attempts to stamp out white supremacist activities on campuses, these often-anonymous outsiders are distributing their literature with greater frequency, according to a new Anti-Defamation League report, Bauer-Wolf reports.
During the previous academic year, ADL found at least 292 incidents of white supremacy propaganda. Generally, white nationalists who are not connected to the university are responsible for the material.
They have been increasingly targeting colleges and universities since January 2016, and began appearing in larger numbers in the fall semester of that year, according to the ADL. More than three years later their materials -- fliers, stickers, posters -- continue to proliferate on campuses.
White supremacists often target campuses because they want to recruit young extremists to their ranks and to "inject their views into spaces they view as bastions of liberal thinking and left-wing indoctrination," according to the report.
The main culprit of the postings last spring seems to be a group formerly (and best) known as Identity Evropa, which rebranded in March as the American Identity Movement, Bauer-Wolf writes -- the same organization that spread posters at USD on Monday.
The organization accounted for more than 70 percent of the white supremacist propaganda posted during the last academic year, ADL said. After moving away from the Identity Evropa moniker, the group stopped posting European-focused propaganda and instead focused on advocating for the preservation of "white culture." Among its new slogans: "Defend America," "nationalism not globalism" and "diversity destroys nations."
The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote in March that no other white supremacist group has attempted to frame its views for a mainstream conservative audience more than the American Identity Movement. The SPLC considers it a hate group.
Its members downplay the extremism of their views, and advocate for immigration control in a way they believe will appeal to supporters of President Trump, the SPLC wrote. The image rehabilitation is an attempt to "cozy up to the Republican Party and, they hope, eventually alter the GOP to fit their own image," according to the SPLC.
Casey, who took over the group more than a year ago, and another prominent member, James Allsup, a popular "alt-right" figure on YouTube, have pushed the organization's new strategy. Its logo is similar to Patriot Front's, another white supremacist group that split from Vanguard America in 2017.
Identity Evropa has grown significantly. The Center on Extremism told Inside Higher Ed in March it believed the group (prior to the rebrand) had swelled to about 500 members nationwide, with about a third of those going on campus to post fliers and other materials.
"This data clearly demonstrates that white supremacists in the United States are emboldened by the current political and social climate," Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL's CEO and national director, said in a written statement. "Our campuses and communities should be places for learning and development, not places for racists and bigots to propagate hate speech and search for potential recruits."
Casey told the Plain Talk that AIM has never identified itself as being neo-Nazi or as a white supremacist group.
“Those are politically-charged buzzwords and labels that are designed to scare people off from looking into our ideas. People rightfully understand that Nazism is a bad thing and so when the media slanders someone like myself as a neo-Nazi, it’s going to scare people away,” he said.
People who call themselves neo-Nazis don’t like what AIM stands for, Casey said.
“We’re not trying to resurrect the ideology of Adolf Hitler from 100 years ago to try to solve problems now,” he said. “We have always been against racial supremacism, political violence and extremism -- not just right wing, not just left wing, but of any ideological orientation,” he said. “These are terms that are used by the powers that be -- the mainstream media, academics, politicians, left-wing activists -- because they have an agenda to push.”