Racist Commemoration of Greco-Roman History as White History

“Today in White History” is a Twitter account that commemorates technological, scientific, athletic, and artistic accomplishments of people that the account’s curator regards as “white,” occasionally adding racist commentary or a  “White Live Matter” hashtag to its descriptions. The account intends to provide daily evidence for one of the fundamental beliefs of white supremacy, namely that white people have made more significant contributions to human history than other kinds of people. And just as many white supremacists regard the histories of ancient Greece and Rome to be exclusively “white” histories, “Today in White History” not only includes Greco-Roman history in its feed but gives the Classical special prominence by using an image of the Roman orator Cicero as its avatar.

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Monsters from Greek Mythology Inspire White Supremacist Activists

“The Hundred Handers” is a network of white supremacists who post racist stickers in public places. It’s a strategy used by many racist groups, including those who use imagery taken from Greco-Roman antiquity. According to an interview with the network’s anonymous founder on an anti-government website, the goal of the Hundred Handers’ stickers is to reassure the “whole population who aren’t as plugged [into] social media and may feel alone against the tsunami of anti-white hatred that they face daily”  that “you’re not alone and there are others like you in close proximity.” The network takes its name from the many-headed and many-limbed monsters who, according to the Greek poet Hesiod’s Theogony, helped Zeus and the Olympian gods defeat the Titans in the battle for control of the universe.

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Anti-Semites Enlist Cicero Against Anti-Racism

“The Noticer” is an anti-Semitic Telegram channel that collects screenshots of anti-racist tweets from people who self-identify as Jewish in order to intimidate them and target them for racist harassment. The avatar for this channel features a bust of the ancient Roman politician Cicero with glowing, laser-like eyes in imitation of a popular photoshop effect found in memes. As of this writing over eleven thousand people subscribe to “The Noticer”.

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Ancient Greece a Symbol to Rally Neo-Nazis

As the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has spread, so have xenophobic and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories blaming the spread of the virus on immigrants or Muslims or calling it a Jewish plot. One of the proponents of these conspiracy theories is Martin Sellner, whom the BBC called “the new face of the far right in Europe” for the influence he has achieved as a leader of the Austrian branch of the white nationalist Identitarian Movement which in some respects is a European predecessor to the alt-right in the United States. Unlike some other white supremacists whom Pharos has documented, Sellner has not invoked Greco-Roman antiquity in his promotion of coronavirus conspiracy theories, but in the weeks before the pandemic struck Europe, he used the Classical past — and his reach to almost 40,000 people on social media — to promote violent xenophobia against some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

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Ancient and Modern Pandemics said to “Cull the Herd”

Identity Dixie has been called America’s “preeminent neo-Confederate hate organization.” In addition to their podcast The Rebel Yell, which Pharos has documented for its host’s use of the Classical pseudonym “Musonius Rufus” and which was originally distributed on the same platform as the neo-Nazi podcast The Daily Shoah, the site promotes the work of like-minded racists, misognyists, and xenophobes on its “Dissident Right Radio” page. One such show, the Z Blog Power Hour, has joined other hate groups and conspiracy theorists in commenting on the coronavirus pandemic, calling the measures taken to limit the virus’ spread “The Great Madness” and downplaying the threat it poses. This widespread minimization of the pandemic takes many forms. On Identity Dixie and the Z Blog Power Hour it means comparing COVID-19 to plagues from Greco-Roman antiquity.

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Greek Myth and Apocalyptic European Nationalism 

This month is the fifth anniversary of the launch of Fabien Bièvre-Perrin’s Antiquipop, a website that, like Pharos, documents appropriations of Greco-Roman antiquity in the contemporary world. But whereas the pages of Pharos are filled with regressive interpretations and distortions of the ancient past, Antiquipop celebrates the deployment and reanalysis of that past in contemporary art, film, fashion, and music. On Pharos you will find examples of Greco-Roman antiquity being used to exclude, to erase, to threaten, and to oppress. On Antiquipop you find engagements with antiquity that are intended to appeal to broad audiences, engagements that, by simultaneously invoking and questioning the prestige of the Classical past, promote a sometimes radically inclusive vision of what the Greco-Roman world might mean in the contemporary world. And so, in celebration of the fifth birthday of Antiquipop your friends at Pharos offer this documentation of some Classical references in the work of a prominent member of the French far right, as an illustration of how vital your work is to the project of rejecting the claims that hate groups make on the ancient past.

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Bait and Switch: Plato’s Republic and Hitler’s Mein Kampf

During the U.S. Senate hearings concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court amid accusations of sexual assault, the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer published numerous articles (and distributed flyers) claiming that “a group of subversive Jews…utilized the most disgusting tactics imaginable to prevent Kavanaugh from filling the position.” In one of these, the editor of the site Andrew Anglin cited Plato’s Republic as proof that “using a coalition of the media and the opposition to destroy the character of an individual are nothing new.” After a lengthy quotation, Anglin ended his article by revealing that the quote was not, in fact, from Plato but from Hitler’s memoir/manifesto Mein Kampf. Read More→

Not Just Hitler and Mussolini: Neo-Nazis Love Neoclassical Architecture too

On February 4th, 2020 Architectural Record reported on a leaked draft executive order from the Trump administration entitled “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” that would require that “the classical architectural style shall be the preferred and default style” for future federal buildings. The American Institute of Architects immediately stated their opposition to the order, arguing that “architecture should be designed for the specific communities that it serves, reflecting our rich nation’s diverse places, thought, culture and climates.” They were followed by several other professional associations, including the Society for Classical Studies (attaching themselves to an existing statement from the Society for Architectural Historians) and The Archaeological Institute of America, which in addition to opposing the order noted that the very idea of a uniform “Classical” style of architecture misrepresents the variety of styles used in the Classical period. This condemnation of the totalitarian nature of the order was matched in the press with many articles describing a similar compulsory preference for Classical architecture under the Nazis in Germany or Fascists in Italy. The resonance of this proposed executive order with past white supremacist regimes is indeed disturbing, but it risks locating hateful admiration for Classical architecture in the past when in fact the nexus between it and racist politics is alive and well, as Pharos‘ survey of mentions of it on some of the major sites we document shows.

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Call for Abstracts: Greco-Roman Antiquity and White Supremacy

Society for Classical Studies Annual Meeting, Jan 7–10, 2021

Curtis Dozier, director of Pharos: Doing Justice to the Classics, invites the submission of abstracts on any aspect of the relationship of Greco-Roman Antiquity and White Supremacy. Selected abstracts will form a proposal for a panel on the topic to be held at the 2021 Society for Classical Studies annual meeting in Chicago, IL (Jan 7–10, 2021). If the SCS Program committee accepts our proposed panel, the Vassar College Department of Greek and Roman Studies will offer panelists who do not have tenured or tenure-track positions a $500 stipend toward the cost of attending the conference. Pharos is also offering a research service for those interested in preparing abstracts but who prefer not to visit White Supremacist websites (on which see below). Read More→

Report: White Supremacy and the Past and Future of Classics Roundtable

“The heartbeat of racism is denial. The heartbeat of anti-racism is confession.” -Ibram X. Kendi

Twenty classical scholars gathered at the 2020 Society for Classical Studies Annual Meeting to brainstorm a list of ways that the discipline of Classics has been and continues to be complicit in white supremacy. Participants included graduate students, high school teachers, and college professors of all ranks. Nearly all were white.

As such, the function of the round table was something like a discipline-specific version (minus the expert facilitator) of the “White Fragility” workshop on the first day of the conference, where Robin DiAngelo invited participants to reflect on how our socialization into white supremacy “renders us racially illiterate” and to take “the first step” of “let[ting] go of our racial certitude and reach[ing] for humility.” One quote from that workshop that encapsulated the motivation and aims for this roundtable came from an essay by Ijeoma Oluo: “Your survival has never depended on your knowledge of white culture. In fact, it’s required your ignorance. The dominant culture does not have to see itself to survive because culture will shift to fit its needs.” Read More→

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