Archive for Documenting Appropriations

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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Racist Intimidation invokes Socrates and “Classical Education”

In September 2019, several faculty and administrators at Wake Forest University received racist and homophobic emails that, according to recipients, called for “our land to be ‘purged’ of people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community.” More recently it has emerged that the hateful and intimidating rhetoric of these emails used references to Greco-Roman Antiquity to define the curriculum that the racists believe should be “restored.”

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Update to the Onomasticon of Classical Pseudonyms and Avatars – December 2019

In the year since we announced our “Onomasticon of Classical Pseudonyms and Avatars,” it has become one of the most visited pages on Pharos. In this update to the database, we’ve added four new pseudonyms from some of the largest hate sites that Pharos has documented:

Our full discussion of each, along with all the other classicizing names and images we’ve documented so far, can be found in the Onomasticon itself.

A Champion for Classics…and Racism

Joseph Sobran was a prominent American journalist and anti-Semite who, according to one obituary, “shared many of the ideas of the European far right from the early 20th century, in particular the belief that Jews are an alien, nearly monolithic and subversive force whose main goal is to destroy Western Civilization.” He came to the attention of Pharos because a meme featuring one of his quotes has been posted several times in a Facebook group for Latin teachers, where it received many “likes” and some approving comments. The quote says: “In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching Remedial English in college.” This nostalgia for an (imagined) time when the study of Classics enjoyed a central and respected position in American education may be superficially attractive to those of us devoted to that study. But Sobran’s hateful political views should make us think twice about our assumptions about the value and purpose of Classical education. We may discover that our self-image, and even self-respect, as educators rests on implicit arguments dear to those with abhorrent political views.

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Fake Aristotle Quote Opposing Human Rights for Immigrants

A xenophobic news aggregator called Western Voices World News reposted an article from the New York Post concerning New York City’s strongest-in-the-nation Human Rights Law. In September 2019 the city explicitly affirmed that the law protects New Yorkers from being harassed because of their accent, for speaking a language other than English, or from being called an “illegal alien” out of hate. Western Voices World News provided only two bits of commentary on the report: the xenophobic heading “Trusting your government and getting conquered by aliens are now one and the same” and a meme showing a bust of Aristotle with a quotation “Tolerance and Apathy are the last virtues of a dying society.” Pharos has documented and responded to hate groups using things Aristotle actually wrote in support of hatred, but Sententiae Antiquae and The Athenian Inspector have both shown that this quote appears nowhere in Aristotle’s work: racists, xenophobes, and nationalists just attach Aristotle’s name to it in order to give intellectual credibility to their hateful politics.

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Not just Sparta: White Supremacist Admiration of Athens

Thanks especially to the work of Sarah Bond and Myke Cole, the general public is increasingly familiar with white supremacists’ fetishization of Classical Sparta as a supposedly racially pure, hyper-masculine, hyper-militarized model for the totalitarian ethnostate they seek to bring about. Sparta is the ancient touchstone for hate groups that Pharos documents most frequently. What may surprise many people, however, is that Classical Athens, popularly understood to be the ancient world’s beacon of democracy, cultural and intellectual accomplishment, and the polar opposite of Sparta, is promoted by white supremacists as a model for emulation as well. This appropriation of Athens in support of hateful politics poses a different kind of challenge to historians than the appropriation of Sparta does. The Sparta invoked by hate groups has little in common with the way our society is currently structured, but in Athens the hate groups find a model for how our existing political system can serve the white nationalist project.

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Greco-Roman Antiquity in Camus’ “Great Replacement”

No fewer than three recent mass shooters have said they found inspiration in the French intellectual Renaud Camus’ theory of “the Great Replacement,” a xenophobic and racist claim that “European” or “white” culture is being “replaced” through immigration. Camus outlined this theory in a 2011 book entitled Le Grand Remplacement that he later rewrote and translated into English as You Will Not Replace Us! (2018), a title clearly intended to echo the chant of the white supremacists at the 2017 Charlottesville rallyPharos has reported on how this theory appears, often in connection with references to Greco-Roman antiquity, on various hate sites, and ancient historian Sarah Bond has traced the history of this theory, uncovering a long tradition of such thinking well before Camus published his work. But Greco-Roman antiquity is not just a touchstone for those who subscribe to Camus’ theory: his treatise itself takes its starting point from a reading of an ancient Greek philosophical text and is peppered throughout with references to antiquity in support of his claims.

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Revilo Oliver: The White Supremacist Within

Since 2017, Pharos has documented many examples of hate groups appropriating ancient Greece and Rome in support of their politics. Our articles may give the impression that it is only outsiders to the discipline of Classics who enlist that history in support of hate. But today we turn to a Classics professor who actively promoted anti-Semitism and became an influential figure to an entire generation of white supremacists in the United States: Revilo Oliver, who spent thirty years as a professor of Classics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and who, besides lending his prestige as a professor of Classics to white nationalist causes, often invoked Classical antiquity to legitimize his views. Oliver died in 1994 but remains a respected figure in anti-Semitic circles and a warning against assuming that white supremacy is only to be found “outside” of the professional field of Classics.
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