On a rather cool March evening, members of an organization called Identity Evropa walked the hallways and sidewalks of campus putting up seemingly innocuous posters featuring white marble statues and text reading “Our Future Belongs To Us” and “Let’s Become Great Again.” But unlike the various student organizations, events, and local businesses that use the lamp posts and bulletin boards to promote their groups, Identity Evropa is an Identitarian organization, an alt-right group rooted in pro-white values and beliefs.
Born out of the French Identitarian movement, Identitarianism in the United States has grown in popularity, especially following the election of President Donald Trump. While Trump was never outright in support of any racist hate groups, following his November victory, there has been a spike in hate crimes around the country. Trump later called on those groups and individuals to “stop it.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), one of the leading organizations that track hate crimes and discrimination, notes that some people feel “emboldened by a presidential candidate who embraced their ideas with a nudge and a wink, and electrified by his victory, white nationalists in 2016 fanned out and spread their message of fear and loathing among the nation’s young people.”
Identity Evropa Politely Disagrees
Contrary to the labels that the SPLC and the ADL have given Identity Evropa, members of the organization consider themselves “identitarians” and that terms like “supremacists” and “neo-Nazis” are used to shut down discussion. “We are concerned with preserving western European, white civilization, culture, and our people,” Reinhard Wolff, Identity Evropa’s National Director of Administration, said. He uses a pseudonym rather than his real name.
With national membership in the hundreds and quickly growing, Identity Evropa’s main goal is to raise awareness of their issues. They believe there’s an atmosphere on college campuses and in the media that prohibits discussion and inquiry. Wolff refers to this as “political correctness” or “cultural Marxism.”
“We are essentially representing the interests and social worth of people of European heritage here in America,” Wolff said. “We are an advocacy organization for the rights of people with European heritage.”
Wolff says the reason groups like Identity Evropa and the alt-right are growing in popularity is because “the left went too far pushing anti-white” and western European values are under threat. He believes professors are attempting to deconstruct whiteness and in the process are intentionally ignoring the deconstruction of Asian or black identity.
Members of Identity Evropa say they don’t hate minorities or believe their identity is superior to an Asian or black identity, but rather they’re just concerned with preserving white identity. Wolff uses the analogy that if an alien race better than humans came to Earth, began taking over the government, and made humans minorities, that people would want to preserve their identity and character too, but he emphasizes his identity is no more or less valid than others.
Another big part of Identity Evropa’s world view is that diversity is counter to societal progress. Wolff points to research conducted by Robert Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, that shows diversity causes people to trust each other less and there’s less social cohesion. “Multiculturalism and multiracialism are just really not good ideas at the end of the day,” Wolfe said. “The most historically successful societies have been homogeneous. That doesn’t mean America has to be 100 percent white…these days we’re being told that diversity is good — the opposite is the case.”
Penn State and #ProjectSiege
The flyers that appeared around Penn State are part of an ongoing Identity Evropa campaign called #ProjectSiege, in which they “siege” college campuses with their literature. They’re specifically targeting college campuses like Penn State and more than forty other schools because they believe their values have been shut out of academia and that professors tend to be overwhelmingly leftist.
Wolff says there are “quite a few students” at Penn State who are actively involved in Identity Evropa and in the #ProjectSiege campaign. The goal of their campaign is to start a conversation at Penn State on their issues so people can freely express alt-right ideas and not have to lose their jobs in the process. They also want alt-right professors and representation of alt-right ideas. Identity Evropa is actively working to obtain permits to set up tables on campus and is even interested in eventually becoming an officially recognized student organization.
“We are fighting a culture war,” Wolff said. “We’re trying to change hearts and minds and offer another alternative to all of these white people who have been disillusioned by the left.”
What does the SPLC think of Identity Evropa and the Penn State #ProjectSiege campaign?
Over the past few months, even before President Trump was elected, the SPLC has tracked groups like Identity Evropa who have made inroads into college campuses.
“I would encourage the [university]administration and students to bring greater scrutiny to how they qualify these groups or what it is they are promoting among student populations,” SPLC Outreach Director Lecia Brooks said. “I understand providing a space around religious pluralism or around different social groups or social interactions or leadership skills. I certainly understand presenting different intellectual opinions about issues, but I don’t know how white nationalism, or white supremacy, and anti-Semitism or anti-feminism fits.”
Even though Identity Evropa considers its members identitarians and says they don’t hate minorities, Brooks emphasizes it’s simply a smokescreen hiding their true beliefs.
“They reject terms like ‘racism’ or ‘supremacist’ and yet at the same time the Identitarian label refers to a racist European past — that’s who they are,” Brooks said. “We can’t let them say they’re one thing when they’re really another.”
Brooks also said if other hate groups or extremist groups like the Nation of Islam or the New Black Panther Party said they weren’t racist or said they weren’t anti-Semitic that it wouldn’t change who they are.
“Identity Evropa wants to propagate the whole false notion that white folks are being dispossessed, which is based on a whole white supremacist model that this was yours to possess in the first place,” she said.
Brooks considers alt-right groups like Identity Evropa the new face of white supremacy. She said younger people simply aren’t interested in the Ku Klux Klan or neo-Nazi groups anymore, but groups like Identity Evropa are tapping into an angst shared by young people of a conservative bent. The SPLC is attempting to combat groups like these by disseminating factual information about what they stand for and not allowing them to “live under the lie that they’re not racists or that they’re not white nationalists or not white supremacists.”
“We certainly support free speech,” Brooks said. “We wouldn’t disallow anyone to come on campus, but it is the attention that they get and the promotion that they get — they’re not on par with other groups, so we want to bring some greater scrutiny to it with the hope that students and an enlightened student body and administration would ignore them.”
As groups like Identity Evropa make concerted efforts to recruit college students, Brooks wants university administrations to not just disassociate themselves from them and say that they’re for free speech, but to disavow white supremacy and white nationalism. “Why can’t they say that?” Brooks asked. “Why can’t they call them out for who they are and what they’re doing?”
In terms of combating alt-right groups, Brooks recommends people start conversations within their circles of friends about why these groups are dangerous, how the notion of separatism will never work, and how we as a nation must move forward together. “We have to find a way to work together, live together, and appreciate one another,” Brooks said. “Educate students and faculty at Penn State as to what this group is really about.”
Penn State on Identity Evropa
In a previous statement to Onward State, Penn State spokesperson Lisa Powers stated, “As a University that fosters diversity and inclusion — we find the posters and the responsible group counter to our values. The organization posting them is not a recognized Penn State student organization and has targeted dozens of universities across the country…The University would like to emphasize that every student on this campus has earned the right to be here based on their academic qualifications and hard work. Penn State is enriched by students and scholars from around the world and we will continue to be a campus dedicated to building a safe, supportive and welcoming learning environment that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion.”
“The University recognizes student organizations so that students may pursue various intellectual, religious, and social interests, develop leadership skills, engage with the community, and enrich the overall student experience by providing additional academic programming,” Powers said in an updated statement. “Recognition by the University does not indicate approval or endorsement of an organization’s purpose or activities and is a viewpoint-neutral process. However, the University need not and would not recognize a student organization that discriminates on the basis of any protected category set forth in University Policy AD 91.”