Abolition Collective Statement of Support for George Ciccariello-Maher

On December 24th, a member of the Abolition Collective, George Ciccariello-Maher, published a satirical tweet mocking white supremacists. The tweet stated: “All I want for Christmas is white genocide,” mocking a well-documented neo-Nazi conspiracy theory grounded in a fantasy that immigration, diversity, and other multi-cultural policies are part of a deliberate “anti-White ‘diversity agenda'” aiming to make “the White remnant” an “extinct species in a relatively short time.”

Since the publication of the tweet, Ciccariello-Maher has become the target of a racist internet troll campaign run by Breitbart News and others, and has been subjected to hundreds of death threats. An array of alt-right, white supremacist forces, empowered by the results of the presidential election, have seized the opportunity to harass him, sending mass emails and tweets to Ciccariello-Maher, his colleagues, and his employer, Drexel University.  

The Abolition Collective unequivocally supports George and his tweet. We defend his speech not only on the grounds of academic freedom and free speech, but even more strongly on the basis of its political content. Ciccariello-Maher’s Christmas wish for “White Genocide” makes mockery of a concept that is, at its core and in its use, rooted in a fantasy of the racist white supremacist imagination. As Ciccariello-Maher himself has rightly put it, “It should be mocked, and I’m glad to have mocked it.”

As a collective, we are committed to the abolition of precisely such fantasies, and work towards this goal by building an academic and movement insurgency against all institutions and systems of domination, exploitation, and oppression. George articulates and lives out this commitment unflinchingly. His scholarly and organizing work attest to a radically anti-racist, anti-oppressive politics both online and on the ground. In defending him and his tweet, we are calling for more than the freedom of speech; we are calling, with George, for the abolition of white supremacy in all its forms.

Now, more than ever, it is necessary to defend Ciccariello-Maher not because he is experiencing exceptional harassment, but because such abuse is increasingly commonplace and has become a key part of how fascism and racism are being normalized in the United States. More so, it is an intimation of the oppression and attempted silencing of those who have been bearing the brunt of racist and sexist violence for generations, but for whom few statements of support have been issued.

The violent racism that we are witnessing in the reaction to Ciccariello-Maher’s tweet is part of a long history of online attacks and targeted harassment of those who fight against white supremacist settler-colonial heteropatriarchy, and it will only be further emboldened after January 20th and in the years to come. Even satire itself is becoming a legitimized justification for right wing terrorist threats. With only a few exceptions, mainstream capitalist press institutions were easily manipulated into becoming ready and even eager platforms for an ideological smear campaign—one transparently organized by avowed racist fascists. In fact, from attacks on Saida Grundy, Zandria Robinson, Anthea Butler, and Brittany Cooper, to recent threats on Olga Cox’s life, an emerging pattern and strategy of suppressing ideological and political dissent points toward the ascendancy of right-wing extremism. It will continue to rise unless we collectively refuse it, resist it, and fight back.

Now, more than ever, the state of extant media culture reminds us of the necessity of formations like the Abolition Collective that seek to weaponize ideas in the service of beating back an ascendant right and contributing toward the rise of a radical alternative. As Ciccariello-Maher states, “White supremacy is on the rise, and we must fight it by any means.”

As the Abolition Collective, we support George in that fight without reservation. We call for academics and abolitionists to join us in defense of our colleague and comrade, and in an assault on the white supremacist carceral settler-colonial heteropatriarchy we seek to abolish.

Read Ciccariello-Maher’s statement here:

“On Christmas Eve, I sent a satirical tweet about an imaginary concept, ‘white genocide.’ For those who haven’t bothered to do their research, “white genocide” is an idea invented by white supremacists and used to denounce everything from interracial relationships to multicultural policies (and most recently, against a tweet by State Farm Insurance). It is a figment of the racist imagination, it should be mocked, and I’m glad to have mocked it.

What I am not glad about is that this satirical tweet became fodder for online white supremacists to systematically harass me and my employer, Drexel University. Beginning with Breitbart[dot]com—formerly the domain of Special Counselor to the President-Elect, Steve Bannon—and running through the depths of Reddit discussion boards, a coordinated smear campaign was orchestrated to send mass tweets and emails to myself, my employer, and my colleagues. I have received hundreds of death threats.

Drexel University issued a statement on the matter, apparently without understanding either the content or the context of the tweets. While Drexel has been nothing but supportive in the past, this statement is worrying. While upholding my right to free expression, the statement refers to my (satirical) tweets as “utterly reprehensible.” What is most unfortunate is that this statement amounts to caving to the truly reprehensible movements and organizations that I was critiquing. On the university level, moreover, this statement—despite a tepid defense of free speech—sends a chilling message and sets a frightening precedent. It exposes untenured and temporary faculty not only to internal disciplinary scrutiny, but equally importantly, it encourages harassment as an effective means to impact university policies.

As my students will attest, my classroom is a free-for-all of ideas, in which anyone is welcome to their opinions, but expected to defend those opinions with argument. I teach regularly on the history of genocidal practices like colonialism and slavery—genocides carried out by the very same kind of violent racists who are smearing me today. That violent racism will now have a voice in the White House is truly frightening—I am not the first and I won’t be the last to be harassed and threatened by Bannon, Trump, and co.

White supremacy is on the rise, and we must fight it by any means. In that fight, universities will need to choose whether they are on the side of free expression and academic debate, or on the side of the racist mob.”