The Nebraska Republican Party has a white supremacist problem. It comes from the top and the bottom. The governor’s biggest funder, his billionaire dad, is a virulent racist, and the party keeps rewarding and promoting young white supremacists, one of whom they propelled right onto the stage next to President Trump.
Yesterday Trump held a press conference for and with the white supremacist movement that has been monetized by billionaires through the organization Turning Point USA. Trump is worried that those who spew hate, racism, and straight-up Nazi beliefs be protected from anyone responding appropriately.
Trump specifically referenced the August 2017 incident at UNL during his press conference before handing the mic to the UNL TPUSA staffer involved in that fiasco, Kaitlyn Mullen, who yesterday played her favorite role, the victim of oppression.
Let’s remember how she became known as a victim whose speech rights were trampled.
In August of 2017, Ms. Mullen set up a table representing a billionaire-funded white nationalist organization designed to train young people to be right-wing extremists, TPUSA. This is the same area of campus where ministers have for decades come to call women who walk by whores and sluts for attending college.
A handful of students, staff, and faculty protested the organization’s recruitment table. The most energetic protester was graduate student Courtney Lawton, who called Mullen a “neo-fascist becky”–“becky” being a term referring to a white woman who weaponizes her whiteness– because it was clear to Lawton that only a “neo-fascist becky” would try to bring a white supremacist organization to the campus of UNL. Lawton also said to passersby, “Fight white nationalism” and “Fight white supremacy.” When Mullen approached Lawton, who had had her back turned to Mullen, in order to take Lawton’s photo for TPUSA, Ms. Lawton flipped her off, which provided a visual that TPUSA and the Nebraska Republican Party used for many months to attack the University. You can learn more about the details of what happened on an episode of This American Life and from an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
While critics objected to one person calling another person the term “becky” at a political protest, the aftermath could not have provided a stronger example of “beckyism,” of a white woman weaponizing her whiteness. Mullen, TPUSA, and the NRP used Mullen’s age, race, and gender expression to weave a tale making her a victim who could never possibly recover.
A few weeks after being called a becky, Mullen testified at the Lincoln City Council. Many people exercise their right to speak at these meetings. What’s strange is that she was one of only three people who came that day to oppose a non-binding resolution against hate in the wake of the Charlottesville white supremacist rally. The other two opponents were members of the neo-Nazi organization Blood and Soil. Here’s an article about Mullen, alongside the UNL nazi Dan Kleve who actively promoted violence, intolerance, and hate in YouTube videos, and attended the rally in Charlottesville where a fellow white supremacist murdered a counter-protester. It was only Mullen and two avowed neo-Nazis who opposed the resolution that passed unanimously.
As a reward for claiming she wasn’t able to speak freely while having radio interviews with many politicians in the state, she was part of the reelection campaign of Congressman Don Bacon, was featured in a reelection ad by Hal Daub, and was given a coveted job of working for Bacon in DC, a job highly qualified Nebraska young people compete for. Now she has even been given a mic by the President of the United States as she continues to be paraded as the terrified blond white girl who got called “becky.”
Meanwhile, Lawton actually did have her speech rights infringed upon when the state university removed her from her job for private political speech. The nonpartisan Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) concluded that the University violated Lawton’s rights, as did the American Association for University Professors, which censured the University.
As Nebraska Republican Party officials heaped social rewards on a TPUSA staffer who was called a political name while doing political work, they stoked attacks on Lawton and her colleagues, including allowing trolls to use their official social media spaces to threaten violence against UNL staff. The governor even revoked Lawton’s comical admiralship award in the “Nebraska Navy.”
Here’s Ms. Mullen flashing the white power sign with her friends. Her friend in the middle, with the glasses, is Timon Prax, who was a paid regional TPUSA staffer at the time. He was later fired by TPUSA for being a public racist.
In summary, as the Nebraska Republican Party continues to promote white nationalists, the rest of us in the state need to remember:
” when said nazis start goose-stepping across the quad, we fully intend to tell them to fuck off in the most uncivil way we possibly can — hopefully, by drowning out their noxious nonsense. We don’t dispute their right to speak. We simply assert our right to speak more loudly. ”