Lauren Sieben – The Chronicle May 24, 2011
A new report from the Anti-Defamation League raises concerns about a conservative student group, which it says has ties to white supremacists and a plan to expand at universities across the country.
The student group—Youth for Western Civilization—says it’s not a racist organization. Its stated mission is “to organize, educate, and train activists dedicated to the revival of Western Civilization.”
But the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy organization, says in its report that the student group uses “Western civilization” as a euphemism for “white culture.”
Youth for Western Civilization was founded in 2006 by Kevin DeAnna, a recent graduate of American University’s School of International Service, and the organization will host its first conference in June, in Washington, D.C.
“The fact that they’re having their first national conference is something that makes it more an issue of concern for us, because of their desire to grow and strategize,” said Marilyn Mayo, co-director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
Youth for Western Civilization is officially recognized at only a handful of institutions, including Vanderbilt University, Washington State University, and Liberty University, according to the report. At other colleges, like Providence College, students have elected not to recognize the group, but it maintains an active presence on the campus.
Vanderbilt acknowledged the report in a statement and said there has been no evidence of its chapter “being involved in actions of hate or harassment on campus.” Washington State and Liberty University did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. DeAnna said in a statement that the Anti-Defamation League’s report draws conclusions about his group based on “unsolicited praise on message boards, people who decided to be ‘fans’ of our Facebook page, and people who showed up in the audience to events we held that are open to the public.”
“I honestly had not even heard of over half the people I am allegedly linked to,” he wrote.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, Youth for Western Civilization does not make make direct references to minority groups, but uses instead terms like “multiculturalism” and “racial chauvinists.” The report cites statements on the group’s Web site calling multiculturalism a cult that’s responsible for “destroying and dispossessing the people and culture of the West.”
Mr. DeAnna says the group is not using euphemisms to conceal racism and denies any allegations of racism.
The Anti-Defamation League points out several connections the group has had with prominent white supremacists.
In April, the student group organized a fund-raising campaign with Jared Taylor, the founder of American Renaissance, which the report describes as a racist magazine. (American Renaissance describes its position as “racial realism.”)
Mr. DeAnna, the group’s founder, also has close ties with Richard Spencer, a director of the National Policy Institute, which the report describes as “a white-supremacist think tank.” According to the report, Youth for Western Civilization invited Mr. Spencer to speak at Vanderbilt in 2010 and at Providence in 2011.
Ms. Mayo said she worries about the group expanding its campus presence while building ties with white supremacists. Despite the group’s links with such extremists, it also has substantial mainstream conservative support, particularly from the Conservative Political Action Conference, which Ms. Mayo attributes to the group’s strategic rhetoric.
“Youth for Western Civilization is a perfect example of a group that straddles the line between the mainstream and the extreme,” she said. “When they talk about issues, they present them in more cultural terms as opposed to focusing on racist rhetoric, so that their message is much more palatable to people. … In that way, they might be more accepted by students.”