WSU student group accused of subscribing to white nationalism

PULLMAN, Wash. - Since its creation last fall, a conservative student group at Washington State University has set up a chain-link fence on campus to protest illegal immigration, launched a controversial newspaper, and rallied in favor of "Straight Pride."

Those public events have brought attention to the local chapter and its parent organization, Youth for Western Civilization.

The goal of the seven-member chapter is to revive Western civilization and make it the dominant culture in the U.S., according to Phil Tignino, the student coordinator for the WSU chapter.

"I don't think the U.S. should be known as the country that is home to every culture, language and belief system in the world," said Tignino, a 22-year-old political science major from Los Angeles.

The national group has attracted the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a private nonprofit organization that tracks extremist hate groups across the country.

Heidi Beirich, the center's director of research, said YWC has not been listed as a hate group, but that it shares many views with white nationalist groups. Beirich said similar groups are emerging nationwide, though they lean more toward white nationalism as opposed to raw hatred ideologies.

"White nationalists are the guys who pump out the books about race and IQ's," she said. "White nationalism suits people who are educated, and is where most of the thinking goes on now in terms of white groups."

Tignino said groups like SPLC are paid to call conservatives racists, and most conservatives don't find their opinions credible. Anything they have to say is null and void, he said.

Tignino was Facebook friends with Jeremiah Daniel "J.D." Hop, a 29-year-old Pullman man arrested on a federal gun charge on Wednesday. Hop described himself as an anti-race-mixing activist on the racist website Vanguard News Network, according to The Spokesman-Review. Hop, who was convicted of third-degree rape of a child in 2005, is accused of being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to the newspaper.

On Wednesday, Hop's page, which has since apparently been altered, listed Dr. William Pierce, the late founder of the National Alliance and a leading neo-Nazi, as one of his inspirations.

On Thursday morning, Tignino was no longer listed as Hop's Facebook friend. Tignino said he only knew Hop from construction work.

"I just did drywall for him," Tignino said. "I haven't even talked to him in a few months. If those allegations are true it's unfortunate that he did it, and should be tried to the full extent of the law. It's unfortunate that such a situation had to happen."

Tignino said his group, which includes two members from the University of Idaho (UI), works frequently with the WSU chapters of the College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty. However, YWC is an organization in favor of discussing the social issues, like radical multiculturalism or political correctness, that other conservatives are too afraid to talk about, he said.

Derek Spady, president of the College Republicans and YWC member, said YWC will soon be an international group because conservative groups in Europe and Canada have started to jump on board with the national chapter.

Spady, a 21-year-old political science major, said he will likely lead the WSU chapter of YWC as coordinator next year. He said the barrier between liberals and conservatives has always been there, and it's never going to go away.

"Certain heads are never going to turn," Spady said, "so we're trying to reach the people that stand for what we already stand for. We're not trying so much to get our message across to the other side."

Tim Krautkraemer, a 22-year-old comparative ethnic studies major and a member of the campus' Progressive Student Union (PSU), expressed a similar view of YWC as Beirich.

Krautkraemer alleged there are several similarities between YWC and white supremacist groups. While the group is very diligent in what they believe, their promotion strategy incites animosity and negative feelings toward other communities, he said. Members of YWC could advocate without using these tactics, he said.

"Nobody is going to want to advertise themselves as a white supremacist group on campus, but they're saying the same sort of things," he said. "They're using 'western civilization' as a placeholder for 'white.'"

Tignino expressed the same opinion of PSU as his opinion of SPLC.

"I just feel that Southern Poverty Law Center and the Progressive Student Union like to blur the line and call anyone that is right of communist racists and bigots," he said.

Tignino said Western culture is under attack by the very people who immigrate to America to reap its social benefits and freedoms.

"Obviously us doing activism here isn't going to change anything, but we do speak for a relatively large amount of people when we say America should have an American culture," he said. "It shouldn't have this hodge-podge of different identities and opposite beliefs."

The WSU group shares resources and events with the nearby UI chapter. One of YWC's current works in progress is a newspaper called The Northwest Alternative. Though the newspaper is technically independent, Tignino created it with the help of Alexander Rowson, a UI student.

Since its launch in February, two issues of the newspaper have been printed by the Lewiston Tribune, filled with articles written by conservative students from universities all around the state. Stories from the second issue feature headlines such as "The Hypocrisy of Tolerance" and "The Changing of the Guard."

Rowson said The Northwest Alternative was launched with grants provided by the YWC national chapter and The Leadership Institute, an organization that trains conservatives in public policy. He said the group is trying to make the newspaper a self-sufficient publication, but has so far not received any paid advertisements.

"We want there to be an alternative voice in the media to inspire students to take a stand for conservative values and to be unafraid to speak their own mind," Rowson said. "What we want is for students to submit their own pieces, but as of now it's mainly a network of students around the northwest of people who are writers either for their own newspaper or for blogs."

Tignino, who is listed as co-editor, said social justice movements do a disservice to Western civilization, the only culture that he said has allowed immigrants the liberty to speak freely about their beliefs.

While he said he has no problem with legal immigrants, Tignino said they should assimilate to American culture rather than create identity groups. He said he would do the same if he were to go abroad.

"It's good diversity to go to another country and enjoy their customs and enjoy the things they have to offer, learn their language, and fully become an integrated part (of the culture)," he said. "But it's another thing to go to another country, reap the benefits of that country, and maintain the complete cultural values from your home country."

People should do away with the prefixes to "American" used when describing themselves to others, Tignino said. There should be no praise for being African-American, just for being American. He said by identifying with these identity groups, people are actually creating more differences, which is counter-productive to their overall goal.

Tignino said he thinks the WSU administration should not pay for facilities that promote ethnic identity, especially with the deepening budget cuts to the university.

"Why do those people get preference over others?" he said. "They have facilities given to them by student fees and the administration, and it just seems counter-productive. They want to create a cohesive climate where we can all get along but it's creating differences."

Manuel Acevedo, the director of multicultural student services, said university administration has the responsibility to provide services to students transitioning to life at WSU so that they can successfully graduate. He said the multicultural facilities are used by students of all cultures and are supportive of all students, regardless of ethnicity.

"Most of us are the result of the encounter of several cultures," he said. "There is a need to continue valuing, understanding, embracing and celebrating the diversity that all of us bring to the community. We are going to stay here, and we are better off the more we understand each other."

Tignino said the goal of YWC is not to stop multicultural student groups from existing, because the beauty of living in the U.S. is that everyone is allowed to express their own opinion.

"There is diversity in Americanism," Tignino said. "You can still eat tacos and be an American. You can still be Muslim and be an American. But don't say 'I'm a Muslim first and an American third or fourth.' I don't say I'm Christian first; I don't say I'm white first; I don't say I'm conservative first. If I did that I'd be called a hateful bigot, not that I'm not being called that now."

Tignino said though he has never actually been called a hateful bigot, it is a stigma that follows a white conservative male. However, the point of YWC is to "spit back" in opponents' faces and give conservatives hope, he said.


The Murrow News Service provides local, regional and statewide stories reported and written by journalism students at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.