The “White Student Union” Facebook pages began appearing en masse on Friday, Nov. 20. At UCLA, then at the University of Texas at Austin, then at Washington State University, then at New York University, white supremacists appeared to be gaining sudden online footholds in America’s most liberal universities.
“A community for NYU students of European descent. Let your voice be heard!” the “NYU White Student Union” Facebook page advertised, alongside statistics on black-on-white crime and allegations of discrimination against white people. The page was last Friday, at the start of a three-day run that saw the creation of White Student Union pages for at least 25 schools.
These White Student Union accounts are fake—or at least, the on-campus clubs they claim to represent are. Racist trolls from message boards 4chan and 8chan, and the white supremacist website Daily Stormer, fabricated the Facebook pages in an attempt to create racial tension on college campuses.
Anyone can make a Facebook page for a group at a college they do not attend.
“You can make a burner gmail by using a burner app and then it’s easy to create a burner facebook,” one 8chan user wrote. “I’ve created three and another NRx guy has created 2.”
“NRx” is shorthand for “neoreactionary,” a person who subscribes to the neoreaction, or “Dark Enlightenment,” movement. This school is far from unified, but subscribes to a loose collection of far-right ideologies: a rejection of “political correctness,” a yearning for religious and political authoritarianism, a return to medieval gender roles, and the open practice of white supremacy.
8chan, a message board that rose to prominence after some users dismissed 4chan as too censoring, loves NRx. Many 8channers subscribe to the NRx theory that the world is on the verge of a massive societal collapse, one that should be actively encouraged. The end game for these users is race war, revolution, and the installation of a leader like Donald Trump, whose picture appears at the bottom of every 8chan thread.
“We will live to see a major world war,” one 8chan user wrote in the thread on White Student Unions. “We will live to see a major economic collapse. We will live to see the Day Of The Rope,” they added, alluding to a day of widespread racial violence.
These trolls’ strategy is to mimic the black student activist groups whose campus protests have made headlines this month. They purport to highlight racial double-standards, asking why white students should not be allowed to organize the way minority students do. The answer is relatively straightforward (American universities are often majority white, with curricula and administrative systems that privilege white students), but 8channers are counting on some students to fall for their rhetoric.
“Soon their group-enforced cognitive dissonance will become loud enough that even they will not be able to keep ignoring it, and it will destroy each one of them individually when they will begin to ask the impossible-to-ignore questions,” an 8chan user wrote. “they will be ostracised [sic] and called rac/sex/misogyn/able/*/ ~ist, and the whole mass will enter decoherence and then they will be receptive to any amount of redpill, up to overdosing on it.”
“Redpill” refers to an argument initially circulated by Men’s Rights Activists, who claim that men are oppressed by women. The philosophy has since expanded to race relations, with a similar claim that white people are oppressed by people of color and political correctness.
The White Student Union pages are still generating anger from students at their corresponding campuses. But most of the pages’ support appears to come from people and groups that already espouse a white supremacist ideology, not new converts to the cause.
“If we all have burner facebooks we can cross like them all giving a perception of support,” one 8chan user wrote, encouraging other users to create fake profiles in support of the white student unions.
Facebook has denied at least one request to delete NYU’s White Student Union page. But while the page remains online, NYU has found a way to troll the trolls. The pro-white group was forced to change its name and remove the NYU logo from its page after the school threatened legal action for copyright infringement.
“The Facebook page is using NYU’s logo illegally and without permission, and we have contacted Facebook to demand the NYU logo be removed,” NYU spokesperson Matt Nagel said in a statement. “We reject—and we call on others to reject—efforts such as this to derail or distort candid, thoughtful discourse on race.”