It bans “social justice warriors” and drives across Nevada with a logo that looks suspiciously like a Nazi flag. It’s Reno’s new bus line and the owner says the racist reputation is all just a misunderstanding.
On Friday, Streamliner Lines launched its maiden bus run from Reno to Las Vegas. Streamliner president John Wang told The Daily Beast it ran a little behind schedule (traffic), and sold few tickets (the Nazi reputation). Still, the trip was the first victory for Streamliner, which previously failed inspection on its only bus and has spent the past month embroiled in spats with Redditors over the company’s logo and its ban on some left-wing passengers.
The trouble began when Streamliner put out a call for bus drivers on Reddit this spring. Multiple calls. Eventually frequent users of the r/Reno subreddit grew curious about the company that some accused of “spamming” the message boards.
Redditors quickly took issue with elements of Streamliner’s website. Its logo—two sets of alternating black-and-white lines meeting on the left with the company’s initials in a circle and a design in the upper left corner—appeared to be a parody of a flag used in Weimar Germany and later made infamous under the Nazis. Far-right groups have previously riffed on the Nazi flag; alt-righters and fans of the forum 4chan have popularized a green version of the flag with slightly different designs in the circle and the upper left corner.
Then there was Streamliner’s passenger policy. On a now-deleted page, partially recovered by the Reno Gazette Journal, the company announced “zero tolerance of illegal aliens” and announced a standing invitation for “immigration authorities for random inspections to deter and apprehend illegal aliens.” Elsewhere, the policy banned “social justice warriors” (a right-wing denigration for the left), unaccompanied college students (with some exceptions for military members and people enrolled in strictly vocational schools), and sagging pants (often used in racist caricatures of black men).
None of these makes Streamliner a racist company, said Wang, who said his critics falsely accused him of being a Nazi or white supremacist. Wang said he is originally from China, as the company’s current website advertises with its claim that it is “managed by legal immigrants and Air Force veterans.” (“MAKING MOTORCOACHES GREAT AGAIN,” the page goes on to say.)
He and his company offered multiple explanations for what appear to be Streamliner’s frequent far-right references.
“The flag, I just like the hub and spoke design of it. I got some friends who liked it and my drivers liked it. We just went with it,” Wang said. “When people show that Nazi flag to me, I was like it does look sort of similar but it doesn’t have red in it and Nazi flags always have red and always have the swastika and it doesn’t have the swastika or the red… It was pretty much an accident.”
He previously told the Gazette Journal that “the company managers are history buffs and recognize that the original Imperial German flag had no racist, alt-right, or neo-Nazi meaning.”
The company’s ridership policy, Wang said, was the work of “my buddy in Reno who wrote the website for me,” without his knowledge.
Wang declined to name the friend, saying he doesn’t like to throw people under the proverbial bus. He said the company pulled the policy soon after Redditors pointed it out.
“I am a little mad. I try not to get too mad at people for anything,” he said. “But it’s hard to grind an ax against a friend just because he did that thing. Yeah it was stupid and I’m mad at him for doing that, but now it’s been a long time and I just feel like people should get over it because it’s not even on the website anymore and we weren’t even operating at the time.”
While arguing with critics on Reddit, meanwhile, Wang pinned the sagging pants policy on “my attorney,” who copied the rule from a local school’s dress code for children. The school policy also bans spaghetti straps, halter tops, miniskirts, and muscle shirts.
With the policy scrubbed from its website, Streamliner moved forward with plans for an inaugural run from Reno to Vegas on July 3. But the company ran into new problems, this time with travel authorities. Its lone bus didn’t have a license to ferry passengers until shortly before the trip. (The new license lists Wang’s mother as the manager of the company, and the company’s bus has been photographed in her home driveway.)
The Gazette-Journal also cast doubt on whether Streamliner had received approval to use the bus stops it advertised on its website. Wang told The Daily Beast he’d received permissions from every current bus stop.
“They told us we could stop there,” he said. “And yes, some of them later told us that we couldn’t stop there, so we had to change, but everything that’s on our website, they originally told us we could stop there. They told us we couldn’t stop there, we removed it.”
On July 3, the day of its first scheduled trip, Streamliner finally secured its license, AZCentral reported. But that wasn’t enough. The company’s lone bus then failed a safety inspection, and cancelled on its five passengers.
Wang “texted me yesterday and said it was running two hours late. That's the last I heard,” one of those five would-be passengers told AZCentral.
Since then, Streamliner has managed to complete one route, on July 5.
“It went pretty well. We got stuck in traffic a few times and had some cascading delays,” Wang said.
“We didn’t get many [passengers] because people were mad at me for the stuff going on. The cancellation, and the logo, and everything else. I’ve tried. I’ve tried.”