Public safety has uncovered images of Brandeis community members on a thread belonging to the white nationalist website Vanguard News Network.
The thread, which began over a year ago, focuses on stereotypical Jewish facial features and contains hateful and anti-Semitic language. However, it poses no direct threat to the individuals posted about, wrote Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan in an email to the Brandeis community Monday morning.
“While this situation is obviously disturbing, Public Safety has investigated and found no direct threat to these individuals or to Brandeis,” wrote Callahan in the Monday morning email. “We do not believe there is reason to be concerned at this time, but Public Safety will continue to monitor the situation.”
A Brandeis community member whose photo appears in the thread notified public safety, and the department then notified other community members whose images were found, said Callahan to The Brandeis Hoot in an email.
The images have not been removed, but these students are not likely in any danger, said Callahan.
“These images appear to have been copied from publicly available articles or other web pages connected to our community members’ scholarship,” wrote Callahan. “Public Safety found no evidence of any presence on campus by members of this online forum, and no direct threats were made in the posts.”
Public safety is monitoring the situation on the thread and on social media, said Callahan.
He continued “There is no evidence that any member of the group has a connection to Brandeis. These photos were likely copied from public-facing articles and webpages.”
The Hoot was able to confirm one Brandeis community member—a participant of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership program—whose photograph had been posted on the website by the founder of the thread, though there may be more. The thread contains hundreds of photos—ranging from celebrities to private figures—that were posted as recently as Tuesday.
The thread began in June of 2018 after the original poster, likely using a pseudonym, asked users about a Jewish journalist who wrote an article about her decision not to get surgery on her nose. The author, writing in The Jewish Chronicle, discussed how a plastic surgeon had called her Jewish nose attractive, making her realize that surgery would do more than just change her face.
“While I finally understood that there was no single ‘Jewish’ face, I was acutely aware that so many others are not conscious of this fact,” wrote the author Katie Grant. “For me, allowing Mr. S to operate would have involved validating this damaging outlook and sacrificing my cultural identity. I would have been cutting my nose off to spite my—and every other—Jewish face. Why should I feel pressurised to distance myself from my Jewish roots in order to be considered beautiful?”
The original poster, using the name Stewart Meadows, asked users if Grant had made the right decision and why Jewish people’s “appearance is traditionally considered ugly in the West.” The thread quickly devolved into anti-Semitic slurs and hateful language against many minorities, including African Americans and Asians.
This is not Brandeis’ first run in with white nationalism and white supremacism. In December of 2018, posters with the logo or name of a white supremacist group were found on campus and removed. In 2017, swastikas were drawn on two whiteboards outside students rooms, and in 2016, a driver shouted anti-Semitic slurs at Brandeis students on South Street, according to an earlier Hoot article.
The thread that is now being monitored by public safety contains over 20 pages of posts, and the thread’s founder was active and posting as recently as Tuesday.