It started with a series of critical tweets, critical of President Trump to a few dozen Twitter followers. Now, the saga of Fresno State Professor Lars Maischak is interrupted. His classes for Monday and Tuesday, when Bulldog students return from spring break, are cancelled.
The University alerted the media in an e-mail Thursday night, announced that it informed the 213 students of Maischak’s History 11 (American History to 1877) that classes would not continue as normal in the wake of a tumultuous week. There is no word about classes for later that week.
A brief recap: Breitbart News reported about Maischak’s tweets, the most controversial being “To save American democracy, Trump must hang. The sooner and the higher, the better.” There were others deemed controversial. It set off a social media firestorm.
The University replied that weekend, later saying they would “review” the situation and cooperate with federal authorities. Maischak first blistered, then apologized later in the week.
February 2017: Maischak, a Fresno State professor since 2006, tweets about Trump. Some of the more inflammatory remarks:
— Lars Maischak (@LarsMaischak) February 18, 2017
#TheResistance Has anyone started soliciting money and design drafts for a monument honoring the Trump assassin, yet?
— Lars Maischak (@LarsMaischak) February 19, 2017
— Lars Maischak (@LarsMaischak) February 23, 2017
If only Mary had had an abortion! We would have been spared this Clerical-Fascist crap. #HisGlory, my ass!
— Lars Maischak (@LarsMaischak) February 26, 2017
April 8, 2017: Breitbart News reports on Maischak’s comments.
April 8, 2017: The University sends out this response to the media:
“Lars Maischak is employed as a lecturer at Fresno State. Statements made on his personal social media accounts are his alone and are not endorsed by nor reflect the position of the University.”
April 10, 2017: The University sends out another media message by President Joseph Castro:
“Fresno State understands the deep concerns that have been shared as a result of personal comments made by Professor Lars Maischak, who is a lecturer in the History Department at Fresno State. In response to these concerns, we have conducted a preliminary review to ensure that it is clear that the statements made by him were as a private citizen, not as a representative of Fresno State. Professor Maischak’s personal views and commentary, with its inclusion of violent and threatening language, is obviously inconsistent with the core values of our University.
Our primary concern is for the safety of our students and with providing a conducive learning environment. We acknowledge that our faculty have an obligation to establish and maintain ethical and professional conduct, inside and outside of the classroom.
While Fresno State is committed to state and federal constitutional rights of free speech, the content of statements by Dr. Maischak warrants further review and consideration. The review of these and any other statements will be conducted in the context of rights of free expression, but also for potential direct threats of violence that may violate the law.
The University is taking this matter seriously and handling it in accordance with applicable law and policy, as well as our traditions of academic freedom and the requirements of the faculty collective bargaining unit agreement. The University will fully cooperate with any investigations conducted by Federal officials.”
– Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro
April 10, 2017: Maischak sends this e-mail to the media:
I am appalled that the president of the university is allowing himself to be instrumentalized for a right-wing smear campaign.
Specifically, the suggestion that I had made “potential direct threats of violence that may violate the law” is unwarranted. It constitutes an embrace by the university of the claims made by right-wing propaganda outlets.
I would have wished for an opportunity to explain my views to the university prior to any statement on its part on the substance of the public accusations against me. I was not contacted by them, even though I sent a message to the president on Saturday.
The Breitbart/DailyCaller piece that created a selective collage of some of my weeks-old tweets had the purpose of inciting a campaign of harrassment and intimidation by claiming I had either made a tangible threat against Mr. Trump, or had advocated for violence against either Mr. Trump, or Republicans in general.
The author of this piece has a history of identifying and accusing Liberal and leftist professors of subversive activities.
Prior to publication, he had contacted me with a generic request to identify myself as the owner of the twitter account. The article was published before I had an opportunity to reply.
Neither Daily Caller nor Breitbart asked me for clarification of my opinions and intentions.
I have explained on twitter, as well as in a statement to several media outlets over the weekend, the context of one of my incriminated tweets, containing the assertion that “Trump must hang.”
It is based on the assessment that the substantial continuity between Fascism and the present Republican Party makes it likely that the deeds of his government will be the subject of court proceedings, or even a tribunal akin to the Nuremburg Trials.
Historical precedent suggests that such proceedings often end with the incarceration or execution of the leadership.
My assessment at that time was based on Mr. Trump’s then-recent characterization of the press as the “enemies of the people,” language that suggests he was consciously embracing authoritarian models.
Given that turn of events, Mr. Trump could be reasonably seen as a threat to democracy.
To read this as an invitation to, or expression of intent for, murder or assassination is far-fetched.
Another incriminated tweet, that read “#TheResistance #ethniccleansing Justice = The execution of two Republicans for each deported immigrant,” was made under the impression of the deportations of law-abiding, harmless residents under the eyes of their family members by ICE agents.
This vision of people dragged from the street in bright daylight, or ripped from their homes under cover of night, evoked for me images of similar raids in 1930s Germany, which are always present in my mind as an essential part of my upbringing. Like in 1930s Germany, the form of the law may be upheld in such arrests, but the underlying substance is racial resentment. Hence the reference to “ethnic cleansing.”
Most observers will consider these arrests a blatant injustice. My thought at the time was that if this were to become a mass phenomenon, encompassing in the end all eleven million undocumented immigrants, the guilt amassed by the present government and its supporters would be tremendous, and would lead to demands for vengeance.
The tweet represented a dark prediction that stemmed from this train of thought.
I can see how a malicious observer could twist it to mean an incitement to violence. I would be horrified to learn that anyone would have read this tweet as an invitation to violence. I still do not think, within the context at the time, and within the context of my other statements on twitter, that any reasonable reader could come to that conclusion, however.
Authors of the numerous items of hate-mail I have been sent by the dutiful followers of the right-wing propaganda sub-culture have taken issue with my comparison of Mr. Trump and his followers with German Fascism.
This is a debate worth having, but it is a point that cannot be adequately argued in sound-bite format.
For starters, a few pieces of evidence:
1) The claim that immigrants (undocumented and otherwise) are inherently dangerous, and take away jobs from honest, hard-working citizens, has become the basis for the policies of this administration. This is a claim made by neo-Nazi parties in Europe since at least the 1980s. It has never been embraced by the government of a civilized, Western nation before.
2) The insistence that members of an entire religious group pose a threat to the safety of citizens of this country informed both the Muslim Ban and the planned Muslim Registry. This is a departure from core values of Western, constitutional liberalism that consider citizenship a term neutral to race, ethnicity, and religion. The revocation of German citizenship from Jews in the 1930s constitutes one of the rare historical precedents for this radical rejection of the idea of civic equality.
3) Social Darwinism informs the social policy and attitude towards organized labor taken by the Republican Party, even before Trump. In practice, the embrace of a free market by politicians like Paul Ryan represents a committment to the survival of the fittest.
4) Mr. Trump, in his inaugural address, made positive reference to the “America First Committee,” an organization that hoped to prevent the United States from entering into war with Nazi Germany. For the founders of this organization, the motivation for this stance was agreement with Hitler, and support of his policies.
If the standard for identifying a set of political ideas as “Fascist” is that it result in a genocide that claims the lives of six million people, as was the case with German Fascism, then there are no more Fascists after Hitler.
But Italian Fascism is no less Fascism for the absence of an anti-Semitism to match that of the German Nazis in its ideas and practices.
Neither was Mr. Hitler less of a Fascist in 1932, before he accomplished any of his goals, than he was in 1945.
I am currently working on a paper laying out my argument for the comparison between the current Republican administration and party, and German Fascism, in more detail and with more differentiation.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with further questions.
April 12, 2017: Maischak sends out another media e-mail, now apologizing:
I apologize for the tone and content of my statements made on twitter.
I ask forgiveness of those who felt threatened or offended by them.
It was never my intent to harm anyone, nor to encourage others to harm anyone.
My statements each represent the end point of a dark train of thought triggered by my despair over the actions of the present U.S. government.
That is what I meant by calling them “dark predictions.”
It felt cathartic at the time to write them down.
With 28 followers on twitter at the time, I never expected them to be read by anyone but a close circle of acquaintances who would know to place them in their context.
To treat twitter as of no more consequence than a journal was a poor decision.
I have deleted my twitter account, to preclude the possibility that anyone reading my statements in the future would take them as encouragement to act violently or unlawfully.
In this spirit, I am prepared to take full responsibility for my statements.
April 12, 2017: Castro responds with this:
“I appreciate Dr. Maischak’s apology and willingness to take accountability for the statements made on his Twitter account. In his note to me, Dr. Maischak reiterated that it was not his intent to incite violence or harm others, however, Fresno State has a responsibility to continue a review of the situation. As previously stated, the University takes this matter seriously and is handling it in accordance with applicable law, policy and the requirements of the faculty collective bargaining unit agreement.”
– Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro
April 13, 2017: The University sends out a media e-mail, announcing cancellation of his classes.
Fresno State Provost Lynnette Zelezny notified the students enrolled in lecturer Dr. Lars Maischak’s courses that all of his classes are canceled on Monday, April 17 and Tuesday, April 18. In the email message sent to students earlier this afternoon, the Provost stated that the cancellations were made in an effort to minimize disruption and ensure campus safety. Dr. Maischak currently teaches five sections of History 11 (American History to 1877). Two hundred and thirteen students will miss one day of instruction in the course as a result of the cancellations. Students were also informed that additional information about these courses will be shared with them on Tuesday, April 18. The University has no further comment at this time.
Contact David Taub
Phone: 559-492-4037 / e-mail
This story was not subject to the approval of Granville Homes.