Phil Tignino helped put a fence up at Washington State University recently. The three 8-by-7-foot chain-link panels were meant to symbolize the need to keep immigrants out of the country. He says that his group, the ultra-conservative Youth for Western Civilization, stands for a United States without "this hodge-podge of different identities and opposite beliefs."
Other WSU students and even the Southern Poverty Law Center say the group stands for simple white nationalism. Either way, on a campus in the middle of an area notorious for white supremacy and only 75 miles or so from where alleged MLK Day bomber Kevin Harpham sits in a jail cell awaiting federal hate-crime charges, the emergence of new racial tensions only seems natural.
The tax-exempt nonprofit YWC was founded in 2008 by American University student Kevin DeAnna and lists its chairman as former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo (the one who called Miami a "third-world country" and supports the Iranian terrorist group the People's Mujahedin of Iran). It now has chapters in nearly a dozen universities around the country. And it was launched with the help of funds from The Leadership Institute, a right-wing training and financing organization that notes among its alumni Karl Rove, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. Mike Pence, Grover Norquist, and seven new members of the current U.S. Congress.
Andrea Castillo of Murrow News Service reports that Tignino, a 22-year-old political science major with a suspiciously Italian-sounding last name, is dedicated to eliminating cultural diversity and replacing it with a purely "American culture."
Phil Tignino wants an America without "opposite beliefs."
"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 SPLC hasn't listed the YWC as a hate group and seems to view it more as a curiosity than any real threat. Regardless, Heidi Beirich, the SPLC's research director, puts the group in line with other "white nationalists" and says it's in organizations like this where "most of the thinking goes on now in terms of white groups."
When the group erected the fence on campus, Tignino wrote on the group's blog that they did so "despite the bigots" and noted that they handed out pamphlets with unsourced figures like:
25% of our federal prison population are illegal aliens
40% of illegal aliens have some sort of violent criminal history
estimated national costs for catering to illegals in this country is $113 billion dollars
61% of likely voters support border security over amnesty
63% of Americans support the SB1070 law in Arizona
Progressive campus groups like Young Democrats of America and WSU Progressive Student Union have held counter protests during events like the YWC's fence event.
Castillo also reports that Tignino was Facebook friends with Jeremiah Daniel "J.D." Hop, a 29-year-old white supremacist and convicted child rapist who bragged online recently about being involved with protesting at taco stands around Spokane and who was arrested on federal gun charges just this week.
Tignino also apparently had William Pierce, the deceased founder of the National Alliance (the same group that alleged MLK bomber Kevin Harpham is supposedly tied to) listed as an inspiration on his Facebook page, though the info has now been changed.
Of course, Mr. Tignino is entitled to his beliefs as much as any other activist. And the group is thus far sticking to nonviolent approaches in getting its message of intolerance out (a method that seems to be working fine considering the recent media attention the organization has received).
Just look for the national conservative groups to be watching groups like the YWC closely. The front lines of America's culture wars are have always been dug through its university campuses.