Does the town of Baraboo, Wisconsin, have a problem with wannabe white supremacists?
Located a scant few miles south of the Wisconsin Dells theme-park mecca, the town of Baraboo takes its name from a river that meanders through the adjacent countryside. Prior to this past week, Baraboo’s chief claim to fame was its status as the home of the Ringling family and the site of Circus World Museum. Right now it’s best known as the home of a passel of young men who a) are aspiring clowns, b) are aspiring neo-Nazis, or c) are aspiring neo-Nazi clowns.
Take a long, hard gander at the photo at the top of this story and judge for yourself.
The image depicts the Baraboo High School class of 2019 giving the Nazi salute while posing for their junior-prom photo. It went viral on November 12, when Jules Suzdaltsev, a journalist who covers youth culture, posted it on Twitter with a note: “If anybody from Baraboo High School in Wisconsin can clue me in on why it appears the entire male class of 2018 is throwing up a Sig [sic] Heil during their prom photos — that would be great.”
The responses came fast, and furious.
Many were from Baraboo High School alumni who imparted that their alma mater was a hotbed of racism, homophobia, and downright hate.
“Not only is this school disgustingly racist, but having to attend there as a trans person ruined my mental health. I was called queer and a faggot too many times by students both on and off school property,” one respondent wrote. “The amount of times I’ve had to listen to people state that trans people are broken and should be assaulted is disgusting. This is true for every minority. Baraboo turns a blind eye to everything and only does something when it blows up in their faces.”
Notably, one of the young men in the photo is emphatically having none of it. He reached out to Suzdaltsev to explain, identifying himself as Jordan Blue. “I am the boy captured in the photo to the far right,” he wrote. “I clearly am uncomfortable…. I couldn’t leave the photo as it was taken within 5 seconds. The photographer took the photos telling us to make the sign, I knew what my morals were and it was not to salute something I firmly didn’t believe in…. I attend BHS, these classmates have bullied me since entering middle school, I have struggled with it my entire life and nothing has changed….”
Blue’s conspicuous presence is reminiscent of the famed 1936 “Landmesser photo,” in which August Landmesser, a worker at the Blohm+Voss shipyard in Hamburg, Germany, is said to have refused to give the Nazi salute during a launching ceremony.
I spoke with the only student who is visibly not comfortable with the “salute”, he provided this statement. pic.twitter.com/HbNBc8xLOK
— Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) November 12, 2018
Others who reached out to Suzdaltsev were furious at him for bringing the matter to light.
“The cool thing about asking ‘Why are these kids doing a “sig heil” salute?’ is that you immediately get doxxed and
@TwitterSupport & @jack do nothing for five hours about it,” Suzdaltsev himself tweeted amid the uproar. “(My grandmother’s address along with my phone # are still up, in case you were wondering).”
The school district says it’s investigating.
“The photo of students posted to
#BarabooProud is not reflective of the educational values and beliefs of the School District of Baraboo. The District will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address,” Baraboo School District Administrator Lori M. Mueller posted on Twitter as online outrage mounted.
That said, the press release the district distributed was on the ambivalent side. “If the gesture is what it appears to be,” it hedged, “the district will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address the issue.”
Click this link to scroll through Jules Suzdaltsev’s Twitter feed.
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