I won’t mince words… over 60 teen-aged Wisconsin boys were photographed on the steps of the Sauk County Courthouse giving the Nazi straight-arm salute.
Needless to say, both the local and national media are in melt-down. Also needless to say, the Baraboo School District is in hyper-melt-down.
Was the act itself by these boys inappropriate, immature, flat-out stupid? Of course it was.
But here’s the $1 million question – is it illegal?
As KSTP-TV, the Minneapolis-St Paul ABC affiliate reported;
A Wisconsin school district is investigating a photo of a group of high school boys giving what appears to be a Nazi salute.
Baraboo Superintendent Lori Mueller says she became aware of the photo Monday after it was posted on social media. In a statement Monday afternoon, the district said it was taken before prom last spring.
“In the photo, Baraboo students appear to make an extremely inappropriate gesture,” read part of the statement. “It is a gesture widely recognized for its association with intolerance, violence and hate.
“We are extremely troubled by the image. The school district and local authorities continue to investigate, speaking with the students and families involved to determine how and why this photo was taken.”
Mueller said the photo doesn’t reflect the district’s values and that administrators will pursue appropriate action. Baraboo police are also investigating.
If Superintendent Mueller wants to investigate this incident in a fair and objective light, I honestly have no problem with her moving forward with such. But I must confess, it sure sounds as if she’s already tried and convicted these boys.
But here’s what really bothers me; the last sentence – “Baraboo police are also investigating.”
Even though I don’t agree with everything he says, op/ed writer for Reason magazine, Robby Soave opined;
A troll-ish photo from Wisconsin shows about 50 boys performing the Nazi salute. The juvenile and obnoxious picture, which was taken at Baraboo High School’s junior prom last spring, has attracted some well-deserved shaming from the media. The school district is investigating as well—not improperly, since junior prom is a school function.
Less defensibly, the police are investigating the matter too. “At this point, I really can’t comment too much because it’s an active case,” Police Captain Rob Sinden tells The Huffington Post.
I’m not sure why the police need to be involved in this at all, since it’s not a criminal matter. It is not illegal to make a Nazi salute; pro-Nazi hand gestures are protected under the First Amendment. Nor is this a “hate crime,” properly understood, since there’s no underlying criminal issue to address.
It should be possible to punish misbehavior—either informally, via social shaming, or formally, via normal school disciplinary procedures—without involving the police each and every time a teenager does something stupid.
This isn’t the first time students did something really, really stupid.
A 2016 incident at the US Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, NY, was captured for posterity when 16 black female cadets posed for the camera giving the Black Power salute.
As a retired US Marine, I find it utterly abhorrent that anyone placed in a position of leadership and authority would overtly tell the world of their approval of one’s racial superiority over all else.
Granted, there is quite a bit of difference between a group of adults enrolled in the USMA on the verge of becoming commissioned officers in the United States armed forces, and a bunch of 16 and 17-year-olds about to make their splash of the Baraboo High School junior prom.
But while we’re on the topic of the USMA and the clenched fist salute, The Daily Caller reported back in 2016;
West Point has ruled that a photo featuring 16 black female cadets with their fists raised in the air, a symbol actively used by Black Lives Matter, was not political, although it was “inappropriate.”
Given the decision, these cadets won’t face any punitive action, aside from a little bit of counseling before they graduate, Army Times reports.
The photo, taken April 26, first drew controversy because it shows these black female cadets women raising their fists at a time when the symbol has regained prominence, having been adopted by the nascent Black Lives Matter movement. Even before BLM came about, the symbol has strong roots in the far-left political scene, namely in socialist and labor groups.
Cadets participating in political activity while in uniform is expressly forbidden by Department of Defense regulations, but the memo released on the investigation, which began April 28, states that no evidence exists to indicate that a raised fist is a political activity.