CW: Homophobia, Racism
The veracity of the holocaust, in which millions of Jews, Roma, homosexuals, and political dissidents died, is almost universally taken to be beyond doubt. Yet on the 15th of August, flyers were found across the Australian National University (ANU) that referred to the holocaust as ‘the greatest swindle of all time’.
The flyers were found in various buildings and car parks across campus. Two other types of flyers were distributed, with one warning against ‘homosexualist propaganda’, and another accusing psychiatrists of being ‘thought police’.
The flyers all included links to a website called ‘ChemtrailsGeelong’, which, as suggested by the site’s name, also contains texts claiming that the trails of condensation left behind by planes are actually streams of toxic chemicals, deliberately sprayed into the sky by the government.
One student witnessed a tall Caucasian man in his 20s putting up the fliers in the Research School of Psychology Building.
Many students were outraged by the flyers and tore them down whenever they saw them.
At the Student Representative Council Meeting the next day, ANU Jewish Students’ Society (ANUJSS) President Daniel Coppel moved a motion condemning the leaflets and calling for greater work to fight discrimination. In the motion, seconded by ANUSA President Ben Gill, Coppel spoke impassionedly, arguing that ‘this behaviour explicitly rejects the fundamental value we as Australians place on diversity and inclusivity’.
In a later statement to Woroni, Coppel, speaking on behalf of ANUJSS, said ‘We condemn the dissemination of information that makes students feel uncomfortable, particularly [information] that attacks minority or marginalized students. We are very happy and thankful for the ANU’s and ANUSA’s swift response in condemning this incident.’
‘It’s something that can seriously be harmful’, said Fred Hanlin, ANU Queer* Officer, who also said that he hoped incidents like this would not happen in the future.
Later that week, members of ANUJSS met with Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience) Richard Baker to discuss the incident and how the ANU would investigate it.
‘The University is aware of and appalled by the distribution of derogatory material on campus last week’, an ANU spokesperson said, adding that ‘ANU Security has been removing the fliers, and reviewing CCTV footage to identify the perpetrators for referral to the police.’
Under the ACT Litter Act, any perpetrators could face a fine of up to $5000. The Racial Discrimination Act, and the ACT’s Discrimination Act could also find the contents of the flyers unlawful.
The ANU has also stated that it encourages students to report such incidents, and to seek the support and counseling services offered by the University if needed.
Similar flyers were also found in the University Melbourne earlier in the year, and more recently at the University of Sydney.