In November, PhD student of history in Illinois, father, and Air Force veteran Tariq Khan, found himself in the center of a whirlwind of controversy, and a punching bag for a variety of Alt-Right and Alt-Lite blowhards – from InfoWars, to Gavin McInnes, to Anthony Scaramucci. Tariq stood accused of getting into a verbal argument with other students following a Trump protest, and the video of the argument, which shows people yelling at each other and ends in a phone being dropped on the ground, surfaced on the website, Campus Reform, the media wing of Turning Point USA. TPUSA is a growing collection of paleoconservative and Alt-Lite Libertarian students on campuses across the US, is financially backed by massive foundations and billionaires like the Koch Brothers, and is most known for harassing professors and students, often leading to individuals receiving massive amounts of death threats.
Campus Reform has spearheaded both a professor ‘watch-list,’ while also attempting to add credence to the idea that ‘conservative’ and far-Right students on campus face discrimination. Towards this end, Tariq Khan was presented to far-Right viewers by everyone from Alex Jones to Gavin McInness as both an ‘antifa’ and as a professor on the campus, regardless of the fact that he was only a student. As Kristina Khan and Shane Burley wrote in TruthOut:
McInnes asked them about an alleged “wild attack by an antifa professor” who supposedly confronted Nelson and Valdez “for being conservatives.” The instructor they were referring to was Tariq Khan, a US Air Force veteran and graduate student at the university. Khan challenged this characterization, saying he confronted the two after they made what he felt was a veiled threat against his children. Khan, his wife Kristina—one of the coauthors of this piece—and one of his children had been filmed by right-wing, anti-Muslim student activists in the same spot on campus two years earlier, and UIUC’s chapter of TPUSA had already attempted to push two campaigns against two different women of color associated with UIUC this past fall: an undergraduate student and a staff member. After the confrontation between Valdez and Khan, TPUSA members and allies created a campaign of threats and intimidation across media platforms.
Soon, the death threats came flooding into Khan’s school, and based on his name, many on the far-Right assumed Khan’s race and religion. As the death threats piled up, pressure also grew from the administration on Khan’s campus to strip him of his status as a PhD candidate.
According to the Campus Antifascist Network:
Far from a “grassroots activist” movement, TPUSA is bankrolled by politically vindictive billionaires and think tanks who target higher education in order to promote regressive and racist political agendas. Charlie Kirk, the CEO of TPUSA who regularly curries favor with alt-right groups and outlets, has no formal experience in higher education as a student, staff, or faculty member, and wants to target public universities in particular for political purposes. Faculty members such as Amanda Gailey from the University of Nebraska, Sarah Bond at the University of Iowa, Johnny Eric Williams of Trinity College, and George Ciccariello-Maher, formerly of Drexel University have been smeared in articles in Campus Reform. Perhaps most disturbingly, TPUSA founded and maintains the McCarthyist, online “Professor Watchlist,” which criticizes faculty who promote racial diversity and multiculturalism in the classroom and has led to numerous instances of cyber-harassment, death threats, and involuntary administrative leaves.
In this episode of the IGDcast, Khan sets the record straight on what happened, and talks about why he joined the military in the 1990s, seeking direction in life and money for school. While in the military, Khan began reading books about political theory and listening to punk rock bands with radical lyrics, while around him the anarchist and anti-globalization movement grew. Upon leaving the military, Khan became involved in veteran’s groups campaigning against the Iraq War, and currently he is member of the Black Rose Anarchist Federation. Moreover, Khan also opens up about both his process of becoming an anarchist as well as his working-class background and compares it to a life of complete wealth and privilege lived by TPUSA leader, Charlie Kirk.
Discussing both far-Right outrage engines and TPUSA at length, Khan also talked about what it is like living through an Alt-Right media attack campaign. From death threats, to harassment at events, to people showing up at his home, what Tariq Khan has dealt with shows the need for a robust antifascist resistance and strong movement self-defense, both on campus and on the streets.
This text originally appeared on It’s Going Down.
For more info we recommend the following pieces: “Campus Anti-Fascist Network Statement in Support of Tariq Khan” and “Campus Fascism: Turning Point and It’s Links to the Far-Right.”
We also recommend other writings by Tariq Khan “The ‘Left-Wing Terrorism’ Narrative Doesn’t Understand Violence” and “3 Reasons Why We Need A More Revolutionary July 4.”