About that 'white genocide' tweet by a Drexel professor

You’ve probably heard something about this story by now as it seemed to get a lot of a attention over the weekend. A Drexel university associate professor named George Ciccariello-Maher sent out a tweet on Christmas Eve which read:


That seems pretty blunt and it, not surprisingly, was picked up by news sites on the right. Sunday, Drexel issued a statement in reaction to the tweet:

Drexel became aware today of Associate Professor George Ciccariello-Maher’s inflammatory tweet, which was posted on his personal Twitter account on Dec. 24, 2016. While the University recognizes the right of its faculty to freely express their thoughts and opinions in public debate, Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s comments are utterly reprehensible, deeply disturbing, and do not in any way reflect the values of the University.

The University is taking this situation very seriously. We contacted Ciccariello-Maher today to arrange a meeting to discuss this matter in detail.

So it sounds like this associate professor is in some trouble. He posted two follow-up tweets on Sunday before finally making his account private:


Note that these are in reverse order. So the first response was to applaud a massacre of whites. The second response said the “white genocide” tweet was mocking an alt-right trope. Ciccariello expanded on this in an email to Inside Higher Ed:

“On Christmas Eve, I sent a satirical tweet about an imaginary concept, ‘white genocide.’ For those who haven’t bothered to do their research, ‘white genocide’ is an idea invented by white supremacists and used to denounce everything from interracial relationships to multicultural policies (and most recently, against a tweet by State Farm Insurance). It is a figment of the racist imagination, it should be mocked, and I’m glad to have mocked it,” Ciccariello-Maher wrote.

So the professor is claiming his tweet was intended to mock the alt-right. But if it was intended as mockery, why did he issue the follow-up tweet about the Haitian massacre? Clearly that wasn’t meant as a joke. It seems his first reaction was to defend the tweet as justifiable. Then a couple hours later he said it was satire. Which is it?

That said, it’s easy to condemn someone based on a tweet. There are lots of previous examples of this sort of thing getting out of hand, including the infamous #hasJustinelandedyet based on a single tweet that a group of social justice warriors decided was a firing offense.

Ciccariello is a socialist who supported the Occupy movement and has written repeatedly in defense of the Venezuelan revolution and the increasingly autocratic rule of Nicolas Maduro. Ciccariello claims the “colectivos” are a myth and that beauty queen Genesis Carmona was shot by a protester. (That’s not what the man who rushed Carmona to the hospital says happened). I’m not sympathetic to his work at all but it’s possible this was meant to be ironic. If so then I’m not eager to see another person fired over a tweet.

Of course the final decision will be up to Drexel. Even if they believe his statement was merely offensive satire that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to continue employing him. On the other hand, looking at his public history of books and articles, it’s hard to believe Drexel didn’t know who they had hired. A socialist who writes for Jacobin thinks revolutionary violence is a good thing? Color me shocked!