The anonymous student Facebook page, “ExeHonestly”, a platform used by University of Exeter students, has closed in a furore over neo-Nazi posts and is now under investigation by the police.
ExeHonestly had featured several posts including one that read: “People’s favourite number? Mine’s 1488.” This is a coded reference to the neo-Nazi fourteen-word oath: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”, a slogan initially devised by David Lane, a member of the white supremacist terrorist group “The Order” which was responsible for the murder of Jewish radio host Alan Berg. The number 88 refers to the eighth letter of the alphabet, H, and is intended as a code for “Heil Hitler.” Other posts on the page included anti-black racism.
A University spokesperson told The Tab that the page was “operated by anonymous administrators,” explaining, “We have deep concerns about the content these administrators post that affect our community and we urge our students not to use it. We have reported our concerns about the site to Facebook, and now escalated matters to the police hate crime unit and will work with them to identify those responsible. If we obtain specific information about any of our students posting abusive or offensive content we will take immediate and appropriate action. Racism cannot be tolerated in any form in our community and students can contact us with information or concerns through our ‘Speak Out’ website.”
Speaking to The Tab, Exeter’s Jewish Society said: “We are appalled by the recent posts on ExeHonestly. Whilst we champion free speech and see a great value in it, there is no space for Jewish students, or indeed any students at any university to feel uncomfortable or scared due to their religious, racial or ethnic background. We praise the university for taking action, bringing a problem to the attention of students.”
The administrators of the group meanwhile have claimed ignorance arguing that while they “do not condone any hateful racist content” the “dog-whistle” posts were “not apparent to people unless they have specialised knowledge.” They further attempted to justify their failings claiming that: “It is standard practice on social media for posts to occasionally get through.” They later opted to close the page.
The University has called the response “either not credible or… evidence that they are not capable of hosting a community site” and the police have confirmed they are investigating this as a hate crime.
The University of Exeter has a history of antisemitic incidents. In 2017 the university tried to brush off an antisemitic incident in which a “Rights for Whites” sign was found in halls of residence and a swastika was found carved into a door in on-campus halls Birks Grange, with a spokesman downplaying this blatant antisemitic incident as possibly merely “an ill-judged, deeply offensive joke.”
This follows another alarming antisemitic incident at the university last term in which students were photographed at a sports club social event wearing t-shirts with handwritten antisemitic slogans. One t-shirt bore the slogan: “the Holocaust was a good time.” In response to this, students organised a protest march condemning antisemitism during which they asked Malaka Shwaikh, exposed by Campaign Against Antisemitism over her statements about terrorism and the Holocaust, to address the crowd and make Jewish students feel safe. Whilst professing an admirable desire for solidarity, Shwaikh took the opportunity not to renounce any of her views and to instead berate those “attacking” her as simply venting their “Islamophobic” prejudice.
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected]