On December 17, Springfield neo-Nazi Jimmy Marr and an associate decided to roll into town with his swastika-clad panel truck bearing the phrase “‘Nazi’ is just the n-word for White men.” Marr sightings had previously coincided with notable events involving his local toadie Andrew Oswalt, who at the time had been recently convicted of a felony hate crime.
A group of local activists, consistently on the lookout for hate, already had a strategy in place as to how they would deal with it. This would include bringing a bed sheet to where the hate is being displayed, and simply, without violence, hold the makeshift barrier in front of the offending material. Four activists arrived at Marr’s truck in downtown Corvallis to deploy this method, before all hell broke loose.
When the police arrived, some of the four protesters had been badly beaten, Marr was suffering from some sort of medical episode, and his crony had fled. Marr was carted off to the hospital while all four protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct. According to the Civil Liberties Defense Center, who later assisted in representing the four: “Shortly after arriving near the truck, the activists were brutally attacked by neo-Nazis. The Nazis fled, while the activists who were subject to the beating were arrested for Disorderly Conduct II. The arrests, quite literally, added insult to injury.”
The protesters recognized the fascist that fled the scene and gave his name to the police, though neither he nor Marr have been charged with any crimes at this time. The case against the Corvallis Four, as they have been dubbed, was turned over to the Yamhill District Attorney due to a conflict of interest within the Benton County District Attorney’s office. The Yamhill DA eventually declined to file charges against the four, but the damage had already been done.
When the Corvallis Four were arrested, their given names and mugshots were made public, and were immediately published by the Corvallis Gazette-Times. Many papers publish mugshots, but the GT regularly publishes them with little to no context, which is arguably a disservice to the public. Worse, the information the GT broadcasted about these four activists in this case may have put them in real danger. As we’ve reported time and again, right wing extremists, like the ones opposed by the Corvallis Four, pose a very real, physical threat to those with the courage to stand against them. The fact that three of the four are trans women adds layers to this danger, as nothing seems to anger white supremacists more than to be challenged by a class of people that they deem to be subhuman. The four were immediately doxxed online, an increasingly-used attack tactic in which personal information is revealed in order to prime the victim as a target for harassment.
As no small aside, institutions diverse as Pew Research and the Columbia Journalism Review have challenged the indiscriminate publishing of mugshots as inherently unfair, and one would think that when a paper does run them, some editorial judgment should be applied.
Our other qualm with the GT’s handling of the coverage was the manner in which they reported the identities of the four, specifically the three trans women. As mentioned in the GT’s recent piece “Investigation continues into neo-Nazi brawl,” they reported the identities of the four using dead-names, meaning they reported their given names rather than the ones that they use to match their trans identities. This was proceeded by “The latter three reportedly identify as transgender women and have female-chosen first names.” We feel that this is deeply disrespectful to the identities of these women, and seeing as they were no longer being charged, we don’t see the value in reporting their names at all. As mentioned, these activists are clear targets for neo-Nazi harassment.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s media reference guide gives us some prospective: “Always use a transgender person’s chosen name. Many transgender people are able to obtain a legal name change from a court. However, some transgender people cannot afford a legal name change or are not yet old enough to legally change their name. They should be afforded the same respect for their chosen name as anyone else who uses a name other than their birth name.”
Additionally, GLAAD Director of Transgender Media and Representation, Nick Adams has said, “Reporters accept celebrities’ stage names (or symbols) at face value and don’t constantly remind readers that Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.”
We at The Advocate realize that we aren’t without blemish when it comes to this subject, either. As recent as last week, one of our reporters referred to the four as “men,” as he was sourcing other outlets to confirm reports. A correction for this is appearing in this issue, and we would like to sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for this oversight. The way most media covers the trans community is clearly a systemic problem, and the path forward is to acknowledge and correct our mistakes rather than retreat into the familiarity of journalistic practices of the past.
This is the standard that we will be holding ourselves to, and we would like other media outlets to follow suit.
Jimmy Marr crafts his propaganda to corral others into his deranged worldview, most commonly by using victim mentality — painting a fraudulent picture of poor white men being run roughshod over by the supposed evils of diversity. It sounds insane, but it has been effective for him and other recruiters of the alt-right movement. The best way to non-violently oppose this tactic is to drown out the message, and it appears that is what the Corvallis Four was attempting to do. We look forward to seeing justice for them, and will continue to report as more information is released.
Commentary by Jay Sharpe