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  • Noah Spiece

Dustin Byrd Writes About Fascism and its Rising Presence in Today’s World

Aug. 11, 2017. Dustin Byrd and his family are visiting Charlottesville, Virginia. Rumors spread that a white nationalist demonstration will take place that night. Predicting that things could get out of hand, Byrd and his family leave Charlottesville, just as the white nationalists’ torches were lit and the march began. The decision to leave spared him and his family of the danger that would kill one and injure 19 people the next day.

The presence of the extreme “alt-right”, and the emergence of fascist movements in the modern age, has now gained a real, tangible presence to Byrd. So, he set out to write a book, or, in his own words, a “flaschenpost,” German for a message in a bottle, meant for those who do not see past the guises modern forms of fascism.

The purpose of his book, tentatively titled “Alt-Fascism: On the Philosophical Foundations of the New Radical Right.” Byrd said, is to “pull off the camouflage of modern fascistic thinkers - thinkers such as white nationalist Richard Spencer, who, according to CBS News, was also present at those fated Charlottesville demonstrations.”

When asked what impact he wishes his book to have, Byrd said “The impact … that people will see that fascism is a set of ideas, and just because you kill the carriers of these ideas, doesn’t mean that the ideas themselves die.”

In writing this book, one of Byrd’s greatest challenges was contacting people for sources. For example, he wrote letters to Anders Behring Breivik, a mass murderer with a 1,500-page manifesto, who killed 77 people in Norway, hoping to gain insight into his motives. He received no reply.

The other challenge Byrd said he faced was the sheer volume of primary sources he had to find and sort through, and the thousands of dollars he had to spend to acquire all of the proper research material.

Furthermore, writing a book on such a heavy topic as fascism takes its toll. Byrd said that writing the book “aged me,” and that “this was a painful book to work on … you’re really getting into the bowels of hatred.”

To focus on completing his book, Byrd recently took an eight-month sabbatical from teaching here at Olivet College. He resumed teaching this semester, and hopes to release his book by this fall.

According to the Olivet College Catalog, Byrd is an associate professor of Humanities. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western Michigan University, and his doctorate, in 2017, from Michigan State University.

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