Originally known for his eponymous role in the Disney Channel show Even Stevens, andaction franchise Transformers, Shia LaBeouf has grown in fame through his eccentric social media presence. His recent credits have included; performance art videos, such as the ‘just do it’ meme; the 2014 war film Fury, for which Rolling Stones cited his individual role as “outstanding”; and Sia’s music video for ‘Elastic Heart’. Even more recently, LaBeouf began a four year live-stream video which will run until the end of Donald Trump’s Presidency. It is more than just a live-stream though, it is an active protest and rejection of Trump’s publicised ideology, despite the fact the Museum refuses to label it as an anti-Trump protest. The protest, entitled ‘He Will Not Divide Us’ has gained a lot of publicity but, not just because of the ideology behind it. As it is a public livestream with apparently no security, anyone is allowed to feature in the video, located at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image. For the most part, the stream has been used for its purpose of protesting Trump and delivering the message that there will still be union amongst the people, aimed at criticising some of Trump’s more extreme policies, like his Muslim Registry, the wall on America’s border with Mexico, and his stance on immigration.
However, it has also provided a platform for those who support Trump. Due to its aforementioned public nature, anyone can address the camera, and subsequently anyone can be broadcast worldwide. The first incident was released on January 22nd, and has since been circulated around the internet. The condensed clip shows a white male approaching the camera, next to Shia LaBeouf and whispering “1488” into the camera. To many people, this would have no meaning. This is not to say though that it has no meaning. In fact, it is the combination of two White Supremacist symbols, the “14” standing for the ‘14 Words Slogan’ which, unabridged, is ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children’, and the ‘88’ standing for ‘Heil Hitler’. At first LaBeouf has no reaction and then, a few seconds later, he can be seen following the man and bringing him back into the frame. Labeouf shouts the protest’s slogan in the man’s face, non-violently, whilst the man continues to preach White Supremacist slogans. LaBeouf follows the man around to the back of the ground after a bystander intervenes to separate the two. Whilst they are out of sight, another person approaches the camera and holds up an American note with Trump’s campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ written on it. This has not been the only altercation. On one occasion someone ordered a large amount of pizzas to the protest, with no one to pay for them. The latter is probably one of the tamer incidents.
Another neo-Nazi approached the camera at a different time and whispered the phrase “Hitler did nothing wrong” repeatedly into the microphone, before asking the viewer to “investigate the Holocaust like you investigate 9/11”, referring to the many conspiracy theories that arose following the terrorist attacks in 2001 in New York. However, it is another clip taken on a mobile that is believed to be the reason LaBeouf was taken into custody on Thursday 25th by New York Police. The arrest occurred on the livestream in the late evening/early morning, following the release of a short video in which LaBeouf reacts to a fan’s comment. The video starts innocently, a male fan asking LaBeouf to come over and say hello. The fan then says “Hitler did nothing wrong”, directly to LaBeouf. In reaction, LaBeouf shoves the fan and walks away, the fan asking “why did he attack me?” as LaBeouf leaves. Many believe this altercation to be why LaBeouf was charged with assault.
Some have been left clueless as to why LaBeouf’s reactions are so volatile, yet his reactions are justified when you realise LaBeouf is Jewish - if you feel his reactions need any more justification than being a natural reaction to hate speech. Despite their being no evidence that the fan with the camera phone is a neo-Nazi, his statement indicates a belief that the Holocaust was either justified or simply moral in itself. Of course, this may just be his sense of humour, the recent rise in memes leading to a rise in controversial humour often relating to sensitive subjects such as 9/11, so-called Islamic terrorism, social disorders. It could be argued however that there is no rationale for this sense of humour, in a society where anti-semitism is still rife, even if it is only to provoke a reaction and subsequently go viral. Furthermore, the first incident was conducted by a neo-Nazi, confirmed by his headwear; a M43 field cap, worn by the Nazi Wehrmacht and SS, demonstrating that the livestream has given the public a platform for hatred, in spite of its good intentions.
These incidents, and the arrest of LaBeouf tell the public that not only is neo-Nazism is present but, that it is also acceptable. If it was unacceptable then there would be an understanding as to why LaBeouf’s instinctive reaction was not worthy of arrest, and instead should have been met with support and, instead, an arrest of the two men who exercised their rights to free speech but only in the capacity of hate speech. With a man in office who advocates the exclusion of Muslims; the discrimination of women, African-Americans, the disabled community, Native Americans; ignores issues such as Global Warming which affects the world, and many other controversial topics, there has been the creation of a space where discrimination is not only acceptable but unpunished. This is why the election of Trump to the Oval Office is not just a national problem. Its effects are felt globally as, by accepting him, neo-Nazis, and more, have a platform and justification for their views to be expressed because they feel endorsed by the new President.