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L.A. Kauffman (#ALT_MKE Virtual Lecture): “I Want a Haircut”: Toward a History of the Ultra-Right in Milwaukee’s Suburbs (and Why It So Often Fails)
May 8, 2020 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Author and activist L.A. Kauffman delivered a livestreamed version of her planned #ALT_MKE keynote address on Friday, May 8, at 3:30 p.m CDT via Zoom.
(You can also find more from our planned plenary speakers, including their current work and research, on the #ALT_MKE website.)
“I Want a Haircut”: Toward a History of the Ultra-Right in Milwaukee’s Suburbs (and Why It So Often Fails)
On April 18, when the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 passed 37,000, several hundred protesters gathered outside Brookfield Square Mall in suburban Waukesha County to decry Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers’ coronavirus lockdown order. Photos circulated widely of one woman in particular, wearing zero protective gear and holding a sign that read: “I Want a Haircut.” Though the protesters garnered extensive national attention, polls quickly showed that very few Wisconsinites supported them.
L.A. Kauffman spent many an afternoon at that very mall in the 1970s, having grown up in the adjacent village of Elm Grove. For much of that time, she lived next door to one of the founders of the John Birch Society, the secretive far-right organization that championed the unrestricted rights of business owners; railed against government health, safety, and enviromental regulations; and worked assiduously to undermine any institution, from the mass media to public libraries, that stood in the way of its aims.
Weaving together images and stories from her suburban Milwaukee childhood with the history of her neighbors and their checkered attempts to implement a far-right agenda both in Wisconsin and nationwide, Kauffman will shed new light on how Milwaukee’s suburbs became such an important incubator for the extremist views showcased in the anti-lockdown protests — and why they have repeatedly failed to gain wide support.