An annual ritual for the average American high schooler, prom is typically a routine, even boring affair.
Sure, some people go all out for their outfits, and a few even rent exotic cars for the occasion. Yet, for the most part, the tradition is pretty fixed in how the night plays out.
One of the biggest highlights of the evening, no matter where you are, is the taking of prom photos.
For students at Baraboo High School in Wisconsin, those photos have brought a ton of bad attention to the school. That’s because there’s a group photo of a bunch of alleged Baraboo High School students standing on the steps of the school giving the “Sieg Heil.”
Why they were doing the gesture has an explanation, though it makes about as little sense as this whole story.
Apparently the boys were egged on by the photographer to do this. Again, why the photographer would do this, no one knows.
As you can imagine, the photo hit the web and the rest is history.
The Auschwitz Memorial was the first to draw attention to the photo, writing on their Twitter account: “It is so hard to find words… This is why every single day we work hard to educate. We need to explain what is the danger of hateful ideology rising. Auschwitz with its gas chambers was at the very end of the long process of normalizing and accommodating hatred.”
The photographer, Pete Gust of WheelMemories, was present as the father of one of the boys in the photo.
Originally, the photo was posted to a parody account for the town of Baraboo. That photo had the caption “We even got the black kid to throw it up #BarabooProud.”
To ram it all home, the kid in the center of the photograph is giving the “ok” sign widely associated in the United States with white supremacists according to some Internet observers. So it is tough to pretend that someone didn’t know what was up.
Gust, for his part, is doing just that and feigning ignorance as to what could possibly be the issue with the picture.
In response to the public reaction, he posted on his website: “Due to malevolent behavior on the part of some in society; this page has been modified. It is too bad that there are those in society who can and do take the time to be jerks; knowingly and willingly to be jerks! The internet can be a wonderful tool but for some there is an overwhelming urge to destroy. The destruction may not be physical but instead, it can be bullying that is intellectual or emotional. To anyone that was hurt I sincerely apologize. To those who have harmed them, we as society often ignore them I have chosen not to do that. YOU ARE JERKS! Grow up!”
Since the story has blown up, he has since told website Madison365: “And the last picture that I shot, I said, ‘All right boys, you’re on the steps. … give me a high sign, a wave that you’re saying goodbye to your parents…And I called it high five, ‘give me a high five.’ … And so I stuck my hand up, and I said, ‘this is what I want…I didn’t tell them to salute anything. There was none of that that was taken at that point in time that it was a salute of any kind. It was waving goodbye to their parents (and) having a good time. High five.”
However, this is completely refuted by one member of the photo – the guy in the upper right corner very obviously not participating.
His name is Jordan Blue and he said that Gust instructed them to do the “Sieg Heil” sign.
He released a statement to journalist Jules Suzdaltsev refuting Gust’s claims.
Mandela Barnes, Lieutenant Governor-elect of Wisconsin, released a statement on Twitter, saying: “Wish I was shocked, but the comfort they share in embracing supremacist culture is the most obscene part…This happens when the behavior is increasingly more excused and/or promoted. It cannot be tolerated, ignored, or inconsequential. This will not be us.”