Normalizing Richard Spencer [Opinion]

Since Trump’s victory in the presidential election, one of the main benefactors has been Richard Spencer and his movement of white supremacy. Spencer is another who flies his flag under the alt-right umbrella, cloaking his intentions of white male nationalism. Alt-right has become a ubiquitous phrase for this type of social perspective as it offers a friendlier face to the public.

Most recently, Richard Spencer visited the campus of Texas A&M as he was invited by a former student of the school to speak. A government-owned public university, there was little Texas A&M could do to stop Spencer, even if it conflicted with their values as a university.

“Our leadership finds his views as expressed to date in direct conflict with our core values. Private citizens are permitted to reserve space available to the public as we are a public university.”

Amy Smith, a spokesperson for the university, made sure to express these sentiments before Spencer’s visit. Although the speaking engagement went on as planned, hundreds protested outside the student union. Some of the protesters even found their way indoors, ridiculing the controversial figure. Richard Spencer seemed unfazed by their attendance.

“I see myself as mainstream. I’m trying to normalize racism… I’m trying to normalize my ideas, our ideas of the alt-right, yes. I do not want the alt-right to be a fringe movement, I want the alt-right to be a dominant movement.”

The most infamous moment of Richard Spencer’s time in the spotlight was during a convention that was recently held in Washington. The conclusion of Spencer’s speech subsequently led to multiple members of the crowd proudly raising a Nazi salute to the man at the podium as they cheered the victory of Donald Trump. Trump himself may not be dangerous but the fringe communities like the one Spencer represents have been emboldened by his arrival.

Herein lies the problem: the links provided throughout this piece on Richard Spencer are from ABC, NBC, and the Atlantic. These are major media outlets that have a wide reach to millions of people. It becomes an issue when you entertain the thoughts of someone who believes in the separation of races and the idea of genetic inferiorities based on skin color.

This is how you unintentionally normalize someone like Richard Spencer. Nabbing a contentious figure from the fringes of social and political thought and shoving them into the limelight only brings more eyes to their cause. Additionally, trying to actually understand the cause of someone like Spencer lends itself to the thought that we can have productive discourse instead of recognizing that as an impossible feat.

Similarly, this recently happened on The Daily Show with Tomi Lahren. Her rhetoric isn’t as inflammatory or hateful as Spencer’s, but her appearance on the show had the same effect. Generally an internet sensation, she was the beneficiary of massive attention from mainstream media following her interview with Trevor Noah.

The lure of the story will always present itself. Richard Spencer’s is a provocative one that will receive plenty of notice. However, this notoriety is unearned and frankly a bit disrespectful to the average consumer by allowing Spencer’s message to become mainstream. It very much borders on the line of irresponsible.

Our current political climate has provided little resistance to the grey area between free and hate speech. With the likes of Steve Bannon in the ear of our next president and his own twist on nationalism, it is difficult to imagine these societal confrontations becoming less frequent in the near future. Richard Spencer is a distillation of the process where white supremacists try to regain their foot on the neck of other ethnicities within American borders. One cannot argue that ground has been made in their fight. Knowingly or not, the media is leading the charge.

[Featured Image by David J. Phillip/AP Images]