Richard B. Spencer spoke at Auburn University in Alabama on April 18, after a federal judge refused to allow the university to cancel Spencer’s appearance as it had attempted to do. CNN reports that two people were arrested at the event after getting into a fistfight with each other, which is exactly the sort of thing the university was trying to avoid when it canceled the event in the first place.
In its official statement about Spencer’s appearance, Auburn University sent the usual message calling for civil discourse at all costs.
“We strongly deplore his views, which run counter to those of this institution. While his event isn’t affiliated with the university, Auburn supports the constitutional right to free speech. We encourage the campus community to respond to speech they find objectionable with their own views in civil discourse and to do so with respect and inclusion.”
The strange thing about this statement is the use of the phrase “respect and inclusion.” Is Auburn University asking students to show respect and inclusion for white supremacists? Federal law and the United States Constitution may have given Auburn no option to cancel Spencer’s appearance, but is there no limit to the views students and local residents are expected to respect or to the people they are expected to include in civil discourse? If a Nazi shows up at your house and asks you to let him in for a polite debate about the merits of genocide, are you expected to be polite?
Of course, there are those who will insist that Richard B. Spencer is no Nazi, merely an innocent “white nationalist.” That depends on your definition of Nazi and how eager you are to be fooled by Spencer and his kind. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a Nazi as a “member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party,” and by this definition, neither Spencer nor anyone else can possibly be a Nazi since that organization no longer exists. On the other hand, it also gives a secondary definition of a Nazi as a “person with extreme racist or authoritarian views.”
Does this accurately describe Richard B. Spencer? Decide for yourself. In his speech at Auburn University on April 18, Spencer spoke of the need to protect “white identity” from the twin dangers of globalism and diversity, according to the Atlanta Journal Consititution.
Not extreme or authoritarian enough to qualify? As it happens, the Southern Poverty Law Center has put together a handy compilation of Spencer quotes, in which he spells out his views on a number of topics. Martin Luther King Jr., according to Spencer, was nothing but a “fraud and degenerate.” Immigration is a “proxy war,” and resisting it is a “last stand—for White Americans.”
What does Richard B. Spencer want exactly? A whites-only homeland or ethnostate, created through “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” Note the careful use of the word “peaceful.” The judge who ruled in Spencer’s favor and allowed him to speak at Auburn University did so on the grounds that Spencer does not advocate violence. The sincerity of Spencer’s claims to be peaceful can be assessed by examining what happened in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana, when local people denounced his views. As reported by the Guardian, anyone in Whitefish suspected of being Jewish was immediately deluged with anti-Semitic messages and threats, and a Neo-Nazi group attempted unsuccessfully to stage an armed march through downtown Whitefish. Spencer may be most famous for getting punched in the face at the inauguration, but he can hardly claim to be a peaceful bystander.
It’s true that Spencer denies being a racist at all, but this denial is based on his own peculiar definition of the word. According to the SPLC, Spencer defines “racist” as a meaningless slur, and goes on to say that “the notion that these people can be equal is not a scientific way of looking at it.”
It seems to me that advocating for the inequality and separation of the races, ethnic cleansing and a special homeland for white people is easily racist and authoritarian enough to qualify for the word “Nazi” under the Oxford English Dictionary’s secondary definition. Still, some people are bound to quibble that Spencer is not a Nazi in the classic “Heil Hitler!” sense of the word.
Those people are wrong. As reported by the Guardian, Spencer has actually been filmed shouting “Hail Trump!” to a room full of white supremacists giving the historical Nazi salute in response to his words. Auburn University may have had no choice, but when they let Richard B. Spencer speak, they provided a platform for white supremacy.
[Featured Image by David J. Phillip/AP Images]