Opinion: Not all words have worth, especially not Richard Spencer’s

Rileigh Wilson

Creative Commons

Students at the University of Florida are being offered free beer. Why? Because bars are hoping to dissuade students from attending a speech by National Policy Institute leader Richard Spencer Thursday on campus grounds.

Spencer is the same white supremacist that incited violence in Charlottesville, Virginia after speaking to a massive crowd in opposition to the city’s removal of a statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee. Spencer’s speech at the “Unite the Right” rally took a violent turn, leaving 19 injured and one woman dead after being run over by a car driven by a participant of a rally.

Spencer is the originator of the idea of “Alt-Right,” a group of people who have strong beliefs centered around neo-nazism, neo-fascism, and white supremacy.

In an interview with Al Jazeera in 2016, Spencer claims he is not a white supremacist. He asks the question, “In what direction are we headed?” claiming that the future holds fragmentation and loss of the Anglo-Protestant culture that founded the United States of America, despite Americans originally being immigrants themselves.

Spencer was originally scheduled to speak at UF in early September and was promptly rejected by UF president Ken Fuchs citing violence in Charlottesville. Despite efforts made by Fuchs and the community, Spencer’s right to speak on public college campuses is protected by his first amendment right to free speech.

Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in northern Florida in response to Spencer and the violence that follows him. According to the president of UF, the total cost of security to protect Richard Spencer amounts to an unbelievable  $600,000, calling in law enforcement from local, state, and federal levels, including the National Guard. The NPI is only paying roughly $10,000 to rent the venue, leaving the cost of security to be pulled from taxpayers pockets. Under heckler’s veto, a speaker can’t be silenced because of the possibility of a violent reaction and legally, the NPI can’t be forced to pay security costs. Any kind of mask, torch, or weapon will be banned from use during the speech.

The cost to protect the words of a white supremacist at the expense of taxpayers money is appalling. However, it is Spencer’s first amendment right to free speech, and it must be respected and not responded to with violence. A violent response is what he is looking for to gain more attention.

Student’s who disagree need to use their first amendment right to fight back. It is up to stronger student minds to share their ideas and stand against Richard Spencer and his delusory ideas of what it means to be American.


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