Richard Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida was nothing short of a shitshow, in want of better words. Aside from a few decent questions made towards him during the Q and A, almost the entire speech was drowned out by protesters. Protesters shouting slogans that offer no rebuttal, chanting like drones with no individuality and no mind of their own. They didn’t offer any decent counter-arguments towards his ideas – ideas that should be challenged – and instead, they screamed and shouted. This highlights a huge pattern when it comes to right-wing speakers, alt right speakers or just any speaker the overly sensitive disagree with (because there are plenty of people who are on the left who have been de-platformed as well).
When it came to the Q and A, most of the questions were insults. It was pathetic and embarrassing. All that came from it was Richard Spencer getting exactly what he wants – to become someone who, in their eyes, is fighting the good fight and is being shouted down by those who just don’t want to hear ‘the truth’. Nothing attracts people to your ranks and cause better than brandishing the title of the silenced underdog, especially an underdog whose rhetoric is only met with empty insults from screeching college students and people resorting to violence instead of challenging their ideas. Spencer got an entire state to declare a state of emergency. A state of emergency. Spencer is free to go away and promote himself as ‘Spencer: The Guy Who Triggered a State’. They have given this man everything he could possibly want for his movement, and this is the problem with the regressive left when it comes to the alt-right or anyone they disagree with. I like to listen to alt right podcasts. Not because I agree with their views, but because I want to know what their ideas are in order to properly form counter- arguments without misrepresenting them. One pattern that emerged throughout – through interviews with key figures in the alt-right like Jared Taylor, Richard Spencer and so on, and through their own podcasts and videos (when they haven’t been put in limited state or just flat out taken down) – is that they are very much aware of what the left has done for them and they are absolutely thankful for it. Every screeching protest by leftists that turns into chaos, every Antifa protest that results in huge property damage and having events shut down for safety reasons, and people on their side being shut down or even physically assaulted provides them with the best marketing they could ever ask for. When someone in Antifa or someone from the far left resorts to violence or petty insults, it creates this facade to others that the entire left has no counter-arguments to them. They will be free to run with the assumption that the reason why these groups resort to such tactics is that they know that the ideas from these figures are right and they just don’t want to deal with ‘the truth’. People who aren’t familiar with these figures will then become more interested in the people being shut down, and as a result, these people will become more and more popular. It’s simple stuff really.
When Antifa thugs and other leftist protesters burnt down a part of Berkeley when Milo Yiannopoulos was set to speak there, did you honestly think that this would bring anyone to the side of Antifa or to the side of the protestors? Unless you love the idea of assaulting people, burning stuff down and labelling people with names so you can justify punching them, and believe this actually brings normal people to your side. Unless you are actually not a liberal, do not care for free speech for those you disagree with and you genuinely think that political violence – when it comes to people you don’t like – is the way to go. Yiannopoulos lost no supporters and his views were given a platform to millions after that event. During the time, sales of his books skyrocketed and support for Milo grew without Milo having to do a thing.
This has to stop, and I am saying this as someone who comes from the left. I consider myself a centrist although I will say that I am progressive in some areas. I think what I am about to say next is quite overused, but this behaviour is what got Trump elected. It’s this behaviour that pulls people towards the right. Screaming children who offer no arguments only make the speaker look like a martyr or become popular as a result. So how do you stop people who you don’t like – whether politically or not? Well, I’m going to offer two solutions – both of which differ from each other to a degree.
- Don’t show up.
Nothing is more embarrassing to a speaker than an empty room. It looks pathetic. It sends a message that no one really gives a shit about what they have to say and that their message holds no weight. If no one showed up to Richard Spencer’s talk or Milo Yiannopoulos’s talk or any speaker that you disagree with, then that would do more for their public image than anything. No state would have declared a state of emergency and no speaker would have instead been given a platform on a national news programme with millions of viewers. They would have just awkwardly had their speech or the speech would have been cancelled due to the huge lack of audience. A picture of an empty room with Richard Spencer standing on the stage looks pathetic and laughable, and I would have joined in the many memes that would have come from it. When Richard Spencer or anyone you disagree with has a room filled with people, you set him up as a somebody, and to the average person, you set him up as a somebody who has a strong and logical message, especially when the audience is filled with people who aren’t providing any kind of argument in response.
2) Come with good arguments.
Regardless of whether you’re part of Antifa, a far leftist, a progressive, a liberal, a centrist, a conservative or even a member of the alt-right who disagrees with Richard Spencer, come with the intent of countering Spencer’s rhetoric with your own arguments. Not screaming. Just calm rebuttals. Screaming at him only strengthens his argument to the average person who may not know who to side with. If you are going to come to his talk, listen to what he has to actually say. Don’t listen to what others are saying about him, a lot of which often doesn’t extend further than calling him a Neo-Nazi white supremacist, despite the fact that Spencer has said he isn’t a Neo-Nazi and despite the fact that he doesn’t believe white people are superior to all other races. Take the time to listen to him, and others who support him or have similar viewpoints, and form a solid argument. Encourage your group to sit down and listen to him, whether in person or online, encourage others to do the same. The average person on the street will be able to see this – as well as people who are supporters of Spencer – and realise how bad his arguments are and come to the other side which provides the better arguments. Shouting at him, or shutting him down – if they happen – only helps Spencer and others in the end.
I’m sure there are many other ways you could counter this without resorting to childish and ridiculous behaviour I once thought was only contained within social justice warrior and feminist rekt cringe compilations on the Internet. I believe these ways are the best ways to counter people you don’t like. If you think Richard Spencer has terrible ideas with no basis in reality or fact, show him that, or make a video and build your solid arguments through that method. Believe me, the need for alt right criticism video on YouTube especially is something that is much needed right now.
I’m probably going to sound like a broken record right now which is why I’m going to conclude it here. Bad ideas don’t go away if you scream at them, if you shut down their events or if you burn a few buildings or a few cars or beat up a few innocent rubbish bins (or garbage cans if you’re American) or if you smash up some windows or if you beat up or pepper spray the people who just want to hear a different point of view. The ideas will simply go someplace else. They will go underground where it’s almost guaranteed that none of their views will be challenged, and the curious ones, who want to see why the speaker was shut down and caused such an aggressive response, will be drawn to them. That rhetoric will fester and boil until eventually something bad might happen down the road. This regressive attitude from the far left is the best marketing strategy the alt-right, Richard Spencer, Jared Taylor or anyone you disagree with, could ever ask for.