Finley: Deny hate spotlight it craves
Richard Spencer scored a big victory at Michigan State University.
The wretched weenie brought his pitiful squad of half-wit hatemongers to MSU Monday, and despite the university’s best efforts to shut him down, he walked away with a W.
Spencer, the apparent head of America’s white supremacists, got his win not because he was allowed to deliver his speech on campus. That should have been no big deal. Lots of wackos get to speak at MSU, and most never get a minute of camera time. They have a right to speak, but they don’t have a right to an audience.
Spencer won because he got people to react to his presence.
Some 500 protesters showed up outside the off-the-beaten-path venue MSU set aside for Spencer to speak. Many came to simply declare their disgust at his very existence. Others were there to mix it up with Spencer’s followers. Those protesters tried to forcibly keep attendees out of the hall, swarming police and trading punches with the neo-Nazis whose role clearly was to stomp around until a fight broke out.
Surprise — the fisticuffs came. And the cameras rolled. And Spencer got his big headlines. Instead of being the tree falling in the forest, Spencer got listeners for his silly sermon.
That was quite an accomplishment for a speaker who drew perhaps 50 or so supporters total — about 30 who made it inside to hear the speech, and 20 who stayed outside to agitate.
Had those protesters stayed home, had the preferred reaction to Spencer been to ignore him, he would have been crushed.
He wouldn’t have the attention he received. He wouldn’t have the recruiting tool those TV clips and front pages gave him. And he wouldn’t have been able to declare himself a First Amendment martyr.
Even if all of his followers who showed up at MSU had been able to take seats for the speech, the venue would have been mostly empty. Spencer would have been exposed for what he is — less a leader of a movement than a traveling circus.
He gets his voice not from the size of his flock, but for his ability to leverage that ragged band into inordinate publicity.
Spencer has been doing it with great success all over the country. And in the process, he’s feeding the myth so readily embraced by the left that his message is gaining steam in this country.
White supremacy, the alt-right, Nazism, the Ku Klux Klan — however these hate groups are identified — remain a very small fringe. The attention they’re getting is outsized when compared to their membership.
Even at the disastrous and deadly Charlottesville rally last summer, the number of actual white supremacists who showed up were relatively few. Despite weeks of advertising what was billed as a national event and calling on his fellow travelers to swamp the city, Spencer managed to lure just a couple of hundred supporters, far short of the thousands he promised.
There isn’t a broad appetite for Spencer’s racist, anti-Semitic ideology, nor is it creeping into the mainstream. His followers are the dregs of society, misfits and losers with minds that are easily poisoned.
If we stopped treating their ridiculous hootenannies as if they had any significance, they would have no reason to stage them, nor gain any satisfaction from doing so.
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