Op-ed: Does Richard Spencer practice free speech or hate speech?

Clare Sunderman lives in Fairfield and is a student at Bowling Green State University.

With all the groups popping up on college campuses screaming about white supremacy, we need to define the line between free speech and hate speech that incites violence. 

Richard Spencer is the white supremacist from Virginia who was partially responsible for the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville that killed one and injured many. Spencer has planned to speak at numerous colleges around the United States, and threatens to sue the universities if he is turned away. Among the ones who have turned him away are Michigan State, Louisiana State, and Ohio State.

Clare Sunderman

Auburn University lost the federal suit causing other universities to be careful with their decisions to let Spencer speak. The university lost due to the First Amendment with the freedom of speech. The universities cannot prevent Spencer from speaking because, with the First Amendment, he has every right to speak.

I do not agree with his white supremacist thoughts but as long as his words are not inciting violence, he should be allowed to speak.

But the problem is that he is inciting violence. People were shot at on University of Florida’s campus when he went to speak. I understand that the University of Cincinnati must allow him to speak because they are a public university, but student safety should trump the freedom of speech.

UC says that if they “receive any credible evidence of a threat of violence it will take immediate action to keep students, faculty and the campus community safe.” A better way to keep yourself safe is just by not going. Avoid the possibility of violence and keep yourself safe by staying at home.

Spencer has the right of free speech and you have the right to protest but you also have the right to not go and not listen.

I know that everyone has their own say about this topic and that many people will want to go protest and be heard and tell Spencer that he is wrong. But you can’t fight fire with more fire. The protests and the attention help drive his message. They help fuel the fire. The attention helps to give his hate speech credibility.

But what happens to a fire without oxygen? It goes out. By not going, you help stop the spread of his hateful message. Don’t give him credibility or attention by going to protest. If no one showed up, he would have no reason to be there.

Spencer wants to create an uproar and wants the attention. There is no way of knowing if Spencer’s speech will incite violence or not, but following his past actions and speeches, there is a possibility it will.

So, my solution? Don’t go. Don’t help spread his hateful message by posting about it on social media. Don’t go protest and get angry. The anger and protest drive him. You can’t fight hate with violence. Don’t help fuel the fire of hate.

Print this article Back to Top