This Issue’s College Issues: Trying to target college students with alt-right rhetoric

 

Alt-right leaders across the nation have started to use brainwashing tactics on college students

 

It takes a particularly selfish disregard for human well-being to not only promote false information, but to spread it while simultaneously equating it with truth. With an American citizenry willing to believe nearly anything from even mediocre relevant sources, the dissemination of false information continues to ravage the United States at an almost depressing rate. Perhaps at a further  intensified rate than ever before, the false information being shared contains extremely dangerous subject matter and rhetoric, often purposefully targeted at specific groups of people. With the additional rise of inaccurate news reporting, it has become increasingly difficult for the average citizen to differentiate fact from opinion, and the resulting confusion yields dangerous consequences. Concern ought to be raised when one approaches the direct threatening of fellow citizens through the circulation of false information, especially when news networks are so easily trusted.

In recent months, election-related tensions have produced countless inaccurate and otherwise purposefully incorrect claims directed at specific — often already marginalized — groups of people. Predominantly for political gain, notable political figures have spewed deliberately incorrect claims targeting “the other” — whoever that may have been at the time — with the sole intent of convincing as many Americans as possible of blatantly false ideas. Plucked from the bowels of the Internet and circulated as far as prominent television news networks, harmful stories were spread throughout the nation to an already gullible citizenry. Simply because the information was rooted in political ideology, significantly uninformed individuals suddenly adopted strong stances on topics they had not previously entertained whatsoever, resulting in the incredibly divisive election season we recently experienced. Consequently, as the vast majority of information many used to ground their political beliefs was constructed entirely upon falsities, the image of American political ideology was heavily shifted, though in a rather disheartening fashion.

From the remnants of the polarizing election, questionable ideologies once reserved merely for private discussion and Klan meetings were thrust into the spotlight, allowing extremist groups to enter the political arena, and perhaps more frighteningly, American popular culture. The most prominent of these groups was the alternative right, abbreviated alt-right.

The alt-right is a group of online white supremacists that have adopted a political movement to promote conservative principles not commonly aligned with popular Republican doctrine. Their platform consists of white nationalistic and western ideals of society, though many related websites purposefully avoid making definitive claims on specific ideology. Many denominations nevertheless exude inescapable homophobic, mysoginistic, Islamophobic, antisemitic and nativist nuances, and essentially resemble a modern white power movement.

In response to the recent presidential election, prominent alt-right leaders have declared their newest brainwashing targets: college students. Transitioning from an entirely online platform and into the real world, the leader of the National Policy Institute — a hate-mongering institution of garbage — Richard B. Spencer — imagine here an image of a Hitler-esque caricature sans mustache with a Twitter account — has devoted much of his time in the upcoming months to appearing at college campuses throughout the nation to preach his alt-right agenda. Texas A&M University and the University of Michigan have already scheduled the nut, and Spencer is set to appear at the former this week. Despite protests from students and the surrounding community, the leaders of Texas A&M have reassured Spencer of his welcome to campus, claiming that cancelling the event would be illegal, as the university is a public institution.

We unsurprisingly have entered into yet another dispute of free speech and hate speech. I feel my verdict upon this particular situation will differ from those I have made previously within this column, but nevertheless we must examine the situation in its entirety.

Bluntly, the rhetoric of the alt-right movement is hate speech. Without a sliver of doubt, I believe the group is not protected within First Amendment rights of free speech. The mere suggestion of ethnic cleansing — of which Spencer can be directly quoted in suggesting — as a platform for a political movement is a threat, as it directly targets particularized groups and seeks their removal, either physically or geographically. Moreover, the group differs from other supremacist groups, such as the KKK, as they have transitioned from private gatherings to the public political environment. The KKK remains primarily within their own white supremacist communities, and with the exception of the few publicized rallies certain denominations hold each year, their hateful behavior has no relevant effect on the fabric of American politics, as politicians gain nothing from their support. However, the alt-right has climbed through the window Donald Trump’s White House in the form of Steve Bannon — an equally moronic man to that of Spencer — and the group holds the potential to pervert future presidential policy, therefore increasing the power of their hate speech.

Those who have read previous entries of my column and of my vehement defending of the American constitutional right of freedom of speech may be questioning why I have found offense in this particular situation. Beyond simply the fact that the horrendous rhetoric shouted by alt-right leaders directly coincides with threatening hate speech — and therefore is neither legal nor protected — the specific targeting of impressionable college students with hateful rhetoric almost directly mirrors the efforts of Adolf Hitler in the 1940s. He sought young, malleable minds with which he could implant his disgusting ideologies, then simply watched from afar as humans brutally murdered one another over something as irrelevant as religious denomination. It is not hard to imagine a similar situation occurring today, as the darkest segments of history often find an eerie way of repeating themselves. Spencer is already banned in twenty-six European countries for his proclamations of white supremacy and ethnic cleansing, and that should serve as precedent enough for institutions to deny him entry onto their property. It is more than mere speculation to predict Spencer is attempting to accomplish a similar feat to that of previous Nazi and white supremacist organizations, and it should not be illegal for the administrators of the colleges — even in public institutions — to reject Spencer accordingly.

While the voices of the alt-right deserve their place within the American political environment, they must not confuse simply objectionable rhetoric with direct threats towards certain groups of people. Should the alt-right continue with their repugnant language, they ought to thoroughly reexamine their place the nation that — despite their wishes of whitewashed Trump America — still protects all its citizens, not simply their white asses.

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