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It’s Gainesville’s turn to endure Richard Spencer — and the white nationalist rage parade he inspires — in the name of the First Amendment.
To quote the Beatles, let it be.
There’s no mystery to his divisive message advocating for a white ethno state via “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of the United States. The co-editor of AltRight.com has overexposed himself, using the shock factor to hammer the same old racist shtick with modern twists in the quest to build a public persona with which to trade in the commerce of prejudice.
Every white-nationalist, white-supremacist, ugly, simplistic and demeaning thing he believes in you can readily find on the internet, where his “movement” thrives with the help of an army of trolls.
If it weren’t for President Donald Trump’s political cuddle, his legitimizing the likes of Spencer on the campaign trail and now in office, Spencer’s stock wouldn’t be high enough to command a venue like the University of Florida’s Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
But Spencer threatened to sue the university if he wasn’t allowed to speak, and First Amendment experts wisely counseled that unpopular speech, too, must be protected. Gainesville being a laid back college town where academic research and cultural richness outweighs insecure, infantile, angry white-male angst, the spectacle might go down Thursday afternoon as a teaching moment.
Adding local flair, a brewery has offered to help empty the venue by trading tickets to the event for free beer. Go for it, Gators.
It might all make for a good laugh, except that there’s considerable concern about the violence and dangerous lunatics Spencer’s white-identity politics attract, after his last major speaking gig — the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville — ended with the killing of a young woman by a white supremacist.
Spencer earns his living by promoting and catering to the hate party that shows up at his rallies and speeches — Nazis, neo-Nazis, sons of the Confederacy, and all kinds of other creatures from the fringes of life, including wearers of the red Make America Great Again cap.
Security for his appearance is costing the state an estimated $500,000. Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in Alachua County, which might be overkill, but it allows him to call in the National Guard if necessary.
But, poor baby, Spencer is upset about the precautions, thinking it’s all a conspiracy against him.
“State of emergency order is pretext for canceling event, suppressing free speech,” he tweeted Tuesday as he and his enablers peddled an 800-ticket giveaway online. The university was going to handle tickets, but Spencer is having his National Policy Institute hate group handle it in an attempt to keep students from trading them for beers.
There have been other similarly fine ideas to deal with protesters, too, like buying out all the tiki torches at Home Depot and Walmart so that, as talk show host Joy Reid put it, “Spencer and his band of 50 Citronella Nazis” can march “with rakes and garden gnomes.”
Yes, please, let this be a fleeting moment of humor, a footnote in the annals of garbage.
The fact that the man who occupies the White House appreciates Spencer’s support and that of other despicable white supremacists doesn’t change the fact that there’s nothing to learn, nothing to gain from being in his presence.
Without an audience, Richard Spencer is just another racist nobody.
He’s made a name for himself out of stoking prejudice and he counts on stirring enough emotion to draw crowds and publicity and keep his hateful gig rolling along.
There’s only one antidote to this kind of modern-day creep: Don’t make his ruse worth his while.
Let him speak, but don’t reward him with your presence.
Play some Beatles.
Or, better yet, pay homage to Gainesville’s gone-too-soon native son, rocker Tom Petty.
And by all means, with or without a ticket, have a beer.