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Q & A With Richard Spencer

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National Policy Institute’s President Richard Spencer is scheduled to speak on the University of Florida’s campus Oct. 19. The event will take place at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at 2:30 p.m.

While UF disagrees with Spencer’s rhetoric, as a public university, they cannot prohibit Spencer from speaking. They have rented the center to the National Policy Institute and worked to provide additional security for the event.

“Since safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus is the University’s top priority, UF will end up paying at least $500,000 to enhance security on campus and in the city of Gainesville,” Janine Sikes, UF spokesperson, wrote in an email.

Spencer spoke to WUFT’s Grace King and expressed his feelings about the speech, public universities and what his ideal country would look like.

King: What do you think is misunderstood about you and your position?

Spencer: Well, obviously the greatest misunderstanding is that we come to intimidate people or we come to engage in violence or anything like that, that’s obviously false. And if you look at our actions and you don’t listen to the hysterical screeching of our distractors, but if you look at what we say and most importantly, what we do, it’s clear that we are peaceful people. We want to speak to our people primarily. We want to wake up white Americans and white people around the world. We want to inspire them. We want to change their hearts and minds and how they see the world. And so that’s what we are doing, and if you judge us by our actions, that’s clearly what we’re doing. So all of this talk of “Richard is going to come to the University of Florida and inspire violence,” it’s totally silly. The people who are going to, if there is violence, the people who are going to engage in it, are going to be the so-called anti-fascists, and they are effectively a narco-communist, and I’m not trying to slander them, that’s how they think of themselves. And they believe that I and many people like me, and also many people who are just mainstream republicans and conservatives, do not have a right to speak, we aren’t fully United States citizens, and they have a right and a duty to attack us, to set us down, mutter our free speech, to threaten and intimidate us. And again, this is not me saying this as someone who disagrees with them. This is how they think of themselves and this is what they explicitly talk about and this is what they explicitly do. And if there is any kind of altercation at the University of Florida, and I certainly hope there isn’t, it will be because of these Antifa related groups. Now what I do hope, is that there is certainly no violence, but that there is a real furtive debate, if people want to engage with me in a Q&A session, whenever I do these things, I do at least an hour of Q&A. I want to engage with students, if they want to engage with me and tell me how much they think my views are wrong and terrible and so on, that is great. I will listen to them and I will engage with them. That is what I am there for. But they have to listen to me, too. They have to grant myself and people like me a real platform. We have to have a seat at the table, and that is all that I am demanding. A seat at the table, like any other speaker, controversial or not at the University of Florida.

King: So why Gainesville? Why the University of Florida?

Spencer: Well, we have picked out a number of public universities and I’ve already spoken at Texas A&M, I’ve spoken at Auburn in Alabama, we actually have a number of other universities, like Michigan State University, Penn state, Ohio state, and I would like to see a private school too. There is no particular reason why we chose Florida, but the fact is, it is a major institution, one of the most important in the country. It is also a public institution, and therefore, it isn’t just a university, it is also a public space. It is an “academical village,” as the University of Virginia described itself, that’s where I graduated from where, you know, it’s not just about scholars and research, it’s about people debating and talking about ideas. Talking about ideas that are controversial, that are dangerous. That’s what a university in its ideal form should be about.

King: So there’s various reports that have called you a white nationalist, white supremacist, Nazi. Do any of those apply to you? How would you describe yourself? 

Spencer: I would describe myself as an identitarian, and that means that my starting point for thinking about politics is identity. It is that question, which is a question, of who am I, and who are we. That is, who am I, as an individual and who are we as an extended family. Other political movements have different starting points. The left might start with the class struggle or the quest for equality, or I’m not even sure I can describe what the current left starting point is. The right in the United States often started from the standpoint of the Constitution, free market capitalism and the opposition to the Soviet Union, or what have you. Our starting point is identity, and that’s a rich, dense concept. It includes, certainly elective identity, it includes one’s immediate family, it includes where one grew up, what language one speaks, one’s religion, one’s deeply held spirituality and use of this kind. And at the foundation of anyone’s identity is race. That is something that one can’t choose, something that one is born into. And race, as a foundation, informs everything. So, identity should not be equated with race. Identity is a lot more than race, but race is at the very foundation of everything. It’s a sine qua non of who we are and who any individual is. So that, something, of how I would describe my starting point to thinking about politics. So therefore, in the way the alt-right, which is an identity movement and it is an identitarian movement, we are much more flexible on a lot of policy issues. We think about what serves and protects our people and inspires flourishing. We are not fiercely dedicated to free markets at all costs, like a conservative or libertarian. We are actually collectable on a lot of issues and actually on a lot of issues, and you can see that in my 8-minute, called the Charlottesville statement, where I did a 20-point statement where I try to outline what the alt-right is, in my view, and it made a tremendous amount of agreement with people who identify with the alt-right. You might actually find a lot of our views to be liberal, or even leftist. We are open to protecting the environment, we are open to maintaining livable cities, we are open to protecting rural areas, but we believe that the government has a role to play in human affairs. So again, the starting point is key, we start from a point of protecting our people and our identity and then we move out from there and start to think about politics.

King: When did you start to develop these identitarian views, when you were younger or did something happen to cause you to start believing this way?

Spencer: One could say that I’ve been like this since the womb. There is a continuity, I can look back at my younger self, even if I disagree with my younger self for a little bit, I can still understand that I am that same person. So I do think that political views and ideologies are heritable to a very large degree. When I was a younger person, there wasn’t an alt-right, the internet was barely developed at all and I was searching for a way out of what I found to be the nihilism of modern American life, that is that all one’s can be satisfied through shopping or individual’s desires is in the right to buy or do what everyone pleases. That’s the ultimate goal in life with this kind of nihilistic liberalism. I saw that all around me, I saw the destruction of my country, the fact that the United States was becoming a less livable place, a less beautiful place. I was searching for a way out of that. A way to articulate my critique of that and the way out to achieve something that I can be connected with traditions, that I can have a vision of the future and so on. And yeah, so I went through an evolution, you can say in terms of my views. But for a long time, I have been an identitarian. I preferred that word about 10 years ago. But for a long time, I’ve recognized that race is real and race matters and race is the foundation of identity, but I have also recognized that beyond that, beyond the racial issue, which is of course the most controversial one, that the United States really needs to change in some fundamental ways. It needs to change culturally and socially and politically, in terms of our foreign policies and relationship to the world, and so on. And that’s how I came to be, there wasn’t just one moment of epiphany or something that happened to me or something like that. I would say that if there is one moment that kind of put me on this course, it was probably a catalyst and not a cause. That was the George W. Bush administration and the Iraq war. I would say that the alt-right really does emerge from the anti-war movement, it emerges from a rejection of Bush, a rejection from the Iraq war. The sense that something had gone terribly wrong and that we needed to re-think everything. We didn’t just need the same old conservatism, we needed something fundamentally different. If I were to point to one moment, I would say that’s it.

King: And when you mention these cultural, social and political changes in the US. What would your ideal changes be like?

Spencer: Well, first off, I think that some major changes could take place with immigration. Between 1924 and 1965, there was effectively no net immigration into this country. And that coincided with some of the greatest strides that the United States has ever made, in terms of national unity, in terms of economic flourishing, so that’s not my chief goal, in terms of going to the moon. So I believe that that was no coincidence, that we really became a nation, maybe for the first time you could say, and that regional differences were resolved during that period. So I would hope that we could have a similar period like that, of net-neutral immigration. That is if the same amount of people more or less, who leave, and there is immigration like that, will come. So that we can maintain the country as it is. I think there are some major differences that I would have in some of the foreign policies. I don’t believe that it is the prerogative of the United States to engage in all of these senseless wars around the world, to think that we have to overthrow regimes, like the Assad regime in Syria, or Iran or anything like that. I would want to deal with the world in a much more peaceful fashion. I also think that there could be a tremendous amount of change in terms of domestic policy. That is domestic policies that recognize that we need to worry about the demographic future of this country, that, as sing-songy as this may sound, the children are our future. And that we want to inspire people to have strong families and to bring better children into the world and that we want to build a world that is better for those children. This is a sketch, of course, but yes, there will be dramatic changes in terms of foreign and domestic policies, if alt-right ideas or identitarian ideas were to inform politics, as opposed to conservatives or liberal or leftist ideas, which is basically what we’ve had for a long time.

King: Now, the University of Florida is a very diverse campus. What is going to be your message to these students?  

Spencer: I’m going to talk about the necessity of identity. It affects with something that is not a foreign concept to many of those people that you’re referencing, when you have the non-white students, and so on. For them, race really does matter. To tell an African-American student or a foreign exchange student something like “oh you’re not really African, that doesn’t really have anything to do with your life or you’re not truly Indian, that’s just a meaningless, social construct or whatever.” No one will ever say that to them. And for those individuals, their racial or ethnic, genetic identity, that really, really matters. That’s never in dispute. It only matters when white people say the same exact things that these others say. I’m going to talk about the necessity of identity. In the sense that we need it, but also in the sense that it’s a historical outcome of the world, that which, I’ve experienced in my entire life and the country has been experiencing, really since 1965, but in particular the last three decades, that being a world of mass immigration and multi-culturalism and multi-racialism, white people will begin to understand themselves as white. If one lived in an all-white country, and not just all white, more or less, Protestant country, or Anglo-Saxon country, then one is like a fish swimming in water. One’s identity is never brought into question. Now, any multi-cultural country that question “who are we” is raised, and one has to answer it, one has to address it, one can’t just wave one’s hand and wish it away. And so that’s what I’m going to talk about.

King: Do you think an all-white country will be better?

Spencer: The United States was a really wonderful place when it was an all-white country, no doubt. There were amazing achievements. I think that there are, whenever there are countries that where people feel at home, where there is a general homogeneity that they feel that they can trust their neighbor, something that they have something deeply in common with their neighbor, then undoubtedly this country cannot just be happier, they can inspire more flourishing. But yes, they can be more successful as well, they can be proud of who we are. I don’t want a world in which there are no more nations, I don’t want a world in which there are no more Africans, or no more Europeans. Or even within Europeans, I don’t want a world where there are no more Italians or Scotsmen or anything like that. I don’t want a world of a homogenized, beige map. That strikes me as horrifying and in a destruction of rootlessness of not really just Europeans but of all cultures.

King: So would you agree with what Hitler tried to do?

Spencer: No.

King: Why?

Spencer: I don’t agree with the invasion of Poland, with the invasion of the Soviet Union or anything like that, you’re just bringing out something from the past that I obviously don’t have any connection to.

King: Is there anything you’d like to add to those fearing your visit on the 19th?

Spencer: No, I will add this: I hope that people come out and I particularly hope that people who disagree with me come out. I will listen to them. That is a promise I will definitely make.

King: Is there anything you’d like to say to the president of the University who has expressed that he does not want you here?

Spencer: Ah. Well, I want to be there. I would be happy to get into a debate, a respectful debate with any member of the community, including the president of the university.

About Mercedes Leguizamon

Mercedes Leguizamon is a reporter at WUFT News, she can be reached at 786-619-4733 or by email at mercedeslegui@gmail.com and mercelegui@ufl.edu

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  • Jenny Underwood

    I’m sitting here trying to come up with an appropriate response to this nightmare being taken seriously on the public broadcasting network. And I’ve got nothing.This man is a monster. Why is he being given a platform to spout his propaganda?

    • 金白龍

      He doesn’t pretend diversity is a strength to avoid being called a racist. He knows races aren’t interchangeable.

  • Travis Mitchell

    I can’t believe WUFT is boosting this man’s signal, and that I am helping pay for it with my membership. No thanks, I’m not donating money to let some racist POS spread his message.

    • Gusphase b

      What would you suggest the interviewer say to Richard Spencer, here? SHout him down? Edit his responses like CNN does? Seriously, what are you suggesting?

  • Patrick Donges

    Where can I get a ticket to participate in the Q&A? I was under the impression this event was invite only and I can’t find any links for tickets on any of Mr. Spencer’s various outlets.

  • valeria

    I just finished listening to an interview of Richard Spencer. I am dismayed that WUFT, my radio station, would give airtime to a racist like him. As a member of WUFT community and the UF community I found it not only offensive but unnecessary. This is exactly what these extreme racists are looking for, to generate enough controversy that somebody will give them air time and allow them to reach a much larger community. If you wanted to inform the public about his coming into town, then you could have done a piece on that topic, on the disgust it generates his visit, on the disapproval it has created within our wonderful diverse and welcoming city… but to give him time to SPEAK? with what purpose?
    A much more serious journalism would have included something about the history of white supremacy in our city , the damage it has done in the recent past and on how much better are we now when we strive to live in an integrated community with full respect for each other.
    I listen to WUFT every day and greatly enjoy the work of UF journalism students, but in this case It was a naive interview of a dangerous man that represents the worse in our society. It was a grave mistake by WUFT not to think through the ramification of this interview as it was delivered without any context and it provided a platform for hate speech.

    • Ronald Ewalt

      The purpose of the Spencer interview is Free Speech, and at UF therein lies a special importance as expressed by the ACLU; “Such restrictions deprive students of their right to invite speech they wish to hear, debate speech with which they disagree, and protest speech they find bigoted or offensive.” Understand that I condemn and despise the messages, philosophy and actions of Spencer’s groups and similar Neo-Nazi/White Supremacist organizations. My positions on Free Speech in no way are support or apologies for Spencer and his ilk, but a fierce determination that we not permit our Freedoms to be compromised because we want to limit someone’s similar rights. I offer for purposes of perspective, could not an interview of DeRay McKesson be challenged with the same language or at least the same type of arguments you use to limit Spencer’s speech rights? Of if Malcolm X was alive today could not arguments be posited that he should not speak at UF? We merely waste our energy and integrity if we suggest the character and messages of McKesson and Malcolm X are so different, moral and acceptable to those of Spencer (which I generally agree are) that those assessements ALONE permit McKesson and Malcom but not Spencer to speak. Understand that except for a limited number of exceptions as clearly prescribed in decisions by the Supreme Court, the CONTENT of the speech is protected. Simply but accurately said by the ACLU, “The First Amendment to the Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content.” So we must step back from our justifiable rage, and accept that an assessment of Spencer’s words as offensive is valid, but we cannot for that reason alone censor his speech. We must If WUFT has similarly the First Amendment protection of Freedom of the Press. I question not its right to conduct the interview, but its failure to meet journalist standards.

  • Sarah Ph.D.

    Yes, UF has to let him speak, but WUFT does NOT have to give him another opportunity to spread his hate. How dare you give his hate speech air time. SHAME ON YOU!!!!!

    • Ronald Ewalt

      Any interview with Spencer, dangerously competent and prepared as he is, will provide opportunities for him to spread his message. That is the challenge and complexity of Free Speech. We can and must condemn his message but must be aware of the dangers, the unintended consequences, of censoring it. So he speaks, without only one minor challenge which he answered obliquely and got by with it. We must support public radio and as such must call out WUFT for its inexcusable failures with the Spencer interview.

  • Ronald Ewalt

    Rarely do NPR stations produce irresponsible, incompetent, flawed, and in the case of this Spencer interview, dangerous journalism, but you managed to do so. As I hope the management of WUFT is aware, the Spencer speech has generated a plethora of discussion, covering social, political and legal questions — in fact, a wealth of perspectives. As a First Amendment proponent, I support the interview of Spencer as a confirmation of the ACLU position that “An open society depends on liberal education, and the whole enterprise of liberal education is founded on the principle of free speech.” Granting Spencer an interview was controversial but one that can be justified ONLY if that interview meets the standards of responsible journalism. WUFT failed completely to meet those standards. The interviewer appeared unprepared, intimidated by Spencer, and worse, was overwhelmed by Spencer’s content and rhetoric, all leading to an abysmal and inexcusable failure to question or challenge statements that were false, unclear, ambiguous, and at times, reflected beliefs and philosophies that are controversial at best and possibly unacceptable at worst. Did you not understand the nature of this interview and how difficult, challenging and unfortunately competent Spencer is? He’s a pro, he’s prepared, he understand this audience, he knows how to use double-speak well. And he was faced with what? A student? An amateur? Seasoned journalists would be challenged by Spencer, and you leave this critical and controversial interview to a kid? Kid if not in age and experience, but surely in competence and fortitude. Now is the time for WUFT to meet the challenges you created. Surely journalist students at UF are schooled on the principles of journalism, right? How about confirming the validity of journalism at UF by addressing these failures.

    • Gusphase b

      What statements were false? What do you actually wish the interviewer responded with?

  • Rachael

    He disagrees with Hitler’s military strategy but made no mention of the whole genocide thing. Hmmmm.

    • Hadding Scott

      What genocide thing? You mean the current genocide of the White race?

  • WUFT News

    Thank you for your feedback about the Richard Spencer Q&A. We appreciate the robust conversation about this story and about the upcoming visit by Spencer to the University of Florida. WUFT stands as an independent voice and source for a variety of perspectives. Journalism is bigger than one opinion. Its role is to illuminate different viewpoints, to engage and inform all communities, and to be accurate, truthful and impartial in the coverage of important issues. Information is power and Richard Spencer, love him or hate him, is news, just like any other public figure whom WUFT covers. Both a free press and free speech are critical for the free flow of information and ideas, even ones we disagree with or find disturbing, and ultimately for our democracy.

    • Kat

      Don’t call this journalism. This is lazy and irresponsible. This amounts to a PR piece. The job of a journalist is not to publicize, but to challenge and probe deeper. As a graduate of this program, I am ashamed for WUFT right now. When he says that “the United States was a really wonderful place when it was an all-white country,” how did it not occur to Ms. King to say “well, that was never the case. America has never been an all-white country,”? It is not an opinion to point out or “illuminate” the holes in his thinking. Don’t pat yourselves on the back because a national story fell on your laps. It’s worthless, and potentially dangerous to the community, if you can’t report it properly.

      • Gusphase b

        The USA was between 83% and 90% white for about 100 years. At our peak, we were close to 90% white (our peak relative to the rest of the world, the post ww2 era). Calling it “all white” is incorrect, but 90% of counties were almost entirely white.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_racial_and_ethnic_demographics_of_the_United_States

        By “report it properly” you mean “shout him down” and “write in nasty asides after the fact that he can’t respond to,” right?

      • Hadding Scott

        Informing the public about a public figure’s views is certainly an example of journalism.

        You’re upset because WUFT isn’t telling the listeners what to think about what Spencer says. Obviously you believe that many will agree with what Spencer says, if not sternly warned against it.

    • Tanner Yea

      Hey you interviewed a Nazi and gave him a platform to spread his hatred, so maybe don’t just wipe it away as independent journalism when you are feeding into what he and his organization wants

      • Hadding Scott

        It is normal that EVERY PERSPECTIVE gets that kind of “platform.”

        How is it that your comment does not represent “hatred”? Stop spreading your hatred! Moderator! Why are you letting Tanner Yea spread his hatred?!?

        • Tanner Yea

          If it’s wrong to hate Nazis, I don’t want to be right

          • Hadding Scott

            It was already clear that being right is not important to you.

  • Hadding Scott

    The question to Spencer, “Would you agree with what Hitler tried to do?”, is a bad question, because Spencer is no expert on that and neither is the interviewer.

    It is like asking Bernie Sanders what he thinks about Che Guevara or some other figure from the Communist past.

    People think that everyone is well informed about Hitler simply because they have HEARD a lot of things. In fact most are badly misinformed.