Host alternative “joyful” events, pass out buttons, make YouTube videos — but mostly ignore them.
That’s part of the advice the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center is issuing in a new campus guide to dealing with so-called “alt-right” speakers targeting college campuses.
“When an alt-right personality is scheduled to speak on campus, the most effective course of action is to deprive the speaker of the thing he or she wants most — a spectacle,” the new guide, released online this week, advises.
Over the past year, colleges have increasingly become a target of alt-right groups as high-profile speakers, like Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos, use campuses as backdrops for their provocative, often outright racist demagoguery. The events have been useful in dramatically raising the profile of a fringe faction in American politics.
“This guide provides answers,” said Lecia Brooks, SPLC director of outreach, said in a statement released with the guide. “It not only shows students how to respond to a possible alt-right event, but how to inoculate your campus against such extremism before these speakers appear on campus.”
Angry crowds of counter-demonstrators and the threat of violence play into their hands, the guide states. “Denying an alt-right speaker of such a spectacle is the worst insult they can endure.”
Spencer’s appearance at Auburn University in April was met with large crowds of counter-protesters and legal resistance from the university, both of which appeared to please Spencer and his supporters.
The guide’s release comes as officials in Charlottesville, Va., prepare for a gathering Saturday of white nationalists and self-described alt-right groups dubbed “Unite The Right.” The rally is expected to draw thousands of demonstrators and counter-demonstrators to the city of 50,000 where the University of Virginia is a major feature.
UVA officials are putting some of the SPLC’s advice into practice by hosting a series of talks on campus Saturday as alternatives to the alt-right rally. Lectures on the history of voting rights, the extent and limits of free speech, and one called “What’s Right About Conservatives Today” are intended to display the university’s “commitment to mutual respect and inclusion,” according to a release on the university website.