UPDATE: Auburn University has cancelled Richard Spencer’s speech due to safety concerns.
The creation of a white supremacist group at Auburn University and the upcoming speech there by white supremacist Richard Spencer on April 18 are prompting concern at the school and in the surrounding community.
Though it is not clear if the two events are directly related, they do have common themes. The group created at the school—the Auburn White Student Union (initially calling itself “WAR EAGLE,” a play on the university’s battle cry which stood for Whites of the Alt-Right Empowering Auburn Gentiles for Liberation and Enlightenment)—is a racist, anti-Semitic alt right group promoting white interests. Spencer is a leader of the alt right who will likely use his appearance at the school to promote his racist, anti-Semitic views and to endorse white nationalism.
The Auburn White Student Union (WSU) is not an official student group, and the person or persons behind it may not even be connected to the school. While most of the WSU website is filled with pro-white sentiment, there are a number of anti-Semitic references. These include an accusation that Hillel, the Jewish student group, is loyal to Israel; an article that claims that “Jewish supremacists” want to impose their laws on non-Jews; and a Q&A section that accuses Jews of controlling banking, creating wars for Israel and being behind the rape and murder of white Christians. This week, the WSU also posted anti-Semitic fliers at the school.
Despite its virulent bigotry, WSU refers to itself as a group of “white conservatives” trying to reach out to millenials who are tired of “political correctness.” It asserts “we need the energy and idealism of youth to propel our movement to full power.”
Spencer has also recognized the need to reach out to young people to give momentum to the alt right movement. He appeared at Texas A&M University in December 2016 and the national attention that event received inspired Spencer to do a college tour this year, starting with Auburn. In a video for the Auburn event, Spencer predicted that it would be “wild.”
Both the creation of the WSU and Spencer’s talk at the school are part of an unprecedented effort by white supremacists doing outreach at universities. As of the first week of April, there have been over 125 incidents of white supremacist fliering at over 90 campuses around the country.