The arrival of Nicolas Fuentes caused a ruckus on the Iowa State campus. Articles released by the Daily in the build-up and the aftermath of Fuentes’ arrival denounced the man for his “common enemy” identitarian conservatism and racial politics.
There were opinions posted in the aftermath from both Ben Whittington and John Wilkin that held diametrically opposite views on how to handle Fuentes’ ideas. One proposed we ignore Fuentes, the other stated that we challenge his ideas simply with the base ideas of our own university. I suggest a different tactic: we listen and learn.
There is no question that Fuentes’ ideas are racially motivated, socially repugnant and morally reprehensible. However, ignoring the man as Wilkins suggests does not ignore his ideas. His ideas can still spread through his online presence of his America First podcast.
Isolating Fuentes from argumentation only creates an echo chamber of affirmation that amplifies his supporters’ vigor for a specific idea. These supporters will then spread the ideas further within other political circles and the problem metastasizes.
Whittington also presents a way to challenging his ideas, with ideas of diversity and inclusion. This may seem like a better tactic on the surface, but does not work for two reasons.
Firstly, Fuentes is an identitarian. Combating against ideas of diversity and inclusion is his bread and butter. He has over 300 hours of video doing just this on his YouTube channel.
Secondly, simple arguments of diversity and inclusion only battle against the very surface of Fuentes’ arguments. Arguing that “racism is bad” does not effectively counter the many topics white identitarianism stands for.
This can be seen in many of the interjections that happened during Fuentes’ speech near Parks Library, as many were about his language (e.g. using the word ‘black’ and not ‘African-American’) and other “micro-aggressions" or simplistic ad hominem attacks. These are both ineffective measures of combatting an ideology or idea.
The best way to combat the ideas Fuentes and others like him present is to listen to what they have to say. If one promotes ideas of war, understand why they wish to fight and aim for a compromise of peace. If one advocates for racialized common enemy politics as Fuentes does, seek to understand his argument and refute it with support for common humanity politics.
This is the essence of free speech. The exchange, refutation and argumentation of ideas no matter how repulsive.