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White Power Meets Business Casual: Inside the Effort to ‘Make White Nationalism Great Again’

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White Power Meets Business Casual: Inside the Effort to ‘Make White Nationalism Great Again’

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Published with permission from The Washington Spectator.

“Thank God for Donald J. Trump,” cried National Policy Institute director Richard Spencer into the microphone.

Spencer, 37, has a boyish, straitlaced look about him. With his well-tailored suit and a nicely kempt undercut, he’d meld perfectly into the swarms of youthful think tank employees trotting down Massachusetts Avenue. But NPI is no ordinary Washington think tank. Founded by an heir to a conservative publishing fortune, it drew white nationalists and sympathizers from around the country—and at least one from Canada—to its innocuously named “Identity Politics” conference a couple of days after Donald Trump dominated the field on Super Tuesday. For $45, I snagged the last ticket designated for millennials.

It is the rise of the bombastic Republican frontrunner that brought this amalgam of aggrieved crusaders together for an evening of cocktails, appetizers, and songs of praise to the candidate who’s inspired them to dip a toe into the stream of establishment politics.

To get in, I waded through a throng of protesters gathered around the entrance of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, yelling “Nazi,” “racist,” and “KKK” at attendees. A few protestors got close enough to snap pictures.

The ambience among the crowd upstairs was more staid. A quick glance around the room confirmed the Southern Poverty Law Center’s description of the NPI as a “suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old.” Aside from a few conspicuously shaved heads, conference attendees appeared to be a clan of “professional racist[s] in khakis,” as a SPLC writer described Spencer, rather than heavily tattooed, Swastika-donning brownshirts.

Most of the attendees were men. Most, but not all, were white.

Spencer kicked off a night of talks with a demographic analysis of the group—a welcome relief from an awkward conversation I had been trapped in a few minutes earlier with a few attendees, about whether it was good (or not) to describe one’s self as a racist. When Spencer asked who is under 30, at least 20 people raised their hands—myself included. He seemed delighted. The movement, he said, needs that “youthful” energy.

Spencer told the crowd to ignore the protesters outside the doors of the Reagan Building. Engagement, we were told, is what they want, so it’s best to ignore them.

Most, of course, had already done so. “Almost none of them interacted with us at all, and I recall them often trying to avert their eyes as they made for the entrance,” Scott Green, an activist who had also protested NPI’s conference in November, told me.

Spencer, however, didn’t appear to be bothered.

“I never thought I had such a fan club,” Spencer continued, referring to three protesters holding effigies of him and the two other conference speakers. The crowd was amused.

Then he hopped off the stage as blaring rock music and a slideshow of various right-wing memes welcomed self-described “shitlord” and video-blogger, Paul Ramsey. Among this crowd, he is better known by his pseudonym, Ramzpaul.

The gregarious blogger outlined his three-point plan for the amorphous, mostly web-based movement known as the alt-right, or alternative right, a reactionary form of conservatism that views itself in contradistinction to mainstream politics. “Identity,” the bedrock of the alt-right agenda, rests upon three pillars: sex realism (“men and women are suited for different roles”), race (inexplicably broken up into “race realism, nationalism, and Jews”), and natural order (a nebulous and quasi-mythical construct that appears to amount to the naïve, tautological, and politically irrelevant idea that society should resist acting against what is deemed “natural”).

Ramzpaul proceeded to identify several cultural scapegoats. The latest Star Wars is bad because it shows that women can be epic warriors and have better command of a fictional psycho-spiritual “force.” The military is bad because it’s putting dainty lil’ ladies right up against tough guy machismo. The media is bad because it dubs all adherents to race-conscious ideologies white “supreeeeeeeeeemists,” without considering the nuances of their high-minded intellectual exercise!

A man with a Confederate-flag tie nodded to the small press pool on the opposite side of the room and whispered into a woman’s ear, “The photographer with the black hair is Jewish.” He stared knowingly at the woman and took a seat.

I was slightly taken aback when Ramzpaul broke up his Powerpoint-heavy presentation to tell us it was time to make friends. We were encouraged to turn to our neighbor and give him a gift. Mein Kampf was mentioned as a possible option. I ended up with a printout bearing the image of a red pill, a metaphor used by right-wing movements, from men’s rights activists to the alt-right, to describe a moment of “awakening,” a la Neo in The Matrix.

 

The National Policy Institute was founded in 2005 by William Regnery II who, in the words of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is a “prime mover and shaker” within academic white nationalist circles. As an heir to the conservative Regnery Publishing, which brought us Trump’s campaign screed Time to Get Tough in 2011, Regnery has thrown his fortune behind a number of white nationalist causes. In 2001, he founded the Occidental Quarterly, whose pseudo-scientific agitprop makes it “sort of the Nature of academic racism,” according to Mother Jones. Indeed, NPI’s Identity Politics conference featured one of the Quarterly’s higher profile contributors—Kevin MacDonald, a disgraced former academic who maintains that Jews are responsible for an influx of non-white immigrants to the United States. (MacDonald also sits on the institute’s advisory committee.)

Richard Spencer came onto the scene after a stint at the American Conservative, where he was fired, and later, Taki’s Magazine, a paleoconservative online site created by AmCon cofounder Taki Theodoracopulos. Spencer left in 2010 to start his own webzine, Alternative Right, which helped bring the term “alt-right” to the Internet’s attention and provided a sort of intellectual center for the budding alt-right movement. Contributors ranged from Matt Forney, who now writes for the men’s rights activism site, Return of Kings, to Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian fascist, writer, and academic who provided much of the intellectual foundation for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Ukraine.

About a year later, Spencer took over as president after the death of Louis R. Andrews (who once claimed he voted for Barack Obama in 2008 to destroy the Republican Party so it could be reborn as a party supporting the “interests of white people”). According to the organization’s most recent publicly available Internal Revenue Service Form 990 (NPI is registered as a 501(c)3, as most of its activities are “educational”), Spencer receives no compensation for his work at NPI. (Some have speculated he’s independently wealthy.) Most of the institute’s money goes to events and conferences, many of which have taken place in the D.C. area, despite the fact that Spencer spends most of his time in rural Montana.

Under Spencer’s guidance, NPI has helped lead the North American crusade for what Spencer calls “identitarianism”—an ideology that has its roots in the French far-right and posits that identity (in this case, racial) is the crux of any political, religious, or political movement.

“It’s about saying, ‘What is your identity?’ Basically, saying that [identity] must be the basis for any sort of political action . . . foreign policy, social policy,” Spencer told me. Race is the building block on which all else rests, largely because it’s the only aspect of our identity that can connect a community through multiple generations.

“Identitarianism is something that’s shocking and new for America. It’s something that we don’t take to naturally; it’s something that almost strikes us as foreign. But the fact is that we do have these identities. If you’re a white American, you’re connected to something much older than 1776. You’re connected to something much older than our people’s experience on the North American continent,” he continued. “You’re connected to it through blood. Through your mentality, the way you look at the world, the things you love, the things you’re proud of, the things you value. . . . You can find your identity by looking into yourself.”

It’s tempting to brush off Spencer and his ethno-racial identity-first argument as highfalutin but web-friendly racist blather. Spencer’s vision for the alt-right isn’t a revived Ku Klux Klan, and it’s, oddly, too inclusive for regulars on some neo-Nazi platforms, such as Stormfront and Daily Stormer. Although Spencer is delighted that some more mainstream conservatives—such asBreitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos—have undergone some degree of “alt-right-ification,” other allies have been less enthused. When Yiannopoulos published an explanatory piece on the movement, the Daily Stormer (“the world’s most visited alt-right site!”) followed up with a meme-laden takedown entitled, “Breitbart’s Alt-Right Analysis is the Product of a Degenerate Homosexual and an Ethnic Mongrel.” In a similar vein, the article’s author, Andrew Anglin, retracted his support for NPI’s November conference upon discovering one of the speakers was “an open homosexual.”

That’s not to say Spencer’s strain of white nationalism is any less insidious or divisive. Rather, it highlights NPI’s role in acting as a unifying “center” for a more far-flung alt-right movement.

“NPI is playing the role of being one of the big institutions and one of the essential institutions,” Spencer told me. “It’s going to be the one hosting the conferences where people meet each other. It’s going to be publishing some of the best work.”

“The alt-right is really big, and what we’re doing is right at the center of it,” he said.

 

After that startling exchange of gifts among the identity-conscious agitators, Kevin MacDonald took the stage. Applause filled the room as the 72-year-old stepped to the podium. The guy’s some fucking hero, I noted. This is a standing ovation.

MacDonald—true to his RateMyProfessor assessment—is dry. Yet he sounded more like a disgruntled uncle reflecting on the good ol’ days of white supremacy than an academic.

He appears too staid to be capable of feeling awe, but if he’s ever had a sense of wonder it’s a result of Trump’s immigration proposals and apparent unwillingness to kowtow to a Jewish lobby. Contrary to some anti-Semitic canards, MacDonald’s secret Jewish cabal can be defeated through political activism.

With as much glee as a crusty old racist can muster, MacDonald told the room, “There’s something about crowds of cheering white people that terrifies America’s elites, especially when the speaker is criticizing their long-standing immigration policies.”

Trump, the engrossed crowd was told, intends to smash an oligarchic system “stacked” against white America. The only way to break free from the system that blocks ordinary white Americans from fighting against the “disease” of multiculturalism and the unilateral rule of the American elite is to get behind a candidate with tremendous cultural capital who is also capable of funding his own campaign in full. (Despite these frequent claims, Trump does not fund his own campaign in toto. In fact, most of his campaign is funded by zero-interest loans, which he’ll likely pay off using funds raised on the campaign trail.) Trump’s refusal to grovel before the Anti-Defamation League (a favorite MacDonald target) or the neoconservative establishment allows him the freedom to “[cut] to the core issues—issues like immigration—which are implicitly white issues.” If we listen and abide, MacDonald continues, we, too, can “Make America Great Again.”

The room went wild.

Spencer closed the evening with an ode to the “gold-plated fascism” of the Trump campaign. Under a Trump presidency, Putin would triumphantly walk the streets; neoconservatives would tremble in their boots as the Republican Party they worked so hard to build comes crashing down around them. Trump—the outrageous, egomaniacal celebrity that he is—may not be the ideal vessel for America’s identitarian shock treatment, but underneath all his “vulgarity and lies,” he’s providing what America needs.

He’s more than a presidential candidate. “Trump is a thing in itself,” Spencer said. “Trump represents that will to thrive to be great, to be something more than a man.”

This message is not for everyone. But if you believe MacDonald’s claim that white Americans aren’t going to public swimming pools because of the hoards of multiethnic rapists, and that waves of lawless people are coming over our Southern border, then Trump’s appeal isn’t first and foremost his promise to make America great again. Instead, the brash, orange-tinted billionaire “is showing white men how to be strong again,” as conference attendee Angelo John Gage, a former Marine and American Freedom Party activist, said in a video on his YouTube channel. On a deeper level, Trump is a bulwark against a calamitous decline—in which faceless, nameless, stateless immigrants will once and for all undermine the economic stability of white Americans.

What then? “If the government, especially at the federal level, is no longer as reliable an enforcer of white privilege,” Barbara Ehrenreich wrote in The Nation this winter, “then it’s grassroots initiatives by individuals and small groups that are helping to fill the gap—perpetrating the micro-aggressions that roil college campuses, the racial slurs yelled from pickup trucks, or, at a deadly extreme, the shooting up of a black church renowned for its efforts in the Civil Rights era.”

This time, they might be wearing suits and ties.

Hannah Gais is The Washington Spectator’s associate digital editor.

Photo: Edel Rodríguez/ The Washington Spectator

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15 Comments

  1. clcman May 2, 2016

    I have to give Ramzpaul credit: I would have thought he’d hate the new Star Wars because it has a black guy shooting quasi-Nazis, not because of its depiction of women as useful for something.

    Reply
    1. Phil Christensen May 3, 2016

      Kind of says it all.

      1. Otto T. Goat May 3, 2016

        “Perpetrating the micro-aggressions”!

  2. FireBaron May 3, 2016

    “Hark, hark! The Beggars come to town.
    Some in rags, some in tags and some in velvet gowns.”

    So, by wearing a suit and tie, these white supremacists believe they can mask themselves and their intentions by looking presentable. I believe a somewhat discredited Conservative politician put it rightly by saying “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’ll still be a pig.” Granted, that was probably the last intelligible comment she ever made, but it is appropriate.

    Reply
  3. Dominick Vila May 3, 2016

    The real issue is not so much that Donald Trump has become the voice of white supremacists, but the large numbers of Americans who share and support his views.

    Reply
  4. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 3, 2016

    My heart aches at the thought of the White Pride followers being so abused and misunderstood. It’s a down-right shame and a travesty the way the aggrieved white nationalists have been treated—what unmitigated gall of anyone questioning the virtue of this august group of Christians. They truly love “their kind”.

    Wearing suits and ties should prove once and for all that they are indeed God-fearing Christians whose love extends unconditionally to all who look like themselves.

    I’m getting misty over the lofty sentiments I’ve typed—Anyone got a hanky?

    Reply
  5. Big Blue May 3, 2016

    I felt physically ill by the time I finished reading this.
    I know this is neanderthal thinking, but can we just lynch them?

    Reply
    1. Otto T. Goat May 3, 2016

      You should get mental health counseling.

      1. Big Blue May 3, 2016

        I’m not the bigot. I’m the one who exposes them and then… well, let’s just say I have a flair for the ironic. 😉

      2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 4, 2016

        Otto, suggesting to anyone to get mental health counseling should be the furthest thing from your lips. Are you capable of comprehending the irony of your foolish suggestion?
        (Feel free to consult the IQ oracle for the proper response).

        1. Otto T. Goat May 4, 2016

          He wants to murder people who reject liberalism. It doesn’t surprise me you find nothing wrong with that.

  6. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 4, 2016

    This story and the vaudeville act that the wingnuts have been kind enough to torture us with has helped to throw into ever sharper relief the cancerous growth of racism in America.

    It’s quite fitting that “Lord Fauntleroy”, and by extension the GOP, are the cynosure and point of adoration for the Racist Elements in America and in Europe.

    I could go on at great length about this disturbing anomaly that afflicts for some strange reason the Christian community to a much larger and systematic extent than religious/cultural communities in the rest of the world. I’ll try to present some personal observations.

    1) Ever since the beginning of the Migration of ‘Modern Humans’ from Africa to other parts of that continent and northwards, and the right turn across the Red Sea into Asia and down to Australasia, and eventually across the Bering Strait into the Americas, an erasure of memory from whence we originated occurred.

    2) The change in skin color in response to amount of sun exposure and the wearing of clothes for the colder climes naturally took place, and with it a sort of infatuation with the lighter skin tones that evolved.

    3) Those “African” emigrants who journeyed into Central and Western Europe began a slow evolution in thinking, leading to racialist philosophies, developing elaborate hierarchical schemes in order to explain the differences in appearances of the other “family” members who were encountered thousands of years later during the “Age of Discovery”. Notable contributions to these theories came as result of the metaphors used in literature, morality stories, and in Religious Texts that used the analogies of “light”, “darkness”, “black”, “white” to explain concepts like “good”, “evil”, “Heavenly”, “satanic”, “lofty”, “abased”, etc.

    4) The expedience of literal interpretation relieved the more shallow-minded and mentally lazy of having to think deeply about the spiritual Messages in the various religious texts. (Obviously, exhortations re: how to behave, what foods to eat or avoid, and laws, were meant to be taken literally). The literalist approach regarding every aspect of the Books coupled with the vain imaginations of our European bothers of a philosophical bent opened the doors for the sort of thinking that took a firm hold in the rest of Europe, and eventually got exported to the Americas.
    Key among such philosophers who concocted these early theories were people like Hume, Locke, Voltaire, Compte de Gobineau, Galton, just to name a few.

    5) The notion of “Race” is an artificial term that has no meaning biologically. But from the 15th century onward it seemed logical to relate differences in animal species to account for differences in appearances of members of the human family.

    With the advent of Baha’u’llah, and the other Central Figures of the Baha’i Faith, we now have a new set of “eyes” to sort out the ensuing confusion that has shrouded humanity. The Religions of the past Dispensations weren’t “mandated” to address the issues of human diversity, nor did the Religions of the past have the mandate to abolish slavery or to answer questions directly regarding the diversity of shape, color, and other physical properties—the sciences had not yet evolved to the point they have today. That’s partially why, for example, Jesus had to say “I have many things to tell you but you can not bear to hear it now…”, or why the Prophet Muhammad didn’t outright prohibit slavery—instead, He said that it would be better if a Muslim would free his slaves. But that was “conditional” and explains why slavery still is practiced in parts of Mauritania, Yemen, and parts of Sudan.
    (Jesus, Moses, and others were completely silent on the issue of slavery. Apparently, it was an Institution that had an economic purpose— FOR THOSE ERAS ONLY).

    Baha’u’llah in His Kitab-i-Aqdas(Most Holy Book), for the first time ever, interdicts the institution of slavery as of the 1860’s and this proscription was to be applied immediately then, now, and into the future.

    In fact, every aspect of the nearly 100 volumes of His revelation is centered around the axis of “The Oneness of Humanity”.

    White Supremacists, the Nation of Islam, Trump, those of the GOP who are still in the dark concerning the oneness of humanity, and others who harbor bigotry and racist sentiments would do well(for their own well-being in this world and “the world to come”) to heed the advice of Baha’u’llah; at least they owe it to themselves to investigate.

    A portal to start is at http://www.bahai.org.

    Religion is meant to be progressive. Why should it be immune to change when the entire universe, humanity, and society are subject to the law of change.

    If the adherents of any Religion refuse to move forward then what we hear and see from white nationalists are some of the possible consequences. How can any religious institution that has extended itself beyond its “Omega” hope to offer a coherent, united, and cogent response to the cancer of racism????

    Just my take.

    Reply
  7. william ranquist May 4, 2016

    i would have like to see the author refute Macdonald’s accusation that Jews are behind the push for third world immigration into western countries. All I saw was ad hominem attacks, which disprove nothing. All one has to do is look which groups were the driving force behind Hart Cellar in 1965. And the institutions that push for diversity and multiculturalism the hardest today. I’ll give you a hint, they’re the same institutions that believe Israel should remain a racially pure Ethnostate.

    Reply
  8. Aaron_of_Portsmouth December 15, 2016

    Here we are towards the end of the year, and since this article appeared, Trump secured the White House on a technicality called the Electoral College, despite having lost the popular vote. Racists have become even more jubilant and open about the spiritual disease they harbor called racism, and the GOP and Trump have since done very little, if anything, to distance themselves from this accursed group of petty-minded little men who worship none other than their white skin and the false concept of “Whiteness”.
    This spiritual anomaly and satanic form of worship is uniquely American in character, and helped proper Trump to the WH.
    By now, this diseased segment of humanity has concluded a conference in Wash. DC to celebrate the new Fuehrer’s election to the presidency.

    Reply

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