It may have seen a bit odd to see one of the biggest white nationalist intellectual events in the U.S. happening on Halloween, but there is a certain obviousness about it. Samhain, as it was originally known, was a traditional holiday in pre-Christian Europe where it was said the fabric between the land of the living and the land of the dead was at its thinnest. It was then a time to remember the ancestors, a tradition that made its way into the Christian churches that were built on top of the pagan past, and we see it with the establishment of later holidays like Old Hallow’s Eve before All Saints Day and the Dios De La Muertos celebrations in Latin American countries. With the white nationalist fetishism of paganism under a their self-created concept of “meta-genetics,” there is a certain attraction for them to pontificate about the “threatened” white race in the name of the ancestors on a day like this.
The National Policy Institute’s 2015 conference took place at the Washington Press Club this past October 31st, hosting some of the biggest names in the organized racist community. Richard Spencer, the President of NPI, celebrated this fact, referencing anti-racist posters featuring them as labeling them the “Superheroes of Hate,” and jokingly saying “Avengers Assemble” about their line-up. The conference, as we wrote about during the run up to the actual event, featured a rainbow assortment of white nationalist paranoia. The most featured speaker of the day, so it seemed, was Kevin McDonald, who has been working on a book on the “origins of the white man.” He recently did a podcast episode for Radix Journal, Richard Spencer’s online publication, where they discussed the origins of the “Aryan” race. Here they both indulged in elementary understandings of genetics and embarrassing overreaches about the importance of white racial in-groups. McDonald himself expounded on the idea of developing moral structures, in-group cohesion, and what he calls “pathological altruism” that he alleges is both innate to white people and is destroying them by disallowing them to fight for their ethnic interests. This essentializes whiteness in a way that is anti-scientific, as if having darker skin tones in a lineage changes that genetic history in any way. Spencer and McDonald lament about the Goths, who were eventually absorbed into the Roman Empire, and they opine about this being the potential result of the “white man.” McDonald, now a retired University of California Long Beach psychology professor, is best known for his academic anti-Semitism, where he developed a theory that Judaism is a “group evolutionary strategy” that Jews use to dominate Western societies for access to resources. No one in evolutionary psychology proper agree with this notion, nor agree that there is some type of biological urge to fight for resources with people of different ethnic origins. There is no evidence that we have some biological radar for people of similar ethnic origins that drive us towards allegiance. That is simply not how genetics work, as anyone who has taken a high school science class should be able to discern.
We were also looking at Keith Preston, a former anarchist who likes to parade himself at nationalist gatherings in an effort to find some community as his support for racism has had him ousted from anywhere on the radical left. At this conference he went on about the “Left’s worship of the State,” though his background should have informed his understanding of the anti-authoritarian and anarchist left’s actual association with the State. What Keith really references here is the left’s association with anti-racist and egalitarian values, which he sees as being totalitarian in its monolithic nature. This is an embarrassingly middle school interpretation of authoritarianism, and really lacks even the most basic ideas of where anarchism came from and what the tradition advocates at its core. It was never anti-authoritarian for anti-authoritarian’s sake, but instead a revolutionary libertarian communist tradition, opposed to hierarchical oppression but never in favor of an “anything goes” politic of “pan-secessionism.”
Sam Dickson returned, a Southern lawyer who enjoys a life both as a Southern Nationalist and as a predatory land merchant who takes gleeful pleasure in making money on evicting black families. After saying the much quoted line about “giving blacks Manhattan,” he went on to note that he wants a country for ALL white people. “White people, as we’ve become a minority, will not be able to live in a state of severe repression and discrimination,” he said. “Our ethno-state will not be a meeting of the Tea Party; it’s not going to be the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s going to be a genuine ethno-state with Christians, Catholics, alcoholics, tee-totallers, gay people. It’s not going to be a subset of the right.”
The conference was well covered by a few media outlets, with Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, and Raw Story doing full pieces on it. For this, Spencer arranged a press period, which was a sort of delusional show since there were only three journalists there. A big question that was presented to the panel, which included Dickson and Spencer, was if Jews were white. Spencer responded by saying “I think Jews are Jews.” This was a good sound bite as people went on to make anti-Semitic remarks and jokes throughout the day with the laughing support of the crowd. “The Jews exist precisely because they were apart,” said Spencer. “Precisely because they had a sense of apartness—perhaps you could say a little bit of paranoia, about trying to stay away. That’s a clear aspect of Jewish—” At this point he stopped and realized that he was playing his anti-Semitism too straight, and then begged the reporters not to print his line about Jewish paranoia. Spencer thinks of himself as having a very nuanced understanding of Jews, and he hates when he is quoted like some kind of vulgar anti-Semite, but his ideas are so in line with traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes that it is a mirage for him to believe he is any different from people like Kevin McDonald or David Duke.
The conference itself also stood apart from the traditional portrayal of the far-right in the United States as mainly Christian. Instead, there was a strong push towards a kind of racial atheism and paganism, which is expressly noticeable by having the neo-folk band Changes performing in the evening.
One of the real set pieces of the day was the live podcast that they recorded as a discussion and Q&A with Spencer, two hosts from Sweden’s Red Ice Radio, and Mike Enoch from The Right Stuff and The Daily Shoah. Enoch decided, for some reason, to wear aviators at the microphone as he thought that might confuse the anti-fascists who were in the room. Though the rest of the information still continues to come out, some east coast antifa organizations have stated that they were still in the room at that point and have photos of the panel. One person taking photos was forced out of the venue earlier in the day, which was a testament to the paranoia in the room. Enoch is well-known for turning their “alt right” community into a bouquet of racial slurs, holocaust denial, fantasies about killing minorities and Jews, and generally being one of the more self-congratulation focused disgusting examples of the reality of “ethno-nationalism.” It was in this podcast, but really across the neo-fascist movement in the U.S. over the last several months, you can see the influence of Enoch and The Daily Shoah. The panel, who usually tries to couch their rhetoric in academic jargon, instead celebrated the “trolling” nature of their internet presence and state over and over again that this is a sign that “something is happening.” They repeat this as if it is a mantra they really want to believe, and since they have no concept of organizing or movement building it must seem that using the n-word in a podcast under a pseudonym or creating the #cuckservative hashtag is the same thing as creating a revolutionary political movement. Spencer himself banks on this idealism, the idea that if we change our minds we can change the world, instead of looking at the material realities of the world, which gives anti-fascists their greatest tool in combating their reactionary lies.
The conference offered a dramatically discounted rate from its original outrageous dollar amount(this is calculated to give it a posh appearance, which is why the conference is such a poor organizing tool) for millennials, which there were quite a few of. They then used this to say that they are a young movement, but really it is simply that within the racist sphere the young professionals are more likely to attend their event than a Klan rally. It is less that this is a new turn for millennials and more that any of them attracted to white nationalism are there, and their numbers are being vastly oversold. Just as on the internet, the reactionaries love to over speak, and therefore appear more numerous than they actually are. The questions during the Become Who We Are podcast panel were telling as few had any concept of political organizing or even how to communicate their ideas in anything approximating a cogent argument. They did, however, find unity in making fun of the small protest outside, which, from the sound of it, was underorganized and did not have a good strategy for challenging the conference. This has been a problem unique to the United States Antifa organizations, that fail to do long-term movement building or, in turn, actually physically confront anybody. There needs to be choices made about how the action is meant to be effective, whether this means trying to interfere and shut down the event, or, on the other hand, to create a mass coalition to show the power of anti-racist unity in the face of regressive nationalism.
Jack Donovan’s appearance is again a strange addition to the group, but says more about what a fascist movement is really composed of more than anything else. Donovan is known as a sort of “anti-gay” gay writer, a person who coined the term “andriophile” to identify queer men who do not want to identify with what he see’s as an effeminate gay identity. In recent years he focuses on “male tribalism,” is a certain radical wing of the Men’s Rights Movement, and writes about tribal bands dissociating themselves with the larger society and State. In his “Rules for Barbarians,” he focused on things like not caring about the fate of out-group peoples. This ties into work he has been writing for a long time, including last-year’s article “I Don’t Care” over at Radix Journal. Donovan, beyond being deeply misogynist and an advocate of brutal hierarchical violence, is much more wishy-washy when it comes to race. In his article “Why I Support White Nationalism,” he expresses a tacit support for the racialist movement since they are essentially men who want to create their own tribalist society with an in-group and out-group. In his recent article and podcast on the Wolves of Vinland, a folkish Asatru group modeled on a motorcycle gang, it seemed apparent that he was interested in joining. He then wrote a review of “What is a Rune?” by white nationalist Heathen Colin Clear for Counter-Currents, which shows a move in favor of identitarian paganism. Even though his talk did not reference race much, he spoke at the Human BioDiversity obsessed American Renaissance last year. All of this indicates a drift towards white identity for Donovan, though the movement will likely only take him in at an arm’s length distance because of his homosexuality. Mike Enoch really enjoys making gay jokes about him, but Enoch really just loves any time when he can use queer sexuality to degrade people.
The conference had a reported 175 attendants, which may seem like a lot except considering that there really are not a huge catalogue of similar events. For years NPI has lead a faction of the “alt right” that focused on a pseudo-spiritual and academic discourse in favor of ethnic nationalism, but here we are seeing a shift away from neutral coded language and a more open support of traditional racism and Jew-blaming. Spencer is now calling for the need for a whites-only “European empire,” which he alleges is a part of the white “Faustian nature.” When discussing his hometown issue when a group of White Fish, Montana residents got together to stand against his racism, he mentioned how he thought to himself, “What would a Jew do?” The crowd laughed and clapped with glee, and he went on about how he can use his superior logic to turn things around on them. This is all good rhetoric, but the movement he is a part of is composed mainly of double-speak, angry racist rants about pop culture(the humiliating boycott of the new Star Wars is prime example), and the lack of even basic understanding of how to create a movement that can transform anything is what leaves them behind.
This does not, however, meant that they are no longer a threat. There is still a huge growth happening here, crossovers in the form of Donald Trump’s campaign and the fringe movements like Neoreaction and the Dark Enlightenment, and their effort to co-opt “radicalism” and “dissent.” To really confront NPI and the growing faction of pseudo-intellectual revolutionary nationalists, there needs to be an anti-fascist movement that does what the far-right was never able to do: to build a movement. Anti-fascist and anti-racists will have to destroy the narrative that nationalists are building, which is easy to do since reality and public opinion really are on our side. Sticking to the Antifa idea of “no platform” is critical, and that does not mean shooting silly-string onto NPI conference attendents, but not allowing them to have a public voice.