This was not the first Republican event for Spencer, who spent his early professional years following the small paleoconservative niches blazed by people like Pat Buchannan and Taki Theodoracopulos. After penning a defense of the student Lacrosse players at Duke University who were accused of sexually assaulting a sex worker of color for the William Taft society, he was brought on as an Assistant Editor of arts at the American Conservative. The magazine made a name for itself through Scott McConnell’s attempt to channel Old Right politics into a world disgusted by most of the excess of Neoconservative foreign policy, coming out against the Iraq War while few on the right were.
McConnell eventually helped Spencer to land a job further to the right at Taki’s Magazine, which keeps the overflow of racists let go from places like Forbes and The National Review. As Peter Brimelow left behind his career attacking teacher’s unions for white nationalism and anti-immigrant extremism with his website VDare and John Derbyshire decided to go public with his with race and IQ arguments, Taki’s Magazine became a place where they could continue to rant to an audience that was almost relevant to beltway Conservatism.
It was here that Spencer decided to make a final transition to the fringes based on the community that he was seeing take shape out of the ashes of paleoconservatism. Greg Johnson, the editor of the neo-fascist publishing house Counter Currents described the early days of Alternative Right, which Spencer founded as a “big tent” for these dissident right-wing movements, as a place for ideas often conflicting to find a common ground.
[Alternative Right] will attract the brightest ‘young’ conservatives and libertarians and expose them to far broader intellectual horizons, including race realism, White Nationalism, the European New Right, the Conservative Revolution, Traditionalism, neo-paganism, agrarianism, Third Positionism, anti-feminism, and right-wing anti-capitalists, ecologists, bioregionalists, and small-is-beautiful types.
Though it has gone through several iterations, the Alt Right is the most recent stage of the process started by Spencer several years ago. Together, it makes up an ideological fascist kernel of ideas, ones that drive the political movement of the racialist right. While it is largely undefined, it can loosely be thought to encompass anti-egalitarianism, anti-democracy, elitist, racialist, anti-feminist, and other forms of anti-equality thinking that make up its ideological core. Whether these are arguments to restore the monarchy, to return to the “Ethnic religions” of pre-Christian Europe, or simply proclamations that people of color are more prone to crime or have lower innate IQs, it is the ideological position in favor of hierarchy that drives its ranks, from the white nationalists to the Men’s Rights activists.
While they often mock the neo-Nazis, Klansman, and old guard of the insurrectionary racist movement, they share the same ideological ideas even if the Alt Right are more upper middle class and concerned with a different strategic orientation.
An Intellectual Tradition?
As Spencer walked the streets surrounding the convention in Cleveland he held above him a sign that said “Want to talk to a “racist?” This is a strategic move for Spencer, who wants to reframe “racism” as simply a preference for one’s own “identity” and “tribe.” He attempts to liken himself to Latino organizations looking to advance what he calls “ethnic interests,” or Black Nationalists looking to retain a culture that was robbed during colonial slavery.
His arguments, while ignored for years, have finally found an audience in the mainstream press who are trying to make sense of the ideological current that has been associated with the rise of Donald Trump. HBO, shooting a documentary looking at racialist groups in the U.S., was following him around, and even set up a conversation between him and news anchor Jorge Ramos. While this may seem like cheap controversy baiting, and it is, Spencer was presented as a reasonable point of debate with Ramos. Instead of just a spectacle, the message has been sent that Spencer represents a growing point of view that must be considered in the debate. Previously his ethnic nationalist message would have been considered so obviously repulsive as not to be considered relevant for inclusion, but these are apparently the times we live in.
The Alt Right has pushed itself into the discourse through a few convenient openings. The first, and most obvious, is the self-destruction of the Conservative Movement. As Spencer has discussed, at length, the Conservative Movement as we know it today is more of an invention of William Buckley and the National Review as a Cold War ideology. Here it mixed Christian social conservatism, hawkish foreign policy, and free market economics into something that appeared as a coherent ideology for decades. Right-wing scholar Paul Gottfried, who consorts with Spencer and company often, calls this ideological pairing “idea clusters,” where the ideas themselves are not necessarily ideologically related yet are put into a bunch and labeled as “conservative.”
As demographics change, capitalism heads into permanent crisis, and the culture shift dramatically, Buckley’s idea cluster is failing to resonate. It is in this space that alternatives have been tried, with libertarianism being the ideological position popular in the younger areas of the GOP for the last few years. This headed into decline as Ron Paul faded from view and places like Reason Magazine and the Caito Institute lost power or uniqueness.
Now, in the search for an identity, many of the edgier “dissidents” allied with American Conservatism have found Brietbart, post-Tea Party racial anger, and Donald Trump.
Now That’s What I Call Edgy
When mixed with the second key factor for the Alt Right, the horizontal nature of social media, you can see why the edgy “Shitlords” found a voice. In an attempt to out offend each other, the culture of the Alt Right was formed on 4Chan, Reddit, and Twitter, where the need to find uniqueness and to rebel against what they believe orthodoxy to be (in this case it is “political correctness”), they united with old-fashioned white supremacy to form a semi-coherent white nationalism that is based in ironic catch phrases, internal jargon, trolling, and unrestrained anger.
With Twitter they can cut through to mainstream discourse by trending hashtags like #Cuckservative, using every media mention as a way to slowly seep in Nazi talking points with kitschy memes and constant trolling. Gone are the days of concerted organizing around crossover topics like immigration and affirmative action, now it is better to dominate comments sections on articles and post blogs arguing in favor of slavery and Holocaust Denial.
This is perfectly fine with Spencer, who was always looking to foment a fascist cultural movement more than a political one. As he often proselytizes, he is not a materialist, he is an idealist in the German tradition. He believes the change starts in the minds and the culture, and “politics are a lagging indicator.” This is why his movement starts with a tweet, not with a sign, and you will not see concrete goals listed as how to get to the Ethnostate he envisions on the North American continent.
It is all of these peculiarities and contradictions that lead to why the Alt Right is failing before it ever really begins.
What drew out Alternative Right and its successor, the Radix Journal, as well as the entire sphere of neo-fascist publications and publishers was its ability to create a philosophical foundation to the racialist and neo-fascist movement. It was not just its congenial style, we have had suit and tie racists before (see David Duke wearing suits at Klan meetings), but what Alternative Right attempted to do was do have a real set of philosophical, academic, and new religious interventions. This was a smart white nationalism, one that was attempting to find some coherence. As you would expect, this has had mixed results as those with credentials and ideas are few and far between inside of the far right, as is art, music, and literature.
In their pursuit a few key threads came out, from celebrating paganism to the Radical Traditionalism of Julius Evola, Spencer and his ilk worked hard to carry on the legacy of people like Alain de Benoit and Guilluime Faye. This was to make fascism just as much of a philosophic project as Marxism and anarchism, and one that they hoped to decouple from the more obvious forms of violence and ugly racism that it usually resorts to. While those on the anti-fascist left will usually point out that this is merely an act, and it is, there is often a deeper process here. What they are searching for is to give reason and purpose to the bigotry that they feel, and they want to prove that it is not hatred but deep philosophical ideas and socio-biological identity that is driving them. Spencer has constructed a culture that looks as much as possible like the academic left, using jargon and rhetoric that feels more like the Frankfurt School than like the National Alliance. Oswald Spangler, Ernst Junger, and Carl Schmidt were pulled off the shelf, mixed with misreadings of Nietzsche, and an “intellectual” fascist tradition was continued in the few conferences the Alt Right had the money to muster.
With the innocuously named National Policy Institute, Spencer hosted conferences that were overpriced and set in posh venues, all with the idea of gaining legitimacy. With Washington Summit Publishers, the NPI book publishing wing, he basically republished books by scientific racists of the past like Madison Grant as well as “new school” race and IQ ideologues like Richard Lynn and Kevin McDonald, all with names like the “Global Bell Curve” that both try to ride the wave of popular right-wing books in the mainstream and to sound as if they could blend into the world of scientific publishing. Going further, with the launch of the Radix Journal website, Spencer created a Radix imprint for Washington Summit Publishers to print books that were more cultural. Here they published a slick journal with themes like “The Great Erasure,” looking at the “global delegitimization of the white man.” They republished crossover authors like Samuel Francis, who has the strange achievement of being published regularly in the Washington Times as well as for white nationalist publications like the Occidental Observer, American Renaissance, and the Citizen Informer, the newsletter of the Council of Conservative Citizens.
Similarly, Greg Johnson of Counter Currents has tried to create an academic tone with his publishing, mixing in the pseudo-spirituality of Heathens like Stephen McNallen, the racial mysticism of Savitri Devi, and tribalists like Jack Donovan. Going even further, publishers like Arktos Media have tried to build a culture on republishing Julius Evola and French New Right thinkers as well as neofolk records, all with the idea that they can create a far-right wing culture of art and philosophy.
All of this together brought a certain tone that, while masking the guttural racial hatred and genocidal justifications, was meant to make arguments for their position in a world disgusted by racism, sexism, and homophobia.
It wasn’t this culture, however, that gave the Alt Right the name it has today.
Blind Ideology, White Anger
The current state of the Alt Right is one that is based on a certain online cruelty, a culture built almost entirely on the insult. This did not start with The Right Stuff and their headline podcast The Daily Shoah, but it certainly was popularized with it. The Daily Shoah was created by a group of former libertarians who had turned towards white nationalism and wanted to create an Opie and Anthony styled radio show for their crew. As they had built most of their ideological foundations on message boards rather than in political situations out in the real world, they had developed a caustic online culture of racial epithets and angry misogyny. Uniting the worlds of white nationalism, Men’s Rights Activism, anti-disability blame-rage, and other indulgences of reactionary toxicity, they used the Alt Right philosophical underpinnings as a foundation for their anger. They hate black people, and call them the N-word and other creative insults, and then pick at “Human Biological Diversity” terminology to justify their anger. Kevin McDonald’s anti-Semitic conspiracy theories fuel their bizarre belief that everything in the culture that pulls progressive or against systemic white supremacy is done by Jews, who conspire in their genes to undermine “Western Civilization.” They bring on other Nazis and right-wingers to indulge in esoteric Hitlerism, strange Euro-paganism, and the intermix of Christian orthodoxy, paleolibertarianism, and secular authoritarianism with their own angry racism to create a culture of Internet trolling rather than political organizing.
Through The Right Stuff, the Daily Stormer, and a slew of blogs and podcasts, we have seen the two cultures, the pseudo-academic and the vulgar anger, unite into one “Alt Right,” with a single soul and two dramatically different faces.
As Spencer walked in circles around the Quicken Loans Arena he tried to turn “stereotypes” about racists on their head, fighting to shake Jorge Ramos’ hand. In an earlier interview, Ramos had a conversation with a KKK member who refused to lock palms with him, and Spencer wanted to show that he, in fact, respected Ramos. In their conversation, Spencer wanted to prove that Ramos was an “Identitarian” just like Spencer, fighting for his people. This is a common talking point among white nationalist who try to argue that they are fighting for white interests just like the NAACP fights for “black interests” and La Raza fights for “Latino interests.” This is context denial, a term that the Alt Right loves to use, in that they do not like to admit that when it comes to Black Nationalism, it is an attempt to reclaim a stolen culture and identity, while white nationalism actually obliterates European history in an attempt to reconstruct formal white supremacy. One is organizing against verifiable oppression, and the other is the reactionary anger of a group who is having their privilege eroded by progress.
That evening Spencer was invited to Milo Yiannopoulos’ evening party, where he lived out one of the most profound paradoxes of the Alt Right and their participation at the RNC. Milo has made a name for himself as the most high profile people donning the Alt Right label, though his version is the most watered down by most Alt Right standards. Many on the Alt Right denounce Milo because he is a gay man with a Jewish ancestry; though the more savvy of the crowd like that he is mainstreaming their iconoclastic views at Breitbart. Milo was there to lead the anti-Islamic charge, claiming that it Islam was not only irreconcilable with queerness, but incompatible with Western Civilization as a whole. LGBTrump founder Chris Barron continued this rhetoric during the evening, which echoed the angry scapegoating of Jewish immigrants in 1920s Germany. While comparisons to Nazi Germany are often obvious and overwrought, this situation seemed obvious as the contempt towards Muslims was explicit and there were open calls for their forced expulsion.
While Spencer was softening the blows of his racism, Milo was riding the wave of this own offensiveness, all the way to being banned on Twitter. Spencer was one of many Alt Right people at Milo’s events, including MRA clown Matt Forney reporting for Red Ice. The party was an RNC associated event that openly invited people who argue that Black people should be forcefully returned to Africa in a “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” If this doesn’t reveal the current orientation of the GOP, nothing does.
After the first couple days of the party, Spencer joined Jazz Hands McFeels at Fash the Nation, one of the other most popular white nationalist podcasts on the growing Right Stuff podcast network. After telling Jorge Ramos that he respected all races and cultures, he used racial slurs to refer to black people and laughed along at comparisons between people of color and animals. Fash the Nation enjoys using the n-word, calling black people “feral” and various types of apes, and laughs about killing Jews. This is what has spiked its numbers, as its Alt Right Twitter army laughs with glee as they are given permission to revel in the darkest parts of their reactionary bigotry.
Appearance vs. Reality
It is here that the contradiction in the Alt Right has grown to proportions it cannot ignore: it wants to be both an inoffensive political and ideological movement while also being an angry and virulently offensive brand of political theater. While Spencer previously found racial slurs offensive and idiotic, he dropped his standards once it was those qualities that gave the Alt Right legs. While he was developing an “ideological” movement built on intellectual credibility, it was words like Dindu, Triggered, Echoes, and Merchant that gave it the culture to grow.
As it hits its zenith, many on the inside of these circles are beginning to realize that you cannot have both. You cannot have an inoffensive “identitarianism” on one side, that argues that is simply wants its own identity and is not reveling in hatred of “the other” while also indulging in angry insults at people of color and mocking their suffering.
Holocaust Denial has come in waves as a sort of “crossover” topic for white nationalists, one that is intended to find some converts in conspiracy theory circles. In the early 1990s it saw a peak with organizations like the Institute for Historical Review and the Barnes Review trying to legitimize “Holocaust Revisionism” as just another form of historical inquiry. They argued that it was simply about uncovering truth and had no social or political agenda besides finding out what really happened.
If this was true, why was it that most of those involved in the revisionism were also involved in racial nationalist projects? Why were the same people questioning the existence of gas chambers also presenting race and IQ arguments? Could it be simply that they were repackaging the racial hatred of the past in new pseudo-intellectual arguments? This became such an obvious sham that places like the IHR shut their doors, and Holocaust Denial became (until recently) an almost forgotten task left to basement dwellers on BlogSpot.
They attempted to say that their arguments were disconnected from all of the aspects that society finds repulsive: insulting racism, racial violence, genocide, persecution, and oppression. Instead, they could not cover their tracks well enough, and it took only the briefest look to reveal them for who they were. Mark Weber, the most well known front-man for the IHR (after wrestling it away from ignominious racist Willis Carto) often donned a suit and tie and used academic jargon when stating his case for reimagining the second World War. If he really was just another historian who stumbled on this “inconvenient truth,” then how come he had been a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance since he was a teenager?
A similar situation marks the two-storied history of American Renaissance (AmRen), one of the largest and most established white nationalist projects in the country. AmRen began in the late 1980s as a newsletter from Jared Taylor as a pseudo-intellectual white nationalist voice, intending to be an alternative to the toxic influence of neo-Nazi organizations that engaged in murderous fits of violence over the 1980s. Taylor focused in on race and IQ arguments mainly, riding the wave of The Bell Curve and the candidacies of people like David Duke and Pat Buchanan, creating a “high brow” culture for their conferences. Over the years they have hosted every scientist who has made arguments about the differences between races, often arguing that the organization is simply dedicated to getting out a clearer view of science, heredity, and biological difference.
If this were true, then their list of speakers would not be a “who’s who” of nationalist far-right political organizations, ranging from fascist organizations to ones with a history of racial terror. If it was simply an organization for the scientific study of race, then you would not have “academics” like Donald Templar stepping to the podium to yell about how tired he is of black people “complaining” and how they need to be worked 60-hour weeks in prison so they will stop “giving aids to each other.” If you listen to a large cross section of American Renaissance speeches, or read their newsletter, the only connective tissue is anger towards non-white people and the value-laden language meant to disparage anyone without pure Aryan ancestry. All of the “difference” that they outline puts black and brown people in a negative light, and most of the terms and categories used are either antiquated or non-scientific in orientation. Plainly put, American Renaissance is an organization dedicated towards developing white nationalism through the denigration of people of color, and the “science” is piecemeal, out of context, and almost always discredited.
Why American Renaissance has dropped its scientific veneer in recent years is that it did not work. They attempted to gain credibility for its beliefs on the one hand, yet empowered a sub-intellectual culture of racial slurs, anger, and insults.
Spencer has spent years disassociating himself with the KKK and neo-Nazis of the world, but that is a surface act at best. In his most recent podcast, Spencer interview former KKK leader David Duke about his upcoming big for the Louisiana legislature. He often has Kevin McDonald, the sort of Karl Marx of anti-Semitism, who was on the board of the skinhead-associated American Freedom Party, a place where Spencer has also been interviewed. He often joins The Daily Shoah, or invites them on his own show, where they do not skimp on the denigrations against Jews, transgender people, and all non-white people. Spencer may play his rhetorical game, but the only difference between him and a KKK member is that his house is worth almost $4 million. When it comes to every ideological point, from the “subhuman” nature of black people to the secret power structure of Jews, Spencer is identical to all of the neo-Nazis that the general public finds so repulsive. When it comes to rhetoric, he is of the same circles as those calling Black people “Dindus,” making monkey sounds during Black History month, and applauding the murder of Mike Brown.
As Donald Trump publicly implodes going into the general election, he is continuing to drum up an “anti-PC” culture of racial animosity and fighting words. This peak has given the Alt Right a place in the public discourse, but it has discredited all legitimacy it had hoped to gain. While they main gain converts through their toxic discourse and rhetoric, they have undermined all ability to actually have an influence on even the broader American right wing. While trying to take on both faces, that of the academy and of the bully, they have failed to actually benefit from either, and now they are seeing peak influence. Even if Donald Trump was to pull a Hail Mary and win in the general election, their rhetoric will continue to fade as Trump’s administration heads to a socially conservative platform, bought into the same neoliberal interests that he has been tied to throughout his career as a bourgeois inheritance baby. The Alt Right has played all of its cards, and its limited contributions to discourse will not withstand its self-destruction.
For anti-fascists going forward, the biggest lesson is that the Alt Right has rebranded the far right, and will make up the cultural touchstones of fascist organization for years to come. Broad nationalism, Internet trolling, and silly jargon are what neo-Nazis are today, which gives a great sign of what to look for. As far as influence, they have created a cap that they will never be able to move past.