Richard Spencer, the creator and de-facto leader of the alt-right, had a message for Hillary Clinton following her August 25 speech in Reno, Nevada, in which she tried to tie Donald Trump to the alt-right: Thank you!
“It was like Christmas morning for the #AltRight when Hillary Clinton denounced them by name,” a writer enthused on VDARE, a white nationalist website sympathetic to the alt-right.
The actual alt-right, so far as it can be accurately defined, is basically a few small groupings of white nationalist and white supremacist bloggers mixed with pseudo-academics. They’re known for egging on their racist Twitter troll followers and holding sedate conferences a few times a year to talk about European racial identity. The alt-right believes immigration, multiculturalism, social degeneracy, and economic exploitation is intentionally marching the white race down a path to eventual extinction.
“You have done a tremendous service,” Spencer said in a video shout-out to Clinton. “You’ve launched the alt-right as a major term. I think you might very well have launched European white identity politics in the United States in the twenty-first century. You did it, Hillary. We couldn’t have done it without you, to be honest. We needed that push.”
A big tenet of the alt-right could be summed up by Spencer’s rebuke of Clinton and her political ilk’s belief that “We’re stronger together”: “We aren’t stronger together,” Spencer says in the video.
This small alt-right movement has now “effectively taken over the Republican party,” if we’re to believe Clinton. Spencer is overjoyed, echoing previous Captain Phillips-esque sentiments he’s expressed, claiming “we are the right-wing now.” But have they really taken over?
The Alt-Right Rejects People Labeled Alt-Right
The problem, of course, is that in an online political movement where there are no identity cards (although there are parentheses) “You are what you say you are.” The identity of an alt-right true believer versus a sick joker who perversely craves the attention of putting out offensive or threatening material can be hard to ascertain, especially in a milieu of often anonymous tweets and blog postings.
The nationalist, populist Right seems to have coalesced around certain core tenets like vilifying Syrian refugees and Muslims, strong dislike of feminism, adoration of Russian President Vladimir Putin, blame of Black Lives Matter for racial unrest, and white-hot animus against the Left and mainstream Right. However much differs in these dark corners of the web on the Breitbart-style Right.
For example, Spencer and many alt-right figures clearly see radio host Jones, whom Clinton mentioned, as a scam artist who indulges in over-the-top-conspiracies to try to derail any white racial consciousness movement. The alt-right sees Breitbart’s nationalist fanfare as merely a good first step, but far from its end goal: A post-diversity, white ethno-state built along “archeofuturistic” aspirations, with Julius Evola’s reissued books at the top of the bestseller list. Evola, whom the alt-right reveres, was an Italian philosopher obsessed with race, tradition, and fascistic movements.
The alt-right, such as it is, is also subtly removed from figures like David Duke, who are quite single-minded and repetitive about their belief in a malicious worldwide Zionist cabal. Although the alt-right generally presents a similarly odious view that those of Jewish ethnicity are a primary source of the world’s ills, several leading alt-right figures such as Jared Taylor of American Renaissance and Paul Ramsey (“RamzPaul”) aren’t necessarily always fond of expanding on questions or condemnations of Jewish influence (although the alt-right’s professorial mascot, Kevin MacDonald, certainly is fond of expanding on such questions at great length).
Duke famously caused a stir when he brought up his belief in malign Jewish influence during the Q&A with a speaker at an American Renaissance conference in 2006 (“You’re a f—king Nazi and you disgrace this meeting!” an audience member shouted at him before leaving, as the audience tittered). The speaker, Guillaume Faye, semi-deflected Duke’s question, saying that criticizing Jews was a no-go politically, and insisting the real problem was a “Jew of the mind” (“Jewish mentality”) spreading to non-Jewish society as a whole and somehow weakening its solidarity or identity through encouraging immigration and societal openness.
Taylor, for his part, actively avoids anti-Semitic preaching and made various supportive statements regarding Jewish nationalism and identity. Spencer is fond of likening himself to an early Zionist yearning to establish a homeland, with what must be at least a trace of understanding of the irony of his statement given his followers’ conceptions of Jews.
Variations and spinoffs of that belief from the alt-right and those it’s inspired have fueled all sorts of online hijinks and harassment, with Jewish journalists on both the Left and Right particularly being attacked online that have even escalated to death threats via phone and online. A recent piece by a Jewish individual saying he regards himself as alt-right and agrees with many of their views, including some critiques of Jewish influence (although not the overt anti-Semitism), is crammed with comments underneath letting the writer know he is highly unwelcome in the movement due to his ethnicity. Numerous racist comments also accuse him of trying to subvert or co-opt the movement.
The People the Alt-Right Hates Are Making Them Succeed
The highly educated Spencer, a personable and intellectually oriented person, prefers to play it cool for the most part, and generally shies away from the more overt oven-meme cyber-insanity of some (including overt neo-Nazis) who profess to be alt-right or its admirers. But he doesn’t denounce this behavior, presumably because the shock value and disgust these alt-right antics generate are part of what’s getting the movement column space and controversy-buzz in their ever-so-hated mainstream media—not to mention now getting them a name-drop by the leading presidential contender.
Of course the first big noticeable virtual win for the alt-right was getting the term “cuckservative” to stick among large elements of the populist Right, via sites like Breitbart and trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos, who wrote a defense of the alt-right casting them as merely irreverent but harmless and intelligent people worthy of attention. He’s now calling alt-righters “the most serious free speech advocates in decades.”
If some guy is angry about violence against police or low wages and occasionally gets emotionally worked up in ways that lead to racist name-calling online (but doesn’t know anything about Evola or what it means to “fash”), then suddenly gets the idea he’s in the alt-right and starts researching the more in-depth points about the kind of specific racial and political ideology this can entail (it doesn’t involve democracy), it’s quite a phenomenon, frankly. Multiply “some guy” by half a million and you have a genuine behemoth of a movement.
I once met Spencer, Taylor and various other figures on the alt-right while covering their big fail on the international stage—which in a way became their big win.
Flashback to the fall of 2014 in Budapest, Hungary. Spencer, as head of the National Policy Institute, organized a conference called the Future of Europe where he hoped to engage with European white identity enthusiasts through a series of speakers. Instead, leading speakers such as Russian nationalist Aleksandr Dugin were warned by Hungary not to attend, and others who flew in to attend were summarily deported.
Still, many attendees and a few speakers made it in. Spencer was also told he’s not welcome in Hungary, so went to Austria and took a passport-check-free train into Budapest. It went awry, however, at a pub night prior to the conference’s start, when Hungarian police raided the gathering and questioned those attending. I watched in incredulity as police detained Spencer and extensively questioned attendees, demanding they produce ID.
An abridged conference at a secret location still took place, with a smaller speaker roster. I later found out Spencer was banned from all Schengen-zone European Union countries for three years (he was also banned from the United Kingdom when Theresa May took the reins). I reported on these incidents around the alt-right for Foreign Policy and Roads and Kingdoms. In any case, I maintained an interest from then on in the goings-on of the movement.
Talking About Them Feeds Them
I was somewhat surprised as the alt-right’s more moderately dressed opinions of 2014 escalated online into Twitter trolls threatening and employing common racist slurs against perceived enemies, rather than the kind of “separate homeland for each group, respect for all” rhetoric that had been prevalent in the abridged conference I covered and my e-mail exchanges with Spencer thereafter.
In subsequent exchanges, Spencer clarified to me then that he admires various non-white cultures for their past achievements, including ancient China and India, and supports the right of every ethnicity to rediscover and celebrate their heritage. This seems a far cry from some of what self-declared alt-righters are spewing online these days. That said, the abridged Budapest conference included people like Canadian neo-Nazi sympathizer and Holocaust-denial enthusiast Paul Fromm, so perhaps it isn’t overly surprising the darker side has now emerged.
Spencer has made it clear since his trouble in Europe that ultimately his deportation helped shine a spotlight on his message, and brought a sense of solidarity and momentum to his white identity endeavors. He’s also noted he’d vote for Hungarian President Viktor Orban (who classed him as a national security threat), due to Orban’s staunch position against Middle Eastern refugees.
Here we are today: the leading opposing contender for U.S. president accuses the alt-right of taking over a major American political party. It’s certainly spotlight gold for Spencer—even better than being behind bars for thought-crime in Hungary.
So, has the alt-right really taken over the Grand Ol’ Party? Not really, but the conservative movement, and much of Western civilization from Europe to America, is politically polarized and economically and socially fragile. Some people are open to answers and fringe points of view that might have seemed unimaginable even a decade ago. Trump might lose, but the alt-right won big in Reno. There’s a lot of pissed off people out there, and they know how to Google.
The alt-right is a movement now, that’s for sure—a political bowel movement plopping out croaking Pepe frogs. They hope to be there to pick up more and more pieces of the proverbial toilet bowl as it cracks up, refashioning the pieces into a shining white porcelain idol. By associating all those with ideological affinities as part of a cohesive movement, Hillary Clinton just gave the actual alt-right a solid push towards making Spencer’s goal a reality.