The Alt-Right Gives a Press Conference

Marin Cogan, New York Magazine, September 11, 2016

On Friday afternoon, Richard Spencer, president of the innocuously named National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, took the podium at a tiny conference room at the Willard Hotel in downtown Washington. Earlier this week, Spencer and his guests, Jared Taylor, editor of the white supremacist site American Renaissance, and Peter Brimelow, of the anti-immigration site VDARE, announced they would hold a discussion called “What is the alt-right?” ahead of Trump’s speech at the Values Voter Summit across town at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

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Up until now, the public face of the movement, if you can call it that, has largely been Pepe the frog. Spencer and his fellow alt-righters wanted to seize the moment to explain their beliefs to journalists, but even the logistics were controversial: A few days before the event was to happen, Spencer sent out a press release–complete with a logo spelling AR in triangles, set on a celestial backdrop–advertising the talk as taking place at the National Press Club. The day before the event, though, the press contact announced the alt-right had been dropped from the venue. Spencer, decrying the press club’s censorship, moved it to an undisclosed location owing to unspecified security concerns. When I emailed the press contact asking how to attend, I was directed to go to Old Ebbitt Grill, a lunch spot popular among tourists and downtown D.C. office dwellers, to await instruction. When I arrived, a man wearing a gray suit and brown tie pointed me down the street to the Willard Hotel, where the press conference was being held at the end of an ornately tapestried hall, in the appropriately named Peacock Room.

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But in some ways, Spencer was just the warmup act. After a brief talk from Brimelow, a silver-mop-haired man in a three-piece suit warning of America’s inevitable crackup, Spencer introduced Jared Taylor as the man who “red-pilled me” with his writings about race.

A key thing to know about Taylor–other than that he is a virulent racist–is that he pronounces whites wuh-hites, with extra emphasis on the h. “We have very good data on this subject, going back 100 years now,” said Taylor. “It’s very, very clear that Asians have the highest IQ, then wuh-hites, then Hispanics, then blacks.” Taylor went on like this, noting that the kinds of bacteria that make up a person’s mouth could be used to determine their race, that there was a reason that Haiti and Africa were both poor. The idea that race is a social construct, he said, “is so wrong and so stupid that only very intelligent people could convince themselves of it.” It was the most apt–and ironic–thing that any of them, including Taylor, a Yale graduate, said all afternoon.

If there were ever any real security concerns, they never materialized. In all, the event lasted over two hours, and most of the question-and-answer segment was taken up by alt-right supporters and members of the media asking about Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Spencer was happy to oblige. “I don’t think our support of Trump is really about policy at the end of the day. It’s about style over substance. Because, you know, policy, what does that really matter? I think it’s really about Trump’s style, the fact that he doesn’t back down, the fact that he’s willing to confront his enemies, especially on the left . . . you look at that and think, this is what a leader looks like, this is what we want,” he said. “He seems to be willing to go there. He seems to be willing to confront people. That’s very different than a cuckold.”

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