Meet the Alt-Right ‘Spokesman’ Who’s Thrilled with Trump’s Rise

Sarah Posner, Rolling Stone, October 18, 2016

Just two weeks after Hillary Clinton delivered her August speech decrying Donald Trump’s ties to “an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right,'” the Alt-Right movement’s leaders host a press conference–a coming-out party of sorts–at Washington, D.C.’s tony Willard Hotel. Sponsored by the National Policy Institute, a small non-profit “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States,” the conference prominently features the institute’s president, Richard Spencer, a trim and tidily dressed 38-year-old with grandiose ambitions to usher in a white “ethno-state.” Spencer is joined by two older compatriots: Jared Taylor, the founder of the website American Renaissance, which promotes faux science claiming that blacks are intellectually inferior to whites, and Peter Brimelow, who once wrote for Forbes and National Review before founding VDare, an anti-immigrant site named after Virginia Dare, who is said to be the first British child born in the American colonies. The trio spends two hours holding forth on the Alt-Right’s core beliefs and its growing notoriety in the age of Donald Trump.

“We want something heroic. We want something that is not defined by liberalism, or individual rights, or bourgeois norms. We want something that is truly European and truly heroic,” Spencer says at the podium. “That is fundamentally what the Alt-Right is about.” Race, he says, “is real. Race matters, and race is the foundation of identity.”

The Alt-Right prides itself on its leaderless ethos, using social media to spread its ideology through viral memes and anonymous attacks on its enemies, real and imagined. But Spencer coined the term Alt-Right, back in 2010, and has since positioned himself as the movement’s leading intellectual and most visible spokesman.

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Spencer has become more enthused as Trump has ramped up his claims about how his campaign represents an “existential threat” to “global special interests.” After Trump’s widely criticized speech in West Palm Beach last week, during which the GOP nominee alleged a “conspiracy” against the American people led by a “global power structure,” Spencer tweeted, “The shackles are off, and Trump is getting radical. We’ve never seen a major postwar politician talk like this.” He later amplified his appreciation of what he characterized as Trump “demystifying ‘racism’ and the financial power structure,” concluding, “No matter what happens, I will be profoundly grateful to Donald Trump for the rest of my life.”

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I first meet Spencer at the Republican National Convention in July, at a party headlined by Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart editor and self-described “dangerous faggot” who tours college campuses to rail against “social justice warriors,” political correctness and the left in general. (Spencer perceives Yiannopoulos as a fellow traveler of sorts, but not truly Alt-Right; he does, however, see Yiannopoulos’ followers as ripe for Alt-Right recruitment.) The crowd, Spencer later notes, is populated by lots of Alt-Right “shitlords”–a form of high praise on social media that designates true believers. They’re wildly excited about a speech by far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who’s attending the convention as a guest of the Tennessee Republican Party. After a lengthy diatribe about “so-called leaders” who’ve allowed “Eurabia” to be overrun by Muslims and who “do not defend our liberty, our sovereignty, our values, our national identity,” Wilders elicits loud chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!”

After the speeches, as the crowd mingles, Spencer reflects on the significance of what he sees as Trump’s affinity for white nationalism. “It’s not so much about policy–it’s more about the emotions that he evokes,” he says. “And emotions are more important than facts. Trump sincerely and genuinely cares about Americans, and white Americans in particular.”

Spencer is ebullient over how Trump has legitimized his movement. “It’s not just about ‘deport illegals’ or ‘stop illegal immigration,'” he says. “It’s about the sense–the existential sense–of, Are we a nation? He’s brought an existential quality to politics.”

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Trump, Spencer believes, has exposed the Republican Party’s id. “The Trump phenomenon expresses a fundamental truth,” he says. “It’s an unspoken truth, and that is that the Republican Party has won elections on the basis of implicit nationalism and not on the basis of the Constitution, free-market economics, vague Christian values and so on. Even a leftist would agree with that statement. Like, Trump has shown the hand of the GOP. The GOP is a white person’s populist party.” Unlike Trump, though, the party is “embarrassed of itself.”

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Spencer is the closest thing the Alt-Right has to an official spokesman, a role he brushes off as inconsistent with the movement’s freewheeling, anti-establishment culture–yet one he clearly enjoys. Taylor says in an interview that he, Spencer and Brimelow are the most recognized faces of a movement whose size and reach is difficult to measure because its growth has been fueled online, and often by anonymous social media users. But while Taylor and Brimelow have strived to give white nationalism an aura of intellectualism over the years, they lack, in their 60s, the youthful looks, pop-cultural fluency and rhetorical audacity that has made Spencer, three decades younger, the face of a newer, Internet-fueled white nationalism that is undergoing a rebirth. Spencer, wrote Hunter Wallace, the pen name of neo-Confederate white nationalist Brad Griffin, on the influential white nationalist site Occidental Dissent, is the Alt-Right’s “acknowledged leader.” Spencer sees his moving of white nationalism beyond the margins and Trump’s “gusto” as evidence that white nationalist ideas resonate with Trump’s base. “I wouldn’t want to go back to the old white nationalism when no one was listening to us,” he said recently. “I want to be in a place where our ideas are entering the mainstream.”

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While Spencer reviles conservatives, he believes they secretly share his white nationalist beliefs. “Saying that you want a culture of life, or Christian values,” he said in a recent podcast, “that’s just basically saying you want to live in a white country that’s normal and decent.” Or, as he explains to me at the Willard, the Family Research Council’s name already implies a call for “more white children.” In Spencer’s eyes, the Alt-Right is an “intellectual movement” so powerful that “in the future, we’re going to be thinking for conservatives,” whom he disparages not only as “cucks” but as “losers and dorks.” This superior Alt-Right intelligence will eventually allow the movement to harness the institutions the religious right built, he believes, and entice religious conservatives into white nationalism. It would be easy enough, he says, because “there’s not a single intelligent person in that entire world.”

Despite Spencer’s bluster, and the Alt-Right’s seeming ubiquity this election cycle, thanks to Trump’s embrace, this is a nascent movement, many of its activists still visible only through anonymous Twitter accounts and Reddit posts that help distribute racist and anti-Semitic memes. That anonymity, Taylor says, is still necessary because political correctness marginalizes their “racialist” views, and Alt-Righters fear for their livelihoods and even their lives. {snip}

Deep-pocket donors and well-funded institutions have defined modern conservatism, in Spencer’s view. But he is counting instead on the raw enthusiasm of the Alt-Right. If the Heritage Foundation, a leading conservative think tank, is like an “elephant,” he says, the Alt-Right is a “flea,” capable of “getting people excited and crazy” about its white ethno-state ambitions.

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