Posted on March 29, 2012

The Changing Guard of White Separatism Convenes at a Tennessee State Park

Jonathan Meador, Nashville Scene, March 29, 2012

Inside the hangar-like conference room of Montgomery Bell State Park Inn, about 40 miles west of Nashville, more than 100 white faces stare in unison at a man in a dark gray suit.

A man in his early 60s, Jared Taylor has the charisma of someone half his age. He is genteel, erudite and soft-spoken as he addresses a receptive audience of writers, thinkers and assorted hangers-on. It’s nearly 5 p.m., and the American Renaissance Conference is under way.

The mood is relaxed, as if old friends have reunited after years of absence. Jokes and ensuing backslaps are shared. One man laments forgetting his copy of Why We Fight — a furious anti-Islam screed by one of the weekend’s featured speakers, the French journalist and author Guillaume Faye. As many conference goers have proudly noted, the decision to host this gathering on publicly owned lands affords it all sorts of First Amendment protections. For the past two years, they said, so-called “anti-fascist” protesters shut AmRen down.

And come these old friends have, from all corners of the Western world, from California to Maryland, from Canada to England, France and beyond, to experience an atmosphere of camaraderie that only those with a persecution complex can fully understand or appreciate. In the bucolic and firmly isolated Montgomery Bell State Park Inn — which would be, as one conference goer with a background in law enforcement told me, an ideal place to terrorize any protesters who might be stupid enough to travel the park’s lone, winding road without carrying firearms — they can loosen their belts (and their tongues) a few notches and let their freak flags unfurl.

“Our views aren’t very popular,” says a woman who’d come all the way from Manhattan for the conference. “You don’t get invited to all the fancy dinner parties on the Upper East Side.” She explains it’s not often you find people — particularly upper-middle-class liberals — who are willing to break bread with those who look down on your value system.

But here, she’s among friends who’ve paid $150 for a weekend of lectures, book signings and above all, networking. For $35 more, she gets a banquet of wilted asparagus and dry pork tenderloin, plus the dinner entertainment of an address by Faye, the French New Right author renowned in these circles for his anti-Muslim writings.