Jason Wilson, The Guardian, July 31, 2017
“We are soldiers in this war,” Jared Taylor told an overwhelmingly male and entirely white audience of around 300 late on Saturday. “And we will win.”
The founder and editor of American Renaissance, once a print magazine and now “the internet’s premier race-realist site”, no longer thinks whites can have America to themselves. But he wants an all-white “ethnostate”, carved out of US territory.
This weekend, American Renaissance held its annual conference at a venue in Montgomery Bell state park, an hour west of Nashville, Tennessee. Attendees and speakers clearly felt a growing confidence. They have seen appreciable growth in membership of established and emerging far-right groups. They have also seen the election as president of Donald Trump.
Speakers at the event addressed subjects including “Race realism and race denialism” and “Has the white man turned the corner?”. One considered “The Trump report card – so far”.
When Taylor spoke, his audience was generationally diverse. Some, well into middle age or beyond, had heard it all before. But when he asked who was attending for the first time, the great majority raised their hands.
Many were millennials. Though all attendees wore conference dress code – jacket and tie – more than a few younger men sported the “fashy haircut”, short back and sides with a severe parting, which has become a signature of the so-called alt-right.
Many such young men lined up for selfies with Richard Spencer, the president of the white nationalist National Policy Institute thinktank who has achieved fame since greeting the election result with a cry of “Hail Trump”.
Others browsed vendor tables, buying books from the white nationalist publisher Counter-Currents – titles included Towards the White Republic and In Defense of Prejudice – or picking up flyers from Identity Evropa, a group that markets white supremacy to millennials.
Taylor said such men were flooding to his group because they were “hopping mad”. “These young white guys,” he told the Guardian, “they have been told from infancy that they are the villains of history. And I think that the left has completely overplayed its hand.”
It was not clear if fear or anger was the dominant emotion of the conference. Speaker after speaker addressed the supposed genetic and demographic decline of the west; the supposed low IQ of migrants flooding western countries; supposed links between IQ and “social pathology”; supposed “anti-white propaganda that suffuses our society”; supposed academic conspiracies that have worked to cover all this up. A common theme was the supposed propensity of non-whites to crimes like rape.
Using colour-coded maps, graphs and pictures of human brains, some speakers strove to give racism the kind of scientific respectability it has not claimed since the second world war.
Attendees were also told a lot about Trump. Taylor said the billionaire had provided “a great deal of excitement” when he was elected, but was now viewed with some skepticism.
Questioned by the Guardian, Spencer said Trump’s policy on Syria and the healthcare debacle were distractions from the only thing this crowd was interested in: immigration.
“I give him a C,” he said.
Taylor spoke of war, but acknowledged that he wanted only an ideological battle. Speakers urged the audience not to engage with antifascist protesters gathered outside the venue. One conference attendee nonetheless ended the night, Taylor said, in hospital and under arrest. State police confirmed two arrests on the day.
Organised under the banner “Oppose the Hate”, about 150 protesters spread out from the sidewalk, up a set of stairs and on to a grassy hill overlooking the venue.
While more militant activists picketed the front door and took photos of attendees, on the hill there were speakers and a picnic. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) attended. So did anti-gun groups.
The Rev Brian Merritt, pastor at Renaissance Presbyterian church in Chattanooga, gestured towards the conference centre. “What’s going on in there is sin,” he said. “White supremacy is sin. They’re on the wrong side of justice.”
Groups like American Renaissance were attracted to Tennessee and the south by its politeness and hospitality, he said. But he added: “Well-mannered Christianity is going away. The church is not going to be told every time it stands up for justice that that is politics. That is bullshit. It is not political to stand up for justice, especially under this racist administration.”
Marisa Richmond, from the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, said it was “important to show up against all forms of bigotry. It’s been an annual event for six years, and I think this is the biggest here yet. They’re feeling empowered.”
For a long time, explicitly racial views such those propagated by Taylor were marginalized by the culture at large and by mainstream conservatives. Speaking to the Guardian, Taylor said he himself had thought he was “just making a racket”. But now, he saw himself as part of a rising movement.
“We are in a state-run facility,” he said of the venue for his conference, “because most hotels would not withstand pressure [from protesters] of this kind.”
“It was a record crowd,” he said. “It could have been 150 more.”