Posted on March 22, 2018

With Their Leadership Knocked Out, Young White Supremacists Face a Directionless Future

Casey Michel, ThinkProgress, March 21, 2018


For Richard Spencer — the subject of any number of flattering profiles during the 2016 campaign — the past year has buried his rising star under a heap of disappointment and embarrassment, dramatically shrinking his influence.

For Matthew Heimbach — the man who acted as the brawn to Spencer’s brain; the “most important white supremacist of 2016,” as ThinkProgress said — his future appears even darker. Where Heimbach dreamed of a trans-Atlantic network of white supremacists, lifting his Traditionalist Worker Party into a series of nationwide chapters, he’s instead staring down significant jail time for alleged assault, stemming from his apparent attractions to his mother-in-law.

As Trump’s second year in office continues — notably, without the significant policy proposals the white supremacists thought he’d advance on their behalf — the young white supremacists, the so-called “alt-right” that burst forth so prominently in 2016, is suddenly rudderless.

While the recent setbacks have been as significant as they’ve been spectacular, experts caution that it doesn’t mean young white supremacists are no longer any kind of threat. Still, the rapid drop-off of major figures leads to a new raft of questions.

“These are . . . major young intellectual leaders who have summarily stepped away from leadership, so we suddenly have a serious vacuum of intellectual capability in the alt-right, and no one’s stepped forward to say, ‘I will lead you now,’” the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Ryan Lenz told ThinkProgress.

The dissolution of the leadership happened slowly at first, and then all at once. That is to say, the signs of the disintegration of the leadership of these young white supremacists had been there for months — but the collapse over the past two weeks has been as swift as it’s been surprising.


{snip} Public displays of white supremacy — and affiliations with white supremacists like Spencer and Heimbach — prompted people to pressure the fundraising sites, credit card companies, and domain hosting companies helping these white supremacists send their messages.

The replacement sites, the so-called world of “alt-tech,” quickly deflated, broken without any attendant expertise to keep the sites running. Indeed, as of this month, only one site — MakerSupport — allows Spencer to raise any funds. As Spencer said, “This is all we’ve got.”

But it wasn’t simply a matter of “de-platforming,” or private companies opting not to do business with the white supremacists previously flourishing. Increased media coverage brought public pressure to bear on the people supporting leaders like Spencer and Heimbach.

See, for instance, the case of Kyle Bristow, Spencer’s lawyer. The supposed firebrand, and self-proclaimed “sword and shield” of young white supremacists, crumpled as quickly as critical media coverage turned his way. Just a few weeks after media stories began focusing on his work, Bristow pulled the plug on his Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas.


And Spencer, to be sure, isn’t done. He recognized that no one was turning out for his tours, yes — but he hasn’t given up dreams of an ethno-state wholesale. He has, rather, decided to “recalibrate,” and “find a model that works.”