‘We announce tonight that Richard Spencer, of the American National Policy Institute, has this week been banned from the UK for life…” So ran a statement on Facebook by the Traditional Britain Group, which brings together Nazis and far right Tories.
The 9 July statement said the ban had been announced by the then home secretary Theresa May “because she does not approve of his political views”.
Spencer’s exclusion came after a year of campaigning by Searchlight. This white supremacist who calls himself an “identitarian” and presents himself as an intellectual, is already banned from Hungary, a ban that would also prevent him entering any of the 26 European countries covered by the Schengen Agreement.
Searchlight editor Gerry Gable said: “It has taken since May 2015 to get people at the Home Office to deal with Richard Spencer’s regular visits to Europe including the UK.
“Spencer was one of several Nazi overseas visitors to the UK who were included in the report that Searchlight prepared for the Home Office last year, and at least one more has also been banned.”
The Traditional Britain Group was furious at the exclusion of Spencer, who has appeared in the past at its events. It added: “Richard is a highly educated and very respectable gentleman who has visited Britain many times since he was a child.
“He was one of the distinguished speakers at the Traditional Britain Group annual conference in October 2013 in London.”
This was not the first banning order against what the group dubbed “decent people who do not agree” with May’s “liberal-fascist idea of society” the organisation said.
“We are entering a new Dark Age where opinions are banned. It would be a tragedy if ever the fake Conservative Party elected someone of this calibre as their leader let alone prime minister,” it warned in the statement issued just days before May entered Number 10.
Southern Poverty Law Centre examines Spencer’s politics
Richard Spencer’s clean-cut appearance conceals a radical white separatist whose goal is the establishment of a white ethno-state in North America. His writings and speeches portray this as a reasonable defence of Caucasians and Eurocentric culture. In Spencer’s myopic worldview, white people have been “dispossessed” by a combination of rising minority birth rates, immigration and government policies he abhors.
Fighting this alleged dispossession is the focus of the tax-exempt organisation he heads, the National Policy Institute (NPI). According to NPI’s mission statement, it aims “to elevate the consciousness of whites, ensure our biological and cultural continuity, and protect our civil rights. The institute… will study the consequences of the ongoing influx that non-Western populations pose to our national identity.”
Spencer became president of NPI in 2011, following the death of its chair, longtime white nationalist Louis R Andrews. Concurrently, he oversees NPI’s publishing division, Washington Summit Publishers, home of such scientifically bogus works as a 2015 reissue of Richard Lynn’s Race Differences in Intelligence and screeds by other white nationalists, including Jared Taylor, editor of the racist American Renaissance journal, and Sam Francis, the late editor of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens’ newsletter.
In 2012, Spencer launched an offshoot of Washington Summit Publishers called Radix Journal, a website and biannual publication whose contributors include notorious antisemite Kevin MacDonald, a retired professor at California State University.
Described as a leading “academic racist” by the Southern Poverty Law Centre, Spencer takes a quasi-intellectual approach to white separatism. In an online NPI recruiting video, he employs the tone of a sociologist discussing demographics: “As long as whites continue to avoid and deny their own racial identity, at a time when almost every other racial and ethnic category is rediscovering and asserting its own, whites will have no chance to resist their dispossession.”
Spencer acquired that academic tone while obtaining a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in humanities from the University of Chicago. It is part of an image-conscious strategy meant to appeal to educated, middle-class whites. He dresses neatly, eschews violence and works to sound rational.
“We have to look good,” he told Salon.com writer Lauren Fox, because no one is going to want to join a movement that is “crazed or ugly or vicious or just stupid”.
In 2007, after obtaining his master’s degree, Spencer took a job as assistant editor at American Conservative magazine, where he was later fired for his radical views, according to former colleague J Arthur Bloom. Following that, Spencer became executive editor of the paleoconservative website, Taki’s Magazine. In 2010, Spencer founded AlternativeRight, a supremacy-themed webzine aimed at the “intellectual right wing”, where he remained until joining NPI.
One of Spencer’s first acts after taking over NPI was to move its headquarters from Washington, DC to Whitefish, Montana, where he lives – a region where hate and anti-government groups have been fairly numerous. But if Spencer is eyeing Whitefish as a locale for his Aryan homeland, he faces significant opposition. In December 2014, the Whitefish City Council debated an anti-hate ordinance barring groups such as NPI from assembling in the community. After concerns were raised about free speech, the council ultimately settled on a resolution supporting diversity and tolerance.
Spencer spoke at that council meeting, saying the anti-hate ordinance would have granted the right to “police our minds” but claiming that he supported the diversity and tolerance resolution. “But real diversity includes thinking differently,” the local Flathead Beacon newspaper quoted him as saying. “Real diversity is not people of all different shapes and colours acting the same way. That is the diversity of a Coke commercial.”
Real diversity and tolerance apparently only go so far, however. In an address at white supremacist Jared Taylor’s 2013 American Renaissance conference, Spencer called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing”. As an example of how this could be accomplished, he cited the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, where new national boundaries were formed at the end of World War One. “Today, in the public imagination, ‘ethnic cleansing’ has been associated with civil war and mass murder (understandably so),” Spencer said. “But this need not be the case. 1919 is a real example of successful ethnic redistribution – done by fiat, we should remember, but done peacefully.”
Spencer also has termed his mission a “sort of white Zionism”, that would inspire whites with the dream of such a homeland just as Zionism helped spur the establishment of Israel. A white ethno-state would be an Altneuland – an old, new country – he said, attributing the term to Theodor Herzl, a founding father of Zionism.
Such historical comparisons show how desperate Spencer is to legitimise his agenda. After all, if white people are dispossessed, why shouldn’t they get a homeland, too? The problem, of course, is that white Americans have not been dispossessed, no matter how often that claim is made by ideologues of the racist right.
But Spencer is doing his best to make it seem that they are. When the 2011 census revealed that for the first time the majority of children born in the US were non-white, Spencer concluded that efforts to restrict immigration were “meaningless” going forward. “Even if all immigration, legal and illegal, were miraculously halted tomorrow morning, our country’s demographic destiny would merely be delayed by a decade or two,” he told the American Renaissance audience. “Put another way, we could win the immigration battle and nevertheless lose the country, and lose it completely.”
Although Spencer has repeatedly denied that he is a racist, his protests amount to a semantic debate over what “racist” means. “Racist isn’t a descriptive word. It’s a pejorative word. It is the equivalent of saying, ‘I don’t like you.’ ‘Racist’ is just a slur word,” he told the Flathead Beacon. “I think race is real, and I think race is important. And those two principles do not mean I want to harm someone or hate someone. But the notion that these people can be equal is not a scientific way of looking at it.”
Elsewhere, he has decried what he terms an overly expansive definition of racism by “Cultural Marxists”. In a 2013 NPI column, he wrote: “But for most academics and policy-makers – who could be referred to as ‘Cultural Marxists’ – the definition of ‘racism’ is much, much more expansive; it encompasses culture, ‘privilege,’ societal assumptions and values, and all sorts of things they deem to be expressions of power. The hetero-normative marriage, Christmas, nationalist soccer fandom can each be considered ‘racist,’ in that each is an avatar of European civilisation and consciousness—and thus an obstacle for ‘multicultural’ globalism.”
Spencer has said he would gladly accept Germans, Latins and Slavic immigrants in his proposed ethno-state – ironically, groups that faced severe discrimination in late 19th century US society. These foreigners and their customs, including Catholicism, spurred the creation of Know-Nothing societies, which eventually became known as the American Party. Pseudo-scientific studies were released, such as Carl Brigham’s A Study of Human Intelligence (1923), which claimed that Slavs and Italians, among others, were of inferior intelligence.
But today, kielbasa sausage – brought to the US by Poles – is considered as American as apple pie, and these non-Anglo Saxons are embraced by Spencer because of their white skins. They have assimilated.
To Spencer, however, assimilation is a “deceptive” term. In his foreword to a new edition of racist eugenicist Madison Grant’s 1933 Conquest of a Continent, Spencer wrote: “Hispanic immigrants have been assimilating downward across generations towards the culture and behaviour of African-Americans. Indeed, one possible outcome of the ongoing demographic transformation is a thoroughly miscegenated – and thus homogenous and ‘assimilated’ – nation, which would have little resemblance to the White America that came before it.”
Indeed, this applies to the European “motherland” as well. In a promo for NPI’s 2013 Leadership Conference in Washington, DC Spencer opined that both Europe and the US were experiencing economic, moral and cultural bankruptcy under the pressure of “mass immigration, multiculturalism, and the natural expression of religious and ethnic identities by non-Europeans”.
Spencer’s efforts to reach out to European nationalists have not gone well, however. In October 2014 his attempt to hold an NPI conference in Budapest, Hungary, resulted in his arrest and expulsion. Dubbed the 2014 European Congress, the conference featured an array of white nationalists from both Europe and the US. Among the scheduled speakers were Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, Philippe Vardon from the far right French Bloc Identitaire movement, Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin and Hungarian rightwing extremist MP Márton Gyöngyösi.
Before the conference even started, the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade released a statement condemning “all xenophobic and exclusionary organisations that discriminate based on religion or ethnicity”. Planned reservations at the Larus Centre venue were cancelled. On 3 October Spencer was arrested while meeting informally with other participants at a cafe that was to have been an alternate venue. He was jailed for three days, deported and banned for three years from entering all 26 European countries covered by the Schengen Agreement that have abolished controls at their common borders.
Back in the US, stronger free speech protections enable Spencer to hold such conferences. But even though he idealises an American society founded by European whites, he rejects the principles of egalitarianism enshrined in the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Indeed, he takes issue with conservatives who advocate returning the US to its “founding principles”. Even if that did happen, the outcome would be the same, according to Spencer. “One should not rewind a movie, play it again, and then be surprised when it reaches the same unhappy ending. Should we, for instance, really be fighting for ‘limited government’ or the Constitution, so that the Afro-Mestizo-Caribbean melting pot can enjoy the blessing of liberty and a sound currency?” he asked the American Renaissance gathering.
In Spencer’s ethno-state there would be no such problems. In a July 2014 column in NPI’s Radix Journal, he lauded the “greatest address” of Alexander Stephens, vice president of the pro-slavery Confederacy during the US Civil War, in which Stephens said US Founding Father Thomas Jefferson was wrong about “all men being created equal”. Spencer endorsed that sentiment, saying: “Ours, too, should be a declaration of difference and distance – ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created unequal.’ In the wake of the old world, this will be our proposition.”
This is an edited version that first appeared in The Post War American Far Right, Palgrave, 2014.