The 38-year-old Spencer has become the face of the alt right, a loose network of people who promote white identity and reject mainstream conservatism in favor of politics that embrace implicit or explicit racism, anti-Semitism and white supremacy. Spencer coined the term “alternative right” (from which “alt right” is derived) in 2008 in an article in Taki’s Magazine, a far-right publication. At the time, Spencer was using “alternative right” to refer to people on the right who distinguished themselves from traditional conservatives by opposing, among other things, egalitarianism, multiculturalism and open immigration. During the 2016 presidential race, the alt right gained national media attention for its support of Donald Trump and online trolling. In November 2016, Twitter suspended a number of alt right accounts, including those connected to Spencer. As a spokesperson for the alt right, Spencer has tried to use the media to mainstream racism and anti-Semitism. Since Trump’s victory, he has said “we’re the establishment now.”
Spencer has been influenced by a number of other white supremacists, including the late Sam Francis, retired professor Kevin MacDonald, who wrote a series of anti-Semitic books, and Jared Taylor of American Renaissance. Spencer wants to establish a white ethno-state in the U.S. and believes that whites should live separately from non-whites and Jews. While Spencer generally shies away from blatant displays of anti-Semitism, he began expressing anti-Semitic views more openly in the last two years. In 2014, he wrote an essay in which he said that Jews have an identity apart from Europeans. Two years later, he said at a press conference that he did not consider Jews to be European (i.e. white). He has also promoted MacDonald’s books. The National Policy Institute (NPI), the white supremacist organization Spencer heads, featured MacDonald as a speaker at its annual conferences in 2015 and 2016. Spencer also invited TV personality and anti-Semite Tila Tequila to the NPI conference in November 2016. At that conference, a number of people in the audience made Nazi salutes after Spencer “hailed” the victory of Donald Trump in the presidential election. Spencer refused to condemn the salutes.
Spencer became the president of NPI in 2011. In addition to heading NPI, Spencer runs two associated ventures--Radix Journal, an online publication the features essays on white nationalism and other issues, and Washington Summit Publishers, which publishes the work of racists. In 2010, Spencer created another online journal, Alternative Right, where he began to promote white nationalism. He left Alternative Right in 2012 and handed over the reins to others. Before that, Spencer was an editor at Taki’s Magazine and also worked The American Conservative, a conservative publication, as an assistant editor.
Spencer holds yearly events, including an annual NPI conference which he encourages college students to attend. The 2016 conference attracted between 200 and 300 people, many of them young. This was a marked increase over the previous year’s conference, which attracted around 120 to 175 people. Spencer has embraced the young Internet activists who are part of the alt right and have created memes, symbols and language that often deride and harass others.
In 2014, Spencer attempted to hold the annual NPI conference in Budapest, Hungary. The theme was “The Future of Europe.” The Hungarian authorities banned the conference and Spencer was arrested when he tried to hold the conference despite the ban. Some of his supporters, including Jared Taylor, managed to hold a watered-down event in Budapest without Spencer. Spencer was then banned for three years from the visa-free Schengen area of European countries, which includes most of the European Union. In 2016, the Home Office of the British government banned Spencer from visiting Great Britain due to his white supremacist views.