Richard Spencer: Five Things to Know

  • October 10, 2017

1. RICHARD SPENCER IS AN ALT RIGHT LEADER.

The 39-year-old Spencer has become the most recognizable public 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. As a spokesperson for the alt right, Spencer has tried to use the media to mainstream racism and anti-Semitism.

During the 2016 presidential race, the alt right gained national media attention for its support of Donald Trump and for its online trolling efforts. On Election night 2016, Spencer exulted in Trump’s victory. “The Alt-Right has been declared the winner. The Alt-Right is more deeply connected to Trumpian populism than the ‘conservative movement,’” Spencer tweeted. “We’re the establishment now.”

Spencer was one of the promoters and scheduled speakers at the August 12, 2017 Unite the Right alt right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which was ostensibly organized to oppose the removal of Confederate monuments. The rally attracted more than 500 white supremacists and many hundreds of counter-protesters, and confrontations between the two groups sparked violent clashes. A white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring a number of other people.

That weekend, Spencer's website announced that Unite the Right was the “beginning of the white civil rights movement.”

On the evening of October 7, 2017, Spencer returned to Charlottesville to lead 35-40 people in an unannounced reprise of the August tiki torch march. The so-called "flash mob" chanted “You will not replace us,” listened briefly to a couple of speakers, and left. In a video posted immediately after the 10-minute gathering, Spencer announced that he was pleased with the impromptu event, which he dubbed “Charlottesville 3.0.”

“It was a great success, and we're going to do it again,” he said. “This is definitely a model that should be repeated.”

2. SPENCER IS A WHITE SUPREMACIST WHO HAS BECOME MORE OPENLY ANTI-SEMITIC IN RECENT YEARS.

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.

3. SPENCER HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN A NUMBER OF PUBLICATIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS, AND GOT HIS START IN THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT.

Spencer became the president of NPI in 2011. In addition to heading NPI, Spencer runs two associated ventures--Radix Journal, a publication featuring essays on white nationalism and other issues, and Washington Summit Publishers, which publishes the work of racists. Most recently, Spencer founded Altright.com, an online sounding board for the movement. The site was created with the help of Swedish white supremacists and is part of a venture called the AltRight Corporation. Spencer and his Swedish partners, Arktos Media, a far-right publishing company, and Red Ice Radio, a video and podcast platform featuring racists from around the world, want to bring the message of white nationalism to mainstream audiences.

Previously, 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 worked at The American Conservative as an assistant editor.

4. SPENCER HOPES TO ATTRACT YOUNG, EDUCATED WHITES TO THE WHITE SUPREMACIST MOVEMENT.

Spencer organizes a number of annual events, including the NPI conference, which he encourages college students to attend. The 2016 conference was attended by 200 to 300 people, many of them young. This was a marked increase over the previous year’s conference, which attracted 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 2016, Spencer launched a college tour to bring his white nationalist message to campuses nationwide. He spoke at Texas A&M University in December 2016 and at Auburn University in April 2017.  He has attempted to schedule additional appearances at public universities across the country, including in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Louisiana, North Carolina and Michigan.

5. SPENCER WAS JAILED IN HUNGARY AND IS BANNED FROM VISITING GREAT BRITAIN.

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.

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