Richard Bertrand Spencer
As head of the National Policy Institute, Richard Spencer is one of the country’s most successful young white nationalist leaders — a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old, a kind of professional racist in khakis. Spencer has been credited with creating the term “alt-right.”
About Richard Bertrand Spencer
In his own words
“We’re going to be back here, and we’re going to humiliate all of these people who opposed us. We’ll be back here 1,000 times if necessary. I always win. Because I have the will to win, I keep going until I win.”
— Interview with DailyMail.com, several days after the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.
“Islam — at its full flourishing … isn’t some peaceful denomination like Methodism or religion like Buddhism; Islam is a black flag. It is an expansive, domineering ideology, and one that is directed against Europe. In this way, Islam give [sic] non-Europeans a fighting spirit and integrates them into something much greater than themselves.”
— Interview with Europa Maxima, February 2017.
“A race is genetically coherent, a race is something you can study, a race is about genes and DNA, but it’s not just about genes and DNA. The most important thing about it is the people and the spirit. That’s what a race is about.”
— Speech at Texas A&M, December 2016.
“Martin Luther King Jr., a fraud and degenerate in his life, has become the symbol and cynosure of White Dispossession and the deconstruction of Occidental civilization. We must overcome!”
–National Policy Institute column, January 2014
“Immigration is a kind a proxy war—and maybe a last stand—for White Americans, who are undergoing a painful recognition that, unless dramatic action is taken, their grandchildren will live in a country that is alien and hostile.”
–National Policy Institute column, February 2014
“Our dream is a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans. It would be a new society based on very different ideals than, say, the Declaration of Independence.”
— VICE, October 2013.
“When we hear any professional ‘Latino’ support this or that social program, we sense in our guts that her policy proscriptions are rationalizations for nationalism. She might say ‘more immigration is good’; she means ‘The Anglos are finished!’”
– Speech at the 2013 American Renaissance conference
“What blocks our progress is the meme that has been carefully implanted in White people’s minds over the course of decades of programming, from Mississippi Burning to Lee Daniel's The Butler—that any kind of positive racial feeling among Whites is inherently evil and stupid and derives solely from bigotry and resentment. And that the political and social advancement of non-Whites is inherently moral and wonderful.”
– National Policy Institute column, September 2013
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 defense 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 that alleged dispossession is the focus of the, until recently, tax-exempt organization 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.” NPI lost its tax-deductible status with the IRS for failing to file tax returns after 2012.
Spencer became president of NPI in 2011, following the death of its chairman, longtime white nationalist Louis R. Andrews. Concurrently, he also oversaw 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 that he called Radix Journal, a website and biannual publication whose contributors include notorious antisemite Kevin MacDonald, a retired professor at California State University, Long Beach.
Spencer abdicated his position as editor of Radix Journal in January 2017 to serve as the American editor of his new site AltRight.com. Launched on January 16, 2017, AltRight.com brings together several well-known white nationalist personalities including Henrik Palmgren of Red Ice, Brad Griffin of Occidental Dissent, and William H. Regnery II, a reclusive member of the Regnery right-wing publishing dynasty that founded both NPI and the Charles Martel Society. Other leadership on the site includes Daniel Friberg, European editor, Jason Jorjani, Culture editor, and Tor Westman, technical director.
Described as a leading “academic racist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, 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. That tone 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 he dropped out of a Duke University Ph.D. program in modern European intellectual history, 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, D.C., to Whitefish, Montana, where his family has a vacation home. 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 Flathead Beacon quoted him as saying. “Real diversity is not people of all different shapes and colors acting the same way. That is the diversity of a Coke commercial.”
Real diversity and tolerance apparently go only 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 I. “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 legitimize 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 United States are 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 civilization 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 America. 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), that claimed that Slavs and Italians, among others, were of inferior intelligence.
But today, kielbasa 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 behavior 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.
This applies to the European “motherland” as well. In a promo for NPI’s 2013 Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., Spencer opined that both Europe and America are 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. 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 America. Among the scheduled speakers were Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, Philippe Vardon from the far-right French Bloc Identitaire movement, Russian ultranationalist Alexander Dugin and right-wing Hungarian 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 organizations that discriminate based on religion or ethnicity.” Planned reservations at the Larus Center venue were canceled. On Oct. 3, 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 that have abolished passport and other controls at their common borders.
Back in America, stronger free speech protections enable Spencer to hold such conferences. But even though he idealizes an American society founded by European whites, he rejects the principles of egalitarianism enshrined in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Spencer takes issue with conservatives who advocate returning America 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 3, 2014, column in NPI’s Radix Journal, he lauded Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens’ “greatest address,” in which Stephens said that 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.”
At every NPI event there is a book fair, and NPI’s publishing division, Washington Summit Publishers, also offers its white nationalist titles on its own website and through sites such as Amazon.com.
Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Spencer was a vocal advocate for Donald Trump due to his signature proposal to build a wall along the United States border with Mexico and his racist statements referring to Mexicans as criminals and rapists. Following a high-profile press conference on the racist “alt-right” movement — a term that Spencer popularized — Spencer organized a press conference with Jared Taylor of American Renaissance and Peter Brimelow of VDARE, two longtime leaders in the white nationalist movement, to codify the tenets of the alt-right. “Race is real, race matters, and race is the foundation of identity,” Spencer told attendees. “You can’t understand who you are without race.”
Only days after Trump’s surprising victory over Hillary Clinton, the NPI held its fall conference on November 19, 2016, in Washington, D.C. In what he later described as a moment of exuberance, Spencer, flush with victory, offered the toast, “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” to the nearly 200 attendees. He was met with a handful of stiff-armed salutes from the crowd. The gesture electrified the more radical sectors of the white supremacy movement while generating stern disappointment from some of its elder statesmen, including Jared Taylor. When asked about the incident, Taylor told Kristoffer Ronneberg: “I was as shocked as anyone by all of that. The alt-right is a very broad movement. I have always known that there were at least anonymous Twitter accounts that are openly Nazi and anti-Semitic, but I did not think that Richard Spencer was that sort of person. I was shocked by these images that we’ve seen.” The restaurant hosting the event later apologized and donated the proceeds to the Anti-Defamation League.
Following what Spencer and the alt-right came to refer to as “hailgate,” the media cycle fixated on trolling attacks against Tanya Gersh, a Jewish realtor living in Whitefish, Montana, who had been asked by Spencer’s mother to help her sell a piece of property.
The driving impetus behind the fracas appears to have been the possibility that some in the community might protest Sherry Spencer’s building to demonstrate their rejection of her son’s ideology.
Spencer, who had recently joined into what was referred to as “The First Triumvirate” with Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer website and Mike Enoch of the Daily Shoah podcast (titles intended to evoke Nazism and the Holocaust), insisted that his mother was the subject of an extortion scheme, which Spencer categorized as “a nasty shakedown of an innocent woman.”
The shakedown allegation originated in a web posting purportedly authored by Sherry Spencer, Richard’s mother. The very next day, Anglin parroted the allegation in an article he wrote for the Daily Stormer. Over the next several months, Anglin posted a total of 30 articles urging his hundreds of thousands of readers to unleash a torrent of abusive phone calls, voicemails, emails, text messages, social media messages — even Christmas cards — on the Jewish realtor, her family and their associates. (In April 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against Anglin in the U.S. District Court of Montana in Missoula.)
But when Anglin threatened to bus in “skinheads from the Bay Area” for an armed protest against the town’s small Jewish population, to be held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Spencer was forced to backpedal.
Spencer tried to play the march off as a “joke” and maintained that he had no control over Anglin, whom he referred to as “totally wild — that’s not my kind of thing,” though maintaining that Anglin was a “rational” person who wouldn’t engage in physical violence.
On December 6, 2016, at the invitation of a neo-Nazi and former Texas A&M student Preston Wiginton, Spencer spoke to a ballroom of nearly 400 individuals. “America, at the end of the day,” Spencer told his audience, “belongs to white men. Our bones are in the ground. We own it. At the end of the day America can’t exist without us. We defined it. This country does belong to White people, culturally, politically, socially, everything.” Following the controversy and attention generated by his appearance at Texas A&M, Spencer announced that he would be embarking on a college tour in 2017.