Page 8 - Flathead Beacon // 11.23.16
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The Rise of the ‘Alt-Right’
Richard Spencer, the part-time White sh resident who helped raise the pro le of the white separatist movement, celebrates Trump’s election and the subsequent wave of attention
On the same day in November that White sh resident Richard Spencer took to the airwaves to explain his con- troversial vision of a white ethno-state on National Public Radio and The Daily Show, the social media service Twitter suspended his veri ed account, as well as those belonging to other prominent mem- bers of the so-called “alt-right” movement that Spencer is credited with invigorating.
Twitter’s move to block the accounts coincides with a groundswell of atten- tion centered on Spencer, 38, the founder of the aseptically named think-tank National Policy Institute, and on other white nationalist leaders whose plat- forms have been criticized as racist but buoyed by the ascendancy of Presi- dent-elect Donald Trump. It also removes a support leg that has long served to prop up the alt-right, which eagerly adopted Twitter as a tool of choice for promoting its extreme views about race and white separatism.
The move to ban alt-right ringleaders from the Twitter-sphere was reported one day after the site announced new pol- icies on harassment and abuse, and elic- ited outrage from Spencer, who decried it as “corporate Stalinism” and insisted he had neither engaged in harassment nor abuse. But its e ect on quieting the alt-right movement remains unclear as key  gures reassume their social media presence on alternative sites while they look for potential surrogates in a Trump cabinet.
The alt-right has seized on two core issues that the Trump team espouses — a fundamental opposition to immigra- tion and a penchant for eschewing polit- ical correctness and customs. Establish- ing a deeper connection, meanwhile, is Trump’s selection of Stephen Bannon as his senior adviser and chief strategist, positioning the former head of Breitbart News, perhaps the alt-right’s most prom- inent platform, just footsteps from the Oval O ce.
“It’s like a dream,” Spencer said in a recent telephone interview with the Bea- con from his post in Washington, D.C., where he headlined a Nov. 19 alt-right conference titled, “Become Who We Are,” at the Ronald Reagan federal building blocks from the White House. “We have taken our message so far and made white identity politics part of the national con- versation. I’m euphoric, obviously.”
Richard Spencer. BEACON FILE PHOTO
Following the conference, Trump’s
campaign released a statement, saying, “President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected to be a leader for every American. To think otherwise is a complete misrep- resentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds.”
But in hitching its racist brand of ide- ology to Trump, Spencer has supplied the booster fuel to propel his once-marginal- ized movement out of obscurity and into the mainstream.
The sheer volume of media attention recently paid to Spencer — pro les have sprung up in Rolling Stone, the New York Times, Mother Jones, and almost every other major media outlet — is evidence that his alt-right agenda has moved away from the fringes and is coming to bear on the prevailing current of thought.
But even if the movement has gained momentum, its trajectory remains unclear.
Rachel Carroll Rivas, co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, has made it her career to expose groups and individuals attempting to legitimize traditional white separatist activity by reinventing their image.
But as Spencer’s polished version of white nationalism gains purchase in more mainstream channels, Rivas cau- tioned against normalizing an extreme agenda, noting that the views are rejected by the majority of the American public.
“This is exactly what we have been
warning against, and I think that we are seeing the realization of our fear as those extremist ideas make their way into the mainstream political sphere,” she said. “This makes my work harder because how do we call out a white-supremacist organization when all of a sudden it is institutional? It has actual policy impli- cations, and it is hidden in plain sight.”
Rivas placed much of the blame squarely on the Republican Party, which she said failed to openly reject the alt- right’s ideas early on, and in doing so invited them into their establishment fold.
Until Trump’s candidacy, Spen- cer said he had given up hope that the GOP could serve as an incubator for his message, having long ago grown disen- chanted with the party’s entrenched tra- ditions and tenets.
But as president-elect, Trump’s plat- form includes promises to jail or deport between 2 million and 3 million illegal immigrants, whom he described as crim- inals, while as a candidate he suggested deporting as many as 11 million people.
And if previous operatives in the GOP weren’t listening, “now we at least seem to be on the same page,” Spencer said. “Donald Trump is not me, but Donald Trump is on the same page. Stephen Ban- non is on the same page.”
Spencer divides his time between his o ce in the suburbs of Washing- ton, D.C., and his home in White sh, where his presence has sparked outcry
from concerned residents and, in 2014, prompted a proposed municipal ordi- nance to ban hate-related activities in the community.
In an interview, Spencer boasted about how he predicted Trump’s Election Day victory on Twitter, but he acknowl- edged that he privately viewed it as a “long shot.”
Still, even if Trump lost, Spencer said his candidacy alone had elevated the alt- right, and he was “prepared to spin it in a very positive way.”
“I have been gaming everyone, but I never imagined that Donald Trump would come along, to be honest,” Spencer said. “I think it’s due in part to my abil- ity to break through into the mainstream media, and, granted, almost all of the coverage is critical, (but) people are still talking about the idea of the ethno-state. Of course they are against it, but they are actually talking about it.”
The ideals of Spencer’s vision could not diverge more radically from those of Mar- tin Luther King, Jr., the celebrated civil rights leader who famously called for an end to racism in the United States. That the conversation about race relations has again risen to the fore is troubling for civil rights activist and White sh Rabbi Allen Secher, who was among 16 reform rabbis who answered King’s entreaty in June 1964, marching through segregated neighborhoods in St. Augustine, Florida, to assist in e orts to end segregation.
Today, Secher is wary of spreading fear in a cultural climate that reacts quickly to the threat of terror and violence, but he is horri ed by the prospect of reversing the social progress he fought to achieve.
“I fear that greatly. And I am not hid- ing under my bed. If I battled 50 years ago, I am still battling today, and I have every expectation of continuing the  ght,” Secher said.
Spencer has been spending the major- ity of his time in Arlington, Virginia, and while he has no intention of leav- ing White sh permanently, he said he’s not trying to promote his agenda here, describing his goals as loftier than a local ethno-state.
“I get why a lot of people were angry two years ago, and I have lived up to my promise not to make political hay in White sh,” he said. “That being said, I am not going to fully abandon White sh. I do have some roots there. I feel like we have reached a sort of détente.”

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