"The Free Market Won't Let Us Speak"
Richard Spencer, executive director of the National Policy Institute (NPI), was beginning his opening remarks as I settled uneasily into my seat in the back row of a small, brightly lit banquet room. From a podium at the front of the room, the brown-haired young man pointed to a projection of a color-shaded world map that he claimed depicted regional variations in the average Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of indigenous populations.
According to the map, East Asian and European peoples possess the highest IQs while African and Australian indigenous populations possess the lowest. He then switched to a NASA photograph of the world at night, depicting city lights around the globe visible from space. He compared the brightest-lit areas (China, Europe, North America) to the previous map, proclaiming that the brightest localities were also those with the highest IQ.
"You can see, Africa is literally the Dark Continent."
It was on that note that NPI's national conference, titled Towards a New Nationalism: Immigration and the Future of Western Nations, began. This was the first such event for the fledgling white nationalist organization NPI, a think tank of sorts dedicated to "promot[ing] the American majority's unique historical, cultural, and biological inheritance - and advances policies that, without prejudicing the legitimate rights of others, fearlessly defends our rights...our heritage." Dedicated, in other words, to advancing the interests of the white race.
The event was a first for me as well. I would be, for the first time, experiencing a gathering of white supremacists from such an intimate perspective. Watching, learning, interacting -- I would attempt to sort out what they believe and why and explore the relationship between the white nationalist movement and the more mainstream political spectrum. As a clean-cut white male, my presence wasn't suspicious and the other attendees assumed I shared their views. For my part, I let them assume, and I did my best to blend in.
I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at 9 a.m., but a part of me anticipated swarms of protestors, a strong police presence clashing with private security forces and a raucous racist crowd inside the hall, cheering on some podium-smacking orator bloviating about the evils of the Jewish race and the need to oppress the black community.
Instead, I was greeted jovially upon arrival to a scene that more closely resembled a modest cocktail party, with no security and a few people standing around sipping coffee and discussing literature. I picked up my name tag and glanced at the design -- a photograph of a white family smiling over a white background adjacent to the well-known political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin depicting a severed serpent and the phrase "JOIN, or DIE."
Reading over the conference program, I caught a glimpse of what I was in for from the titles of the speeches to come. They ranged from the blandly predictable - "Is Arizona the Answer?", "Prospects for a Nationalist Right in America"; to the ominously enigmatic - "Apocalypse Now," "Totalitarian Humanism and Mass Immigration," "The Masters of the Universe"; to the truly chill-inducing -- "The Idea and Ideal of the Ethno-State."
We were sitting in the modestly-sized Polaris Suite, a banquet room like any other -- brightly lit, populated with round tables, a podium and projector screen opposite the door. The small room was mostly full. Of the approximately 70 people there, about ten of us were under 30 years old. To my eye, the rest were split evenly between the 30-55 and 55+ demographics. The suite was situated inside the federally-owned Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC, a venue chosen with great care.
"We need to tell our libertarian friends that the free market won't let us speak," explained Spencer. In February, Charlotte, NC's Sheraton Hotel cancelled its contract to hold a conference for the racialist publication American Renaissance after protests followed the conference's disclosure. NPI decided to hold its own conference in a federal building to avoid a similar incident.
Within the Reagan building, the First Amendment rights of NPI had to be respected, regardless of the controversial nature of its message. This didn't prevent demonstrators from protesting outside taking photographs of conference attendees as they exited the banquet room for lunch.
In contrast, the erudite conference patrons were subdued and congenial. The group of mostly middle-aged men, all white (of course), wore suits and drank water from wine glasses or held a cup and saucer full of coffee and sugar cubes as they conversed politely and comfortably about the merits of establishing an all-white state and extolling the genetic benefits of their various European origins.
They consider themselves part of an elite intelligentsia, a rational cognoscente that by virtue of their superior IQ and moral relativism can see what others can't -- that the world is shaped by inherent racial inequalities and racial conflict.
This was a gathering of the so-called "academic racists"; people who discuss literature and advocate science-y sounding concepts like eugenics and "human biodiversity" that provide the foundation for their policies of racial sequestration and superiority. Mainstream Americans, they believe, and mainstream white Americans in particular, are ignoring the science and politics of race to their peril.
"If Our Race Ceases To Exist..."
During a break, I was talking to some of the other younger attendees in the hallway when an old, blue-eyed Ukrainian man approached our circle. He looked at each of one of us thoughtfully before asking in accented, broken English, "Do you see what you have in common?"
I shook my head and looked at the others, thinking to myself that we couldn't have less in common. Then the Ukrainian man raised his arm and held his fingers up at each of us in turn, his thumb and index fingers apart at eye level, measuring the size of our heads from afar.
"The good cranium," he finally answered, tapping his temple. I had no response, and I tried to keep my facial expressions in check as he elaborated on the superior shape of our skulls. Others nodded and listened intently as he transitioned from the anthropological basis for our cranial supremacy to the subject of the low percentage of pure Semitic pedigrees within the Jewish population and the importance of ethnic groups sticking together and keeping bloodlines untainted.
The Ukrainian man's impromptu sermon was symbolic of the greater movement's obsessions with genetics, biology and the migration of racial groups throughout the course of human history. One's race is one's family -- a group of people that have survived and evolved over thousands of years because of their reliance on and recognition of people that look like themselves.
It's through this prism of tribal heritage and racial pride that the white nationalists seemed to view nearly every aspect of the rest of the world. The white race, which they know to be genetically superior to non-white lineages, is threatened by massive non-white immigration movements and widespread political liberalism promoting a universal egalitarian moral code that shuns conversations about race.
From a political standpoint, the speakers believe that affirmative action, social welfare programs, lax immigration laws and an activist judiciary hell-bent on undermining federalism have stacked the deck in favor of non-whites in America.
To the white nationalist, these policies aren't merely unfair. According to the conference's panel of scholars, a culture that doesn't recognize the preeminence of the white race is literally doomed to fail. They expect the status quo of high non-white birthrates and rampant immigration to lead to a year 2050 U.S. population comprised of 50 percent whites and Asian-Americans and 50 percent Latino and African-American. This type of racial distribution, a dilution of the current white prominence, would "result in a serious reduction of national IQ," explained Professor Byron Roth, author of The Perils of Diversity: Immigration and Human Nature. Crime rates will soar while prisons and welfare programs become over-burdened to the point of societal collapse.
The concerns of the movement truly coalesced in one stark premonition from the day's final and eldest speaker, Samuel Dickson:
"If our race ceases to exist, then all we cherish and value will go with it."
Foremost on the minds of the attendees was not white dominance, it was white extinction. There was a palpable urgency in the crowd's discussions throughout the day -- a belief that if we didn't start taking steps immediately to promote white heritage, disassemble the policies buoying what they considered the otherwise unsuccessful non-white cultures in America and begin increasing the white birth rate, then the white race would be lost.
While nearly every speaker agreed about the obstacles faced by the white race, few agreed on a plan of action. I listened in wonder at their solutions, which ranged from conventional political activism to outlandish dystopian fantasies.
Jared Taylor, a poised and even-toned Yale alumnus, academically dressed and Touch-Of-Graying around the ears, was one of the event's highlighted speakers. His enthusiastic reception reflected his status as a preeminent member of the "intellectual" wing of the white nationalist movement.
He outlined three models of victory. The first method Taylor described as the "Archeofuturist" model. The theory, he explained, was developed by French white supremacist Guillaume Faye and assumes that a collapse of global civilization is inevitable and will occur soon. Faye and his adherents believe that we are currently facing a "convergence of catastrophes" that includes everything from the global economic crisis to environmental degradation and the rise of radical Islam.
While the apocalyptic prognostication would put Glenn Beck to shame, it's the dystopian aftermath that sets archeofuturists apart from the conspiracy-theorist crowd. Conference speaker Alex Kurtagic, co-editor (with Spencer) of the NPI media outlet AlternativeRight.com, writes of Faye's Archeofuturism:
[T]he deprecation of modernity results in a two-tier world, in which most of humanity reverts to traditional or neo-Medieval societies (essentially pre-industrial reservations), while an elite minority--composed of Europeans and South East Asians--rebuilds advanced technological societies across Eurasia and parts of North America. These societies are to be, of course, archeofuturistic--hierarchical and rooted in ethnotribalism, fiercely protectionistic, yet also ones that fully exploit science and technology, even if 'esoteric,' non-humanistic versions of them, 'decoupled from the rationalistic outlook.' There is to be no global flow of capital, spreading wealth and technology everywhere: the world economy is to be inegalitarian, elitist, based on quality over quantity. There are also to be no nation states: the European Imperium is to comprise over a hundred regions, with their own languages, customs, and garb. The United States is to split in to ethnic regions (Dreamland for the Blacks), and is to stabilize for the most part according to an eighteenth-century agrarian model. The world, in sum, and in contradiction to liberal aspirations, is to become more ethnic and more differentiated, not less.
Taylor remained dismissive of this philosophy of action, arguing that not only was it too pessimistic, history has shown no indication that widespread tragedy will result in a new racial cognizance among white people.
The Danish Model
The second strategy Taylor described, named after ultra-restrictive Danish immigration laws, revolves around (comparatively) conventional political activism. In particular, Taylor advocated for the election of "pro-white" political candidates. He believes he's seen evidence that a "racially conscious" constituency exists in the United States, based on racially-tinged comments he reads in Internet message boards and on the success of political candidates who have waged virulent anti-immigrant election campaigns.
James Edwards, a white nationalist radio host and author, also believes there is popular support for their worldview. He cited a poll of GOP voters in Mississippi which found that more than 40 percent of respondents would outlaw interracial marriage.
The Orania Model
Taylor's third model, named after a white separatist town in South Africa, is the one he advocates and involves establishing new cities populated and governed exclusively by white people. He emphasized that such a municipality would be legal, because no law would explicitly forbid families of other races settling there. Instead, it would require establishing a "reputation" for being unfriendly to non-whites. Taylor seemed confident that once this reputation was established, no one of a non-white heritage would attempt to move there.
By far the most shocking and aspirational plan proposed at the conference was the establishment, through some means or other, of a nation-state comprised entirely of the white race -- an "ethnostate." Some speakers viewed this as an inevitable post-apocalyptic equilibrium; others promoted a kind of geographic apartheid administered by the government that would be sufficient to maintain order and truly allow the white race to flourish and evolve.
Dickson, the elderly former lawyer to the Georgia Ku Klux Klan, espoused the most creative ethnostate scenario. First, he said, the government would need to adopt a plan to move every white person in Cuba to the state of Florida, where they would form a new city called "Havana Nueva." Once this was accomplished, the government could begin to move all the black people in America down to Cuba. He made a point of assuring the audience that this forced resettlement would be executed "in a civilized way." I wondered who in the room Dickson thought he might be offending.
Several speakers daydreamed about someday establishing an autonomous "racial republic" of some kind in North America. It was obvious that the idea of the ethnostate -- of living, working, breeding exclusively within communities of your own race -- was the ultimate white nationalist fantasy. I couldn't help but wonder who in that room presently lives in a mixed-race neighborhood.
"Why Aren't There More Females In This Room?"
With no need to convince the like-minded attendees in the room of the urgency and importance of preserving the white race, the conversation often turned to questions of messaging strategy and increasing their following. The audience and speakers seemed convinced that it was merely the tone of their message, not its content, that remained the only barrier between their small banquet room conference with empty chairs and a sold-out stadium shaking with the weight of enthusiastic white masses ready to follow them to a brighter, lighter tomorrow.
"Why aren't there more females in this room?" asked one incredulous attendee during a Q&A. I only saw three women at the conference, and none of them spoke or seemed to participate in any way beyond their mere presence. Spencer was at a loss to answer, but admitted that they needed to work on finding more female advocates and needed to bring more people in general into their movement.
Some, like Spencer, believe the problem is that they are simply too smart, and their message too nuanced, to be easily digestible by average Americans.
"I'd assume everyone in this room has a three-digit IQ," Spencer said, adding glibly, "Or maybe some of us approaching four. We have a real lot of very serious intellectuals in here." Intellectuals, he believes, can be the equivalent of 100 men -- but it isn't enough. "We're failing to communicate our views to normal Americans who might be the two-digit guys, room-temperature guys."
"It's like going hunting and having to carry the hound," noted Dickson, lamenting an observation that many white people are not listening to their message and are ignoring race. "It seems like it would be a very natural thing to love your race," he added ruefully.
The speakers were divided on how to make their views more appealing. Despite their conviction that their views and solutions are logically sound, the speakers largely agreed that using reason will not bring the masses into the light. Instead, they impressed the importance of striking a positive tone and appealing to emotion as a recipe for success.
"The messenger is the message," said AlternativeRight.com's Kurtagic. "Impress to inform...you can't open a man's mind until you've moved his spirit."
Thus far, Kurtagic said, the white nationalist movement has been dominated by pessimism. In addition to recruiting seductive messengers, he said, the key to their success is being positive and illustrating to white people that their movement represents a new beginning.
"We brought light into this world, we must not become slaves to the darkness!"
By The Hammer Of Thor
The white supremacy movement has been loosely divided for some time between the violent racist skinhead neo-Nazi types, which Taylor referred to as "Aryan warrior kooks," and the non-violent pseudo-intellectual white nationalists like Spencer, Taylor, Roth and others who cloak their supremacist views behind veils of fairness and fringe science.
I witnessed a series of clues and conversations, however, that seem to point to an ominous blurring of this distinction.
American Third Position
As I entered the conference, I passed several manned tables rife with white nationalist literature and books for sale on everything from eugenics to the impacts of race in military strategies. Represented at one table was an infamous group known as the American Third Position (A3P), an organization described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "a political party initially established by racist Southern California skinheads that aims to deport immigrants and return the United States to white rule."
Their representatives were handing out literature and engaging conference attendees about their ideas and campaigns they support. Two of the NPI conference speakers -- Edwards and Tomislav Sunic -- are on A3P's Board of Directors. Conspicuously, the conference website neglects to indicate their affiliation with A3P.
Sunic, a former Croatian diplomat and author of Against Democracy and Equality, gave a unsettling speech titled "How To Generate A New Nationalist Right."
"First and foremost, we must declare ourselves as white, then as Americans," declared Sunic. He expressed a tone of envy as he discussed the way in which communism left many parts of Eastern Europe with racially homogenous ("racially clean," as he put it) populations, but he decried the violence and war that broke out there during the 1990s. White versus white must stop, Sunic said of the Balkan wars.
Sunic's talk took an even darker turn as he discussed the expulsion of ethnic Germans from parts of Europe at the end of World War II. Sunic considered the forced migration to be an act of ethnic cleansing, and he protested that history, by his estimate, has characterized the movement as "voluntary departure" instead.
The question now is, he asked forebodingly, "Who will be the architect of the next 'voluntary departure'?"
Not wanting an answer, I voluntary departed to the hallway for a few deep breaths before the next speaker began.
The Asatrú Folk Assembly
Later, while choosing a secluded table in the food court to enjoy what little lunch I could stomach after Sunic's talk, I was exposed to a strange, almost primordial vein of white tribalism running through the network of conference attendees.
My teeth had just enveloped the first bite of a delightfully soft chocolate chip cookie when several other young NPI attendees shattered the comfort of my isolation and invited themselves to join my table.
"Are you with NPI?" they asked. My mouth full, I nodded reluctantly and the four well-groomed white males smiled politely and sat down.
What followed was one of the more uncomfortable meals of my life, as I smiled and pretended to concur with their views on affirmative action, the depiction of white people in the media, and their plans to recruit others to the white nationalist cause by use of racist humor.
I learned, for example, that StuffBlackPeopleDontLike.com is a good "gateway" website because it (ostensibly) appeals to a "mainstream" reader's sense of humor as a hook, but it also makes them think about racial disparities in a way that other media ignore or reject (incidentally, the website - which they consider a stepping stone to their belief system -- is overtly and unapologetically racist, which gives you an idea of just how fringe and extreme their philosophy is).
Primarily, though, they expressed frustration with a culture and government that they feel ignores and looks down upon the interests of the white race.
The four of them were excruciatingly friendly. They were relieved that they had finally found a place where they didn't have to "feel out" the conversation before navigating it into the straits of white supremacy.
I noticed that a couple of the guys wore unusual T-shaped metal brooches on their jackets and ties that they later referred to as the "Hammer of Thor." They mentioned over the course of lunch and a few later conversations that they weren't Christians and hinted at mysterious lifestyle limitations imposed by their religion, such as a "paleolithic" diet and a prohibition on participating in social media sites like Facebook. They revealed that seven of them had traveled a long way up the East Coast to be here, led by a heavy-set red-faced Englishman in his forties who was sitting at one of the more expensive tables in the banquet room.
Other peculiar interactions caught my attention as well. For instance, the young men grew visibly uncomfortable when people asked where they were from and referred questioners to the Englishman. They talked about runes, and were offered a place to stay by a man they didn't seem to know. If you have a hammer, he said to them, you always have a place to stay.
My curiosity got the better of me, and after some coaxing and snooping (e.g., craning my neck to watch them writing down information on their group for another young attendee), I discovered to my surprise that they were part of something called the Asatrú Folk Assembly. AFA is "a neo-Pagan religion drawing on images of fiercely proud, boar-hunting Norsemen and their white-skinned Aryan womenfolk" that, according to SPLC, "is increasingly taking root among Skinheads, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists across the nation." SPLC elaborated on the religion's shared ties to the mythology/occult fetishes of Nazi Germany's Third Reich:
Odinism, which is closely related to Asatrú, was much favored in Nazi Germany. Its Nordic/Teutonic mythology was a bedrock belief for key Third Reich leaders, and it was an integral part of the initiation rites and cosmology of the elite Schutzstaffel (SS), which supervised Adolf Hitler's network of death camps. Decades later, Odinism also influenced George Lincoln Rockwell's American Nazi Party.
The Asatru/Odinist presence in the United States has had many different manifestations, but the movement has been haunted at nearly every step by neo-Nazi and criminal involvement. In 2006, Virginia executed the founder of a prison chapter of the faith after he ritually murdered a fellow inmate. The Associated Press reported at the time that Asatrú was increasing in prisons, "gaining popularity among inmates" because "its roots in Viking mythology attract prisoners seeking power, protection and unity."
The AFA website, Runestone.org, emphasizes racial exclusivity, but not hate:
"Asatru is not an excuse to look down on, much less to hate, members of any other race. On the contrary, we recognize the uniqueness and the value of all the different pieces that make up the human mosaic."
There were at least 7-10 AFA members at this event, maybe more, and with their jewelry displayed, they could not have been unnoticed by the conference organizers. What their presence portends for the future of the white nationalist movement remains to be seen.
Upon leaving the conference I hailed the closest taxi and as the driver carried me safely home, I reflected on what was a very long day.
What struck me the most about the day was the tone of the conference and the people there. I admit that my preconceived expectations were probably tethered to an imagination gone wild. It's not that I was expecting to see people burning crosses or singing Nazi anthems per se, but I anticipated a little more anger, a little more foaming-at-the-mouth hatred of non-whites.
Instead, the attendees were friendly, even a little shy. They seemed happy to be able to speak so freely on topics considered by most of society to be taboo and ideas so extreme they at times resembled science fiction. It felt a little like a failed comic book convention, sparsely populated by introverted patrons shuffling in quietly and clutching an obscure book they want autographed or hoping to see a celebrity known only within their narrow cultural circle.
So if I were forced to sum up the ambiance of the conference and their greater crusade in one word, it would be "impotent." Not because the conference attendance ledger was heavy on sleepy, aging men (there were quite a few) or because there was a near-complete absence of women, but because they managed to gather less than 100 people for a national conference in which their collective message was largely one of impending doom. Practical ideas were few and far between and there was no cohesive call to action. All in all, this isn't likely to be a successful recipe for mass populist motivation.