Richard Spencer: A Nazi Doing Nazi Things

Why Richard Spencer's anti-Semitic rhetoric should surprise absolutely no one.

If mainstream media’s coverage of Richard Spencer were to be believed, you’d think he’s the most TV show-like white supremacist of all-time–clear-cut, well-dressed, and dons of the ideology its most-superficial iconography. A newly-leaked recording of Spencer dating back to the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ rally reveals what’s of little surprise to anyone who’s even remotely familiar with white supremacist tactics–the facade that Spencer dons for the public is nothing like his private self, and that latter is just a simmering pot of explosive angry just waiting to be unleashed at whomever pokes it the right way. Richard Spencer — hot-tempered and discontent with the public reception of the rally — used anti-Semitic language that’s clear as day, and it puts back into clear focus criticisms activists have always made about mainstream media’s eagerness to platform problematic voices under the guise of false impartiality, only to get ignored for being intolerant towards “opinions they disagree with”.

Spencer occupies this really weird space in media where he’s simultaneously the face of American white nationalism in mainstream media and gets to enjoy ample uncritical coverage of his bigoted views, all-the-while the alternative influence network on platforms like YouTube sanitize his image by painting him as but a mere counterweight to anti-fascists. The problem with that perception is that Antifa exists as a reaction to fascists and not the other way around, and so when Spencer’s views are made benign by contrasting his public-facing composure with Antifa’s often-disruptive behavior, Spencer gets to enjoy the praise of being “well-behaved” while his critics look the part of angry mobsters.

If it were up to the sanest people in the room, Spencer wouldn’t have lasted much longer than he already did. Shortly after Trump won the 2016 presidential elections, leaked footage of Spencer at an alt-right conference in Washington D.C. surfaced where he showed little resistance to attendees performing the Nazi salute to Trump’s victory. Karma didn’t take long to catch up with Spencer as he got punched in the face mid-interview mere months later–the response to his rhetoric, as visceral as it was, didn’t seem to dissuade him from playing a pivotal role in the much-loathsome ‘Unite the Right’ rally at Charlottesville back in August of 2017.

Two months later, Spencer’s first public appearance was at the University of Florida to give a speech, where then-Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Alachua County just to ensure police agencies get to better coordinate on Spencer’s safety as the local Antifa chapter made his presence clearly undesirable. As expected, Spencer did not get a warm welcome, and at the time, the alt-right was eager to make the argument that he should’ve been heard, even with some having been privy to his newly-leaked disturbing comments in the past. In that same time-frame, Spencer was spotted performing the Nazi salute himself — as few doubt he couldn’t — in a karaoke bar while Milo Yiannopoulos sung ‘America the Beautiful’ to the disgust of seemingly none.

This set to tone for what to expect from Spencer next. In October of 2018, Spencer’s wife filed for divorce, citing multiple counts of domestic abuse bordering the line of psychopathy, as the white nationalist attempted to keep them away from public view. To see that Spencer’s behavior inspires violence just as much as it is the direct consequence of it is honestly not-all-that shocking in retrospect.

Unfortunately, and despite all the glaring evidence that Spencer is no regular other-opinion-haver, mainstream media kept giving him precious airtime to make the case for his troubling ideas, even as the current context calls for much-greater caution in light of a sharp spike in far-right violence in recent years. Just back in June, Spencer got to enjoy an appearance on national cable news, when he was invited to be on Jake Tapper’s The Lead to discuss Trump’s remarks towards ‘the Squad’ in an instance of almost-gratuitous amplification of bigotry. Twitter also contributed their own by reversing a ban on Spencer back in 2016 due to there being insufficient evidence of him self-identifying as part of a hate group, the company alleges–recent reports however suggest it was Jack Dorsey who made that decision, and now calls are being reissued to get Spencer off the platform as plausible cause for a permanent ban now exists and is impossible to avoid.

That Richard Spencer got to take the national stage wasn’t an organic process–the white nationalist’s fringe political stances pulled closer to the center as the Overton window widened, and now, everyone of his caliber gets to self-assert their right to free speech whenever they get censored. In a society that values civic order above all, some measure of speech-repression is always required, and it is a grave mistake to enforce a harsher form of it on those demanding the rights of the downtrodden be upheld, than those who threaten its upheave.

Alt-right grifters like Dave Rubin overlook the problematic dimensions of allowing Richard Spencer’s rhetoric to run rampant, uncriticized and unchallenged. For someone who advocated for the mass-displacement of minorities away from already-stolen land speaks to the great irony that the American political system is living through right now. Truth and falsehood have become so poorly distinguished, that calls to uphold them all-the-same are the gospel that champions of free speech get to preach at convenience, but never adhere to when the situation truly calls for it.

Richard Spencer was long seen as this figure who’s just poorly-understood, holding of a dormant sense of identity loss that white people in America have been going through ever since they’ve been made to feel owed the spoils of all that the nation makes. That reading however, is ahistorical and flat-out wrong–America is a nation of immigrants, where all — even those unconsenting — got to distribute their fair share of effort to make this a place to thrive upon which foundationally birthed it. You can’t claim rightful ownership to a land that never belonged to you in the first place, and just as Richard Spencer should lose that battle in ideological grounds, his faux-knack for civility should be reclaimed by the sensible minds in media who’ve long allowed Spencer to exist, but never truly challenged his claims.