Richard B. Spencer
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Richard B. Spencer

Richard B. Spencer
A photograph of Robert Spencer holding a microphone and pointing
At the Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C., on November 19, 2016
Born
Richard Bertrand Spencer

NationalityAmerican
Education
OccupationAuthor, publisher
Known for
Home townPreston Hollow, Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Political partyIndependent
Movement
Nina Kouprianova
(m. 2010; div. 2018)

Richard Bertrand Spencer (born 1978)[1] is an American neo-Nazi and white supremacist.[2] He is president of the National Policy Institute (NPI), a white supremacist think tank, as well as Washington Summit Publishers. Spencer rejects the labels white supremacist and neo-Nazi, considers himself a white nationalist, a white identitarian, and the equivalent of a "Zionist" for white people.[3][4][5][6] Spencer created the term "alt-right", which he considers a movement based on "white identity".[7][8][9] Spencer advocates white-European unity, a "peaceful ethnic cleansing" of nonwhites from America, and the creation of a "white racial empire," which he believes would resemble the Roman Empire.[10][11][12]

Spencer has publicly engaged in Nazi rhetoric on many occasions, for which he has been criticized by the political mainstream, as well as by many fellow white nationalists, who believe that Spencer's flamboyant rhetoric and persona marginalize their movement.[13][14][15][16][17] In early 2016, Spencer was filmed giving the Nazi salute in a karaoke bar.[18] After Donald Trump was elected President, Spencer urged his supporters to "party like it's 1933," a reference to the year in which Hitler came to power in Germany.[19] In the weeks following the election, at a National Policy Institute conference, Spencer quoted Nazi propaganda and denounced Jews, and he also used the German term Lügenpresse ("lying press") to vilify journalists.[9] Later, in response to Spencer's cry "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!", a number of his supporters gave the Nazi salute and chanted in a similar fashion to the Sieg Heil chant used at the Nazis' Nuremberg rallies.[20][21] Spencer later called Trump's election "the victory of will", a phrase evoking the title of Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (1935), a Nazi-era propaganda film.[9] Spencer has expressed admiration for the tactics of American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell, who in Spencer's view used "shock [as] a positive means to an end".[22]

Under oath, Spencer has been accused of repeatedly beating, threatening, and verbally abusing his ex-wife Nina Kouprianova, who has provided hours of recordings and text messages to the press in order to substantiate her allegations.[23][24] According to media reports, the recordings and text messages show, for example, Spencer telling his wife that he will "fucking break [her] nose," encouraging her to commit suicide, and apologizing for previous incidents of physical abuse.[25] Spencer denies the allegations, and he also says that his statement that he will break his wife's nose and his other ostensible threats against her (as recorded on the tapes) were merely expressions of frustration with his wife that were not intended to be interpreted literally.[25]

Spencer's critics argue that his speech and conduct lead to violence, a charge which he rejects. Spencer was a featured speaker at the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which an alt-right supporter drove his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring at least 19 others.[26][27][28] Spencer denies any role or culpability in the attack, but has been sued for allegedly acting as a "gang boss" at Charlottesville and inciting the killing.[29][30] After three other supporters of Spencer were charged with attempted homicide following Spencer's October 2017 speech at the University of Florida,[31]Ohio State and several other universities cancelled Spencer's appearances, describing his presence as a menace to public safety.[32]

The majority of European nations, including the entire Schengen Area,[33] and nations with nationalist governments,[34] have banned Spencer and condemned his "racial European" message and his call for a "white racial empire".[35] While promoting his message in a controversial speaking tour in Hungary, Spencer was mocked by the Hungarian newspaper Népszabadság for his call for "a white Imperium" through a revival of the Roman Empire, and for his claim to be a "racial European", ideas that the newspaper called contrived and without any basis in European history.[36] In the aftermath of the controversy, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán pressed through legislative measures which banned his entry and condemned Spencer.[34] The government of Poland has also banned him from entering the country and condemned Spencer,[37] citing Spencer's Nazi rhetoric, the anti-Polish and anti-Slavic racism of the Nazis, and the Nazis' genocide of Slavic Untermenschen during World War II.[38] In July 2018, Spencer was detained at Keflavík Airport in Reykjavík, Iceland en route to Sweden and was ordered by Polish officials to return to the United States; the successful effort of the Poles to ban Spencer from other parts of Europe arises from the Schengen Agreement.[39]

Early life

Spencer was born in Boston, Massachusetts,[40] the son of ophthalmologist Rand Spencer and Sherry Spencer (née Dickenhorst),[41][42] whose family had cotton farms in Louisiana.[43] He grew up in Preston Hollow, Dallas, Texas.[44] In 1997, he graduated from St. Mark's School of Texas.[43] After graduation, Spencer attended one year of school at Colgate University before transferring to the University of Virginia.[43] In 2001, Spencer received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Music from the University of Virginia and, in 2003, a Master of Arts in the Humanities from the University of Chicago.[43] He spent the summer of 2005 and 2006 at the Vienna International Summer University.[45] From 2005 to 2007, he was a PhD student at Duke University studying modern European intellectual history, where he was a member of the Duke Conservative Union.[43][41] His website says he left Duke "to pursue a life of thought-crime".[46]

Activities

From March to December 2007, Spencer was assistant editor at The American Conservative magazine. According to founding editor Scott McConnell, Spencer was fired from The American Conservative because his views were considered too extreme.[41] From January 2008 to December 2009, he was executive editor of Taki's Magazine.[10]

In March 2010, Spencer founded AlternativeRight.com, a website he edited until 2012. He has stated that he created the term alt-right.[9]

In January 2011, Spencer became executive director of Washington Summit Publishers.[11] In 2012, Spencer founded Radix Journal as a biannual publication of Washington Summit Publishers.[10] Contributions have included articles by Kevin B. MacDonald, Alex Kurtagi?, and Samuel T. Francis.[47] He also hosts a weekly podcast, Vanguard Radio.

In January 2011, Spencer also became president and director of the National Policy Institute (NPI), a think tank previously based in Virginia and Montana.[48] George Hawley, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama, has described NPI as "rather obscure and marginalized" until Spencer became its president.[49]

In 2014, Spencer was deported from Budapest, Hungary, (and, because of the Schengen Agreement, banned from 26 countries in Europe for three years) after trying to organize the National Policy Institute Conference, a conference for white nationalists.[50][51]

On January 15, 2017, Spencer launched AltRight.com, another commentary website for alt-right members.[52] According to Spencer, the site is a populist and big tent site for members of the alt-right.[53] Swedish publisher Daniel Friberg of Arktos Media is co-founder and European editor of the site.[54] The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the common thread among contributors as anti-Semitism, rather than white nationalism or white supremacism in general.[55][56]  Notable contributors on AltRight.com include Henrik Palmgren and Jared Taylor.[57][58]

White nationalist protesters clash with police during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia

On February 23, 2017, Spencer was removed from the Conservative Political Action Conference where he was giving statements to the press. A CPAC spokesman said he was removed from the event because other members found him "repugnant".[59]

On May 13, 2017, Spencer led a torch-lit protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, against the vote of the city council to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War.[60] Spencer led the crowd in chants of "You will not replace us" and "Blood and soil".[61][62]Michael Signer, the mayor of Charlottesville, called the protest "horrific", and stated that it was either "profoundly ignorant" or intended to instill fear among minorities "in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK".[61][60][63]

In August 2017, Spencer was listed on posters promoting the Charlottesville, Virginia, Unite the Right rally, which devolved into a notorious and violent confrontation.[64]

In November 2017, Twitter removed from Spencer's account the blue check mark that, reported The Washington Post, "the company gives to prominent accounts to help readers ensure they are authentic". Spencer told The Post he was worried this would lead to Twitter banning people like him.[65] He later joined the social network Gab.[66]

Public speaking

Spencer was invited to speak at Vanderbilt University in 2010 and Providence College in 2011 by Youth for Western Civilization.[67][68]

Short clip of Spencer speaking in November 2016

During a speech which Spencer gave in mid-November 2016 at an alt-right conference that was attended by approximately 200 people in Washington, D.C., Spencer quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German and denounced Jews.[9] Audience members cheered and gave the Nazi salute when he said, "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!"[9][69] and extended his right arm with a glass to toast that victory.[70] Spencer later defended their conduct, stating that the Nazi salute was given in a spirit of "irony and exuberance".[71] It was later revealed that Spencer had given the Nazi salute at a karaoke bar in April 2016.[18]

Groups and events which Spencer has spoken to include the Property and Freedom Society,[72] the American Renaissance conference,[73] and the HL Mencken Club.[74] In November 2016, an online petition to prevent Spencer from speaking at Texas A&M University on December 6, 2016, was signed by thousands of students, employees, and alumni.[75] A protest and a university-organized counter-event were held to coincide with Spencer's event.[76]

On January 20, 2017, Spencer attended the inauguration of Donald Trump. As he was giving an impromptu interview on a nearby street afterwards, a masked man punched Spencer in the face, then fled.[77][78] A video of the incident was posted online, leading to divergent views on whether the attack was appropriate.[79]

Shortly after the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, the University of Florida denied Spencer's request for a September 2017 speaking opportunity, citing public safety grounds after opposition from students and locals of Gainesville, Florida.[80] Due to safety reasons, he was also denied speaking requests at Louisiana State University and Michigan State University in August 2017.[81][82] In September 2017, Cameron Padgett, who tried to book Spencer, sued MSU; he was represented by Kyle Bristow, an MSU alumnus.[83][84]

On August 16, during a television interview with Israeli Channel 2 anchor Danny Kushmaro, Spencer claimed that "Jews are vastly over-represented in... 'the establishment', that is, Ivy League educated people who really determine policy".[3] Inspired by Israel's example as an exclusionary ethnic state,[85] he described his political position as "a white Zionist", as he wants white people "to have a secure homeland for us and ourselves".[3]

Speech at University of Florida

After the University of Florida's August 2017 denial of Spencer's request to speak the following month, Floridian lawyer Gary Edinger threatened to sue the university for violating the First Amendment by prohibiting Spencer from speaking despite being a publicly funded institution. The university subsequently reached an agreement with Edinger allowing Spencer to speak on October 19, 2017.[86] Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Alachua County on October 16, saying: "I find that the threat of a potential emergency is imminent" as a result of Spencer's appearance.[66][87]

On October 19, 2017, Spencer spoke at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on university grounds. In addition to Spencer, the speakers included Eli Mosley of Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group from California, and Mike Enoch, a white nationalist blogger.[88][89] The event's security costs reportedly amounted to an estimated $600,000.[90] It drew about 2,500 protestors, vastly outnumbering Spencer's supporters.[91][92]

The speech, which was Spencer's first public appearance after the Charlottesville rally, was disrupted by loud protests.[93][94][95] When drowned out by chants from the audience, he grew visibly frustrated, stating that the protestors were interfering with his freedom of speech. He added: "You are all engaged in what's known as the heckler's veto." According to Clay Calvert, director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, non-violent protesting, booing and suggesting that the speaker leave was not a heckler's veto in law. The speech and the concurrent protests were largely peaceful.[92][96]

Later that day, three of Spencer's supporters were arrested on felony charges following an alleged discharge of a firearm, directed at protestors leaving the event. The three suspects were residents of Texas who had travelled to Florida to hear Spencer speak. According to the Gainesville Police Department, they had shouted "Hail Hitler" and gave Nazi salutes immediately before the alleged attack. Authorities said that two of the suspects had known links to extremist groups.[97] The men had participated in the August 2017 Unite the Right rally, where Spencer had been scheduled to speak.[98][99] All three were charged with attempted homicide.[100]

In the aftermath of the October 19 events, Ohio State University declined Spencer's request to allow him to speak on campus, citing "substantial risk to public safety". In response, a lawyer representing Spencer's associate and organizer of his speaking tour filed a lawsuit against the university.[32]

Montana

In 2013, a dispute with neoconservative lobbyist Randy Scheunemann at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana drew public attention to Spencer and his political views.[101]

The National Policy Institute think tank, AlternativeRight.com, and Radix Journal all use the same mailing address in Whitefish, Montana.[102]

In 2014, a pro-tolerance group affiliated with the Montana Human Rights Network rallied against Spencer's residency in Whitefish. In response, the city council approved a non-discrimination resolution.[103]

In December 2016, Republican Representative Ryan Zinke, Republican Senator Steve Daines, Democratic Senator Jon Tester, Democratic Governor Steve Bullock and Republican Attorney General Tim Fox condemned a neo-Nazi march that had been planned for January 2017.[104] The community of Whitefish organized in opposition to the event, and the march never occurred.[105]

Also in December 2016, Spencer announced he was considering an independent run for Montana's at-large congressional district in the 2017 special election, although he ultimately did not enter the race.[106][107][108]

Views

White identity

Spencer believes in white pride and the unification of a pan-European "white race" in a "potential racial empire" resembling the Roman Empire.[109][110][111] In an interview with CNN, he was criticized for an apparent inconsistency or lack of clarity in his definition of white, with his interviewer noting that Spencer defined Syrians as white in the context of Steve Jobs's role in developing the iPhone, but described them as a non-white presence in Europe in the context of the Syrian refugee crisis.[112]

In 2013, the Anti-Defamation League called Spencer a "leader" in white supremacist circles, and said that after leaving The American Conservative, he rejected conservatism, because he believed its adherents "can't or won't represent explicitly white interests".[113]

In one interview in which he was asked if he would condemn the Ku Klux Klan and Adolf Hitler, he refused by saying: "I'm not going to play this game", while stating that Hitler had "done things that I think are despicable", without elaborating on which things he was referring to.[114] Spencer also admires George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party, for using "shock [as] a positive means to an end".[115]

In a 2016 interview for Time magazine, Spencer said he rejected white supremacy and the slavery of nonwhites, preferring to establish America as a white ethnostate.[116] He also advocates the creation of a white ethnostate in Europe that would be open to all "racial Europeans".[117][118][109][110][111] Some commentators see Spencer and other white nationalists as appropriating some elements of socialist rhetoric to critique a "notion of capitalism centred on stereotypes of Jews" [119]

Criticism of ethno-nationalism, support for white racial empire

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Spencer has advocated for a white homeland for a "dispossessed white race", and called for "peaceful ethnic cleansing" to halt the "deconstruction" of what he describes as "white culture".[10][11][12] To this end he has supported what he has called "the creation of a White Ethno-State on the North American continent", an "ideal" that he has regarded as a "reconstitution of the Roman Empire".[117][118] Prior to the UK vote to leave the EU, Spencer expressed support for the multi-national bloc "as a potential racial empire" and an alternative to "American hegemony", stating that he has "always been highly skeptical of so-called 'Euro-Skeptics'".[120]

Donald Trump

Spencer supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election and called Trump's election "the victory of will", a phrase evoking the title of Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will (1935), a Nazi-era propaganda film.[9] Upon Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist and senior counselor, Spencer said Bannon would be in "the best possible position" to influence policy.[121] In November 2018, however, Spencer told his followers "The Trump moment is over, and it's time for us to move on." The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that, around the same time, the white nationalist movement as a whole was dissatisfied with Trump's presidency.[122]

Women

During the 2016 United States presidential election, Spencer tweeted that women should not be allowed to make foreign policy.[123][124] He also stated in an interview with The Washington Post that his vision of America as a white ethnostate included women returning to traditional roles as childbearers and homemakers.[125][126] In October 2017, when asked his opinion on American women having the right to vote, he said: "I don't necessarily think that that's a great thing" after stating that he was "not terribly excited" about voting in general.[124]

Homosexuality

Spencer opposes same-sex marriage,[127] which he has described as "unnatural" and a "non-issue", commenting that "very few gay men will find the idea of monogamy to their liking".[128] Despite his opposition to same-sex marriage, Spencer barred people with anti-gay views from the National Policy Institute's annual conference in 2015.[129]

Health care

Spencer supports legal access to abortion, in part because he believes it would reduce the number of black and Hispanic people, which he says would be a "great boon" to white people.[43] Spencer supports a national single-payer health care system because he believes it would benefit white people.[130][131]

Christianity

Spencer is an atheist,[132] but believes the Christian church previously held some pragmatic value, as Spencer believes it helped unify the white population of Europe. He opposes traditional Christian values as a moral code, due to Christianity being a universalizing religion, rather than an ethnic religion. Spencer references his views on Christianity as being influenced by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.[133][134][43] Citing Nietzsche's criticism of anti-Semitism and nationalism, Scott Galupo writing for The Week, Sean Illing for Vox, and Jordan Harris for The Courier-Journal have described Spencer's interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy as incorrect.[135][136][133] Spencer's Radix Journal has promoted paganism, running titles such as "Why I am a pagan".[137] Spencer has also described himself as a "cultural Christian".[138]

Iraq war

Spencer states he voted for Democrat John Kerry over incumbent Republican George W. Bush during the 2004 United States presidential election, because Bush stood for "the war".[139]

Fourteen Words

Spencer is an advocate of the Fourteen Words, a white supremacist slogan, and has promoted it.[140] Despite his support, he has clarified that he'd prefer to merge the alt-right and alt-lite into one political force, claiming that "If I wanted to create a movement that was 1488 white nationalist, I would have done that".[141]

Views on Russia and NATO

Spencer has advocated for the US pulling out of NATO, and called Russia the "sole white power in the world". His partner then Kouprianova, under her pen name Nina Byzantina referred to herself as a "Kremlin troll leader" and regularly aligned to Kremlin talking points, with ties to Alexander Dugin, a far-right ultranationalist Russian intellectual leader in the Eurasianism movement and writer of Foundations of Geopolitics. The webzine founded by Spencer in 2010, called Alternative Right, accepted direct contributor pieces from Dugin.[142]

Libertarianism

In the late 2000s, Spencer was involved in the libertarian movement, supporting libertarian Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul[143] and hosting him at his discussion club, the Robert Taft Club.[43] Spencer later disavowed libertarianism as incompatible with white nationalism, and in 2017 he came into conflict with libertarians after reportedly attempting to "crash" an International Students for Liberty conference.[144]

Personal life

In 2010, Spencer moved to Whitefish, Montana. He says he splits his time between Whitefish and Arlington, Virginia,[117][145] although he has said he has lived in Whitefish for over 10 years and considers it home.[146] As of 2017 Spencer was renting an apartment in Alexandria, Virginia[147] but moved out in August 2018.[148]

Spencer married Nina Kouprianova in 2010, with whom he has two children.[149] Prior to this, Spencer's dating history included Asian women, which he has said predates his white nationalism, though this evaluation is disputed.[150]

He was separated from Kouprianova, who is Russian-Canadian,[151] in October 2016;[41] in April 2017, Spencer said he and his wife were not separated and were still together.[152] Kouprianova has translated several books written by Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian political analyst known for his fascist views.[153][154][155] The books were later published by Spencer's publishing house, Washington Summit Publishers.[156]

In June 2018, Spencer published the results of a DNA test by 23andMe, which showed him to have 99.5% European ancestry and 0.5% non-European ancestry.[157]

In October 2018, Nina Kouprianova, Spencer's wife, accused him in divorce documents of various forms of abuse.[158] Court documents detailed emotional abuse, financial abuse, and violent physical abuse, including when Kouprianova was 9 months pregnant, and frequently in front of their children.[159] A caregiver to the children testified in court about Spencer's abuses towards both her and Kouprianova.[160]

References

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  2. ^
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