Richard Spencer, according to a profile running today in the Lee Newspapers, is really blowing up, because his ideology was mocked on Saturday Night Live. He’s got a “magnetic field attracting and repelling those around him,” and people like to take selfies with him. Those were the dominant takeaways in a piece that seemed primarily about fueling Spencer’s assertion that he is an increasingly significant player in national politics.
Here are just a few of the glaring absences from the Lee piece:
- There is no quote from any of the people in Love Lives Here who are actively working to counter Spencer’s hate in Whitefish.
- There’s no quote from the Montana Human Rights Network, which has been monitoring and reporting on his work.
- The piece neglects to mention that Spencer thinks that Hispanics and African-Americans have lower IQs and are predisposed to commit crime.
- There’s no reference to the fact that Spencer called for “ethnic cleansing” as a means of restoring a white America in 2013.
- The piece leaves out that Spencer used July 4, 2015 to approvingly reference Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens’s “greatest speech,” the Cornerstone Address, in which Stephens said “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”
- There’s no reference to the fact that Spencer, who claims in the he’s not a white supremacist now opposes interracial relationships, shamefully told Mother Jones that he had dated Asian women before because “There is something about the Asian girls.”
- There’s no mention of the fact that he was fired from his one real job before heading the National Policy Institute because a conservative magazine found his views too radical.
- Left out is that Spencer’s views are so reactionary and racist that he’s effectively been banned from visiting Europe.
- There’s no mention that Spencer, like President Trump, seems to idealize Russian authoritarianism, calling Russia “the most powerful white power in the world.”
And it’s not just the glaring absences in the piece. It’s the refusal to ask for substantiation. Spencer is clearly obsessed with the idea that he is incredibly important, noting the exposure he’s gotten in the past year and claiming that his organization has raised ten times as much money as it did just four years ago:
But the presidential race bolstered the cause, which Spencer said is an international one much larger than himself and his institute. He estimates donations to the organization are up by a factor of 10, and his exposure has shot up by a factor of 500.
That would easy to prove. Spencer, as the sole employee of his organization, surely could have provided information about donations. In fact, the National Policy Institute doesn’t even have their IRS information updated since 2013, the last report cited in the piece. Instead of taking a self-promoting racist at his word, perhaps the reporter should have asked for documentation that Spencer pulled in over a million dollars in donations last year instead of uncritically reporting that it’s the case.
Instead, readers were treated to a largely unquestioned series of faux sociological, racist observations by Mr. Spencer, including his assertions that he’s got the support of many mainstream conservatives, that African-Americans can’t really be patriotic, and that those of European descent have “more of a stake” in the United States because “our bones are in the ground.”
Strangely missing in that section was a quote substantiating Spencer’s claim about his importance to mainstream conservatives, a response from an African-American, or American Indian. Perhaps the reporter could have at least mentioned the incredible role played by American Indians in serving our military, but that might have taken time away from Spencer explaining university life or hip hop culture.
Even when the story did stray into the critical, it didn’t tell the whole truth. Referencing the infamous moment when Spencer and his brown shirts yelled “Hail Trump” at a D.C. conference, the story makes it a fun little joke:
After the election, a video of Spencer at a National Policy Institute conference in Washington, D.C., highlighted the leader. At the lectern, Spencer said “Hail, Trump,” raising a glass in a victory toast, and some participants responded with Nazi salutes; Spencer said the audience members were being cheeky.
According to the New York Times, Spencer preceded that cheeky moment by quoting Nazi propaganda in German:
But now his tone changed as he began to tell the audience of more than 200 people, mostly young men, what they had been waiting to hear. He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the “children of the sun,” a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized but now, in the era of President-elect Donald J. Trump, were “awakening to their own identity.”
And don’t even get me started on how badly out of context the quote from UM professor Tobin Shearer about political parties likely was. I’ve e-mailed for comment and will update either way.
I’m sure someone thought it was an excellent idea to sit down with Spencer, who thrives on attention and notice, and it may have been a good idea. Writing a critical profile, though, means more than quoting the subject at length and then doing a Google search for what the SPLC thinks about him. Spencer, as he so often does, used the piece to soften the virulent racism that is at the heart of his message. Spencer doesn’t believe, as the story asserts, “that race is a fundamental element of human existence;” he believes that African-Americans and Latinos are inherently inferior, genetically less intelligent and more likely to commit crime. He believes that we should impose “peaceful” ethnic cleansing to make this country “white” again. A piece that talks about his Google traffic and lets him soften those views is exactly the kind of normalization the press must avoid, but can’t seem to help themselves from writing.