Arthur Goldwag: A Bad Day for Jason Richwine Is a Good Day for His White Nationalist Editor

(Last week, Jason Richwine resigned from the Heritage Foundation after, among other things, it was revealed he wrote for a white supremacy publication called AlternativeRight, edited by Richard Spencer, above. Arthur Goldwag reported from a 2011 conference in which Spencer’s National Policies Institute released a report entitled “The Majority Strategy: Why the GOP Must Win White America.” The group prefers to call itself a white nationalist organization.)

Even if Jason Richwine hadn’t written for AlternativeRight, dedicated his doctoral thesis to IQ and immigration policy (a topic that can’t but revive memories of the so-called scientific racism that informed the Immigration Act of 1924), or argued in a public forum that “races differ in all sorts of ways and probably the most important is IQ,” the Heritage Foundation study that he co-authored did not, as they say in Hollywood, open well.

The extreme right is infiltrating mainstream political discourse.

Never mind the political left. The chorus of criticism from “a reckless and cowardly pileup of knee-jerk dilettantes on the right,” as Michelle Malkin dolorously put it, was well-nigh deafening. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin wondered if Heritage was “hiring fringe characters” to author its “partisan studies of questionable scholarship”; Grover Norquist declared that it “inaccurately reflects only one side of the ledger.” Last Friday, the 31-year-old Senior Policy Analyst in Empirical Studies joined the ranks of the unemployed.

A shellshocked Richwine emerged over the weekend to share his thoughts with Byron York. “The accusation of racism is one of the worst things that anyone can call you in public life. Once that word is out there, it’s very difficult to recover from it, even when it is completely untrue.”

Richwine explained that he wrote for AlternativeRight after meeting its founder Richard Spencer at an American Enterprise Institute event. “I thought [AlternativeRight] would be like a paleo-conservative website,” he said. “I had seen that [former National Review writer] John Derbyshire had also published something there … Later on, it took on a more extreme version.”

Let’s unpack that, shall we?

Though the National Review didn’t fire him until last year, Derbyshire’s views on race were not exactly a secret to anyone who had read him. “I am a homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one, and a racist, though an even more mild and tolerant one, and those things are going to be illegal pretty soon, the way we are going,” he told Kevin Holtsberry all the way back in 2003.

As for paleoconservatives, their “no enemies to the right instinct that tolerates race-baiters and ‘moderate’ white nationalists, among other unfortunate characters,” as The New York Times’ Ross Douthat put it back in 2010, had been widely acknowledged for a long time.

As disastrous as last week was for Jason Richwine and the Heritage Foundation, it was a pretty good one for Richard Spencer.

AlternativeRight was hailed in the racialist Occidental Quarterly upon its launch as the go-to place for conservatives who are drawn to “race realism, White Nationalism, the European New Right, the Conservative Revolution, Traditionalism, neo-paganism, agrarianism, Third Positionism, anti-feminism, and right-wing anti-capitalists.”

And though Richard Spencer comes across as boyishly charming and professorial, he has never been diffident when it comes to race. “We’ve all experienced it—those admonishing, bewildered stares you get when you dare to broach the topic of, say, racial differences,” he shared in a 2011 interview. “You just don’t say that!”

Rachel Maddow’s segment about Richwine’s connection to AlternativeRight and Spencer included some images from a fall 2011 event at the National Press Club that I attended (I also sat through the all-day forum over which Spencer presided the next day; I blogged about both here and here). The occasion was the release of a National Policy Institute report entitled “The Majority Strategy: Why the GOP Must Win White America.”

My post on the forum attracted commentary from some of its participants, including Richard Spencer himself, who gave a gracious nod to my fair-mindedness (“Goldwag … clearly doesn’t like us much, but his depiction of what was said at our event is, more or less, accurate”) and acknowledged that his movement is “avant-garde and out of step with the professed ideology of our political class and mass media.” He continued:

But surely, Mr. Goldwag, even you don’t believe that our message is “profoundly foreign to most Americans.” If this were so—and we are the equivalent of experts in basket-weaving or peddlers of alien conspiracy theories—you wouldn’t waste your time reporting on us. The threat that many, many Tea Partiers might start agreeing with us seems to be the raison d’être of the SPLC as well as your entire writing career.

Of course, he was right.

Perhaps the theme I have written about most is how the extreme right is infiltrating mainstream political discourse. As disastrous as last week was for Jason Richwine and the Heritage Foundation, it was a pretty good one for Richard Spencer.

“There’s an old adage about there being ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ … and it holds a kernel of truth,” he wrote at AlternativeRight. “I stand behind everything said in NPI’s introductory video, and I am thus delighted that it was screened on national television. I also believe that Maddow’s hit piece will bring new attention to NPI and our mission.”

 

 

Arthur Goldwag is the author of Isms & Ologies; Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies, and most recently The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children. Follow him at @ArthurGoldwag.