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It might sound like an impossible goal given all the gratuitously toxic rhetoric. But, like his hero Nietzsche, Spencer has many masks. He and his fellow activists seek not only to shock and to radicalise, but to seduce, ordinary white Americans. They dress like mascots for respectable Americana — white polo shirts and beige chinos — and profess to disavow violence in favour of “peaceful assembly”. They resist the term “white nationalist”, preferring the more ambiguous, softer-sounding term “identitarian”. And they’re targeting white college students and professionals weary of globalism, multiculturalism, and the drabness of modern liberal capitalism. White nationalism is rebranding. It’s becoming “sophisticated”.

This rebranding is about much more than just style. After years in the proverbial wilderness, the white nationalists have developed arguments designed to appeal to, or exploit, the average American’s sense of “reasonableness” and “fairness”. These arguments purport to reject white supremacism and decry the idea of whites “ruling over” other races. They selectively adopt the language of equality, arguing that white identity is legitimate and valid in the way that black identity or Jewish identity are. They claim that white history is unfairly demonised — that the historic accomplishments of white people are ignored, or at least de-racialised, while white crimes are enthusiastically racialised throughout universities, popular culture and politics. And they claim that concepts such as “white privilege” are inventions of a deluded intelligentsia, at odds with social reality and the lived experience of most white Americans. It’s a sophisticated strategy that, as well as appealing to the idea of fairness, seeks to exploit the growing space — carved out largely by America’s liberal Left — for “identity politics”.

While Spencer himself tends towards a more inflammatory approach, many of his fellow activists, like his mentor Jared Taylor, are using these subtler arguments to advance their cause. Taylor is every bit the white nationalist intellectual. He has written six books, speaks several languages, and has degrees from Yale and the Paris Institute of Political Studies. He conscientiously avoids the rhetorical excesses of Spencer et al, adopting a softer, more reasonable-sounding tone that is clearly intended to sound rational and objective compared to the hysterics of his opponents.

These more moderate-sounding arguments — at least when presented by people like Spencer and Taylor — are far more dangerous than they sound. They’re calculated to soften the ground for white nationalism’s more radical, core ideas — the notion that white people are actually better than other races, and the idea that America should become a racially delimited “homeland for white Europeans”. These latter ideas may well be clownishly extreme, but it is a serious mistake to ignore the more artful, milder-sounding claims of white nationalism, or to assume that thoughtful counter-arguments to these claims are straightforward or unnecessary.

A few days after the disorder in Charlottesville in August, the Huffington Post commissioned a poll in which 21 per cent of respondents said that the white nationalists who marched in protest at the removal of the statue of General Robert E. Lee “went too far, but . . .[had] a point”, while 4 per cent believed the marchers were mostly right in their positions. A staggering 40 per cent of those surveyed said that white people face a lot of discrimination in the US today. These sentiments may not amount to a belief in white racial supremacy or demands for a “white ethno-state”, but they are an indication that some of white nationalism’s milder-sounding arguments have a resonance well beyond the small army of activists who self-identify as “alt-Right”, “identitarian”, or whatever alternative label for white nationalism may happen to be in vogue.

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LauraM
October 14th, 2017
2:10 PM
Please tell us how to celebrate Western Civ, which was developed by white people, without celebrating white people. How do we square that circle?? In fact, celebrating Western Civ is routinely tarnished as "racism" and "white supremacy" in respectable media and intellectual circles -- and that's the problem in a nutshell.

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