Safety Pins and Swastikas

Shuja Haider in Jacobin:

9881790305_a3f7285bae_cIf you had read in early 2016 about a National Policy Institute conference on the theme of “Identity Politics,” you might have assumed it was an innocent gathering of progressives. If you had attended, you would have been in for an unpleasant surprise. The National Policy Institute is an organization of white nationalists, overseen by neo-Nazi media darling Richard Spencer.

Spencer, who popularized the now common euphemism “alt-right,” is fond of describing his platform as “identity politics for white people.” He takes pains to correct those who refer to him as a white supremacist, insisting that he is merely a “nationalist,” or a “traditionalist,” or, better yet, an “identitarian.” He wants to bring about what he calls a “white ethno-state,” a place where the population is determined by heritability. In a knowing inversion of social justice vocabulary, he describes it as “a safe space for Europeans.”

Spencer has an advanced degree in humanities, spent time in the famously left-wing graduate program at Duke University, and wrote an antisemitic interpretation of Theodor Adorno’s music criticism for his master’s thesis. His political mentor, Paul Gottfried, was a student of Herbert Marcuse. Spencer is clearly intimately acquainted with both academic left philosophy and campus social justice activism.

It was only a matter of time before the right identified liberal and leftist strategies that they themselves could adopt, as a conservative Christian Duke freshman portended in 2015. Amid widespread debate over trigger warnings, he refused to read Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home, a memoir that included depictions of lesbian sex.

More here.