Interview: Richard and Nina Spencer about threats and media campaigns
In this interview with German journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter, Richard and Nina Spencer speak freely about the recent death threats and smears directed against them. Richard is credited with coining the term 'alt-right'.
Published: December 23, 2016, 12:00 am
Mrs. and Mr. Spencer, the last few weeks were quite rough for both of you: a targeted campaign in traditional and social media is being directed against your family, addresses thought to belong to you were published on the Internet, and you face harassments and threats of physical violence. The apparent reason for this campaign was the fact that Richard Spencer became well known as one of the leaders of the so-called “alt-right” within the last number of months during the US election campaign because of some provocative and controversial public events. Can you comment on this?
Richard Spencer: I have been a political commentator in various capacities for over a decade. Currently, I am often described as one of the leaders of the alt-right: an umbrella kind of movement in the U.S., which unites a number of anti-establishment currents and which is seeking the way out of the profound cultural, political, and even philosophical crisis in the West. My focus is challenging soulless, consumerist globalization: forging a positive identity for various peoples of European descent by reasserting their cultural and historic roots domestically and opposing interventionist wars abroad. This recent and unprecedented spike in media attention is, in part, the result of Hillary Clinton’s August campaign speech, in which she attempted to link Donald Trump to the alt-right movement by explicitly naming it in order to undermine her opponent. Whereas Trump’s election was a formidable slap in the face of the globally-oriented establishment, Trump is not alt-right. In a way, he represents an older America-first vision, which, while positive, does not question the foundations of the aforementioned crisis in the U.S., Europe, and beyond. Nonetheless, establishment media have been adamant to undermine Trump even after his victory by focusing on our movement to the point of deliberate misrepresentation by using all the usual descriptive keywords that such character assassination typically employs. This occurred despite the fact that I have always emphasized the necessity to discard the ideologies of the 20th century. The media campaign led to an ongoing mob-like attack that goes far beyond me as a political activist and commentator.
What do threats and harassment entail?
Richard Spencer: The last few weeks have involved a full spectrum of threats and harassment: text and social-media messages advocating physical harm, publication of several addresses thought to belong to the Spencer family in different U.S. states (I can only guess how many innocent people may be affected by this illegal act), invasion of privacy of various family members and friends of the extended family, and even quantifiable harm to the businesses and livelihood of those, who are removed by 2–3 degrees of separation from me, do not share my politics and have never even met me! A few centuries ago, these spiritual descendants of the Puritans would have been running around with pitch forks and torches looking for witches. Some threats even made it into the national media: prominent journalist Michael Hirsh was asked to resign from a major U.S. publication Politico for publishing—on social media—two addresses thought to belong to me and inviting people with baseball bats to pay me a visit.
Nina Spencer is currently under attack by some media sources but also by well-known as well as anonymous internet activists. Almost all the attacks are defamatory in content, concerning your Russian family background. Do you find it strange that self-declared “anti-racism fighters,” “social justice warriors,” and “human-rights activists” are conducting these campaigns?
Nina Spencer: This is one of the most noteworthy and ironic aspects of the current witch hunt. In fact, a business associate of one extended Spencer family member—who has never even met Richard and does not share his views—is having his/her business threatened. This associate is openly gay, and is being harassed by a so-called “human rights” organization that claims to support LGBT causes as one of their key focal points. As for Russophobia, this is one accepted form of discrimination in the Western establishment. Do a mental exercise, in which you replace headlines about Russians with another ethnic, religious, and other group, and you would likely blush. In terms of harassing me, specifically, “anti-racist” keyboard warriors employ all the usual negative stereotypes, starting from the one about mail-order brides from Eastern Europe. My ethnic background—the fact that I am 1/4 Southern European (Georgian) is also questioned, not to mention mocking my appearance. If I didn’t see that these comments were coming from “human rights” activists, I just might have to take them for the strongest proponents of the ideology they claim to oppose.
Some of the media coverage and social-networking activity imply the existence of links between Nina, Putin, and Trump.
Nina Spencer: You are likely aware of the two mutually exclusive trends in the establishment media’s Russia coverage: on the one hand, Russia, a dying nation full of barbaric drunks, is about to collapse. On the other, it is about to take over the world with its sophisticated network of Kremlin-controlled hackers influencing elections across Europe and even in the U.S. Comments about me follow a similar pattern: on the one hand, I am disparagingly referred to as a fringe “scholar” (sic—quotation marks) disseminating crude Russian propaganda, and on the other—I am described as a sophisticated plant by the Russian secret service, the FSB, with ties to the highest levels of government, influencing American politics. The media and certain commentators have implied that I am linked to several figures, including Putin, Trump, Gen. Flynn, and Steve Bannon. Paranoid theories that someone like me, who is quite open about my Russian place of birth and patriotism, is a secret agent are indeed amusing. But they also point to serious matters. We were naive to think that the unprecedented degree of anti-Russian propaganda employed by the Hillary Clinton campaign in the 2016 election, and thoroughly fueled by the media, would decrease after the election was over. The fact that the opposite has been the case demonstrates that Trump, despite being elected, is not the establishment and signals dangers of factional pressures, both from the neoconservative and liberal-interventionist camps. Using conspiracy theories about secret Kremlin agents is one way to undermine Trump’s pragmatic foreign policy toward Russia and beyond.
How does Nina’s work as an English-Russian translator play into this hysteria?
Nina Spencer: One of the biggest controversies in traditional and social media is the fact that I translated two chapters (although I’m unsure if it was my translation that was used) of the Fourth Political Theory and the first volume of the trilogy on philosopher Martin Heidegger, both by Alexander Dugin. The latter is often attacked and misrepresented by mainstream Western media for his patriotic views about his homeland. While I consider Dugin’s works, particularly those on geopolitics and the sociology of the imaginary, to be of great significance, he is not the only thinker that I’ve translated. In fact, my goal when it comes to translation is to make previously inaccessible Russian texts available to an English-speaking audience. Much of this effort is voluntary. Thus, I have translated a diverse range of texts: Communist Party documents, poetry by Bolshevik luminary Vladimir Mayakovsky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Orthodox thinkers, and even a “conspiracy theorist”—because I was asked—who gained prominence a number of years back for predicting the collapse of the dollar. I also contribute to the Espionage History Archive translating texts both from the Imperial and Soviet eras of Russian history. The purpose of solely mentioning my translations of Dugin, whom I’ve never met, is to feed into the kind of conspiracy theories described above.
Some anonymous commenters called for Richard’s assassination. How serious do you take such threats?
Richard Spencer: Social media provide an unprecedented sense of familiarity, which means that its users, especially those hiding behind their anonymity, feel justified to say the kind of things to their opponents that they won’t dare utter in real life. At the same time, I cannot rule out unstable and violent individuals acting upon the release of several addresses—an illegal act—thought to belong to the extended Spencer family, and have to take threats seriously by contacting the proper authorities.
What is the general political and social atmosphere in the US since the election? Has it become worse?
Richard Spencer: The political atmosphere in the U.S. is quite polarized. In the streets, Trump supporters—average Americans—have been attacked verbally and physically. The media downplay these facts, while engaging in a hysterical frenzy of distraction, such as its “Russian propaganda” trope. In politics, it is the morning-after euphoria: pragmatic political commentators raise concerns about the powerful hawkish neocon influence in Washington and its effects on the incoming Trump administration.
Who is behind the media campaign against you?
Nina Spencer: Ideologically, it is the Liberal establishment (both the neoconservative and neoliberal wings) and its tools: mainstream leftists that are jokingly known as “social justice warriors” and even certain self-described neo-Nazis. Brexit, Trump’s election, recent victories in the Syrian war against Wahhabism and terrorism—backed by Washington and its Gulf allies—as well as the rising popularity of movements and politicians standing up for political sovereignty and national identity in Europe have shaken up the globally-oriented factions among Western elites. For the first time in decades, these elites feel that the Liberal globalist project is threatened. They fear losing their power and are thus smearing dissenting voices, both prominent and rising, in their echo-chamber media. Hysterically criticizing Trump, paranoiacally blaming Russia for every problem known to man, throwing anti-NATO activists like Mateusz Piskorski in jail, and instigating witch hunts against those who seek to reassert their traditional identities—to become who they are—are all part of the same pattern.
Amidst this witch hunt, has anyone expressed support for you and your family?
Nina Spencer: We are very grateful to all those around the world who have sent us messages of encouragement and support, individually and to our family. Some of those messages came from unexpected sources, including those who aren’t on the exact same page ideologically, and were thus a pleasant surprise. Friends have offered us diverse counsel, prayers, as well as a place to stay for Nina and our daughter should the threats get out of control. All those who have reached out to us from the United States, Canada, Lebanon, Japan, Russia, Poland, Germany, Italy, France, Serbia, and beyond, thank you!
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