Alt-right leader Richard Spencer, who garnered national attention with his controversial appearance at Texas A&M University last December, plans to sow his white nationalism on college campuses across the country in 2017.
Known for using phrases like “Hail victory” (the literal translation of the Nazi phrase “Sieg Heil”) and mimicking the Nazi salute, Spencer traffics in far-right ideas that center around the preservation of the white race and Western civilization. He peddles his message through a think tank known as the National Policy Institute, an online publication called Radix and, now, a planned college speaking tour.
Spencer, who initially built momentum through his websites and online comments, is increasingly shifting his attention to live audiences. Prior to his Texas A&M appearance, Spencer and other white nationalists set up a “safe space” on the University of California-Berkeley campus to discuss “how race affects people of European heritage.”
Spencer sees college audiences as fertile ground for his message of discontent. “I think you need to get them while they are young,” Spencer told a reporter in December. “People in college are at this point in their lives where they are actually open to alternative perspectives.”
This year’s White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day has given Spencer even more fodder for horrendous statements.
President Trump’s Holocaust message neglected to mention Jews, antisemitism or the Nazi campaign of genocide that claimed six million Jewish victims. Most Jewish organizations were highly critical of this omission.
Yet Spencer found no fault with these omissions; rather, on the website altright.com, he criticized the “activist Jewish community” for commandeering the Holocaust narrative.
“It is all about their meta-narrative of suffering, and it shall undergird their peculiar position in American society, and theirs alone,” Spencer wrote. “When viewed from the perspective of Jewish activists, Trump’s statement becomes outrageous, as it dethrones Jews from a special position in the universe.”
In his statement, Spencer employs a favorite trope of Holocaust-distorters and antisemites: the claim that the enormity of the Holocaust is exaggerated by Jews, who manipulate World War II-era history for their own political purposes. The antisemitic stereotypes that frame Spencer’s brand of Holocaust denial are the same themes that were invoked by the Nazis.
Holocaust denial not only clouds our understanding of history, but it also minimizes the grave threat posed to the contemporary Jewish community by rising antisemitism. Moreover, it harms Israel’s security by diminishing what was once a bedrock understanding of the crucial need for the existence of a Jewish state: the Jewish people have already been targeted for total annihilation, and without a firm safe haven in the ancestral Jewish homeland, Jews will always remain vulnerable.
Spencer has already announced his intention to spread his bigotry and false version of history to American college students. For the young men and women born at the end of the 20th century, the Holocaust is merely a distant historical episode; for them, its lessons are faded, if not altogether bygone. Unfortunately, their minds are ripe for exploitation by a hate monger and Holocaust denier like Richard Spencer.
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