Richard Spencer, one of the best-known leaders of the white nationalist movement that has adopted the name “alt-right,” has—by his standards—been laying relatively low lately. Spencer’s never shied away from the media, but an outbreak of Nazi salutes caught on video by The Atlantic at his organization’s conference in November caused an overwhelming uproar, making Spencer a target within his own movement and threatening his carefully cultivated image as the alt-right’s approachable face.
Add to that a planned neo-Nazi march against Jews in Spencer’s town of Whitefish, Montana, stemming from his feud with a local woman whom he accused of harassing his mother, a dilletantish congressional-run trial balloon, and getting banned from Twitter for a while, and it hasn’t been the best couple of months for Spencer. Meanwhile, the movement he takes credit for naming has been riven by internal feuds over “Hailgate.”
This month, Spencer’s rebooting again: He is renting a “hub” for the alt-right movement in a townhouse in Alexandria, Virginia. Spencer and Jason Jorjani, the editor-in-chief of Arktos, a publishing arm associated with the alt-right, have bought the domain name altright.com. Spencer and Jorjani met at the conference for the National Policy Institute, Spencer’s innocuously named think tank, where attendees gave Nazi salutes as Spencer shouted “Hail Trump” from the stage. They quickly formed a bond, and are now joining forces to brand themselves as the intellectual leaders of the alt-right.
Spencer's new headquarters reflects his increasing effort to mainstream the alt-right as its preferred candidate prepares to enter the White House, and to cement himself as its leading voice.
Jorjani was down from New York this week visiting with Spencer, who will be living on the top level of the spacious loft he and Jorjani will be using in Alexandria. The loft has no furniture yet; the only decor in the living room was a bottle of whiskey Spencer was working his way through around 3 p.m. on Wednesday. Upstairs, his belongings were strewn about in suitcases.
The pair imagine the space as a kind of office-salon hybrid for the alt-right, a private space where people in the movement can make videos, throw parties (there’s an outdoor patio) and work on the nascent website, which Spencer said would launch on Monday. The loft “is symbolic in that it is a headquarters of sorts,” Spencer said.
The fact that Spencer and Jorjani are attempting to take ownership of the term alt-right is likely to raise hackles in a movement whose membership is nebulous and disorganized, but often territorial and disputatious. Two factions have been battling over the Deploraball, a party planned for the night before Donald Trump’s inauguration. Spencer was uninvited from the Deploraball, which is being organized by a group called Maga3X. That group is associated with Mike Cernovich, who now prefers the label “new right.” He cast out one of the party’s co-organizers, known as “Baked Alaska,” after he wouldn’t stop tweeting about Jews. Baked Alaska then accused Cernovich of being a “cuck” in a Periscope video.
Spencer expects his registration of altright.com may prove similarly contentious. “I’m sure this is going to be controversial because if there’s one thing you can count on it’s petty infighting and things like that,” he said.
“What I want for this is to be a one-stop shop,” Spencer said. “So basically if you’re already in the alt-right, this will be a great place to just learn about what’s happening. If you just heard about the alt-right, just because of the URL, hopefully this will be the top hit on Google.”
Quotidian SEO concerns aside, Jorjani and Spencer have more exalted goals for their collaboration. Jorjani, an Iranian American academic, runs Arktos, which bills itself as the main publisher in English of works from the European “New Right.” Arktos has translated works by Alexander Dugin, the right-wing Russian philosopher whose ultra-nationalist views have been influential on the alt-right, and has published Spencer’s former intellectual mentor Paul Gottfried. Jorjani describes Arktos as “the leading press of the alt-right.”
“One important element of the work Richard and I are doing together is a consolidation of these kinds of rubrics,” Jorjani said. “So that we will see hopefully in the next few years, maybe sooner than that, a total integration of the European New Right and the North American alt-right.”
They plan to use the site to publish work from Spencer’s Radix Journal, as well as Arktos and its associated journal Right On. They also plan to hire a “news hound” to aggregate stories of interest to the alt-right; from those about and by them to stories about figures like Dugin.
Despite the intellectual image they’re striving for, Spencer and Jorjani don’t reject what Spencer calls the “alt-light”—his term for figures like Cernovich or Infowars editor-at-large Paul Joseph Watson, who he sees as insufficiently ideological to be truly alt-right, and more concerned with trolling people and developing a following online. (Cernovich took aim at Spencer after “Hailgate,” accusing Spencer of being “controlled opposition” and being “owned by the media.” Watson has called Spencer a “white supremacist mainstream media darling.”)
Spencer said he welcomes “the kind of red-hat Trump boostering new people who are entering the movement now who weren’t maybe even involved in politics until now. And there are a lot of these guys, the kind of Trump-bro type people. I’m willing to criticize them and maybe even jab at them a little bit but I would rather they be the establishment rather than the total douche-ocracy of the conservative movement.”
Trump himself, though, has so far been a disappointment to Spencer. Despite encouraging signs throughout the campaign—a slowness to disavow white nationalists, the hardline immigration policies, the hiring of former Breitbart News chairman Stephen K. Bannon—Trump isn’t living up to the alt-right’s standards. Spencer dislikes several of the appointments Trump has made—particularly some with connections to Goldman Sachs—and feels the president-elect hasn’t focused enough on immigration.
“I would not say Hail Trump anymore,” Spencer said. “I don’t regret saying it because it was a moment of utter exuberance and craziness, but I would not say that right now.” “I’m much more skeptical now,” he added.
Still, Spencer’s gold MacBook betrays a certain taste for the president-elect’s style.
“We live in the age of Trump,” he explained.