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Suits and Ties

AmRen and the postelection mainstreaming of white nationalism in the conservative media

The alt-right has been going through some growing pains these last few weeks. On inauguration day, the now-notorious Richard Spencer got socked in the face on camera. The assailant is still at large, the celebrations of his getting attacked are viral, and there’s a video game about it now. Meanwhile, his allies at the uniquely crass website have been suffering ever greater indignities. Their de facto leader, “Mike Enoch,” has had his real identity revealed, along with the fact that he is married to a Jewish woman. This is a man who started a podcast called “The Daily Shoah”—“shoah” being the Hebrew word for “Holocaust.” Quite a few other contributors at the same website have been outed as well. For people who gleefully make jokes about putting Jewish people in ovens, maintaining your anonymity is important—once that digital hood is pulled back, you really have to ask yourself how essential being a malicious internet troll is to your sense of self. Unsurprisingly, many of the pseudonymous keyboard warriors have vanished without a trace since having their real names broadcast across the web. Out of fear that they might be revealed next, the duo behind the similar alt-right podcast “Fash the Nation” have deleted their website and their Twitter accounts, and seem unlikely to return to the scene anytime soon.

With The Right Stuff bleeding membership because the gang behind it refuses to go public, and with Richard Spencer becoming best-known for the time he was punched on TV, some incorrigible optimists think that this is the end of what always seemed, to certain liberals, like a dead-end movement anyway. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Instead what is happening is a complete reversal of the alt-right’s tactics. During the election, the thinking seems to have been that exposure of any sort would mean increased adherents and influence. Now that the election is over and their candidate is in office, what many are now looking for is a permanent foothold in the mainstream.

Sites like The Daily Caller and Breitbart now share a few columnists with an explicitly white supremacist website.

The faction most clearly doing this is also arguably the oldest incarnation of the alt-right: Jared Taylor and his monthly publication-gone-website American Renaissance, often referred to as “AmRen.” Founded in 1990 by Taylor, AmRen has done its best for over a quarter century to get as many white supremacists as it can to don suits and ties. In its early days, it focused largely on the somewhat prominent, IQ-obsessed “scientists” of the time. The newsletter was filled with profiles and promotions of Charles Murray, Arthur Jensen, and J. Philippe Rushton. As the science behind those theories was increasingly discredited, AmRen started to champion Pat Buchanan and the paleoconservative movement of the 1990s. Once those, in turn, fell apart, the focus became horror stories about black-on-white crime and Chicano gangs. In the publication’s constant dance to find something to bring it into the mainstream, lately they’ve been focusing on Donald Trump, and self-identifying as “alt-right.”

To look at the AmRen website right now, you could be duped into thinking it’s just an imitation of Breitbart, not the oldest alt-right website around. At the time of this writing, its top story is a review of No Campus for White Men, a book published by the mainstream conservative outlet WND, and written by a deputy editor at The Daily Caller. Other top stories include a profile of how Putin’s Russia handles immigration, and a reflection on the Obama years. The explicitly pro-white messaging can be found in the articles themselves, but not in the headlines, and often not until you’re about halfway through the article.

AmRen flies under the radar because of its style. The people behind it aren’t trolls and they don’t beg for attention with kooky street theater like David Duke or earlier American Nazis like George Lincoln Rockwell. Nor does the site publish material designed to offend, like the pro-genocide Nazi fantasy novel The Turner Diaries or today’s Twitter trolls with their “into the ovens” memes. AmRen’s racism maintains the aesthetics of southern patricians like John C. Calhoun instead of just another wacko on Jerry Springer. Now that Donald Trump is president, the AmRen approach in the quest for the mainstream seems to have finally paid off.

Is Ann Coulter in a position where she could introduce Jared Taylor to Steve Bannon?

Additionally, AmRen recently beefed up its mainstream bonafides by syndicating three well-known pundits: Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, and Ilana Mercer. All three had their columns start showing up on AmRen in the last few months, all three are regulars on mainstream conservative sites, and all three were early champions of Donald Trump. This is to say that sites like The Daily Caller and Breitbart now share a few columnists with an explicitly white supremacist website. It’s hard to believe that no one has asked any of the three writers why they are allowing open racists to syndicate them, or to imagine they don’t know the reason open racists are interested in doing so. Are conservative operatives going to start saying AmRen is within the realm of acceptability since they now syndicate so many conservative authors? Both Breitbart and AmRen have largely the same goals: build the wall, smash political correctness, destroy the left. Breitbart advocates for all of this with a thin veneer of “color-blind nationalism,” while Amren is boastfully pro-white.

AmRen has connections in the broader Trumpian world, too. While Richard Spencer was banned from the pro-Trump “DeploraBall” party, AmRen employee Chris Roberts attended and had a blast. While Richard Spencer was attacked at the inauguration, Jared Taylor had front-row tickets. That AmRen seeks to influence the current administration is also without question. It endorsed Pat Buchanan for Secretary of State and strongly attacked the notion that Mitt Romney might get it. During the campaign, Jared Taylor offered Donald Trump plenty of advice, and even did a few robocalls for him. The question is how much clout AmRen really has, and how much of all this is AmRen just trying to seem authoritative.

It’s not a stretch to think AmRen could start publicly influencing nationalism here in the United States, since—despite its name—AmRen has left fingerprints on nationalist movements in Europe. A few years ago the head of the British Nationalist Party (BNP), Nick Griffin, was slated to address an AmRen conference before he backed out due to security concerns. Since then, they have had other speakers affiliated with the BNP, along with representatives from nationalist and anti-Islam parties in Belgium, Estonia, Latvia, and France.

More importantly, do the emerging ties between the explicitly pro-white fringe and the implicitly pro-white mainstream suggest that AmRen could start influencing the president? Is Ann Coulter in a position where she could introduce Jared Taylor to Steve Bannon? Has she already? If the Daily Caller already shares two writers with AmRen, could they start running Jared Taylor’s writing as well? The mainstreaming of AmRen and its views through its apparent pro-Trump connections is more and more likely. The days of the alt-right’s high-profile trolling may well have ended, but it looks like its days of low-profile influence are just beginning.