Richard Spencer sat sipping his chai latte at the Red Caboose, a train-themed coffee shop in downtown Whitefish. Clean-cut and restrained, he reminded me of a hundred outdoors-obsessed people I had known growing up here in the Flathead Valley, a resort area nestled in the shadows of Glacier National Park.
But Spencer’s tidy appearance is about more than his sense of propriety; it’s a recruitment tool. Spencer advocates for white separatism and he wants to shake his movement’s reputation for brutality and backwardness.
“We have to look good,” Spencer said, adding that if his movement means “being part of something that is crazed or ugly or vicious or just stupid, no one is going to want to be a part of it.” Those stereotypes of “redneck, tattooed, illiterate, no-teeth” people, Spencer said, are blocking his progress. Organizations that monitor domestic hate groups say it’s just this unthreatening approachability that makes Spencer so insidious.
Spencer said now, more than ever, it falls to people like him to be engaged and savvy if America is going to combat the growing threat of diversity. In particular, he’s irritated by the rise of U.S. minority births, which outnumbered white births for the first time in 2011.
“People have not really grasped that. Even if we shut off all immigration, the country is going to demographically undergo a tremendous transformation,” Spencer said. White people “need to start thinking about a new ethno-state that we would want to be a part of. This is not going to happen in the next election or in the next 10 years probably, but something in the future that would be for our great-grandchildren.”
He’s open to founding such an “ethno-state” in various locations in North America and even on the moon. Until then he’s found a home in this corner of the Mountain West, where I grew up. At present, 96 percent of the population in Whitefish’s Flathead County is white.
Under the auspices of his blandly named National Policy Institute, Spencer is working to create an intellectual class of white separatists. The organization’s editorial unit publishes “scientifically-based” books like Race Differences in Intelligence and The Perils of Diversity. The group rejects the calls for violence, which appear in internet chat rooms and public campaigns of hate. Spencer prefers a more professorial approach of publishing books and organizing conferences. “Our goal is to form an intellectual community around European nationalism,” he wrote in an email.
Spencer and I emailed and spoke on the phone over a period of four months before I’d asked to meet him. I was living in Washington, but was planning a trip back home. Over the phone, he’d seemed radical. In person, he was easier to take. In conversation, he meandered from D.C. landmarks and comic books to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Then we crashed into eugenics.
“We are undergoing a sad process of degeneration,” he said, coming back to minority births in the United States. “We will need to reverse it using the state and the government. You incentivize people with higher intelligence, you incentivize people who are healthy to have children. And it sounds terrible and nasty, but there would be a great use of contraception.”
He didn’t mean the government should encourage people to use birth control pills and condoms. He was advocating for some type of government-forced sterilization.
“They could still enjoy sex. You are not ruining their life,” Spencer said.
Until this moment, I was alarmed by the number of times I had found myself nodding along with him. Spencer waxed indignant at the conquest of big box stores. And his obsession with clean living sounded like the house rules of a college co-op. Yes, I knew his views, but they were easy to forget until you breached the topic. But the way he called for a white ethno-state and forced sterilization chilled me. I had never heard anyone speak so calmly about something so abhorrent.