The Birth Of American Renaissance

Evelyn Rich emails me April 11, 2016:

Your information about me, my education and my personal relationships is all wrong. I did not graduate from Boston College. I do not have a doctorate in history. I did not “couple” with Jared Taylor. I never “leant my name” to anything. And so on.

Here is Evelyn Rich’s story in her own words. She has a PhD from Boston University in Sociology and African-American Studies (with her dissertation on the ideology of the modern KKK).

In 2014, I posted lengthy excerpts on my website from the 2009 book Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream by Leonard Zeskind, a veteran anti-racism campaigner who nonetheless received some credit for his work from some people on the Alt-Right.

Blood and Politics

The Occidental Observer, July 2, 2009:

Blood and Politics, published this May, is a history of “White nationalist” political activity between 1974 and 2004 by Leonard Zeskind, an anti-racist writer and activist who has monitored White political groups since the 1970s. The book consists of a chronologically ordered series of chapters on phenomena including Willis Carto‘s Liberty Lobby, William Pierce‘s National Alliance, David Duke‘s campaigns, Klan groups, Holocaust deniers, survivalists, Christian Identity adherents, Aryan Nations, White separatist compounds, bank robberies and murders by White criminal conspiracies, the Populist Party,skinheads, Pat Buchanan‘s campaigns, Ruby Ridge, Waco, White power music, militias, common law courts, American Renaissance, The Bell Curve, the Oklahoma City bombing trials, the Council of Conservative Citizens, Sam Francis, and 9/11.

While it may be unfair of Zeskind to lump these diverse phenomena into a unitary “White nationalist movement,” one can avoid quibbling about terminology by simply assuming, as I will in this review, that by “white nationalist” Zeskind means a White who identifies in a positive manner as White, or any Jewish or White proponent of the reality and importance of IQ.

Zeskind places White nationalists along a spectrum between “mainstreamers” and “vanguardists.” Mainstreamers, exemplified by Willis Carto and his Liberty Lobby, believe that a majority of Whites can be convinced to support their cause. They participate in the political process and try to develop messages that resonate with a wide audience. Vanguardists, exemplified by William Pierce and his National Alliance, seek “a few good men,” a small “vanguard” of energetic revolutionaries who do not care if the public hates them.

Zeskind’s account makes clear that not all White nationalists are of one mind. Some are atheists, while others are Christian Identity adherents; some question the Holocaust, while others do not; some detest Neo-Nazis, while others idolize Hitler; some favor criminality and revolutionary violence, while others advocate political solutions.

Despite these differences, Zeskind shows, there is also a great deal of ideological overlap among the segments of the movement. White nationalists who are otherwise political opponents will agree that Jews have disproportionate control over the media, or that David Duke’s political campaigns were a positive development.

Zeskind also shows that individuals in one segment of the movement often have connections to individuals in other segments of the movement. For example, he points out that Jared Taylor, whose American Renaissance conferences welcome Jews, is a close friend of Mark Weber, who runs the Institute for Historical Review, a Holocaust revisionist organization. Zeskind also describes how Willis Carto (a mainstreamer), William Pierce (a vanguardist), and Tom Metzger (a Klan leader) all tried to develop connections to the White power music scene, despite having little in common with the fans of the music. Within the network of connections among individuals in the White nationalist movement Zeskind describes, Willis Carto and William Pierce were major hubs, while other individuals, such as Sam Dickson, Bo Gritz, and Louis Beam, appeared as recurring characters in a variety of significant events.

Not surprisingly, Zeskind’s point of view is firmly grounded in the conventional wisdom of the political left. His commentary reveals that he considers the following propositions to be firmly established:

1) The idea that the Jews “control the media” is plain nonsense.

2) The media is more than willing to give White nationalists a voice. Therefore, it is not the media that marginalizes White nationalists; rather, White nationalists marginalize themselves by saying crazy things.

3) The history of the United States is a story of progress from slavery to Jim Crow to the civil rights movement to an ideal realization of the principle that all people are created equal.

4) The civil rights movement was a product of the genius of Black people. (Zeskind knows this from first-hand experience; though he is Jewish, he has been a “life time member of the NAACP”.)

5) The relative material and occupational advantages enjoyed by White people are a product of historical inertia and the “prerogatives of white skin.”

6) Minorities who organize along racial lines are merely seeking equal rights, while Whites who organize as Whites see politics as a “zero sum game” in which minority progress toward equal rights harms Whites.

Nevertheless, Zeskind’s book is interesting because it departs from the conventional wisdom in a number of ways. When he began writing the book in the 1990s, the working title was “Hate Mongers,” but around 1996, Zeskind says, he “abandoned the usual discourse with which this topic is discussed. The so-called paranoid style, scapegoating and other such ideas simply did not fit the facts as they presented themselves.”

For instance, Zeskind provides abundant evidence that White nationalist activity is not the result of stupidity. He is clearly impressed by the intelligence of individuals like William Pierce, who was a physics professor before he was a vanguardist. He notes that Sam Francis, who was formerly a Washington Timescolumnist, “demonstrated a keen grasp” of Antonio Gramsci‘s idea of “ideological hegemony.”

Moreover, Zeskind does not beat up on White nationalists for lacking credentials. He explains that Jared Taylor, founder of American Renaissance, was raised in Japan and graduated from Yale. Zeskind tells the story of Eveyln Rich, a woman who wrote her PhD dissertation on the Klan while supplying information about Klan activities to anti-racist watchdog organizations. Though she “grasped the subject of her inquiry like few others” and was later active in opposing David Duke, “[a]t some point Evelyn Rich must have dropped any scholarly distance she had from white nationalists” because she married Jared Taylor.

In contrast to liberals who assume that occasional acts of violence are the only threat posed by White nationalists, Zeskind argues that White nationalism is a serious threat because the mainstreaming wing of the movement, led by politicians, lawyers and PhDs, is capable of having an effect on mainstream politics.

For example, he argues that David Duke’s political campaigns, while unsuccessful, awakened a constituency concerned with White dispossession and thereby “opened the door” for Patrick Buchanan, a relatively mainstream figure, to bring Duke’s political issues into the Republican party. Zeskind quotes Buchanan:

The way to do battle with David Duke is not to go ballistic because Duke, as a teenager, paraded around in a Nazi costume to protest William Kunstler during Vietnam, or to shout to the heavens that Duke had the same phone number last year as the Ku Klux Klan. Everybody in Metairie [Duke’s district] knew that. The way to deal with Mr. Duke is the way the GOP dealt with the more formidable challenge of George Wallace. Take a hard look at Duke’s portfolio of winning issues; and expropriate those not in conflict with GOP principles.

Buchanan went on to win the New Hampshire primary in 1996 and to take over Ross Perot‘s Reform Party in 2000.

Zeskind also departs from conventional wisdom in explaining White voter behavior. He rejects the idea that White voters voted for Proposition 187, an anti-immigrant ballot initiative in California, because they were opposed to illegal as opposed to legal immigration, or because they used immigrants as a scapegoat for the bad economy. He explains that statistical analysis of the polling data showed only a slight correlation between voting for Proposition 187 and income level, education level, or financial worries. There was a strong correlation, however, between a person’s likelihood of voting for Proposition 187 and the percentage of immigrants in the person’s neighborhood. The distinction between legal and illegal immigrants did not matter to White voters. What did matter was race and culture.

The David Duke campaigns demonstrated the same phenomenon. The polling data showed that White voters were likely to vote against David Duke if the percentage of Black people in the neighborhood was small, but as the percentage of Black residents increased, the likelihood of voting for David Duke increased. After carefully analyzing why Duke received the support he did, Zeskind quotes with approval a study that concluded, “Supporters in part saw Duke as a voice for whites, in the same sense that minorities have spokespersons.” (Incidentally, that is exactly what David Duke says.)

Zeskind concludes that White nationalism is on the rise. He argues that the end of the Cold War created a vacuum in American identity that many White people filled with an ethnic identity. White nationalists, he says, are “committed to overturning American society rather than seeking to return it to some previous era.” By possessing “significant resources” and giving voice and coherence to “grievances real and imagined,” White nationalists over the past three decades have succeeded in creating an “opposition to the status quo that will not go away in the near future,” Zeskind concludes.

Zeskind has condensed into narrative form a great deal of information about different White nationalist political phenomena, the overlaps among the segments, and the social connections among the individuals involved. Reading Zeskind’s history, it was hard for me to keep straight in my head all of the meetings that took place in back woods compounds and hotel conference rooms, the large cast of recurring characters, the spiteful intra- and inter-organizational disputes, and other details that Zeskind recounts in 542 pages and supports with 77 pages of endnotes.

I created the figure below to represent visually the complexity of what Blood and Politics describes. The overlapping colored circles constitute a Venn diagramof the White nationalist ideologies that Zeskind describes. The dots represent individuals who hold particular combinations of views, and the lines represent social connections among the individuals. The dots and lines in my figure are random, and the collection of ideologies is not complete, but the messy network conveys a schematic image of the world Zeskind describes: a complicated social network of individuals who inhabit different points in ideological space — what one reviewer on the dust-jacket called “a sprawling and shadowy world of racist leaders and their communities.”
Many of Zeskind’s readers will think this type of evidence proves that mainstreamers are just as dangerous as vanguardists. But does it really show anything? So what if every individual in the Venn circle of White nationalism, including Bell Curve author Richard Herrnstein, is connected to Timothy McVeigh by only a few degrees of separation? So what if every White nationalist ideology, even one as tame as Pat Buchanan’s paleoconservatism, is connected by a series of overlapping ideologies to “RAHOWA” (Racial Holy War)?

Whenever there is some overlap between two ideologies, adherents of each are likely to develop a connection (one-way or two-way) on the basis of common understandings. For example, Vanguard News Network, a web site that opposes Jews, immigration, and miscegenation (among many other things), currently has a link to a blog post by Bradley Smith, whose modus operandi is publishing advertisements in college newspapers asking for proof of Auschwitz gas chambers. Given that Smith, a White man from Los Angeles, is married to a Mexican woman and lives south of the border, Vanguard News Network probably considers him a “race traitor,” but it promotes his work anyway. Connections exist everywhere, but their significance is limited…

Maybe George Soros plays the role of Willis Carto for the left. Perhaps everyone on the left is only one or two degrees of separation away from such undesirables as 9/11 conspiracy theorists, who like to attend ACLU events, or leftist bomb-planters like Bill Ayers, who glom on to Barack Obama. Liberals would think this kind of political connection-mapping is unimportant to understanding the left as a political movement. So why does Zeskind want the left to understand White nationalists in this manner?

Zeskind actually does not want his readers to understand White nationalism; he wants his readers to defeat White nationalists politically. For that reason, he provides details about the sneaky ways Willis Carto structured his non-profit corporations, but rarely allows his subjects to speak a complete thought. Readers are left with the impression that White nationalist ideas are mere instrumentalities of a political movement motivated by “prerational thoughts and feelings.” Thus, the weapons to use against the White nationalists must be political, not intellectual.

Collecting seemingly trivial details about the social networks of White nationalists is necessary for building up ammunition for an important political weapon: guilt by association. If an up-and-coming politician makes the mistake of attending a dinner where one of the speakers suggests that Jews control the media, his or her attendance will be duly noted in the anti-racist watchdogs’ databases. Then, some time in the future, the politician will be accused of anti-Semitism, he will deny it, and the watchdogs will produce the factoid as rebuttal evidence.

Such ‘gotcha moments’ might not win political battles, but the aggregate effect of the politics of guilt by association is to quarantine White nationalist ideas. Respectable conservative politicians develop a fear of contracting a permanent case of political cooties by coming within earshot of anyone who talks about Jews having too much power or Blacks committing too many crimes. As a result, White nationalist political organizations fail to attract the cultural indicia of legitimacy, and the media treats them as illegitimate.

Zeskind is concerned that White nationalist ideas will gain legitimacy by piggybacking on the goodwill of legitimate political institutions. This can happen when legitimate institutions co-opt White nationalist political issues, as the Republican Party did by letting Pat Buchanan deliver his “Culture War” speechat the 1992 convention. This can also happen when White nationalists infiltrate a legitimate institution, as when Pat Buchanan took over the Reform Party in 2000, or, as Zeskind warned recently, when Stormfront members decide to leaflet at libertarian Tea Parties. By ringing alarm bells about the political activities of the mainstreaming end of the White nationalist spectrum, Zeskind helps to ensure that the boundary of the quarantine is drawn wide: not just around attention-getters like Kluxers and Neo-Nazis, not just around Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, but around Pat Buchanan and Ezola Foster (and maybe even the Tea Parties).

There are risks to Zeskind’s approach. By honestly admitting that the rhetoric of White nationalists as “haters” and “extremists” does not fit the facts, Zeskind undermines the popular stereotype, inculcated as early as elementary school, that Whites who organize as Whites are psychopaths seething with “hate.” Zeskind does not need this silly stereotype in order to believe that White nationalists are wrong; he is immune to their ideas because he has an unshakeable faith in egalitarianism and the falsity of all forms of “anti-Semitism.” But when ordinary, well-meaning White people realize the “hater” stereotype is a sham and that mainstreaming White nationalists are people just like themselves, will they stop and listen? If they do, Zeskind can only hope that their faith is as strong as his. In the course of trying to warn people not to underestimate the White nationalist threat, Zeskind might be helping to destroy a useful stereotype that, perhaps more than anything else, prevents ordinary White people from becoming apostates like Evelyn Rich.

Do I recommend this book? Yes. It is long but highly readable. It is full of facts and stories, with a minimum of commentary; only rarely does Zeskind depart from a dispassionate perspective. The book can be read in the intended fashion as a history of White nationalist political phenomena, but it can also be read as an account of experiments in creating a self-sustaining White culture in the midst of a hostile majority culture. Occidental Observer readers may find it interesting to think about which strategies worked, which failed, and why.

Some of these experiments relate to Kevin MacDonald’s question, “Can the Jewish Model Help the West Survive?” The Christian Identity religion, for example, considers Whites to be the real chosen people. Some groups have promoted a White Zionism of sorts, arguing for the creation of a White homeland in the northwest United States.

Many of the experiments will seem strange, but it is important to remember that designing a successful political message is entirely different from constructing a logical intellectual argument. Consider, for example, what constitutes a successful political message for the left: the 2008 “Yes We Can” Barack Obama promotional video, which featured a multicultural cast of celebrities incanting selected phrases of an otherwise uninspiring Obama campaign speech, punctuated by “Yes we can” in English, Spanish, Hebrew, and American Sign Language. In just three weeks, this dumb yet very poignant video was downloaded 26 million times. Thus, if many of the unsuccessful political stunts attempted by White nationalists in the past do not seem to make sense, consider that they might not have made sense even if they were successful.

There is no way to be certain about what kinds of White cultural experiments will succeed in outcompeting the culture of Western suicide. What is more certain, however, is that one or more of them will succeed — or at least that is the impression I have after reading Blood and Politics. Zeskind argues:

[W]hite nationalists consistently misunderstand the larger world around them. A significant number of White people remain determined to live and live happily in a multiracial, multicultural United States. And they do not regard themselves as “race traitors.”

Fair enough. But as Zeskind shows with his analysis of David Duke and Proposition 187 voting patterns, these White people who are happy with “a multiracial, multicultural United States” tend to live in relatively homogeneous White communities. As Zeskind further shows, as the percentage of non-Whites in the community increases, White people become less happy with the “multiracial, multicultural” community closing in around them, and start to vote for their race and culture. What has happened to some neighborhoods in past decades is happening to the entire United States this century. Thus, while the term “race traitor” might never enter their vocabulary, Whites in the future are likely find meaning in a culture and politics of Western survival, especially if the mainstream media follows Zeskind in admitting that the vocabulary of “haters” and “extremists” does not describe the reality of White nationalism.

Jonathan Pyle (email him) is a lawyer in Philadelphia.

Leonard Zeskind wrote in his 2009 book:

[Jared] Taylor eventually coupled up with Evelyn Rich, who came to the partnership with her own understanding of white supremacy… She earned a doctorate in history from Boston College in 1988. Her dissertation topic: “Ku Klux Klan Ideology: 1954-1988.” While doing research, Rich had formally interviewed many of the white supremacist movement’s leading figures, attended semipublic events such as Institute for Historical Review conference and Bob Miles’s fests, and been privy to a number of meetings, including a one-to-one visit between David Duke and William Pierce. Rich seemed to have a particularly intense interest in Duke, whose Knights of the Ku Klux Klan loomed large in his dissertation.

On each of these occasions, she would tape her interviews and take extensive notes and then share notes and transcripts, along with her observations and analyses, with several civic organizations that monitored racist and anti-Semitic activities. To the anti-Klan groups, she reported with a scholar’s precision on the ideological arcana of each organization she encountered. With the scalding sarcasm of late-night television comics, she recounted several bouts of movement infighting. And with an apparently anti-racist perspective, she detailed the failures of the individuals she met…

Rich grasped the subject of her inquiry like few others, including the national socialist character of Duke’s ideas in the 1970s and the role anti-Semitism played in transforming a backward-looking Klan movement into a revolutionary vanguard. When her dissertation was completed in 1988, Rich understood that after conservative racists publicly tarred themselves with the brush of anti-Semitism, their claims to mainstream respectability were compromised.

Eventually Rich’s interview transcripts became part of the library archives at Tulane University in Louisiana, and when David Duke ran for governor in 1991, Rich lent her name to the anti-Duke opposition. Particularly revealing segments of her audiotapes were broadcast as part of anti-Duke radio commercials. Nevertheless, Rich continued to keep her reports to the anti-Klanners quiet.

At some point Evelyn Rich must have dropped any scholarly distance she had from white nationalists. She attended the Atlanta meeting that May in 1994 alongside Jared Taylor, quietly tending to their first child while he carried on the conference. Rumors swirled around the room about “Taylor’s wife.” One held that the couple had met at an Institute for Historical Review conference in California; if true, that meant Taylor, despite keeping Holocaust revisionism off the agenda, had more than a passing acquaintance with its claims. True or not, Rich’s antipathy to David Duke was well known; it was also rumored that she had suggested the once and future candidate be excluded. None of the rumors suggested that just a few years earlier she had been making notes on meetings such as these and sharing her observations with the movement’s opposition. Soon, however, Mark Weber [head of IHR] used quotes from Evelyn in the IHR’s promotional material…

For national socialists and Aryanists, Jews were wholly of another race, a biological breed apart. And a Christian Identity tenet asserted that Jews were inherently Satanic… Wilmot Robertson’s influential Dispossessed Majority had cast Jews as a particularly pernicious “unassimilable” white minority, a classification mixing Aryan-style anthropology and genetics. A less caustic and but still anti-Semitic mythology contended that Jews were not eligible for the rights of natural sovereign citizenship, as the United States was constitutionally a “Christian republic.”

…Rabbi Mayer Schiller’s convivial presence in a room with men such as Ed Fields, Mark Weber, and Sam Dickson casts doubt on his common sense, but it signaled no change in the liberal mainstream of the Jewish community. Neither did it suggest any swing among conservative or neoconservative Jews, who might have truckloads of grievances with black people but would have little truck with either Holocaust deniers or so-called scientific racists… If Mayer Schiller’s common platform with the Renaissancers created not a ripple of interest among Jews, Jared Taylor’s invitation to the rabbi provoked a continuing wave of controversy among white supremacists. The common refrain: What was Taylor thinking?

Several possibilities were proferred. The first came in the form of a brief review of the conference published in Wilmot Robertson’s Instauration. It noted the presence of Schiller and several other men of Jewish descent on the platform. But the monthly’s usually strident anti-Semitism remained remarkably restrained. A bit of nuance was needed by white activists, the reviewer suggested: “The time-honored strategy of fighting two enemies is to pretend to be the friend of one while zapping the other.” And for this meeting, attacking just the so-called Negroes, while leaving the Jews off the hook, worked quite well. “Maybe after the Negroes are put in their place,” the reviewer speculated, “another conference in a few decades will take on those who purists contend are the real enemy.” By this favorable account, Taylor’s overture toward Schiller was little more than a clever chess move, a tactical decision of little long-term consequence.

Other views were less friendly toward the inclusion of any Jews on the platform, and a debate over Taylor’s motivations and the prospect of ultimate success for the American Renaissance project rankled during the years following the first conference. Some activists accepted at face value Taylor’s inclusion of Jews but objected nonetheless, using terms familiar on the vanguardist side of the movement. There were no “good Jews” and “bad Jews,” they argued, just Jews — who were poison, one and all…

It would be wrong to conclude that Taylor was by any means philo-Semitic. Shortly after September 11, he issued a statement blaming the attacks on American support for Israel and claiming that “if we go to war, it will not be because we are the land of freedom and opportunity, but because we are the best friend and benefactor of Israel.” Nevertheless, a couple of Jews continued attending conferences. And a contingent of young National Alliance cadres in 2002 kept a subterranean murmur of dissent going during the course of the weekend. The anti-Semites chafed at the Jews, and the Aryans-only whisper occasionally broke out into the open during question and answer sessions. One observant young Aryan woman, writing on the internet under the sobriquet the Cat Lady, may have ventured the most insightful parallel. She compared developments within American Renaissance to recent changes of focus by the British National Party. The British Nationalists’ approach was “very appealing,” she wrote. It was a racial nationalist, a socialist party but not “explicitly anti-Semitic.” She also noted that at a side meeting a British representative who had spoken at an American Renaissance meeting had “pointed out that when Hitler was pursuing power, he hardly ever spoke publicly about the Jews either.”

…[Jared] Taylor served, for example, as Weber’s best man at his wedding eight weeks after the conference. Weber’s betrothed, Priscilla Gray, had once worked for Phyllis Schlafly… A priest who had spoken at the American Renaissance conference, Father Tacelli, officiated at the St. James Roman Catholic Church in Falls Church, Virginia. The wedding of a former Schlafly staffer with a former National Alliance cadre should have received notice on somebody’s society page. Taylor’s relationship with Weber extended back to the days when he was still a leading cadre of [William] Pierce’s organization. Weber had received a special mention in Taylor’s acknowledgments for his 1983 book on Japan. Ten years later Taylor continued to think highly of Weber. “Any man of whom Mark Weber speaks highly is a man worth knowing,” Taylor wrote in a 1993 letter to a new American Renaissance subscriber. Then in a remark that might have pleased Taylor’s detractors in white nationalism’s traditionally anti-Semitic ranks, he made an oblique reference to the “frolic” surrounding the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. “The march of folly never rests,” he wrote…

As [Wayne Charles Lutton] became directly involved with the Institute for Historical Review, however, his political life came to resemble binary stars. One named Charles Lutton quietly associated itself with Holocaust revisionism. The other, Wayne Lutton, assumed increasingly important roles in the fight against immigration.

…And he did not challenge directly the facts of the Holocaust itself. Nevertheless, he personally gave a presentation at the IHR’s 1981 conference, joined its editorial board in 1985…

Lutton’s list of accomplishments as an anti-immigrant activist alone merit notice, as does his work with American Renaissance, which eventually included multiple conference presentations and a seat on the board of directors of its parent corporation, New Century Foundation. But Lutton’s attempt to cloud his association with the Institute for Historical Review may reveal more about his ultimate aims than he wanted to show. Perhaps this version of white nationalism hoped to include anti-Semites, while occluding anti-Semitic ideology as a motivating force. Unlike William Pierce’s wing of Aryan vanguardists, and different even from Willis Carto’s attempts to find a mainstream constituency, Jared Taylor, Wayne Lutton and the American Renaissance crew already had a seat on the (far) edge of conservative respectability, and they were apparently loath to lose their perch in a controversy over Jews and Hitler. Over the next several years, American Renaissance became the premier gathering place for intellectuals in the white nationalist movement, firmly supplanting the Institute for Historical Review and all other ventures. The IHR still maintained a unique status in the movement, however, particularly in its role as an international transfer station.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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