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Tue May 23, 2017, 09:17 PM

 

His Kampf

Richard Spencer is a troll and an icon for white supremacists. He was also my high-school classmate.



GRAEME WOOD
JUNE 2017 ISSUE

On December 17, 2007, the libertarian magazine Reason held a Christmas bash—a “Very Special, Very Secular Christmas Party”—at its office in Washington, D.C. The guest of honor, the late Atlantic book critic Christopher Hitchens, tugged liberally on his drink and gave a speech about how the holiday season was oppressive (“like living in fucking North Korea”). Then near the height of his powers as an anti-theist pamphleteer, Hitchens led the crowd in a tuneless rendition of Tom Lehrer’s “A Christmas Carol,” before slipping away and leaving the guests to the open bar and the mistletoe.

Among those guests was a figure from my past. I had not seen Richard Spencer in more than 10 years. He was not yet known as our generation’s most prominent white supremacist. I remembered him as my eighth-grade-chemistry lab partner and high-school classmate. We spotted each other and walked closer, circling uncertainly for a few seconds, before he spoke my name and confirmed that a wormhole had indeed opened from late-1990s North Dallas.

Spencer must have sensed my surprise (I would have sooner expected to see our gym teacher at a Washington magazine party). He told me he had blossomed intellectually since high school. Then he asked me what I thought of Hitchens’s fulminations against God. I had no interesting opinion on the subject. But Spencer did.

Was Hitchens’s critique of Christianity, he said, not as wan and naive as Christianity itself? Christianity had bound together the civilizations of Europe, and now Hitchens wanted to replace it with—well, what exactly? American neoliberal internationalism? Why should anyone care if Christianity was irrational and illiberal, when rationality and liberalism had never been its purpose? Hitchens had missed the point.

Spencer wasn’t exactly defending Christianity; he said that he, like Hitchens, was an atheist. But he longed for something as robust and binding as Christianity had once been in the West, before churches surrendered their power to folk-singing liberals and televangelists.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/his-kampf/524505/

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Response to rug (Original post)

Wed May 24, 2017, 04:32 AM

1. Nobody should flirt with supporting Christianity, even for a second

If an atheist does it, he might be drawn into a very compromised position. Like Richard Spencer. Whose partial defense of the Church lead to his defense of authoritarian regimes. (Or perhaps, vice versa.)

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Response to Bretton Garcia (Reply #1)

Wed May 24, 2017, 05:57 AM

2. Your main critique of Richard Spencer is that he supports Christianity?

 

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Response to rug (Reply #2)

Wed May 24, 2017, 12:15 PM

3. No, read the post again.

It's not even been edited.

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Response to AtheistCrusader (Reply #3)

Wed May 24, 2017, 05:28 PM

4. No need. Spencer is a fascist and a supremacist.

 

Ignoring that and blaming Christianity for leading that atheist into supporting authoritarian regimes is apologetics of the unhinged kind.

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Response to rug (Reply #4)

Wed May 24, 2017, 05:58 PM

5. Bretton did no such thing. Please re-read.

Bretton's point (as I read it) is colored by the fact that Spencer was NOT that kind of person at one point.

You did post the OP yes? Did you read it?

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Response to AtheistCrusader (Reply #5)

Wed May 24, 2017, 06:19 PM

6. I think your reading of it is colored by your own apologetics.

 

So, Christianity overcame the benevolent tendencies atheism afforded him and he became a white supremacist and fascist.


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Response to rug (Reply #6)

Wed May 24, 2017, 06:21 PM

7. Since you didn't read it, I think Spencer sought and tried on one authoritarian suit, and found it

likeable.

Then he tried on another, slightly whiter, more purpose-built authoritarian ideology, and found it even MORE likeable.


You did read the article right?

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Response to AtheistCrusader (Reply #7)

Wed May 24, 2017, 06:34 PM

8. Yes I did. I also understood it.

 

Your conclusion emanates from a place other than the article.

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Response to rug (Reply #8)

Wed May 24, 2017, 07:41 PM

9. Spencer came from a Catholic school in Dallas.

St. Marks. He later stresses the influence of German writers like Nietzsche. But he credits religion as his/our real foundation. He encourages people to have ...

"A consciousness of their identity as whites with a shared Christian heritage."

So Spencer himself seems to feel that his childhood Christianity and white authoritarianism are quite related.

He doesn't stress that here. But he mentions it briefly, as even foundational.

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Response to Bretton Garcia (Reply #9)

Wed May 24, 2017, 07:56 PM

10. That was Episcopal, now nonsectarian.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Mark%27s_School_of_Texas

It was more influenced by the wealthy class of Dallas than by Nietzsche.

"Within a decade of Terrill's demise, several local business leaders tried again to create an elite Dallas institution by merging Texas Country Day (1933–1953) and the Cathedral School (1944–1953).

St. Mark's is the result of this merger, and it was immediately and robustly supported by some of Dallas' most successful businessmen of the post-World War II era. Beginning in the 1950s, for example, two of the founders of Texas Instruments donated a total of nearly $50 million, helping to create the solid endowment and modern campus. By the 1960s, Time' magazine called St. Mark's the "best equipped day school in the country." [10]"

So, his fascism and racism likely was nurtured by wealth, elitism and Texas than a nonsectarian private school. It is unclear when he acquired his atheism, be it before, during or after his evolution into a Nazi.

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Response to rug (Reply #10)

Thu May 25, 2017, 03:09 AM

11. Thanks for the correction: Episcopal

Still, religious; Christian.

Not all religious folks are totalitarian or authoritarian of course. Not all authoritarians learned their trade in religious school. But there is definitely a connection. Especially but not just the Church, with its Pope. All bow to the one central authority of a God.

Stalin grew up in a proto USSR, that had earlier been dominated by very strict, paternalistic Orthodox churches; Stalin studied to be a priest, in seminary.

Hitler was a Catholic altar boy, they say. And knew Catholic antisemitism well. From the Replacement theology that said Jews killed Jesus. And that Christianity replaced Judaism.

In the novel 1984, the various authoritarian agencies are called "ministries."

Today, many churches are somewhat more liberal. But most demand obedience to a single, central god or "lord."

It's a little unusual for anyone to note the connection between authoritarianism and Christianity. But some do. And Spencer has.

Likely as you note, Dallas elitism had a role too. But parochial schools were often somewhat elitist. And elitists often centered around one religion or another. Crediting their superiority to strict training, and the asserted superiority a particular religion. In one religious school or another.

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