Inside the hangar-like conference room of Montgomery Bell State Park Inn, about 40 miles west of Nashville, more than 100 white faces stare in unison at a man in a dark gray suit.
A man in his early 60s, Jared Taylor has the charisma of someone half his age. He is genteel, erudite and soft-spoken as he addresses a receptive audience of writers, thinkers and assorted hangers-on. It's nearly 5 p.m., and the American Renaissance Conference is under way.
The mood is relaxed, as if old friends have reunited after years of absence. Jokes and ensuing backslaps are shared. One man laments forgetting his copy of Why We Fight — a furious anti-Islam screed by one of the weekend's featured speakers, the French journalist and author Guillaume Faye. As many conference goers have proudly noted, the decision to host this gathering on publicly owned lands affords it all sorts of First Amendment protections. For the past two years, they said, so-called "anti-fascist" protesters shut AmRen down.
And come these old friends have, from all corners of the Western world, from California to Maryland, from Canada to England, France and beyond, to experience an atmosphere of camaraderie that only those with a persecution complex can fully understand or appreciate. In the bucolic and firmly isolated Montgomery Bell State Park Inn — which would be, as one conference goer with a background in law enforcement told me, an ideal place to terrorize any protesters who might be stupid enough to travel the park's lone, winding road without carrying firearms — they can loosen their belts (and their tongues) a few notches and let their freak flags unfurl.
"Our views aren't very popular," says a woman who'd come all the way from Manhattan for the conference. "You don't get invited to all the fancy dinner parties on the Upper East Side." She explains it's not often you find people — particularly upper-middle-class liberals — who are willing to break bread with those who look down on your value system.
But here, she's among friends who've paid $150 for a weekend of lectures, book signings and above all, networking. For $35 more, she gets a banquet of wilted asparagus and dry pork tenderloin, plus the dinner entertainment of an address by Faye, the French New Right author renowned in these circles for his anti-Muslim writings.
Faye is but one of many speakers who regale the audiences with a collective warning that decades of multiculturalism and racial mixing have eroded the vitality of white, European-derived culture, which can only be reaffirmed by a return to aristocratic rule. Others, such as Cambridge-educated "racial scientist" Richard Lynn, speculate that the torch of Western civilization will be passed to the Chinese.
The fear plays well to the visitor from Manhattan. "And what he said about China?!" she gasps, slapping the listener's shoulder and emitting a peal of nervous, squeaky laughter.
Over the March 16 weekend, 150 such conference goers descended upon Montgomery Bell State Park for the 10th American Renaissance Convention. But the measure of its success won't be this year's attendance, or next year's. Its goals are rather more long-range.
The conference is the organizing center of a movement that distances itself from the overt hate speech attributed to the likes of the Ku Klux Klan or the Aryan Nation. You'll find the same ideas — strict racial separation, eugenics, the superiority of European (read: white) cultures, the race war to come — but without those illiterate rubes and their gauche bedsheet attire.
That's not the only way in which AmRen breaks with traditional white supremacy. Taylor and other speakers profess admiration for Jews and the Japanese, praising their homogeneous cultures and undiluted bloodlines. Such "racial science" extends even unto gender as outlined by speakers like Lynn, who noted that because men have larger brains than women, male intelligence is, on average, 4 IQ points higher than the fairer sex.
The movement seeks ways to cultivate mainstream legitimacy by masking racist tropes with a heavy coating of pseudo-intellectual varnish. Start with that ugly word: "racist." The weekend's conference goers prefer terms such as "racialist," or "racial-realist." That's the first step in making the movement's ideals more palatable to moderate conservatives. As AmRen speaker Robert Weissberg, an emeritus professor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, tells a Saturday morning audience while proposing "A Politically Viable Alternative to White Nationalism," nothing turns the target demographic off faster than self-identified white supremacists.
"The term white nationalism arrives with lots and lots of unsavory ideological baggage," Weissberg says. "If you say you're a white nationalist, you're right up there with child molesters [and] perverts."
Hoping to turn that perception around is Taylor, CEO of the New Century Foundation, a nonprofit headquartered in Oakton, Va. Its mission is to "educate the public on matters of race, race relations and immigration." Since 1990, NCF has published American Renaissance, a monthly newsletter that serves as the conference's namesake and as a vehicle for its various speakers. Taylor's pet projects orbit within a system of other angry white bodies. There is the Council of Conservative Citizens, a St. Louis-based right-wing separatist group with national reach that has been denounced as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall got in hot water for serving as the council's featured speaker at a Nashville gathering in 2009.) There is the American Third Position Party, which according to its mission statement "believes that government policy in the United States discriminates against white Americans, the majority population, and that white Americans need their own political party to fight this discrimination." These join organizations such as the Pioneer Fund, a nonprofit (and SPLC-certified hate group) whose stated aim is "to advance the scientific study of heredity and human differences," and the Charles Martel Society, founded by William Regnery II, which publishes the academic racism journal The Occidental Quarterly.
What the federal government thinks of such groups is pretty clear (and the feeling is mutual). In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on far-right organizations titled "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." It characterizes homegrown extremist groups as belonging to one of two basic camps.
"Right-wing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups)," the report states, "and those that are mainly anti- government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration."
None of the groups represented at the AmRen conference is mentioned by name. But the descriptions fit, even for those visitors who aren't American — such as Lynn, the diminutive British octogenarian who delivers a monologue about miscegenation being the root cause of the decline of Western civilization. That's all the more reason for the movement to broaden its tent — and where better to start than putting a smiley face on white separatism?
So the Scene drove out I-40, registered for the conference, and spent the day at a lovely mid-South state park with the new faces of white nationalism.
A woman approaches the podium, dwarfed by the massive blank projection screen to her back. Her name is Virginia Abernethy, a Nashville resident and professor emerita of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University who taught at the university's medical school for 24 years. Like most of the conference's dozen guest lecturers, Abernethy's pedigree (Harvard, Wellesley) lends her the kind of intellectual cachet that American Renaissance means to cultivate to rebrand their movement as something other than Diet KKK.
This positions the genteel, educated Abernethy on the vanguard of a relatively new front in the white separatist movement. It seeks to dress up early 20th century eugenics with a 21st century veneer, and in the process put fringe candidates into office.
Abernethy is one of those candidates. She's running as a vice presidential candidate for the American Third Position Party, aka A3P, a hard-right political party founded in Orange County, Calif., in 2010 by "racist Southern California skinheads that aims to deport immigrants and return the United States to white rule," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
According to a document dump of A3P emails, forum messages and other data swiped by members of the hacker collective Anonymous, A3P has ties to 2012 presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who commands 50 delegates in the current Republican primary. The information reveals that Paul frequently met with members of the party and engaged in conference calls with A3P's board of directors.
Abernethy, it turns out, is a proud A3P board member (and is also listed on the editorial board of The Occidental Quarterly). Vanderbilt University confirmed Abernethy's credentials, but declined to comment further.
"It's my pleasure to introduce American Third Position presidential candidate Merlin Miller," Abernerthy says. "But first I want to mention that A3P is a new party, and it is a party that perfectly represents the values of European-Americans, and therefore explicitly represents European-American interests. It starts with the values. What we have always supported [is] responsibility, rule of law, and [a] future-oriented perspective in our own lives."
It's a vague platform that sounds somewhat reasonable on the surface. In America's late capitalist age of consumer-based multiculturalism, identity politics are nothing new. The country's president is African-American. What's the harm in people who love, say, the Irish or the French getting together and doing stuff white people like?
But Abernethy is guilty of what Catholics refer to as a "sin of omission." Miller, Abernethy's running mate, fleshes out the rhetoric, revealing a familiar strategy. He stands at the podium, a tall, imposing figure with sharp blue eyes and a tousled frock of straw-colored hair. Hanging around his neck this St. Patrick's Day is a tie covered with what appear to be several thousand four-leaf clovers.
"I think the way we can approach this from a political perspective is trying to always maintain the moral high ground," Miller begins. "It's easy for us to be attacked simply because we do not control the public discourse. We don't get to brand who we are. The mainstream media does that, and they're certainly not our friends, so we have to find a way to do that and stay on the moral high ground.
"Two major areas we can do that on and always feel sound is: The dispossession of the white race is immoral; it's not right. European Americans founded this country, they built this country. We have every right to stand up, be proud of who we are, and declare that. It's not right that we're being dispossessed in our own country.
"The other thing," Miller continues, "is affirmative action programs. Why aren't we as groups saying this is unconstitutional? This is not right!"
It's a hat trick — victimization, appeals to morality, and a black bogeyman — that earns Miller a burst of applause.
After he finishes his speech, another bout of applause ushers Miller from the podium. The conference's emcee and AmRen mastermind, Jared Taylor, introduces the final speaker before we break for an hour so that the help can prep the room for the cash bar and $35 banquet. Hands clap as a bearded man sporting a gray-streaked ponytail walks along the perimeter of the conference room and places his hands on the podium.
"I'm Cuban by birth, I'm American by citizenship, and I'm Southern by the grace of God," he says, his voice carrying loud and full all the way to the back of the room, where book merchants hawk titles like Archeofuturism: European Visions of the Post-Catastrophic Age. Rapt applause erupts as roughly 150 of the world's pre-eminent white nationalists put their hands together for a man — brown though he may be — who is definitely speaking their language.
Roan Garcia-Quintana is a Cuban-born, Savannah-raised member of the Council of Conservative Citizens. "I love the South," he continues. "It is the South that has given me that rebellious spirit, and it is that rebellious spirit that is gonna [help] us to bring America back, and to bring the European heritage back."
That Garcia-Quintana doesn't fit the standard model of the European-descended white male seems to be lost on this crowd, if it even matters. He's the executive director of Americans Have Had Enough, a hard-right anti-immigration organization formerly headed by former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, and is also an active member of South Carolina's CCC. Later in his address, he prides himself on the work he's done to shepherd anti-immigration laws modeled after Arizona's draconian SB1070 to passage in the Palmetto State's legislature.
"About six, seven years ago, when I took on the issue of the illegal alien in South Carolina, a lot of people said, 'Oh, man, you don't want to go there, you're not going to get anything done,' " Garcia-Quintana tells the crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen, I have gotten two laws passed, and we've gotten rid of those wetbacks, and we didn't get them some towels. We should have given them some towels to dry their backs."
The audience reaction is mixed. A few in the audience make disapproving gasps — but many more nod their heads in silent agreement. The division isn't surprising. The crowd is even split on the issue of President Obama's birth certificate, with a vocal minority concerned that pursuit of the issue threatens AmRen's big-tent ambitions butting heads with a majority who apparently share the same concerns as Donald Trump.
Watching Garcia-Quintana before this crowd calls to mind that old Dave Chappelle joke about white thugs in black gangs: "There ain't no telling what they done to get them black dudes' respect, but them black dudes have seen them do some wild shit, I'll tell you that." Indeed, Garcia-Quintana tried very, very hard to win this crowd's respect. In so doing, he violated one of the unspoken rules of the nascent white nationalist movement: Do not, under any circumstance, act like a white nationalist.
That would make it far too easy for those American Renaissance is courting to confuse it with more familiar racist organizations such as the KKK and the popular white supremacist website Stormfront. Already some reports suggest strain among AmRen's pool of supporters and fellow travelers. In 2006, former Klan leader and Louisiana GOP candidate David Duke — now running another hate group called European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) — spoke at an AmRen conference held in Herndon, Va. Here's an excerpt of the account from The Jewish Daily Forward:
Duke approached the microphone on the floor during the question-and-answer session for French writer Guillaume Faye. After congratulating Faye for stirring remarks that "touched my genes," Duke asked if there weren't an even more insidious threat to the West than Islam.
"There is a power in the world that dominates our media, influences our government and that has led to the internal destruction of our will and our spirit," Duke said.
"Tell us, tell us," came a call from the back of the room.
"I'm not going to say it," Duke said to rising laughter.
But Michael Hart, a squat, balding Jewish astrophysicist from Maryland, was not amused. He rose from his seat, strode toward Duke (who loomed over him like an Aryan giant), spit out a curse — "You f...ing Nazi, you've disgraced this meeting" — and exited.
Duke broke one of Taylor's cardinal rules: No anti-Semitism. Two months after the incident, the AmRen leader denounced Duke for "disgraceful behavior," which caused a backlash among the movement's decidedly anti-Semitic adherents, who asserted that Taylor was part of a Jewish conspiracy. (Perhaps they forgot about the kosher meal and rabbi guest speaker featured at AmRen's inaugural 1994 conference.)
One 2012 conference attendee didn't have much nice to say about Duke, either. A man who identified himself as Kenneth Quarterman, a perennial office seeker from Atlanta, spoke of the KKK as being composed of "rats" that had the audacity to kick him out of a Klan rally. But he's fine with it now. He's got a new family at AmRen.
Having such views has "lost me a lot of friends" over the years, says Quarterman, a thin, elderly man with a frazzled white beard who talks in a stream of consciousness. He shared his thoughts on a wide array of topics, which somehow led to a racist non sequitur: that Southern whites were upset after World War I because African-American soldiers "had white pussy from French whores for the first time," which spurred the KKK to "put the niggers on notice that they needed to be put back in their place and that this was the United States and they were still segregated," but that later, during Vietnam, people didn't mind it when black soldiers copulated with Asians. Shortly afterward, at dinner, he turns his attention to his pork tenderloin, chewing with his mouth open.
Seated to Quarterman's right is Paul Fromm, the Canadian far-right organizer once described by Fox News as a "free speech activist," but referred to by the Toronto Sun as a former teacher "with ties to the neo-Nazi movement" who was "fired for participating in meetings and conferences sponsored by those who support white supremacist and anti-Semitic views." Fromm and his wife implore me to join the Council of Conservative Citizens. I tell them I'll think about it.
By the time Fromm is finishing dinner, he launches into a diatribe against the "soulless" and "immoral" Chinese who cannot possibly be the ones to carry the torch of Western civilization, adopting an Anglicized pidgin accent. He says the white race would be better off founding its own country, perhaps somewhere in South America. I nod, excuse myself to use the bathroom and make a controlled dash for the exit.
In so doing, I would miss the next day's guest speaker, David Yeagley, self-professed descendant of the Comanche leader Bad Eagle. (As white-separatist speaking engagements go, this qualifies as diversity.) Writing for Front Page Magazine — a hard-right website founded by David Horowitz, the ex-Marxist cum right-wing propagandist, which has spotlighted Nashville's Center for the Study of Political Islam and other groups sounding the Muslim menace — Yeagley offers a unique take on racial differences.
"[No] white man dare say he prefers white women. That would be unforgivably racist," Yeagley wrote in a 2006 column titled "What's Up With Dark Men?" "So, as a dark man, I'll say it. Superior beauty is in the white race, with its scintillating varieties of color: red, brown, amber, golden hair... green, blue, light brown, gray eyes. In the darker races, everything is always the same, dark brown and black a beastly bore."
According to the write-up on American Renaissance's website, Yeagley told the 2012 conference that he didn't mind his ancestors being defeated by superior white warriors, but he would be livid to see that land handed over to Muslims without a fight. But by that time, I wasn't around to hear it. Some things, it seems, are even harder to stomach than dry pork tenderloin.
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