By Philip Francis
Together with Paul Gottfried, Richard Spencer is one of the founders of the Alternative Right – this being a loose coalition of non-leftists, brought together by a common dislike of the cultural left, and by a common hatred from the cultural left. How much he did to assist the election of Donald Trump last month I leave to the historians, though I suspect his help was considerable. For obvious reasons, he is unusually hated by the cultural left.
In writing this article, I could play safe and emphasise how little I agree with Richard. He does, after all, view the world through very racial eyes. He even wants to break up the United States, making its north-west into a white ethno-state. For the record, I have no opinion regarding the dissolution of the United States along racial lines, but would fiercely resist similar calls for the dissolution of my own country. It would, however, be dishonest to play entirely safe. I first met Richard in 2008, at the third conference, held in Bodrum, of the Property and Freedom Society. We next met in London in 2012, and there again in 2013. He has republished me a few times. We have occasionally corresponded. This may or may not make us friends. But it does allow me to say that I have always found him both approachable and charming. I do not recognise in the man I know the monster frequently described by his opponents.
Even so, he is hated by the cultural leftists, and they see no distinction between political debate and personal attacks. He is himself fireproof. He lives in a country where political censorship is not formally allowed. He has no job from which he can be hounded. He has long been excluded from every media outlet that is open to being scared. As for actual debate, the leftists are astonishingly shy when it comes to entering any forum in which they might be asked to provide a rational exposition and defence of what they claim to believe. Therefore Richard felt safe to plug away, all through the Presidential campaign in America, saying exactly what he believed to anyone who would listen. I repeat, its effect may have been considerable.
But, if he is fireproof, his mother is not. Mrs Spencer owns commercial premises in Whitefish, Montana. She built these with her own money, and is the sole owner. On the 22nd November this year, she claims that she was approached by Tanya Gersh, a local estate agent, and told that, unless she sold her building, and donated some of the proceeds of sale to the Montana Human Rights Network, two hundred demonstrators would turn up outside, and reduce its sale value.
Mrs Spencer has published several alleged e-mails from Mrs Gersh, and associated Facebook postings. In one of them, Mrs Gersh offers to act as the agent for the sale of the building. In another, she suggests a “donation.” In another, she provides a draft statement to sign in which Mrs Spencer denounces her son and all his works.
These are claims and alleged e-mails. I do not know if Mrs Spencer is telling the truth. I also do not know the truth of the claim, that Mrs Gersh has links to the local “human rights” organisation Love Lives Here, which is listed by the Montana Human Rights Network as an “affiliated” organisation. For the avoidance of doubt, I am only reporting claims already made in the public domain, sometimes from leftist sources. Indeed, the main alleged facts have already been reported in The Daily Mail. I have tried to look at Mrs Gersh in more detail. But she appears to have closed all her social media accounts. Beyond the claim already mentioned, I have been able to find no evidence that she is connected with any of the relevant organisations. For the sake of balance, I also note that several people associated with the allegations made by Mrs Spenser claim to have suffered harassment. This again has been reported in The Daily Mail.
What I can say with assurance, though, is that this is how leftists generally behave. I lived in the London Borough of Lewisham for several years in the 1980s, and was connected with the Conservative Party there. In 1986, the ruling Labour Group on the Council refused for political reasons to pass a budget for the year. In those days, the Conservatives still had enough Councillors to form a quorum. They turned up one night, and passed a budget. The Councillors had to be escorted from the Town Hall under police protection. I well remember the shouts of “We know where your children go to school!”
My conclusion will be brief. It is only a plea for political debate to be conducted within reasonable bounds. Of course, debate should be robust. It should be far outside the narrow bounds of what British law currently permits. At the same time, attacks on the friends and relatives of an opponent should always be avoided. So far as this bound may have been crossed in the case of Richard Spencer, we are all harmed – whether or not we agree with his opinions.