So while some of us held it down outside the American Renaissance (AmRen) Conference this year, some decided to actually take in the event in all its fascist glory. This is what they saw.
Opening Remarks and Old Wounds
One of the first things I noticed upon settling in for the initial night of the 2021 American Renaissance Conference in Berns, Tennessee (November 12-14) was the apparent lasting impact of a single altercation between an AmRen attendee, William Markley, and an Antifa protester back in 2017.
Invoking the memory of this embarrassing episode, which led to the arrest of the offending white nationalist, AmRen founder Jared Taylor opened the 18th conference on Friday night with what began as a pithy plea to ignore this year’s activists (“However much you might be tempted to engage them, I urge you to crush your inner Margaret Mead.”), but ended as an actual order to the audience.
While this was greeted with good humor by those sitting around me, this came off as more than a little desperate–indeed, Vdare’s Peter Brimelow, following some clumsy backpeddling to downplay who was the instigator, also felt the need to bring up this five year-old incident in his speech the next day.
This need to uphold a civil, non-violent image while advocating policies that are anything but set a dizzying tone of projection, hypocrisy and general cognitive dissonance that dominated the atmosphere during the time I was at the Montgomery Bell Park Inn & Conference Center: featured speakers from AmRen/Counter-Currents essayist Gregory Hood (Editor’s note: this is an alias for Kevin DeAnna, the founder of the now-defunct White Supremacist organization Youth for Western Civilization) to mainstream right-wing journalist Michelle Malkin, the first person of color to address this conference, echoed Taylor’s sentiment of what a hard-won and secure refuge the state-operated venue had become for their movement over the years against its violent opponents, even as—unlike the protesters outside—attendees had to submit to inspection by welcoming park rangers to ensure no weapons were being brought into the premises.
Other logical lapses included uniformly casting protests during 2020’s general COVID-19 lockdown in response to the wave of racially-motivated police murders around the country as spontaneous acts of violence and rioting with next to no consideration of context or even cause and effect (for his part, Taylor minimized the outrage of George Floyd’s murder by police officer Derek Chauvin as overblown “simply because a knee was left on his neck a few minutes too long.”
Envy, Politics and the Well-Read Fascist
Opening the Saturday presentations, Occidental Quarterly writer F. Roger Devlin, seemingly oblivious to Tulsa’s thriving Greenwood neighborhood, among numerous other examples from the last century, delivered “The Role of Envy in Racial Conflict”. This third-hand ethnographic assay of particular Polynesian, Amazonian and Northern Nigerian societies was used to attribute low material success of non-whites in Western industrial societies to a locked-in heritage of indolence and resentment, rather than the impact of more recent patterns of exploitation, political repression, or enforced inequality across housing, education and other areas.
Brimelow’s “The 2022 Midterms—What They Mean for Us” ranged from standard xenophobia to the outright bizarre, emphasizing how the January 6 raid on the Capitol was, by Vdare‘s standards, anyway, peaceful and that the participants should be regarded as political prisoners. To great applause, he declared the president and vice president should be charged with treason for their immigration policy (presumably because it isn’t draconian enough) and enumerated several proposed changes, including retroactive revocation of citizenship to those born of illegal aliens going back to the 1980s and expelling Puerto Rico. During the q & a portion serious talk was given to the prospect of the United States annexing Canada (except for Quebec). Something that would resurface in an afternoon session was his interesting ambivalence regarding Trump’s impact on white nationalist goals. While the last president appears more popular than ever among the right, “Trump is too much of a distraction for Republicans; his contradictory style is impractical, so white activists have much work ahead of them.”
Ironically of Chinese/Phillipino parentage, first-time speaker Michelle Malkin built her argument for “Open Borders Inc.: The ‘Conspiracy’ is Real” around the persecution-tinged sentiment that, in the face of BLM demagoguery, “embracing Western culture and history and defending it is not a crime.” While she spoke surprisingly little on immigration, Malkin was never short on ascerbic rhteorical formulations (“Restorative justice means never having to face justice.”; it’s important to note the “distinction between normalizing the hatred of white culture versus the false notion of white-directed racist oppression of others.”), which she married to a reminiscence of growing up with the classic ouvre of “dead white men” such as Kipling, Frost, Poe and Shakespeare (no mention of Othello). Like Brimelow, she expressed frustration with mainstream Republicans who, not able to “see the difference between spam and beef” regarding race, culture and immigration needed to be “brought into the light” of race reality. Perversely, her repeated use of the illumination metaphor for spreading the white supremacist worldview (something more traditionally associated with resisting encroaching tyranny) by citing the phrase “one thousand points of light” from C.S. Lewis’ Narnia book, The Silver Chair earned her not only a standing ovation, but a call to run for president.
Music, Tears and the Power Of Delusion
Following an exacerable music video tribute to racist balladeer Colin Flaherty, absent due to terminal illness (I was too stunned by the presentation to notice what those with children in tow were doing at this awkward point), Jared Taylor spoke again.
His “The Battle Lines—And the Outcome—Are Clearer than Ever” laid out how the white nationalist cause was at a crossroads. Taylor lamented how he wished he was 40 years younger to take part in the coming struggle to redefine the country and was actually getting choked up in acknowledgement of the great figures who “fought for us in history, from Napoloeon, to the Greeks and Romans.” As if in acknowledgement of Malkin’s speech, Taylor explained how the challenge against such white-marginalizing pressures as diversity, the Federal government (“The Potomac Regime has become the greatest white threat to the world.”), Critical Race Theory and the influence of Robin DiAngelis’ White Fragility in education (two completely different subjects forever getting conflated), constituted “a battle of words… for now.”
The last event I attended was an impromptu panel discussion between Taylor, AmRen scribe Gregory Hood, attorney Sam G. Dickson, with AmRen Assistant Editor, Henry Wolff as moderator.
The two main points of discussion in what was originally a 45-minute single speaker slot for David Cole (also absent due to poor health), addressed the impact of the Trump presidency and different strategies of outreach to “normies” in future.
While all agreed that, true to form, it was anyone’s guess as to whether Trump would run for office again in 2022, his long-term utility to the white supremacist movement was a source of debate. All recognized how the dependably outraged response on the part of liberals at his denial of the facts at every turn and galloping erraticism had much to do with his delight for conservative voters, with Jared Taylor summarizing that Trump’s single greatest benefit to the movement was the breakthrough effect on American political discourse his unabashed, if crudely-expressed, racist views had while in the Oval Office. Conversely, committed to projecting a more dignified, intellectual perception of white nationalism as key to greater social acceptance, Taylor’s reservations lay in what degree Trump’s continued following was based on this same ignorance and vulgarity.
Gregory Hood espoused an especially militant, Goebbelsesque approach to gaining a toehold for neo-fascism: with each political action “we have to demonstrate (unwavering) strength by having a minimum of fifty participants.” Though decrying the folly of past utopian movements and thinking, he thought it would nevertheless be fruitful to encourage the same commitment to a long-term vision as a motivating factor for the racially conscious, however unrealistic; in short, to operate the movement like a cult. Taylor, defending the more scholarly approach best-equipped for receiving the increasing numbers of disgruntled whites who would eventually “find us”, like Shangri-La in Lost Horizon, he felt that, people would be more willing to “die for their passions, rather than their interests (sic).”
An unavoidably early departure precluded sitting in on any further talks, including greetings via Skype from Ruuben Kaalep, founder of the far-right Conservative People’s Party of Estonia and self-proclaimed “Sh*t Lord”, who had last attended in person in 2016 (a second European political figure, Dries Van Langenhove, founder of Schild & Vrienden a Flemish youth nationalist group, may have cancelled, as I failed to find mention of him in post-event online commentary).
Attendees, Vendors…and a Fugitive?
With some 150 to 200 in attendance, ranging from seniors to those in their 20s and 30s, the conference, as indicated before, numbered a few families, which, from what I gathered, might have been a first-time occurence. In an overheard exchange on Friday between a young mother and her five-year-old in the corridor outside the main conference space the woman patiently explaining to her daughter why people call them Nazis suggested children were there not simply because the parents couldn’t find a sitter (indeed, during a q-and-a the following day, one of the speakers recommended couples have more children to fight against the non-white tide).
The presence of formally-dressed families, toddlers scurrying about, along with the amiable chatter and joking among people of different ages, imbued the settting with a deceptively lulling coziness not unlike the conviviality that comes from any other community association, be it a house of worship, or a Rotary Club dinner—jarred by a rather peripetetic young man who coursed the halls all weekend with a little brown plush figure sitting on his shoulder. Only when I saw him bending down to let a child pet it in the row in front of me on Saturday did I realize it was a mocking caricature of a black man with oversized fabric tears dangling from his eyes.
As to the conversation, it ranged from discussion of Tradtionalist and other conservative schools of thought, what consciousness-raising epiphanies brought individuals to the movement (often without their family’s knowledge), diversity bias in popular entertainment and other topics, all generally unified by a sense of growing marginalization and persecution.
A big draw for socializing was the tables lining three walls, displaying assorted pamphlets and other platform literature from politial groups, such as the American Freedom Party (whose fund-raising raffle prize basket included a selection of books and custom-made AFP soap), as well as vendors hawking books on history, the world wars, imperialism, Northern European mythology and rightist esoteric philosophy. Lothrop Stoddard, Madison Grant, Oswald Spengler and Julius Evola were well represented, as well as Jef Costello and Greg Johnson, among other contemporary neo-fascist writers, published through Counter-Currents, Antelope Hill Publishing and UK-based Arktos Books.
Coming from a more graphic direction, a table for the White Art Collective displayed comic book pages from published and forthcoming white nationalist-oriented comics, while White People’s Press offered WPQ: White Pride Quarterly, a family-friendly glossy magazine celebrating Eurocentric culture and traditions.
For a movement averse to public exposure, considerable excitement ensued Friday evening when Taylor introduced the audience to a new three-man videography team which, unlike the customary mainstream coverage, he assured were “on our side” and would document the conference in an impartial manner.
Just months old, the white nationalist media outlet Media2Rise has posted online documentaries on the National Justice Party and Patriot Front (from which videographer Graham Whitson hails). Journalist Lucca Corgiat is a member of the Rise Above Movement, founded, along with Media2Rise, by Robert Rundo, whose very presence at AmRen, I would learn later, placed him–and, by association, Jared Taylor–on potentially shaky legal ground. Rundo faced rioting charges for his role in fighting anti-Trump demonstrators in Huntington Beach, CA in 2017, charges that although dismissed in 2019 were reinstated this year. Though kicked out of Serbia last March, he has persisted in Bosnia, Herzegovina and elsewhere in Europe building a network of mixed martial arts “active clubs” to recruit young men into the white supremacist fold, while awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to entertain a last-minute appeal to avoid imprisonment on federal rioting charges.
In hindsight, the future implications for the recent blanket exoneration of Kyle Rittenhouse in the murder and injury last year of police violence protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, lends a new weight to Jared Taylor’s Saturday “battle of words” remark.
Heartening as it was to see how most of the attendees in the cafeteria during the lunch break refrained from eating al fresco for fear of a telephoto lens-equipped camera carried by just one of the anti-fascists outside, it’s reasonable to assume AmRen will likely be doubling down on normatizing its regressive social agenda for mainstream consumption in the future.