It’s been a tough week for Richard Spencer, a.k.a. the dapper Nazi.
Barely three dozen people attended his latest talk at Michigan State University — despite Spencer claiming that 150 tickets had been sold. Outside, white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters; police arrested 25 people, including Greg Conte, who works for Spencer’s National Policy Institute (NPI) think tank.
The day after the rally, Spencer’s friend Kyle Bristow, a lawyer who had called his organization, the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas, the “sword and shield” of the far-right movement, announced that he would no longer be working with white supremacists.
Now, however, it seems that Spencer has finally realized the blindingly obvious — that his college tour has been a complete and utter failure. “The college tour idea was to engage with students and community, not have pitched battles,” Spencer tweeted on Sunday. “We have to recalibrate and find a model that works.”
“The fact is that until this situation changes we’re up a creek without a paddle,” Spencer elaborated in a video message. “The college tour is not about pitched battles is about intellectual activity; until something changes I’m gonna have to rethink how I do this… at least for the foreseeable future, I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to host an event that’s wide open to the public.”
Richard Spencer has made numerous college speaking appearances, including visits to University of Florida, Auburn University, and Texas A&M. His self-professed plan was to go into “academic, Marxist-controlled territory” and give a reactionary speech explaining his far-right views. His speeches are frequently met with fierce backlash, which Spencer then turned on its head and uses as “proof” that the left is intolerant and his white supremacist views are under siege.
In analyzing what went wrong, Spencer omits the fact that taxpayers have been forced to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide security for his events. His speech at the University of Florida last October, for instance, cost Floridians around $600,000, with snipers, SWAT teams, and hundreds of riot police on hand. Spencer’s NPI only paid $10,564 to rent an auditorium.
Spencer also fails to mention that his “intellectual activity” involves advocating for a whites-only ethnostate, saying Martin Luther King Jr. was a fraud and degenerate, or saying that “Africans have benefited from white supremacy.”
Spencer had originally planned to speak at the University of Michigan, as well, but those plans seem to be permanently on ice now. In January, UM announced that Spencer’s talk would be delayed until after the spring semester so security could asses the situation and “offer possible dates based on these assessments.” Spencer’s legal team had hoped that they could have an event in the summer to draw large crowds, but his legal team have now abandoned him, and Spencer himself has admitted he needs to change course.
His admittance of failure, however, points to a wider problem for the far-right. After rallying around President Donald Trump’s electoral victory a year-and-a-half ago, there have been steady signs of weakening within the far-right movement. Prominent far-right figures like Mike Cernovich have distanced themselves from the movement, while subsections have started fighting with one other. Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, for instance, recently called Matthew Heimbach, who runs the far-right Traditionalist Workers Party, “a good-natured but socially awkward fat kid” and denounced him as leader.
“Everyone in the [far-right] is a malignant contrarian,” Ryan Lenz of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) told Newsweek. “They come from a culture where insults are the coin of the realm.”