The ‘sword and shield’ of white supremacists buckles under pressure

After a few critical articles, white supremacist lawyer Kyle Bristow decides to quit the movement.

Richard Spencer is feeling even lonelier than usual these days. CREDIT: GETTY / JOE RAEDLE
Richard Spencer is feeling even lonelier than usual these days. CREDIT: GETTY / JOE RAEDLE

It turns out the “sword and shield” for young white supremacists isn’t worth much.

Kyle Bristow, a lawyer who had been an outspoken legal advocate for white supremacists and a close associate of Richard Spencer, announced over the weekend that he’d no longer be affiliating with white supremacists. According to Bristow, he is leaving the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas (FMI), a group he founded in 2016 and one that, in his words, had “aggressively established itself as the sword and shield” of young white supremacists.

But after the Detroit Free Press dove into Bristow’s background — including his past work as leader of the “first college-student organization to be listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center” — Bristow apparently couldn’t stand the criticism.

In a long, rambling statement, Bristow criticized media coverage of his work. He wrote that “journalists have published horrifically disparaging articles about me which contain acerbic, offensive, juvenile, and regrettable statements I mostly made over a decade ago while I was in college.” Due to the “unjustifiable vilification,” Bristow announced that he would be “withdraw[ing] from politics.”

Bristow didn’t specify which bits of media coverage he took issue with, but he was never shy about his previous white supremacist leanings. While working at FMI — which he claimed was a white supremacist “version of the SPLC,” and which included white supremacists like Spencer and Mike Enoch as board members — the group published multiple guides for white supremacists, including for white supremacist “guerilla activists.” One FMI post called on readers to “Hail Richard Spencer!”

And while he’s since deleted his Twitter feed, Bristow, according to Internet Archive, had used his account to describe white supremacy as “freedom for our people” and a “cause… being heard around the world.” In his work, he’d become the “go-to attorney for a growing cast of racists — young and old,” wrote the SPLC.

It’s unclear how Bristow’s ignominious resignation will affect Spencer’s future. But given that only a few dozen turned out for Spencer’s recent appearance in Michigan, it’s clear he has more issues than just losing allies suddenly threatening his relevance.