In some corners, it’s widely considered rude and uncouth to revel in the humiliation of your enemies. I personally do not ascribe to that haughty philosophy and am perfectly happy doing the tarantella on the graves of those who’ve done me wrong. And while white supremacist par excellence Richard Spencer isn’t actually dead yet, he’s apparently having a real tough time of late.
Strap on your dancin’ shoes, folks. From the New York Times:
Leaders in Whitefish [MT] say Mr. Spencer, who once ran his National Policy Institute from his mother’s $3 million summer house here, is now an outcast in this resort town in the Rocky Mountains, unable to get a table at many of its restaurants. His organization has dissolved. Meanwhile, his wife has divorced him, and he is facing trial next month in Charlottesville, Va., over his role in the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi march there, but says he cannot afford a lawyer.
A’bloo bloo bloo! Poor widdle Nazi baby. Can’t be seated at a restaurant! Out of a job! No one loves him!
The Times‘ update on Spencer’s abysmal-seeming circumstances comes as part of a larger story about how the good people of Whitefish banded together to help make their community as inhospitable as possible for Spencer and his cadre of fellow professional racists. And to be sure, a community coming together to tell their resident Nazi to piss off is a good and important thing — more communities should try it! But there’s something missing from the Times‘ story that is a crucial moment in what the paper itself deemed the “silencing” of Spencer and co: the time he got punched right in his fucking head.
The punch, which prompted plenty of handwringing and pearl-clutching over whether or not it’s okay to ever punch a Nazi (it sure is!), occurred during what should have been the height of Spencer’s career as a full-time racist — the inauguration of Donald Trump. Instead, it forever branded him as “that Nazi who got his clock thoroughly cleaned” and helped define him as the ur-bigot of the Trump era. This, I think, is crucial to the arc of Spencer’s seeming cancelation by the people of Whitefish. It’s much easier to identify a Nazi — and identify what should be done to them — when that Nazi has already become an internet joke for both being a Nazi, and facing the consequences thereof. Were Spencer not memed into oblivion as “the Nazi who got smacked,” my guess is that it wouldn’t have been quite so easy to rally an entire community to oppose him. Yes, it would likely still have happened in some form, thanks to the sincerely hard work of both activists, and ordinary citizens on the ground in Whitefish and elsewhere, but I can’t help but think that the moment Spencer got blasted in the jaw, his cancelation, or silencing, or whatever doofy substitute for “getting what he deserves” became inevitable.
Who’s to say if Spencer will have a second act as perhaps the country’s foremost racist? Knowing the United States, I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. With that in mind, what’s happened to him in Whitefish is instructive on what communities can and should do to the racists in their midst. But that isn’t the whole of the story. To write out the anonymous hero who took it upon himself to level a public racist publicly is to deny the reality of what it takes to make sure Spencer and his ilk are as minimized, marginalized, and neutralized as possible.