Richard Spencer, one of the leaders of the alt-right movement, has been banned from Twitter.
Spencer’s was one of many prominent alt-right accounts banned from the social media service this week, and the move came hours after Twitter announced that it would be cracking down on hate speech and harassment. On Tuesday, the company unveiled new tools meant to protect its users from abuse, such as the ability to mute specific words, block conversations, and report users for “hateful conduct,” according to Bloomberg.
This also comes after Twitter banned two other figures in the alt-right, Milo Yiannopoulos and Ricky Vaughn.
Here’s everything you need to know about Richard Spencer.
1. He Coined the Term ‘Alt-Right’
Not only is Richard Spencer one of the key figures of the alt-right movement; he’s the one who coined the term “alternative right,” shortened to alt-right.
The alt-right movement is characterized by a set of fringe, far-right ideologies including white nationalism and a fierce opposition to political correctness. It grew in part on 4chan, an anonymous message board that makes heavy use of memes like Pepe the Frog. Because posts are made anonymously, users are encouraged to say absolutely anything that’s on their mind. In the early days of the alt-right, a fair amount of the language on 4chan was seemingly just intended to provoke outrage as a way of rebelling against PC culture, but the alt-right has since become a legitimate political movement that has made its way to the White House.
In fact, back in August, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton delivered an entire speech talking about the alt-right and tying it to her opponent, Donald Trump.
“This is not conservatism as we have known it,” Clinton said. “This is not Republicanism as we have know it. These are race-baiting ideas, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas, anti-woman — all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’
This speech came shortly after Donald Trump hired Steve Bannon as his chief executive officer. Bannon is the executive chairman of Breitbart News, a website that Bannon himself has said is “the platform for the alt-Right,” according to Mother Jones. Bannon was recently named President-Elect Donald Trump’s senior counselor.
2. He Is a White Nationalist
Richard Spencer has been described as a white nationalist, as he openly advocates for a white homeland, says that the Untied States is being ruined by the presence of minorities, and calls for peaceful ethnic cleansing. He says that “the ethno-state I envision will arise as a future society.”
“Immigration is a kind a proxy war—and maybe a last stand—for White Americans, who are undergoing a painful recognition that, unless dramatic action is taken, their grandchildren will live in a country that is alien and hostile,” Spencer once wrote in a column.
Spencer also says that the reason he advocates for a society of only white people is that whites are inherently superior.
“What really makes European people special and our heritage special is that we reach for the stars and we believe in something higher than ourselves,” Spencer says. “I don’t want a society based on equality. I want a society that reaches for the stars.”
Spencer does not consider himself to be a white nationalist or a racist, according to Flathead Beacon. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Spencer as “one of the country’s most successful young white nationalist leaders — a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old, a kind of professional racist in khakis.”
3. He Runs the National Policy Institute
Spencer is the president of a think tank called the National Policy Institute, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a white supremacist organization.
On its website, the NPI describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.”
The National Policy Institute also publishes books like Race Differences in Intelligence and The Perils of Diversity. They began hosting national conferences in 2011.
The Huffington Post reports that in these conferences, “Spencer manages to make even the most extreme white nationalist ideas sound like innocuous talking points. He is also a master of obfuscation and sophistry, evading questions about his real agenda by dismissing policy prescriptions as irrelevant (despite the name of his organization).”
4. He Says That Donald Trump Has Legitimized His Movement
Spencer is a big fan of President-Elect Donald Trump, saying that Trump’s campaign helped to legitimize the views of those on the alt-right.
“The Trump phenomenon expresses a fundamental truth,” Spencer told Rolling Stone. “It’s an unspoken truth, and that is that the Republican Party has won elections on the basis of implicit nationalism and not on the basis of the Constitution, free-market economics, vague Christian values and so on. Even a leftist would agree with that statement. Like, Trump has shown the hand of the GOP. The GOP is a white person’s populist party.”
Spencer also told Vice that when Trump said he would temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the United States, for example, it was partially in response to ISIS terrorist attacks, but it was also an expression of just not wanting Muslims in the country.
Spencer explained, “I think one thing he’s saying is just, ‘We don’t want that here.’ I think identity does play a role in this. He’s basically saying that if you are a nation, then at some point you have to say ‘There is an Us, and there is a Them. Who are we? Are we a nation?’ In that sense, I think it’s really great.”
He also defended Donald Trump’s comments about forcibly grabbing women by the private parts, telling Rolling Stone that “at some part of every woman’s soul, they want to be taken by a strong man.”
5. He Described the Recent Bans as ‘A Great Purge’
After Spencer and many other alt-right accounts were banned from Twitter, Spencer responded in a YouTube video, saying that Twitter is purging ideas that it disagrees with from the social media platform.
“It’s corporate Stalinism, in the sense that there is a great purge going on and they’re purging people on the basis of their views,” he says in the video.
He goes on to say that he believes there was some sort of coordinated effort to wipe out all of “alt-right Twitter,” adding that social media companies like Facebook and Twitter are “deeply triggered” by Donald Trump’s election and feel they must do something about it.
Twitter has not commented on the recent bans, but the Southern Poverty Law Center told The USA Today that they have asked Twitter to ban the accounts of over 100 users associated with the alt-right movement.
The banning of Milo Yiannopoulos over the summer was not entirely unexpected, as it was sparked by his harassment of actor Leslie Jones; the Twitter guidelines specifically forbid harassment of any kind. Spencer’s Twitter account, however, was not engaged with harassment of users but was instead being used to promote his white nationalist views.
This wave of bans suggests that going forward, Twitter will be treating any promotion of the alt-right movement to be hate speech, something which violates its guidelines. Twitter specifies that one of its bannable offenses is “Hate speech or advocacy against an individual, organization or protected group based on race, ethnicity, national origin, color, religion, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status or other protected status.”
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