Guest Commentary by Jeff D. Howell
If you haven’t heard by now, armed Nazis from the midwest are threatening to march on the town of Whitefish, unless (wait for it) local human rights activists apologize to a local Nazi’s mother.
Richard Spencer, a Whitefish part-time resident and leading American racist and Neo-Nazi, rose to prominence last month when he called (in German) for a “hail Trump” Nazi salute at a gathering of his racist group, the National Policy Institute, in Washington DC. The video was all over the news. Spencer generally tries to keep a low profile in Whitefish but the Hail Trump incident caused a group of Whitefish activists to denounce Spencer’s behavior with a public demonstration. Spencer’s parents, particularly his mother who lives in Whitefish and has commercial real estate, then started feeling some heat. So in a letter to the editor of the local paper, his mother Sherry claimed victimhood, lamenting that her real estate business is suffering as a result of her son’s behavior. She said some businesses that rent from her are considering leaving, fearing consumer boycotts.
The Daily Stormer picked it up from there. This is the leading American Nazi website, and it printed photos, names and addresses of the jews among the pro-tolerance demonstrators in Whitefish, superimposing the images next to ovens at Auschwitz and Nazi yellow stars, and telling the site’s readership to “take action against these jews.” The caption under a photo of one of the women reads “kike slut” and there is a photo of her young child, too. Now they are talking about an armed march, but have declared a willingness to call it off as long as Spencer’s mother can be assured of continuing business.
In her letter to the public begging to be decoupled from her son, Spencer said that “she does not share her son’s extremist positions.”
Let’s look at a few things. First, none of the activists in Whitefish, Jewish or otherwise, has ever made any attempt to get Spencer or his mother to leave town, nor has anyone boycotted them. The Spencers have lived in the town a long time and have been left alone, despite what Richard is involved in. The only activism against them as been against Richard Spencer by a group called Love Lives Here which made a small demonstration against him, setting off the whole donnybrook. They are calling for tolerance and are denouncing what he stands for. They made no issue of his mother at all. Those activists have done similar things for decades whenever white supremacy has reared its head in the Flathead Valley, and in doing so have helped Whitefish keep its good name as a place to live and visit. Whitefish should be glad for it.
And don’t buy Sherry Spencer’s crocodile tears. She is asking for pity for having come to be perceived as connected to her son’s racist activity. But that’s because her hands are far from clean. She has for many years housed the headquarters of the National Policy Institute, her son’s white supremacist group, at her home, and still does. Her home address is listed as the group’s headquarters and her live-at-home son did many radio broadcasts from that house. She is also in business with her son, very recently having partnered with him to build commercial real estate.
Worse, Mrs. Spencer has attended at least one White Nationalist conference (and probably more, if I had to guess) with Richard and her husband Rand Spencer, an eye surgeon from Texas. They attended not as chaperones but as active participants. She was at the Mencken Club Conference, a White Nationalist gathering, and here are the photos if Richard and his parents Sherry and Rand Spencer at that event with all of them proudly displaying their conference badges. This is a conference at which Richard Spencer has spoken. These photos were caught before Mrs. Spencer quickly deactivated her Facebook account after the Hail Trump incident involving her son. Who knows what else she used to post.
So while Mr. and Mrs. Spencer try to act as if they should be pitied for having given birth to a bad seed with whom they make no common cause, it turns out that they apparently share their son’s political ideas and patronize the same causes and groups, and have only considered pulling away from it since it has become bad for Mrs. Spencer’s business.
She has a right to hold these beliefs, as well as a right to hold them and live in Whitefish. But the businesses that rent from her have the right to decide whom to rent from and if they don’t like their landlord, and choose to rent elsewhere, that’s their choice. Should they be boycotted? No, nor have they been, nor, as best I can tell, had Love Lives Here ever even planned one or discussed one.
Finally, Sherry Spencer’s emails with certain community members in Whitefish ended up in the possession Daily Stormer, resulting in the awful slurs and threats and the publishing of the woman’s photo and her son too. How? Did she give them to this Nazi site? Did her son or her husband transmit them as intermediary? If any of these things happened–in other words, if she is purposely communicating with a Nazi website either directly or indirectly–then this would change everything, and she could no longer be even vaguely excused. Right now, all we know is that the Daily Interlake appears to have pulled down her “letter to the community” in which she argued that she has no association with her son or his politics or his extremist positions. It’s unclear why the Interlake did this, but I believe it’s partly because the photos of her at the Mencken conference have only just surfaced in the last few days. The Interlake may be starting to realize that it got taken for a ride.
Jeff Howell is a freelance writer and Cowgirl contributor.