Richard Spencer's very sad Montana life is proof de-platforming Nazis works
Richard Spencer, the noted neo-Nazi and white supremacist who latched himself to Trumpism and rode it all the way to mainstream prominence, is straight up not having a good time. According to a report from The New York Times, Spencer has been ousted from Whitefish, Montana, a well-to-do resort town in the Rocky Mountains where he and his racist policy thinktank once called home. It's the latest piece of evidence that — surprise! — de-platforming neo-Nazis works.
Just for a quick hit of schadenfreude, here's where Spencer's life is at, according to the Times: He's reportedly keeping a low-profile out of necessity, as the community banded together to make sure he no longer feels welcome. Residents, state officials, religious groups, and human rights activists all joined together to create a coalition to counter the hateful rhetoric that he spreads personally and through his National Policy Institute, an innocuously named thinktank that pushed white supremacist ideology.
As a result, Spencer is now an outcast in the Montana mountains. He's regularly denied service at local businesses; his think tank has been dissolved; his wife left him. In October, he'll face trial in Charlottesville, Virginia, for his role in organizing and leading the 2017 Unite the Right rally that resulted in the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer, and he cannot currently afford a lawyer.
Things aren't going great for Spencer, who famously got decked in the face for being terrible, and who seemed to be having a pretty great time acting as the public face of the American white supremacist movement during the Trump years. Following the election of Donald Trump, news outlets scrambled to try to talk to Trump voters and figure out what ideology was driving them to vote for someone who, at that point, had been publicly repudiated by basically everyone in polite society. Too often, they landed on Spencer. He was profiled by most major news outlets, getting photoshoots and interviews where he was able to tie a pretty bow on his white nationalism because he had an expensive haircut, dressed well, and was articulate.
While lots of the coverage treated Spencer with skepticism and disapproval, it also gave him a platform. He went on a college speaking tour. He appeared on national TV networks. Most of this was done in a misguided effort to try to understand the so-called "forgotten man." But as it turns out, Spencer is just a white nationalist. He's always been one, his plan has always been merely to make himself seem presentable in order to make his evil ideology more digestible. There is nothing more interesting happening there, and no one should have pretended there was.
So, the folks of Whitefish did the in-person version of de-platforming. (Spencer also got banned from Facebook and YouTube, though he is inexplicably still on Twitter.) They held him accountable for his actions, telling him in no uncertain terms that his beliefs are not welcome in their community, and they made him uncomfortable. And he should feel uncomfortable! He's a neo-Nazi.
Look, there is room for trying to deradicalize those people on an individual level. But a good first step is to make it clear that neo-Nazism and white supremacy is simply despicable. It is not welcome. There are no two sides here. We must all agree to give it fewer places to live and less room to breathe and stop treating it like it requires understanding. We know what it is. It's white nationalism.