Richard Spencer, the leader of the alt-right movement in the United States, is no stranger to controversy. As president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Spencer has been accused of being a white supremacist and his group has been declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Spencer rejects those labels, but at least one group of white supremacists is coming to Spencer’s defense in a controversy that has been brewing in Spencer’s hometown of Whitefish, Montana, revolving around Spencer’s parents and a local community group in Whitefish called Love Lives Here.
According to Daily Inter Lake, Richard Spencer’s parents, Sherry and Rand Spencer, own a commercial building in Whitefish’s historic Railway district that rents to local retailers and features vacation rentals on its upper floors. In the past few weeks, Sherry Spencer claims she’s been receiving threats of protests which would disrupt the businesses that rent space in her building. A local realtor named Tanya Gersh said she contacted Sherry Spencer in hopes to mediate and prevent the protests and as a result, Spencer said she was going to sell the building. Gersh posted a message stating this on her Facebook page. This was followed by a post by Sherry Spencer on Medium entitled “Does Love Really Live Here?” in which Spencer alleges bullying verging on extortion by Gersh and the Love Lives Here group which she describes in rather pointed words.
“Gersh followed up on her conditions in a number of emails which I’ve just made public. She even shamelessly suggested that she act as my realtor! In other words, she and the local ‘human rights’ organizations appeared to seek financial benefit from threats of protests and reputation damage. The same day Gersh first contacted me, I received a sales offer, even though I had not expressed any intention to sell, nor had anything been publicized.”
“One renter reported to me that Gersh threatened her business with boycotts unless she moved. This renter also alleged that Gersh called her ‘collateral damage.’ As the manager of the property, I employ a number of local maids and other maintenance personnel, who would lose their jobs if I were to sell. More ‘collateral damage,’ I guess.”
The post made waves around the alt-right internet after Richard Spencer posted a link to it on his Twitter feed, calling it a “heartbreaking testimony,” according to Daily Inter Lake, and characterizing the ordeal as a shakedown.
The predictable fallout from all of this has arrived in the form of a white supremacist website called The Daily Stormer, urging its readers to “take action” against Jewish residents of Whitefish who it lists by name and address and labels as guilty of harming the business of Richard Spencer’s mother, according to The Hill.
“The Daily Stormer retaliated by posting personal information of Jewish residents of the town, calling them ‘sluts’ and ‘super-Jews.’ The list includes photos of people with Stars of David photoshopped on to their clothes.”
Isaac Newton’s third law of physics states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In a less obvious sense, the same can be applied to society. The problem is that reactions can not be as easily quantified in social interactions as they can in the realm of pure physics. Regardless of one’s opinion of Richard Spencer or his alt-right movement, someone’s family should never be targeted by a campaign of bullying and intimidation for the things a member of their family has said. There are better ways to challenge bad ideas. Similarly, it is completely disgusting that in 2016 a group of white supremacists is making thinly veiled enticements to violence on its website, regardless of how contemptible they find the methods of protest of those they are targeting. When these extremes of thought and behavior converge, we are skating on very thin ice as a society.
[Featured Image by David J. Phillip/AP Images]