The Preserving Western Civilization conference drew about 100 men and women from Canada, the UK, and the USA to a suit-and-tie affair at a hotel near the Baltimore-Washington International airport.
The event was organised by 76 year-old Michael Hart, who received his PhD in astrophysics from Princeton and is known in white nationalist circles for his proposal for a racial partition of the United States. Hart is also Jewish, as were a significant percentage of the conference speakers and the attendees. These were “scientific racists”, seeking to root their anti-Islamic politics in genetics, rather than simply in culture.
The conference from 6-8 February was the first significant white nationalist confab since President Obama’s inauguration, and influential figures such as J. Philippe Rushton, Peter Brimelow and a representative of the British National Party were among the speakers. As such, the proceedings pointed to the direction at least one part of the movement will take in the near future.
This was an attempt to create a new ideological pole friendlier to Jewish participation, but within the broader white nationalist movement. They would bind Islamophobia and nativism with scientific racism.
After the white nationalist American Renaissance began inviting a handful of Jewish racists, such as Michael Levin, to its conferences promoting old-fashioned genetic determinism, there has been an uneasy truce about “the Jewish question” in white nationalist intellectual circles. At those conferences antisemites participated, but they were prevailed upon not to display openly their antisemitism. The truce came to an end after a 2006 profanity-laden altercation between Hart and David Duke. The blow-up reverberated throughout the movement, creating the schisms that led to the Preserving Western Civilization conference.
Opening the conference, Hart proclaimed that the white race and Western Civilisation are the “pinnacle of human history”. Setting the stage for the rest of the weekend, he outlined the three problems faced by Western Civilisation – Islam, immigration, and white guilt.
Islamophobia was a dominant theme of the conference. Hart would encourage the audience to equivocate Islam with Nazism, and the Koran with Mein Kampf.
In a professorial monotone, Serge Trifkovic kicked the weekend’s Islamophobia into high gear with a lengthy attack on Muhammad and all of Islam. Trifkovic, a Serbian expatriate who before becoming the foreign affairs editor at the paleo-conservative magazine Chronicles was a spokesman for the convicted war criminal Biljana Plavsic, warned that Western Civilisation faces an old existential enemy, an aggressive foe. Echoing themes from his inflammatory 2002 book, The Sword and the Prophet, he warned that the threat was not from “Islamo-fascism”, but from Islam. Period. Gloomily, he predicted that “the survival of civilisation is at stake”.
Rushton, the soft-spoken psychology professor at the University of Western Ontario and a leading figure among academic racists, went even further, contending that Islam was not just a cultural, but a genetic problem. According to Rushton, the Muslim problem is not just a condition of their particular belief system. Instead, he argued that Muslims have an aggressive personality with relatively closed, simple minds, and are less impervious to reason than one might expect.
Not to be outdone, Lawrence Auster, whose biographical details boast that his blog, View from the Right, was “influential in defeating the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill in the Senate in 2007”, pushed a different sort of policy proposal in front of this crowd. Pretending that he was president, Auster ran through a list of Islamopohobic charges while stumping for a startling Constitutional Amendment to ban Islam and all Muslims from the United States. His proposal received a rousing applause.
Armed with a handful of papers, Patricia Richardson took the stage on Sunday morning to talk Islamophobia from a British perspective. Searchlight readers are no doubt familiar with Richardson, an elected BNP councillor who takes pains to remind people that she is Jewish. When Richardson announced that she was from the BNP, cheers rang out. She ran through several news items to paint a picture of Muslim immigration as a demographic catastrophe. “If they’re not plotting and planning unrest, they’re planning how to get your money,” she noted.
Even the Saturday evening banquet entertainer, Julia Gorin, “one of the most recognised names in conservative comedy”, couldn’t resist the Muslim-bashing. Testing out some new material on the very receptive audience, she joked about Obama’s Muslim roots, and even tried to turn torture into a punch-line.
The second key threat to Western Civilisation Hart sketched out was non-white immigration. He noted that because of immigration, the time is now rapidly approaching where whites will no longer be a majority.
Lino Graglia, the 79-year-old University of Texas law professor, provided an exhaustive history of the birthright citizenship provision of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Contrary to contemporary jurisprudence, Graglia argued that not everyone born in the US is automatically a citizen. Attacking the 14th Amendment has become a hot topic in nativist circles. Nativist groups are already pushing a 2010 California ballot measure that would strike a blow at birthright citizenship.
Continuing the nativism thread, Roger McGrath, the silver-haired California surfer turned UCLA professor, spun a nostalgic yarn entitled “Paradise Lost” about the demise of the California of his youth at the hands of non-white immigrants.
Brenda Walker, a nativist of Berkeley, California, tried to make defending the West a women’s issue. Her speech slung together the crudest racial and cultural stereotypes about China, India, Somalia and Mexico. She concluded, “We can have multiculturalism, or we can have women’s health and safety, not both”. Like many of the other speakers, she made a pitch for stopping Muslim immigration. She ended with a common conference refrain: “What we have in the West is worth defending. We must defend it.”
The other significant conference theme was “white guilt”. Hart, for instance, claimed that an increasing number of Americans don’t feel like defending America any more, because many believe the country is hopelessly racist. He encouraged the crowd to disprove that whites and blacks are equally talented to increase Western morale (hence the prominence of scientific racists on the agenda).
Rushton took up Hart’s challenge and tried to give an academic polish to the old widely discredited notions of eugenics and “race science”. Rushton ran through slides featuring different categories of evidence purporting to show that the connection between race and IQ is genetic. After showing photos of places such as Soweto, Rushton tried to argue that instead of bad places affecting IQ, those are the types of places that people with low IQs produce. During his presentation he pointed out how well accepted his research has become in academic circles.
With economic news dominating the headlines, surprisingly, there was virtually no discussion of the economic situation in this room. There were no plans drawn up to take advantage of the financial meltdown, no populist talk of helping white America financially. It was all racial and cultural nationalism all the time.
Not even Peter Brimelow, a former financial reporter, ventured anywhere near economic topics during his remarks. Brimelow, the blue blazer British immigrant who used to write for Forbes and now runs the white nationalist website VDARE.com, told the crowd that “race is destiny politically” and that immigration is shifting the racial balance towards minorities. After quipping that they have “hate facts” and “hate numbers” on their side, Brimelow ran through poll data from the 2008 election to argue that immigration reform is a good way to appeal to the real GOP (Grand Old Party – the Republicans) base, white America.
Looking forward, Brimelow hypothesised that immigration may break the party system apart and that we might see a new political party or growing secessionist movements. Brimelow also referenced former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin as a “cultural cue” to the white working class.
Governor Palin’s name surfaced several times during the conference. At lunch on Saturday, “Draft Sarah” flyers were placed on tables. At the banquet, Paul Streitz, chairman of the 2012 Draft Sarah Committee, assured the crowd that Palin was learning the appropriate anti-immigrant “cues” and that his committee was working to arrange a trip for her down to the Arizona border to meet with Glenn Spencer of the nativist group American Patrol. The announcement drew cheers from the banquet crowd.
It’s too early to tell if this schism will become permanent, or if a new organisation rises out of the meeting. Keeping an eye on what might be, several different groups had a presence at the event. Among the notables in the audience: Joel Lefevre, editor of the Council of Conservative Citizens tabloid; Stephen Webster, the assistant editor at American Renaissance; Bob Vandervoort of Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance; and Louis Andrews of the National Policy Institute.