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04-Oct-2019 17:51

But after the Christmas party, my indifference slowly gave way to a surreal curiosity, on its way to loathing. Spencer’s writing kept appearing, advancing ever more extreme opinions in ever more obscure journals. On Facebook, he posted images of himself with John Derbyshire—a polymathic, often charming writer who was fired from National Review in 2012 for racism—and Richard Lynn, an English psychologist who has argued that East Asians are slightly smarter than whites, who are in turn much smarter than blacks.

Spencer hosted Ron Paul, then not yet widely known to have published antiblack screeds in the 1980s and ’90s, at his discussion club.

2007, the libertarian magazine Reason held a Christmas bash—a “Very Special, Very Secular Christmas Party”—at its office in Washington, D. The guest of honor, the late Atlantic book critic Christopher Hitchens, tugged liberally on his drink and gave a speech about how the holiday season was oppressive (“like living in fucking North Korea”).

Then near the height of his powers as an anti-theist pamphleteer, Hitchens led the crowd in a tuneless rendition of Tom Lehrer’s “A Christmas Carol,” before slipping away and leaving the guests to the open bar and the mistletoe. I had not seen Richard Spencer in more than 10 years.

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He looked like the scion of a Montana banking family, dressed up and ready to film a commercial in a log cabin, assuring local ranchers that their deposits would be safe with him.

I was flummoxed by his argument, a more thoughtful Nietzschean critique than I was prepared to take on—and by the unnerving fact that the kid who’d once cribbed my chemistry notes now had something to say.

Spencer invited me to join a discussion group he was organizing, the Robert Taft Club.

He told me he had blossomed intellectually since high school. Was Hitchens’s critique of Christianity, he said, not as wan and naive as Christianity itself?

Then he asked me what I thought of Hitchens’s fulminations against God. Christianity had bound together the civilizations of Europe, and now Hitchens wanted to replace it with—well, what exactly? Why should anyone care if Christianity was irrational and illiberal, when rationality and liberalism had never been its purpose? Spencer wasn’t exactly defending Christianity; he said that he, like Hitchens, was an atheist.

He looked like the scion of a Montana banking family, dressed up and ready to film a commercial in a log cabin, assuring local ranchers that their deposits would be safe with him.I was flummoxed by his argument, a more thoughtful Nietzschean critique than I was prepared to take on—and by the unnerving fact that the kid who’d once cribbed my chemistry notes now had something to say.Spencer invited me to join a discussion group he was organizing, the Robert Taft Club.He told me he had blossomed intellectually since high school. Was Hitchens’s critique of Christianity, he said, not as wan and naive as Christianity itself?Then he asked me what I thought of Hitchens’s fulminations against God. Christianity had bound together the civilizations of Europe, and now Hitchens wanted to replace it with—well, what exactly? Why should anyone care if Christianity was irrational and illiberal, when rationality and liberalism had never been its purpose? Spencer wasn’t exactly defending Christianity; he said that he, like Hitchens, was an atheist.But he longed for something as robust and binding as Christianity had once been in the West, before churches surrendered their power to folk-singing liberals and televangelists.