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Doing Justice to the Classics

A New Roman Empire for White People

Richard Spencer is one of the most prominent white supremacists in the United States, whose various media platforms have published numerous articles that invoke Greco-Roman antiquity in support of racism and anti-Semitism. But Spencer himself has also made ancient Rome a model for his hateful vision: in a speech at the 2013 American Renaissance conference (a group that Pharos has also documented) Spencer described his dream of a “White Ethno-State on the North American continent” that would be, in his words, “a reconstitution of the Roman Empire.”

This image, “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” by Caspar David Friedrich (1818), is a favorite of white supremacists: it is also on the cover of Jared Taylor‘s Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century.

Such an ethno-state is necessary, Spencer argues, because demographic patterns in the United States mean that white people must, as his speech’s title puts it, “Face the future as a minority.” He laments that “within our lifetimes, we will not see the kind of rebirth of Occidental civilization that we in this room know is necessary.” Instead, Spencer argues that white people will have to “reorient…spiritually as much as intellectually and politically, to a world that will be hostile toward them” because they will not be “dealing with Blacks that are socially and politically inferior, but some hundred million non-Whites who are empowered by our political system.”

"We need an ethno-state," Spencer claims, "so that we could rival the ancients"

The “solution” that Spencer offers for white people worried about their safety in an increasingly multicultural world is “the creation of a white ethno-state on the North American continent.” His justification for this ethno-state is in line with the paranoid fear of “white extinction” (whose articulation in relation to Greco-Roman antiquity Pharos has documented previously). Spencer speaks of the need for a place where “our people can ‘come home again’…and feel safe and secure.” But he also lays bare that desires for such an ethno-state do not come only from a longing (however misguided) for safety, but from a belief in the fundamental superiority of white people to others. He rejects mainstream conservatism’s focus on the “quantitative” whereas “our concerns are qualitative” [emphasis his], because, according to his reckoning, “our race’s history is replete with examples of…great quality…predominat[ing] over mere ‘numbers’…in war, art, and enterprise” and “of continental or overseas empires—the globe itself—being administered by a central elite.”

This last belief, that a white-skinned “central elite” should rule over “the globe itself” is why Spencer describes his ideal ethno-state as “on one level…a reconstitution of the Roman Empire,” which he idealizes, like generations of fascists before him, as a model of a militarily invincible, hyper-masculine, and, despite all evidence to the contrary, racially pure “European” civilization. Ancient Romans, for Spencer, embody what white people could be if they could “give up the false dreams of equality and democracy.” “We need an ethno-state,” he claims, “so that we could rival the ancients,” which for Spencer means something that sounds a lot like a eugenics program: an ethno-state will allow for the “fostering of a new people who are healthier, stronger, more intelligent, more beautiful, more athletic.”

Spencer’s coming ethno-state is, fortunately, every bit as much a fantasy as his racially homogeneous vision of the Roman Empire. What Spencer is imagining sounds more like the (also imaginary) idea of Sparta that many racist groups glorify. Hate groups much more commonly see the Roman Empire as a negative model of a society doomed to failure because of multiculturalism, feminism, homosexuality, or really whatever progressive cause hate groups want to attempt to deligitimize with a supposedly respectable historical parallel. Spencer’s fantasy of Rome thus puts him out of sync with other hate groups, but locates him firmly in the same rhetorical world that sees the prestige of Greco-Roman antiquity as a valuable resource to be deployed, regardless of whether the underlying history offers support or not.

We have linked above to an archived version of the transcript of Spencer’s speech to avoid generating traffic for his blog, which can be found here.

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