Polemics & Exchanges

Elliptical Critique

In the February issue, the editors take aim at people they call white nationalists, although their targets repudiate the name.  As Richard Spencer explained to the Chicago Tribune (August 31, 2015), “I call myself an identitarian and not an American.  I think whites will need to be post-American,” because for him America is a “failed experiment.”  His view is eerily similar to Scott Richert’s: “America is not a place . . . The subtitle of this magazine notwithstanding, there can be no single, deep, and lasting ‘American culture.’”  Although they may differ in their commitment to Neo-Darwinism, say, or what John Zmirak calls the “Myth of Catholic Social Doctrine,” the editors share one significant trait with identitarians.  They both flaunt their contempt for America.

        —E. Christian Kopff
via email

Mr. Richert Replies:

I am grateful to Dr. Kopff for calling my attention to Richard Spencer’s remark to the Chicago Tribune.  It is, in fact, a perfect illustration of the very phenomenon I criticized in my February column.  Like all of those who place race above every other consideration—whether they call themselves white nationalists, racialists, identitarians, Black Panthers, or La Raza—Mr. Spencer has rejected the particularities of people and place in favor of an abstraction.  The real world of nations and ethnicities and communities and families, rooted in particular places, must give way to the abstract fantasies of Mr. Spencer’s monochromatic imagination.

It is curious, then, that an intelligent reader such as Dr. Kopff could fail to see that Mr. Spencer’s view, far from being “eerily similar” to mine, is in fact its polar opposite.  More curious yet is that Dr. Kopff would take a 243-word paragraph extolling the virtues of patriotism and chop it up, removing over 90 percent of the words, to produce a bowdlerized sentence designed to give the impression that I believe the opposite of what my words clearly state.  Readers can return to the article in full in either their hard copies of the February issue or online at ChroniclesMagazine.org, but just to give a sample of Dr. Kopff’s method, here is the complete sentence that follows Dr. Kopff’s ellipsis: “The subtitle of this magazine notwithstanding, there can be no single, deep, and lasting ‘American culture,’ but there have been and still are many American cultures, local and regional, and the stronger they are, the more likely it is that the country as a whole will manage to survive.”

Such an attempt to distort my views is as unworthy of a classical scholar of the caliber of Dr. Kopff as it is of a friend.

Most curious of all, however, is Dr. Kopff’s attempt to equate me (and my fellow editors) with Richard Spencer.  Mr. Spencer, of course, would not make that mistake, and none of the editors would, either.  Yet Dr. Kopff has, for the better part of a decade, embraced Mr. Spencer, serving as the vice president of the H.L. Mencken Club, which Mr. Spencer founded, and appearing at multiple meetings of the club as both a speaker and a panel moderator.  Moreover, Dr. Kopff has published articles and interviews on Mr. Spencer’s avowedly identitarian and anti-Christian website AltRight (now Radix)—a fact that would no doubt surprise those of Dr. Kopff’s admirers who know him only from his excellent work in promoting classical Christian homeschooling.

Unlike a well-known writer who declared not long ago that “We Are All Richard Spencer Now” (a perfect illustration of the absurdities that abstraction leads one to), Dr. Kopff now seems to wish to distance himself from Mr. Spencer’s identitarian views.  Attacking the editors of Chronicles, who have never embraced Mr. Spencer, is the wrong way to go about doing so; Dr. Kopff might start, instead, by asking Mr. Spencer to remove his material from Mr. Spencer’s website.

Add a Comment

 

Join the conversation...

You are currently using the BETA version of our article comments feature. You may notice some bugs in submission and user experience. Significant improvements are coming soon!

or

Be the first to comment on this article!

X