In 2011, when I was the editor of the old New Haven Advocate, I came across an oddity in the Yale Alumni Magazine. It was a note from a man named Sam Taylor (Timothy Dwight, 1973).
With apparent glee, he said: “Did you know that one of your classmates is officially considered a ‘hate-monger’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center? I believe this is a first for Yale.” Under the alias “Jared Taylor,” he had published “White Identity: Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century.”
I thought: why is the editor of white nationalist magazine, based in Virginia, boasting like this? The answer was in the note.
Taylor doesn’t think of himself as a hate-monger. He thinks of himself as a Mark Twain, taking pleasure in the “observation that nothing astonishes people more than tell them the truth!”
Taylor was nobody then. He’s somebody now.
Along with Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute, Peter Brimelow of the VDare Foundation (based in Washington, Connecticut) and Steve Bannon, senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, Taylor is on the vanguard of “intellectual racism.”
Instead of burning crosses, they publish journals and white papers. Instead of lynching, they give presentations. Between 2011 and Trump’s election, they have quietly rebranded white supremacy, enrobed it in analysis and debate, and eroded the emotional charge behind the meaning of the word “hate.”
I didn’t know any of this back then. At the time, I was merely curious. I wanted to know how a man who was clearly hate-mongering convinced himself he was not mongering hate.
So I emailed him.
I was surprised to discover that despite his scholarly mien, Taylor does not bear scrutiny well. It was clear, after our revealing exchange, that appearing to be intellectual was more important to him than actual intellectual discourse. I couldn’t help thinking Taylor was an idiot’s idea of a smart person.
What did he say?
That he can’t be a hater.
Do the Israelis hate gentiles for wanting Israel to be Jewish? he asked. Are the Japanese filled with hate for wanting Japan to be Japanese? “The desire to remain a majority on one’s own country is considered entirely normal, natural and healthy — unless such a desire is expressed by gentile whites,” he said.
Catch what he’s doing?
First, he assigned to an entire country the policy preferences of a country’s conservative faction. Second, he normalized bigotry: If nonwhites are doing it, it can’t be racist! Third, he portrayed himself and other white supremacists as the real victims.
“When (the Southern Poverty Law Center) finds opinions with which it disagrees, it calls them ‘hate’ … in an attempt to convince Americans that those ideas are propagated by unhinged people and can therefore be ignored,” he wrote.
The SPLC does nothing of the sort. Like the Anti-Defamation League, it makes values judgments, to be sure, but it has no power to stifle speech, nor does it try to stifle it. From its point of view, the SPLC counters hate speech with free speech.
Taylor has a point though. “Hate” is a problematic word. Over decades, “hate” has come to be synonymous with “bigotry.” But bigotry does not require hate. You don’t have to hate your dog to believe it is less than human. White supremacists do not have to hate nonwhites to believe they are less than human.
Taylor gives the impression of a teacher educating a child. His tone is polite, courteous, even charming. He is far from the picture most of us have in our heads of white supremacists.
But look closer.
That’s where the differences end.
John Stoehr is a lecturer in political science at Yale and a New Haven resident.