Truthout - May11, 2020
UPDATE: On May 12, the day after this article was published, SubscribeStar announced that it has “suspended” the Radix Journal SubscribeStar account that Richard Spencer was trying to use for subscription donations. SubscribeStar said in a statement to Truthout that its screening team had initially “failed to discover any connection between the previously rejected account of Mr. Spencer” and the new Radix Journal account he was trying to establish more recently. The SubscribeStar statement also said that the company had “reviewed the content published by Radix on [its] website to the date and didn’t find anything that violates our Terms of Service.”
While a lot of ink has been spilled about the “fall of the ‘alt-right’” after the “Unite the Right” catastrophe in 2017, organized white nationalism’s recent decline may ultimately prove to be only a temporary setback. The “alt-right” (white nationalist) movement in the U.S. has been punctuated by starts and stops, and fascist thought leaders like Richard Spencer have always found ways back into the limelight to attract a new crowd of followers.
Spencer is now attempting to do just that by trying to launch a new donation subscription effort through the Russian crowdfunding service SubscribeStar, an alternative to the Patreon donation platform that turns a profit by charging subscribers a flat service fee of 5 percent on every pledge. (SubscribeStar is incorporated domestically in Wyoming, reporting at The Daily Beast and the Financial Times traces its Russian origins.) While Spencer has said he plans to offer some minor exclusive content for SubscribeStar followers, he is using the service mainly just as a platform to receive recurring donations while continuing his main work: hosting roundtable discussions on YouTube covering everything from politics to movies.
“It is a free speech platform. It’s solid…. This is what we’re going to be using for the foreseeable future,” Spencer said about SubscribeStar in an April 9 livestream on the Radix Journal YouTube channel. Patreon had received a flock of racist internet personalities looking to raise money but effectively shuttered those accounts (along with a number of left-wing accounts) in an effort to combat “extremism.”
After almost three years of deplatforming since the Charlottesville, Virginia, Unite the Right rally, the alt-right’s main recruitment tools have disappeared. Their podcasts, blogs and videos were the primary way they gained outreach, and their central funding came from small donations though platforms like PayPal. Those funding sources, however, were eliminated when tech companies started pulling accounts. Anti-fascists piled on, pressuring employers, landlords and public venues to likewise sever relationships with far right figures. Spencer himself has even admitted that this kind of deplatforming worked, and that “antifa has won.” He and his National Policy Institute and Radix brands have been looking for a way back ever since.
Now they may have found it. Spencer tried using SubscribeStar not simply as a way of making money by creating a “paywall” that forces viewers to pay for access, but also as a way to maintain a presence on platforms like YouTube, where he gets a much wider reach. The subscription service allows his supporters to create a stable funding stream for him to continue broadcasting. Spencer often combines his YouTube livestreams with Entropy, another platform that helps monetize content by hosting live chats, helping Spencer attract a loyal audience who maintain an ongoing connection with him and his brand.
“Joining us on SubscribeStar is fundamentally about supporting us…. It’s not about creating some choir that we preach to, or creating a clique or anything like that…. This is how we get our support,” Spencer said during the April 9 Radix livestream.
Other alt-right figures have taken a different approach after being deplatformed. For instance, The Right Stuff, the network that was the home of the vulgar neo-Nazi podcast “The Daily Shoah,” has created a paywall where hosts now make a living by essentially preaching to the already converted. They doubled down on their jargon and racist rhetoric rather than trying to maintain a presence on platforms that would kick them off for violating their terms. By contrast, Spencer has avoided racial slurs and combative appearances in order to fly under the radar of YouTube’s censors.
Radix Journal essentially stopped publishing two years ago, until recently, and Spencer went almost quiet, doing little more than a YouTube show. He now says he hopes to return to this work after dealing with the turmoil of his divorce and ex-wife’s accusations of his domestic violence. He is looking to build a more professional studio for video production and is focusing on releasing white nationalist books through his publishing company, Washington Summit Publishers.
While the far right is currently focusing on books as a way of adding substantial depth to their movement, Spencer has acknowledged that it is actually platforms like YouTube that offer the best possible access to new recruits. ...
Read full report at Truthout