I had to borrow a shirt. I chose a green, plaid, button-down because I was told it brought out my eyes, and green is my lucky color. My interview was via Skype so my interviewer, Paul, probably wouldn’t see below my chest, but I put on khakis anyway. I shaved, I combed, and slicked my hair to one side. I wanted to present myself “in a professional and positive manner,” as had been recommended.
Paul messaged me that he was ready. He appeared to be in his mid-twenties. His hair was short and parted to the side, just like mine. A Betsy Ross-era American flag hung on the wall behind him. (Some names have been changed throughout.)
Paul asked whether I was affiliated with any groups similar to his own.
“No I don’t have any right now, but I would like to get involved with you guys,” I said.
“Yea. Awesome. Do you have any felonies or ongoing court cases?”
He then asks me whether I had any addictions or a history of mental illness. I told him I didn’t.
“Awesome. Great to hear. Cool, so can you tell me a little bit about your heritage?”
Where do I start? “As far as I know, my great-grandfather was from Germany. My great grandparents on my mom’s side were from France, I think. . . So it’s all mostly German and French. And my last name is Argyle, so I’ve definitely got some Scottish in there. So all my relatives are white.”
“Yea. Good stuff. Probably northwest European. When I saw the Brooklyn, New York, I expected some Italian, you know, with the accent and everything.”
I laughed along with him and wondered whether Paul had ever been to Brooklyn. This was unlike any interview I’d ever had. Then again, I’d never tried join a pro-white Identitarian group.
Paul is a member of Identity Evropa (pronounced “Europa”), which claims to be the largest pro-white Identitarian group in America. The concept of “white Identitarianism” originated in France in the early 21st century. Such groups espouse the idea that white people are being persecuted in America and around the world. I’m interviewing with Paul because I want to investigate I.E., and going undercover or, rather, incognito seems the best way to do that.
I.E. was founded in California in 2016 by a Marine veteran named Nathan Damigo. Damigo was serving a five-year prison term for armed robbery, having stolen $43 from a taxi driver he thought “looked Iraqi,” when he read KKK leader David Duke’s autobiography My Awakening and had an awakening of his own.
I.E. is identified as a white supremacist organization by the Anti-Defamation League and a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group says it has more than 1,000 members nationwide.
As our interview wound down, Paul asked if I was familiar with “human biodiversity and race realism and stuff like that.” I knew a bit about the Yale-educated white supremacist Jared Taylor, who founded the magazine American Renaissance and is best known for promoting what he calls “race realism,” a modern form of eugenics. He’s considered an elder by groups like I.E.; a pioneer for their cause. Taylor argues that race is a biological fact, not a social construct, and concludes that a multicultural society is destined to fail. Instead, he advocates for a white ethnostate.
I asked Paul what his group thought about the idea of a white ethnostate.
“An ethnostate is an ideal that I would think most of our membership can fundamentally agree with,” he said. “But I think there’s a better way to sell it than explicitly saying ‘ethnostate.’” His group wants a “white supermajority” and their goal is to preserve the cultural and demographic majority of the United States.
Paul quickly jumped to the next question. “So what would you say your opinion is on Jewish identity in relation to European identity?” As I fumbled for an answer, Paul continued. I got the feeling that he was less interested in hearing my opinions than he was in sharing his. “I think there’s definitely a lot of influence of them over our nation, foreign policy, and stuff like that. I think they’re their own distinctive people with their own cultural and religious beliefs and things of that nature.”
Paul told me that I.E.is a community-minded, fraternal organization. “We look for clean-cut, articulate people who can represent our views well,” he said. He quickly added that there are other benefits to membership. I.E. members share their views while hiking, camping, or meeting up in bars and restaurants. Dues were $10 a month, $100 for a full year.
Paul asked if I was familiar with “human biodiversity and race realism and stuff like that.”
When Paul told me he was going to recommend I be admitted, I felt strangely elated. I had been accepted, allowing me to continue investigating I.E. He said the next step would be for the group’s regional coordinator to give me a “quick secondary vetting” to make sure I was a good fit for the organization. If all went well, I would receive access to a local server where I could find opportunities for activism and social networking in my area.
After I hung up with Paul, I paid my $10 dues via PayPal and signed into the group’s national server. I was immediately met with a message from one of the admins asking for a screenshot of my dues and for me to create an avatar. I sent him the screenshot. I set my avatar as a painting of fascist Italian thinker Julius Evola, perhaps best known today for influence on Nazi-sympathizers and members of the far-right, including former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.
During Trump’s campaign and after his election, I spent more than a year and a half researching alt-right groups, as well as constantly reading about them in the news. Eventually, I thought it was time to find out for myself what members of these groups are really like. I chose I.E. because I knew they had opportunities for local activism and I hoped to get a chance to interact with members on a personal level.
So I posed as a white nationalist, which meant I had to pretend to agree with, or at the very least act indifferent to, ideas I found abhorrent. This was difficult, but I saw it as the best way to experience and expose the group’s internal workings.
Before my interview with Paul, I set some ground rules for myself. If asked what I do, I would tell them the truth: I’m a student. If asked what I study I would tell the truth: creative writing (I’m in a joint religion/journalism graduate program).
A few days after speaking with Paul, I was interviewed by Shaun, a regional coordinator. He told me that the group has weekly online meetups and that they try to meet in person once a month. Shaun said that they normally do some local activism beforehand, such as posting flyers or making a banner (evidence of this activism can be seen on I.E.’s Instagram account). Then they go out for drinks or dinner. “We usually go to a European-type spot,” he said. “Places where you know the clientele is going to be largely white working-class and you're not going to face any issues.”
Based on what Shaun and other members told me, I.E.'s North Atlantic faction, of which I was now a member, consisted of mostly college-educated men (and one woman) from middle to upper-middle class backgrounds.
As our conversation wrapped up, Shaun asked if I was going to go to I.E.’s first national conference in mid-March, which was a couple of weeks away. It was in the Tennessee/Kentucky area, he told me.
“Why there?” I asked.
“Those are the best places to hold those types of things because you can use their state facilities and the staff is usually very sympathetic,” Shaun said. He said that American Renaissance has done the same thing in a similar location in the past. “The cops that were protecting us,” Shaun said. “They wouldn't even let ANTIFA use the bathroom. ANTIFA tried to come in the building and take a piss and they handcuffed them. The cops were like, ‘You guys are all nice in your suits, the staff likes you. These people are fucking animals.’”
For all the publicity alt-right groups receive for cross burnings and tiki-torch protests, their ultimate goal is to become invisible, inserting themselves into the mainstream political process. Groups like I.E. adopt the business casual uniforms of polo shirts and khakis, and have strict rules against using “vulgar language” or mentioning “divisive topics” like National Socialism or the Third Reich. The rule prohibiting “vulgar language” states that “in order to foster a more positive culture for our people’s future, the use of crude and unbecoming language is not permitted. This includes, without limitation, excessive cursing, and any use of vulgar racial epithets.”
The ultimate goal of far-right groups is to become invisible.
Their conferences “highlight pictures of the leaders in business suits. So they could appear just like all other white businessmen,” said Sophie Bjork-James, a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University’s Department of Anthropology. This is a ploy to prove that they are not marginal groups. They don’t have “the ornamentality of the Klan, putting on robes and having all of these rituals,” she added. Their strategy is “to normalize white supremacy by representing it as more respectable.”
I.E.’s first national conference, called “Leading Our People Forward 2018,” seemed like a good opportunity to try to understand my new co-members, so I paid the $95 entrance fee and booked a ticket to Tennessee. It was to be a two-day affair at Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park in Burkesville, Kentucky, about 100 miles northeast of Nashville. The line-up included remarks from I.E. leaders, a dinner buffet, and a cash bar. Attendees were required to wear suits on one of the nights.
After I checked into my hotel, I changed out of my black jeans and T-shirt into a green-and-blue plaid button-down shirt, a navy-blue jacket, and khakis, combed my hair, and drove an hour to the resort. At the lodge where the conference was being held, I was greeted by the employees at the front desk. Shaun was right — they were all white.
I headed for the event space. As I turned the corner, I saw Patrick Casey walking towards me. Casey became I.E.’s CEO in December of 2017. His role includes appearing in interviews, social media, and events like the Conservative Political Action Conference as the group’s figurehead. He was shorter than I expected (about 5’7), wearing a wrinkled white shirt, blue jeans, and an I.E. pin that featured an image of a teal dragon’s eye on his collar. He introduced himself with a firm handshake. He asked me where I was from and said he recognized me from the group’s online forum. Which was impossible, because I had never posted on it.
I peered into the conference room. There were at least 100 young, white faces, some wearing the preferred attire (dress shirts, pressed jeans or khakis, a blazer or sport coat), others in sweaters or polo shirts. There were only five women in attendance and all were with a boyfriend or male companion. There’s only a handful of women on the forum, at least enough to have one user named the “Female Coordinator.” At one point there was an “I.E. Ladies” leader, but her username doesn’t exist anymore.
I introduced myself to the two young men at the sign-in desk using my online identity, “Sam A.” Other online usernames in the group’s forum included aliases like Virgil, Angoy-Saxon, and Whitelash. I got in line for a drink. Tom, a young man wearing a red pullover sweater, introduced himself to me. He had messy blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, he looked to be about 25. He told me that he and some friends drove here eight hours from Chicago. “I am so excited to only see white faces,” he said. “I feel like I can finally talk about being pro-white.” I nodded and smiled. He asked me what I did.
“I’m a student,” I answered.
“What’s your major?”
“Creative writing,” I told him.
Jesse said he reads mostly non-fiction. Like what? I asked. “White Identity by Jared Taylor,” he answered. He said he had read parts of the book, not the whole thing, and that it said different races really want to be separated; that everyone, deep down, actually wants segregation.
Later, I met Shaun, the New York coordinator who interviewed me. He wore big, blue, square-rimmed glasses and a U.S. Army-issued grey windbreaker. He had an aura of restlessness. His feet wouldn’t stop moving. He was almost pacing in place.
He told me that he and some of the other New York guys drove 11 hours in a rented van and got an Airbnb. He invited me to sleep over the following night, explaining that I would probably be drinking too much to drive.
After a few more minutes of mingling we were told to gather at the front of the room, where we sat on grey plastic chairs. Patrick Casey walked up to the podium.
He began his introduction by thanking Nathan Damigo for founding I.E. I was surprised to see Damigo himself — short, stocky, and red-headed — standing on a chair, clamping his hands together and thrusting his clenched fists in the air as if he had just won a boxing match.
“I am so excited to only see white faces. I feel like I can finally talk about being pro-white.”
Casey told us about the weekend’s schedule and then introduced Jared Taylor, who was there to speak to all of us “off the record” (unlike most of the speeches over the weekend, this one wasn’t recorded for posterity on I.E.’s official YouTube channel). Taylor is tall and thin with wisps of light grey hair on the sides of his head and darker hair on top. He has a strong chin and a laid-back sensibility. He spoke as if he was letting us all in on his own private joke.
“I’m going to paraphrase a conversation I had with a professional anti-racist,” Taylor said. “He believes that the only race is the human race. That humans are all the same. That if you put different races in the same environment they will all come out with the same successes.” The crowd snorted. Taylor called his colleague “Fred.” “Now, Fred is not a Jew, he’s a gentile,” Taylor clarified. The audience smiled and laughed.
In conclusion, Taylor said, “We cannot run them into the dirt. Because, one day, they may become our allies. The white person who hates us now. A jew.”
After the speech, I stood behind the chairs with a group of four men. Albert, an older member of I.E. — probably in his early forties — introduced himself to me. After a momentarily awkward silence he said, “So, I guess we like Jews now.” Everyone laughed.
“If you can’t see the camera, the camera can’t see you!" the photographer warned us. It was group photo time on the second night of the conference. Around 60 men and two women stood at the back of the room, adjusting their shirts and ties. Forty others abstained from being photographed.
“I’m not afraid of being doxxed,” Anthony, one of the members who sat out the photo, told me a bit defensively. Anthony was a very large, dark-haired, olive-skinned guy. He was in his mid-twenties, wearing a suit and tie. “My parents know what I’m doing,” he added. “But they asked me to not be in any photos or videos that are going to be posted online.”
Women in attendance had been asked to wear their “Sunday best,” and the five who were at the conference wore dresses. Similar to the night before, all of them were accompanied by a male chaperone.
I met a pasty-faced man named Rick in line for the cash bar. When I told him I was from New York, he said he had been to all five boroughs.
“Oh yeah?” I said.
“I know it’s like, super Jewish, but I actually really like Katz’s deli,” he told me.
“Yea I know, it’s great. The food’s delicious.”
“Like it’s Jewish as fuck. But, dude, their pastrami is amazing.”
Soon enough it was time for dinner. I sat at a table with Shaun and a few others. One went by the pseudonym “Virgil.” I.E. members love gesturing to the distant past. Our table was called for the buffet and while we waited in line, Shaun started talking to another member about I.Q. tests.
“Jews have a high verbal I.Q.,” he said. “That’s why they’re able to lie so well and debate so well and articulate themselves.”
Other members near me in line looked at their phones, scrolling through the group’s online forum.
Dinner was served in large silver chafers filled with mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey, stuffing, macaroni & cheese, a vegetable lasagna, biscuits & gravy, and applesauce with big apple slices. It was a Thanksgiving buffet. What else would America-centric white nationalists serve?
I sat next to a guy who said he was a police officer. He told me he got involved with white nationalism soon after he graduated college in 2013. He said he had written for American Renaissance and other pro-white sites and felt a little over-educated to be a cop. His ultimate goal was to run for political office.
After we finished our food, the police officer and I went up for seconds. “So, how did you come to all this?” he asked me. I told him that I was “red-pilled,” a term from the movie The Matrix used by groups like I.E. to reference their conversion to white-nationalist views, and joined a few months ago.
“Are you in the city or upstate?” the police officer asked.
“In the city, I’m in south Brooklyn,” I replied. He looked surprised.
“Brooklyn?” he asked. “That’s the belly of the beast.”
While we were still eating, a right-wing YouTuber named James Allsup took the stage to give a speech titled “Internet to Institutions.”
Allsup is 22. He has the build of someone who spent his teenage years playing sports — broad shoulders and an athletic gait. His hair was slicked to one side. He was dressed in a gray suit, green shirt, and black tie.
He graduated from the University of Washington in 2016, where he was a national field director for Students for Trump. This included erecting a 20-foot by eight-foot “border wall” made out of plywood and displaying it on campus. According to Allsup, this caused quite a stir.
“You know, over a thousand people out there protesting and screaming anti-white stuff at you really, really red-pills you,” Allsup said. “It was back in 2016. I was still not all the way red-pilled, but hearing all the anti-white rhetoric really pushed me over the edge.”
Allsup’s speech focused on how I.E. must move from a web-based activist organization to an organization that is involved in the political establishment. “We cannot podcast, livestream, or tweet our way to victory,” said Allsup. “We can only change consciousness so much before we have to start changing the political infrastructure.”
This change, according to Allsup, started with taking over vacant seats in Republican offices. “The Republican party is comprised largely of white, aging, baby-boomers,” he said. “And as baby-boomers age out, the positions they hold will become vacant all throughout society and somebody will have to fill them.”
This doesn’t just include elected offices but state representatives, county commissioners, precinct officers, and county party chairs as well. Allsup himself was a precinct officer; he said it takes up about five hours of his time per week.
Allsup said he hates the word normalization. He said it was funny because things in today’s society that are considered normal wouldn’t have been normal 50 years ago. The ideas he listed include “living child-free, no fault divorce, feminism, open borders, blaming white people for everything, ‘trannies’ reading books to your kids.”
He said that Donald Trump’s comments after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last August — during which members of the far-right rioted, resulting in one death and dozens of injuries — gave credence to the perceived normalcy of I.E. members.
“Remember that press conference where he said that there were good people on both sides?” asked Allsup. “We were defended by the president of the United States because he knew that our ideas are in fact normal.” Allsup ended his speech with a thank you to all of us and then, “God bless Identity Evropa! God bless you! And God bless America!”
I stepped out to go to the bathroom before the next speech began. A few others did the same. While in the bathroom, one member walked in and yelled, “You know what I love about being here in Kentucky? We’re in Trump country! Wooo!” Everyone in the bathroom smiled and laughed. A few clapped their hands.
“We were defended by the president of the United States because he knew that our ideas are in fact normal.”
Back in the conference room, Patrick Casey gave the night’s final speech. His I.E. pin sat crookedly on the lapel of his navy blue suit.
“The title of this speech is American Identitarianism,” he said before slowly breathing in, catching his breath, and breathing out to relax his nerves. He then held the microphone close to his mouth and spoke so loudly that he caused unintended feedback. Members around me turned and looked at each other, wide-eyed and surprised.
Casey seemed inspired — so inspired that he stumbled over his words, rocked on his heels, and didn’t quite know what to do with his left hand. He seemed to be grabbing for something that fluttered away from him at the last moment. He couldn’t grasp it. It was beyond his reach.
America is in an existential crisis, he told us. This crisis is not the fault of recent war, our current president, or domestic hate groups. According to Casey, America has been in a crisis ever since the Civil Rights movement.
“Is this the vision the Founding Fathers had for America? Is this the future that American World War II veterans wanted for their grandchildren? Surely, it is not,” he told us. “In fact, were you to travel back in time to virtually any point in American history prior to the Civil Rights movement, and explain to someone what America would be like in the 21st century, they likely wouldn’t believe you.” (We were never told specifics about what was included in the Founding Fathers’ vision.)
He made sure to point out that the Founding Fathers had far more extreme views than I.E. when it came to race. For example, Benjamin Franklin didn’t care for Germans or Italians, he said. “Perhaps we wouldn’t be hardcore enough for Ben Franklin. But Ben Franklin did like the Irish, so he’s okay with me,” said Casey with a small smirk. This was met with laughs and applause from the crowd. Casey looked pleased with himself.
He adjusted his notes on the podium and they fell out of his hand. He placed the papers back on the podium and palmed them as if he was trying to make them stick.
“Is this the vision the Founding Fathers had for America? Is this the future that American World War II veterans wanted for their grandchildren? Surely, it is not.”
“The truth is, in order to preserve these individual rights that we value, it’s going to require group consciousness, and American Identitarianism is the vehicle for this awakening,” said Casey. “For the beauty of Identitarianism is that it bypasses arguments about religion, economics, and forms of political organization to focus on that which unites us: our identity.”
“We. Will. Win. Thank you,” Casey said. He placed the microphone back in its stand while the crowd rose for a standing ovation. Casey stood there for a few seconds, smiling, until the applause ceased. “This is just the beginning,” he said.
I left without saying goodbye to anyone. I rushed to my car, relieved that I no longer had to pretend. During the drive back to my hotel, I thought about the past two nights and how the group was made up of seemingly normal men and women. They looked respectable and acted hospitably, at least to those who looked like them, including me. Where they differed was under the surface, deep in the shadows of the Kentucky woods, where they thought no one was watching.