Last weekend, at an airport hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, hundreds of aging Caucasian conservatives gathered for a three-day long conference attended predominantly by Republican white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and European neofascists. The event was co-organized by Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum Education & Defense Fund—a militantly anti-feminist, anti-choice, paleoconservative organization founded in 1981—and The Gateway Pundit, a far-right blog that peddled so many anti-Clinton hoaxes during the 2016 election that it obtained a White House credential.
The collaboration drew together many strains of right-wing extremism that have taken root in the conservative movement. In doing so, it illustrated how the Trump presidency has managed to consolidate them into a semi-coherent whole. And while it billed itself as something like an “ideas festival” for conservatives, there was only one idea that mattered, articulated a dozen which ways: that white America is under threat and its defenders must do everything they can to preserve it.
The fact that Donald Trump is the president, that the Republican Party has full control of the federal government, and that the Democratic Party is in a state of disarray did not seem to matter. Nor did anyone seem to sense a contradiction between railing against “snowflakes” and “victimhood” on the one hand, and the narrative of privileged white grievance on the other.
“The media wants to portray us as stupid, lower class people,” one attendee told me. “But we’re not.”
I offered that most of the Trump supporters I’ve ever met have been small business owners.
“Yeah!” she said. “I have my own business.”
On the first day of the conference, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn was presented the Major General John K. (Jack) Singlaub Award for Service to America. In his acceptance speech, Flynn positioned himself in the legacy of Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan. “My pledge will never waver,” he said, not noting that his own downfall came as a result of his political activity on behalf of another country. “It’s time to buckle down, listen up, and get ready to fight,” Flynn went on. “We should not fear the Judeo-Christian values our nation was founded on. We should cherish them.”
Later, Pamela Geller, a virulent Islamophobe whose admirers include mass murderer Anders Breivik, proclaimed that “Truth is the new hate speech.” Jim Hoft, the Gateway Pundit himself, described Mike Cernovich, Pizzagate conspiracy theorist, as a “legend” and said that accused cult-leader/vlogger Stefan Molyneux was a “giant” of the conservative movement.