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At a hotel near the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, white nationalists will again gather this weekend for the sixth annual H.L. Mencken Club confab. The event has become a significant annual gathering of academic racists, white nationalists, and paleo-conservatives.

The program for the 2013 Mencken event includes several notable figures: Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute; Robert Weissberg, recently kicked out of the conservative National Review after IREHR exposed his racism; John Derbyshire, also fired from National Review after a racist column; William Regnery II, publisher of the racist and anti-Semitic journal, The Occidental Quarterly; Michael Hart, the academic racist who organized the 2009 Preserving Western Civilization conference.

Past Mencken Club gatherings featured names familiar to IREHR readers, including British expatriate Peter Brimelow of the white nationalist group VDARE, and Derek Turner of The Quarterly Review (formerly of Right Now! magazine, and the Irish neo-Nazi group, Social Action Initiative).

Meet H.L. Mencken Club President, Paul Gottfried

Health problems allegedly forced Paul E. Gottfried to cancel a recent speaking engagement in the United Kingdom, but as the president and co-founder of the H.L. Mencken Club, he continues to make the annual gather a must-attend occasion.

At 72, Gottfried is part of the old-guard of paleo-conservatives. He claims political figures including Richard Nixon and Pat Buchanan as acquaintances. Like his close friend, the late white nationalist philosopher-general Samuel Francis, over time Paul Gottfried has moved away from the cozy confines of paleo-conservatism to engaging in a more explicit racial nationalism. His academic work has also found a receptive audience among white nationalists.


Pat Buchanan, Paul Gottfried, and Richard Spencer together at a Mencken Club event.

Now retired from his teaching position at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, in addition to being an adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, one of Gottfried’s key movement roles is as president of the H.L. Mencken Club. Dubbed “a Society for the Independent Right,” the Mencken Club has become an annual gathering for discredited conservatives, academic racists, and unabashed white nationalists to mingle.

In his academic career, Gottfried published numerous books on the paleo-conservative movement and political philosophy.  One of the most infamous of these works was Gottfried’s attempt to sanitize the reputation of German political philosopher and Nazi collaborator, Carl Schmitt. In the 1990 book, Carl Schmitt: Politics and Theory, Gottfried argued that "Schmitt in fact expounded a modified traditionalist view of the state that had little in common with Nazi theory or Nazi practice.”  

In reality, Carl Schmitt joined the Nazi’s in 1933 and rapidly rose in the Nazi legal regime, where he came to be perceived as the “Crown Jurist” of National Socialism. Several scholars have noted that Schmitt enthusiastically devoted himself to the task purging of German jurisprudence of “Jewish influence,” and to defending Hitler’s extra-judicial killings of political opponents. Other scholars have examined how Schmitt’s fervent anti-Semitism was intimately linked to his political theory.  Gottfried attempts to circumnavigate these issues, dismissing them as merely unpleasant political associations used to distract from his theoretical contributions. “They simply use association with his ideas or the failure of some of his exponents to attack Schmitt sufficiently as evidence of fascist sympathies,” he argued in a 2009 interview.

Gottfried himself expressed a curious position on the Nazis in a recent editorial, “the Nazis never advocated the expulsion or destruction of the Jews as ‘racially inferior.’ Hitler and others in his movement thought Jews were quite clever but working maliciously against the Aryan race.”  Defending scientific racism, Gottfried also argued that “The citing of Nazi crimes to scare people into ignoring genetic influences or IQ tests reeks of dishonesty and manipulation.”

On issues of race in the United States, Gottfried has done everything from attack a Civil Rights icon, to defend the South in the Civil War. In “The Patron Saint of White Guilt,” Gottfried attacked Martin Luther King Jr. repeating many of the old slanders against Dr. King and adding that “this now beatified figure was a self-proclaimed social radical, who provided the god figure of a post-Christian religion, albeit one that is parasitic on Christian narratives.” In the same article, Gottfried refers to Confederate General Robert E. Lee as a “gallant Southern leader.” Elsewhere he’s tried to minimize the role of slavery in the Civil War “Although slavery contributed to the War Between the States, it was not the only cause…There were regional and tariff differences that led to the struggle.”

Devin Burghart

Author Devin Burghart

is vice president of IREHR. He coordinates our Seattle office, directs our research efforts, and manages our online communications. He has researched, written, and organized on virtually all facets of contemporary white nationalism since 1992, and is internationally recognized for this effort. Devin is frequently quoted as an expert by print, broadcast, and online media outlets. In 2007, he was awarded a Petra Foundation fellowship. more...

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