Skip to main content

In the lead up to a March 4-5 gathering of white nationalists and national socialists at Michigan State University, the executive director of the hosting organization unexpectedly announced his resignation.

Kyle Bristow’s exit from the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas (FMI) came amidst growing exposure of his organization’s link to national socialism and some FMI board members’ relationships with the figures in the vanguardist wing of the white nationalist movement. Vanguardists eschew mass-based organizing in favor of promoting violent white revolution.

In his March 3 announcement, Bristow bemoaned that journalists’ had recently reported on “acerbic, offensive, juvenile, and regrettable statements I mostly made over a decade ago while I was in college and a prominent and staunchly conservative activist.” As IREHR described last week, these “regrettable statements” included authoring White Apocalypse (2010),  a novel filled with violent, white nationalist revenge fantasies against Jewish professors, Latinx and Native American activists, and anti-racist groups. They also included writing in the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens’ Citizens Informer that “Liberalism promotes sexual perversion—especially homosexuality and miscegenation—which debases the White race. Neither homosexuals nor interracial couples, after all, produce White children.”

National Policy Institute’s Richard Spencer (left) with Kyle Bristow (right)

Bristow’s move appears aimed at protecting his reputation as a licensed attorney, stressing that “I take my calling as an attorney seriously and have aggressively represented people from all walks of life.” In addition to resigning from FMI, Bristow announced that a substitute attorney would represent event organizer Cameron Padgett in lawsuits at the University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University. Padgett has been point person for white nationalist Richard Spencer’s speaking appearances on several college campuses and Bristow his attorney.

Bristow continued that he was deleting his private Twitter account and would not be attending the MSU event. “FMI,” he continued, “will be transferred to the control of someone else to manage so its mission can be advanced, or else it will be dissolved.” He closed by stating that, “I abhor violence —of which I have never engaged and have always disavowed,” and “I regret having previously used language which is needlessly offensive.”

Bristow’s move came as white nationalists and national socialists were making their way to the East Lansing events. As exposure and opposition to the racist soiree grew, organizers scrambled to pull off the event. White nationalist and anti-Semite Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute attempted to reassure followers that the events would take place – even as Kyle Bristow claimed that organizer Cameron Padgett would also not be in attendance, as reported by Its’ Going Down. Clashes between white nationalists and anti-fascists broke out several times during the two-day event – in one instance as a contingent from the Traditionalist Worker Party marched behind their leader, Matthew Heimbach, chanting in call-answer form, “National”…”Socialism.” Conflict also took place as racists gathered to hear a March 5 speech by Richard Spencer at MSU’s Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education.

In the general form of white nationalists, Richard Spencer bemoaned that “What happened outside was really worrisome and heinous…That was an attempt to use violence to prevent people from attending a speech that was peaceful.” Somehow, Spencer keeps a straight face while making such statements. In reality, some FMI board members have had relationships with the figures in the vanguardist wing of the white nationalist movement. Following criticism from human rights activists in Whitefish, Montana, Spencer, in fact, threw his lot with vulgar national socialist Andrew Anglin. In “defense” of Spencer, Anglin viciously targeted Jewish and other human rights activists in the small town with crude anti-Semitic messages. For his actions, Anglin faces a civil lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center .

If FMI turned out to be too linked to vanguardism for Kyle Bristow, this only begs the question,

“Why does Ryan Sorba remain on the board of the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas?”

As IREHR reported last week, Sorba claims strong roots in campus conservatism. This includes a declared stint in a campus leadership position for the Richard and Helen DeVos Freedom Center at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Sorba also served as a Congressional Action Team Leader for the Freedomworks Tea Party faction. Sorba boasts that he also “founded or substantially helped” form 42 campus “conservative clubs” on 31 university and college campuses in eleven states, including the following groups (see photos below):

  • California State University, San Bernardino, College Republicans
  • California State University, San Bernardino, Young Conservatives of California
  • California State University, San Bernardino, Conservative Union
  • University of California, Los Angeles Live Action Advocate
  • University of Southern California, Young Conservatives of California
  • University of California, San Diego, Young Americans for Freedom
  • University of California, Riverside, College Republicans
  • University of California, Riverside, Praetorian Student Publication
  • California State University, Los Angeles, Young Conservatives of California
  • Northeastern University, Students for Saving Social Security (via private accounts)
  • Northeastern University, Students for Life of America
  • Northeastern University, Students for Traditional Marriage
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Anscombe Society
  • Harvard University, Harvard Right to Life
  • Harvard University, True Love Revolution
  • Harvard University, Christian Prayer Group
  • Northern Essex Community College, Conservative Affairs
  • Smith College, College Republicans
  • Smith College, Students for Saving Social Security
  • Tufts University, Students for Saving Social Security
  • California State University Fullerton, College Republicans
  • Bentley University, The Gun Club
  • Bentley University, Students for Saving Social Security
  • Bentley University, College Republicans
  • University of Delaware, Intercollegiate Studies Institute Student Group
  • University of Texas, Austin, Young Conservatives of Texas
  • Michigan State University, Young Americans for Freedom
  • Trinity Law School, Federalist Society
  • Brooks Institute, Young Americans for Freedom
  • Framingham State College, College Republicans

In addition, Sorba boasts involvement in unspecified activity at Texas State University, San Marcos; Texas Tech; Abilene Christian University; Baylor University; University of Arkansas; Union College; University of Connecticut; Rutgers; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Syracuse University and Georgia Tech.

While some of the connections to these groups appear older, the most recent “news” post on Sorba’s blog, where he makes the claims, is dated March 6, 2018 – that is, today. Sorba’s blog also states that reporting on these efforts is “to be continued.”

Kyle Bristow, an individual with a history of white nationalist politicking, apparently determined that the Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas was too toxic to remain at its helm.

If Sorba continues on the FMI Board, what does this say about his claim to be a conservative?


Chuck Tanner

Author Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner is an Advisory Board member and researcher for the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. He lives in Washington State where he researches and works to counter white nationalism and the anti-Indian and other far right social movements.

More posts by Chuck Tanner