Conservative antisemitism: the strange case of Boris Johnson, Richard Spencer and Gavin McInnes

Gavi McInnes

JVL Introduction

It gives us no pleasure to reproduce this article about the Spectator during Boris Johnson’s tenure as editor from 1999 to 2005.

During that period the magazine employed a notoriously racist and antisemitic commentator known as just “Taki”, whom Johnson took no steps to rein in.

Why, we ask, is he not held accountable for the company he kept and indeed allowed to flourish. Why is his connivance at racism given a free pass by our mainstream media? Could he really not have known he was giving space to a virulent antisemite?

To say it smacks of of double standards is to understate the seriousness of the offence.

This article was originally published by libcom.org, R Totale's blog on Sat 23 Nov 2019. Read the original here.

Conservative antisemitism: the strange case of Boris Johnson, Richard Spencer and Gavin McInnes

An exploration into Boris Johnson’s editorship of The Spectator magazine, and some of the Spectator columnist Taki’s connections.

“The Jewish lobby in America has stifled debate.” – “Taki”, Spectator columnist

“Little fucking kikes. They get ruled by people like me.” – Richard Spencer, former executive editor of Taki’s Magazine

“The Jews have this real hatred for white males.” – Gavin McInnnes, Taki’s Magazine columnist

In recent years, much attention has been given to allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party, ranging from genuinely indefensible incidents like ex-Labour MP Chris Williamson cosying up to the vile conspiracy theorist Vanessa Beeley, through to utterly bizarre lines of argument attacking Corbyn for attending a passover seder or the astonishing claim that “Mr Corbyn’s Germanic diction drips with memories of the ghetto — when, during World War II, six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.”

Certainly, like any form of racism, antisemitism should be opposed wherever it appears. But much of the contemporary campaign against Labour antisemitism carries the more-or-less explicit claim that Labour is uniquely antisemitic, that hatred of Jews is much harder to find outside of the Labour party. This logic is made clear by slogans like “anyone but Corbyn” or Rachel Riley’s formulation, “I don’t endorse Boris, but I do endorse #NeverCorbyn.” If antisemitism in Labour means that “anyone” would be better than Corbyn, then it follows that antisemitism must be rare or non-existent outside of Labour.

Unfortunately, this isn’t quite the case. As should be clear following a week where the Lib Dem candidate for Birmingham Hodge Hill and the Tory candidate for Leeds North East have both been suspended for antisemitic remarks, antisemitism, like other forms of bigotry, exists across society, and so a single-minded focus on antisemitism in Labour and only in Labour risks enabling and encouraging it elsewhere.

This is especially troubling when we consider the career of Boris Johnson. The problem of Conservative antisemitism goes far beyond Johnson, as is shown by the comments of people like Suella Braverman or Crispin Blunt, or the party’s controversial alliance with Viktor Orbán’s hard-right government in Hungary. But Johnson’s career and past associations do provide a particularly clear-cut and troubling example.

Boris Johnson and Taki

Johnson edited The Spectator from 1999 to 2005. Throughout this time, and indeed up to the present day, the magazine employed the notoriously racist and antisemitic commentator Taki Theodoracopulos, better known as just “Taki”. At the time Johnson took over, Taki was already known for antisemitic and pro-nazi attitudes, such as a 1997 piece in defence of the revisionist historian Ernst Nolte, first published in the Spectator and later republished by a number of Holocaust denial outfits, which argued that “so much opprobrium has come to be attached to almost every aspect of the German past that it is impossible to say anything good about it without being condemned as a Nazi sympathizer. Nonetheless, it is hard not to conclude that the Germany of the past was vastly superior to [that of today]… the constant harping on about the Germans seems to be motivated by profit.” Another column, also from 1997, complained that “The younger generation of Jews who control [Hollywood] now think that there’s more money to be made by dumbing down.”

If he wanted to, if he felt that those sorts of comments were unacceptable, Johnson could have fired Taki immediately after taking over The Spectator, but he chose not to. There is absolutely no question that Johnson was aware of Taki’s bigoted attitudes, as in a friendly interview from 1999, he was asked about Taki’s racism and admitted “you’re right, on the whole, I’m not mad for that stuff.” Despite being “not mad for” such overt racism, he continued to employ Taki throughout his time at The Spectator.

In 2001, in the middle of Johnson’s time as Spectator editor, Taki wrote an antisemitic column so extreme that it prompted Conrad Black, owner of The Spectator and not someone who could be accused of an unfair bias against the publication, to complain that “In both its venomous character and its unfathomable absurdity, this farrago of lies is almost worthy of Goebbels or the authors of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion… [Taki] presents the universal Jewish ethos as brutish, vulgar, grasping and cunningly wicked.” Some people, on being publicly warned by their boss that they were publishing antisemitic material reminscent of Goebbels, might wish to change course, but Boris Johnson chose to continue publishing Taki’s columns after this incident.

Since his time as an employee of Boris Johnson, Taki has continued to express the same antisemitic attitudes over and over again, writing that “The Jewish lobby in America has stifled debate” and that “rich American Jews… encourage unacceptable and brutal behaviour against innocents”, penning a defence of Greece’s neo-nazi Golden Dawn party, and more recently writing a column about “the heroism of the German soldiers” fighting in WWII that was originally titled “In Praise of the Wehrmacht.”

If his Spectator column was his only venture, then it could be argued that Taki doesn’t mean this stuff seriously, that’s he’s just a provocateur, an overgrown child still looking to say whatever shocking thing will get him some attention. But, away from the pages of The Spectator, Johnson’s old employee has also forged working relationships with some very dangerous and committed figures of the contemporary racist far-right.

Taki and Richard Spencer


Taki with Richard Spencer and Peter Brimelow of the white nationalist VDARE website.

In the late 2000s, Richard Spencer worked at The American Conservative magazine, but was fired for his racist views. After being fired for racism, he took up a position as the executive editor of Taki’s Magazine, with one interviewer reporting that “In Spencer’s telling, he steadily evolved Taki’s into a magazine aimed at white nationalists.” Unlike his departure from The American Conservative, Richard Spencer’s departure from Taki’s seems to have been completely voluntary and amicable, motivated by his desire to focus solely on his own project, AlternativeRight.com. Richard Spencer’s views on Jews are fairly well-known, but for the benefit of anyone who’s unaware, leaked audio recently surfaced of him shouting “Little fucking kikes! They get ruled by people like me!”

Interestingly, after moving over to AlternativeRight, Spencer would go on to work with another of Boris Johnson’s associates. In 2017, after the full extent of Spencer’s nazi views had become public knowledge, Johnson’s old friend Darius Guppy, of the notorious phone call, penned an article about the need to oppose “international finance” for Spencer’s alt-right site.

While Spencer’s time at Taki’s Magazine was relatively short, he was able to use his time there to promote the work of other racists, including some who continued to write for the magazine for much longer.

Taki, Gavin McInnes and the Proud Boys

In a 2016 column for Taki’s Magazine, Gavin McInnes defended the alt-right, writing that “I’m sure there are bona fide bad guys in America today, but I can’t find any… I’ve known alt-right pioneer Richard Spencer since he got me the job at this magazine and even he, the head of the snake, comes across as perfectly reasonable in conversation.” The same year, McInnes used the column that Richard Spencer had got him to publicly launch his new venture, the Proud Boys.

In 2017, McInnes attracted widespread criticism for a video he filmed while visiting Israel, originally titled “10 things I hate about Jews.” In this video, he stated that visiting Israel had made him more antisemitic, and blamed the widespread starvation in the Ukraine under Stalin on “Marxist, Stalinist, left-wing, commie, socialist Jews.”

As for the Proud Boys, while the organization launched in the pages of Taki’s Magazine does not hold an explicitly antisemitic ideology, there is a serious problem with antisemitism among its members. Jason Kessler, the organizer of the notorious Charlottesville rally of August 2017, was connected to the group, and the event itself, where nazis famously chanted “Jews will not replace us”, saw Proud Boys march alongside former Taki’s editor Richard Spencer.

The group’s membership includes hardcore antisemitic nazis such as Sal Cipolla. On the neo-nazi “Daily Shoah” podcast, host Mike “Enoch” Peinovich has mentioned that “these guys, trust me, they’re not fans of the Tribe. I sit down, have beers with the leader of the New York City Proud Boys and all we do is talk about the fucking kikes.” Other videos have surfaced of Proud Boys openly saying “nazis are my best friends”, and being approvingly referred to as the “1488 Proud Boys”, where 1488 refers to the white supremacist “14 words” slogan and the numerical code for HH, or Heil Hitler.

The connection between the Proud Boys and extreme antisemitism continues right up to the present day, as an internal Proud Boys discussion group was recently used to mass-report the Jewish Worker twitter account for their investigations into neo-nazi activity. The Proud Boys’ “mass report and retweet” thread was specifically used to defend a member of the nazi Iron March forums using the name “OvenEngineer”. The Iron March website was used by Atomwaffen, a notoriously extreme nazi group linked to a number of murders, and the UK group National Action. The network around Iron March was also responsible for helping to inspire the person who was recently convicted for planning to bomb synagogues in the Durham area.


The Proud Boys take credit for getting the Jewish Worker’s account suspended for their investigations into the Iron March forum.

An example of Iron March content.

If the current discussion around antisemitism is motivated by a genuine desire to oppose racism wherever it appears, then Taki urgently needs to be held to account, and every Spectator editor who has employed him, including Boris Johnson, needs to answer some hard questions about their decision to publish him. Taki’s continued employment at The Spectator also puts a number of other British media figures in a rather odd position. Do the likes of Robert Peston or Toby Young think that the ideas of people like Richard Spencer or Gavin McInnes are acceptable? And if not, then why are they so happy to share a masthead with Richard Spencer’s boss?

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