When award-winning journalist Donna Minkowitz attended a conference sponsored by the innocuously-named American Renaissance organization last summer, she knew she would be rubbing elbows with leaders of the alt-right.
Minkowitz, a self-described “secular, Jewish, lesbian feminist and leftist,” told Eleanor J. Bader about covering the event for Political Research Associates, an independently-funded social justice think tank based in Somerville, Massachusetts. She also spoke about her earlier interactions with conservative organizations.
Eleanor J. Bader: You began reporting on the right-wing back in the 1990s. How and why did you get started on this beat?
Donna Minkowitz: I was the Village Voice’s reporter on LGBT issues, and when the anti-gay Christian right started to become active again in the 1990s, I found myself becoming increasingly terrified… I decided to cover it for Out Magazine. I was in my late 20s at the time and went completely undercover—I wore conservative, feminine dresses and a very femme-y wig. It was a really intense few days.
EJB: Did this year’s AmRen conference have a particular theme?
DM: The main message was that white people are smarter and better than everyone else and if only these “inferior” people of color were not around to drag them down, they could achieve the great things they imagine. AmRen says it welcomes Jews, but anti-Semitism was at the conference—it was hiding in plain sight. Eli Mosley, the head of the virulently anti-Semitic Identity Evropa, was at the conference and he and other attendees continually tweeted anti-Semitic messages; there were also loads of anti-Semitic books for sale, including The Turner Diaries, which advocates Jewish extermination…
EJB: Were you surprised by anything that you saw or heard?
DM: I was pretty stunned by how Handmaid’s Tale-ish their plans for women in the “white ethnostate” were.