It’s hard to tell if attention from the media fazes alt-right leader and St. Mark’s graduate Richard Spencer. The same outlets he criticizes have propelled him into the national spotlight.

After he quoted Nazi propaganda in a speech celebrating President Donald Trump’s election, his comments went viral almost instantaneously. National media like the New York Times focused on the effects of Spencer’s white supremacist ideology, while we zeroed in on his former classmates’ reactions. (St. Mark’s Class of 1997 launched a fundraiser that has raised $63,632 for the International Rescue Committee.)

Then, in January, a video of Spencer being punched in the face rapidly circulated the internet, leading even the Times to ask: “Is It O.K. to Punch a Nazi?”

Spencer has been written about extensively, but in-depth interviews with him aren’t as common. When they do happen, they usually lead to quite a bit of backlash — just ask NPR.

(The Advocate reached out to Spencer for an interview a few months ago, which he immediately and rather politely declined.)

That’s what makes this Atlantic article, written by his former classmate Graeme Wood, so compelling. Wood was Spencer’s chemistry lab partner in high school, so he’s able to get Spencer to discuss several topics, including his childhood, in a way many other journalists haven’t.

Wood writes:

“My upbringing did not really inform who I am,” Spencer said with a shrug. Then he reconsidered. “I think in a lot of ways I reacted against Dallas. It’s a class- and money-conscious place—whoever has the biggest car or the biggest house or the biggest fake boobs,” he told me. “There’s no actual community or high culture or sense of greatness, outside of having a McMansion.” He emphasized culture in a way that evoked a full-bodied, Germanic sense of Kultur. In fact, Spencer has joked that he would like to be the Kulturminister of a white “ethno-state.” He imagines himself having a heroic role in the grand cycle of history. “I want to live dangerously,” he said. “Most people aspire to mediocrity, and that’s fine. Not everyone can be controversial. Not everyone can be recognized by a random person in a restaurant.”

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