Antica Posta, a Buckhead restaurant of some renown, hosted a famous holocaust denier and white supremacist on a speaking tour last week.
In another time, this wouldn’t really be news. Racists eat every day. Some of them eat well.
But this made the news, because one of the servers at the restaurant posted a tearfully-written commentary about David Irving’s visit on Facebook, and the posting went viral. Members of his staff said they were subjected to racist abuse and abuse related to sexual orientation. Staff also said the party was not asked to leave afterward, but instead was berated for making a big deal out of “nothing,” followed by jokes about “serving a beer to a Nazi.”
Were this some frat party that got out of hand, I’d probably blow this off. In context, this incident should have made the news, but for more important reasons. The alt-right white supremacists of Atlanta appear to be moving toward more formal organization, and this is a sign of it.
Last September, a good friend of mine posted images of a group of young white guys with white supremacist T-shirts and Confederate battle flags at the top of Stone Mountain. It appeared to be a small thing, too, at the time.
Not long after that, flyers and stickers promoting Identity Europa, a white supremacist group, began appearing at college campuses across the state, particularly at Georgia Tech and Georgia State.
It turns out that the meet-up at Stone Mountain was a “pool party,” which is alt-right slang for a group outing. Local networking events for young white supremacists began to pop up on the radar of antiracist activists.
Patrick Sharp, the Georgia State Student who remains infamous for organizing a “white student union” there, was in the photo, along with other current students. One by one, people outside have been piecing together what the inside of the still-loosely organized mass the local racist movement looks like.
For example, Atlanta Antifa identified Charles Neugebauer, a Criminal Justice major at GSU and President of the University’s Boxing Club, as an alt-right supporter. It’s Going Down — a local anarchist collective — identified Casey Jordan Cooper, a current student at John Marshall Law School, as a local white supremacist organizer.
The Rebel Yell, an alt-right podcast that has become extremely popular with southern white supremacists, held an alt-right conference in Marietta in January, shortly after the election. Speakers included Sam Dickson, a neo-Confederate segregationist and lawyer who owns investment property in Atlanta.
Why the backstory? Because David Irving is exactly the guy you bring to the dinner table if you’re trying to layer a veneer of intellectual legitimacy over the idea that majority rule in America threatens European values and that white Christian men are the only legitimate leaders in society. Christopher Hitchens was calling Irving a fascist twenty years ago, referring to the man’s ideas as “depraved.”
“Irving does have a rounded and developed theory of Fascism, which is to say that he has studied it a lot and thinks it’s had a bum rap. He’s even been quoted as calling himself a ‘mild Fascist’ or ‘a moderate Fascist’—oxymoronic if true. …” wrote Hitchens in a 1996 piece for Vanity Fair, in a defense of Irving’s right to publish. (My respect for Hitchens’ willingness to confront his ideological adversaries remains steadfast.)
It is, perhaps, Hitchens’ lingering legacy that deters me from launching a full-bore festival of fun on Marco Betti, the benighted restaurateur who set the table for our meal. Hitchens believed men like Irving should have a forum to present ideas, so that we might offer the ridicule that is their just desserts. Antifa has been quick to silence the far right on college campuses and elsewhere, when they can.
But I think it’s worth mentioning that Irving gave an interview to The Independent after news of his talk emerged. Irving said “We had no complaint at the time from her or her manager. We have held dinners there for several years. (Emphasis mine.) I have no knowledge of the actual incident reported and will inquire of all our attendees, and ask for statements, as my experience is that this kind of allegation is likely to show up later.”
The waitress, Shelley Sidney, said that Betti’s account of his actions that night isn’t accurate, and that other staff members have quit over how he managed this event. People who know him tell me he has a history of volatility and crassness, which appears to be borne out by some online reviews from months before Irving’s night out.
I question Betti’s claim of ignorance about who and what his guests were. If Irving’s been coming there for years, and his staff are willing to walk over what they saw that night, Betti’s self-serving statement strain credibility. And I think the threat the alt-right poses in the Age of Trump is too substantial to offer more benefit of the doubt.
I will respect the choices of others, who may see genuine repentance. But I won’t be eating there again.