- The number of hate groups has fallen for the third year in a row, according to an SPLC report.
- White power groups declined as they faced arrests and civil suits, but Proud Boys chapters flourished.
- The report urges the government to prosecute those involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
In the year since the deadly attack on the US Capitol, the number of active hate groups in the United States has continued to decline, but the popularity of the extremist ideas that fueled the insurgency still pose a threat to democracy, according to a annual report of the Southern Poverty Law Center released on Wednesday.
The number of hate groups has steadily declined since hitting a record high of 1,020 in 2018. Anti-government groups, which peaked a decade ago, have also fallen to 488, down 79 from in 2020.
The decline does not indicate that the power of the far right is in decline, but rather suggests that extremist ideas moved from fringe groups into the political mainstream, and hate groups have been impacted by the fallout and lawsuits stemming from the Capitol insurgency, according to the report.
“The reactionary and racist beliefs that propelled a crowd into the Capitol that day have not dissipated,” the report said. “Instead, they coalesced into a political movement that is now one of the most powerful forces shaping politics in the United States.”
The SPLC, a liberal advocacy group, has faces defamation lawsuits from organizations he has named as hate groups, including the Proud Boys. The nonprofit defines hate and anti-government groups as:
“Hate groups vilify others based on immutable characteristics such as race, religion and gender identity, while anti-government movement groups believe the federal government is tyrannical and peddle conspiracy theories that often slander the same marginalized communities that hate groups target.”
The report describes how right-wing figures like Fox News personality Tucker Carlson and elected officials like U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, have promoted key supremacist conspiracy theories like the ‘great replacement’ myth while others – including former President Donald Trump and American Republican Representative Paul Gosar from Arizona and Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina – have normalized threats and the use of violence as a political tool.
“When you combine that with this sheer, hard effort to silence conversations about racism in our schools and other public placesyou create an atmosphere where anti-black, anti-immigrant and ethno-nationalist politics could really take root more,” said Cassie Miller, senior research analyst at the SPLC, on Wednesday.
The findings echo the results of two recent studies from Anti-Defamation League and organization of voting rights Informed publicwho found that election candidates and sitting politicians are increasingly embracing extremist talking points and voiced support for conspiracy theories.
The dominant movement is partly a response to national protests for racial justice in the summer of 2020, a scheme that has historically played many times during times of social changesaid the SPLC.
In addition to mainstream channels, the report found that some extremists have turned to live streaming on “alt-tech” platforms. to raise funds and spread their message after being de-platformed on sites like Youtube and streaming services like Tic.
Although extremist ideas are increasingly accepted by politicians, white power groups are under pressure from federal law enforcement’s renewed focus on domestic extremism and civil lawsuits like the highly publicized lawsuit on the Deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. As a result, leaders of the white power movement encouraged their members to maintain anonymity and avoid joining public-facing groups, causing the number of neo-Nazi groups to drop to 54.
Despite this, the SPLC has warned that white nationalists could continue to mobilize and even commit violence in the 2022 midterm elections.
Meanwhile, anti-government groups like the Oath Keepers also had to reorganize and disperse due to heightened public attention following the attack on the Capitol, the report said.
The legal center also said the decline of anti-government groups does not indicate a decline in the popularity of their ideology, noting that anti-government extremists have continued to organize against the issues. including the belief that critical race theory is taught in public schools and mandates for vaccines and masks designed to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Local communities across the United States are feeling the brunt of harassment, intimidation and even violence,” said senior research analyst Rachel Carroll Rivas. “We have seen particularly harsh activity directed against school boards and county health boards.”
As the Biden administration implements policy changes, anti-government groups could grow, the report said, noting that such activity has historically increased under liberal administrations.
Meanwhile, some extremist groups have been able to grow through grassroots organizing.
The SPLC has identified 72 chapters of the extremist group the proud boys last year, an “alarming increase” from the 43 found in 2020, Miller said. The report comes a day after the former national chairman of the Proud Boys Henry “Enrique” Tarrio has been arrested and charged conspiracy during the January 6 uprising.
Miller said the group faced “tremendous legal pressure” that would usually result in a group’s collapse, but the Proud Boys were able to thrive by clinging to “moral panics” over mask and security mandates. COVID-19 vaccine and school programs.
“Despite all this legal pressure, 2021 has been the busiest year for the Proud Boys since they formed in 2016,” she said. “The Proud Boys have really latched onto those ideas and used them to branch out into more traditional spaces…it allows them to build alliances and makes them more dangerous than they already are.”
What can be done?
The legal center, based in Montgomery, Alabama, acknowledged that the federal government, law enforcement and intelligence agencies began to focus on domestic white supremacist extremism and offered several recommendations on how officials can continue to address the threat.
Among them, the group urged the federal government to:
The report repeatedly called on lawmakers to implement stronger protections of voting rights to prevent the far right from gaining more political power by saying that democracy is “under threat”.
“The country must address the threat of extremism as a social problem, which requires investment in social programs and public health-inspired prevention measures,” the report said.
However, the report warned that traditional counterterrorism tools that rely on law enforcement alone are not enough to stop the movement. The legal center called on tech companies to create and enforce Strategies that prevent hate from spreading and making money on their platforms.
The SPLC also recommended fund education initiatives to prevent more Americans, especially young people, from becoming radicalized.
“We can’t rely on the president, Congress, or the courts to save us. It’s really up to us,” said Aneelah Afzali, executive director of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound – American Muslim Empowerment Network.
“We must use every instance where there is hatred or violence, we use these opportunities to build our solidarity, support and show up for each other.”
“FRINGE IDEAS” HAVE BECOME GENERAL IN AMERICAN POLITICS:This is a danger to democracy, say extremism experts.
Contributor: Will Carless, USA TODAY.