Swastikas in the Bathroom: Connecting the Dots between White Supremacy, White Nationalism, the Alt-Right, and the Alt-Light
Resources curated and synthesized by Shelly Tochluk and Christine Saxman
Purpose: This post attempts to make sense of how hate groups are infiltrating the U.S. (and global) mainstream, the connected and varied ideologies, recruitment tactics, and what we can do about them. It is not meant to be inflammatory. However, if taken seriously, it should provoke significant concern.
Structure: This is not an academic paper, an essay, or journalistic reporting. Instead, it is a curated set of resources (articles, podcasts, books, documentaries). Live links are paired with highlights, quotes, synthesized statements, or paraphrases that connect resources to ideas that, hopefully, paint a picture. The only section that offers original ideas from the curators is the last one on prevention and intervention. Everything else comes from linked sources and is intended to inspire the reader to read/view/listen to those original sources. (All underlining indicates live links.)
Rationale: This is a critical time in which people, regardless of political affiliation, are called to protect our communities from manipulative hate groups. Specifically, it is imperative to recognize 1) how white nationalists and supremacists are expanding their reach in communities across the nation and globe, 2) the effectiveness of the recruitment tactics, and 3) the important role white people have to play in countering this trend.
Suggestion: Reading the full post may be overwhelming. You may want to approach it in stages. Read one section. Then go to the live links to read/listen/view one or more of the original resources. Explore, learn, share. If you only read this document, you may have an overall picture, however the depth of the issues will remain obscured. Accessing the original resources (particularly those with the ***Strongly Encouraged*** notation) is an important step.
SECTION I — — Who are they? What do they believe?
The documentaries and articles listed below are each essential in developing a base of knowledge. Easy to access and well-produced, start with these.
Viewing each of these documentaries is ***STRONGLY ENCOURAGED***
· Frontline: Documenting Hate Charlottesville (PBS, Aug 2018, available for streaming)
· Frontline: Documenting Hate New American Nazis (PBS, Nov 2018, available for streaming)
· White Right: Meeting the Enemy (2018, available for streaming on Kanopy — Check your local libraries.)
Reading both of these articles is ***STRONGLY ENCOURAGED***
· What the Ebbs and Flows of the KKK Can Tell Us About White Supremacy Today (NPR, December 2018)
- Deradicalizing White People (New York Review of Books, Aug 2018)
The books listed below provide substantive information that help connect the dots and provide a strong historical context for what is offered in the documentaries and articles listed above.
· Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former Nationalist (Eli Saslow, Sept 2018)
o The story of Derek Black, raised within the white nationalist movement, who left the movement in 2013.
- Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the Rebirth of White Nationalism in America (Vegas Tenold, Feb 2018)
- A journalist’s account of his years spent interviewing and spending time with various white nationalist leaders in the movement.
- Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America (Kathleen Belew, April 2018)
- Documents the groups, leadership, and patterns of white power movements spanning decades and their relationship to U.S. wars and their evolving narratives. This book highlights how far-right groups are dedicated to amassing weapons, and how their rhetoric prompts sympathizers to plan violent actions against Jewish, Black, and LGBTQ people.
The documentaries, article, and books listed above collectively provide an overview of the most violent extremist groups, their ideologies, tactics, etc. Insights include the following:
Key groups include the Rise Above Movement (RAM), the Hammerskins, the KKK and its affiliates, the National Socialist Movement (NSM), and Attomwaffen Division, which is the most extreme neo-Nazi group. Each group is linked to extremist violence, including the most recent activity, training to incite violence at rallies and left-leaning protests.
Group membership in some of these groups has swelled after Charlottesville, and some members have been linked to mass shooting events and hate crimes.
The ideology that underlies the various groups varies. Some of the most common frames are the following:
· The belief that they are working to protect white women from the specter of sexual violence from minorities.
· They consider immigrants and refugees as freeloaders supported by the State and public funds who are pushing out deserving white Americans.
· Both the liberal and conservative parties are advancing a New World Order (run by Jewish people), where globalism ruins the U.S. To them, this means the federal government cannot be trusted (although members may try to infiltrate and take over local government seats).
· Immigration and globalization are existential threats to white families.
Many of these groups also harbor the belief that Jews are using multiculturalism and a liberal agenda to increase immigration and miscegenation in order to lower the white birth rate, leading to white genocide. According to this narrative, white people are under attack and need to fight for their preservation. For many of these groups, Jewish people are considered their primary enemy, with Blacks and LGBTQ folks not far behind.
For those with white nationalist views, their goal is to create a white ethno-state.
Obtaining and training with weapons to incite “race war” is how some of them believe the ethno-state will be achieved.
For those with neo-Nazi leanings, underlying the belief that Jews are controlling the U.S. government, the media, etc. is the prevailing narrative that Hitler is a hero for attempting to implement a white ethno-state, but was prevented from doing so. Active Holocaust deniers, their admiration for Hitler (at least for some of them) depends on their belief that millions of Jews were not actually killed.
Recently, the neo-Nazi groups, recognizing that their symbols (swastikas) and ideology are not viable for adoption by the mainstream, have made recent shifts to publicize their goals as preserving and protecting white culture, uplifting traditional masculinity, and living out the masculine, warrior ideal.
In regards to their recruitment targets and intentions:
· Former group members recount how these groups actively attempt to attract young white males who lack a sense of power, self-esteem, and community. They sell themselves as offering a chance to act heroically, and be part of a movement larger than themselves. They prey upon young people’s trauma and suffering in order to manipulate them into hurting others.
· Some group members strategically place themselves in cities and towns where the economy is suffering, and where there are large numbers of veterans who feel abandoned by their country. They recruit military veterans and soldiers and some of these groups have set up training camps to practice military skills. Some have plans to attack U.S. infrastructure, and a decades’ long focus has been on training small cells using a “leaderless resistance” strategy. The purpose of this strategy is to make their attacks appear isolated avoid putting the larger group at risk. Because being in a white supremacist group is against military policy, members of these groups attempt to keep their affiliation secret.
The article linked below is an important resource that will make much more sense if the Frontline documentaries highlighted above are viewed first. It is extremely detailed and will also help make sense of the information that follows (next paragraph) about concerns over law enforcement’s failure to adequately address the threats posed.
A sample from the article: “A 2008 FBI intelligence assessment found that military experience in white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations ranged from ‘failure at basic training to success in special operations forces,’ and that, ‘FBI reporting indicates extremist leaders have historically favored recruiting active and former military personnel for their knowledge of firearms, explosives, and tactical skills and their access to weapons and intelligence in preparation for an anticipated war against the federal government, Jews, and people of color.’ And, …’A Military Times poll taken last year, surveying 1,131 active-duty troops found that one in four troops say they have seen examples of white nationalism among their fellow service members.’”
A primary concern raised within the documentaries, articles, and books is that the police have not investigated many leads related to these groups and their potential for violence. Part of the problem is that, for decades, white male terrorists have been portrayed as individual lone wolves. The lack of understanding of the connected nature of these individuals and groups 1) allows law enforcement to view the issue as isolated events and individual acts, and 2) causes the public to underestimate the threat and put less pressure on law enforcement to investigate thoroughly. If we don’t respond to white power activism as real terrorism, then we can’t stop it. And we are significantly under-resourcing the effort. Additionally, the public needs to put pressure on the military as well, because they’re not following up with the leads that the Southern Poverty Law Center provides to them.
For more information on the failure of law enforcement to investigate domestic, white terrorism, consider the following:
· The Rise of Right Wing Extremism , and How U.S. Law Enforcement Ignored It (NY Times, Dec 2018, 28 minute audio) *** STRONGLY ENCOURAGED***
· DHS Crushed This Analyst for Warning About Far-Right Terror (Wired, Aug 2012, article)
· I Warned of Right-Wing Violence in 2009 (Washington Post, by Daryl Johnson, Aug 2017, Personal account from the a former FBI agent)
Also, consider these articles on right-wing extremist terrorism:
- White men can be terrorists, too (Los Angeles Times, Christian Picciolini, Oct 2018)
- Study shows two-thirds of U.S. terrorism tied to right-wing extremists (SPLC, Sept 2018)
- DC man arrested on gun charge after relatives alert police to his alleged white nationalist outbursts (Washington Post, Nov 2018, article)
Listen to this Fresh Air episode that interviews Eli Saslow (author of Rising Out of Hatred) and Derek Black (former white nationalist), who left the movement in 2013. This interview offers important context not highlighted in the book.
· How A Rising Star of White Nationalism Broke Free From the Movement Fresh Air (Sep 2018) ***STRONGLY ENCOURAGED***
Some essential highlights of the Fresh Air interview include the distinction made between white nationalists vs. white supremacists, the way their use of language has changed over time, how they think they’re not doing anything wrong because they feel that all groups would be better off if they were separated. Therefore, they feel that being called “racist” is a made up insult. They refer to themselves as “racialists.” Much of their propaganda focuses on white pride ideas and tries to avoid attacking other groups, and they actively target for recruitment people who start sentences by saying, “I’m not racist, but….”
Are all of these groups the same?
The book Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the Rebirth of White Nationalism in America, by Vegas Tenold, (Feb 2018) offers a useful way to categorize the various groups into two different types: the “boots” and the “suits.” The boots are those who prepare for violence, anticipating the race war they are sure is coming. The suits, on the other hand, may hold many of the same views, however their approach is more intellectual and they seek to appear upstanding by using reasoned arguments that play well with mainstream audiences who are confused and conflicted about the various economic and cultural changes occurring in the U.S.
The “suits” include Richard Spencer, founder of the National Policy Institute, Jared Taylor, of American Renaissance, and Vanguard America, to name just a few. They focus on issues of white identity using softer language meant to distance themselves from racism. They and their adherents call themselves “racialists,” “race realists,” or “identitarians,” and they advocate a brand of white supremacy that cherry-picks data to support their claims. Their published documents are extremely challenging for the lay person to refute, as the manipulation of data is savvy and well-constructed. In fact, geneticists are currently struggling to figure out how to respond to the ways they simplify and misrepresent scientific work (see link below).
· Why White Supremacists are Chugging Milk (And Why Geneticists are Alarmed) (The New York Times, Oct 2018)
An important note in relation to the book, Everything You Love Will Burn, is that it could leave one with the impression that the most dangerous of the violent hate groups are so busy undermining each other that they do not pose a threat. That would be a mistake. Face the Racist Nation (On the Media, August 2018, audio) provides a reminder that although the groups of “boots” on the ground are not a large force at this time, and may never be, those who leave the groups do not generally do so because they have changed their views. More importantly, perhaps, is that the location of recruitment has radically shifted in the last decade and has moved online.
SECTION II — — The Movement Goes Online
Not only has the movement gone online, but their online presence has allowed many groups with divergent views and priorities to collectively pull people into a web of hate, conspiracy theories, and false narratives.
This audio broadcast provides essential insights:
· For Your Consideration, The New, Old White Supremacist Movement (WNYC The United States of Anxiety, Feb 2018, 30 minute audio)
The audio explains that there are various groups that fall under the alt-right banner:
· Far-right libertarians (target of Andrew Anglin)
· Conspiracy crowd members (those surrounding Alex Jones)
· 4-Chan, 8-Chan, and Reddit trolls who haven’t fully attached to the politics yet
· Range of avowed white supremacists, like Richard Spencer
How does the alt-right attract new followers?
A proactive effort is a board where online trolls post ideas for how to create recruitment memes.
A common way people get pulled in is when someone lands on an Alt-right site where they experience some kind of resonance. (Social media algorithms are part of this process. If a user chooses something that leans conservative, the next suggested website or YouTube video will be more of the same, often a more extreme version.) There may be some things the person doesn’t agree with, but the more time spent on the sites, the more normal those ideas become. Once entered into the ecosystem, the reality begins to get shaped in a wholly different way. The Alt-right has a name for the moment when people have their “conversion moment.” It is called being “red-pilled” and it refers to the movie, the Matrix, when Neo has a choice to wake up from the dream or to see reality.
Also notable is that these groups, whether online or in person, promote white supremacist reading material. Novels typically portray the defilement of a white woman. Dystopian liberal worlds are made horrible by gays and Jews, and a white male hero takes a stand to save the Aryan race. These books are popular at gun shows. The SPLC estimates that hundreds of thousands of copies have been sold. The idea is to “slip fringe ideas past the gatekeepers and reach potential converts.”
What are their online tactics?
Many of the Alt-right groups’ leaders are young millennials who are savvy and responsive to media. They prepare so they can immediately respond to liberal politician’s speeches, etc.
Generating conflict and attention is their main focus. They want people to attack them because they want the issue to be a trending topic on social media. For example, they turned Clinton’s attack on the Alt-right to their advantage.
They also want liberals to vacate the online space. Therefore, they intentionally make spaces where people are discussing important topics so disgusting that people shut down. It’s about media disruption and a maddeningly upside-down world where identifying something as bigoted is just as verboten as being bigoted. Their success is when liberals shut down, turn away, and stop paying attention. Meanwhile, a powerful movement has grown.
In online exchanges, their basic, overriding goal is to put liberals on the defensive. They’ve also developed rules of engagement.
1. Never play defense. Always be ready with an answer.
2. When the media accuses you of something, throw it back at them. (If they say “X”, you say, “Well what about…?”) — — Totally change the subject with an outrageous counter accusation, the more outlandish the better.
3. Don’t bother trying to argue. Just control the debate.
The article below provides more detailed information about the recruitment tactics.
· The Rhetoric Trips, Traps, and Tactics of White Nationalism (Medium, June 2018)
This article is an attempt to warn people and share the tactics of white nationalists so we can all be aware. It includes quotes from white nationalists themselves that give great insight into their thinking.
Some of the tactics highlighted in the article include:
1. Hiding their power level (also called crypto-fascism). They establish connection and trust before revealing their racist beliefs. They will disavow extreme views publicly as a tactic to appeal to the average white person. Their online posts are intended to push people toward their view through deception, while masquerading as a centrist or leftist.
2. Crowd cover. They seek to get average people to defend them, essentially doing the heavy lifting for them, by claiming they’ve been targeted unfairly. The image below explains how “fascism arrives as your friend.” The strategy of incremental influence is well-known among fascists.
3. Rebranding. They use coy terms to circumvent and avoid the term Nazi, such as “identitarian”. (There’s a huge list of terms used to sound more appealing to centrists.) They intentionally change their terms to avoid people catching on to their real meaning.
4. Use enemies to justify. They find what the intended recruit group hates and then builds the bridge from that enemy toward the white nationalists’ identified enemies.
5. Bad faith, time wasting debates. The point is to appear informed and correct to onlookers while intentionally overwhelming and demoralizing people with time wasting arguments.
6. Accidentally regurgitating propaganda. Intentionally spreading ideas in disguise for others to pick up and carry with them, often unknowingly. (This section offers an entire list of typical phrases used online as rhetorical tactics.)
7. Redpilling. This article lays out the steps for how neo-Nazis approach their recruitment.
The full article should be read. This synopsis doesn’t do it justice.
How did we get here?
This article provides an overview of the book listed beneath the link. The article highlights some of the book’s key ideas.
· What the Alt-Right Learned from the Left — The New Republic (July 2017)
· Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4Chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right — (Angela Nagle, June 2017)
Some important insights from the book include the following:
1) The light-right, the collection of various online groups that traffic in misogyny, racism, etc., are characterized as reacting to what they consider PC efforts to encroach into their online/gaming world.
2) The “culture war” is characterized as one in which there are reactions to reactions to reactions, and the left is part of the dynamic. As the social justice movement gains traction in online spaces, the negative reaction from light-right folks is enhanced. And so on… the trolling and meme making is used on both sides. However, the alt-right (in part because they’re simply trying to be disruptive and ‘ironic’ at times) are more invested in the strategy of targeting using hateful tactics.
3) The transgressive ideal, popular on the left since the 60’s, has been co-opted. Instead of advocating transgression in the service of egalitarianism, the light-right promotes extreme libertarianism, pleasure-seeking, and amorality. This includes extreme sexual violence that relishes a lack of care for other’s feelings, which allows for ‘RIP trolling’ (making fun of those who have died).
Another essential resource is the following book. (The article offers an overview.) The book provides a comprehensive, historical look at the way coded racial appeals have been used by both the political right and left in ways that have led directly to the current eruptions of race-baiting.
· Dog whistle is GOP’s longtime political weapon of choice (Chicago Reporter, August 2016)
· Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class (Ian Haney Lopez, 2014)
This book adds “strategic racism” and “commonsense racism” to the types of racism we need to combat, along with the fear tactics that ask white people to feel that they are now the subject of discrimination.
Strategic racism involves political leaders (regardless of their actual, personal beliefs) using coded racial appeals as a way to gain or maintain political power. Coded racial appeals are always evolving, and they are often not consciously perceived by the targets of the appeals.
The coded racial appeals work because “commonsense racism” draws upon the “overwhelming ordinariness, pervasiveness, and legitimacy of much social knowledge.”
“Dog whistle politics has gelled into a strong commonsense linking Democrats and liberalism with unwarranted solicitude for nonwhites, and also painting those who challenge racism as the true divisive figures in society.”
“Liberal ideas are losing ground not because they lack merit, but because they receive thin backing, even as concentrated funding flows toward promoting conservative views. There’s a specific, well-funded political project to defeat liberalism among society’s thought leaders.”
Evidence of their success abounds, as in this report:
· 75 Percent of Republicans Say White Americans Are Discriminated Against (Rolling Stone, March 2019)
SECTION III — Recruitment Pathways into the Alt-right
This article from the Southern Poverty Law Center offers clear, user-friendly information. Read in full.
· McInnes, Molyneux, and 4chan: Investigating Pathways to the Alt-right (Southern, Poverty Law Center, April 2018) ***STRONGLY ENCOURAGED***
The article explains how white nationalists made their own transition into the ideology and what they find useful in recruiting others. This is a must read!
Key highlights include the following:
1) There are two common paths to the alt-right: “either through participation in the rampantly racist and misogynistic online trolling culture of 4chan and its offshoots, or through exposure to Taylor’s [Jared Taylor, American Renaissance] variety of pseudo-academic “race realism” that couches timeworn racist tropes in the language of science.”
2) The most extreme white supremacist websites, such as The Right Stuff and the Daily Stormer, argue that, “with the right optics and messaging, they can attract a critical mass of followers to the cause and eventually shift what lies within the respectable terms of political debate.”
Recruitment through Highly Produced Media Platforms
· Hate Groups Using Similar Online Recruiting as Isis, Experts Say (ABC News, March 2018)
This article argues that “extremist groups promote an agenda that focuses on fighting those who are victimizing them and that resonates with these individuals who all believe that they have personally been victimized in their own lives.” Their tactics include the production of “slick videos, almost like music videos or movie trailers” that provide an “underlying message [of] ‘join our cause, you will be a part of our family and your life will have meaning.’”
Recruitment through Online Gaming Communities
· Right-Wing Hate Groups Are Recruiting Video Gamers (NPR, Nov 2018)
This article should be read in full. It details how the chat rooms within online games have become an avenue for right-wing extremists to recruit via private chats. It also provides a first-hand account of how online gamers recruited a family’s son into white supremacist thinking through their online conversations.
· Former Neo-Nazi Says White Supremacists Use Fortnite to Recruit Kids (NY Post, July 2018)
This article features Christian Picciolini, a “white supremacist leader,” skinhead-turned-peace activist who explains how his group “sought marginalized youth and promised them ‘paradise.’…through “nefarious tactics like going to depression and mental health forums, and in multiplayer gaming, to recruit those same people.” Tactics included dropping “benign hints” at first that would be ratcheted up after getting the person hooked. “In some games, these hints can start by talking about how some in-game races are superior to others, for example, and move on from there to drawing real-world “parallels.”
Recruitment through Anti-Feminism/Misogyny
· How the Alt-Right’s Sexism Lures Men Into White Supremacy (Vox, Apr 2018)
Key ideas from this article include the following:
Anti-feminist groups and their ideology range from PUA culture (pick-up artist), to Incels (involuntary celibates), to MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way), to Proud Boys. These groups often claim they are part of a Men’s Rights Movement.
Their “tactics include engaging in extremist discourse, using deceptive irony and racially tinged internet memes to confuse people into dismissing the “alt-right” label as a synonym for internet trolls, and spreading false and misleading information.
It’s sexism, not racist rhetoric, that leads most of the men to join the alt-right initially.
“The movement’s top priority is elevating the status of white men…The alt-right’s indoctrination process starts out looking like a healthy way for men to socialize” but then radicalizes white men by catering to their sexual frustration and isolation.
Many young men join these online groups in hopes of learning tips to pick up girls. They end up believing that it is “up to them to save Western civilization.”
See related links about a key anti-feminist group called the Proud Boys.
· Proud Boys (Southern Poverty Law Center)
· Mob of white nationalist Proud Boys brutally beat several men (Think Progress, Oct 2018)
· FBI now classifies far-right Proud Boys as extremist group (Guardian, Nov 2018)
· White Haze (This American Life 626, NPR, September 2017)
“Right-wing groups like the Proud Boys say they have no tolerance for racism or white supremacist groups.” However, the Proud Boys believe “the West is the best.” This is “not such a big jump from ‘whites are best.’” Also, one of the Proud Boys organized the Charlottesville rally.
This article incorporates an interview with Michael Kimmel, author of “Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into — and Out of — Violent Extremism.” It offers a broader discussion of how masculinity lies at the heart of men’s movement toward violent extremism.
● How Masculinity, Not Ideology, Drives Violent Extremism (Washington Post, March 2018)
“…the ex-Nazis, jihadists and white supremacists…felt like failures as men. But instead of turning that sense of emasculation inward toward depression, interpersonal violence, suicide, or self-medication through drugs or alcohol, these young men were somehow convinced to externalize their sense of emasculation, turn it into righteous political rage, and lash out at those forces that they came to believe responsible for their emasculation. Their failure was not theirs, as individuals; it was something done to them…by a host of ‘others.’”
Recruitment through Victimhood
· How White Supremacists Use Victimhood to Recruit (The Atlantic, Aug 2017)
This article identifies the various claims of white victimhood and subjugation perpetuated by the alt-right:
1. White people are victims of discrimination.
2. White people’s rights are being abrogated (like their right to their own publications and advocacy groups).
3. White people are stigmatized if we express pride.
4. Whites are being negatively affected psychologically through the loss of self-esteem.
5. The end product of all of this is the end of the white race.
It is noted that victimhood is a powerful recruitment tool, and it serves to make the alt-right’s fringe beliefs understandable as calls to urgent action against dangerous outside forces.
Recruitment through Alt-Christianity
· The Alt-Right has Created Alt-Christianity (Time, Aug 2017)
Christian Picciolini, former white supremacist, believes “that people become radicalized, or extremist, because they’re searching for three very fundamental human needs: identity, community and a sense of purpose.”
He continues, “White nationalism isn’t simply an extremist political ideology. It is an alt-religious movement that provides its adherents with its own twisted version of what all religions supply to adherents: identity, a personal sense of who I am; community, a social sense of where I belong; and purpose, a spiritual sense of why my life matters. If faith communities don’t provide these healthy, life-giving human needs, then death-dealing alt-religions will fill the gap.”
Picciolini also argues that, “As traditional Christian institutions shrink, stagnate and struggle, [Richard] Spencer and his white-supremacist allies, feeling supported by Donald Trump, are creating a violent alt-Christianity, as their counterparts in the Middle East have created an alt-Islam.”
Terms, Symbols, and Memes of the Alt-Right
This offering provides an initial look at a few of the memes, symbols, and terms, made use of by the alt-right.
· How the Matrix’s Red Pill Became the Internet’s Delusional Drug of Choice (Vulture, February 2019)
· Explaining the Alt-Right ‘Deity’ of Their ‘Meme Magic’ (SPLC, Aug 2017)
“Kek, in the Alt-Right’s telling, is the ‘deity’ of the semi-ironic ‘religion’ the white nationalist movement has created for itself online — partly for amusement, as a way to troll liberals and self-righteous conservatives — and to make a political point. He is a god of chaos and darkness, with the head of a frog…Besides its entertainment value, the ‘religion’ is mainly useful to the Alt-Right as a trolling device for making fun of liberals and ‘political correctness.’”
Something the alt-right takes seriously is the belief that, ”by spreading their often-cryptic memes far and wide on social media and every other corner of the Internet, they are infecting the popular discourse with their ideas…For the Alt-Right, those core ideas all revolve around white males, the patriarchy, nationalism and race, especially the underlying belief that white males and masculinity are under siege — from feminists, from liberals, from racial, ethnic, and sexual/gender minorities.”
SECTION IV — — Hate on Campus
- The Alt-Right on Campus: What Students Need to Know (SPLC, Aug 2017)
This article is the clearest, most straight-to-the-point and comprehensive tool to get to know the key issues facing campuses. All the information is on the website as well as in a downloadable pdf. ***STRONGLY ENCOURAGED***
Targeting College Campuses
· How the alt-right is trying to create a ‘safe space’ for racism on college campuses (Waging Non-violence, October 2016)
This article provides important historical information about the formation and development of key alt-right groups and their intentions regarding recruitment on college campuses. Please note that it is older than most articles referenced, and the groups highlighted have grown substantially since the publication date.
“Today, the Alt Right is repackaging many of the ideas normally associated with neo-Nazis and KKK members into a new, more middle-class culture by using the strategies and language traditionally associated with the left. This means a heavy focus on argumentation and academic legitimacy, as well as targeting campus locations (and millennials) for recruitment.”
· College hate: White supremacists recruiting ‘vulnerable’ students at NJ campuses (NorthJersey.com, Dec 2018)
This article’s highlights include:
“Civil rights groups say hate propaganda is being spread more frequently on campuses across the country as white supremacist groups ramp up efforts to influence and recruit young, educated men to push their political and ideological agendas into the mainstream.”
“The Southern Poverty Law Center tracked 329 incidents of hate flyers on 241 college campuses between March 2016 and October 2017.”
“In the most recent incidents, students at William Paterson University in Wayne and at Montclair State University found signs around campus in November with the slogan “It’s OK to be White,” similar to ones posted on other campuses across the U.S. The seemingly inoffensive phrase was devised by white supremacists to provoke overreactions by liberals and the media and spur division, as documented by the research site Know Your Meme and groups like ADL.”
“Often, flyers don’t say much about a group’s ideology, but they do include web addresses or Twitter links so people can find them online, where they can interact and share ideas about white supremacy…Online, these individuals can become more radicalized as they bounce ideas off one another and plan activities that may be peaceful or outright violent.”
· White Nationalist Groups Increase Recruiting and Propaganda across the West (NPR, March 2019)
Identity Evropa has rebranded and is now the American Identity Movement. This change occurred very soon after an antifa group from Portland, called Unicorn Riot, dumped private chat data from Discord, letting the world see the hate-filled rhetoric used by Identity Evropa members behind the scenes. Claims that they are not a racist hate group are tactical lies.
· White Nationalist Leader is Plotting to Take Over the GOP (NBC, Oct 2018)
This article highlights Identity Evropa and their plans to take over the GOP. It includes two videos embedded in the news article text.
Essential to understand is that after the Charlottesville experience, they now see politics, not protest, as the way forward. This may, in fact, be more dangerous, especially when you combine it with the anonymity and reach of the online world. It’s more hidden and easier to deflect, and so it’s easier for the mainstream to discount and believe it’s really not as prevalent as it is.
Embedded news segment videos include the following:
· Identifies how “identitarians” are co-opting identity politics for white people, featuring Jared Taylor and American Renaissance.
· Inside NBC News producer Anna Schechter’s reporting on Identity Evropa (5 minutes) features college advisors discussing explicitly how they need to direct their GOP students away from “the dark side.”
· Key insights:
1) Members of Identity Evropa have been directed to blanket college campuses with recruiting fliers as part of a nationwide effort.
2) The goal is to seed College Republican groups with Identity Evropa members as a stepping stone to careers into politics.
3) They plan to infiltrate the Republican party without broadcasting their polarizing views on immigrants and nonwhites.
Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, described Identity Evropa as one of the “most active of the new hate groups” and “one of the foremost purveyors of white supremacist propaganda in the U.S.”
Turning Point, U.S.A. may be the largest, most well-funded effort. The danger is that it masks its underlying intentions with a mainstream conservative agenda, making the potential consequences harder for people to recognize and challenge.
“Turning Point’s aim is to foment a political revolution on America’s college campuses, in part by funneling money into student government elections across the country to elect right-leaning candidates. But it is secretive about its funding and its donors, raising the prospect that “dark money” may now be shaping not just state and federal races but ones on campus.”
“Turning Point casts itself as a grassroots response to what it perceives as liberal intolerance on college campuses.”
“Turning Point is a 501(c)3 charity. This means that, unlike MoveOn donors, Turning Point donors can take tax deductions for their contributions and remain anonymous…Last May, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an investigative report on what it called Turning Point’s “stealth plan for political influence.” The story recounted accusations on multiple campuses that the group had funneled money into student elections in violation of the spending caps and transparency requirements set by those schools.”
“A copy of a Turning Point brochure prepared for potential donors…provides a glimpse into the group’s tactics. (A former Turning Point employee said the brochure was closely held, and not posted online so that it couldn’t leak.) Its “Campus Victory Project” is described as a detailed, multi-phase plan to “commandeer the top office of Student Body President at each of the most recognizable and influential American Universities…In the first three years of the plan, the brochure says, the group aims to capture the “outright majority” of student-government positions in eighty per cent of these schools.”
“Once in control of student governments, the brochure says, Turning Point expects its allied campus leaders to follow a set political agenda. Among its planks are the defunding of progressive organizations on campus, the implementation of ‘free speech’ policies eliminating barriers to hate speech, and the blocking of all campus ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ movements.”
“The prospect of ‘dark money’ — contributions from anonymous donors to national ideological groups — flowing into campus elections has alarmed some students…’The problem…is it can price some student candidates out of the market when others are getting money from groups with unlimited funds.”
Additional articles on the targeting of college campuses include the following:
· Babysitters, Lawn Care, and White Supremacists: These Ads are Popping Up on Community Bulletins — (NJ.com, July 2018)
· College Campuses: The New Recruiting Ground for White Supremacists — (WNYC The Takeaway, Feb 2018)
- It’s OK to be White — Manitoba and Indigenous Students (CBC Radio Canada, Nov 2018)
Resulting Bias, Bullying, and Hate in K-12 Schools
While alt-right groups are not able to enter middle and high schools as they do colleges, they reach young students through online gaming, social media, and other online platforms. The result is an increase in bullying and instances of overt bias.
This report provides information about the increased number of instances of bias and harassment in schools.
· Education Week found hundreds of reports of bias in schools — (EdWeek, August 2018)
The report provides context, statistics, challenges faced by school leaders and teachers, and suggestions for how to respond.
This 21-minute audio interview is about the Education Week report (link above). Suggestions for educators begins at around minute 10.
· What Does Hate Look Like In Schools? — (Education Writers Association, August 2018, 21-minute audio)
This website is an important resource for up-to-date reporting on hate/bias in schools.
One recent event posted on the site includes the following:
· Ojai middle schoolers created a human swastika on campus and had a racist, violent group chat — (LA Times, January 2019)
Important to note is that the school reacts, writes a letter, says what did not happen (weapons on campus, actual violence, etc.), but they do not prioritize getting to the bottom of what has influenced the kids to do/think/say what they did.
There are an increasing number of bias instances involving elementary, middle, and high school-aged students on and off campus. It is essential that in addition to calls for holding the students accountable that we find out what the influences the students and connect the dots.
· 12-year old charged with drawing anti-Semitic graffiti on school playground (CNN, February 2019)
· Swastikas Found at Famously Elite, Progressive D.C School, Sidwell Friends (Slate, March, 2019)
· A Swastika inside elementary bathroom in Bethesda, Maryland (WASA TV, March 2019)
Note the progressive coverage of this incident from Southern California in March 2019. The final article is the most in-depth and refers, in brief, to the problems outlined in this document.
· Booze, Nazi Salutes, and a Swastika: Newport Beach and Costa Mesa Teens ‘Made a Big Mistake’ (Los Angeles Times, March 2019)
o Teen Party with Nazi salutes all too real for victims of ‘Jew jokes’ and casual anti-Semitism (Los Angeles Times, March 4 2019)
o Shock in O.C. over photos: Students say swastika images reflect bigger problem (Los Angeles Times, March 5 2019, print edition)
o As Nazi horrors fade into history, some youths are seduced by hate, others will never forget (Los Angeles Times, March 6 2019) ***STRONGLY ENCOURAGED***
The last article linked above about youth being seduced by hate is important to take time to read because it is the most useful example of a local paper connecting the dots for the public. More of this kind of reporting is essential, even if the public needs to know much more.
SECTION V — — How should we combat the hate?
While it is beyond the capacity of this document to describe how to counter the tactics of white supremacists, white nationalists, alt-right, and light-right groups, here are some key insights.
Don’t Be Fooled
· Face the Racist Nation (On the Media, Aug 2018, audio)
This 50-minute audio discusses the challenges the media faces in deciding how to cover white nationalist and supremacist groups and the threats they pose without giving them a platform. It highlights that when neo-Nazis talk to reporters, they are doing it for a purpose, and reporters don’t necessarily realize how they’re being used.
Useful advice for how to navigate consumption of news and media, while avoiding being fooled by white nationalist and supremacists’ approaches include:
1. Don’t let them suck you in to their arguments. They’re not really about free speech.
2. Just because they are morally bankrupt, doesn’t mean they’re stupid. They are very strategic and manipulative, and they know what they’re doing.
3. Pay attention to how we are failing to connect the dots, how we continually treat these groups as though they are new. They’re not.
4. Be careful about emotionally satisfying criticisms, denunciations, ridicule that really only feels good, but fuels them. The liberal ridicule of them is valuable for the white supremacists because it supports their recruitment and helps them say that they’re being misunderstood and victimized by a hateful, radical left.
5. Be cautious about news coverage that shows how a white supremacist or nationalist organization is failing, like examples of leadership falling apart, etc. This coverage doesn’t take into account that while the official organization may be weakened, all the sympathizers haven’t changed their views.
6. Avoid falling into the trap of believing that these are all poor, white people. Many are educated and come from middle-class, suburban communities.
Identifying the Underlying Issues
The various resources listed below feature stories of those who have gotten out of extremist groups. They include essential insights for us to understand regarding why young, white men are susceptible to recruitment and what it will take to protect them from falling victim to the tactics of hate groups. Insights include the following:
· Trauma — Hate groups prey upon those who have been victims of physical, sexual, or emotional violence. Many recruits have been bullied in their own lives and, once they join the group, feel empowered by the fear they can elicit in others.
· Identity — Hate groups offer white men validation that the struggles they face are not because of anything they are doing wrong, but because liberals, LGBTQ people, and feminists are attacking what it means to be a “real” man. The group’s ideology tells young, white men that they are right to be angry and frustrated and channels those negative emotions into hatred of others.
· Community — Hate groups offer a similar sense of familial community as does an urban gang. It provides social connections and a sense of belonging for young, white men who have felt isolated or otherwise rejected by peer groups or the society at large.
· Purpose — Young, white men generally do not enter the groups for the ideology. They come for the community and are recruited through one-to-one relationship building techniques. The true ideology is only expressed as trust and connections are made. The recruit is only fully exposed to the ideology after social connections are formed. At that point, they have been led to believe that they are part of a fight to preserve and protect white families, their own people, etc. They are provided with a larger purpose, something worth risking their lives for, as they have been convinced that their very existence is at risk and under attack.
· Deradicalizing White People — (New York Review of Books, Aug 2018)
The article is an overview that pulls together insights from the book, Healing from Hate (see below). It offers a clear statement of what white moderates need to do in order to raise awareness. ***STRONGLY RECOMMENDED***
· Healing From Hate: How Young Men Get Into — And Out Of — Violent Extremism — (Michael Kimmel, March 2018)
This book focuses on the underlying social and psychological issues that lead young men into extremism and offers essential keys to understand how society needs to respond.
· White American Youth: My Descent into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement — and How I Got Out — (Christian Picciolini, Dec 2017)
Christian Picciolini is a nationally-recognized peace activist who was once a leader of a white supremacist skinhead group. He articulates what makes people susceptible to recruitment tactics and provides direction for how we, as a society, should respond.
· How A Rising Star of White Nationalism Broke Free From the Movement — (Fresh Air, Sep 2018, audio)
This Fresh Air radio interview discusses the book, Rising out of Hatred (see below), which tells the story of Derek Black, a young, white man who grew up in the white nationalist movement and left it in 2013.
· Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former Nationalist — (Eli Saslow, Sept 2018)
A very compelling book that reads as a narrative. It is the story of how various, sustained actions and efforts on the part of many different people collectively resulted in a slow shift in Derek’s thinking. In addition to the activism that forced some recognition, it highlights the crucial role played by those who invested in Derek as a person, even while he held onto white nationalist beliefs.
· White Right: Meeting the Enemy (2018, available for streaming on Netflix)
While this documentary is not specifically about how to counter hate groups, the way the filmmaker affects her subjects through human connection is powerful and provides inspiration and hope.
Prevention and Intervention
There is no single recommendation for how we counter the expansion of hate groups in our society today. What we need are collective efforts by many people, each working to counter hate within their communities and spheres of influence.
Some concrete actions we can take include the following;
1. Amplify useful information — Share this information. Make sure people in your community know about hate groups’ recruitment tactics so adults can recognize early warning signs and young people can be supported to identify their outreach and resist being manipulated.
· Contact and/or make presentations to groups of teachers, parents, and community youth organizations in your local area.
2. Make connections with the historical record — Educate yourselves and others about how fascism undermines democracies. See this example of a filmmaker who is raising awareness of a time in the U.S. when similar tactics were used. Watch the 7-minute documentary short, read an interview with the filmmaker, and then listen to an extended and updated interview that articulates the similarities between then and now.
· A Night at the Garden — (Documentary short, Marshall Curry, 2018)
· When 20,000 Nazis Gathered in New York — (On the Media, February 2019)
3. Support and/or create programming — Ensure that young, white boys have welcoming and supportive programs and groups available that support the creation of community ties, a sense of purpose, and an uplifting sense of identity.
· Combine efforts with local anti-bullying programs. Ensure outreach and mentorship is available for isolated youth.
4. Build relationships — Lead with love and empathy. Responses that shame white boys and men prompt them to seek refuge in alt-light and alt-right groups that stoke a sense of victimhood.
· Who within your reach is susceptible? Who has kids who might be influenced? Start conversations that seek to build connections instead of asserting a point of view.
· Keep in mind that facts do not change people’s minds. Empathy does.
5. Identify the influence — Responses to hate crimes on campuses should include focused dialogue with the perpetrator regarding what led to the action. While holding the perpetrator accountable is necessary, also find out what ideas and/or sources influenced the perpetrator.
6. Expand the tent — individuals and groups dedicated to social justice can work to articulate how they value the contributions of white men and provide a strong sense of purpose, identity, and community that allows for positive self-esteem.
· Seek information that supports the articulation of how to construct a positive white identity that is bolstered by an egalitarian worldview.
7. Provide alternatives — Work within your sphere of influence. Amplify examples of people who are working within their spheres to provide alternatives to hate groups which may be attractive to those who are most susceptible. See this example of the formation of anti-fascist metal bands to counter the hateful messages of white power metal bands.
· Heavy Metal Confronts its Nazi Problem (The New Yorker, February 2019)
8. Advocate for warnings and responsible media action — Join efforts to pressure online platforms and tech giants, including Google, social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.), and online gaming services (Fortnight, etc.) to respond to the threats posed by hate groups making use of their sites. This article shows evidence that this is already having a positive effect on YouTube’s policies (Washington Post, June 2019).
· Fear and Loathing at CPAC (Salon, March 2019)
This article helps us understand the value of “deplatforming” — when a hate group loses its ability to exist on a media platform.
Additional ideas include asking them to improve their algorithms’ ability to identify fascist content, provide public service announcements at login to warn online game consumers, and reject advertising dollars that promote fascism.
· Facebook decided which users are interested in Nazis — and let them target them directly (Los Angeles Times, February 2019)
9. Advocate for investigations — Join efforts to pressure law enforcement and military investigations of hate crimes and their relationship to hate group membership. See a recent example of an arrest.
· U.S. National Guard Lieutenant arrested (NY Times, February 2019)
10. Connect the dots and undermine the “lone wolf” narrative — Join efforts to pressure media and law enforcement to call white nationalist actions domestic terrorism. Without highlighting the group’s names (to avoid giving them advertising), identify the linkage between individual actors and the existence of groups working together to further their ideology.
Thank you for taking the time to read all the way through this document. If you did not follow any of the links to read/view/listen to any of the original sources, please consider selecting at least one STRONGLY ENCOURAGED link from each main section. Thank you.
Concluding questions for reflection:
1. Who can you share this information with right away?
2. Which resources do you want to spend more time reviewing?
3. What can you do to make a difference in your sphere of influence?
Due to the rapidly evolving nature of these issues, we are maintaining an updated google document of news and resources. Click on and save this link to stay up-to-date: Interrupting White Nationalists.
JOIN US! — Let’s create a national network of people working to disrupt white nationalist recruitment. We have big ideas and need as many people involved as possible. We’ll work together to locate, create, and share resources and strategies and then support each other to make use of them. Interested? Sign up here.