U.S. Experiences Decline In Active Hate Groups As Far Right Extremism Moves Online [Infographic]
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a prominent civil rights group, has released its annual report documenting the number of active hate groups across the United States. Despite 2020 proving one of the most politically divisive years in U.S. history with white nationalist ideology and conspiracy theories moving closer to the mainstream, there was actually a decline in the number of hate groups documented. 838 were identified by the SPLC last year, a decrease on the 940 groups seen in 2019 as well as the record-high of 1,020 operating in 2018.
The report warns that the decline in active hate groups does not necessarily signal diminished extremist activity or a lower threat from domestic terrorism. The SPLC has conducted its annual census since 1990 and while it does serve as a barometer for extremism, it is not the only one. In recent years, the internet and social media in particular, have dramatically altered racism and bigotry in America. The SPLC states that "the proliferation of internet platforms that cater to extremists allows individuals to engage with potentially violent movements like QAnon and Boogaloo without being card-carrying members of a particular group".
The increasing lure of internet forums, chat rooms and encrypted apps were not the only reason for the decline in physical hate groups. The SPLC states that the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in some organizations ceasing their in-person activity while social media bans on hate groups have reduced the total count even further. The SPLC had several recommendations for the Biden administration in tackling the problem including the establishment of new offices within the Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department and FBI to monitor and prosecute cases of domestic terrorism. It also emphasized the need for improvements in the collection of federal hate crime data, training and prevention.
The report's findings come nearly a month after a mob of Trump supporters and members of far-right groups stormed the U.S. Capitol, resulting in five deaths. Susan Corke, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, states that "the insurrection at the Capitol was the culmination of years of right-wing radicalization. Most recently, it was the product of Donald Trump’s support for and encouragement of radicalized individuals and groups to buy into conspiracy theories about a ‘stolen election'". She added that “Trump may no longer be in the White House, but the white nationalist and extremist movement he emboldened and incited to violence is not going anywhere – and may grow more dangerous to our country."
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