On Wednesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center released its annual “Year in Hate” report, which analyzes and counts hate group, and perhaps unsurprisingly, for the fourth straight year in a row, these notorious groups continued to grow in 2018. As the press release puts it, “President Trump continued to fan the flames of white resentment over immigration and the country’s changing demographics”.
For those of you seeking to put a number on what you already believe to be true, in 2018, SPLC identified 1,020 hate groups, a seven percent increase from the 954 groups counted in 2017. This is the most hate groups ever counted since 2011, when 1,018 hate groups were counted back in 2011, during the height of backlash against the first Black president, Barack Obama. Towards the end of Obama’s presidency, the numbers had been declining, reaching a low of 784 in 2014, however in 2015 – the year Trump announced his candidacy for president – numbers started to rise again.
White nationalist groups alone saw a nearly 50 percent jump from last year, growing from 100 chapters in 2017 to 148 in 2018.
“The numbers tell a striking story – that this president is not simply a polarizing figure but a radicalizing one,” Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project said in the press release “Rather than trying to tamp down hate, as presidents of both parties have done, President Trump elevates it – with both his rhetoric and his policies. In doing so, he’s given people across America the go-ahead to act on their worst instincts.”
And Trump is not the only problem. The SPLC also points at Fox News, who has “aided and abetted” the president in the broadcasting of his anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, things that SPLC says fuels fears of a white-minority country or “white genocide.”
SPLC notes that Black nationalist hate groups – which are typically antisemitic and anti-LGBT, have also been fueled by Trump’s noxious flames, seeing an increase from 233 in 2017 to 264 in 2018. However, an important distinction is made between Black nationalist groups and white nationalist groups in the report: that is, they do not appear to have any backing in mainstream culture or within the White House. One example is senior advisor (and white nationalist) Stephen Miller, notorious for his hardline immigration policies, the main advocate of the Muslim ban and family separation.
“The environment for Black nationalist groups is categorically different than it is for white hate groups. Unlike white hate groups, whose champions found themselves in influential White House positions over the past two years, Black nationalists have little or no impact on mainstream politics and no defenders in high office,” the report notes.
The SPLC report acknowledges that at this point in his presidency, with his failure to build the wall, Trump has disappointed many white supremacists, who have begun to move on in their own manner. But, the SPLC notes, this could be just as dangerous as Trump emboldening them.
“Trump has given voice to the rage and paranoia of white supremacists, and now there is a very real danger that as extremists lose the hope they saw in his presidency, some will lash out against the people he has demonized and blamed for America’s problems,” Beirich said.
The report does not end on a good note. And perhaps that is also predictable.
SPLC believes that anger over the fear of “white genocide,” and the lack of hard-right policy shifts will continue to roil within the radical right. The fact that major tech companies are starting to deplatform these hateful groups to stop the spread of their rhetoric will only fuel the flames, further frustrating them and convincing them that they will be wiped out.
“Given these trends, there are no signs that the violence, which has been all too common over the past two decades, will let up,” the report notes. “In fact, if the hate movement abandons politics as a solution to demographic change, as recent denunciations of Trump by prominent white supremacists seem to indicate, angrier lone wolves…may see violence as a solution.”
“Regardless of Trump’s future political fortunes, Trumpism — a form of race-based populism — is likely to be with us for many years to come as the nation continues to come to terms with its changing demographics and the impact of globalism,” the report adds.
“Hate has frayed the social fabric of our country,” SPLC President Richard Cohen stressed in the press release. “Knitting it back together will take the efforts of all segments of our society – our families, our schools, our houses of worship, our civic organizations and the business community. Most of all, it will take leadership – political leadership – that inspires our country to live up to its highest values.”