WASHINGTON — The number of active hate groups in the United States totaled 1,020 in 2018, the fourth consecutive year the number has increased, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported on Wednesday.
The annual report said the rise and strength of hate groups often appears unchecked, aided both by tech companies’ timidity in enforcing policies again hate and far-right groups in their social networks as well as President Donald Trump’s statements and policies that often fuel far right angst and anger.
“Most of the white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups operating today are no longer traditionally structured organizations led by known figures. Instead, hate groups are now… almost entirely online,” the report — called “Year in Hate and Extremism: Rage Against Change” — says. “The increase in white nationalist and neo-Nazi hate group chapters in 2018… shows that these digitally savvy groups are flourishing in spite of Silicon Valley’s promises to police them.”
The report called the web the “handmaiden to hate.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala., monitors hate groups, works for criminal justice reform and advocates for voting and civil rights, according to its web site.
But the group has come under controversy in recent years. Last June, it agreed to pay Maajid Nawaz $3.375 million and publicly apologize after the former Islamic radical sued for being including in the organization’s “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.” In October 2014, SPLG added then-presidential candidate Ben Carson’s name to an “Extremist Watch List” due to his opposition to same-sex marriage. Five months later, the group apologized to the retired neurosurgeon and removed his name.
Last November, the FBI reported that hate crimes were up 17 percent in 2017, the most recent data available.
In January, an Anti-Defamation League report said that right-wing extremists were linked to at least 50 extremist-related murders in the United States in 2018, making them responsible for more deaths than in any year since 1995, the year of Timothy McVeigh’s bomb attack on the Oklahoma City federal building. The ADL describes itself as a Jewish advocacy group and anti-hate organiation, according to its website.
The 2018 hate landscape had its foundation on “rising right-wing populism and antisemitism, mounting acts of deadly domestic terrorism, increasing hate crimes, exploding street violence,” the SPLC report says.
“In the U.S., white supremacist anger reached a fever pitch last year as hysteria over losing a white-majority nation to demographic change — and a presumed lack of political will to stop it — engulfed the movement,” the report says.
“The midterms (elections) tended to validate hate groups’ fears for the future,” the report says. The election of a record number of women to Congress, including two Muslims and a senator from Arizona who is openly bisexual, fueled fears of hate groups.
“For white supremacists, these newly elected officials symbolize the country’s changing demographics — the future that white supremacists loathe and fear,” the report says.
The report also cited nine members of Congress who “traffic in hate and extremism” — a byproduct of the Trump era and the president’s “mainstreaming of harmful and poisonous ideas,” the report says.
“This president is not simply a polarizing figure but a radicalizing one,” Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s report, said in a statement to the media. “Rather than trying to tamp down hate, as presidents of both parties have done, President Trump elevates it.”