Racist Music, Neo-Paganism and Nationalism Drive Growth of Hate Movement
The number of hate groups in the United States jumped by approximately 10% last year, fueled by white power rock, racist neo-Paganism and the ethnic nationalism that is growing in places from the deep South to the nation's inner cities.
Around the country, white supremacist groups were increasingly Nazified, while fewer clung to specifically American forms of hate like the Klan and the anti-Semitic Christian Identity religion. Racist forms of pre-Christian religions like Asatrú and Odinism made major inroads among the young, while the "hatecore" music scene continued to swell within the same demographic.
Forms of ethnic nationalism — from hatred of non-white immigrants to separatist tendencies among whites, blacks and others — flourished in America and much of Europe, too.
In its annual count, the Intelligence Project identified 602 hate groups operating in 48 states and the District of Columbia in 2000, up from 457 the year before.
The addition to the list of nearly 90 "neo-Confederate" groups — groups that operated prior to 2000, but whose ideology was not exposed until last year in the Intelligence Report — accounted for the major portion of the increase. If this new category had not been included, the net gain would have been 57 groups, a 12.4% increase.
Across the board, hate groups attacked the multiculturalism and globalism that they believe are destroying their cultures. "In this so-called 'multicultural' society," one group said in a typical comment on the supposed plight of white Southerners, "it has become increasingly obvious that there exists one culture that must die while all others are allowed and encouraged to flourish. Much energy is being expended to complete the eradication of the last vestiges of Southern culture.
"As Mississippians, we say, 'Enough is enough!"
Because the nation is heading into an apparent downturn, it's likely that hate will heat up. "If the economy goes sour, we can expect more scapegoating violence, especially against immigrants," says Joe Roy, director of the Intelligence Project. "Hard times have a way of making things worse."
William Pierce, leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, agrees. "[T]he rise in membership numbers that began two years ago continues, and a recession next year should cause membership to rise even more rapidly," he wrote in November. "The recruiting machinery we have built is in place and functioning."
There were several factors behind the increase in the number of hate groups, some of them coincidental. But three reasons, in particular, stood out:
· White power music. Although difficult to quantify, so-called "white noise" continued to grow in popularity and availability last year, clearly helping to draw new youths into the world of organized hate.
The principal purveyor of this music, Pierce's Resistance Records, has managed to get large amounts of publicity as white power rock concerts grow larger and more frequent.
· Neo-Paganism. Alternative religions, in particular racist forms of Odinism and Asatrú, continued to make strides among young white supremacists — to the point where one leading expert (see The New Romantics) says that more than half of young people now entering the movement consider themselves pagans.
This development, increasingly marked over the last several years, comes as more and more racists reject Christianity, which is seen as overly "soft." The "might is right" mentality of racist Odinism is viewed by these youths as far more attractive.
· Ethnic nationalism. As globalization and other forms of integration proceed, race-based nationalism is on the upswing throughout the Western hemisphere.
In the United States, this is particularly obvious among the groups of the so-called "neo-Confederate" movement, which have taken to describing Southern culture as fundamentally white and Christian and increasingly write in bitter terms of blacks, gays and others seen as enemies.
It is equally obvious in the racist separatism of black groups like the New Black Panther Party.
By using the Internet, hate groups reached out electronically to a potential audience of millions of people. The number of hate sites on the web early this year was 366, up 20% from the 305 counted a year earlier. Some experts say these sites have not helped recruiting much (see Cyberhate Revisited). Others believe that the sites have the insidious effect of cultivating sympathizers even if they do not swell hate group membership rolls.
Hate moved south, largely driven by the rise of the neo-Confederate movement over the last few years. In 2000, Alabama and Florida led the nation with 39 active hate groups apiece; Texas came in second with 38.
This trend intensified as groups supporting the Confederate battle flag, increasingly frustrated by defeats in South Carolina and Georgia, grew more radical and hostile to blacks.
The Klan continued a long decline, dropping from 138 groups in 1999 to 110 in 2000. The most active group, the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, lost chapters as its leader, Jeff Berry, faced new criminal charges and lost a civil suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Another large Klan outfit, the Knights of the White Kamellia, lost more than half its chapters in the wake of its takeover in mid-1999 by a young and inexperienced Klansman, James Roesch.
A relatively obscure group, the Imperial Klans of America (IKA), became the largest Klan group with 19 chapters in 13 states. IKA hosts Nordic Fest, a popular racist music festival that last year attracted more than 400 concertgoers.
Neo-Nazi groups, on the other hand, saw tremendous growth, adding 50 groups to the 130 counted in 1999. This increase was largely driven by expansion of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), which now claims 81 chapters — although some of these chapters may be little more than lone members with a phone line.
Ten of the WCOTC chapters belong to a female auxiliary, reflecting leader Matt Hale's efforts to reach out to women. Similarly, WCOTC has made special efforts to get to children, teenagers, Skinheads and, most notably, prisoners. The group counts 21 "contact points" in prisons, up from just three in 1999.
Pierce's National Alliance also claimed new chapters in 2000, going from 32 to 44. There was evidence of Alliance recruiting efforts in the cities of Austin, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, Orlando, Fla., Raleigh, N.C., and Sacramento.
Members also made special efforts to reach out both to police — reportedly mailing more than 2,000 propaganda videotapes to law enforcement officers — and to college students, who were sent Alliance literature.
As it has for the past several years, the racist theology of Christian Identity declined in importance, with just 32 groups active in 2000. That figure had been dropping for years — from 81 in 1997 to 62 in 1998 to 46 in 1999 — before the latest decline.
Aging Identity ministers, such as Ray Barker of the Christian Israel Covenant Church and Bill Seitzinger of the web-based Christian Bible Studies, died in 2000. A key Identity leader, James Wickstrom, moved from Michigan to Texas for personal reasons and his operations now seem largely limited to selling t-shirts. Another Identity leader, Dan Gayman of the Church of Israel in Missouri, sought to reduce the public visibility of his ministry, angering some Identity diehards.
Overall, the rise of anti-Christian, neo-Pagan theology came at the expense of Identity.
The number of racist Skinhead crews remained about the same. But there were signs that the most violent and serious Skinhead group, Hammerskin Nation, was trying to attract new members as it opened up its annual Hammerfest concert to "all whites," rather than restricting it to Hammerskin members as in the past.
With the economy apparently in trouble and Americans facing difficulties unseen for almost a decade, the danger is that the radical right in America will continue to grow. Certainly, many of those on the extreme right are optimistic — and they may well have a point.
In the words of the usually cautious neo-Nazi William Pierce: "[W]e have evidence now that there are a lot more people out there who like us than we may have thought; we know that we are on the right course by continuing to put most of our efforts into developing our ability to communicate with the public; and the hold the Jews on power can be challenged, shaken, and broken."