What fuels increasing number of hate groups?

Editorial

The infection is spreading. Like pus from a wound, hatred is seeping from the most virulent extremities of our society into the organs of American democracy. The body politic is at risk of falling ill.

For at least the sixth year in a row, the number of hate groups documented by the Intelligence Project has risen. There are now 844 of these groups operating in America. That's up 40% from 2000.

What's fueling the haters? Immigration mostly, as racist extremists organize in opposition to what foreigners are increasingly bringing to our shores — more human diversity and multiculturalism.

At the same time, a larger anti-immigration movement is acting like a megaphone. As Susy Buchanan and David Holthouse document in this issue of the Intelligence Report, the last two years have seen the birth of at least 144 "nativist extremist" groups — organizations that do not merely target immigration policies they don't agree with, but instead confront or harass individual immigrants. These groups increasingly popularize bigoted theories and dubious statistics.

As a result, rancid ideas that were once relegated to the far margins — allegations that immigrants are leeches bent on bleeding our society, criminals who bring with them all manner of disease and corruption — are now broadcast in mainstream venues. It's no longer unusual to hear vilifying fairy tales of immigrant-borne secret conspiracies and massive criminality on radio, cable television, and even in the mouths of pandering politicians.

Take the case of Allan J. Ashinoff. This spring, Ashinoff, a regular columnist at hard-line conservative (but not overtly racist) publications like American Chronicle, FreeRepublic.com and Human Events, wrote up an upbeat fantasy depicting American "patriots" setting out to assassinate undocumented border-crossers. Describing the immigrants as "destroyers" of America, he concluded that "it's only logical for American citizens to defend their homeland" against the "invaders."

Within days, the piece was all over the cyber-forums of the nativist movement. It was only a day or two more before Ashinoff's murder scenario, written for American Chronicle, was posted to the websites of major newspapers including The Arizona Republic — hardly an extremist publication.

This kind of frightening phenomenon is not limited to the United States. Both sides of the Atlantic are experiencing similar social changes, including a decline in white majorities, rising non-white populations and increasing religious diversity. While this transformation into a more globalized and multicultural West brings for most of us the hope of more open and vibrant societies, for a significant minority it is a spark that ignites ever more virulent racial and religious hatreds.

The backlash — and the rhetoric of the hate groups that promulgate outright race hate — transcends national borders. That's reflected in another Holthouse story in this issue, this one revealing that a Belgian computer expert runs notorious former Klan leader David Duke's website — along with the sites of the racist British National Party and the French National Front. These parties, despite their obvious racial extremism, both have made stunning advances in local elections.

Such international ties go far beyond cyberspace. In the last year, American white supremacists have attended extremist events in Britain, France and Germany, and Duke even starred at an international Holocaust denial conference hosted by Iran. A Canadian extremist, Paul Fromm, spent much of 2006 lecturing at events put on by the Council of Conservative Citizens, a U.S. hate group.

European extremists are welcomed here as well. This February, two leaders of the racist and xenophobic Belgian party, Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest), spoke to a gathering of extremists in Virginia, warning that Europe was about to be "taken over" by people "hostile to Western civilization."

It didn't stop there. After their meeting with Holocaust deniers, white supremacists and others on the fringe, the Belgians went on to meet with officials of another Washington, D.C.-area organization — the wealthy, well-connected and allegedly mainstream immigration-restrictionist organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

The infection is spreading.