02/26/2009

Hate Group Numbers Up By 54% Since 2000

The number of hate groups operating in the United States continued to rise in 2008 and has grown by 54 percent since 2000 — an increase fueled last year by immigration fears, a failing economy and the successful campaign of Barack Obama, according to the "Year in Hate" issue of the SPLC's Intelligence Report released today.

The SPLC identified 926 hate groups active in 2008, up more than 4 percent from the 888 groups in 2007 and far above the 602 groups documented in 2000. A list and interactive, state-by-state map of these groups can be viewed here.

As in recent years, hate groups were animated by fears of Latino immigration. This rise in hate groups has coincided with a 40 percent growth in hate crimes against Latinos between 2003 and 2007, according to FBI statistics.

Two new factors were introduced to the volatile hate movement in 2008: the faltering economy and the Obama campaign.

"Barack Obama's election has inflamed racist extremists who see it as another sign that their country is under siege by non-whites," said Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report, a quarterly investigative journal that monitors the radical right. "The idea of a black man in the White House, combined with the deepening economic crisis and continuing high levels of Latino immigration, has given white supremacists a real platform on which to recruit."

Several white supremacists have been arrested while allegedly plotting to kill Obama, and following the election he received more threats than any previous president-elect. Scores of racially charged incidents — beatings, effigy burnings, racist graffiti, threats and intimidation — were reported across the country after the election.

Extremists are also exploiting the economic crisis, spreading propaganda that blames minorities and immigrants for the subprime mortgage meltdown. Tough economic times historically provide fertile ground for extremist movements.

As this issue of the Intelligence Report points out, minority-bashing propaganda can spread rapidly through the media, even when it has no basis in fact. The issue examines the widespread media reporting of a false claim that undocumented immigrants held 5 million bad mortgages and were, therefore, responsible for the subprime mortgage crisis.

The hate groups listed in this issue include neo-Nazis, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, Klansmen and black separatists. Other groups target gays or immigrants, and some specialize in producing racist music or propaganda denying the Holocaust.