A 5% annual increase in hate groups in 2005 caps a remarkable rise of 33% over the five-year period that began in 2000
Fueled by belligerent tactics and publicity stunts, the number of hate groups operating in the United States rose from 762 in 2004 to 803 last year, capping an increase of fully 33% over the five years since 2000.
The expansion of hate groups last year, documented by the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, seemed to be helped along by aggressive maneuvers that landed them on front pages and in national news broadcasts. The National Socialist Movement, for instance, repeatedly made national news with provocative attempts to march through black, inner-city neighborhoods. Other groups rallied with increasing fervor and frequency, and even undertook sure-to-infuriate campaigns like "Operation Schoolyard," an attempt in the 2004-2005 school year to distribute 100,000 free racist music CDs to schoolchildren. One anti-gay group, the Westboro Baptist Church, went so far as to picket the funerals of soldiers, saying God was punishing America for tolerating homosexuality.
There were many other reasons for the continuing rise as well. Hispanic immigration, in particular, may have been the single most important factor in recent years, fueling a national debate and giving hate groups an issue with real resonance. The war in Iraq, seen by many hate groups as a struggle America was forced into by Jews, was another. Racist music and concerts continued to attract new young people into the movement. A growing Internet presence also helped groups' propaganda to flourish; there were 524 hate sites counted in 2005, up 12% from 468 in 2004.
"Despite a large number of arrests and the collapse of several leading neo-Nazi groups, the movement continues to grow," said Joe Roy, chief investigator of the Intelligence Project. "It's a Hydra with a thousand different heads."
Here's a more detailed look at several sectors of the hate movement:
NEO-NAZIS Overall, the number of neo-Nazi groups in America barely changed, dropping by one to 157. But that masked some major changes on the scene. The National Alliance, just a few years ago the leading hate group in America, fell from 59 chapters in 2004 to 22 last year -- a 63% decrease. That precipitous drop reflected an exodus of members as Alliance leaders continued to attract movement criticism in a series of scandals that have sapped their credibility. "I hope you die miserable and broke," one former member wrote the Alliance bosses. "The days of drinking and going to strip clubs on members' dues money are over."
Many former Alliance members have gone to relatively new groups like White Revolution, formed in 2002, and National Vanguard, which was started by a former Alliance leader last year. But White Revolution has fizzled, and National Vanguard, after a relatively strong start, this year lost its highly active Tampa and Denver units, which spun off as their own new group. At the same time, two groups that once were neo-Nazi heavyweights, Aryan Nations and the Creativity Movement (formerly World Church of the Creator), were reduced to mere remnants.
The real beneficiary of the demise of the National Alliance has been the National Socialist Movement (see Nazis Rising), which increased its chapters by 44% last year, from 41 in 2004 to 59 last year. This was largely due to the attention it got as a result of its antagonistic protests, something that brought both publicity and new members. It was also a result of the energy of anarchist-turned-Nazi Bill White, a provocative NSM leader who claims to have $2 million in cash and real estate. All in all, it was a spectacular rise for a group almost unheard of just a few years ago.
KU KLUX KLAN Overall, the number of Klan groups increased from 162 in 2004 to 179 last year. The two largest groups, the Imperial Klans of America and the Brotherhood of Klans, both continued to expand. Three new groups also appeared on the scene. One, the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, was largely formed by a faction that left the Mystic Knights, while another, the Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, replaced the now-defunct Southern White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. A third new group, the Fraternal Knights, also was formed.
Two older Klan groups disappeared. Both the Orion Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the most active Klan group in America in the late 1990s, showed no activity at all in 2005.
RACIST SKINHEADS New life seemed to animate the Skinhead scene last year, as the number of groups rose from 48 in 2004 to 56. At the same time, a growing number of skins -- people who are typically highly migratory and poor organized -- made alliances with larger and more traditional neo-Nazi organizations. The key event of the year was probably October's Blood & Honour USA Council (see Snapshot), where more than a dozen groups formed an alliance against the powerful Hammerskin group and chose the National Alliance as its "political outlet."
The racist music scene, which is largely dominated by Skinhead groups, also underwent some major changes last year. After the collapse of Panzerfaust Records and the near-crippling of powerhouse Resistance Records (owned by the National Alliance), a number of smaller labels (see White Noise) began scrambling for pieces of the lucrative business. At this point, the front-runners seem to be Free Your Mind Productions, ISD Records, Final Stand Records and Condemned Records.
NEO-CONFEDERATES The principal neo-Confederate group, the League of the South (LOS), did not appear to do well last year. Its leaders are involved in various disputes with former members, including a group of "kinists" who are advocating the break-up of America into racially homogenous mini-states and another group that departed to form a new rival, the Confederate Alliance. And LOS' long-awaited "Southern National Congress," finally held this March in Georgia after two failed attempts, attracted fewer than 50 people and was marred by infighting.
A strategy session was held last June to try to refocus the LOS, but did little more than create a mission statement and suggest more political activism.
Meanwhile, the struggle to control the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a Southern heritage group that is not listed as a hate group but has been wracked by an internal civil war between moderates and racial extremists, continued (see Into the Wild). Under its new leader, extremists have solidified their hold on the organization even as some 9,000 people, a quarter of the SCV's members, quit the group.
White supremacists last year also lost a key thinker when Sam Francis died unexpectedly in February. Francis edited the Citizens Informer, the periodical of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, along with writing for several other key racist publications. More than a dozen of the leading white supremacist and anti-Semitic thinkers in America attended his funeral in Tennessee.