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Extremism Headlines: Alex Jones defamation suit, Faith-based groups face threats

Every week, we highlight stories on extremism and the radical right from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. Here are stories that caught our attention through June 7.

Year in Hate and Extremism 2023

  • The Southern Poverty Law Center released its Year in Hate & Extremism report on Tuesday. The report lists 1,430 groups promoting hate and antigovernment extremism, which help support white supremacy in the U.S. Since the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, these groups have engaged in efforts to normalize insurrection, frame hate as moral, and elevate conspiracy theories to accepted truths. These efforts have intensified ahead of the 2024 U.S. election.
  • The report not only tracks the escalation of far-right activities but also serves as a resource for those dedicated to thwarting radicalization and combating the spread of white supremacy, misinformation, and conspiracy theories in the lead-up to the 2024 elections.
  • Read the letter from the Intelligence Project's interim director Rachel Carroll Rivas and senior fellow Eric Ward here: Fortifying Our Democracy Against the Far-Right Agenda

U.S. politics and Christian Supremacy 

  • Hatewatch explored the intersection of Christian supremacy and U.S. politics in an interview with theologian André Gagné published May 31.
  • Gagné discussed the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a movement seeking to reshape global society and politics according to its authoritarian vision. The NAR, distinct from other Christian nationalist groups, aims for global dominance, challenging democratic values and promoting a theocratic agenda. The interview delves into the implications of such ideologies on pluralist democracy and the potential threats they pose.
  • Read more about NAR here: The New Dominionism Tries to Rule

Alex Jones dramatically appeals nonexistent shutdown

  • Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist and media company owner, faced potential shutdown due to bankruptcy, but was granted a two-week operation extension by a judge, the Associated Press reported on Monday.
  • Jones made dramatic appeals on his show, claiming imminent shutdown by the government, which did not occur, and at one point, called for a human chain to protect his studio. His broadcasts included profanity and emotional displays, with Jones vowing to return despite the challenges.
  • Jones' company, Free Speech Systems, and he personally filed for bankruptcy reorganization after being ordered to pay $1.5 billion for defamation to Sandy Hook victims' families, whom he had falsely claimed were actors in a hoax. 
  • The families have contested his reorganization efforts, seeking to convert the bankruptcy into a liquidation, citing lack of progress in compensating the lawsuit judgments. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez is set to decide on the liquidation on June 14.

Suspected antisemitic arson

  • Authorities are investigating a suspected arson at Vancouver's Congregation Schara Tzedeck synagogue, the CBC reported on May 31. The synagogue suffered a fire set at its entrance. 
  • The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) is investigating the incident, which occurred on the evening of May 30, as a potential hate crime. No injuries were reported, and the fire was extinguished before it could cause significant damage. The VPD has responded with increased patrols and community outreach, particularly around Jewish centers and institutions. 
  • The suspected arson comes after a Montreal Jewish school was targeted by gunfire, according to police. 
  • Suspected antisemitic and Islamophobic attacks have increased since the Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas attack on Israel and Israel’s ensuing war on the besieged Gaza Strip. SPLC has released resources on its view of what constitutes antisemitism.

Faith-based charities that assist migrants face unprecedented threats

  • Catholic Charities and similar faith-based organizations that aid migrants face unfounded conspiracy theories and attacks from far-right activists and some Republican lawmakers, according to a New York Times investigation published Sunday. The conspiracy theorists accuse these faith-based organizations of orchestrating an "invasion" and illegal activities.
  • The escalation of online threats has led to real-world harassment, particularly in San Diego, where Catholic Charities employees and facilities, including a women's shelter and a center for Afghan refugees, have been targeted, according to the investigation. Security measures have intensified, with private armed guards on-site and staff advised to conceal their identities. Vino Pajanor, head of Catholic Charities in San Diego, said the organization faced unprecedented levels of harassment, affecting their 20 facilities and 253 employees. 
  • Hatewatch has previously reported on anti-immigrant rhetoric making its way into the mainstream.

Read last week's edition here: Extremism Headlines: Arrest over Antisemitic threats, antigovernment Oregon politicians 

Above photo: Infowars host Alex Jones on Saturday, June 1 (Screenshot from YouTube/Infowars)

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