Jeff Tischauser and Lydia Bates
Hate groups descended into public spaces across the U.S. in 2022 to protest against LGBTQ inclusive programming, reproductive rights and classroom discussions of systemic racism.
Whether hate groups were responding to calls for action from mainstream far-right groups or were directing their membership themselves, protests attacking civil rights drove public performances of hate and the circulation of hate group messaging. As the lines between hate group and mainstream political rhetoric become thinner, hate group messaging in public spaces increased across the U.S. in 2022.
Hate groups perform media spectacles as a tool to recruit, generate publicity and intimidate targeted communities. A spectacle creates a visually compelling display designed to grab public attention. In the hands of hate groups, they are crude, designed to provoke outrage and driven by a need to market their movements to new audiences.
Hate group spectacles in this sense are always transactional and involve selling hatred to the public. Hate group performances include designing and displaying banners with messages that use slurs to refer to targeted groups, participating in racist and antisemitic chants, heckling participants of inclusive events and often openly carrying firearms and other weapons — all while dressed in their organization’s uniform, which often includes face coverings to conceal their identities.
Flyering, which is a relatively low-risk activity, is used to recruit and intimidate and draws media attention, decreased for the first time since 2018, dropping to 5,063 incidents in 2022 from 5,680 in 2021 — a 10.8% decline. The drop is due to hate groups shifting their focus to public performances, as well as steep drop in flyering incidents from the white nationalist group New Jersey European Heritage Association, which slid dramatically to nine in 2022 from 423 in 2021. This 97.8% decrease is likely due to members joining other hate groups and a change in tactics to prioritize public performances of hatred.
However, flyering incidents have been on the rise for the last five years. Flyering incidents overall rose 291% from 2018 to 2023, which suggests flyering is still an important tactic hate groups deploy. White nationalist and neo-Nazi groups disseminated the most flyers in 2022, which is a trend that has remained the same since 2018. White nationalist group Patriot Front continues to produce and circulate the most hate group flyering, with 4,801 flyers distributed across all of the lower 48 states.
White nationalist Patriot Front, neo-Nazi National Socialist Club and neo-fascist Proud Boys performed the most hate spectacles in 2022. Patriot Front participated in six public performances of hatred across the U.S., while National Socialist Club participated in 13 performances of hatred, with the majority occurring outside LBGTQ inclusive events.
Holding small protests against LGBTQ inclusion, women’s rights and perceived reverse racism have been part of the organized hate movement for decades. What is notable now is how clearly the larger far-right movement has acted in lockstep with hate groups, whose on-the-ground protests and harassment follow the path laid out by members of the GOP. When Republican officials and right-wing influencers attacked inclusive education and public health measures, hate groups were on the ground to intimidate people at schoolboard and city council meetings. And when the GOP shifted its attack to LGBTQ people, women and people who can get pregnant, hate groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Front did the same.
In a political landscape in which messaging of hate groups is becoming increasingly indistinguishable from messaging of conservative movement influencers and elected officials, hate groups struggle to stay relevant. Creating spectacles is one way hate groups are attempting to gain attention during a period in which extremism is being routed through the conservative movement.
Public performances of hatred in 2022 also provide groups opportunities to network within the organized white power movement and from the larger conservative movement that attends protests. On many occasions, multiple hate groups have attended the same protest against LGBTQ-inclusive programming and reproductive rights. Protect Texas Kids, New Columbia Movement, Patriot Front and neo-Nazi Aryan Freedom Network participated in the same protests at least twice in Texas, one in September in Katy and another in December in Grand Prairie.
On June 4, outside an LGBTQ inclusive event at Mr. Misster, a bar in Dallas, Texas, members of the “Groyper” movement — which is led by white nationalist Nick Fuentes — appeared alongside white nationalist New Columbia Movement and reactionary anti-student inclusion group Protect Texas Kids — two groups added to the SPLC Hate Map in 2022. About 50 protesters in total appeared with some holding placards and chanting anti-LGBTQ messaging.
In November, a chapter of the reactionary anti-student inclusion group Moms for Liberty protested a drag show event outside of the Seed Theatre in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The group was joined by Patriot Front and League of the South. After hurling insults and veiled threats at event participants, the group of about 30 protesters held a prayer circle before leaving, according to on-site accounts and photographs shared with Hatewatch.
Violence is always a possibility when hate groups perform spectacles of hatred. Members of the New Columbia Movement have joined Protect Texas Kids in at least five anti-LGBTQ protests, including one at Coffee Park, in University Park, Texas, in which a protester unconnected to the groups allegedly assaulted journalist Steven Monacelli. And in the summer, some of the roughly 100 Patriot Front members who marched in Boston, Massachusetts, allegedly attacked a man named Charles Murrell who confronted the group about their bigotry and racism. As Murrell stood his ground, according to videos the group posted online, Patriot Front members appeared to encircle then crush him with their plastic shields. The attack came only a month after 31 members of the group were arrested on charges of conspiracy to riot after the group was stopped on their way to protest a Pride parade in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
“Not only did I get called a slur, but then as I decided to walk away from this protest, feeling kind of unsafe, given that I was by myself and was being singled out by the leader of the organization ... two people followed me away, and then one of them ended up assaulting me,” said Steven Monacelli, the special investigative correspondent for the Texas Observer.
In video Monacelli posted to social media, a white male wearing an “Arrest Fauci” T-shift storms past a police officer and angrily shoves Monacelli several times while repeating, “You talk all that shit about me.” Arrest Fauci refers to, Anthony Fauci who led the U.S. government response to the COVID-19 pandemic and who has become a common target for extremists who believe public health measures infringe on civil liberties.
“He’s someone I’ve seen at a number of [Protect Trans Kids] events before,” Monacelli said of his alleged attacker. “He describes himself as a Texas Nationalist and has menaced other journalists in the area as well.”
LGBTQ events and care facilities were especially targeted by hate groups and other extremists in 2022. Lies about health care services provided to LGBTQ communities at Boston Children’s Hospital have reportedly resulted in four bomb threats that led to the hospital and surrounding area being put on lockdown.
Across the U.S. threats of violence led venues to shut down a number of events showcasing LGBTQ inclusion, including one planned at Uprising Bakery in suburban Chicago, Illinois. The event was canceled after Joseph A. Collins, allegedly vandalized the business by breaking windows and destroying property inside. Collins was charged with vandalism and a hate crime for the incident and is awaiting trial. On Jan. 6, 2021, wearing Proud Boy insignia, Collins was photographed outside the U.S. Capitol alongside a leader of the group’s Illinois contingent.
As far-right propaganda assaults are becoming more aggressive and desperate, communities across the United States are seeking to stem the flow of bigoted, manipulative rhetoric. To bolster this effort, SPLC partnered with the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL) at American University in 2020 to build resources for parents, educators, coaches, community leaders and other types of caregivers. Our most recent publication, Building Networks & Addressing Harm: A Community Guide to Online Youth Radicalization, seeks to provide all trusted adults with the knowledge to recognize when a young person has been exposed to manipulative rhetoric like that on hate group flyers and provides tools to help them build resilience against it.
Similarly, to better understand the breadth of these hate spectacles, our Map of Hate Group Flyering in the U.S. shows where groups have been actively spreading disinformation and manipulative narratives over the past five years. When considered alongside our map of active hate groups, this information can help communities contextualize the threat of hate-filled flyers and banners within the broader landscape of far-right activity. While hateful materials are alarming and intimidating, such knowledge reassures communities that, despite the spread of such rhetoric, hate-fueled actors are in the minority.
When communities are resilient against manipulation and equipped with the facts about hate group prevalence and relevance, efforts to counter the spread of hateful messages are energized. Organized in Burlington, Vermont, the BTV Clean-Up Crew crowdsources donations to local nonprofits based on the number of hateful stickers they remove each month. For those trying to build similar forms of resilience in their communities, the Clean-Up Crew encourages making a strong distinction between hateful rhetoric that targets people’s immutable characteristics and political campaigns. “That’s the whole idea,” a Clean-Up Crew member explained, “that you’re supposed to love your neighbor. We’re not trying to attack your political beliefs; we’re just trying to help everybody who lives here feel like they’re welcome.”
By Hannah Gais and Megan Squire
Two years since mainstream social media sites removed former President Donald Trump for using their services to incite an insurrection against the U.S. government, a growing constellation of “alt-tech” sites has continued to provide hard-right extremists safe haven for fundraising, spreading propaganda and organizing.
The Southern Poverty Law Center obtained, reviewed and analyzed data estimating the number of visitors and the popularity rankings for 12 prominent “alt-tech” sites. These websites range from copycats of popular mainstream social media sites, such as YouTube, to message boards and fundraising services. We found that the majority of “alt-tech” sites, whose purveyors emphasize minimal or nonexistent content moderation, have developed and sustained a dedicated user base. This stability allows hard-right extremists to resist some of the repercussions, such as loss of audience or funding streams, that result from deplatforming, when tech companies act to prevent an individual or a group from using their products.
The websites that the SPLC analyzed represent the range of services these alternative platforms offer to users. These include fundraising sites (SubscribeStar, GiveSendGo), internet message boards (4chan, 8kun and Patriots.Win), video streaming platforms that may or may not have fundraising capabilities (Rumble, Odysee, Cozy.TV) and Facebook and Twitter copycats (Gab, Parler, Truth Social and Gettr).
The entrenchment of “alt-tech” comes as a result of not only growing demand following mass deplatformings in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection but also as a result of the industry’s purveyors’ prominence within the right. Whether through an association with popular political figures – such as Trump or up-and-coming politicos – or courting popular right-wing content creators, the most successful “alt-tech” leaders have presented their platforms as crucial to the right’s political success and survival.
“I think a lot of [“alt-tech” platforms] are built on sand, so to speak. They tend to hype or inflate their actual usage, importance and finances,” said Emmi Bevensee, co-founder of SMAT, a tool that helps journalists, activists and researchers track hate speech and misinformation online.
“But that being said, in general, gross activity is still trending upwards on many of them. Notably around disturbing topics, such as anti-trans conspiracies,” Bevensee continued.
Far from gone and not forgotten
Five of the 12 sites that the SPLC analyzed regularly ranked among the top 10% of domains in the United States, according to data from the network security technology company Cisco.
Each day, Cisco’s Umbrella product releases a list of the top 1 million internet sites, ranked by how many users issue requests for them through passive DNS, or “domain name system,” usage. DNS is a protocol that permits computers to translate human-readable domain names, such as google.com, to IP addresses so browsers can find internet resources. SPLC also accessed data from SimilarWeb, a website analytics company that tracks and ranks sites based on the number of visitors.
Among the top-performing sites is Rumble, a Peter Thiel-backed video streaming site whose featured users include Trump and other antidemocracy, hard-right personalities. Throughout 2022 Rumble consistently ranked among the top 5% of domains in the United States. SimilarWeb ranks Rumble among the top 150 most visited sites in the country, having received 337 million visitors between September and November.
SimilarWeb also listed among the top 500 most visited sites in the country 4chan, a message board that, among other things, the white supremacist terrorist who carried out an attack in Buffalo, New York, in May cited as influential on his worldview. (As of December 2022, 4chan ranked at 349 among U.S.-based audiences.)
Other popular domains, according to Cisco data, included: Odysee, a decentralized streaming site whose vice president Julian Chandra stated that a “Nazi that makes videos about the superiority of the white race” does not warrant removal; Gab, whose former users include Robert Bowers, the man accused of murdering 11 Jewish worshippers at a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, synagogue in 2018; and Truth Social, a social media website founded by Trump.
Finally, three websites regularly ranked in the top 20–25% of Cisco Umbrella 1 Million top domains. These include Patriots.Win (formerly TheDonald.Win), whose users called for violence in the run-up to the 2021 insurrection; GETTR, a Twitter-like platform founded by former Trump aide Jason Miller and Parler, another Twitter copycat that was removed from the Google Play and Apple app stores and lost its hosting infrastructure after the Jan. 6 attack.
“People are really waking up”
Capitalizing on mainstream social media outlets deplatforming hard-right users promoting hate speech, COVID-19 misinformation and election denialism, “Alt-tech” sites welcomed such content and leveraged midterm congressional candidates’ affiliations with their sites in order to boost their brands.
“People are really waking up to what’s going on right now. We’re just happy to be in the middle of this,” Rumble CEO Chris Pavlovski told Fox News host Tucker Carlson. The August segment focused on Rumble welcoming Andrew Tate, a former reality TV star, to the platform after he had been removed from several mainstream social media sites for hate speech. Tate has an extensive record of misogynistic comments, including a claim that female rape victims ought to “bear some responsibility” for being assaulted.
The 2022 midterm elections offered “alt-tech” sites a chance to prove their centrality to the GOP establishment. However, SPLC’s review of data from both Cisco and SimilarWeb indicate that the election didn’t impact popularity rankings of GETTR, Gab or Rumble.
GETTR, the Jason Miller-run Twitter copycat, announced “wall-to-wall,” multiday coverage, including “exclusive last-minute campaign updates” from pro-Trump favorites such as failed Senate candidates Mehmet Oz and Thiel-ally Blake Masters. Miller subsequently joined Trump at Mar-a-Lago as the former president announced his 2024 electoral bid.
And Gab, the one-time beleaguered social media site, created a minor news cycle of its own, after the company’s CEO Andrew Torba endorsed Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano and U.S. senate candidate Blake Masters. Mastriano used Gab, which is based in Pennsylvania, to promote his campaign and paid the platform $5,000 for “consulting” services. However, following growing scrutiny, both Mastriano and Masters issued statements trying to distance themselves from Torba, and Mastriano ceased his use of the platform for campaign work.
Other “alt-tech” sites demonstrated a downward decline in 2022. These include the message board 8kun (formerly 8chan), the fundraising site GiveSendGo and Patriots.Win.
8kun changed its name following several web services companies deplatforming it in 2019 in the wake of multiple white supremacist terrorist attacks, whose perpetrators used the site to distribute their racist screeds and propaganda. The message board lost its host only after a third mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, which took place in August 2019. In addition to hosting terroristic content, 8kun/8chan was the preferred platform of choice for “Q,” an anonymous figure who claimed to have insider knowledge of then-President Trump’s efforts to take down a cabal of his enemies, known as the “deep state.”
“Q” ceased posting on 8kun in November 2020. Someone claiming to be “Q” resumed posting on 8kun in June 2022, but data reviewed by the SPLC indicate that this return appears to have done little to drive traffic to the site. While 8kun’s domain popularity rose between June and September of 2022, it suffered another decline between then and November. In November, around the election, 8kun briefly eclipsed 4chan in terms of domain popularity, but the site’s unstable popularity rankings since 2019 make it unclear if such momentum can last.
GiveSendGo, Parler and Patriots.Win struggled to regain their post-2020 election audiences. Patriots.Win dipped in 2022, settling in at the top 25% of Cisco Umbrella's 1 Million list, and GiveSendGo’s highest traffic period appeared to coincide with a data breach in early 2022. While Parler, which was deplatformed in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection, experienced a similar dip, an Oct. 17, 2022 announcement that “Ye” (previously known as Kanye West) planned to acquire the site caused its domain popularity to rise. However, the site’s popularity has yet to return to 2020 levels.