Fueled by virtually unrestricted social media access, white nationalism is on the rise and attracting violent young white men

White nationalists keep showing up in the hearings of the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

Evidence is mounting that white nationalist groups who want to establish an all-white state played a significant role in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol that left five dead and dozens wounded.

Thus far, the hearings “have documented how the Proud Boys helped lead the insurrectionist mob into the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C,” journalist James Risen wrote in the Intercept.

Based on July 12, 2022, testimony from a former Oath Keepers member, the white nationalist group coordinated with the Three Percenters, another group of white nationalists, and the Proud Boys in mobilizing their extremists groups to rally in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, as asked by President Trump in his Dec. 16, 2020, tweet.

As a cultural anthropologist who has studied these movements for over a decade, I know that membership in these organizations is not limited to the attempted violent overthrow of the government and poses an ongoing threat as seen in massacres carried out by young men radicalized by this movement.

In 2020, for instance, the Department of Homeland Security described domestic violent extremists as “presenting the most persistent and lethal threat” to the people of the United States and the nation’s government.

In March 2021, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress that the number of arrests of white supremacists and other racially motivated extremists has almost tripled since he took office in 2017.

“Jan. 6 was not an isolated event,” Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it’s not going away anytime soon.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights group, tracked 733 active hate groups across the United States in 2021.

Based on my research, the internet and social media have made the problem of white supremacist hate far worse and more visible; it’s both more accessible and, ultimately, more violent, as seen on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol and the shooting deaths of ten Black people at a Buffalo grocery story, among other examples.

An expansive, online network

In the 1990s, former KKK leaders including David Duke rebranded white supremacy for the digital age.

They switched KKK robes for business suits and connected neo-Nazi antisemitic conspiracies with broader anti-Black, anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic racism.

From the 1990s to the late 2000s, this movement largely built discreet online communities and websites peddling racist disinformation.

In fact, for years one of the first websites about Martin Luther King Jr. that a Google search recommended was a website created by white nationalists that spread neo-Nazi propaganda.

In 2005, the white nationalist website Stormfront.org had 30,000 members – which might sound like a lot. But as social media expanded, with both Facebook and Twitter opening to anyone with an email address in 2006, its views got a lot more attention. By 2015, 250,000 people had subscribed to become members of Stormfront.org.

Between 2012 and 2016, white nationalists on Twitter saw a 600% increase in Twitter followers. They have since worked to bring white supremacism into everyday politics.

The Tech Transparency Project, a nonprofit tech industry watchdog group, found that in 2020 half of the white nationalist groups tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center had a presence on Facebook.

Without clear regulations preventing extremist content, digital companies, in my view, allowed for the spread of white nationalist conspiracies.

Racist activists used algorithms as virtual bullhorns to reach previously unimaginable-sized audiences.

Enter the ‘alt-right’

White nationalist leaders, such as Richard Spencer, wanted an even bigger audience and influence.

Spencer coined the term “alt-right” to this end, with the goal of blurring the relationship between white nationalism and white conservatism. He did this by establishing nonprofit think tanks like the National Policy Institute that provided an academic veneer for him and other white supremacists to spread their views on white supremacy.

This strategy worked.

Today, many white nationalist ideas once relegated to society’s fringes are embraced by the broader conservative movement.

Take, for instance, the Great Replacement Theory. The conspiracy theory misinterprets demographic change as an active attempt to replace white Americans with people of color.

This baseless idea observes that Black and Latino people are becoming larger percentages of the U.S. population, and paints that data as the result of an allegedly active attempt by unnamed multiculturalists to drive white Americans out of power in an increasingly diverse nation.

A recent poll showed that over 50% of Republicans now believe in this conspiracy theory.

Tujuan kami adalah menciptakan tempat yang aman dan menarik bagi pengguna untuk terhubung melalui minat dan kegemaran. Untuk meningkatkan pengalaman komunitas, kami menangguhkan sementara fitur komentar artikel