According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 800 hate groups are active in the United States. The Intelligence Project estimates that the number of hate groups has grown by about one third since 2000, although most are small, with the majority having fewer than 20 members.
The growing presence of hate groups is hardly confined to the United States. In Germany, for example, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution reported in 1991 the presence of 4,400 neo-Nazis in Germany, most of whom were skinheads. By adding in all other right-wing extremist and Nazi groups in the country, this figure swelled to approximately 40,000. A 2005 German government report indicates that this number of right-wing extremists has remained stable for the past 2 decades.
Apparently, as indicated by voting patterns, hundreds of thousands of individuals in many different countries agree to many, if not all, of the principles of white supremacy, even if they would never join a hate group. However, white supremacist groups represent a fringe element among those who commit hate crimes. Research shows that only a small number of reported hate offenses are committed by members of organized hate groups. Statistically, the membership of all organized hate groups combined constitutes a tiny fraction of the population, most of whom would not consider burning a cross or wearing a swastika. Even so, the influence of white supremacist groups such as Posse Comitatus, the National Socialist Movement, Aryan Nations, and the Ku Klux Klan may be considerably greater than their numbers might suggest. It takes only a small band of dedicated extremists to make trouble for a large number of apathetic middle-of-the-roaders. Today these groups increasingly use the Internet to communicate their philosophy of hate and influence youngsters. The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that more than 2,000 such Internet sites are currently active.
The newer organized hate groups do not always come so easily to mind for their bizarre uniforms or rituals. Followers of such white supremacist groups as John and Tom Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance have shed their sheets and burning crosses in favor of more conventional attire. They often disavow the Klan and the Nazi movement in favor of a brand of “American patriotism” that plays better among the working people of America. In France, one of the original organizing slogans of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s right-wing party was an utterly respectable idea: “Two million foreigners, two million Frenchmen out of work.”
Moreover, white supremacist organizations now often cloak their hatred in the aura and dogma of Christianity. Followers of the religious arm of the hate movement, the Identity Church, are only “doing the work of God.” At Sunday services, they preach that white Anglo-Saxons are the true Israelites depicted in the Old Testament, God’s chosen people, while Jews are actually the children of Satan. They maintain that Jesus was not a Jew but an ancestor of the white, northern European peoples. In their view, blacks are “pre-Adamic,” a species lower than whites. In fact, they claim that blacks and other nonwhite groups are at the same spiritual level as animals and therefore have no souls.
In recent years white supremacist groups such as the National Alliance and the Creativity Movement have suffered a crisis of leadership. Matthew Hale, who heads the Creativity Movement (formerly known as World Church of the Creator) is serving a lengthy prison sentence for his part in a conspiracy to murder a federal judge. The longtime leader of the National Alliance, William Pierce, died, leaving a vacuum of leadership in the organization yet to be filled effectively. Defections of members in both hate groups contributed to the rising popularity of a neo-Nazi organization known as the National Socialist Movement and a resurgence of membership in racist skinhead groups across the United States.
- Levin, Jack and Jack McDevitt. 1993. Hate Crimes: The Rising Tide of Bigotry and Bloodshed. New York: Plenum.
- Office for the Protection of the Constitution. 2000. “Annual Report of the Office for Protection of the Constitution 2000.” Berlin: Federal Ministry of the Interior.
- Potok, Mark. 2003. “Against the Wall.” SPLC Intelligence Report (Fall):12.
- Potok, Mark. 2006. “The Year in Hate, 2005.” SPLC Intelligence Report (Spring):1.
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