U.S. White Supremacists Exporting and Weaponizing their Message

August 12, 2017 – Alt-right members preparing to enter Emancipation Park holding Nazi, Confederate, and Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags. Photo Credit: Anthony Crider, Wikimedia Creative Commons

According to a recent report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), U.S. white supremacists are now exporting activities overseas.

The report, Hate Beyond Borders: The Internationalization of White Supremacy states that white supremacists are increasingly finding support from European adherents, leading to them feeling “empowered and emboldened” due to their increased influence. According to the ADL, “Global access to white supremacist ideology, and its easy dissemination across borders via various social media platforms means many of the ideas promoted by the white supremacist movement – curtailing of non-white immigration, attacks on globalization and the accompanying conspiracies about elitist globalists – are increasingly part of mainstream political and social rhetoric.”

The report was produced by ADL’s Center on Extremism in collaboration with researchers from anti-hate organizations in five European countries and chronicles how American white supremacists are coordinating with individuals and groups overseas in order to spread their message and ideology. In one example, the ADL cites how individual extremists influence each other into conducting acts of terror:

In 2011, Anders Breivik killed 77 people in Norway, after leaving a hate-filled manifesto railing against immigrants and Muslims. Four years later in the U.S., white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine black parishioners in South Carolina in 2015. Both Breivik and Roof influenced Brenton Tarrant, an Australian white supremacist who killed 51 Muslims in attacks on two New Zealand mosques in March 2019. Tarrant mentioned both men in his manifesto, titled “The Great Replacement” — named after the white supremacist theory that whites are being replaced by non-whites. Tarrant, in turn, influenced John Earnest, who killed one woman and injured others at a synagogue in Poway, California one month later and cited Tarrant as an inspiration in the statement he posted before carrying out his attack. Patrick Crusius, who murdered 22 people in El Paso, Texas, and was targeting Mexicans, also cited Tarrant’s “The Great Replacement” in his own manifesto. One week later, a Norwegian gunman, who had referenced “Saint Tarrant” on a message board, was overpowered as he attempted to shoot people at a mosque in Oslo.

The racist and xenophobic views held by white supremacists have now become normalized enough that politicians and even mainstream media personalities have become comfortable with public expression of their views. In June 2018, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) retweeted and anti-immigration tweet from British neo-Nazi Mark Collett. When told that he had retweeted a neo-Nazi, he refused to apologize, though he was later removed from his committee assignments in the U.S. House of Representatives. Fox News host Laura Ingraham has also retweeted Collett on racism against whites and immigration.

“As white supremacy grows and connects across borders, it has become essential to understand how followers are growing their networks and recruiting new members,” said ADL Senior VP for Internal Affairs Sharon Nazarian. “On both sides of the Atlantic, racist and xenophobic views are seeping into mainstream and social discourse. This growing network of hate has emboldened white supremacists who see themselves as part of a global movement to ‘save the white race.'”

According to the report, there are several factors that have aided the internationalization of white supremacy:

  • Conferences attracting foreign extremists in the U.S. and Europe allowing white supremacists to build an international community. Between 2013 and 2019, white supremacists from the U.S. were speakers at around a dozen conferences held by far-right white supremacist organizations in Sweden, Finland, and Norway.
  • The rise of far-right political parties in Europe with direct ties to neo-Nazis.
  • The spread of Identitarianism, a right-wing anti-globalist movement opposing nonwhite and Muslim immigration into Europe.
  • U.S. white supremacists increasingly interact with foreign counterparts and inspire the formation of groups overseas.
  • The rise of the white power music scene.
  • Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Gab, and VK, which make it easy for white supremacists to communicate with each other online.

Increasingly, U.S. and European white supremacy groups are learning from each other, gaining support from each other, and using their combined strength to reach new audiences. The fact that they have been able to influence mainstream politics both overseas and in the U.S. has led them to feel empowered and emboldened. Political leaders, law enforcement, social media companies, educators, and the media have important responsibilities when it comes to curbing the international spread and weaponization of white supremacy.

Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor currently serving as Editor-in-Chief of Big Easy Magazine. Her work has also been featured in publications such as Wander N.O. More, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, Examiner.com, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_

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