There are fewer hate groups in the United States for the third consecutive year but their ideas are “increasingly normalized”.
The United States has 773 active hate groups in 2021, down 8% to last year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual report released on March 9.
For the third consecutive year, the number of white nationalist, neo-Nazi and anti-government extremist groups across the U.S. fell. SPLC, which tracks racism, xenophobia and far-right militias, counted 838 hate groups in 2020 and 940 in 2019.
Hate groups in the United States had risen to a historic high of 1,021 in 2018, according to the law center.
The number of anti-government groups was down 14% in 2021 after a 2% decrease in 2020. There were 488 anti-government groups in 2021, far fewer than in 2012 when it reached its peak of 1,360. Former President Barack Obama was elected to a second term in 2012.
This downward trend has been reported despite the attack on the U.S. Capitol in January last year, ongoing division in American society and tensions with the policy against the COVID-19 pandemic.
But for the SPLC, this situation suggests the views these groups own and promote are no longer limited to their members but have actually become more common.
“Rather than demonstrating a decline in the power of the far right, the dropping numbers of organized hate and anti-government groups suggest that the extremist ideas that mobilize them now operate more openly in the political mainstream,” says the new report.
Last September, Tucker Carlson from Fox News discussed immigration from nonwhite countries would lead to a “great replacement” of white Americans, an opinion praised by white nationalists. It was one of the several examples cited by the Alabama-based law center.
Right after the Capitol attack, white nationalist groups like the Active Proud Boys, which has more than three dozen members charged in relation to their role in the Capitol attack, “did lay low,” Susan Corke, SPLC’s Intelligence Project director. But this “moment of hope quickly extinguished when I didn’t see more mainstream Republicans condemn these groups.”
Beyond the Capitol attack, the law center’s report details how several factions of the far-right movement have been reinvigorated with recent political decisions. Active hate and anti-government extremist groups are fueled by their opposition to immigration, COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates. They are also energized when laws, like several states recently passed, ban books discussing LGBTQ identity or critical race theory, which argues racial injustice is embedded in current society, in public schools.
The extremist ideas expressed by active hate and anti-government groups “are increasingly normalized,” Corke added.