Report: America’s Far Right Is Fine-Tuning Hate Tactics

Christian nationalism inspired much of last year’s surge in anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ and antigovernment activity, The Southern Poverty Law Center noted in its report “The Year in Hate & Extremism 2023.”
Source: Southern Poverty Law Center

The far right dedicated 2023 to fine-tuning and expanding hate-spreading tactics to fuel one of the most bitter and dangerous presidential contests in U.S. history, according to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Extremists and those opposing meaningful democracy have used the past year to legitimize insurrection, paint hate as virtuous and transform conspiracy theories into truth — all in preparation for one of the most significant elections in U.S. history,” SPLC says in “The Year in Hate & Extremism 2023.”

Decades of social and racial progress are in grave danger after a year in which the largest number of active white nationalist, anti-LGBTQ and anti-government groups were documented, the report says. “These record numbers accompany increases in direct actions against minoritized groups, including hate crimes and other tactics such as anti-Black and antisemitic flyering, protests, and intimidation campaigns targeting LGBTQ people, libraries, schools and hospitals.”

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Researchers identified numerous categories of active hate groups and their targets, including 166 white nationalist, 104 general hate, 86 anti-LGBTQ, 59 neo-Nazi, 34 anti-Muslim, 20 antisemitic and 18 anti-immigrant organizations.

General anti-government (634), Sovereign Citizen (93), militia (52), conspiracy propagandist (50) and constitutional sheriffs (6) were among the nation’s leading anti-government movements, the report notes. “Anti-immigrant hate groups are the most extreme of the hundreds of nativist and vigilante groups that have proliferated since the late 1990s, when anti-immigrant xenophobia began to rise to levels not seen in the U.S. since the 1920s.”

The racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory continued to drive anti-immigrant sentiment last year by promoting the idea that immigrants, refugees and other people of color are replacing white people in the U.S., SPLC explains. “Extreme Republican elected officials also claim this is a concerted effort by the Biden administration and Democrats to import a loyal voting bloc to replace American voters, another widely used anti-immigrant trope and central theme to replacement thinking.”

And the notion has been heavily supported by Biden’s presumed opponent in the upcoming election, the study added. “In 2023, (Donald) Trump openly embraced the idea of being a ‘dictator’ for at least his first day back in the Oval Office and, in a throwback to the rhetoric of Adolf Hitler, referred to immigrants as ‘vermin’ and claimed they are ‘poisoning the blood of our country.’”

Conspiracy theories also fueled a rise in antisemitic incidents, the report says. “Graffiti of Nazi symbols and vandalism of Jewish establishments remain the most consistent incidents from year to year; however, in 2023, and particularly after Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack, there has been a significant surge in swatting or bomb threats made against synagogues, Chabad houses and other openly Jewish businesses and institutions.”

Last year also witnessed the continued use of slanderous tropes against Jewish people claiming they control media and industry and equating criticism of Israel with antisemitism. “On X (formerly Twitter), for example, the site’s chairman Elon Musk in November endorsed an antisemitic post, which claimed that Jewish people ‘have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.’ Musk responded, ‘You have said the actual truth.’”

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The study included a link to an Anti-Defamation League audit reporting 8,873 antisemitic incidents in the U.S. in 2023, compared to 3,698 in 2022, 2,717 in 2021 — and only 912 in 2014.

Even as those attacks increased, some antisemitic groups entered the debate over Israel’s war with Hamas and used the occasion to promote a “free Palestine” message, SPLC says.

“This is not in any way to show support for Palestinian people. Rather, this is a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt at stoking more antisemitism and using Palestinian people to further their own aims. This is a common tactic used by hard-right extremists throughout U.S. history — pretending to engage legitimate conversation about a national or international issue to promote their own endgame, which is, in this case, uniting the country against Jews.”

The sinister influence of Christian nationalism was detected in the violence wielded against Black, brown and LGBTQ people in 2023, the report continues. “The activities of hate and antigovernment groups and the experiences of those they target for abuse, exclusion and violence exemplify what happens when racist, dominionist (a theocratic ideology that holds only Christians have the right to control government and society) and nationalistic conspiracy theories are operationalized.”

Christian nationalism inspired much of last year’s surge in anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ and antigovernment activity, SPLC says. “This is an old idea, dangerous to democracy and human rights, that has motivated the antigovernment right for decades. Yet the resurgence of dominionism is an attempt to fulfill a decades-old dream, begun when segregated schools were ruled unconstitutional, to keep education shackled to a narrow, authoritarian version of Christianity.”

One of the most destructive behaviors of Christian supremacists has been to label their opponents as “demons” or otherwise part of conspiratorial plans to destroy the faith and the nation, the study notes.

“The effect is a wearing down and, sometimes, a tearing down of institutions and trust meant to hold people accountable to each other and to help moderate conflict before it breaks into violence. The destruction of our civic institutions, even when they need reform, will only give the hard right a free hand unencumbered by checks and balances to rewrite our social contract into a dystopian, Christian supremacist, and even neo-fascist future.”

This article was originally published at Baptist Global News, a reader-supported, independent news organization providing original and curated news, opinion and analysis about matters of faith. You can sign up for their newsletter here. Republished with permission.

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Picture of Jeff Brumley

Jeff Brumley

Jeff Brumley is Senior News Writer for Baptist News Global. A veteran newspaper reporter, he lives in Jacksonville, Fla., with his dog, Nosey.

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