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The Roaring Twenty-Twenties: White Nationalism Rising and the Coronavirus

The Roaring Twenty-Twenties: White Nationalism Rising and the Coronavirus

Zion Miller

While the Prosecution Project’s objectives primarily relate to how sociopolitical crimes are prosecuted, the Project also studies the trends of how and who commits sociopolitical crime change over time. Examples of past trends was a large right-wing anti-government movement during the 1990s, a massive increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the wake of 9/11, and the rise of Islamic terror attacks on Western civilian populations during the 2010s. As we enter a new decade, I have started to wonder what the defining extremist ideology of this decade will be. After the work I’ve done with tPP over the last semester and my own studies about extremism at Miami University, I believe that the 2020s will be defined by white nationalist violence on a scale that we have yet to see from the ideology.

The white nationalist movement has been steadily rising in popularity and violence ever since 2016. The Southern Poverty Law Center 2019 Year End Report details the numbers of the movement’s rise: There was a 55% increase in the number of white nationalist groups in the United States from 2017 to 2019 (growing from 100 groups to 155) and a 17% increase in hate crimes committed from 2016 to 2017. Time Magazine reports that “since 9/11, white supremacists and other far-right extremists have been responsible for almost three times as many attacks on U.S. soil as Islamic terrorists…” The growth of the movement and the dangers it poses have not gone unnoticed. FBI Director Christopher Wray, in his July 2019 address to Congress, stated that, ”I will say that a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we’ve investigated [in 2019] are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence…”

The increased activity and violence we’ve seen from these groups is likely to grow over the next decade due to the rapidly increasing popularity of “accelerationism” in white supremacist movements. White nationalists who subscribe to accelerationism believe that a race war is inevitable and that the best way to win that war is by “accelerating” the timeline through acts of mass violence. This will polarize the population along racial lines, and ultimately cause the war to begin sooner than it otherwise would. Societal collapse is also a desired outcome, as they can then rebuild the structures of society in their image. The belief that the war must happen soon in order to achieve victory stems from the “Great Replacement/White Genocide” theory, which argues that the white race is being replaced both in numbers and in positions of power through immigration, declining white birth rates, and multiculturalism. These theories combine to create the white nationalist belief that if they wait for the race war to happen, the white race will be too weak to fight back. Adherents of these beliefs have already begun to act, with the Christchurch shooter, El Paso shooter, and others have all espoused these views in their manifestos. As these beliefs take further root in white nationalist groups, more violence on an even larger scale will inevitably occur.

The global insecurities created by the COVID-19 pandemic are providing new opportunities for white nationalist groups to recruit new members and plan attacks. An American University professor, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, has been studying white nationalist recruitment for some time. In a statement to NPR, Miller-Idriss said: “For extremists, this is an ideal time to exploit youth grievances about their lack of agency, their families’ economic distress, and their intense sense of disorientation, confusion, fear and anxiety,” Accelerationist groups are spreading disinformation about COVID-19 in order to further accelerate societal collapse and reveling in the chaos it causes, with one Telegram (a popular messaging app for white nationalists) commenting: “Oh nooo the white normies. The White man has lost his savings, job, & now he has no food. His bread and circuses have been canceled. What a terrible thing he has nothing left to lose. No more peaceful status quo.” Some white nationalists are even attempting to weaponize the virus by creating spray bottles to aerosolize infected saliva for the purposes of infecting minority populations and governmental actors.

The full ugliness of modern white nationalism’s newest form, accelerationism, has yet to be seen. Over the next decade, I predict that we will see it come into its fullness in very violent ways. The coronavirus pandemic opens the decade, affecting society in dramatic ways that play into the white nationalist’s hands and sets the stage for years of societal uncertainty. The upcoming 2020 presidential election will likely further divide and polarize the nation, once again an environment in which white nationalism will thrive. With this foundation, I believe that white nationalism will grow as the years pass, both in membership and violence. I hope to be proven wrong.

References

“About TPP.” The Prosecution Project, 2020, https://theprosecutionproject.org/about-tpp/.

“The Year in Hate and Extremism 2019.” Southern Poverty Law Center, 18 Mar. 2020, www.splcenter.org/news/2020/03/18/year-hate-and-extremism-2019.

Bergengruen, Vera, and W.J. Hennigan. “‘We Are Being Eaten From Within.’ Why America Is Losing the Battle Against White Nationalist Terrorism.” Time, Time, 8 Aug. 2019, time.com/5647304/white-nationalist-terrorism-united-states/.

Chalfant, Morgan. “FBI’s Wray Says Most Domestic Terrorism Arrests This Year Involve White Supremacy.” TheHill, The Hill, 23 July 2019, thehill.com/homenews/administration/454338-fbis-wray-says-majority-of-domestic-terrorism-arrests-this-year.

“Executive Summary: 2019 Year in Hate.” Southern Poverty Law Center, 18 Mar. 2020, www.splcenter.org/news/2020/03/18/executive-summary-2019-year-hate.

Bridge Initiative Team. “Factsheet: White Genocide Conspiracy Theory.” Bridge Initiative, Georgetown University, 3 Feb. 2020, bridge.georgetown.edu/research/factsheet-white-genocide-conspiracy-theory/.

Allam, Hannah. “’A Perfect Storm’: Extremists Look For Ways To Exploit Coronavirus Pandemic.” NPR, NPR, 16 Apr. 2020, www.npr.org/2020/04/16/835343965/-a-perfect-storm-extremists-look-for-ways-to-exploit-coronavirus-pandemic.

Macfarquhar, Neil. “The Coronavirus Becomes a Battle Cry for U.S. Extremists.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 May 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/05/03/us/coronavirus-extremists.html.

Miller, Cassie. “White Supremacists See Coronavirus as an Opportunity.” Southern Poverty Law Center, 26 Mar. 2020, www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2020/03/26/white-supremacists-see-coronavirus-opportunity.

Wade, Peter. “Just When You Thought Things Couldn’t Get Worse, Neo-Nazis Are Trying to Weaponize Coronavirus.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 23 Mar. 2020, www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/neo-nazis-are-trying-to-weaponize-the-coronavirus-971002/.

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