The Resurgence of White Nationalism (2016–2021)
Author Note: This is three different pieces I wrote over four years. Here I have collected all of them, as they all support one another in the idea that this movement of hate is picking up speed. It is imperative we stay alert and understand this. -JordanGWrites
We are living in a world where a celebrity businessman has been elected to the highest office in the free world. That comes with many changes from the last eight years. The populous has watched Donald J. Trump say horrible things with no repercussions, from brushing off sexual allegations and using speech that propagates rape culture as simply “locker room talk”, to calling for a nationwide registry of all Muslim Americans in a misguided effort to “curb Islamic terrorism”. In the last year, the rise of xenophobic and racist hate speech has trended upwards to levels not seen since the Civil Rights movements of the 1960’s. This bigotry we liked to pretend was in our nation’s past is making a comeback, on a number of different levels. The question that I challenged myself to answer was why? Why after fifty years are we seeing this horrid and shameful sentiment come back into the forefront?
To begin, I had to define what was happening. Fear without a name is simply paranoia. This fear goes by white nationalism. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which works daily to protect those most vulnerable in society, describes white nationalism as a series of groups that hold to “white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites”. These groups include the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party and other neo-Nazi affiliates, such as, Christian Identity — an ideology that believes that the white Europeans descend from the lost tribes of Israel, while Jews are satanic offspring and nonwhites were abominations created before the time of Adam & Eve. These “alt-right” groups, as they’ve rebranded themselves, as well as a myriad of others, have seen massive resurgence in the last few years. At this point, I decided to chronicle what I call the “resurgence of white nationalism.” In utilizing Storify, a social media archival tool, I found a place where I could piece together a dated and sourced timeline of this rise of nationalism.
Eight days after Donald J Trump was chosen as America’s 45th President-Elect, Twitter — the social media giant- began to suspend high profile “alt-right” accounts. The biggest was Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute; a white nationalist think tank headquartered in Washington D.C. Spencer has been the one to lead the charge in recent years in bringing these nationalist ideologies to the mainstream. Many cried foul, citing free speech laws that protect their right to speak their mind, but Twitter has an agreement that users will maintain a level of civility when using the platform. Twitter’s statement said, “The Twitter Rules prohibit targeted abuse and harassment, and we will suspend accounts that violate this policy.”
The platform was chosen as Donald Trump’s choice stage for campaigning, allowing direct access to voter bases, and giving the “illusion” of those same voter bases having direct access to him as well. The alt-right platform took note, and began to use it as a forum to air their nationalist views. Twitter used their right as a private company to deny this notion. The other side wasn’t appeased by the gesture either. Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color of Change and racial justice organization, said,
“Instead of acknowledging the role Twitter played in enabling the alt-right, racist, anti-immigrant, and Islamophobic rhetoric — which our president-elect depended on to stoke his rise — they have instead chosen to erase the accounts and move on. We’re glad that Twitter is finally taking action after several meetings with us and other racial justice organizations, but this response is simply too little and far too late.”
Banning accounts can only do so much on the grand scale of the Internet. One account goes down, and three more fill the void. This xenophobic hydra hasn’t existed for this long by giving up easily. I began to search for signs that this gesture may have helped in the long run, even a little. What I discovered was more frightening. The nationalist movement developed their own code, a lexicon for hate speech. They began to use the term “Googles” as African American slurs, “Yahoo” for Hispanic based slurs, “Skype” for Jewish slurs, and “Skittles” for Muslim based slurs, in addition to almost 20 other coded words. At first, this seemed asinine, a death rattle of a beast that was slowly passing. I searched “googles” in Twitter search, and only received news and promoted tweets about Google. It was the same with the other terms, that is, until I began to search these terms in conjunction with one another. A combination of two of the terms, and the occasional hashtag #MakeAmericaGreatAgain or #MAGA, began to unearth horrendous tweets. “Gas the Skypes, Lynch the Googles”, tweeted Nov 15, 2016, was just one of hundreds of these tweets, in public view, with no effort to conceal them.
At this point in my experiment, it became extremely clear that these nationalists had no desire to conceal themselves. More importantly, it showed that these groups that we see as archaic in mentality and outdated In their tactics and beliefs are finding ways to share their hatred on the open net, in a way that’s near impossible to notice unless you’re looking for it, and even more impossible to censor. To try and ban any of these terms breaks all algorithmic laws, and would collapse our carefully built network of search engines, rendering the internet un-navigable. It’s genius. Diabolically genius. Nationalists are using tools we’ve built to share and connect, in a way to revitalize archaic sentiments and stereotypes and connect with a new base of followers. We’ve seen young men like Dylan Roof, the shooter responsible for massacring African American churchgoers in South Carolina, find their mission online. In the same way that Trump won the election, we are seeing a group of people that feel disenfranchised and unspoken for reinvigorated and buying into the idea that they didn’t have a hand in ruining their country, but some unseen boogeymen are pulling the strings and destroying this culture they’ve “protected” and “cherished” for so long.
In sticking with social media, this idea led me to George Washington University, who recently published a comparative study on the social media strategies of white nationalism groups versus ISIS, the Islamic terrorist sect. ISIS has been America’s own boogeyman in recent years, as they use social media to connect with new converts and recruits in a brand of crowd funded terrorism. They will take credit for any attack against “infidels” as long as the perpetrator pledges allegiance. However, in the four years since Barack Obama’s reelection, white nationalist accounts have grown exponentially. ISIS accounts have decreased in following, while white nationalist and neo-Nazi accounts have, in the least doubled, and at the most risen 600% in follower base. The Google search frequency for the term “white genocide” (the idea that individuals of white European descent are under a strategic attack) have gone up at an alarming curve. Of the accounts that the GWU surveyed, there is at least one strong account in each state, with an alarming congregation on the eastern seaboard. Once again, I asked myself why this is happening? What’s driving this uptick in racism?
The answer is that these groups are finding empowerment in a figurehead that champions the idea that white America is under attack. The president-elect ran a campaign of belittlement, xenophobia and fear mongering. Since winning office, he has yet to change that sentiment. Trump threatens the ideals of free speech and protest against his chosen beliefs with loss of citizenship or imprisonment, a threat in direct contradiction of Texas v Johnson -1989, in which the Supreme Court ruled that flag burning is protected under freedom of speech and your 1st amendment rights as long as it’s your own property. He casts threats daily that countries will be embargoed or trade blockaded if they are unwilling to accept a deal with solely benefits the United States interests. His speeches use a verbal assertion of the word “will.” The Voyant word cloud tools are fascinating to look at. A mass swirling of buzzwords and then the word “WILL” stamped across it like an overdue book stamp.
He has surrounded himself with a cast of characters that are unqualified for the offices they hold, and have made their careers on xenophobic platforms. Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, believes that those who own property should only be allowed voting rights, this being a sentiment grounded in our country’s racist past. Finally, under pressure, on November 22nd, Trump denounced the racism building around his campaign from white nationalist camps. However, he made no effort to distance himself from them, especially Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer, or David Duke, ex head of the KKK who continues to laud Trump’s victory as a return to a greater time in American history.
What we are witnessing is normalization of white nationalism now. CNN and major news networks are giving it coverage time, which gives the movement strength. They even ran a chyron at the bottom of one of the round table segments that read, “Alt Right Founder Questions If Jews Are People”. Just the idea that something that toxic can make it on national airwaves gives the ideals behind it more merit. The Associated Press has developed a style guide for dealing with “alt-right” media coverage. The main point being that when using the term “alt-right” it is necessary to include that these groups are white supremacist or white nationalist in nature. In the days since the election, there have been 897 reported hate crimes around the country. That’s a span of 10 days. This spike in abuse against immigrants, people of color, women, and LGBTQ communities, is something this country hasn’t seen in decades. So much so that the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. felt it necessary to make a statement on the white supremacist movement sweeping the country in the days that followed Richard Spencer holding his NPI meeting. This statement included the message “The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words.”
Holocaust is a huge jump from where we find ourselves as a nation right now, but the Museum is correct. What led up to the mass genocide of Jew’s and other innocent civilians targeted for racial bias, were years of racist and nationalist rhetoric. A leader who convinced a nation that the biggest threat to their wellbeing was their own neighbor. That their own nation’s history is a racial struggle for their people’s survival. The question that I challenged myself to answer was why? Why after fifty years are we seeing this sentiment come back into the forefront? The answer is Donald Trump, and the campaign around him, have fostered an environment that allows for the growth of fear and violence, which have proven to not be mutually exclusive ideas. He is using tools that we have designed for community, for division.
I can’t help but laugh when I looked back at some of our readings for clarity, and saw the title “traces of the old, uses of the new”. Though Earhart is referring to old literature and new technology, the idea struck me. We are seeing traces of old ideologies thought dead and buried, which are using new technology to reinvigorate their movements. As digital humanists, we are witnessing the trending upward of ideas contrary to the digital community we have strived to create. We are seeing our means of communication turned into weapons of hate and bigotry. It is our job to keep talking about this, to take strides against it. And ultimately, find a solution to end these ideals once and for all.
Author Note: Please take a look at the supporting materials, collected here. This is a message that needs to be addressed.
Two years have passed since the inauguration of Donald J Trump as the 45th president of the United States. In the first half of this piece, I observed that we saw a sharp tick in hate crimes in the nine days following the election. However, this upturn was only the tip of the iceberg. These last two years have shown the world that white nationalism is not only thriving, but becoming a normal part of every day life. We have seen nationalist figureheads become not just household names, but talking heads on news outlets across the country, being given the opportunity to broadcast their vitriolic views across the country. We have seen a reawakening of dormant xenophobia, centered on the idea that white America is in danger of being replaced. In the first half of this piece, I asked why this was happening. In this second half, I aim to question what we can do to stop this from continuing.
Yearly, the Federal Bureau of Investigation publishes crime statistics. Broken down by categories, it details by the numbers reporting of criminal activity across the country. Starting in 1992*, they began compiling statistics of hate crimes. By now, the FBI has determined that hate crime spikes are seen following national crisis, such as a terrorist attack like the September 11th, and midterm and general elections. To get a base line, I wanted to see what hate crime statistics looked like under a black president, which white nationalists would have considered the biggest affront to their way of life. In 2014, Barack Obama’s 2nd year of his second term, the FBI reported a total of 6,418 hate crimes across the country. In 2015, his 3rd year of his second term, the FBI received a total of 6,885 hate crimes reported. While the number went up by 400, it wasn’t unheard of to see the uptick, as it was the beginning of campaigning for the 2016 general election, more on that election cycle later.
On November 8th, 2016, Donald Trump won in massive fashion in the electoral college by 76 electoral votes, despite losing the popular vote by over 5,868,686 votes. To put that in perspective, the entire population of the state of Wisconsin is estimated to be 5,795,483. By the close of 2016, the FBI reported over 7,321 hate crimes. From 2014 to 2016, reported hate crimes per year rose by 903. In the ten days that followed the election, roughly 900 hate crimes were reported. This wasn’t an anomaly, this was a tremor. A precursor to the earthquake that was about to follow. By the close of 2017, the FBI reported a total of 8,437 hate crimes, eclipsing the previous year by over 1,000. It was clear at this time that this dormant hatred was no longer sleeping. White nationalism was awake, and was tiptoeing the line into extremism.
Extremism is defined as the advocacy of extreme measures or views. It is often coupled with fanaticism. People who hold views that typically fall outside the normal left to moderate to right political and moral structure align themselves on the far left or far right of these more traditionally acceptable political groupings. Eco-terrorists and the Black Panther Party would fall into the extreme left, while white separatist or white power groups would fall into the extreme right. Typically, these people are aligned with a majority of their political grouping’s platform initiatives, but feel a deep-seated belief that their leaders aren’t taking things far enough. If organized by an influential leader, these groups can fall into fanaticism, feeling invigorated, heard and that their concerns are reinforced. While Donald Trump wasn’t advocating for white nationalist extremism, his rhetoric fanned these flames into ignition. A man who ran on the idea to “Make America Great Again” at the expense of immigrants, refugees, and ethnic groups reiterated the belief that a “Great America” was a “White America”.
This has a great deal to do with the mythological tale of The American Dream. Rooted in the ideals of “Manifest Destiny” we see the pilgrims as folk heroes, escaping oppressive governments to set out on their own, building the country with their own two hands. We can trace our ancestry to Revolutionary war soldiers, farmers and laborers who took up arms to maintain their independence against a tyrannical government. We tell tales of pioneers as setting out into virgin lands, developing the untamed wilderness, because it was our destiny to reshape this country into an agrarian paradise. We are taught that these people are the foundation of blue-collar America, instilled with a work ethic that was learned by hard fought battles for freedom, when the truth is, we were immigrants that turned into conquerors. New Americans came here by emigrating from England and greater Europe. They took over land that was already inhabited, with little disregard for the native populations. They fought wars for the sole ability to displace these native populations. In later decades, the infrastructure of America was built on the backs of new immigrants, both from the East and the West, told the same lies that hard work will lead to greater rewards and riches. They imported slaves from Africa, but once it was deemed slavery an immoral ideal, they fought tooth and nail to establish that freedom does not mean all are equal. It has happened again and again through out American history, rooted primarily in the idea that white America is the established order, and a deep fear of those we deem “The Other”. It is out of this background that a white nationalist attitude arises. It is the fear of replacement, of our carefully misremembered history being forgotten. In a country of rapidly changing values and platforms, there is a point when fear turns into hatred and resentment.
In 2017, we saw these once outlier groups reaching a tipping point. The fear of radical Islamic terrorism gripped the US in the months following the September 11th attacks in 2001. As a country, we had been convinced that Middle Eastern terrorists wanted to destroy our country and our freedoms. We were told that Islam was a preached religion of hate and much like the fear of Asian Americans following Pearl Harbor, the United States was instilled with a fear of Muslim American’s. All of the above has been shown to be false time and again. In the same way that all white American’s are not of a nationalist ideology, Muslim Americans are not secret terrorists plotting the downfall of our freedoms. In reality, there has been 4 attacks by radicalized Islamic terrorists on US soil since 9/11. In fact, “A new database compiled by The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute examines that claim by looking back over a nine-year period, from 2008 through 2016. The findings are dramatic: Far-right plots and attacks outnumber Islamist incidents by almost 2 to 1.” (David Neiwert, Darren Ankrom, Esther Kaplan and Scott Pham ) All of these attacks were by individuals who self-radicalized and carried out attacks in the name of foreign terrorist groups, though not actually directed to do so. Since the election of Donald Trump, there has been at least 15 high profile attacks by radicalized white male extremists holding white nationalist ideologies. Let’s start from the beginning.
2012- Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shooting — Aug 5th, 2012–6 killed
2014- Isla Vista Massace — May 23rd, 2014 -6 killed
An attacker who voiced his hatred of women and people of color in a manifesto before killing six people in California in 2014 signaled a new type of terrorist. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, called the attacker the “first alt-right killer.” Several more attackers who fit this profile killed over the next few years.
2015- Charleston Church Shooting -June 17th, 2015–9 killed
2015- Umpqua Community College Shooting — Oct 1st, 2015–9 killed
Post Election Tension:
2017- Quebec City Mosque Shooting — January 29th, 2017–6 killed
2017- Olathe, Kansas Murder — February 22nd, 2017–1 killed
2017- Manhattan Sword Attack — March 20th, 2017–1 killed
On March 20th, 2017, Timothy Caughman, a 66 year old African American was stabbed with a sword by James Harris Jackosn, a 28 year old white man. Jackson claims he had traveled to New York City with the intention of murdering black men in order to keep them from having interracial relationships with white women.
2017- University of Maryland Stabbing — May 20th, 2017–1 Killed
2017-Portland Train Attack- May 26th, 2017–2 killed
On May 26th, 2017, Jeremy Joseph Christian stabbed Ricky John Best, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, and Micah David Cole Fletcher after they confronted him over a racist and anti-Muslim diatribe directed toward two teenage girls on the MAX light rail. Best and Namkai Meche died of their injuries, while Fletcher survived. Christian was a known right wing extremist and white supremacist operating in the Pacific Northwest.
2017- Unite The Right — Charlottesville Car Attack — August 12th, 2017–1 Killed
On August 12th, 2017, following a peaceful protest of the Unite The Right rally in Charlotteville, VA, James Alex Fields Jr, a man with ties to neo Nazi and white supremacist ideologies, deliberately drove his car into a group of protesters, before fleeing the scene. It resulted in 28 non-fatal injuries, and the death of Heather Heyer, a 32 year old woman part of the protest. Fields was found guilty on the charges of first degree murder, hit and run, and eight counts of malicious wounding on December 7th, 2018, resulting in life in prison for the murder of Heather Heyer, and an additional 419 years for the other counts.
2017- Baton Rouge Attacks — September 2017, 2 Killed
2018 — Parkland School Shooting — February 14th, 2018–17 killed
2018- Santa Fe Highschool Shooting — May 18th, 2018, 10 Killed
2018 — Jeffersontown Kroger Shooting — October 24th, 2018–2 killed
2018- Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting — October 27th, 2018 — Killed 11
2018- Tallahasee Shooting — Novemember 2nd, 2018–2 killed
2018- Murder of Meshon Cooper-Williams — Kansas City, MO
2018-Murder of Blaze Bernstein — Orange County, CA
2019- Christchurch, New Zealand Mosque Attacks — March 19th, 2019 -51 killed
2019 — Poway Synagogue Shooting — April 27th, 2019–1 killed
2019 — El Paso Walmart Shooting — Aug 3rd, 2019- 22 killed
The list grows longer every day. We have a gun problem in America. 253 mass shootings in 214 days in 2019 alone. But this list above is not painted by a gun issue. It is instead an indictment of the nationalist, supremacist, xenophobic attitudes that are prevalent under the surface of today’s society. Why are these still gaining popularity in 2019 America? The answer is the same as previously written in 2016 in the first iteration, in that these beliefs are finding empowerment in this country, and across the globe, because of the embrace and normalization by a large swath of the country. They believe that America’s values and way of life are under attack and that they are being called to defend it. The only problem is that the “values and way of life” is code for whiteness. A large cut of Americans are threatened by the ever growing diversity that this country was built upon.
It’s time to talk about what happened yesterday at the Capitol and how we got here. Yesterday was a coup attempt that started as a conspiratorial grift.
May 30th, the FBI labeled QAnon and like fringe conspiracy movements a domestic terrorist threat. Last week, one of the adherents detonated a RV bomb in Nashville. Yesterday, a massive amount of those followers committed treason and occupied the US Capitol in a coup attempt.
I’ve been writing about this since 2016. I am tired of hearing that I am overreacting, or being alarmist. This was an insurrection. This was egged on and encouraged by Trump, Trump Jr, Giuliani, Hawley, Cruz, Rubio, Cotton, Gaetz and everyone else who delegitimized the democratic process.
This was not done by anti-fascists in disguise, as the new narrative is claiming. This was an amalgamation of QAnon sycophants and militia members of various groups (Oath Keepers, neo Nazis, Proud Boys, etc).
This was a terrorist attack on our democracy and our country, from domestic citizens. There was no condemnation from the people who encouraged it. They shrugged it off in an attempt to save face.
These terrorists were allowed to freely leave the Capitol because they were majority white. They left emboldened, excited, and ready for more. The sheer danger of that alone is hard to quantify. Today was a radicalizing moment for the QAnon and Patriot movements.
We watched thousands of people leave with the taste of perceived victory in their mouths. We watched thousands of possible Timothy McVeigh’s walk away free, wanting more. Ready to die for a fascist agenda.
I cannot stress how dangerous QAnon is, and even more so now. They believe in a fictional narrative that the world is in the midst of a holy war. Their conspiracies stem from ancient conspiracies of “blood libel” and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion -anti Semitic garbage. It feeds off of Anti Vax movements, 9/11 Truther movements, Plandemic and Covid Truther movements, Pizzagate, Sex Trafficking movements ( specifically SaveOurChildren), and so many more. If you see it all laid out, it’s mind boggling.
At its core, these people believe the Jews run the media, are killing children and using their blood to gain power. They believe that the government is fraught with pedophilic Satanists that want to enact a new world order, a dog whistle for anti Semitism.
There is a through line from Waco, Ruby Ridge and Oklahoma City to now. In the 90’s, The Patriot Movement took on Vicki Weaver, wife of Randy Weaver (Ruby Ridge) that was killed by federal agents during a standoff, as their patron saint. She was hailed as a martyr, and pointed to as the definitive proof that the government was coming for you and yours next. Yesterday, Ashli Babbitt, 35, died trying to climb through a window into the Capitol chambers, shot by Capitol police holding the chamber. She died on the floor of the hallway, wrapped in a Trump branded flag. Ashli Babbitt is this generation’s Vicki Weaver. Already, movements are grasping ahold of her memory as a martyr that died at the hands of a tyrannical government. Ashli Babbitt was radicalized by QAnon in November 2019, tweeting about PizzaGate. We see the unholy meshing of a conspiratorial movement and a militia movement in real time. Grown adults dedicating their time to decrypting “shit-posting” on sites like 8Chan/8Kun, grifted by bad faith politicians like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, invigorated by Donald Trump who has convinced them they are living a live version of the Turner Diaries. We are dealing with a movement that believes that Donald Trump is god’s chosen savior, here to rid the world of the Jewish overlords in a new world order. They want to install a right wing regime, they want to correct the social order by ensuring the unquestionable power of the white race. There is a reason they erected a hangman’s post on the Capitol lawn yesterday, a direct reference to the “Day of the Rope” in the Turner Diaries. There is a reason they left more invigorated than they came. Because they truly believe this is all part of a larger plan set in play by a failed-real-estate-developer-turned-reality-show-star-turned-political-criminal-and-traitor. Hear me when I say this. This is a death cult.
Your neighbors might believe this. Your family might believe this. We have senators and representatives that believe this. Yesterday was what happens when you let fascism fester unchecked.
We might have won the senate and the presidency, but our work is not even close to done. We will be dealing with white nationalist terrorism for the rest of our lives. We need to call this out.
Many of us have been talking about this for years. We saw it for what it was. We were chastised, gaslit, and called alarmists. None of us felt great that we were right yesterday. In fact, it was the most sickening feeling I can remember. But it’s more important now than ever that you take notice and that you understand what we’re up against now.
People like Sarah Kendzior, David Neiwert, Jared Yates Sexton, Timothy D Snyder, Wajahat Ali, Brooke Binkowski, and many many others have been saying this for years. It’s time to listen, to understand that this isn’t going away and to realize that we do not get to go back from this. We must find a way forward.