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The January 6 hearings spotlight white social media supremacy

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The evidence is mounting that white nationalist groups who wanted to establish an all-white state played a major role in the violent attack on the United States Capitol that left five dead and dozens injured.

So far the hearings have been “documented how the Proud Boys helped lead the rebellious mob in the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC,” journalist James Risen wrote in the Intercept.

Based on July 12, 2022, testimonial from a former member of Oath Keepersthe white nationalist group coordinated with the Three Percentraanother group of white nationalists, and the Proud boys in mobilize their extremist groups to meet on January 6 in Washington, DC, as requested by President Trump in his December 16, 2020 tweet.

As a cultural anthropologist who has studied these movements for more than a decade, I know that membership in these organizations is not limited to the attempted violent overthrow of the government and poses an ongoing threat, as evidenced by the massacres carried out by young men radicalized by this movement.

In 2020, for example, the Department of Homeland Security described domestic violent extremists as “with the most tenacious and deadly threatto the people of the United States and the government of the country.

In March 2021, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress that the number of arrests of white supremacists and other racially motivated extremists has nearly tripled since he took office in 2017.

“Jan. 6 was not an isolated event,” Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The problem of domestic terrorism has been spreading across the country for a long time and will not go away anytime soon.”

The Center for Southern Poverty Justicea nonprofit civil rights group, followed 733 active hate groups in the United States in 2021.

Based on my research, the internet and social media have made the problem of white racist hatred much worse and more visible; it’s both more approachable and ultimately more violent, as seen on Jan. 6 in the US Capitol and the shooting deaths of ten black people at a grocery store in Buffalo, among other examples.

An extensive, online network

In the 1990s, former KKK leaders, including David Duke rebranded white supremacy for the digital age.

They switched KKK robes for business suits and connected neo-Nazi anti-Semitic conspiracies with wider anti-black, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim racism.

From the 1990s to the late 2000s, this movement largely built discrete online communities and websites that spread racist disinformation.

Fill in the ‘alt-right’

White nationalist leaders, such as Richard Spencerwanted an even bigger audience and influence.

Spencer coined the term “alt-right” for this, with the aim of blurring the relationship between white nationalism and white conservatism. He did this by founding non-profit think tanks like the National Policy Institute that earned him and other white supremacists an academic veneer to spread their views on white supremacy.

This strategy worked.

Today, many white nationalist ideas that were once relegated to the fringes of society are being embraced by the wider conservative movement.

Take for example the Great Replacement Theory. The conspiracy theory misinterprets demographic change as an active effort to replace white Americans with people of color.

This baseless notion establishes that blacks and Latinos are becoming ever-larger percentages of the American population, painting that data as the result of a supposedly active effort by unnamed multiculturalists to oust white Americans from power in an increasingly diverse nation.

A recent poll showed that more than 50% of Republicans now believe in this conspiracy theory.

In 2016, during Trump’s presidential campaign, co-founder of Vice Magazine Gavin McInnes formed the Proud boys to further the goals of the alt-right by protecting white identity with the use of force when necessary.

Proud Boys members are affiliated with white nationalist ideas and leaders but explicitly deny racism. Instead of, they describe themselves as “western chauvinists” who believe in the supremacy of European culture, but also welcome members of every race who support this idea.

Along with pro-gun militias like the Oath Keepers and Three Percentrathe Proud Boys are an experiment in spreading white nationalist ideas to an online universe of potentially millions of social media users.

Why do people join these groups?

Data from manifestos posted online by white nationalist groups shows that many mass shooters share a few common characteristics: they are young, white, male, and they spend a lot of time online on the same websites.

The alleged gunman in the murder of 10 black people in a predominantly black neighborhood in Buffalo on May 14, 2022, described his reason as wanting to stop what he feared was the elimination “of the white race.”

For many of these individuals, the most important part of their radicalization was not about their private lives or personality traits, but instead where they spent time online.

A racially diverse democracy at stake

The reasons why men join groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers – and even some liberal groups – is less clear.

a former Proud Boy member offered one reason:“They want to join a gang,” Russell Schultz told CNN on Nov. 25, 2020. “So they can fight antifa and hurt people they don’t like, and feel justified in doing it.”

Antifa is a loose group of mostly nonviolent activists who are against fascism.

Other former extremist group members describe: looking for camaraderie and friendship, but also looking for racism and anti-Semitism.

But more than any other problem, racial demographic changes provide recruiting opportunities for white nationalists, many of whom believe that by the year 2045 white people will become the minority in the United States.

In July 2021, the most recent date for which statistics are available, the US Census Bureau notes that of the estimated population of 330 million US citizens75.8% are white, 18.9% are Hispanic, 13.6% are black and 6% are Asian.

What is also becoming clearer is that the spread of white nationalism jeopardizes the idea of ​​a democratic nation where racial diversity is seen as a strength, not a weakness.

Sophie Bjork-James is an assistant professor of practice in anthropology at Vanderbilt University.

This article was republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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