There has long been a phenomenon relating to those who have difficulty fitting in with polite society – people who look different than others; who are darker, bigger, taller, shorter, fatter, clumsier, or poorer. After being ostracized, bullied and left out, once they find others who have suffered from the same issues and band together, they, too, become bullies. And often they become more ruthless than those who have abused them.
I believe that phenomenon, combined with the anonymity of the Internet, is at the root of the rise of hate groups.
The Internet has become the sanctuary and gathering place to haters of a great variety. Most of these are people who have some sort of grievance: Young men who are unable to establish a relationship with a woman, those who despise the government and the so-called coastal elites, those who are jealous of people who are more educated and socially adept, those who fear different customs or different religions, and those who blame all of their problems on black and brown people, immigrants and refugees. The Internet affords these people a place to connect with the similarly aggrieved. It’s especially useful to white nationalists and neo-Nazis.
The anger of all of these haters has been mainstreamed by media such as Breitbart, right-wing radio and Fox News Channel. Moreover, Trump’s disdain for political correctness (i.e., polite and civil discourse) has given the haters a license to say and do whatever they feel.
We saw this in Charlottesville at the gathering of the “alt-right,” in Charleston at the Emanuel African-American Episcopal Church, in Pittsburg at the Tree of Life Synagogue and, most recently, in Christchurch, New Zealand at the Muslim mosques. These atrocities were all committed by people inspired by Trump’s attacks on Mexicans, Latinos, Muslims, people of color and Democrats – attacks that have been amplified by his most ardent followers on underground racist websites such as 4Chan and 8Chan.
Trump is the reason the number of active hate groups soared to an all-time high in 2018. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center that monitors such things, at the end of 2018, there were 1,020 active hate groups – white nationalist, neo-Nazi, anti-black, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim groups whose members are willing to commit crimes. And these groups don’t even include the less organized “sovereign citizens” like Cliven Bundy and those who aimed their guns at government BLM employees and commandeered a nature preserve in Oregon. And they don’t include the Republican Party, which has become a hate group in its own right determined to punish opponents, suppress votes and deny civil rights to people of color, the LGBTQ community and Muslims.
Worse, thanks to Trump and his sycophants, these hateful ideologies are spreading around the globe. Indeed, Steve Bannon, Trump’s former Chief Strategist has been traveling Europe to spread his message of hate and fear financed by the billionaire Mercer family. At a recent European rally, Bannon told his audience that he wears the term racist as a badge of honor.
The goal is to unite the extreme far right to take over political control of western Europe. To what end we can only speculate. But it seems the intent is to destabilize western governments for the benefit of the oligarchs and autocrats. And, based on resentment of Syrian refugees and some long-standing grievances, they have had some success in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, even Sweden.
Unless our traditional political institutions are able to figuratively and literally disarm this movement, we can probably expect to see many more episodes similar to what we just witnessed in New Zealand.