As Trump pitches fight against 'Islamic terrorists', where is the alarm over disenfranchised men being lured into white supremacist movements?
White supremacy swept to power the day Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. His most ardent supporters championed him across the world. For them, Trump signalled the resurgence of white male dominance and they weren’t ashamed to celebrate it.
The Southern Poverty Law Center documented 1,094 hate related incidences in the US since the first month of Trump’s election victory
Their influence is growing. Following Trump’s executive order to ban citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US – a decree overturned by federal courts - white nationalists took to Reddit to express their joy. Trump, it seemed, was the real deal.
One user even said that he was so proud of Trump that he couldn’t possibly "raise his right arm any higher" – a reference to the Nazi salute.
These posts aren’t anecdotal. The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented 1,094 hate-related incidences in the US since the first month of Trump’s election victory. In 37 percent of all cases, there was a direct reference to Trump or something he said.
The SPLC has also counted 892 hate groups in the US, the clear majority of which espouse white supremacist views.
Many of these movements are active on gaming networks and internet forums such as Stormfront, which has become a breeding ground for far right-wing extremists.
Now, the White House is presenting racism as an acceptable ideology, resulting in the radicalisation of young white men across the world.
It’s time we talk about it.
The face of Fascism
Richard Spencer is a self-declared "white nationalist" who founded the Alt-Right – Alternative Right – movement in 2010. He has erecently kicked off a tour of college campuses to recruit new members who are disillusioned with the Republican political establishment.
In 2015, Muslims experienced a 67 percent increase in hate crimes directed towards them
At its core, the Alt-Right claims to protect white people from an unfolding "cultural genocide" perpetrated by the empowerment of feminists and people of colour. But who is supposed to protect everybody else from bigots like Spencer?
In 2015, the FBI reported that out of the 2,125 hate crime offences recorded against blacks, white people were the perpetrators 58 percent of the time. Whites, on the other hand, were victims in only 10 percent of the total of 5,850 reported incidences.
Meanwhile, Muslims experienced a 67 percent increase in hate crimes directed towards them in the same time frame. Anti-Semitic attacks remained the most frequent.
The real figures could be much higher since many states don’t report hate crimes to the FBI. That’s only part of the problem. The fact the White House is propagating hate speech is more worrying.
Lecia Brooks, the outreach director for SPLC, said that their centre has started a programme on college campuses to try and safeguard young white men from radicalisation. She also emphasised the importance of engaging with Republican groups who sponsor talks by people like Spencer.
“[Minorities] are very concerned with the increase of anti-Semitism and anti-feminism,” Lecia told MEE.
“[America] just can’t afford to backtrack on these things. [SPLC] is speaking on campuses all the time and speaking to administrators as well.”
Fact or fiction?
Despite the efforts of groups like SPLC, propaganda is difficult to counter.
Last year, Breitbart News – an Alt-Right outlet that Trump promoted during his campaign – experienced a considerable spike in traffic from 13 million to 19 million visitors.
The resurgence of Nazi aspirations hasn’t compelled governments to seriously ponder how to safeguard young white men from extremism – unlike the hysteria that follows people of colour and Muslims when a crime is committed in their name
Such platforms and the leaders who endorse them are radicalising people beyond the US. That much was clear after a white French-Canadian student stepped into an Islamic Cultural Centre late last month and killed six men for no reason other than their faith.
It was later revealed that the shooter supported Trump and the far-right French politician Marine Le Pen.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the killing a terrorist attack. However, the resurgence of Nazi aspirations hasn’t compelled governments to seriously ponder how to safeguard young white men from extremism – unlike the hysteria that follows people of colour and Muslims when a crime is committed in their name.
That trend is certain to continue. Donald Trump’s administration is already pushing to remove neo-Nazis and white supremacists from the US governmment's counter-extremism programme. Instead, they want to concentrate solely on "Islamic terrorists" and change the name of the programme from 'Countering Violent Extremism' to 'Countering Radical Islamic Extremism'.
Never mind an FBI report, written more than 10 years ago, that warned about white supremacists groups infiltrating local and state law enforcement. The disturbing truth is that they won’t have to look over their shoulder as long as Trump is in charge.
If only the same can be said about young black men who continue to be profiled, harassed and killed by the police.
The banality of Trump
Many Trump supporters, while understandably fed up with the corrupt political establishment, failed to combat the bigotry of their candidate.
His campaign catered to the most extreme prejudices of white America. The nation’s racist past appeared to be an afterthought for his supporters. Not much has changed in the first weeks of his presidency.
The latest Reuters opinion poll reported that more people supported Trump’s executive order to ban Muslims than opposed it. Opinions were divided almost entirely along political party lines.
That’s not to say that everyone who agrees with Trump is radicalised. But it does suggest that people are buying into the fears being fed to them.
Trump is shoving a vision of the world – deprived of nuance and tolerance – down the throats of anyone willing to swallow it.
His tactics aren’t new. The Jewish German political theorist, Hannah Arendt, once wrote: “the sad truth is that most evil is done by those who never make up their minds to be good or evil".
These words couldn’t be more relevant. Trump’s administration is counting on their most passive supporters to approve presidential decrees while hoping those who resist eventually normalise the unacceptable.
If that happens, white supremacy will thrive in the wake of indifference.
- Mat Nashed is a journalist covering Middle East-related news. Focusing on black markets and migration, he has reported from Turkey, Lebanon and Tunisia, with his work appearing on VICE, Al-Monitor and Al-Jazeera.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo: Neo-Nazi protestors organised by the National Socialist Movement demonstrate near the grand opening ceremonies were held for the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center on 19 April 2009 (AFP)
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.