Number of American hate groups increased in 2017: Watchdog

Among White Supremacy groups, neo-Nazi organizations saw the most growth

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published February 22, 2018 7:00AM (EST)

 (Getty/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)
(Getty/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

In the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) alarming annual report, “The SPLC’s Year in Hate and Extremism,” the nonprofit advocacy group noted that hate groups in the United States increased by 4 percent from 2016 to 2017.

More precisely, the number of hate groups rose from 917 in 2016 to 954 in 2017. In 2014, there were 784 hate groups — meaning, there has been about a 20 percent increase since 2014. Interestingly, from 2010 to 2012, the number of hate groups, according to the SPLC, surpassed 1,000; they peaked at 1,018 in 2011, declined before reaching a trough in 2014, then began to climb again.

Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said the recent increase can be linked directly to Donald Trump’s rise to power.

“President Trump in 2017 reflected what white supremacist groups want to see: a country where racism is sanctioned by the highest office, immigrants are given the boot and Muslims banned,” Beirich said. “When you consider that only days into 2018, Trump called African countries ‘shitholes,’ it’s clear he’s not changing his tune. And that’s music to the ears of white supremacists.”

The SPLC defines a hate group “as an organization that – based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities – has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

According to the report, black nationalist hate groups, defined as “groups that have always been a reaction to white racism,” increased from 193 chapters in 2016 to 233 chapters in 2017. Additionally, neo-Nazi groups showed substantial growth — from 99 in 2016 to 212 in 2017. Hate groups exhibiting anti-Muslim sentiments also increased for the third year in a row, from 101 chapters in 2016 to 114 in 2017.

The SPLC added two “male supremacy” groups for the first time in this year’s report — seemingly a reaction to the larger feminist movement and the #MeToo sub-movement. The "male supremacy" groups, according to the report, are A Voice for Men, based in Houston, Texas, and Return of Kings, based in Washington, D.C.

The SPLC notes that the documented increase could be an underestimate.

“The overall number of hate groups likely understates the real level of hate in America, because a growing number of extremists, particularly those who identify with the alt-right, operate mainly online and may not be formally affiliated with a hate group,” the report explains.

In addition to hate groups, the watchdog’s findings discovered 689 active anti-government groups — 273 of which constituted “armed militias.”

By Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a senior writer at Salon, specializing in health and science. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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Donald Trump Hate Groups Neo Nazis Southern Poverty Law Center Splc’s Year In Hate And Extremism