Back in August, hundreds of neo-Nazis and white nationalists converged in Charlottesville, Virginia, during the so-called “Unite the Right” rally. Before the rally was over, one protester, Heather Heyer, was dead after alleged white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of anti-white supremacy protesters.
In the behind-the-scenes video below, a “VICE News Tonight” team interviewed prominent white nationalist leaders, counterprotesters, residents of Charlottesville, members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Charlottesville Police. The video reveals that anti-semitism, racism and other old white supremacist prejudices die hard.
A paper by Nico Voigtländer and Hans-Joachim Voth, entitled, “Persecution Perpetuated: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Semitic Violence in Nazi Germany,” published by The Quarterly Journal of Economics in 2012, reminds us that anti-Semitism has been around since the Medieval era. The authors state in the paper’s abstract:
Using data on anti-Semitism in Germany, we find local continuity over 600 years. Jews were often blamed when the Black Death killed at least a third of Europe’s population during 1348–50. We use plague-era pogroms as an indicator for medieval anti-Semitism. They reliably predict violence against Jews in the 1920s, votes for the Nazi Party, deportations after 1933, attacks on synagogues, and letters to Der Stürmer.
In recent years, white supremacists have increasingly gained political power in most established democracies through hate-inspired fair-right parties and politicians. Xenophobia, dog whistle politics, and anti-immigrant rhetoric inspired the Brexit vote.
For the first time in six decades, white nationalism will have a strong representation in Germany’s Bundestag after the far-right Alternative für Deutschland captured 13% of the vote in the recent election.
Sebastian Kurz, 31, is set to become Austria’s next chancellor after his centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) won 31.6 per cent of the vote during recent elections. The neo-Nazi linked anti-immigration Freedom Party captured 26 per cent of the vote. According to the BBC News, Kurz “appealed to conservative and right-wing voters with pledges to shut down migrant routes to Europe, cap benefit payments to refugees, and bar immigrants from receiving benefits until they have lived in Austria for five years.” Earlier this week, Kurz invited the Freedom Party to form a coalition government.
According to the New York Times, Austria’s lurch to the right represents a new normal in Europe, “where anti-immigration populism and nationalism are challenging the European Union’s commitment to open borders for trade and immigration.”
During the 2016 US presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump was often accused of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitism bigotries. House Speaker Paul Ryan once rebuked him for making comment that fit the “textbook definition of a racist comment“. In April 2016, Andrew Anglin, the founder and editor of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, said “Jews, Blacks and lesbians will be leaving America if Trump gets elected — and he’s happy about it,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Trump’s election to the White House is now often cited as a factor in the ongoing resurgence of far-right movements across the US. The SPLC is currently tracking at least than 1,600 white extremist groups.
White supremacist leaders and their groups are not only currently enjoying increasing visibility. They are also freaking the hell out of even right-leaning politicians. Florida’s Republican Gov Rick Scott declared a state of emergency ahead of white supremacist and “terrorist leader” Richard Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida last week.
Some big-name modern technology companies, the Internet and fake news are fueling white supremacy’s unexpected resurgence.
Websites and social media platforms offer white supremacists a community, sense of belonging, and more. The SPLC says The Daily Stormer website is “dedicated to spreading anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, and white nationalism, primarily through guttural hyperbole and epithet-laden stories about topics like alleged Jewish world control and black-on-white crime.”
Facebook and Google helped a conservative anti-refugee campaign, Secure America Now, to target voters in swing states during the 2016 US presidential election, Bloomberg News recently reported. According to the publication, ads appearing on targeted users’ Facebook feeds and Google websites depicted Germany and France being overrun by Sharia law, with the later becoming the Islamic State of France. The ads were created with the aid and “direct collaboration” of the tech giants’ employees.
A recent investigation by ProPublica, a New York-based Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom, found that Facebook enabled advertisers to reach users who identified with hate-inspired categories such as “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” and “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’” Following ProPublica‘s report, Slate reported that Facebook advertisers had easily reached users interested in offensive topics popular with some hate groups, such as “Kill Muslimic Radicals” and “Ku-Klux-Klan”.
Are we winning the war against the resurgent white supremacy? After Charlotteville, several web hosts moved to nuke websites associated with white supremacist groups. For example, GoDaddy dropped The Daily Stormer after it’d mocked Heather Heyer, the anti-white supremacy protester killed during the “Unite the Right” rally. The web services company Cloudflare recently ended its relationship with the site, according to Gizmodo.
Silencing white supremacists on the Internet is counterproductive. It only leads to more paranoia and conspiracy theories. It leads to more white feelings of persecution and so-called white genocide. It leads to more ignorance and denial. During the “Unite the Right” rally, Peter Cvjetanovic was photographed chanting a Nazi-era slogan while brandishing a flaming torch. The photo went viral. Cvjetanovic, a 20-year old university student, later told the media, “I hope that the people sharing the photo are willing to listen that I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo.” Really?
Silencing white supremacists on the Internet would only lead to more acts violence similar to those recently perpetrated by Anders Breivik and Rhodesia-inspired Dylann Roof.
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based blogger, activist, photographer, digital rights enthusiast, former political aide, and former international development administrator. He’s the founder and editor of these blogs: The Canadian Progressive, Zimbabwean Progressive, and Charity Files. Follow him on Twitter: @Obiemad