SPLC Report on Increases in Racist and Other Hate Groups

The Southern Poverty Law Center just put out its spring 2009 “Intelligence Report,” with important articles on racist and other hate groups, on the “sovereign” movements, and on anti-immigrant groups like the “minutemen.”

The report has this to say about the striking increases in racist and other hate groups in the last year or so:

From white power skinheads decrying “President Obongo” at a racist gathering in rural Missouri, to neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen hurling epithets at Latino immigrants from courthouse steps in Oklahoma, to anti-Semitic black separatists calling for death to Jews on bustling street corners in several East Coast cities, hate group activity in the U.S. was disturbing and widespread throughout 2008, as the number of hate groups operating in America continued to rise. Last year, 926 hate groups were active in the U.S., up more than 4% from 888 in 2007. That’s more than a 50% increase since 2000, when there were 602 groups.

Immigrants are a major target now for these groups, with much new support for the racist anti-immigrant groups coming from commentators in the mainstream mass media. The language of immigrant “invasion” and “flooding,” as well as animalizing words, is very much increasing across the media and the Internet, extending the language attacks so well described by linguist Otto Santa Ana in his work on the Los Angeles Times back in the 1990s. He discovered numerous reports on Latin American immigrants that used racialized metaphors. Reporters often used words and metaphors portraying Mexican and other Latin American immigrants as animals, invaders, and disreputable persons. They wrote of the need to “ferret out illegal immigrants,” of government programs being “a lure to immigrants,” of the appetite for “the red meat of deportation,” and of government agents catching “a third of their quarry.” Other terms and metaphors portrayed these immigrants as dangerous, as a burden, dirt, disease, invasion, or waves flooding the nation.

Today, as earlier, In the mainstream media those who craft such images of an alien people flooding and threatening the nation are not working class whites. They are middle and upper middle class whites. Working class and lower middle class whites may pick up on, and extend, such negative metaphors. Today, as a decade back, on numerous Internet websites, as well as in videos and books, white supremacist and other anti-immigrant groups describe Mexican and other Latino immigrants as a “cultural cancer” or a “wildfire.” They too are sometimes concerned that Mexicans have a plan to “reconquer” the United States.

The SPLC report adds this chilling note on increases in hate groups:

As in recent years, hate groups were animated by the national immigration debate. But two new forces also drove them in 2008: the worsening recession, and Barack Obama’s successful campaign to become the nation’s first black president. Officials reported that Obama had received more threats than any other presidential candidate in memory, and several white supremacists were arrested for saying they would assassinate him or allegedly plotting to do so.