Perhaps yesterday’s news of a House Judiciary hearing on hate crimes and white nationalism on social media failed to get the attention merited. However, what did is the milieu that led to the unprecedented shutting down of a YouTube live stream of the hearing after being inundated with an untold number of anti-Semitic and racist tirades and comments.
The odious diatribe clearly exhibited the challenges that lawmakers continue to face, and more concerning, the few legislative options on the table.
The hearing included executives from Facebook and Google and a host of others who presented their perspectives and recommendations to address this growing phenomenon. The hearing comes just a few months after the worst attack on the Jewish community in American history and weeks after a terror attack on two mosques in New Zealand that was streamed live on Facebook.
In just the past three years we have witnessed a noteworthy resurgence in ultra-nationalism and white supremacist attacks here and abroad. At protest rallies in Sweden, UK, Germany, Poland, Italy, and here in the United States, where just a few marginalized extremists would have assembled to attend rallies and gatherings, today, the partakers are in the thousands.
Ultra-nationalists now execute well-planned attacks, some of which openly deliberated on social media sites. Hate crimes and unabashed terror attacks against minority communities have intensified, misinformation efforts to influence acts of violence and elaborate media stunts have become a daily occurrence. Several successful and foiled terrorist plots – some involving members of European and American national armed forces – have reportedly been inspired by white supremacist ideologies.
Characterized by a transnational viewpoint, hi-tech sophistication, and outreach to groups outside of the traditional recruitment pool for ultra-nationalists and white supremacists has become mainstream. This burgeoning paradox has manifested by displaying its simplicity and appealing to followers who once held seemingly contradictory ideologies, where they now seemingly join forces for the sake of achieving common goals.
Our international intelligence and security agencies are just now coming to realize the need to examine points of connectivity and collaboration between disparate groups and assess the interplay between different extreme-right movements, key influencers and subcultures both online and offline, as they have become more bold in their words, with some moving effortlessly from flash to bang! Those who believe that racial supremacy gives them a natural superiority or at least a natural authority in their homelands, have not only found plenty of friends abroad, but even international struggles to join.
Since the creation of the Internet, ultra-nationalists and white supremacists have leveraged online platforms to connect across national borders and to shape their movements. The slogan of many white supremacist sites remains “White Pride World Wide,” pronouncing their vision for an international movement. Today, members of the movements are working toward the development of a single site called the System. Not dissimilar to what Al Qaeda and ISIS built for its followers.
Many white nationalists see international solidarity as a central strategy, as groups in North America, the UK, and Europe often share similar ideologies, specifically a hatred of Islam, Jews, and other minorities, anti-immigrant platforms, and a fear of demographic change.
This increasing transnational coordination matters not only because it enhances their narrative, but also because these loosely linked movements can serve as entries to each other. Extremists, white supremacists, and ultra-nationalists have demonstrated to be a progressively powerful force in geopolitics.
Just as the Internet catapulted the jihadi universe and created a global support community for Islamic extremists, it has networked and inspired the ultra-nationalists and white supremacist movements. The fact that we are now experiencing an unprecedented surge in domestic terrorist attacks against religious institutions and people, many of which were shared either subsequent to or post-attack, quickly shows just how successful these wide-open platforms have been to the growth of these anti-Semitic, racist, and xenophobic movements. The accessibility to these sites makes it easy for gradual indoctrination, particularly on social media platforms where tech companies long ignored the warning signs that their platforms were contributing to the radicalization of far-right and Islamic extremists. This remains a persistent challenge for legislatures law enforcement, and the online social media tech companies.
I am pleased to be part of a unique initiative, the Rutgers University Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience focused on addressing the transnational threats facing vulnerable communities and houses of worship. This coming June, RU’s Miller Center, partnering with Stockton University will be hosting an unparalleled international Symposium where highly regarded authorities representing American and European faith-based leaders will be joined by an international cadre of law enforcement professionals and other experts from several European nations to address a wide range of topics, including global threats to vulnerable institutions and its people, the rise of ultra-nationalist extremism and hate on social media, and sharing of best practices and real-time information.
For more information about this conference, contact Todd VanCantfort at [email protected].