Six months since neo-Nazis, white supremacists and “alt-right” activists joined forced and took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, in a parade of hate that reverberated across America, organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally have more visibility, but not much else to show for it.
An analysis prepared by the Anti-Defamation League finds that extremists participating in the Charlottesville march emerged weaker and more fractured than before. They are also coping with the consequences of intense scrutiny and retribution they had never seen in their previous years of extremist activism.
At the same time, the report, published Monday on the six month anniversary of the August 12 rally, also found a rise in violent attacks carried out by some of the participating groups, indicating perhaps a further radicalization among American white nationalists.
The bottom line, however, seems clear: If the goal of descending on Charlottesville to protest the city’s planned removal of Confederate statue was to unite all factions of America’s nationalist movements, then it was a glaring failure.
“Any harmony was short-lived,” the report states. “In the days immediately after Unite the Right, those divisions re-emerged, stronger than ever.”
The main division is between groups broadly classified as “hard right” and those on the “alt-right.” All share the goal of a “white America,” but diverge on tactics. Charlottesville stands out as their only major effort to cooperate on a national level, and the ADL has seen only a few small-scale, sporadic attempts to repeat such cooperation.
Participant in the rally, which brought together all stripes of white nationalists — from the Ku Klux Klan to armed militias to “alt-right” online activists — have also suffered consequences on the personal and organizational levels.
Websites of hate groups, such as the white supremacist publication Daily Stormer, were kicked off hosting platforms such as Google and GoDaddy. Social media companies became stricter in banning white nationalists and neo-Nazis, as did crowdsourcing websites. Companies like Airbnb announced they will not rent properties to members of these groups. And many rally participants, who were caught on camera marching open-faced and chanting racist slogans, lost their jobs, were outed publicly as bigots and “doxxed,” a measure in which their personal and financial information was posted online.
Subsequently, according to the report, most white supremacist online activity migrated to platforms that are less regulated but are also mostly out of reach for mainstream users.
But while public attention and increased scrutiny succeeded in limiting and fracturing the nationalistic right, the ensuing months saw an increase in white supremacist violence across America. The report points out a series of murders attributed to members of extremist groups, including the December killing of gay Jewish college student Blaze Bernstein allegdly carried out by a sympathizer of the Atomwaffen Division organization. Other violent incident included increasing calls for a “race war” and attacks on counter-protesters.
“It’s been a period marked by seismic structural shifts and more than a few power struggles,” the ADL concluded, noting that a the spirit of solidarity among white supremacists in Charlottesville has since dissipated. “And yet, by some measures, evidence of white supremacist activism and engagement is more conspicuous than ever before.”
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.