Hate in America always has existed. But for decades, its most obvious and blatant forms largely lay dormant. Now, with reports of hate crimes on the rise, neo-Nazis proudly marching on the streets and the president serving as inspiration for some of them, the country seems to be at an inflection point.
How did we get here?
The most important reporting about hate in America attempted to answer this question. It looked at the people driving the movement and the institutions that abetted it, whether tacitly or explicitly. These stories helped us look into white supremacy’s recent past and, hopefully, provided a glimpse of its future.
To recap the year, we’ve put together a list of our top five stories and our favorite stories from other journalists:
Waves of far-right protests swept across the country this year, often met with counterprotests. This podcast breaks down the moment when one of these protests turned ugly and our journalists landed in the middle of it all.
Andrew Anglin, perhaps the best-known neo-Nazi in America, is being sued for leading a targeted harassment campaign against a Jewish family. The case could have far-reaching implications for the limits of freedom of speech on the internet. But it’s been complicated by the fact that Anglin has disappeared. Where in the world is he? We don’t know, but we exposed his claim of being in Nigeria as mighty thin.
A racist version of ancient Odinism, founded in Scandinavia, is fast becoming the de facto official belief system of the white supremacist movement. And in some cases, religious fervor is turning deadly. We found at least six cases since 2001 in which professed racist Odinists have been convicted of plotting – or pulling off – domestic terror attacks.
One of the core themes driving the mainstreaming of hate is a shift in messaging. Perhaps nowhere was this more apparent than in secret chat rooms of a messaging app called Discord in the lead-up to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Leaked transcripts of the chats showed a preoccupation with putting forward the right message.
White nationalist leader Richard Spencer’s family got rich the same way as many other white families in the South: from the labor of African Americans. Spencer funds his activities partly from his family’s cotton farms in a predominantly black region of Louisiana. The family benefits from extensive farm subsidies as well. That income is supplemented, we learned, by funding from a reclusive wealthy benefactor with deep family ties to an influential conservative publishing house.
The best hate reporting from other media outlets:
Charlottesville: Race and Terror (VICE News)
The deadly far-right rally in Charlottesville marked a turning point in how America talks about hate. Here were large numbers of neo-Nazis and white supremacists marching with torches and shouting Nazi slogans and anti-Semitic slurs. It was a wake-up call for many Americans.
Perhaps no one captured this seminal moment in American history more effectively than VICE News, whose viral video from inside the neo-Nazi camp showed pure, unabashed hate flowing from heavily armed white men. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s essential viewing.
Alt-White: How the Breitbart Machine Laundered Racist Hate (Joseph Bernstein of BuzzFeed News)
When President Donald Trump ascended to the White House, Breitbart News head honcho Steve Bannon was the man behind the throne. This story, based on a trove of leaked emails, showed how Breitbart golden boy Milo Yiannopoulos courted neo-Nazis, such as The Daily Stormer’s Andrew Auernheimer and American Renaissance’s Devin Saucier.
To sum it all up, the piece contains a perfect metaphor: video of Yiannopoulos at a Dallas karaoke bar singing “America the Beautiful” while an audience of white supremacists, including Spencer, threw up something that looked exactly like Nazi salutes.
The Making of an American Nazi (Luke O’Brien of The Atlantic)
In the world of white supremacist hate, there is no website more important than The Daily Stormer. It has served as a gateway to radicalization for a generation of internet-savvy white supremacists, while also directing harassment campaigns targeted at the white power movement’s perceived enemies.
This fascinating story shows how The Daily Stormer’s Anglin transitioned from a vegan hippie into one of the world’s most influential purveyors of hate.
Here’s a key passage:
Like many young men on the extreme right, Anglin hadn’t just given up on the idea of the United States as a liberal democracy. He wanted to burn it to the ground. “There is rapidly approaching a time when in every White Western city, corpses will be stacked in the streets as high as men can stack them,” he wrote. “And you are either going to be stacking or getting stacked.”
Honorable mention – Pony Nationalism and the Furred Reich: Inside the Alt-Furry’s Online Zoo (Roisin Kiberd of Motherboard)
Are there neo-Nazis hiding among the furry ranks of the grown men who love My Little Pony? It’s 2017, of course there are.
Happy holidays, everyone! We’ll see y’all next year.
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Have a hate incident to report? Tell us about it here, or contact the Hate Report team: Aaron Sankin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Will Carless can be reached at email@example.com. Follow them on Twitter: @asankin and @willcarless.