Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other far-right agitators circle counterprotesters at a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. Credit: Shay Horse/NurPhoto via AP Images

In this week’s report: We’re launching a crowdsourcing effort to improve our reporting on hate in America.

We recently completed a big project outlining how, across the country, people have been invoking the name of President Donald Trump in hate speech and hate-fueled attacks.

Reporting that story, we interviewed dozens of people of different ages, races, religions and sexual identities. By scouring the Documenting Hate database, we heard experiences that we, as individuals, never have lived or even fully understood. By listening to so many voices, we heard a pattern, and that pattern became an investigation, which then became a story.   

The more people we can speak with, and learn from — the more stories we can hear — the better we will understand hate’s complicated place within American society.

Now, we’re going to apply the open-source attitude to all of our hate coverage. And we want your help.

You’re smart, passionate people. That’s why you’ve taken the time to subscribe to, and (hopefully) read, our weekly reports. We think many of you have expertise, or experiences, or ideas, or all of the above, that can help us understand and explain the people and movements we write about.

So, we’re frequently going to be including a new section in this report called Help Wanted. This is exactly what it sounds like – a call for contributions of time, research, knowledge, data, contacts, sources and ideas from you, our readers. This is part of an effort we’re a part of called Join the Beat. It’s a collaboration between a bunch of news organizations, organized by the Membership Puzzle Project, to harness the crowd to make beat reporting better.

This comes as we’re also contemplating a shift in our focus. For the last year or so, we’ve been especially interested in the alt-right groups that came rushing into the public eye in the fall of 2016. In the wake of the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, for many reasons, many of these groups have receded back into the shadows. We want to go beyond the headline-grabbing photos of giant, flaming swastikas to examine how discrimination manifests itself more widely and insidiously in the United States. (More on this below.)

If you’re interesting in getting involved, please take a minute to answer a couple of questions here.

In that spirit, here’s a bit of background on who we are and what interests us:

Aaron:

I’m both African American and Jewish, two groups that aren’t especially popular with most hate groups. That background has informed my reporting on stories I’ve explored over the past year such as the intersection of fake news and white supremacy, the thriving online fandom for mass murderers and the decline of the KKK.

I’m interested in exploring the edges of white supremacy – how this hateful and frequently violent ideology intersects with the world at large. I want to look at what entices people to join hate groups and what pushes them to leave. I also plan on examining how the rhetoric of white supremacists spreads into the wider political culture and how that political culture, in turn, drives their hate.

These interactions between the hate movement and the world at large are important because this type of hate primarily lives in the shadows, both the metaphorical and literal. It’s often difficult to difficult to trace its shape until it bumps up against the rest of society. Those collisions are frequently tragic, but they’re how the story is told.

Will:

First off, I’m (sort of) a Brit. Though I was born in New York, I have spent much of my life outside the United States. But that also means I bring an outsider’s perspective to covering hate in the United States. What you guys think is normal, I can point out is really quite strange to the rest of the world!  

In the last year, I’ve looked at how an ancient Nordic religion has inspired white terrorists, I have embedded with antifa, camped in Florida and spent weeks researching extremist kids summer camps across the country, and talked to more than 80 people about their experiences with Trump-tinged hate. A couple of weeks ago, I hung out with some neo-Nazis at a rally in Georgia before they went on to burn a huge swastika and throw up Nazi salutes.

Now, I want to understand hate in America’s institutions. I want to know how deep hate’s claws have sunk into the country’s power structure, from city streets to courtrooms to Congress.   

And I want to figure out if the alt-right and the newly popular white supremacist movement represent a last gasp for in-your-face American hate, a full-on resurgence in vitriol and racism, or something in-between.

Next step: The Hate Swarm     

Soon, we’re going to be taking our crowdsourcing effort a step further with the introduction of the Hate Swarm.

We’re still working out the details, but the basic concept will be to invite our readers to join us, as a pack, to swarm breaking stories and urgent research topics. We want to build a crack team of volunteer investigators who can join forces with us to dig, fast and deep, into a subject or an individual. And we’ll also be calling on the Hate Swarm to give us feedback and analysis on our ideas and our stories as they develop.

It’s all part of bringing you into our newsroom – along for the ride – as we plan, tackle and refine our investigations.

We’ll have more details soon.

Sign up to get The Hate Report by email every Friday.

Have a hate incident to report? Tell us about it here, or contact The Hate Report team: Aaron Sankin can be reached at asankin@revealnews.org, and Will Carless can be reached at wcarless@revealnews.org. Follow them on Twitter: @asankin and @willcarless.

 

Will Carless was a correspondent for Reveal covering extremism. He has worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia and South America. Prior to joining Reveal, he was a senior correspondent for Public Radio International’s Global Post team based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Before that, Will spent eight years at the Voice of San Diego, where he worked as an investigative reporter and head of investigations. During his tenure in San Diego, Will was awarded several prizes, including a national award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has been a finalist for the Livingston Awards for young journalists twice in the last five years. He surfs, spends time with his family, travels to silly places and pretends he’s writing a novel.

Aaron Sankin is a reporter for Reveal covering online extremism, election administration and technology policy. Before joining Reveal, he was a founding editor of The Huffington Post's San Francisco vertical and a senior staff writer on The Daily Dot's politics team. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Salon, Time, The Motley Fool, Mashable, Business Insider, San Francisco magazine and The Onion. A San Francisco Bay Area native, Sankin studied history and sociology at Rice University. His work at The Daily Dot was a finalist in Digiday's 2015 publisher of the year award, and a story he wrote about a Midwestern family being terrorized by a teenage hacker was labeled by The Atlantic as an essential piece of journalism for 2015. Sankin is based in Seattle.