This week: An inside look at how white supremacists recruit online, what the FBI is doing about antifa and neo-Nazis, and how often young white people feel discriminated against.
Brad Galloway had a clear process for recruiting new members into his white supremacist group.
Galloway typically found new recruits through websites like Stormfront, which act as gateways into the movement, he told us in an interview. Galloway would study their posting behavior and invite them into a private forum exclusively for his group. From there, he could arrange to meet a new recruit in person.
These meetings, which would usually happen in public settings with a group of members, were largely about seeing what the new recruit could bring to the organization. Galloway wanted to find out things like if they were physically tough, knew how to build websites or were especially knowledgeable about a particular white supremacist ideology.
That in-person contact was crucial. Meeting in real life cements those bonds in ways no amount of internet chatter can replicate. The decision to invite someone into the group was not made lightly.
“We looked at things like the number of posts they made, what their avatar was, how extreme they seemed to be in their views,” he said. “If someone only has two or three posts and they’re all of a sudden asking, ‘Is your group engaged in violence?’ that’s a red flag.”
People who seemed too aggressive, trafficked in extreme rhetoric or featured Nazi iconography in their profile pictures were passed over in favor of those who focused on their European heritage. There was a constant fear of infiltration by law enforcement or anti-racist groups.
He avoided bringing in people who could get the group into trouble by committing unrelated crimes or engaging in random acts of violence.
“A lot of time the superextreme guys can put your organization in a bad spot,” he said. “We didn’t want people who are involved in things that are too criminal. It’s a lot like how a street gang would think. It was too high risk to be talking to those types of people.”
Galloway was a member of white supremacist groups in Toronto and Vancouver, where he led efforts to identify and bring in new members before parting ways with the movement in 2011.
Today, he looks at the issue from a different perspective. He’s now a criminologist at the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society. For more detail on Galloway’s insight into white supremacist recruiting, check out this post.
The FBI tracks antifa this way. The FBI tracks neo-Nazis that way
MuckRock reporter Curtis Waltman recently embarked on an endeavor to understand what steps the government is taking to keep tabs on groups on the far left and the far right.
Waltman sent Freedom of Information Act requests to 68 FBI communication centers across the country seeking documentation about the agency’s investigations to left-wing groups such as antifa and white supremacist and alt-right organizations.
Thus far, only six of these fusion centers have provided documents, 17 have rejected his requests outright, and the rest are still processing. While it’s impossible to draw any definitive conclusions from such as small sample size, Waltman said the responses so far suggest that the FBI may be paying more attention to the threats from antifa than from white supremacist groups.
“Fusion centers do not appear to be monitoring white supremacists as intently as their violence has indicated they should be,” he wrote in an email. “They seem rather preoccupied with antifa and other anarchist groups, closely watching their plans to protest, and regarding them as a serious national security threat. I didn’t see that kind of furor over white supremacists, almost more of a wait-and-see attitude.”
The Kentucky center told MuckRock it didn’t have any documents about white supremacist groups, but did release a file about antifa. That antifa report, which classified the group as being involved in organized crime, noted that antifa’s tactics, “often lead to violence, bodily harm, property destruction and attacks against” police.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified numerous white supremacist groups based in Kentucky, including multiple chapters of the League of the South. Michael Hill, the group’s leader, wrote a blog post last October encouraging members to “engage in violence … at the proper level” if confronted with opposition at the White Lives Matter rally in nearby Shelbyville, Tennessee.
Members of the Traditionalist Workers Party, which the SPLC notes also has multiple chapters in Kentucky, engaged in a bloody fistfight with an interracial couple at a restaurant following the Shelbyville event.
In 2006, members of the Imperial Klans of America, which is headquartered in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, violently assaulted a 16-year-old at a local county fair. The group was there to recruit new members and believed its victim was in the country illegally. The SPLC sued the group’s leadership, eventually winning millions of dollars in damages. During the trial, a former Imperial Klans member testified that he had been ordered to murder SPLC co-founder Morris Dees by other members of the organization.
Study provides window into young Americans experiencing discrimination
A study of the attitudes of young Americans conducted by MTV (yes, that MTV) and the Public Religion Research Institute found that 36 percent of white people said discrimination against whites is as significant as discrimination against minorities. However, only 4 percent said they had personally experienced discrimination in the past 12 months.
The rate of white people who believe their race experiences discrimination is significantly lower for young people, suggesting a significant generational shift in attitudes between younger and older Caucasians.
The study also noted that one-quarter of young people, defined as ages 15 to 24, reported having experienced discrimination in the past year based on their race, gender, sexual/gender identity, immigration status or religious beliefs. The number was highest for Asian/Pacific Islanders (35 percent), followed by African Americans (30 percent) and Hispanics (24 percent).
Anyway, we’re old enough to remember when MTV played music videos.
How Trump reacted to Charlottesville
One passage from Michael Wolff’s blockbuster book “Fire and Fury” asserts that, in the wake of the deadly white supremacist rally last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Donald Trump attempted to justify why someone would join a group like the KKK:
As [Trump] got back on Marine One to head to Andrews Air Force Base and on to JFK and then into Manhattan and Trump Tower [after addressing the Charlottesville murder], his mood was dark and I-told-you-so. Privately, he kept trying to rationalize why someone would be a member of the KKK – that is, they might not actually believe what the KKK believed, and the KKK probably does not believe what it used to believe, and, anyway, who really knows what the KKK believes now?
Trump initially defended the white supremacists and neo-Nazis, asserting that many of them were “very fine people.” Over the ensuing months, he has vacillated between condemning the marchers and backing up his initial comments.
While it is unclear precisely what his was role was in the 1927 events, Trump’s father was arrested in a fight between the KKK and New York City police officers.
For insight into what the organizers of the Charlottesville rally actually believe, check out our story digging into the chat room where they organized their demonstration.
How Charlottesville reacted to Charlottesville
Five months after the deadly Unite the Right rally, Charlottesville has elected its first black female mayor. Nikuyah Walker was selected as mayor on a 4-1 vote of the City Council. In Charlottesville’s system, the mayor is selected by the council instead of a popular vote.
Walker was deeply critical of the city’s response to the rally, where two law enforcement officers and one counterprotester died.
“Why did you think that you could walk in here and do business as usual after what happened on the 12th?” Walker said in August at a contentious City Council meeting shortly after the event.
Aaron Sankin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @ASankin.