Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss preparing for the 2020 Census. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

This week, the Trump administration announced it plans to include a question about people’s citizenship status in the upcoming 2020 Census.

White nationalists, for the most part, loved the move.

On the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin highlighted Fox News talking head Tucker Carlson’s support of the citizenship question. “They thought they could get out of taking the census…? They were wrong,” Anglin wrote, adding one of his characteristic calls for racial violence: “This is going to be like another Crusade. Only way, way more bloody.”

On 4chan’s white nationalist-leaning /pol/ message board, users were largely in favor of the citizenship question, with some arguing it could be used as a political cudgel to batter their non-white enemies:

We must convince the illegals Not (sic) to participate in the “white man’s census” at all costs. This will cost CA money and possibly even a Congressional representative. We will meme ICE raids following census visits. We will even take census jobs and report illegals.

Not everyone on 4chan was in favor of the Census deliberately excluding undocumented immigrants.

The census is supposed to be for total population, citizen or not, because things like how many people use the roads and shit like that needs to be properly calculated, and just because someone isn’t a citizen doesn’t mean they aren’t using local resources and the like.

Good point, anonymous 4chan poster. The federal government uses census data to make a host of important decisions – from drawing congressional borders to distributing billions of dollars for services, such as the early childhood education and nutrition program Head Start.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group that frequently spars with the White House, called the move “part of the Trump administration’s white supremacist agenda.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross insisted the question is important in helping the Justice Department enforce the Voting Rights Act. In some ways, the debate mirrored the battles over voting rights.

Conservative advocates of the plan, such as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, say the question allows the government to prioritize the interests of U.S. citizens over those of undocumented immigrants.

Over at Mother Jones, Ari Berman – likely the nation’s foremost chronicler of contemporary voting rights battles – recently published a deep dive into the subject. He wrote:

Civil rights groups say the move will cause immigrants, particularly undocumented ones, to avoid responding to the census for fear of being reported to immigration authorities. The result will be a massive undercount of the Latino population, leading to reduced political power and federal resources for places like Fresno (California).

Domestic terrorism isn’t a criminal charge yet

In the wake of the bombings in Austin, Texas, a local congressman is calling for the creation of a federal domestic terrorism statute. Currently, there is a federal criminal charge for international terrorism, but not for domestic terrorism.

Put simply, that means members of international terrorist groups such as ISIS or al-Qaida can be charged with terrorism, but mass killers like Dylann Roof, who associate with groups like neo-Nazis, don’t face terrorism charges.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said the Austin bombings – believed to have been carried out by a young, white, Christian man – highlight the need for new federal charges to be added to the books.

Similar calls were made by lawmakers in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting last year.

Meanwhile, commentator David Perry argued in Pacific Standard that these white suspects aren’t the “lone wolves” they’re often made out to be. He argues that they act as a pack and therefore should be defined by what they are: terrorists.

When we think of terrorism, we look for secret leaders sending out commands and planning operations. That’s just not the model in this case, so when these white men kill, the media, elected officials, and law enforcement respond by disavowing connections to terrorism. These disavowals reveal a basic racism surrounding the word “terrorism,” although many officials and reporters just want to keep people from panicking.

Crashing the Neo-Nazi party

Remember the crazy story a couple months ago about the town manager in Maine who also was a (not so) secret neo-Nazi?

Tom Kawczynski lost his job very quickly, and we thought that was the end of his 15 minutes of fame. But then local writer Crash Barry decided to follow up on Kawczynski’s fortunes. Barry, who helped break the story, kept tabs on Kawczynski, posing as a white nationalist fanboy online and crashing an event at a local Thai restaurant in disguise.

Barry’s account of stalking Kawczynski is a classic example of Gonzo journalism. Take this nugget, for example:

On the morning of Friday, January 19, I smoked a huge joint and drank two cups of tea, then sat down at my computer and commenced what I call deep Googling.

But the story has a serious point. Barry wanted to find out more about Kawczynski’s plans to establish a whites-only ethnostate in rural Maine called New Albion. After a few weeks of investigation, however, Barry concluded his prey was too pathetic to bother much more with.

I’m no longer overly concerned about Kawczynski’s plans for New Albion. It’s clear he’s not much of a leader. Possessing the charisma of a turnip, he failed to inspire anyone when he got his moment in the alt-right sun.

And, according to Barry’s Twitter, Kawczynski recently gave up on the project.

Police blotter

  • Alleged members of a murderous neo-Nazi gang botched their alibi this week when they were recorded discussing it in a 911 call. The suspects, thought to be members of the Aryan Circle, which has been involved in murder-for-hire plots across the South, were trying to help a friend who had been shot at a neo-Nazi gathering. One of the suspects, the victim’s wife, was recorded in the background of a 911 call, saying, “We are going to tell them he got robbed, OK?” The cover-up may lead to the group’s downfall, with the feds bringing a case against the gang around the shooting.
  • Police are investigating a claim by a student at Vincennes University in Indiana that he was the victim of a hate crime. The student, who is unnamed in local media reports, told police that a man pointed a gun at him, used racial slurs and told him to return to his dorm.  
  • A Michigan man has been charged with a felony hate crime after physically and verbally attacking a transgender woman. Thomas Francis Knowles, 47, bailed out of jail this week. He faces a possible 15 years in prison.
  • A New Jersey synagogue was spray-painted with anti-Semitic words and phrases for the second time in 12 months. Police are investigating the vandalism.

How to save a life

In 1996, Keisha Thomas was protesting an Ann Arbor, Michigan, neo-Nazi rally when a man sporting a Confederate flag tank top and SS tattoo was spotted among the protesters, the crowd descended with a savage beating. Thomas, then 18, threw herself on top of the man, shielding him from the blows.

A picture of Thomas, who is black, defending the man quickly went viral. Well, the 1996 equivalent of viral. Thomas emerged from the scrum as a vital spokeswoman for tolerance. Although, as Thomas told Oprah Winfrey years later, no good deed goes unpunished. “I got a lot of hate mail. A lot of people, still to this day, hate me. I get death threats,” she said.

A recent Timeline News blog post highlighted the incident, showing how recognizing an enemy’s common humanity allows people to cross lines of hate.

But it also reminded us of how Al Letson protected an alt-right vlogger at a contentious Bay Area rally last year. We turned the incident into the anchor of a podcast about the wave of violence that’s surrounded clashes between the far right and antifa across the country.

You can listen to that podcast episode here.

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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 asankin@revealnews.org, and Will Carless can be reached at wcarless@revealnews.org. Follow them on Twitter: @asankin and @willcarless.

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.

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.