The Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) latest annual Year in Hate and Extremism for 2022 report discovered that hate groups are targeting local institutions and community safe spaces to gain power and enact their hateful agendas.
This report was published alongside a virtual press conference for the media. Several expert researchers and analysts discussed their findings during the conference as well as the impact of these hate groups and policy recommendations to address the rising extremism.
“Taking on the most hateful factions in our country is critical to dismantling white supremacy and advancing the civil rights of all people,” said Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center and SPLC Action Fund. “We are exposing a concerted effort by hate groups and extremist actors to terrorize communities and gain control of public institutions by any means necessary. These groups are descending on Main Street America and disrupting people’s daily lives, too often with dire consequences for communities of color, Jewish people, and the LGBTQ+ community.”
The SPLC found that there was a marked shift in extremism into mainstream discourse and onto “main street” in 2022. There was also a rise in the number of hate groups in 2022 compared to 2021 up to 1,225 from 733. This was all due to several factors including an anti-government push against a Democratic administration,a growing constitutional sheriff movement and rise of anti-student inclusion groups.
This push into “main street” or showing up more prominently in peoples’ lives is primarily due to anti-student inclusion groups. This specific type of hate group, like Moms For Liberty, claims to be about protecting students but are actually against diversity and inclusive environments according to the SPLC. This specific group is leading the campaign against public education, promoting book bans, and limiting discussion of LGBTQ+ or race in the classroom.
Schools have become the primary battleground for the anti-student inclusion groups with Moms For Liberty leading the charge. Many have already seen success with members of these organizations obtaining school board seats throughout the country and using that power to push their hateful ideology.
However, there was also a notable decline in the militia movement linked to members of these groups being convicted for their roles in the Jan. 6 insurrection. The SPLC only tracked 61 groups in 2022, down from 92 in 2021. But groups like the Proud Boys still maintain strong membership and saw more growth in 2022 indicating their threat remains.
There were two primary theories driving much of the hate the SPLC found. One primary narrative driving hate is “The Great Replacement Theory” or the belief that black and brown people are replacing white people. According to polling conducted by the SPLC, nearly 7 in 10 Republicans believed in this theory to some extent and that it was a deliberate goal of progressive politicians to gain political power by “replacing more conservative white voters.”
The second narrative is LGBTQ+ hate specifically targeted at trans people. Cassie Miller, senior research analyst for SPLC’s Intelligence Project, stated that the “rampant demonization of queer people,” was a major hateful theory being pushed by far right organizations. Calling LGBTQ+ groomers, or likening them to pedophiles has become a common tactic for many rightwing pundits throughout the past year actively inciting violence against the marginalized community.
The SPLC also tracked that in 2022 there were 13 hate groups in Alabama. This includes the John Birch Society, Eagle Forum and Patriot Front among others. Patriot Front, a white nationalist group, just had an incident last week where they displayed messaging via a digital traffic sign.
This tactic of flyering to gain public attention was a big strategy the SPLC noted hate groups using in 2022. These demonstration which also include marches and signs are used to recruit as well as intimidate marginalized communities.
The SPLC also offered several policy recommendations including making federal and state hate crime data mandatory, enforcing hate crime laws, weeding out white supremacists in law enforcement and the military and confronting anti-student inclusion groups among other issues.
“Hate and antigovernment extremist groups are intent on staging public spectacles of hatred that harass, threaten and violently harm Black, Brown, Asian, Jewish, LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities,” said Susan Corke, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “Schools, synagogues, and LGBTQ+ businesses — venues that have traditionally been safe spaces for our children, the Jewish community and LGBTQ+ people — are now on the frontlines of hatred and violence. We all have a responsibility to speak out against hate, extremism, and violence when we see it, and encourage those in positions of power to fulfill their duty to act.”