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The release of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual report on extremism in America on Feb. 15 led some news reporters to contact Brian Levin, criminal justice professor and director of CSUSB’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, for perspective.
The report, among other things, says the number of extremist and hate groups across the country increased in 2016 to 917, up from 892 in 2015.
CNN referred to the SPLC report as part of a longer piece on the alt right movement. Across the country, fliers are showing up on college campuses; some promote blatant neo-Nazi rhetoric, others are much more subtle, the news network reported.
“They’re racist, but they have fancy new packaging,” Levin said in an interview with reporter Sara Ganim about the alt right. “They learn to downplay the swastikas and get a thesaurus, so instead of white supremacy they use words like identitarian. It’s just a repackaged version of white nationalism.”
The article, and its online video report posted Feb. 16, 2017, is at “‘A resurgence of white nationalism:’ Hate groups spiked in 2016.”
The Christian Science Monitor used the SPLC report as a starting point to find solutions to combating hate groups.
It’s crucial, Levin said, that Americans dig below the polished surface of benign-sounding organizations and recognize the ideology for what it is – and then denounce it as such. Labels can go a long way, he told The Christian Science Monitor.
“The key with groups like the National Policy Institute or Identity Evropa is simply truth in labeling,” he says. “Put a magnifying glass onto that ingredient list and you’ll see that it’s full of toxins that have no place in the body politic.”
The Feb. 16, 2017, article may be read at “How to combat the rise of ‘intellectual’ hate groups in the U.S.”
The Orange County Register referred to the SPLC’s “Hate Map” that was part of the report. Levin said reports like the “Hate Map” are valuable in terms of raising awareness in that it provides all the more reason to not ignore the extreme right groups and focus all attention on Islamist groups.
“The jihadists represent the most prominent threat, but by far, not the only threat,” Levin said.
The article, “Hate groups grow in region,” was published Feb. 16, 2017.
San Francisco Bay Area public radio station KQED interviewed Levin as part of its coverage of a murder trial in Contra Costa County that began this week. William Sims was kill Nov. 12, 2016, and three men are charged with robbing, beating and killing him. Contra Costa County prosecutors say the homicide was racially motivated.
While there are many hate crimes reported each year, hate crime killings are relatively rare.
“According to the FBI, there were 18 hate homicides in the United States in 2015, which would be the highest number in about 15 years,” said Levin. Half of those were the nine individuals killed in the Charleston church shooting massacre. Levin pointed out that the actual number is likely higher, as homicides may in fact be hate killings even if they are not identified or charged as such.
The complete article, and its online audio report, were posted on Feb. 15, 2015, at “Trial begins for Richmond man facing hate crime murder charges.”
The United Kingdom’s Guardian newspaper included Levin as part of an article about Judy Shepard, whose son, Matthew, who died from a brutal beating because he was gay. Shepard was a vocal advocate for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, a federal law, and she expressed concern that hate incidents would not be aggressively prosecuted under the President Trump’s administration with Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general.
At present, Levin said, compliance with reporting hate crimes varies wildly.
“Hawaii doesn’t participate at all because it doesn’t want to. And to make matters more confusing, some states come out with individual hate crimes reports that don’t match the FBI statistics. In 2015, Maryland, for example, recorded 203 hate crimes. But the FBI reported 41 for the state.”
There’s something else, perhaps even more disturbing, The Guardian reported.
Levin says the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 specifically requires the U.S. attorney general (or his hand-picked designee) to approve of each prosecution under the act. “And we’re getting an AG who tried to block the act multiple times, and even went on the floor of the Senate to argue against it,” Levin says. “He was arguably its most vehement opponent. I’m very concerned that lack of enforcement will eviscerate the statute’s effectiveness.”
The article was published Feb. 16, 2017, and can be read at “Her son was lynched for being gay. Now her fight for justice is at risk from Trump.”
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