Racial hatred and the extremist ideas behind White supremacy are not new. As my friend and fellow sociologist Rory McVeigh writes in his new book The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan: Right-Wing Movements and National Politics, hate groups come in all forms, sizes, and levels of formal organization and have played a role in American race relations for over a century.
However, with the election of Barack Obama as our first non-White President, the current recession and economic insecurities confronting many Americans who had been comfortably middle-class up to this point, and the continuing uncertainty of institutional trends such as globalization and demographic population changes, many Whites understandably feel a little destabilized these days.
It is within this context that many Whites see an opportunity to rail against what they perceive to be the “invasion” or “taking over” of their country by those who are different from them — immigrants and non-Whites. Most recently, this has taken the form of post-election racial incidents and of subtle and non-so-subtle forms of immigrant bashing.
But as many sociologists such as my blogging colleague Jessie at Racism Review and other observers point out, this upsurge in racial intolerance is different because with the advent of internet technology and the proliferation of social networking websites, the message of White supremacy is being broadcast much more widely to a growing audience of White Americans feeling destabilized. The following video report from ABC News last year summarizes this emerging trend (about 3 minutes long):
A recent MSNBC article goes into more detail about this trend of racial/religious extremists using internet and social networking websites to spread their message of intolerance:
Militants and hate groups increasingly use social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube as propaganda tools to recruit new members, according to a report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The report released on Wednesday noted a 25 percent rise in the past year in the number of “problematic” social networking groups on the Internet. . . .
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center, said Facebook recently removed several Holocaust denial sites, including one that featured a cartoon of Adolf Hitler in bed with Anne Frank, whose diary written in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam is among the best known stories of the Holocaust. . . . He pointed out a YouTube user whose racist content has caused his postings on the site to be taken down repeatedly, but he simply creates a new user profile, or channel, and posts the material again.
Extremist groups are also setting up their own social networking sites, the report said, picking out one called “New Saxon,” described as “a Social Networking site for people of European descent” produced by an American Neo-Nazi group called the National Socialist Movement. Other groups have created online games such as one created by an Iranian organization and called “Special Operation 85 — Hostage Rescue,” and one called “Border Patrol” in which the player has to shoot Mexicans, including women and children, as they try to come over the border into the United States.
I’m not here to say that we should ban or further restrict such websites or other forms of internet, communication, or media technology just because they allow people to spread messages of hate and intolerance more easily than would otherwise be possible (although I urge the administrators of such sites and internet services to take quick and decisive action to remove such blatantly offensive material, as per their stated policies). In other words, the technology itself is not to blame — it’s how technology is used.
With that in mind, I hope that those of us who oppose such racial and religious intolerance will make full use of such websites and technologies to counteract messages of hate with our own messages of understanding, tolerance, acceptance, and peace. This very site is my own attempt to do just that and thankfully, there are plenty of other sites and efforts toward promoting greater racial diversity and respect as well.
In fact, a homemade furniture commercial hosted on YouTube that has apparently become an internet sensation shows us that racial tolerance and capitalism can coexist together and that yes, it is possible for all of us to “just get along”: