WASHINGTON (Nov. 12)
The Internet and the infusion of anti-government and racist sentiment into political rhetoric have helped far-right extremists gain new footholds in mainstream society, according to a new study by the Anti- Defamation League.
The report, “Danger: Extremism, the Major Vehicles and Voices on America’s Far- Right Fringe,” states that hate groups have used the Internet as a low-cost means of establishing new vehicles for global recruitment, marketing and dissemination of propaganda.
The ADL report also notes the “rhetorical support” extremists have received in some segments of the mainstream, citing, for example, the National Rifle Association’s statements last year equating Federal law enforcement agents with the Nazi Gestapo.
The report was issued as the FBI released its statistics on hate crimes. The figures show that Jews were the most frequent target of hate crimes motivated by religious bias in 1995.
To illustrate what the ADL calls “the porousness of the line separating the mainstream from the fringe,” the report also pointed to talk radio personality G. Gordon Liddy’s well-publicized instructions on how to best kill a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent, and the appearance of several lawmakers on a radio talk show that the ADL says is sponsored by the racist and anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby.
The ADL study also asserts that former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke’s entrance into politics, including his run for president in 1988 under the banner of the Populist Party, has encouraged hate group leaders to repackage their traditional racist and anti-Semitic views in an attempt to appear more mainstream.
“When pernicious hate seeps into the mainstream dressed as political rhetoric, it threatens to legitimize intolerance and exclusion as an acceptable means for social change,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL.
As hate groups go mainstream, anti-government extremism continues to fester and swell on the fringe as well. In the two years since their existence became known, paramilitary-style militia groups have come to outnumber the membership of the KKK, the neo-Nazis, the racist skinheads and other hate groups combined, according to the ADL.
It estimates that militias operate in 40 states with a membership of about 15,000.
Meanwhile, the FBI, citing preliminary data, said American Jews were targeted in 1,058 instances of hate crimes in 1995, accounting for 83 percent of all religion-motivated attacks and about 13 percent of all hate crimes.
Overall, 7,947 hate crimes were reported during 1995. The numbers, however, are incomplete because police agencies supply the data voluntarily.
Race was the leading motivation in the crimes, and blacks were the most frequent targets.
Of the 4,831 attacks motivated by race, about 3,000 were directed at blacks.