There is no shortage of coverage on the events that unfolded last weekend in Charlottesville. We are not here to tell you what happened. Incredible, intrepid journalists from national news outlets across the country have covered this event thoroughly. But there are several ties to Ohio becoming evident. The alleged driver from Saturday’s attack had been living in Maumee, a suburb of Toledo, and by now you’ve surely heard the Daily Stormer, an online daily Nazi publication deeply involved in the organizing of the event, is headquartered in Worthington. Again, we’re not here to educate you about Andrew Anglin. If you’re not familiar with his hateful rhetoric or ties to Columbus, check out Columbus Alive’s excellent piece or the profile that Southern Poverty Law Center keeps on him.
What seems to be shocking so many people is the boldness and openness of this rally and the large number of attendees. While local authorities have not yet released exact figures, hate-watch groups are reporting that it was the biggest rally of its kind in recent memory.
If you were surprised to see such a large, vocal, emboldened group in rally coverage, we’re here to say… maybe you shouldn’t be. There are many alt-right, neo-nazi, KKK and other hate groups flourishing in Ohio and even right here in Columbus. Here are some stats to help you understand the scale of this movement and the way it is gaining ground.
Quantifying Hate in Ohio
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) documents active hate groups across the country. They define hate groups as groups that “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” And their activities “can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.” The center compiles its list “using hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports.”
The SPLC’s interactive map shows 35 documented hate groups in Ohio. Three of those organizations are located right in Columbus including the Daily Stormer. Many of these groups have deceptively patriotic-sounding names like “Mission: America”– an anti-LGBT group in Columbus– or “American Vanguard”– a statewide White Nationalist group.
Ohio has more documented hate groups than some Southern states with more notable historical connections to the Civil Rights struggle. According to the SPLC’s hate map, Louisiana has 14 documented hate groups, Mississippi has 18, and South Carolina has 12. This may be accounted for by our larger state population, but is surprising nonetheless.
It’s not just Ohio. This number is on the rise nationwide. The SPLC shows a rise from 784 documented American hate groups active in 2014 to 917 currently active, albeit the total number is down from the previous high point of 1018 groups in 2011.
We’re unfortunately seeing a resurgence in the activity of these groups, as well as a newfound boldness. But how big is big? Let’s drill down on the Daily Stormer as an example and get a little scale.
Quantifying the Daily Stormer’s Clout
While we are aware that the Daily Stormer has been essentially booted from the mainstream internet, at the time of writing they’ve been rescued from the dark web by a Russian hosting site and their previous impact is still relevant to the conversation because of the part that it played in building to Saturday’s events.
When you think about white nationalists or other “fringe” groups that convene on the internet, you might think about isolated, disparate, and angry little men in basements across the country searching forums for others sympathetic to their flawed ideologies. When you think about the KKK or white supremacists, you might think about a bunch of old white guys who are part of a quickly-dying generation… In both cases you would be wrong. I was personally shocked to see so many young men in the group marching on Saturday. The internet, and the Daily Stormer in particular, is playing a huge part in their radicalization and renewed vigor.
The Daily Stormer– named after Der Stürmer the Nazi publication disseminated throughout Germany before and during WWII to spark and stoke resentment and hatred toward Jews– was founded by Worthington native Andrew Anglin in 2013. Since then it has risen in web rankings to number 10,496 globally and number 2,344 in the USA (these stats are tracked by Amazon’s Alexa web rankings service and were reported on August 14, 2017).
Since global web rankings are still pretty abstract, let’s do a little comparing to some other websites you might know.
According to Similarweb, another web ranking service, the Daily Stormer averages more than 2.7 million monthly visitors. That’s notably larger than the traffic for the Columbus Dispatch website, which garners around 1.8 million average monthly visitors.
The Daily Stormer is about half as popular as the Discovery Channel’s website, which clocks upwards of 4 million average monthly visitors. Think about the brand recognition that Discovery has… those numbers are powerful.
So, what now?
As the SPLC’s statistics show, there has been an acceleration of these groups recently. And people across the spectrum have complained, especially since the 2016 election cycle, that today’s political discourse has become increasingly vile and unproductive.
The internet has turned everyone into a content creator and publisher. The only credence that someone needs to gain “expert” status these days is a rapt audience. (I mean just look at the flat earthers…) Therefore there is very little check and balance. Like so much of the rest of this country, the internet has become divided into camps and there is very little overlap or meaningful information exchange between the opposing sides. So people become further and further entrenched in the rhetoric of their “side.”
Do I want this article to make people terrified that the Alt-Right rising is inevitable? No. But I do want it to shake up the notion that this is just a small group of weirdos. Because that notion is unhelpfully dismissive. I don’t want to validate their convictions. But I do want to make sure that people understand now is the time to stand up and take action against them, before they grow even bigger. Or have an even stronger political backing.
What is so jarring to me is not just the swelling numbers here, but the attitude of righteousness and the complete lack of fear that the participants in these Alt-Right, Neo-Nazi, and White Nationalist organizations display. The hoods are off.
Check out the SPLC’s 10 Ways to Fight Hate Community Response Guide