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Ami Murphy Iannone

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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.

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Feeling overwhelmed?

Check out the SPLC’s 10 Ways to Fight Hate Community Response Guide

Photo by Filip Bunkens on Unsplash

Rugrats, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Super Mario… The 90s were great. Unfortunately, until Doc Brown’s DeLorean becomes a reality, there’s no way to return to the 90s. But even though we can’t fully go back to the 90s we can still relive the glory if not for just a weekend.

90s Fest is coming back with a dope lineup and activities for every Wild n Crazy Kid!  Headlined by TLC, Blackstreet, C+C Music Factory, 17th Floor, and DJ Suga Ray, 90s fest is the best way to relive your favorite 90s artists.

Last year was a blast for everyone who attended in their Clueless attire. If your childhood dream was to get slimed and dance with Chuckie then the Columbus Commons is where you need to be this weekend.  Tickets are available now for the event that kicks off Saturday at 4:00p!

photo from Target

This got us thinking about the general wave of nostalgia we’ve seen emerging across all fronts of pop culture. Crop tops, platform sandals, chokers… basically everything we used to pine for when the Delia’s catalogue arrived in the mail, it’s all coming back to haunt us. Here are a few things we found currently for sale that we would have lusted after back in the day.

Lisa Frank recently announced a line of pajamas with Target, so you can take your favorite school supply designer to dreamland with you.

Local boutiques are bringing back the denim skirt, a 90’s wardrobe staple. And Columbus-famous brand Homage is printing retro NBA Jam shirts. Premium Kicks 614, located in the Short North, carries a collection of throwback Air Jordans, including these sweet Space Jam inspired ones.

The internet has made our favorite shows available to us again. Friends, X-Files, Saved by the Bell, and  Buffy the Vampire Slayer are all available for Netflix binging.

The delicious taste of the 90s is making a return as well. Remember Dunkaroos? The product was discontinued in the USA in 2012. You can ask a Canadian to send you some, or you can recreate them at home with this recipe.

Barcades like 16-Bit, Old North Arcade, and  Level One Barcade have food and cocktails with names like “Tonic the Hedgehog” and “Pam Anderson.”

Even the long runningLadies’ 80’s dance party– hosted at Skully’s—  had to extend to include 90’s hits in the mix.

There’s nothing new under the sun.

See you Saturday for 90’s fest. No diggity.

Photo by Lautaro Andreani on Unsplash

We’re on a mission to figure out Columbus’ story.

Not to shape it or write it per say, but to collect it from the people who give this place its flavor. We’re looking for the key to explain why we’re one of the fastest growing cities in the midwest… why we keep collecting “why I moved back” posts from contributors.

Whatever it is, Pelotonia has it in spades. So we started our search there.

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We shuffled into the Pelotonia offices on a blazing hot Wednesday afternoon with a trunk load of camera equipment and lighting. The place is vibrating, there are boxes and promo materials stacked on every available surface. There are volunteers everywhere. You can tell the volunteers from the employees by their standing position and their clear difference in age. There is an elderly guy in a safari-style hat stuffing envelopes. There’s a middle-aged woman in capris counting yard signs. The energy is palpable.

Within 15 minutes we’ve taken over the entire lobby area and started our interview with CEO Doug Ulman. Our equipment has totally blocked their ability to get in and out the front door. We’ve policed their volume as they work diligently on stuffing fliers, stacking posters, frantically writing numbers on white boards. I’m running over to buffer the sound of the front door every time it swings open or closed. Everyone is being an incredible sport as we make ourselves as inconvenient as possible.

A young guy in his late teens — maybe early twenties tops–  signals in my periphery asking if he can pass us to get out. I make him wait through two questions because the interviewer is on a roll and then I stop him as he inhales to introduce the next one. “Hey, timeout, this guy needs to get out.” As we move chairs and tripods aside, this kid walks through with a street bike hoisted on his shoulder and says something about how the whole video should be about why Doug Ulman is the coolest guy on earth.

We laugh a little and Ulman says goodbye to the kid by name as we move everything back into place. It strikes me that one of the reasons for the meteoric rise of Peletonia is this small interaction. The CEO knows this volunteer’s name. He’s grateful to have him. He’s willing — glad almost — to interrupt a mic’d camera interview and shuffle all the equipment to make sure this kid gets out on time. 

There are myriad reasons for Pelotonia’s success. One of them is the fact that there’s almost no one left in the US who’s life has not been personally touched by cancer. I’d be willing to put money down that you’ve got a friend, grandparent, classmate or neighbor who has wrestled with this titanic illness. There are 3081 organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions listed with the IRS that have cancer in their name. I’ll let your imagination extrapolate how many more there could be dedicated in some way to fighting cancer, curing cancer, or supporting cancer survivors that just don’t have cancer in the name. So what is it about this bike ride that helps the little green arrow resonate beyond Columbus?

The numbers speak for themselves. Pelotonia has raised over $141 million dollars to date. 7882 riders will mount their bikes for a serious trek this year. Each of those riders will meet an individual or team fundraising goal to participate. 100% of every dollar that a rider raises goes directly to funding research towards a cure for cancer. Those are some feel-good stats.

But that cult following, that intangible universal feeling of love for the movement… you can’t quantify that.

We set out to capture that thing, whatever it was. And what we found felt almost like a cliché—the same refrain you hear from anyone who loves this city: community is the answer. Community is the key to Columbus’ appeal and Pelotonia has done a masterful job of building community.  

During our interviews for the film, we asked everyone the question “what happens to Pelotonia if we cure cancer tomorrow?”

Every single one of them said they’d still ride.

I can’t think of a better definition of community than that.