In its annual “Year in Hate and Extremism” report, released Wednesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center says “white supremacist anger reached a fever pitch” in 2018, “as hysteria over losing a white-majority nation to demographic change … engulfed the movement.”
The total number of hate groups in the U.S. rose last year to 1,020, up about 7% from 2017 and “a high of at least the past 20 years,” the SPLC report says, blaming President Trump’s tweets, speeches and policies, as well as hate speech blaring from the far right.
The watchdog civil rights group says the previous all-time high number of domestic hate groups it counted was 1,018 in 2011, “when rage against the first black president was roiling.”
“White nationalist groups alone surged by nearly 50 percent last year,” to 148, it says.
The SPLC says Trump’s words and behavior have also energized black nationalist hate groups, which it characterized as “typically antisemitic, anti-LGBT and anti-white.” But it notes that such groups “lagged far behind the more than 700 groups that adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology.”
In a statement cited by Axios, Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, says “The numbers tell a striking story — that this president is not simply a polarizing figure but a radicalizing one.”
Despite the sharp rise in the number of white supremacist groups, the oldest and still most widely recognized one of all — the Ku Klux Klan — is in sharp decline, the SPLC says, down from 130 chapters in 2016 to just 51 last year.
“The KKK has not been able to appeal to younger racists,” the report says, “with its antiquated traditions, odd dress and lack of digital savvy … It may be that the KKK, having somehow endured since 1866, is finally on its last legs.”