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Illustration by Security Management

U.S. Hate Groups Declined in 2020, But Analysis Finds Hate Did Not

The number of hate groups fell 11 percent last year, from 940 in 2019 to 838 in 2020, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups in the United States, in its new report, The Year in Hate and Extremism 2020. While still historically high, that’s cause for celebration, right?

Not so fast. Anyone who lived through the last 12 months can attest that the center’s analysis seems pretty accurate: “Hate groups declined, but hate did not.” While technically 2021, the SPLC said hate groups were well represented at the 6 January failed insurrection attempt when the U.S. Capitol building was overrun, showing that hate is very much alive and dangerous.

“It is important to understand that the number of hate groups is merely one metric for measuring the level of hate and racism in America...and that the decline in groups should not be interpreted as a reduction in bigoted beliefs and actions motivated by hate," according to the report.

Among the reasons for the decreased number of hate groups in 2020, the SPLC indicates that several groups lost cohesion in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, opting not to meet in person resulting in diminished online interaction of some groups. In addition, hate group activity on popular, public-facing social media platforms decreased as the platforms more aggressively limited such activity. The center speculates the groups migrated to other communications channels that are harder to track.

The report detailed a rise in what it calls “flyering,” which is posting public messages in the form of flyers, stickers, or banners. “Used as a tool for recruitment, publicity and intimidation, flyering is a relatively low-risk, contactless activity during a pandemic, therefore contributing to the rise in incidents.”

The center reports more than 4000 flyering incidents in 2020, most of them by a group known as the Patriot Front, a white supremacist, neo-fascist, American nationalist group, which draped a banner reading “The United States is no longer of America. Now we are on our own” over a Black Lives Matter billboard in Houston in September.

The rise of hate-related violence in the United States is documented not only by groups such as the SPLC. Last week, Security Management reported on the FBI’s release of 2019 hate crimes figures.

“In 2019, the United States saw hate crimes rise to their highest level in a decade to 7,314 reported incidents, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program’s Hate Crime Statistics, 2019," Security Management said. "Most striking within those reported incidents, however, was the rise in murders motivated by hate—51 in 2019 compared to 24 in 2018.”