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The Manifestations of Neo-Nazism
Neo-Nazism is one of the Nazis’ legacies and a testament to an ideology’s ability to outlive its practitioners. Today, there are various manifestations of this legacy, especially in the U.S. Neo-Nazism’s manifestations are alarming events as they attempt to reestablish and promote the Nazi ideology in modern society. These include violent and non-violent protests, the spread of Nazi ideologies, the establishment of neo-Nazi communities and networks, and other practices that aim to incite civil disorder. The manifestations of neo-Nazism strive to realize the Nazi Party’s original ideologies by causing social disorder and attempting to turn society against itself.
Neo-Nazism is the modern form of Nazism present in the U.S. and other countries with no anti-Nazi laws. Jackson (2020) defined neo-Nazis as small transnational groups that prefer to utilize non-violent activism to promote Nazi ideology and achieve their goals. They tend to use online platforms to build communities where they share and spread their ideas. In their approach to activism, they mostly act independently despite having small groups. This is most notable in violent cases where neo-Nazis commit assault and murder, such as in the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. However, while these individuals act independently, their neo-Nazi networks can influence their actions.
It is also important to note that neo-Nazis have recently become more active in using violence in their activism. This is contrary to Jackson’s (2020) definition that neo-Nazis prefer non-violent activism because of its effectiveness compared to violent forms. However, Jackson (2020) also noted that each neo-Nazi group came from different origins and networks. This implies that neo-Nazi groups can vary significantly from each other, with some preferring non-violent activism while others are more akin to violent and aggressive forms. Still, all neo-Nazi groups acknowledge the superiority of the Aryan race–the fundamental ideology of Nazism. This is one of the effective ways to recognize Nazism, aside from anti-Semitism and fascist political ideologies.
These neo-Nazi groups tend to manifest in the U.S. because of the lack of anti-Nazi laws and the protection of the constitution. There are more than a dozen neo-Nazi groups based in the U.S. including the 14 First, American Futurist, American National Socialist Party, American Nazi Party, Aryan Freedom Network, Aryan Nations-Church of the Jesus Christ Christian, AryanFolk.com, Church of Ben Klassen, Creativity Alliance, Daily Stormer, Folks Front, Fuhrermet, Injekt Division, National Alliance, National Socialist Order, New Order, and Third Reich Books. Of all of these, the National Alliance is the most prominent with its leader, William Pierce, publishing “The Turner Diaries”, a novel that many associates as the basis for the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995 and other terrorist activities (Egan, 2020). The Oklahoma City Bombing is one of the most notable manifestations of neo-Nazism as it led to the deaths of 168 individuals. Over the years, neo-Nazis continued to conduct similar forms of activism spanning until today.
Unite the Right Protest of 2017
One of the more recent neo-Nazi activism was the United the Right protest in 2017. During this event, neo-Nazi extremists gathered around the University of Virginia campus and chanted anti-Semi messages while raising and throwing burning torches. While this form of activism was common, a tragedy occurred when James Alex Fields Jr., a neo-Nazi, rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring others (Sganga, 2021; Williamson, 2021). The event caught the attention of the public not just because of the death and casualties but also because the government allowed the extremists to conduct the protest. Some argued that it is common knowledge that Nazi ideologies tend to spread hate and condone the use of extreme methods, which the government should not have allowed.
However, the neo-Nazis took advantage of their First Amendment rights and other legalities to rationalize and support their actions. Even when authorities apprehended neo-Nazis, including their leaders, they argued that they had the right to protest and their violent actions were forms of self-defense (Sganga, 2021). They showed their disregard for the system by ignoring court orders, destroying evidence, and other uncooperative behaviors. This event showcased that neo-Nazis are utilizing the law to spread their ideologies while also disregarding the legal system. This manifestation mirrors how the Nazis criticized the German government as they attempt to gain the support of the people.
Despite the neo-Nazis’ nonchalant approach to the legal system, the court found them guilty of various crimes. Fields Jr. went to prison for first-degree murder and other crimes for the death of Heather Heyer and other injuries. The organizers of the protest, Jason Kessler, Richard Spencer, Robert Ray, Jeff Schoep, John Cameron Denton, and other neo-Nazi leaders faced various charges including conspiracy and harassment (Neo-Nazi, n.d.; Williamson, 2021). The leaders had to pay millions of dollars in damages as reparation for their actions and spend time in prison. This showcased that while neo-Nazism is manifesting in America, the court and the public are aware of their threats and are not condoning actions that may result in neo-Nazism gaining significant support.
Kaleb Cole’s Case
Another manifestation of neo-Nazism is its attempt to control information. In the case of Kaleb Cole, the leader of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffer Division, the court found him guilty of blackmailing journalists and interference in federal-protected activities (Leader of Neo-Nazi Group, 2022). Cole, along with other neo-Nazi members, attempted to intimidate journalists and stop a movement fighting against anti-Semitism in the U.S. The neo-Nazis were involved in cyber stalking and utilized threatening posters which they glued to their victims’ homes. Similar to the original Nazis, their messages and actions targeted Jewish journalists and other minorities.
The court learned of these threats and other activities when the victims decided to fight back using the law. The FBI investigated the case and found various evidence of threats and conspiracy among neo-Nazi members. They found posters that implied that the neo-Nazis would visit the victims’ homes and cause harm to them. This led the victims to move from their residencies and one even equipped themselves with a firearm as a form of protection (Leader of Neo-Nazi Group, 2022). This showcased how the manifestations of neo-Nazism can influence the lives of the public, especially those working to fight against discrimination and hate. They can force individuals to adapt to discrimination, something that modern society is trying to abolish.
Lastly, white supremacy has become a tool for neo-Nazis. Many neo-Nazi groups operate in the U.S., where Whites are the dominant race, allowing them to take advantage of existing political parties and movements. Neo-Nazis tend to support white supremacists, through white power accelerationism, to accelerate civil disorder and cause various societal issues. According to Byman (2020), neo-Nazis aim to incite a race war in the U.S. so that a fascist society can emerge. Neo-Nazis guilty of violence, such as Brenton Tarrant who killed 51 worshippers in a New Zealand mosque in 2019, and John Earnest who killed a worshipper and wounded others in a Poway synagogue in 2019, share this sentiment. Through this, neo-Nazis utilize the existing discrimination in the U.S. as a way to divide the country and potentially allow the movement to garner more support and influence.
Neo-Nazism is manifesting in the U.S. in the forms of hate protests, the promotion of bigotry and discrimination, and white power accelerationism. While there are various groups of neo-Nazis, including ones that prefer non-violent activism, the aggressive manifestations illustrate the threats of the ideology. Neo-Nazism, at its foundations, is an ideology that stems from a point of superiority and demeaning other races. Therefore, most neo-Nazi activism may take violent forms as neo-Nazi leaders strive to incite civil disorder and chaos. It will be up to governments, courts, and the general public whether neo-Nazism will remain a struggling movement or become an influential political party.
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Byman, D. (2020). Riots, White Supremacy, and Accelerationism. Brookings. Available at https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/06/02/riots-white-supremacy-and-accelerationism/. Accessed: October 4, 2022.
Egan, N. (2020). The Turner Diaries. Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Turner-Diaries. Accessed: October 4, 2022.
Jackson, P. (2020). Transnational Neo-Nazism in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia. The George Washington University. Available at https://extremism.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2191/f/Jackson%20-%20Transnational%20neo%20Nazism%20in%20the%20USA%2C%20United%20Kingdom%20and%20Australia.pdf. Accessed: October 4, 2022.
Leader of Neo-Nazi Group Sentenced for Plot to Target Journalists and Advocates. (2022). The United States Department of Justice. Available at https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/leader-neo-nazi-group-sentenced-plot-target-journalists-and-advocates. Accessed: October 4, 2022.
Neo-Nazi. (n.d.). Southern Poverty Law Center. Available at https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/neo-nazi. Accessed: October 4, 2022.
Sganga, N. (2021). What to Know About the Civil Trial Over Charlottesville’s Deadly “Unite the Right” Rally. CBS News. Available at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/charlottesville-unite-the-right-rally-trial-what-to-know/ . Accessed: October 4, 2022.
Williamson, E. (2021). Alumna Among Plaintiffs Awarded in Sines v. Kessler Decision. University of Virginia. Available at https://www.law.virginia.edu/news/202111/alumna-among-plaintiffs-awarded-sines-v-kessler-decision. Accessed: October 4, 2022.