SPLC report claims extremists now in political mainstream

Extremism has gone mainstream.

That warning comes from the Southern Poverty Law Center with the release of its “Year in Hate & Extremism.” The annual report contends that a loose coalition of “hard right” groups including militias, antigovernment extremists, conspiracy theorists and white nationalists are working together to undermine democracy.

The SPLC’s report, released Wednesday, counted 1,221 hate and antigovernment extremist groups active in 2021 in the United States, including 34 in Georgia. Those numbers represent a third straight annual decrease, but the progressive non-profit based in Alabama said the declining numbers are because some of the ideologies pushed by the groups have made their way into mainstream American politics, embedding themselves inside the Republican Party.

Exhibit A, according to the report, was the mobilization of hundreds of people with no prior connection to far-right groups in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“Our nation stands at a dangerous crossroad. The mainstreaming of hate and extremism threatens our people, our communities, our education system and democracy itself,” said Susan Corke, Director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “The January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the culmination of years of right-wing radicalization.”

The reaction to the attack over the past year by large numbers of voters is further evidence of the spread of extreme ideology, the report said.

“Roughly half of likely voters, for instance, believe that the Jan. 6 insurrectionists who were arrested and jailed are ‘political prisoners,’” the report states, citing a poll released last September by polling company Rasmussen Reports. “Extremist organizing doesn’t need to take place in fringe hate groups when right-wing extremist narratives circulate widely, and their proponents hold real institutional and social power.”

The SPLC said the mainstreaming of “hard right” politics is linked to the social justice movement on the left that sparked national demonstrations in the spring and summer of 2020. Those protests and demands that the nation reexamine issues of race, sexuality, policing and how history is taught, sparked a reaction from conservatives who in turn were egged on by ideologues from the extreme right.

The result was the mainstreaming of fringe ideas like the so-called great replacement theory in which white people are displaced by a conspiratorial coalition of leftists and minorities.

It’s a theory supported by some of the radical right. Last year when Fox News’s Tucker Carlson referenced the “great replacement” in his popular commentary show, white nationalist Vincent Foxx responded on the Telegram messaging app that the idea was “mainstream.”

“Our message and worldview are inevitable the conclusions every conservative in the country will come to,” he wrote.

The SPLC report includes some well-established groups in Georgia, including several far-right militias and white nationalist groups. The list also includes nearly a dozen Black nationalist and sovereign citizen groups.