Analysis: Hate Groups Bank on Charlottesville Media Coverage as Recruitment Tool

Rally This photo shows members of

The turnout of white nationalists that sparked violence in Charlottesville, Va., this weekend reflects an alarming level of cooperation among disparate hate groups to gain mainstream media attention. That’s the view of an expert at the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Montgomery, Ala.-based civil rights org that has tracked the activities of white supremacist groups since the early 1980s.

Keegan Hankes, a research analyst for the SPLC, said the Charlottesville gatherings on Friday night and Saturday morning were heavily promoted in a months-long organizing campaign via social media by multiple white nationalist organizations in a bid to demonstrate a show of force in numbers. The effort not surprisingly brought out counter-protesters from leftist organizations, including those identifying with the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as clergy and others who tried to advocate for non-violent protest.

The timing of the rally dubbed “Unite the Right” was pegged to the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, which was the site of violent clashes Saturday between protesters, counter-protesters, and police. But the real agenda, according to Hankes, was to garner mainstream media coverage as a recruitment tool.


Charlottesville rally flag

J.K. Rowling, Seth Rogen Among Industry Figures Blasting ‘Unite the Right’ White Supremacist Rally

The violence that erupted between various factions of protesters will be selectively mined for images to portray white nationalists as under attack from violent leftists and the police, Hankes said.

“The whole thing has been orchestrated around trying to get media attention,” Hankes told Variety. “They used the controversy around the Lee statue as a peg but what you really have is all these little hate groups competing in the same space trying to make a name for themselves. They’ll use media coverage and strategically controlled images (from the gathering) to bring in new members.”

Among the most prominent groups represented at the rally were organizations that have revved up activities during the past two years as tensions over racial and ethnic differences and the urban-rural divide have heightened nationwide. The list includes numerous groups studied by the SPLC: Identity Evropa, Vanguard America, League of the South, the Daily Stormer, and the Right Stuff.

Many Americans were outraged by news footage depicting clusters of mostly white men chanting racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ statements. Some attendees sported Nazi-related symbols and T-shirts emblazoned with quotes from Adolf Hitler. There were reports of rally-goers shouting “Hitler was right” among other hateful statements. Friday night’s march through the University of Virginia campus offered chilling images of young men hoisting Tiki torches and making the Nazi-esque salute.


Donald Trump Charlottesville

President Donald Trump Comments on Violent White Supremacist Rallies: ‘We ALL Must Be United’

The top organizers of the event were likely dismayed by some of the more extreme statements and actions captured by news coverage, Hankes noted. The goal of the rally was to raise awareness of the movement among people who might be sympathetic to some their public policy goals — such as curbing immigration — but would be turned off by unabashedly racist rhetoric.

Rally organizers such as Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer “are very concerned about the optics and message,” Hankes said. But the level of anger on both sides could not be contained as protesters chanted such venomous statements as “Jew will not replace us” and anti-LGBTQ slurs such as “F— you, f—-t.”

The hate speech and taunts spurred a violent response from some counter-protesters, which contributed to the melee that ensued about two hours before the scheduled noon start time of Saturday’s rally. The planned gathering with speakers, including Spencer, was ultimately scrapped when Charlottesville police declared the scene to be an unlawful assembly amid the chaos. But the organizers’ objectives were nonetheless achieved, in Hankes’ view.

“You’ll see the whole (white nationalist) machine swing into action when this is all over,” he said. “You’ll see them very selectively pushing out images that show fake numbers and peaceful demonstrations by their groups. They’ll portray violent leftists and the Virginia State Police siding with the violent leftists to give a sympathetic edge to the people who are spewing the hate.”

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 13

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. You just did the exact same thing for BLM and antifa as you say the KKk is doing. You left out all the violence they intentionally brought with them, They brought baseball bats etc. They had the intention to start a fight from the moment they left their homes to protest. Neither side is just in their actions. And their reaction only helps to divide the American people not unite us. The majority of us White people ignore the KKK and always have. We don’t support them but not paying attention to them. I’m actually Jewish by blood but white so they would hate me anyway. Wake up you can’t condone any violence. You are guilty of the spread of racism if you don’t condem both sides.

  2. Which hate group are you talking about: Black Lives Matter, the Nazis, the KKK or the Party whose platform in 1868 was: “This is a white man’s country; let white men rule”. (if you guess the Republicans, you guessed wrong!)

  3. I am White, I love my country, I believe in America first. Does that make me a White Nationalist? I don’t hate Black people, Hispanic people, Jewish people or any other race. What I do hate is ignorance and ignorant people, the KKK, Neo Nazi’s, Skinheads, Black Lives Matter, Antifa are all ignorant groups filled with ignorant people. The Southern Poverty Law Center has become their own hate group, they list organizations as hate groups just because they oppose Gay marriage and Transgenders bathroom usage. Those groups (not all, but some) defend people in court and advocate for their causes in the legal system. Just because someone believes different than you and chooses to fight for their beliefs in court does not make them a hate group, and groups on the left as well as the right do this. Personally,I could care less who you sleep with or love as well as those who identify as the opposite sex. We live in a free country where people can believe whatever they want no matter how radical or conservative they are, but when you try to force your ideology on others, in my view, that makes you ignorant. The word racist gets thrown around way too easily that it takes credibility away from the cases of real racism. Kamala Harris, the senator from California tweeted out a comment the other day about BLM and Mike Brown and I tweeted back to her that ALL LIVES MATTER It’s not about race it IS about humanity! If you read half of what some say when calling others bigots, they then fit the definition of bigotry.

  4. tripledipper says:

    Yeah running over innocent people with a car. That’ll sign em up. Show em that America HATES them. Genius strategy.

    They have everyone they are going to get. And god help the Right when enough old white people die off. Their base is shrinking and we are legion.

    • Bill Barton says:

      I’m in total agreement. The left, however, as well as the liberal media want to lump all of us together. That’s what enrages me to the point of wanting to join them. The media would like nothing more than a civil war in this country. Then George Soros and the likes of him will have devalued the real estate of America to the point where they can take over and become even more rich and powerful. It’s disgusting as well as disappointing that so many Americans have been brainwashed to go along with it like sheep being led too slaughter.

    • wrd9 says:

      Did that stop people from supporting Bernie when one of his supporters tried to massacre dozens of Republican congressmen?

      Or when a Bernie supporter murdered two people in Portland?

      Or when the Democraps/BLM anti-white, anti-cop hate speech incite blacks to assassinate 21 cops last year or assassinate whites in the streets?

      The left has always been violent but they’ve ramped it up to being vicious now. Which is why Trump won. Gen Z is not falling for the leftist propaganda and more whites are waking up.

  5. drdrish says:

    Not every white person at the event was a neo-Nazi or member of the KKK. And the neo-Nazis and KKK weren’t the only hate groups there — there was at least one other hate group present: Black Lives Matter.

  6. Farm Boy says:

    So when the Left shouts down and screams out every opposing viewpoint that’s not hate???

  7. John says:

    “…reflects an alarming level of cooperation among disparate hate groups to gain mainstream media attention”

    Yeah, they even made it into Variety now.

    Why do you even report about this?

    It’s not entertainment & not significant enough to care about.

    The really scary thing is, that a few white racists were able to cause such a media frenzy.

    You shouldn’t play their game.

  8. 1Ronald says:

    This would not have happened, none of it would have happened, if Wes Bellamy had not been elected to Charlottesville City Council. Mr. Bellamy has indicated his woman problem and his white problem on social media and when caught, then apologized. People who shouldn’t be there today, are not wanted there, and would never have come if it wasn’t for Wes Bellamy and his moving historical statutes and renaming City parks to sit his tastes. Statues that chronicle the nation’s history of where we were, where we are, and where we’re going as historical artifacts worth preserving as the founding of a nation. When you lose history, a nation is destroyed. Destroyed by the very people not fit for office. When you’re elected you represent ALL of the people, not just your own subculture.

  9. wee willie says:

    To identify truly sick racists, Google chief rabbi of Israel Ovadia Yosef says only purpose of goyim is to serve Jews, life of goyim worth same as donkey. Netanyahu says this jerk is the greatest mind of this generation.

    • James says:

      You might want to remind drumpf of that since he only represents his own subculture and does not acknowledge all of American history that is not all white.

      • Rc Henderson says:

        Yes James,
        Most in America, don’t know, the first (non-native) SLAVE OWNER, in what is now USA was Anthony Johnson a black man from Africa! Most don’t know their were white slaves in the US. Redneck, was what black slaves called white slaves. New Orleans blacks had more slaves then New Orleans whites & they supported the confederates!

More TV News from Variety