WHAT IS A ‘NEO-NAZI’?
The term ‘neo-Nazis’ refers to those, after the war, obtaining a viewpoint connected with Nazi ideology. Neo-Nazis are a group of people who hold values similar to the German Nazi Party. They desire to revive the ideology and practice of Nazism, or National Socialism. Their beliefs include:
- White supremacy: the notion that white people are superior to other races.
- Fascism: “a political philosophy, movement, or regime… that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
- Rejection of democracy
- Immense pride in their party
- Targeting of Blacks, Jews, gays and lesbians, Muslims, and many other minorities.
The injustices that occur because of the neo-Nazi resurgence in the U.S. have lead me to become interested in this problem. I personally care about this issue because I believe that America should be a place where safety the public’s safety is a priority. Everyone has a right to feel safe in their country and not feel threatened by extremist groups. The rebirth of Nazism is something that many Americans are aware and frightened of, but the roots of this uprising are not always clear. After their downfall at the end of World War II, Nazi presence noticeably declined. However, over time, small groups began to emerge. These groups shared the same thing: Nazism ideology. In 1959, the American Nazi Party was formed by George Lincoln Rockwell. Multiple organizations were being founded under this name, and the recruitment numbers to neo-Nazi groups increased. In modern day, ever since President Donald J. Trump’s election, a huge amount of media coverage has been sparked on the uprising in neo-Nazi activity.
Neo-Nazis have attempted to spread a positive outlook and overall awareness of Nazism by celebrating its ideology publically. In 2008, there were reports of neo-Nazis gathering to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s 120th birthday. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “Groups are promoting the meetings and celebrations as “family friendly” in an effort to pass on their hateful ideology to children and continue Hitler’s legacy for future generations” (“Neo-Nazis Plan “Family” Events to Celebrate Hitler’s Birthday”). This shows the efforts the neo-Nazis have made to create a positive outlook on their presence in society. The involvement in childhood participation in younger generations is also extremely concerning, as they are normalizing and ingraining their ideology into children who are not old enough to fully comprehend such topics. In another article by the Jewish Virtual Library, “right-wing politicians in several countries often tried to capture those voters who might be inclined toward neo-Nazism” (“Anti-Semitism: Neo-Nazism). Here is an example of the publicity that neo-Nazis are desiring, and the awareness they are spreading quickly through ways such as elections. Campaigns and other forms of advertising for elections may convince others to join their white supremacist groups, ultimately increasing the participation in neo-Nazi activity.
The recent riots and rallies have also been a way for the neo-Nazis to promote their presence socially and politically. The result of the neo-Nazis putting themselves forward is a violent and threatening atmosphere surrounding the U.S.. The neo-Nazi population in the U.S. is increasing rapidly, and citizens are aware of the movement especially because of their strong presence in the media. Riots are given a large amount of attention and coverage across the nation.
“UNITE THE RIGHT” RALLY
Charlottesville, Virginia (August 12, 2017)
The “Unite the Right” rally was deemed to be the largest hate-rally the nation has seen in decades. The participants included neo-Nazis, but also Klu Klux Klan members, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, and other alt-right extremist groups. A CNN report from the Charlottesville police states that “on Saturday around 7:40 p.m., a group of about 40 to 50 people… gathered at Emancipation Park, where the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee stands…” (“Charlottesville mayor slams ‘despicable visit’ as another torch rally held”). The original motivation was to riot against the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. In an NPR interview, Professor George Hawley of the University of Alabama said that “[a] lot of the symbols of the most marginalized elements of the radical right were on visible display, things like swastika flags, et cetera” (“’Unite The Right’: Charlottesville Rally Represented Collection Of Alt-Right Groups”). Counter protests were planned by members of Black Lives Matter and others who were against any uprising in fascism as a result of Donald J. Trump being elected president. This sparked chaos. Then, 20 year old James Alex Fields Jr, suspected Nazi sympathizer, plows a car into a group of protesters, killing a woman and leaving 19 others injured.
STEPS TO END HATE
The problem that neo-Nazis impose on the United States is mainly the distress from their very presence. Not only have violent events resulted as a part of their so-called political “movement”, but they have spread negative and discriminatory ideology to people of all ages across the nation. The neo-Nazis’ participation in violent riots have put citizens in danger, which is an unacceptable way for any group to stand up for themselves. I support the right to freedom of speech; however, I do not find it justifiable when it infringes upon the well being of others.
A solution for this issue is extremely difficult, especially because of the massive amount of participants in neo-Nazism. It is also a national problem, so finding a way to stop all neo-Nazi action is nearly impossible. Typically, groups who have strong beliefs do not completely die out. Although, there is a chance to decrease neo-Nazi participation by spreading views of diversity, acceptance, and non-violence throughout communities. For example, Christian Picciolini shared his story and experiences as an ex-neo-Nazi. He speaks on how he discovered new ways to live that diminished his need for hate. Christian’s story has the ability to inspire people from any hate group that there are alternatives to being hostile in this world.
Here is a short video segment on his story:
Instead of trying to directly contact neo-Nazis and convert them to more peaceful ways to express themselves (which would be potentially risky and likely ineffective), I think that spreading awareness of certain advocacy organizations for the groups who are being targeted by neo-Nazis would be a better approach. These organizations may include:
- Southern Poverty Law Center https://www.splcenter.org/
- Black Lives Matter https://blacklivesmatter.com/
- Jewish Virtual Library http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/
There is also something simple that everyone can do: start a conversation. Sometimes there are questions that just can’t be answered at this point in time, but if we don’t ask them, then how is change ever going to occur? A solution to reducing hate across the U.S. is to talk about it, engage with our fellow citizens, and question the aspects of our nation. Here are some questions that could get you started:
- What is your opinion on the 1st Amendment? Should it be more or less strict?
- Should rallies have better police enforcement? Or alternative police training?
- How should activist movements react towards the neo-Nazis?
- What should political leaders do to combat the issue of neo-Nazi activity in the U.S.?
- What are ways to prevent violent hate-group events happening?
- How should Americans be allowed to spread their opinions and views?
- Are we aware of the impact our beliefs have on others?