TSG IntelBrief: A Rise in Levels of Hate
February 6, 2017
Bottom Line Up Front:
• Recent spikes in reported hate crimes in both the U.S. and UK have shown no signs of abating.
• Most clearly visible on social media, xenophobia, racism, and religious bigotry have fueled violent rhetoric and actions.
• In the UK, 2016 brought the highest number of reported anti-Semitic incidents since statistics have been kept; in the U.S., two mosques were burned in Texas in January.
• The resurgence of widespread xenophobic outrage is reminiscent of the nativism of the 1930s, while being amplified by the technology of 2017.
Recent events in two of the world’s most important democracies indicate a highly worrisome shift towards intolerance, anger, and hatred. In both the U.S. and UK, the levels of reported hate crimes have spiked over the last year. While such incidents have been met with condemnation by the vast majority of Americans and Britons, there is a very real risk that a continued and persistent spike in hate crimes could lead to irrevocable tensions within American and British societies along racial, religious, or ethnic lines. It is difficult to overstate how damaging such attacks are—both individually and collectively—to the social fabric of the U.S. and UK.
According to the most recent FBI statistics available, the U.S. experienced a six percent rise in hate crimes in 2015—though attacks motivated by religious bias jumped by nearly 23 percent. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, there were 6,885 hate crime offenses in 2015. Of these, 58.9 percent were motivated by bias towards race or ethnicity, while 19.8 percent were based on religion. Of the racist attacks, 52.7 percent were motivated by anti-black/African American bias; 18.2 percent were anti-white; 9.4 percent were anti-Latino; 3.3 percent anti-Asian; and 1.2 percent were anti-Arab. For the attacks targeting religion, 51.3 percent were anti-Semitic, 22.2 percent were anti-Muslim, and 4.4 percent were anti-Catholic.
In the UK, the Community Security Trust (CST), which keeps tracks of anti-Semitic attacks, reported that 2016 saw the highest number of anti-Semitic attacks since the group started keeping records in 1984. CST recorded 1,309 attacks in 2016, surpassing the previous high of 1,182 sent just two years prior in 2014. The rise in anti-Semitic attacks runs parallel to a rise in hate crimes based on ethnicity. Anti-immigrant and xenophobic attacks in the UK have occurred across the spectrum, from the murder of a member of Parliament by a white supremacist, to the targeting of Polish-born UK citizens. After the June 2016 Brexit vote to leave the EU, the UK experienced a reported 41 percent spike in hate crimes.
Likewise, the U.S. has experienced a rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence targeting Jewish communities and individuals. According to a statement by the Anti-Defamation League, there have been at least 50 bomb threats to Jewish community centers since the start of 2017, 14 of which led to evacuations. The recent spike is consistent with increases in levels of anti-Semitism across the U.S. over the last several years. Muslim mosques have also been the targets of hate crimes and attacks. In the month of January 2017 alone, two mosques were destroyed by fires in Texas; police are still investigating both. The community reaction to the second fire, at the Islamic Center of Victoria, has been public and positive, with churches and synagogues offering the use of their facilities. The second Texas mosque fire came on the heels of the horrific attack on a mosque in Canada, when a gunman entered the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center and murdered six worshippers in an attack eerily similar to the June 2015 racially-motivated Charleston church shooting.
The current levels of anti-immigrant and xenophobic anger—along with the increased targeting of people based on religious or racial motivations—harken back to the 1930s, where political and social xenophobic trend lines combined with disastrous consequences. Indeed, reports that seek to dismiss or minimize possible consequences of the spike in hate incidents are likely more destructive than reports that exaggerate the risk or parallels. The reversion to the rhetoric of the 1930s is being fueled and sped by the technology of 2017. In addition to the individuals and groups spreading hate, social media bots continually multiply nativist and nationalist sentiment into racist propaganda spreading across the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
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