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Expert on hate groups: ‘New generation openly embracing violence online’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Organized Neo-Nazi groups have been declining across Indiana; however, the violence stemming from their beliefs has been more readily embraced, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks the actions of hate groups.

“They envision a civil war,” said Susan Corke, director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The scary trend is, even though the numbers might be going down in the number of groups, it’s become the embrace of violence and terrorism that has increased.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map, the number of hate groups has gone down over the years. In 2016, there were 26 hate groups. In 2020, the map shows 19. However, Corke says, it’s important not to be misled.

“You’re seeing that these younger Neo Nazis, they’re not using the previous traditional organizing tactics. They’re using these decentralized, small-group tactics against particular targets.” 

Earlier this week, Jonathan Frost, a Purdue alumnus and self-proclaimed Neo-Nazi, pleaded guilty to domestic terrorism. Frost graduated from Purdue in 2020 with a bachelor of science and information technology degree, according to the university.

Court documents show Frost admitted to plotting an attack on power grids with two other men he met online in 2019. Their goal was to start a race war.

“This new generation, they are openly embracing violence online. They’re advocating for, they’re making heroes out of people like the students at Purdue,” Corke said.

She says the courts and public accountability have created setbacks for Neo-Nazi groups, but the memory of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol is an example of how political leaders have to be held accountable for their rhetoric.

 “​​You had somebody in the White House, a political leader, giving a green light to extremists,” Corke said. “Our democracy is really at a dangerous tipping point. So, to the political leaders in the state of Indiana, you know, there’s public accountability for the words that they’re using.”

Southern Poverty Law Center leaders say they want to prepare parents to have conversations with their kids about hate groups. The center created and posted online a guidebook to help parents with those conversations. Corke says their research shows after parents spent just seven minutes reading the guidebook, they were 80% more prepared to intervene effectively.