For the first time, the Southern Poverty Law Center included two male supremacist groups in its annual “Year in Extremism” report, released Wednesday.
The report, which tracks groups that target specific populations based on their identities, race or religion, also found that the Trump administration has “buoyed white supremacists” by appointing far-right advisers.
Houston-based A Voice for Men and Washington, D.C.-based Return of Kings were among the 954 hate groups included in the 2017 report. The male supremacist groups believe it’s natural and desirable for men to have more power than women, and lament what they see as the oppression of men by modern society. A recent post on A Voice for Men argued that many women who experience violence at the hands of men in their lives “ask for it.”
In a call with reporters, Heidi Beirich, head of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, likened the men’s rights groups’ rhetoric about women to the way the white nationalist organization American Renaissance categorically describes the inferiority of black people.
“These men right’s groups talk in the same way about women,” Beirich said. “They demonize them as an entire population, so they use slurs like, ‘They’re whores, they’re destroying men, they’re bitches, they’re evil.’ It’s the same kind of language directed at demonizing all women and trying to make women look essentially like a lesser form of humanity.”
In recent years there has been frequent overlap between the “men’s rights” community and the broader amalgamation of racists and online trolls known as the “alt-right.”
Beirich said the SPLC has been tracking the men’s rights movement since 2012 and this year determined that these two organizations met the criteria required to be added to their annual count.
The groups make up a tiny fraction of the overall 2017 report, which found a 4 percent rise in hate groups nationwide since 2016. The biggest upticks were among black nationalist and neo-Nazi group chapters, which saw their ranks swell from 193 to 233 and 99 to 121, respectively. Separately, the SPLC identified 689 anti-government or “Patriot” groups, up from 623 in 2016.
The report found that the Trump administration has “thrilled and comforted” white supremacists by appointing advisers with ties to the “alt-right” like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, and by enacting immigration policies that target Muslims and Latinos. White supremacist websites like the Daily Stormer and Stormfront have also helped proliferate hateful ideas to thousands of predominantly young men who are not formerly affiliated with any particular hate group, per the SPLC report.
One such person was Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who, police say, murdered 17 people at his former high school in Parkland, Florida last week. Though Cruz was not a member of any group, he was steeped in white nationalist and anti-Islam ideology, authoring dozens of hateful social media posts.
Like many of the people who commit acts of mass violence, Cruz also had a history of misogynistic behavior and violence against women. The New York Times reported he was abusive towards his ex-girlfriend and behaved threateningly towards other female students.
Gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety found that in 57 percent of mass shooting cases between 2009 and 2015, a spouse, former spouse or other family member was among the victims. Everytown’s analysis, based on FBI data, also found that 16 percent of the attackers had previously been charged with domestic violence.