A new move by President Donald Trump’s administration would remove white nationalists and other hate groups from extremism databases, an act being praised by groups of neo-Nazis.
According to a Reuters report published last week, “The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism.” Currently the program is called “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, and focuses on all forms of extremism. But under new proposed rules, “[it] would no longer target groups such as white supremacists,” Reuters stated, and would be called “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.”
Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, rejoiced in a blog post on Thursday that “it just couldn’t ever get any better than this.”
“Yes, this is real life. Our memes are real life,” Anglin wrote. “Donald Trump is setting us free.”
The Daily Stormer is named after the notorious Nazi publication “Der Stürmer” and billed as “America’s #1 Most-Trusted Republican News Source.”
“We helped get Trump get elected, and the fact of the matter is, without Alt-Right meme magick, it simply wouldn’t have happened,” Anglin continued. “We were there every step of the way, keeping the energy HIGH all through these tubes. The people paying attention know how much good we did, and they know how much good we can do in the future, making sure young people get on board with Trumpism.”
Currently, CVE focuses on preventing the recruitment and radicalization of individuals or small groups to engage in domestic terrorism and acts of extreme violence. Given the increased use of online platforms to spread hate, “conventional approaches are unlikely to identify and disrupt all terrorist plots,” according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The CVE name change may be more symbolic than anything else, a former official with the program told CNN, and the move would simply “be ‘more intellectually honest’” about the program’s primary focus.
“The former official said as of now the only thing that would change ‘in practice’ would be the actual name of the program,” CNN reported.
Whether symbolic or actionable, however, the move signals to white nationalists and other similar hate groups that they will not be under federal scrutiny. The move also comes despite reports that suggest non-Islamic threats should in fact remain a focus for national safety.
A 2015 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) states that “since the 9/11 mass murder, more people have been killed in America by non-Islamic domestic terrorists than jihadists.”
In “Age of the Wolf: A Study of the Rise of the Lone Wolf and Leaderless Resistance Terrorism,” the SPLC analyzed domestic terrorism and radical violence data in the United States from April 1, 2009, to Feb. 1, 2015, and found that many attacks are carried out primarily by one or two “lone wolves”:
“[The data] also shows that fully 74% of the more than 60 incidents examined were carried out, or planned, by a lone wolf, a single person operating entirely alone. A total of 90% of the incidents were the work of just one or two persons, the study found.”
Also taking the focus away from homegrown extremist groups, Trump has insisted that his Muslim travel ban is a necessity to ensure national security. However, according to a continuously updated report from New America, this is not in fact an effective solution, given the data on previous terrorism incidents.
“None of the deadly attackers since 9/11 emigrated or came from a family that emigrated from one of these countries nor were any of the 9/11 attackers from the listed countries,” the report states. “Seven of the lethal attackers were born American citizens.”
Civil rights groups have spoken out against the proposal.
“At a time when right-wing extremists are on the rise, the government should keep its eye on the ball and focus on all types of extremism whether from terrorists motivated by extreme interpretations of Islam or white supremacists,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). “We urge President Trump to reconsider the idea of limiting CVE programs just to Islamic extremists.”
The SPLC called the idea “dangerous and unacceptable.”
“In recent years, we’ve seen a series of deadly terrorist attacks from homegrown extremists inspired by white supremacist or antigovernment ideologies, such as the massacre at the Charleston church in 2015,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “But now it appears that President Trump wants the government to stop its efforts to prevent terrorism by far-right extremists.”
Life After Hate, a group of former members of the violent far-right, has received grants from CVE. Co-founder Christian Picciolini reported to ThinkProgress that the president’s plan is “extremely troubling.”
“It sends a message that white extremism does not exist, or is not a priority in our country, when in fact it is a statistically larger and more present terror threat than any by foreign or other domestic actors,” Picciolini said. “We have hundreds of thousands of homegrown sovereign citizens and militia members with ties to white nationalism training in paramilitary camps across the U.S. and standing armed in front of mosques to intimidate marginalized Americans.”
The president-elect distanced himself from the alt-right movement and condemned white nationalists celebrating his election, but those are “just words,” say neo-Nazis and others.
Trump has previously “disavowed” white supremacist groups, but this did not stop them from feeling energized by the president’s rhetoric and ideologies.
“I obviously would have preferred he not condemn, but I’m not going to read too much into that. It is what it is — just words,” Daily Stormer’s Anglin said in November. “As long as he does what he says he’s going to do, he can condemn whatever he wants and I’ll still support him 100%.”