The Daily Beast
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/GettyViolence against people of Asian descent is exploding in America. According to a recent analysis of police records, reports of anti-Asian hate crimes in the largest U.S. cities shot up 169 percent in the first quarter of 2021 versus the same time last year. This spike in vitriol and violence is especially disheartening, as it followed a well-documented surge in anti-Asian hate across the country last year, triggered at least in part by blatantly racist reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic. And even before 2020, America had already witnessed several years of well-documented growth in bigoted bile and violence against numerous non-white communities.But stark and grim as these trends are, a small yet vocal group falsely insists that they pale in comparison to another form of supposedly widespread, growing, and under-reported bigotry: hate crimes targeting white people.White nationalists have launched a handful of initiatives over the last few years in flailing bids to prove this ludicrous point. But perhaps the most notable among them is something called Anti-White Watch, a platform “dedicated to documenting bias, policies, hate, and violence directed at ethnic-European people worldwide.” Its main web portal maintains a heat map and database of alleged anti-white incidents—focusing on accounts of brutal violence supposedly enacted by non-white perpetrators, pulled from across the web by admins and readers. It also catalogues numerous alleged hate-crime “hoaxes,” incidents that many on the right believe malicious actors—often assumed to be liberal elites—either inflate or fully fabricate in order to stoke racial tensions for their benefit, and to slander white people as racists.“They try to both minimize the apparent threat from the far right,” Kurt Braddock, an expert on white-supremacist communication and radicalization strategies at American University, told The Daily Beast, “and to make it seem like the real threat to America is minorities.”A Twisted Church Attack Shows the High Bar for Hate Crimes in AmericaThe overarching goal behind these sites—collect and spin stories of violence perpetrated by non-white people to gin up a sense of white peril—is far from new. And Anti-White Watch and other sites like it, though widely linked and referenced within white nationalist silos, are still small and buggy. But these sites do take a novel approach to gathering and presenting such stories at a time of increased focus on hate crimes.And many of these approaches have seemingly been modeled on actual hate-crime monitoring systems—a disturbing development experts fear could prove alarmingly effective at radicalizing white racists.”The creation of a definitive database that has a veneer of legitimacy is particularly concerning,” Robin O’Luanaigh, a consultant with the anti-disinformation and anti-extremism solutions shop Moonshot, told The Daily Beast.White bigots started fabricating accounts of violence allegedly committed by non-white people, especially Black men, at least as far back as the antebellum era. Initially, these tales served as a justification for America’s uniquely brutal form of slavery, and wider racist legal framework. After the Civil War, the same sort of fear-mongering anecdotes were repurposed to support segregation and other forms of oppression, as well as brutal reprisals against any non-white person who (literally) so much as looked at a white person wrong.“Just as the blood libel was historically used to justify horrific crimes against Jews, this type of propaganda in the United States has led to lynch mobs, among other forms of extrajudicial punishments against minorities, such as fire bombings, vandalism, and kidnapping,” said Josh Lipowsky, a research analyst at the Counter Extremism Project, a non-profit organization that monitors and attempts to disrupt the operations of all sorts of violent radical groups.This tradition never really vanished, even as America supposedly progressed as a nation. It just evolved.“When I started working in this field in the ’80s, Black-on-white crime listings were still a major feature of Klan periodicals, and similar literature,” Brian Levin of the California State University-San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism—which compiled the recent report on anti-Asian hate crimes—told The Daily Beast. And when white supremacist internet forums like Stormfront cropped up in the late ’90s, people quickly started to compile and expand these lists on dedicated threads. New Nation News, launched in 1998, has developed a small stable of “reporters” who find accounts of “black-on-white” violence online, then repost them with a focus on race. They often post mugshots, victim injury photos, and blunt warnings about the supposed dangers of interacting with Black people—like their standard tag for domestic violence stories: “Dangers of interracial dating * MISCEGENATION KILLS.”Sometimes, they throw in shots of apes and monkeys, just in case their old-school racist messages weren’t clear enough.These forum-lists can have dire real-world impacts: Stumbling upon these sorts of curated and explicitly dehumanizing lists reportedly played a key role in the radicalization of convicted neo-Nazi mass murderer Dylann Roof. REUTERS/Rachel Wisniewski Even in the mainstream, right-wing provocateurs and outlets still craft lists of crimes committed by non-white people against white victims, usually projecting motives of racial grievance onto assailants without any clear basis for doing so. There are entire (actual) books cataloguing supposed instances of “the knockout game,” an alleged early 2010s fad in which young Black men supposedly socked random white people in the head for sport. Although rooted in a tiny seed of reality, coverage of the game quickly developed into a racial-moral panic, so these books are accordingly and predictably full of misrepresentations and false associations.But Levin notes that more mainstream right-wing lists take pains to avoid old tropes about inherent violence or sub-human status. Instead, they’re usually offered as so-called evidence that racial justice initiatives are just creating a culture of division and animus. Or as an ostensible antidote to what far-right eyes see as a liberal tendency to cry racism left and right when white perpetrators are involved in an incident, and refusal to report on—or even acknowledge the existence of—anti-white sentiments and violence.This strand of spurious whataboutist, two-sides deflection of meaningful racial dialogue plays a major role in modern right-wing politics, noted Michael King, a criminologist at Bridgewater State University who has studied this sort of list-making. Notably, he explained, it laid the groundwork for the rise of Donald Trump and Trumpism.Still, these lists are often piecemeal and poorly constructed—both in terms of their sloppy layout and presentation of facts. Their promoters often abandon them in favor of a few shorthand case studies or statistics. And the charged framing around them almost always reeks of overt political posturing and conspiracy theories about liberal plots that alienate many uninitiated viewers.Anti-White Watch and its ilk, on the other hand, appear to be part of a recent trend among overt white nationalists to appeal to broad audiences by stripping away clear signs of racism and conspiratorial thinking. This crowd places a premium on sleek design, efforts to dispassionately convey seemingly innocuous information, and often attempts to co-opt the language of social-justice movements to convey a sense of high-minded morality.“These new efforts seem to be modeling themselves on the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate incident monitoring system structures and aesthetics,” Braddock told The Daily Beast. Joanna Mendelson, associate director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, agrees with this assessment: Anti-White Watch’s name seems to directly reference the SPLC’s Hatewatch project, and it organizes its information using a system eerily similar to the ADL’s Hate, Extremism, Antisemitism, and Terrorism (HEAT) map and wider databases. White supremacist mass murderer Dylann Roof, who may have been radicalized in part by racist propaganda about crime Pool/Getty The choice to mimic these organizations makes sense, argued O’Luanaigh, the disinformation and extremism expert. “The ADL and SPLC’s work has helped many people realize the extent to which hate and extremism towards minority groups in the U.S. still very much exists,” she said. So, their style is a useful shorthand for apparent data collection rigor and legitimacy—for mainstreaming efforts. “White nationalists also very much hate the ADL and SPLC” because of their very visible and effective anti-hate work, O’Luanaigh added. “In a way, I see this as almost a way to troll these two organizations, as well.”Anti-White Watch uses a mélange of social-justice buzzwords in its social-media posts, too: “We stand with #EthnicEuropean (White) students against the systemic racism, Replacism and bigotry deployed against them at every level of academia and media,” the project tweeted last month.“They want you to think of social justice and equality when looking at their materials and thus think they also must be a legitimate monitor of hate,” Lipowsky told The Daily Beast.Violence motivated by anti-white sentiment is, in truth, not entirely fictional. The FBI’s crime tracking systems have monitored official reports of expressly anti-white violence for decades, and publish their stats regularly, in highly visible and accessible places, always to widespread media coverage.Their figures are far from authoritative, thanks to inconsistent definitions of hate crimes across the U.S., enforcement of existing anti-hate statutes, and reporting from local officials to the feds—as well as citizens’ well-documented reticence to report many types of hate crimes to the authorities. But their data shows that anti-white hate crimes in general, and violence motivated by anti-white sentiments, are exceedingly rare compared to other forms of hate. Far-right voices attempt to twist this data, and its clear limitations, to insist explicitly racist violence against white people is far more common than it seems at face value. Yet analyses of anti-white hate crime reports have made compelling cases that these types of incidents are likely in fact over-reported.The media does report on well-substantiated instances of expressly anti-white violence. It just does not dwell on them. Meanwhile, the social context and criminological trends around other forms of violence—especially hate crimes against non-white people—speaks clearly to the importance of digging into those stories. They are highly salient to pressing national conversations, and have historically been marginalized in favor of an over-emphasis on crimes against white victims, who have long had overwhelming power to shape popular discourse around crime in general.“Unfortunately, crime rates remain high in the United States overall,” explained Sophie Bjork-James, an expert on white nationalism and hate crimes at Vanderbilt University. REUTERS/Alyson McClaran That makes it all too easy for projects like Anti-White Watch and their communities to find instances of violence involving non-white perpetrators and white victims, cherry-pick or distort details from those cases while stripping out wider context, and file them as instance of hate—just like earlier list-makers have done. “When you examine the cases on these sites, a lot of them have nothing to do with race,” stressed Sanford Schram, an expert on white nationalist mainstreaming efforts at Hunter College. “Pages like Anti-White Watch are very misleading at a bare minimum.”The Daily Beast was unable to reach the individuals behind Anti-White Watch and similar projects. But an administrator of a white nationalist resource hub that directs readers towards Anti-White Watch misleadingly defended the practice of scrambling to label incidents expressly anti-white crimes.“It doesn’t take a great leap in logic to suspect anti-white hatred as a strong motivating factor for many, if not most interracial crime involving white victims and non-white perpetrators,” the administrator, who did not reveal their identity, told The Daily Beast. “When the roles are reversed—non-white victims and white perpetrators—racial hatred is almost always at the top of the list as the suspected criminal motive. Nobody has a problem believing white people are capable of racial hatred and acting on it. But suggest the same thing about non-whites, and brains begin to melt.”The Twisted Group Focused on Making Nazis Comfy in PrisonThis fallacious reasoning misrepresents the context around most reports of racist motives in attacks against non-white individuals and groups. It also functionally acknowledges the fact that these projects are little more than exercises in creating false equivalencies in the name of misdirection.But even if the cases reported to Anti-White Watch and similar sites are largely misrepresented in ways that do not accord with established criminological facts and trends, experts worry that the way these platforms present information could be highly effective gateways for radicalization.Like other compilations of supposed anti-white hate incidents, they speak to a well-documented belief shared by many white Americans that they face as much discrimination as any non-white American community. (It should go without saying that they do not.) This belief stems at least in part from fears that minority groups will gradually replace white people, then turn around and attempt to punish them and destroy their culture—a baseless concern currently being amplified by the the Great Replacement conspiracy theory and its public promoters, like far-right blowhard Tucker Carlson. It predisposes them to think that they should see equivalent levels and types of hate crimes against them as they see documented in the news targeting Asian, Black, or other non-white groups. These platforms, like prior lists, also bombard people with brutal highlights from crimes, which create a visceral reaction—a sense of personal racial peril—that can override critical thought.But unlike other compilations of alleged anti-white hate crimes, the apparent sterile formality of the data collection and presentation on these platforms may make them seem more credible. And the co-opted language of social justice may lend them a bogus sheen of the erudite and moral. “This allows them to attract new followers who might believe the dressing and not immediately realize the core is rotten,” Lipowsky explained. “Only with a deeper dive will many discover that these platforms’ goal is more in line with ‘separate but equal’ policies rather than true racial equality.”“Their strategy also allows them to case those in disagreement with their positions as immoral,” Lipowsky added, which presents a major challenge to fact checkers who could otherwise help people break down and analyze the fallacy of their reports, and reveal the ideology behind them.Fortunately, Anti-White Hate is unlikely to pop up on many vulnerable, uninitiated readers’ radars, noted Rick Eaton, a longtime digital extremism watcher at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Holocaust education and hate-monitoring group with a history of Nazi hunting. Despite its flashy surface, the site—and many others like it—is hard to navigate beyond its front page. Its social media presence is also sporadic at best, and often tips its hand a little too hard towards egregious conspiracy and hate rhetoric to escape its white nationalist silo. Take, for example, the recent Anti-White Watch tweet: “We are #Nationalists, conservatives roll over, we want separation.”On the same day, their account tweeted out the following explicitly bigoted hot take on the conviction of Derek Chauvin, the cop who murdered George Floyd in public and on camera: “Thug Floyd OD while resisting arrest and him and his people are destroying our country.”But even if Anti-White Watch probably won’t convince the average American that the country is suffering from a secret wave of anti-white hate and violence, it represents a growing sophistication in the way racist groups are making their cases. In more competent hands, and with more resources behind them, these tactics and future tweaks to them could have disturbing spillover effects, far beyond the weird world of white nationalism.“Far-right, white supremacist groups are paying attention to the messaging being used to challenge them,” Braddock noted. “And they’re adapting to it in a way that attempts to neutralize the facts on the ground about where the racial threats really are in America.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.