Will Decentralization of Neo-Nazism Spur More Right-Wing Terrorism?

For the first time in decades, it is possible that there will be no U.S. neo-Nazi party large enough to hold public rallies. In a story worthy of a plot-twisting HBO special, Black civil rights activist James Stern convinced the leader of the largest U.S. neo-Nazi party, the National Socialist Movement (NSM), to officially make him their president in order to help protect the party from a lawsuit. Afterward, he said, “As a Black man, I took over a neo-Nazi group and outsmarted them,” and that he intends to dismantle the group from within.

The NSM is important for opponents of the far right to watch because it is the largest open neo-Nazi group in the United States. As such, it is the furthest stop for a public, organized group on the right wing of the political spectrum. And after the 2018 collapse of the Traditionalist Worker Party, another large fascist party, the NSM has been the only neo-Nazi group able to hold public demonstrations of even a moderate size.

This, in combination with several other recent events, marks the third major blow dealt to the white nationalist movement since 2016. The first was the wave of deplatforming after Charlottesville. (“Deplatforming” refers to the practice of cancelling digital and other services for certain political groups; for example, when PayPal cancels the accounts of racist groups.) The second was the March 2018 meltdown, when the Traditionalist Worker Party collapsed after a leadership sex scandal, and “alt-right” leader Richard Spencer’s college tour ended after a disastrous finale in Michigan.

After spring 2018, the energy shifted from the white nationalist wing of the “alt-right” to the more moderate “alt-lite” — which shares the white nationalists’ conspiracy-fueled, Islamophobic vision, but doesn’t call for a white ethnostate and allows in gay men, Jews, and people of color. But the alt-lite’s reign was brief,…

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