Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Why US far-right groups are shifting their focus to local communities

Ideological questions aside, what these groups appear to be doing is tactically correct.

By Sergio Olmos, The Guardian

The far-right is moving towards decentralized movements in regional venues where, experts warn, they can have far-reaching and dangerous impacts.

This month more than 100 members of a white supremacist group called Patriot Front marched on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC with shields and American flags in an attempt to project strength on a national stage.

The “stormtrooper”-like appearance of a phalanx of the group’s members tramping through the streets of the American capital seemed designed to shock and cause headlines, even if it ended somewhat in farce.

But the Patriot Front’s action actually belied a disturbing reality of how many American far-right groups have shifted their focus in 2021 to far more local audiences and regional venues where, experts warn, their activities can have far-reaching and dangerous impacts.

In the aftermath of the 6 January Capitol attack, US law enforcement has dealt serious blows to rightwing groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Big tech firms have also largely curtailed their ability to spread their message, with widespread de-platforming of members on popular social networks.

But extremism experts say the far right in America is now undergoing something of an atomization and localization: moving away from central organizations that might be subject to more federal law enforcement surveillance, and towards decentralized movements in regional venues where it can actually seek positions of office and take power.

National far-right groups with state chapters, like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, have dissolved national leadership and fractured into state and intra-state groups. “A lot of organization and leadership vacuums opened up after January 6,” said Jared Holt, a domestic extremism researcher with Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

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