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The radicalization of white Americans

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross
18th August 2017 - Quoted by German Lopez - Vox

There were many horrible sights and sounds at the Charlottesville, Virginia, protests over the weekend, from Nazi and Ku Klux Klan iconography to chants of “Jews will not replace us” and the Nazi slogan “blood and soil.” But perhaps the most horrifying of all came after the protests were technically over, when a 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer sped his car into a crowd of counterprotesters. In just a few seconds, he killed a woman and injured at least 19 others.

For many Americans, the realization came as a shock. This wasn’t supposed to happen in 2017. But it’s true: America has a white supremacist problem.


“Rather than personal meaning, someone might deeply feel the political grievances that are being articulated and are drawn into the movement through that articulation,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told me.


In the context of white supremacists, part of addressing this may mean expanding the Overton window — meaning what’s acceptable to talk about in public discourse. “The more we put things off limits, the more we empower bad actors who will talk about things other people aren’t willing to,” Gartenstein-Ross said.


Gartenstein-Ross pointed to President Donald Trump’s rise as a less extreme example of this. For much of the 2016 election, Trump was considered a long-shot candidate — someone who held far too many extreme, unconventional views to become president. But it may be those same extreme, unconventional views that made him successful; by reflecting the concerns some people have about immigrants and Muslims, he appealed in a way other candidates did not. And the underlying concerns behind those racist views weren’t addressed by Trump’s opponents; instead, they often just dismissed Trump as crude, racist, or insane.


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