Social Challenges

 New Resources Help Communities 

Counter Mainstreaming of Hate

    MONTGOMERY, Ala. and WASHINGTON - (SPLC - November 26, 2022 - At a moment in America when extremism is threatening grassroots democracy, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL) at American University today released a new resource to help communities confront and build resilience against the mainstreaming of hate.

    The guide – Building Networks & Addressing Harm: A Community Guide to Online Youth Radicalization – recognizes the crucial role trusted adults play as the first line of defense against radicalization. It intends to equip them with tools to effectively support and protect young people targeted by hateful actions and rhetoric.

    “The best way to prevent radicalization is to address its root causes,” said Susan Corke, director of the Intelligence Project at SPLC. “Doing this requires a whole-of-community approach, moving beyond parents and caregivers to provide all trusted adults with tools to intervene in their homes, schools and neighborhoods.”

    “Each trusted adult in a young person’s network of care has a unique vantage point into their lives,” said Dr. Pasha Dashtgard, director of research at PERIL. “That network of trusted adults – whether they’re coaches, religious leaders, tutors or others – has an opportunity to help young people build resilience against the manipulation of extremist groups.”

    This new resource provides guidance to help young people resist the supremacist narratives and manipulative rhetoric they encounter online and offline, including:

  • Insight into the drivers of young people’s susceptibility to extremist radicalization, such as feelings of isolation, dislocation and coping with traumatic experiences.
  • Information about some of the common ways young people become radicalized, including echo chambers, content “rabbit holes,” and unmoderated and under moderated online environments.
  • Tools to recognize the warning signs of youth radicalization, such as sharing concepts associated with scientific racism or a belief in male supremacy.

    The guide builds on existing resources developed by the SPLC and PERIL, including The Parents & Caregivers Guide to Online Youth Radicalization and supplements for educators, counselors, and coaches. A 2021 assessment of the Parents & Caregivers Guide shows that after just seven minutes of reading the guide, parents improved their knowledge and understanding of youth radicalization, with over 80% feeling “definitely” or “probably” prepared to talk with young people about online extremism and to intervene appropriately.

    A full suite of online resources is available here in English, Spanish, German and Portuguese.

Elections in America

 GOP’s Full-Throated Nativism 

Fails to Resonate Beyond 

the MAGA Base

    Washington, DC – (America's Voice) - Nov. 13, 2022 - An array of voices are highlighting one takeaway from the 2022 midterms – once again, most voters rejected Republicans’ relentless anti-immigrant attacks and larger extremism. As in past recent cycles, the GOP fear-mongering and nativism failed to resonate beyond the MAGA base as Americans voted against leading peddlers of ugly nativism and expressed renewed support for common sense solutions at odds with Republicans’ ugliness. Among the voices and examples:

  • Greg Sargent of Washington Post: GOP assumptions on border and immigration again “proved wrong”: As part of his larger analysis titled, “5 big GOP narratives just went down in flames,” Greg Sargent of the Washington Post notes, “Invasion language did little for Republicans,” writing that “Republicans have long enjoyed a presumption of a major advantage on this issue, but aside from Trump’s 2016 victory, it keeps failing to deliver … GOP confidence that President Biden’s ‘disastrous open border’ would spark major electoral repudiation, giving Republicans space to hyper-radicalize their base around the issue, has proved wrong.”
  • Paul Waldman of Washington Post: “Arizona Democrats chalk up their big night to GOP focus on immigration.” Waldman writes: “Though Republicans wouldn’t use those terms, immigration was clearly the beginning and end of their strategy in Arizona this year. If you went to any GOP campaign event in Arizona lately, you would have heard a litany of horrors about the border as candidates Kari Lake and Blake Masters painted a nightmarish picture of murder and mayhem pouring into American communities, courtesy of a quasi-conspiracy involving the Chinese Communist Party, Mexican drug cartels and President Biden himself seeking to flood the country with fentanyl and criminal aliens … In Arizona as elsewhere, through victory and defeat, Republicans’ faith in the electoral power of the immigration issue has been unwavering. And all indications are that whatever else happens between now and 2024, that isn’t going to change.”
  • “Hatemongering isn’t a sustainable political strategy.” Los Angeles Times columnist Jean Guerrero, who wrote a biography of leading nativist Stephen Miller, responded to Miller’s attempted spin that Republicans didn’t make anti-immigration attacks enough of their focus by noting: “Except this is literally all the GOP ran on. Hatemongering isn’t a sustainable political strategy.”
  • “While votes are still being counted, it’s clear Stephen Miller’s racist political ads were a flop” from Gabe Ortiz at Daily Kos: Ortiz writes, “Miller had been assuring his racist base that a “red wave” was in store for Republicans, doing his part by launching massively offensive ads in more than a dozen states that sobbed about supposed “anti-white bigotry” and pushed violent anti-immigrant imagery … But this week, voters largely rejected this bigoted agenda … ‘Stephen Miller predicted that Republicans’ nativism would help usher in a ‘red tsunami,’ but his tens of millions of dollars’ worth of overt racism and nativism fell flat in 2022—just as his similar election predictions about the power of GOP nativism failed in past cycles,’ said Vanessa C├írdenas, executive director of immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice. ‘The strategy of trying to mobilize the MAGA base around extreme Trumpian grievances and anti-immigrant fear-mongering fell flat.’”

    Indeed, as America’s Voice tracked, the Stephen Miller-affiliated “Citizens for Sanity” spent over $51 million in TV ads across 16 states in the midterms’ homestretch with some of the year’s most vile nativist, racist and transphobic ads (as seen during World Series) – just part of the GOP’s relentless focus on nativism and 3,200 different paid communications on anti-immigrant themes highlighted by the America’s Voice’s ad tracking project.

    Following is a statement from Vanessa C├írdenas, Executive Director for America’s Voice:

    “Nativism has become the beating heart of the Republican Party and the throughline from Trump’s descent down the escalator in 2015 to MAGA extremists taking control of the GOP to the current perilous moment facing our democracy. And once again, the political potency of GOP full-throated nativism failed to resonate beyond the Republican base and may have been part of a larger backlash among many voters against MAGA candidates.

    "One clear takeaway from this election is that the GOP’s massive investment in nativist attacks failed to deliver, which is an especially striking fact given an election environment that overwhelmingly favored Republicans and that the issue was a top message priority GOP-wide. The vast majority of Americans reject the GOP’s radicalism and scare tactics on immigration and recognize that immigrants are a source of strength for the nation. Now, we need policies that meet the vast majority of the country where it actually is – in favor of common sense solutions that address the uncertain futures of Dreamers, TPS holders, and farm workers and in support of bipartisan reforms that will modernize and actually address immigration reform in a real way.”

U.S. Elections

Social Media and the 

Midterm 2022 Elections

Anticipating Online Threats to Democratic Legitimacy

    Washington, D.C. — (CAP) - Nov. 5, 2022 - As social media companies continue to allow attacks on American democracy to proliferate on their platforms, a new issue brief from the Center for American Progress reveals the top threats to democratic legitimacy facing social media platforms and explains how these companies must confront them.

    “Online platforms are not the sole cause of this democratic crisis,” said Adam Conner, CAP’s vice president of Technology Policy and co-author of the brief. “But companies’ continued refusal to make the fundamental changes required to stop their tools from becoming platforms for hate and election subversion make them complicit in these assaults on our democracy.”

    Over the past few years, there has been an extraordinary informational assault on the legitimacy of U.S. elections fueled by the spread of baseless claims of fraud. Despite continuous calls for product changes, social media platforms continue to abdicate their responsibility to prevent these attacks.

    The new issue brief identifies the three most significant threats to democratic legitimacy that social media platforms must address: 1) election subversion theater, 2) online harassment and intimidation of election workers, and 3) post-election informational chaos.

    “Many candidates and elected officials now promote baseless claims of fraud in order to create the impression that there were instances of fraud or election insecurities, even when there were not,” said Ashleigh Maciolek, research associate for Structural Reform and Governance at CAP and co-author of the brief. “Online platforms need to be aware of this election subversion theater and take steps to prevent their platforms from being used to delegitimize elections.”

    Anticipating that these informational threats will continue to undermine U.S. democracy, fuel violence, and sow chaos, CAP and its partners issued a clear set of demands to major social media companies ahead of the midterm elections to protect the freedom to vote and fairness of elections. Unfortunately, many of these demands have been ignored. The three informational threats identified by CAP remain major threats to the legitimacy of our elections, including:

  • Election subversion theater: Social media companies continue to allow election denialism and baseless claims of fraud to spread on their platforms, providing a platform for perceptive assaults on the legitimacy of the U.S. election process.
  • Online harassment and intimidation of election workers: Online disinformation and violent rhetoric have made the election process seem untrustworthy, implicating election workers who are simply carrying out their vital jobs to protect U.S. elections.
  • Post-election informational chaos: Between the time that the public casts their ballots and elected officials are sworn into office, social media companies must double down on countering baseless claims of fraud, declarations of a “stolen” or “rigged” election, and other election conspiracy theories.

    Recognizing these online threats, CAP again recommends that social media companies take serious, proactive steps to prevent informational assaults on U.S. democracy to proliferate online. Among other recommendations, these steps include:

  • Employing viral circuit breakers to ensure that the spread of false election information or delegitimization is not immediately damaging
  • Proactively monitoring for—and expeditiously removing—attempts to create conspiracy theories about election workers
  • Prohibiting advertisements that promote the “big lie,” delegitimize the election, or otherwise declare elections stolen or rigged

    It is critically important for social media companies to address these ongoing threats now, as CAP expects the 2022 midterms to see the same flood of informational assaults as in 2020. These will only get worse as the 2024 election gets closer.

    Read the issue brief:Social Media and the 2022 Midterm Elections: Anticipating Online Threats to Democratic Legitimacy” by Erin Simpson, Adam Conner, and Ashleigh Maciolek

    For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at shananel@americanprogress.org.