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A hate group is an organized group or movement that advocates and practices hatred, hostility, or violence towards members of a race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other designated sector of society. According to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), hate groups' "primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons belonging to a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin which differs from that of the members of the organization." The Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) definition of a "hate group" includes those having beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.
In the US, two main organizations that monitor intolerance and hate groups are the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the SPLC. Hate groups are also tracked by the FBI. The ADL and the SPLC maintain a list of what they deem to be hate groups, supremacist groups and anti-Semitic, anti-government or extremist groups that have committed hate crimes. However, at least for the SPLC, inclusion of a group in the list "does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity." According to the SPLC, from 2000 to 2008, hate group activity saw a 50 percent increase in the US, with a total of 926 active groups. The FBI does not publish a list of hate groups, and "[I]nvestigations are conducted only when a threat or advocacy of force is made; when the group has the apparent ability to carry out the proclaimed act; and when the act would constitute a potential violation of federal law."
The California Association for Human Relations Organizations (CAHRO) asserts that hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and White Aryan Resistance (WAR) preach violence against racial, religious, sexual and other minorities in the United States. Joseph E. Agne argues that hate-motivated violence is a result of the successes of the civil rights movement, and asserts that the KKK has resurfaced and new hate groups have formed. Agne argues that it is a mistake to underestimate the strength of the hate-violence movement, its apologists and its silent partners.
In the US, crimes that "manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, including the crimes of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; aggravated assault; burglary; larceny-theft; motor vehicle theft; arson; simple assault; intimidation; and destruction, damage or vandalism of property", directed at the government, an individual, a business, or institution, involving hate groups and hate crimes, may be investigated as acts of domestic terrorism.
Counterterrorism expert Ehud Sprinzak argues that verbal violence is "the use of extreme language against an individual or a group that either implies a direct threat that physical force will be used against them, or is seen as an indirect call for others to use it." Sprinzak argues that verbal violence is often a substitute for real violence, and that the verbalization of hate has the potential to incite people who are incapable of distinguishing between real and verbal violence to engage in actual violence.
Historian Daniel Goldhagen, discussing antisemitic hate groups, argues that we should view verbal violence as "an assault in its own right, having been intended to produce profound damage—emotional, psychological, and social—to the dignity and honor of the Jews. The wounds that people suffer by ... such vituperation ... can be as bad as ... [a] beating."
In the mid-1990s, the popularity of the Internet brought new international exposure to many organizations, including groups with beliefs such as white supremacy, neo-Nazism, homophobia, Holocaust denial or Islamophobia. Several white supremacist groups have founded websites dedicated to attacking their perceived enemies. In 1996, the Simon Wiesenthal Center of Los Angeles asked Internet access providers to adopt a code of ethics that would prevent extremists from publishing their ideas online. In 1996, the European Commission formed the Consultative Commission on Racism and Xenophobia (CRAX), a pan-European group which was tasked to "investigate and, using legal means, stamp out the current wave of racism on the Internet."
The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated several Christian groups as hate groups, including American Family Association, Family Research Council, Abiding Truth Ministries, American Vision, Chalcedon Foundation, Dove World Outreach Center and Traditional Values Coalition.
The SPLC classes Nation of Islam (NOI) as a hate group under the category "black separatist". The NOI preaches that a black scientist named Yakub created the white race, a "race of devils", on the Greek island of Patmos. The NOI, unlike traditional Muslim groups, does not accept white members and is not regarded as a legitimate branch of Islam by mainstream Muslims.
The white supremacist Creativity Movement (formerly World Church of the Creator), led by Matthew F. Hale, is associated with violence and bigotry. Aryan Nations is another religion-based white supremacist hate group.
Traditionally, hate groups recruited members and spread extremist messages by word of mouth, or through the distribution of flyers and pamphlets. In contrast, the Internet allows members from all over the world to engage in real-time conversations. The Internet has been a boon for hate groups in terms of promotion, recruitment and expanding their base to include younger audiences. An Internet hate group does not have to be a part of a traditional faction such as the Ku Klux Klan.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), in its 2009 iReport, identified more than 10,000 problematic hate and terrorist websites and other Internet postings. The report includes hate websites, social networks, blogs, newsgroups, YouTube and other video sites. The findings illustrate that as the Internet continues to grow, extremists find new ways to seek validation for their hateful agendas and to recruit members.
Facebook hate page/group creators choose their target, set up a site, and then recruit members Anyone can create a Facebook group and invite followers to post comments, add pictures and participate in discussion boards. A Facebook page is similar, except one must ‘like’ the page to become a member. Because of the ease of creating and joining such groups, many so-called hate groups exist only in cyberspace
According to a 2003 FBI Law Enforcement bulletin, a hate group, if unimpeded, passes through seven successive stages. In the first four stages, hate groups vocalize their beliefs and in the last three stages, they act on their beliefs. The report points to a transition period that exists between verbal violence and acting that violence out, separating hardcore haters from rhetorical haters. Thus, hate speech is seen as a prerequisite of hate crimes, and as a condition of their possibility.