The Hate Manager: Why Hate Groups Affect Hate Crime

Fear and Control

Hate groups and hate crime have a close relationship. That relationship’s foundations? Fear. Fear of a threat from a marginalized group.  For Daily Stormer readers, the threat came from Jewish women. For a right-wing rally in Charlottesville, the threat came from anti-racist protestors. The solution to these threats? In a word, control. Enter the Hate Manager.

The Hate Manager

Hate groups which maintain a web presence influence both who will likely commit a hate crime and where such offenses will take place. Considering their social influence, I refer to these groups as “Hate Managers”. Hate Managers achieve their influence by both stoking existing fears and forging social bonds to exert an authoritarian and disciplinary social control. Victims of such control refer to their experiences as hate crime. Such crime might range from a fight on the street to a campaign of harassment (see link below).

Jewish woman testifies about neo-Nazi troll storm

Montana mother Tanya Gersh said a part of her was broken after testifying in court against neo-Nazi publisher Andrew Anglin and those who subjected her to a torrent of hate. But she vowed to fight on.

Hate Groups and Hate Crimes

To explain, I base these arguments off my recent thesis, where I find that hate crimes are ten times more likely to occur in a county when a hate group hold a base of operations there. What’s more, the presence of a hate group seems a stronger predictor than even a county’s economic inequality, though racial inequality still holds some major predictive power. Likewise, I find that when Hate Managers discuss locations publicly, hate crimes are twice as likely to occur there than those without discussion. These findings provide solid ground for discussing the relationship between hate groups and hate crime.

James Alex Fields Jr. (left) rammed his car into anti-racist protestors at the Unite the Right rally, killing 32 year old Heather Heyer (right).
Photo courtesy of WJLA

Social Control

Of course, the idea of crime as social control, or self-help, is not new. The idea of crime as self-help meshes with Barbara Perry’s understanding of hate crime as “a mechanism of power intended to sustain [social] hierarchies through violence and threats of violence”.   Though hate group presence overshadows typical self-help factors such as economic inequality and social immobility, I am not arguing that hate crime doesn’t qualify as self-help, merely that hate crime is a different type of self-help. My research illustrates why hate groups hold influential power and what that influence results in, but work remains on answering how this occurs, or on highlighting the specific processes that lead from hate group to hate crime. In other words, though we know that the Hate Managers’ presence and words affect the odds of a hate crime happening, we still don’t know their exact role.

And so, I conclude this post by calling for researchers, activists, victims, and even perpetrators to come forward and share with one another, so we can focus in on the missing pieces: the experiences of the victims, their would-be guardians, and those that actually perpetrate hate crimes. Only by addressing hate crime in its entirety can we truly understand it. Only by understanding it can we hope to confront it. And only by confronting it can we hope to defeat it.

Regarding My Findings

My findings were based off an examination of FBI Hate Crime data, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map, U.S. Census data, and my own investigation into hate group websites. For simplicity’s sake, I chose to limit my results to Virginia, despite the fact that California carried the highest number of hate groups. Virginia at the time held the highest number of White Nationalist or WN groups (see chart above). WN groups prioritize local networks and cultural aspects and a propensity for violence (see Hamm 1993; Futrell and Simi 2004). Likewise, Virginia lacks California’s size and population density, which make the former a better unit of analysis.

Further Reading

Adamczyk, Amy, Jeff Gruenewald, Steven M. Chermak, and Joshua D. Freilich. 2014. “The Relationship Between Hate Groups and Far-Right Ideological Violence.” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 30(3): 310-322.

Black, Donald. 1993. “Crime as Social Control.” Pp. 27-46 in The Social Structure of Right and Wrong, edited by D. Black. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, Inc.

Futrell, Robert and Pete Simi. 2004. “Free Spaces, Collective Identity, and the Persistence of U.S. White Power Activism.” Social Problems 51(1): 16-42.

Hamm, Mark S. 1993. American Skinheads: The Criminology and Control of Hate Crime. Westport, CT: Praeger.

LLoyd, Jonathan Andrew. 2019. “Hate Managers and Where They Target: An Analysis of Hate Crime as Hate Group Self-Help.” MS Thesis, Department of Sociology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Perry, Barbara. 2001. In the Name of Hate: Understanding Hate Crimes. New York: Routledge.

Van Dyke, Nella and Griff Tester. 2014. “Dangerous Climates: Factors Associated With Variation in Racist Hate Crimes on College Campuses.” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 30(3): 290-309.

Revisions

Edited 1/2/2020: Corrected Reading List and Featured Image. Earlier version omitted list and presented incorrect feature image. Current image is courtesy of Markus Spiske temporausch.com from Pexels.

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Hate Crime History

Hate Crime. A phrase so upsetting it might just be easier to pretend it doesn’t exist. News of more and more disturbing incidents continue to flood our news feeds, and arguments over whether or not something “counts” as a hate crime or not, you might find the idea of just ignoring the term altogether quite tempting. Likewise, merely talking about an incident might provoke the question “aren’t all crimes hate crimes?”.

Well, no. Hate crimes are different from other forms of violence, not only in their intent but in their impact. They present such a grim danger to both victims and democracy itself that their very existence demands both attention and action. Still, to really understand what makes something a hate crime, you need to learn the history behind hate crime itself. That process starts with defining the term.

Image of a battered plain white banner with all-caps marker writing held by four strings, two of them attached to a tree next to a brick house. Writing reads "TRUMP NATION, WHITES ONLY". Caption: Donald Trump's election brought about a rise in hate crimes. Photo courtesy of CBS News.
Donald Trump’s election brought about a rise in hate crimes.
Photo courtesy of CBS News.
(Source)

So, what is a Hate Crime anyway?

Simply put, it depends on who you ask and what you’re looking at. So, for this entry, I’m going to offer three different definitions of hate crime. Each one shows how the phrase reflects the person (or group) using it.

Definition One

To the FBI, a hate crime is ” a criminal offense committed against a person or property which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin”. This definition works for both general understanding and for those people and organizations who work in contemporary, individual-focused practices or in criminal justice. Not so much for those who need to talk about hate crimes as a wholly different kind of crime or focus on its social nature.

Definition Two

Luckily, help is available. Hate crime researchers Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt define hate offenses as those “directed against members of a group simply because of their membership in that group…The basis for an attack may be a victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender–indeed, any physical or cultural characteristic which, in the mind of offenders, separates the victim from themselves”.

Levin and McDevitt, along with researcher Susan Bennett, have provided a hate crime typology. They break hate crimes into four categories: Thrill, Defensive, Retaliatory, and Mission-Based.

  • Thrill crimes are those where offenders are after a sense of excitement or power, looking for an easy target to attack. This is the most common hate crime.
  • Defensive crimes happen when offenders react to some threat (which doesn’t have to be real or related to the target) against themselves, their community, or some related resource.
  • Retaliatory crimes happen in response to some attack (again, doesn’t have to be real or related to the target) against the offender or their greater community.
  • Mission-Based crimes are those directly related to hateful ideology. These offenders are totally committed to their criminal careers and view themselves as crusaders against evil. Despite a rise in offenses linked with hate crimes, mission-based offenses are still thankfully, the rarest type.

However, neither of these definitions help much in looking at hate crime’s evolution, which ties directly into the history and nature of law.

Definition Three

Laws change based on what rule-makers decide. What we call hateful murder today, a government might have once called “development”. As Criminologist and civil rights attorney Brian Levin says,“…in early America, status distinctions in law, particularly racial ones, were intended to restrict the exercise of civil rights”. Historian John Legg illustrates this idea in his essay on the U.S. Government’s uprooting of the Minnesotan Dakotans in 1862.

Today, psychologists Linda Woolf and Michael Hulsizer note that hate groups remain relatively unchallenged in some places since public figures such as senators or policemen can hold beliefs which are “grounded in hate”. In other words, hate crimes relate to power.

Professor Barbara Perry, a widely-recognized hate crime scholar, defines hate crimes as “…mechanisms of power” which offenders use to help insecure power bases. They do this either through violence or threatening violence. She argues that the threats mainly emerge against people who already live in dangerous or scorned situations.

So, which one do we use?

I’m not calling any of these definitions right or wrong. They just reflect the needs and interests of the groups that use them. The definitions I’ve talked about are tools to help in that effort. Each offers different findings and ideas. They may contrast with each other, but they don’t outright deny each other. So, again, it depends on who you ask and what you’re looking at.

That said, I’ll draw upon all three of these definitions as we go forward. Next time, I’ll be taking a look at a few key events in American history and using these tools to determine if they would considered hate crimes today and why they might not have been a few years back.

Thanks for reading!

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“The Criminal Class” in American Policy

In his exploration of America’s punitive turn at the end of the twentieth century, legal scholar Jonathan Simon examines the publications of Cesare Lombroso  (1825-1909), often called the “father” of positivist criminology , to create a policy template for the American criminal justice system. To clarify, a positivist criminologist applies methods characteristic of the natural sciences to explain criminality. Simon finds that American penal policy traditionally assumes that crime stems from a distinct class of people[1]. Such people, positivism suggests, inherently lean towards law-breaking and as such, require isolation and incapacitation. Simon considers that the increase in incarceration and halt of therapeutic rehabilitation between 1975 and 1985 reflect an anti-scientific approach to crime. This approach contrasts with the state’s prior view and its repression of crime through positivist-endorsed mechanisms, including eugenics, medicine, educational, and penal measures[2].

However, Simon contends that the ideas of crime control as science and the distinct, dangerous “criminal type” remain in the American criminal justice system. As such, though 1980s policy emphasized retribution and deterrence, it also simultaneously instituted positivist measures such as pretrial detention. Likewise, the incarcerated classes reflect those that positivism traditionally targets, “including the poor, recent immigrants, and minorities”[3]. In fact, when famed sociologist Charles A. Ellwood celebrated the English publication of Lombroso’s work in 1912, he noted that if Lombroso’s theory of crime “…is at all correct, it is evident that the criminal class is not essentially different in its genesis from the pauper class”[4] I should note here, though that Ellwood also argued that this parallelism was not explicit in Lombroso’s thought processes.

Simon argues that contemporary American crime policy represents a synthesis between the scientifically based findings and protective measures of Lombrosan positivism and the adjudicative control of state institutions. American crime control reflects the synthesis in its incorporation of extralegal danger assessments for selecting prosecution subjects as well as prosecutors’ flexibility to pursue extended isolation and repression for especially dangerous criminals[5].

 Simon concludes by discussing that though Lombroso remains largely forgotten by the general public, his “project” of linking state institutions and resources with scientific and cultural assumptions and his framing of crime as a mortal threat to the state remains embedded in American crime consciousness. Simon’s analysis reveals the social nature and links between both scientific and legal policy, constantly shifting between outlining origins and detailing why the American state provided such fertile ground for positivist approaches to criminality. Additionally, he illustrates the importance of recognizing “where change holds sway and where continuity”[6]. In identifying an intuitive but false assumption regarding policy change, Simon convincingly argues that Lombroso’s influence persists. In short, Simon’s historical research demonstrates what Zelizer might call the institutional and cultural persistence of Lombrosan positivism as well as the process evolution of the criminal justice system[7].

In conclusion, Simon’s analysis holds value for historians and criminologists alike in its model of systematically discussing and deconstructing the theoretical and cultural bases of a seemingly objective system. Likewise, it hold value for policymakers in its call to reassess the biases encoded in the criminal justice system and for its presence in a policy-targeted journal. However, if Simon were to argue his points more succinctly and in a more publicly available format, his call might resonate more forcefully.

RECOMMENDED READING

Bernard, Thomas J., Jeffrey B. Snipes, and Alexander L. Gerould. “Biological Factors and Criminal Behavior” in Vold’s Theoretical Criminology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Heidt, Jon, and Johannes P. Wheeldon. “Biological Positivist Theories” in Introducing criminological thinking: Maps, theories, and understanding. 38-58. Sage Publications, 2014.

Simon, Jonathan. “Positively punitive: How the inventor of scientific criminology who died at the beginning of the twentieth century continues to haunt American crime control at the beginning of the twenty-first.” Tex. L. Rev. 84 (2005): 2135-2172.

Wolfgang, Marvin E. “Pioneers in Criminology: Cesare Lombroso (1825-1909).” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 52, no. 4 (Winter 1961): 361-391.


[1] Jonathan Simon, “Positively Punitive: How the Inventor of Scientific Criminology Who Died at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century Continues to Haunt American Crime Control at the Beginning of the Twenty-First,” Texas Law Review 84, no. 2135 (2006): 2138.

[2] Simon, “Positively Punitive: How the Inventor of Scientific Criminology Who Died at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century Continues to Haunt American Crime Control at the Beginning of the Twenty-First,”, 2168.

[3] Ibid, 2169.

[4] Ellwood, Charles A. “Lombroso’s theory of crime.” J. Am. Inst. Crim. L. & Criminology 2 (1911): 723.

[5] Simon, “Positively Punitive: How The Inventory of Scientific Criminology Who Died at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century Continues to Haunt American Crime Control at the Beginning of the Twenty-First,”, 2170.

[6] Otis L. Graham, Jr. “The Uses and Misuses of History: Roles in Policymaking,” The Public Historian 5, no. 2 (1983): 12.

[7] Julian E. Zelizer, “Clio’s Lost Tribe: Public Policy History Since 1978,” Journal of Policy History 12, no. 3 (2000): 383-388.


This essay was adapted from a review I wrote for a graduate level history course.

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