Slate: Do news events that involve race help White supremacist groups grow?
Heidi Beirich: It’s definitely the case that every time there’s been one of these incidents between White cops and the mostly young Black males who have been killed it leads to an increase in membership on White supremacist forums, and engagement—meaning there are threads on those topics, and they end up being the most active threads on the sites. There’s incredible interest in the White supremacist world in these issues. And they of course see these issues a lot differently than the rest of us, and talk about rampaging Black men, good White cops, Black people can’t control themselves, that sort of stuff.
I guess it’s not particularly surprising that people on these boards would be talking about these events. But is it the case that these events actually result in their movement attracting new members?
In general, I would argue that the White supremacist movement has been growing. Our counts have shown that their reaction to the Census Bureau in 2000 saying Whites would go into the minority in the 2040s, the rise of Obama, all of this has led to an increasingly active and engaged backlash. It’s obviously a sliver of the U.S. population, but this is fuel for the White supremacist movement, it’s fuel for the violence that we’re seeing, this lone-wolf violence, and a lot of those people are radicalized on the Web, on hate sites.