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White nationalism began to take a foothold in the mainstream in 2021, and Arizona helped

By: - March 9, 2022 4:01 pm
Paul Gosar

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott. Photo by Jonathan Ernst | Pool/Getty Images

A newly released report by the Southern Poverty Law Center details extremism in 2021 — and how elected officials like U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar helped white nationalists and hate groups move their views into the mainstream. 

The SPLC’s Year in Hate and Extremism report details the number of hate groups across the country, how extremist groups are operating across the country and what rhetoric they are spreading. 

“We are seeing other signs that dangerous white supremacist ideas are getting a toehold in the mainstream,” Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst at the SPLC, told reporters in a briefing on the report. 

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Miller mentioned how Fox News host Tucker Carlson promoted the “Great Replacement” theory. The idea, which is popular among white supremacists and has inspired real world violence, holds that white Americans are being replaced by immigrants and other minority groups. It has been seized upon by extremist groups like the American Identity Movement and Generation Identity

The racist narrative has also been pushed by Arizona politicians, including Flagstaff Republican Wendy Rogers, who has become a hero to white nationalists and was censured by the state Senate this month after she spoke to a white nationalist conference in February. 

Both Gosar and Rogers have cozied up to a group of white nationalists known as “groypers”, who strive for their ideas to become a part of the Republican mainstream. In 2021, Gosar was the first elected official to speak at the America First Political Action Conference. This year, the conference saw speeches by Gosar, Rogers and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The event, known as AFPAC and meant to be an alternative to the mainstream conservative CPAC conference, is hosted by white nationalist Nick Fuentes

“Wow, what a group,” Gosar told the crowd in 2021 in Orlando, Fla., launching into a speech in which he railed against the “deep state,” talked about the importance of building an impenetrable wall along America’s southern border and how “cancel culture” is a greater concern than the climate crisis.

Gosar would later try to distance himself from Fuentes saying he denounces “white racism” but he has continued to be close to extremists including amplifying them on social media. On his Instagram account, Gosar has shared pictures of himself with a number of groypers. 

Groypers are largely followers of Fuentes and use online harassment techniques as well as in-person trolling — but aimed at Republicans and other conservatives, with the goal of forcing them further to the right. 

Posts from U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar’s Instagram page sharing photos of him with white nationalist “groypers.”

The SPLC report noted that the number of hate groups declined in recent years, but researchers noted that this could likely be due to this mainstreaming of extremist views. Essentially, they said, that means members of hate groups can function within existing structures without creating new organizations. 

Arizona has a total of 42 antigovernment and hate groups the SPLC identified, including three Neo-Nazi groups and three white nationalist groups. 

Last year, members of the Neo-Nazi Nationalist Socialist Movement rallied in Phoenix, and the group’s regional director is followed by Rogers on Twitter. 

Gosar, whose use of social media got him in trouble, has a history of posting far-right memes on Twitter, some that he even swiftly deleted last year that had ties to Neo-Nazis

Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has condemned Gosar and Greene for their attendance and Rogers has been censured. 

However, Wednesday morning Gosar posted on alternative social media site Gab, who’s CEO also appeared at AFPAC, that “cancel culture has limitations” and he and Greene were unrepentant.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

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