What many people call hate speech has changed a lot over the last few decades. Don’t think the Ku Klux Klan, think a much more decentralized, non-hierarchical, youth-centered phenomenon that uses social media and what’s known as “hate rock” to recruit, radicalize, and retain followers.
So says Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. He says the Sikh temple gunman, Wade Michael Page, was a prime example of present-day hate activists.
“Page first really got his exposure to hate when he was in the military—but he was a fairly decent part of the Orange County music scene," says Levin. "He was in bands like Youngland, Definite Hate, and End Apathy.”
Levin says the most recent hate-motivated mass killing may have taken place in Wisconsin, but California is no stranger to the threat of hate crimes. The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that studies extremist groups around the country, says California leads the way with 84 groups.
The state’s growing ethnic and racial diversity, and its long-running economic problems, may be top reasons for this trend.
“When you put that fear on top of personal setbacks, social isolation, psychological isolation, and festering anger, some of these folks will act out violently as we saw Page do,” says Levin.
Authorities don’t contend that Page targeted his rhetoric toward Muslims or Sikhs in particular. But his connections to hate rock, neo-nazi groups, and white power organizations are coming to light now, as investigators regard the Wisconsin shootings as an act of domestic terrorism and a hate crime.