Just when one may think that the silver lining in facing the Coronavirus crisis would be that it’s bringing together Americans of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, etc. to unite against a common external threat, we are seeing the opposite happen among hate groups. According to a report from the Rolling Stone and Yahoo News, white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups are weaponing the Coronavirus to target law enforcement agents and “nonwhite” people.
Law enforcement weekly briefings have discovered that neo-Nazis are using Telegram, an encrypted messaging app, to discuss using items such as spray bottles filled with saliva to infect minority communities. The intelligence brief was written by the Federal Protective Services, a part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The intelligence brief covering the date range between February 17-24, noted that conversations took place under the channel “siege culture,” a channel aimed at advocating racial terrorism, and entailed specific discussions centered around “leaving ‘saliva on door handles’ at local FBI offices, spitting on elevator buttons and spreading coronavirus germs in ‘nonwhite neighborhoods.’”
These developments come on the heels of the Southern Poverty Year in Hate report raising concerns about the spike in hateful rhetoric taking place on YouTube channels and other online mediums where white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups have congregated.
Eric Ward, executive director of the Western States Center, shared with reporters that the global pandemic resulting in social distancing and stay at home orders actually increases opportunities for hate groups to disseminate their messaging to a larger online audience that is under stay at home orders.
The Southern Poverty Law Center believes that the uptick in hateful rhetoric, including the recent rise in anti-Asian sentiments, is fueled in large part by the Trump administration’s actions and rhetoric.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, which has coincided with President Trump’s labeling of the Coronavirus the “Chinese virus.” Despite being warned by the World Health Organization that such labels only serve to stigmatize Asians during a time when unity is more important than ever, the President has continued to use the term.