New York, NY, January 6, 2022 … One year after the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) today unveiled an interactive map highlighting the ways in which elements of extremism and hate have been normalized over the past 12 months, and providing a roadmap of where this newly mainstreamed extremism may be heading.
ADL’s Center on Extremism has identified eight of the most concerning ways in which extremism and hate have been amplified since the insurrection – including violence and threats against medical and school board personnel, journalists and others. Many of these incidents and developments are directly connected to the events of January 6th and the ongoing conspiracy theories about a “stolen election,” while others emerged thanks to the political climate created by the insurrection and its aftermath.
“One year ago we watched as extremists and others -- animated by persistent lies about the 2020 election -- maraud through our nation’s Capital seeking to harm lawmakers, injure and kill police officers, and stop our nation’s one constant: a peaceful transition of power,” said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt. “And although many of these rioters have been either charged, convicted or are awaiting sentencing for their roles on January 6, the themes and narratives that led many of these individuals to the Capitol that day remain persistent and have grown in the year since. We must remain vigilant in the face of these anti-democratic threats and continue to pushback against these destructive forces.”
“It is our hope that concerned individuals, as well as government, law enforcement, and community leaders, can use this resource to educate and equip themselves to push back more effectively against the nationwide extremist threat,” said Greenblatt.
“January 6 was both a symbol of our national failure to prevent the terrifying rise of extremism and an ominous oracle of the ways in which extremism would mutate in the months after the attack,” said ADL’s Vice President for the Center on Extremism, Oren Segal. “Today, it also acts as a warning: until our nation takes united, focused, concerted and effective action to mitigate the rise of extremism, such as implementing ADL’s PROTECT plan, our democracy is in danger.”
The eight themes identified by the Center on Extremism are:
1. Politicians Glorify and Call for Violence
In the leadup to and aftermath of January 6, more and more elected officials glorified and even encouraged violence against their political opponents. Paired with the increasing use of dehumanizing language targeting people on the other side of the aisle, politicians continue to create a sense of urgency that has contributed to surging threats and acts of political violence across the nation.
2. Hate and Extremism Go Mainstream
National leaders in government and media have served as gateways and champions for radical ideologies, validating and promoting bigoted and militant views to millions more people than extremists could ever hope to reach on their own.
3. Conspiracy Theories Gain New Ground
The brazen embrace of falsehoods on January 6 foreshadowed an avalanche of conspiracy theories throughout 2021. More and more individuals across the right adopted increasingly outlandish and irrational beliefs about vaccines, public-school curricula, the 2020 election and other issues of the day. While most of these theories did not cross into extremist territory, their proliferation made it easier for extremists to inject their own sinister conspiracies into the mainstream
4. Threats, Plots and Attacks Targeting Political Figures, Institutions and Symbols
In the last two years, an increasing number of Americans have used violence against their political and ideological opponents. These individuals often directed their ire at physical buildings and institutions that represent government or political entities. This interest in striking symbols of their perceived enemies echoes past acts of domestic terror, most famously the targeting of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building during the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
5. Threats and Harassment Against Public School Officials and Medical Professionals
Many of the radical ideas that gained traction over the course of 2021 put medical professionals and school officials directly in the crosshairs of far-right animosity from within their own communities. As a result, harassment, threats and acts of violence against health and educational professionals and institutions bubbled over, as people animated by extremist views took action against those who they believed were complicit in or responsible for nefarious conspiratorial plots.
6. Targeting Journalists
Reflexive, unthinking distrust of the mainstream media is a legacy of the Trump presidency; in fact, the Nazi phrase “Lugenpresse,” or lying press, was resurrected by Trump supporters at his rallies. But this sentiment is not solely reserved for the right – left-wing extremists have also increasingly adopted and acted on anti-press views. This has led to real-world action - the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker reports that at least 135 journalists have been assaulted in 2021.
7. QAnon Grows More Virulent and Hateful
Despite there being no word from Q since December 2020, QAnon continued to migrate into mainstream channels in 2021, a shift that was highlighted by several conferences held across the country that brought together QAnon adherents, election conspiracy theorists, and anti-vaccine activists. Among the dangerous narratives propagated at these events: the 2020 election was stolen by Democrats; a global cabal of pedophiles (including Democrats) who are kidnapping children for their blood will be executed when Donald Trump is reinstated as president; and the coronavirus was co-created by Dr. Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates.
8. Major Trends and Incidents Since January 6
From the deadly violence on January 6, to the long-awaited verdict in the Unite the Right trial, 2021 has been a busy year for those who traffic in extremism, hate and disinformation. Some extremists were held to account for their actions – at the insurrection and in Charlottesville – while others joined forces to spread bigotry. Though it has always been part of this country, in recent years extremism has, for most Americans, become more visible than ever before, with violent expressions of hate populating our news feeds and screens daily.
To see the full report, map and a list of representative examples for each theme, please click here.