Research News

White supremacist activity spikes when Trump talks anti-immigration: Vanderbilt researcher

Sophie Bjork-James (Vanderbilt University)

The presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has coincided with a large spike in white supremacist activity on the Internet, with Jewish journalists targeted in particular, according to a Vanderbilt professor.

“The Trump campaign has given the white nationalist movement a long-awaited opportunity to spread its message to a national audience,” said Sophie Bjork-James, who tracks white nationalist Internet groups and is a post-doctoral fellow and lecturer of anthropology at Vanderbilt University.

“Trump’s messages about limiting immigration and banning Muslims from the United States have given the movement one of its largest membership boosts in decades, which will have impact long after this election cycle.”

According to Bjork-James:

  • The founder of the white nationalist website Stormfront, Don Black, claims a 30 to 40 percent spike in web traffic in 2015 after Trump’s anti-immigration and ban Muslim speeches.
  • The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, was created in 2013. The site went from 1.2 million visits per month in 2015 to 1.9 million visitors per month today.
  • went from 32 million visits per month in 2015 to 75 million visits per month in September of 2016.
  • The “alt-right” term or Alternative Right was started by white nationalist Richard Spencer and is an attempt to rebrand the racist right as a legitimate part of the political spectrum.

“The radical right in particular has decided that targeting Jews and ratcheting up anti-Semitic language is a strategy,” Bjork-James said. “Neo-Nazism is a defining belief in white nationalism.”

Bjork-James’ research interests include tracking white nationalist movements and has published her findings in The Apartheid Conscience: What the white nationalist movement can teach us about the reproduction of white supremacy in America, “Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights” and the chapter titled “Cybersupremacy: The new face and form of white supremacist activism” in Tactics in Hard Times: Practices and Spaces of New Media.