White supremacist extremists often use imagery that can be broken down into four categories—traditional, religious, Nazi-related, and Internet-based—to convey their ideology, show support for a specific group, or intimidate minority populations. These symbols should not automatically be assumed to be hate-related, but should be evaluated in the context in which they are used.
Traditional white supremacist extremist ideology focuses on the supposed superiority of the white race and past grievances associated with minorities achieving equal rights.
Traditional symbols stem from white racial dominance and a hatred toward others.
White supremacist extremists use religion to convey authority and credibility and to establish a sense of community among members. For example, some claim that Christianity shows whites are the true descendants of the original Hebrews and that all non-white, or non-European people, are “sub-human.” Their interpretation of Odinism—a pagan religion that adheres to Norse mythology—promotes Northern European roots and supports “warrior values” to legitimize violence.
White supremacist extremists continue to admire the German Nazi Party and use military emblems of the Third Reich to identify with the violent ideals and genocidal actions toward minorities and the effort to build an “Aryan nation.”
White supremacist extremists have been able to create, appropriate, and spread new images—often seemingly harmless characters and objects—through websites, social media platforms, and forums. These sites attract Internet trolls—individuals who post inflammatory or off-topic messages in an online community with the intent to provoke a response. They often post pictures with implicit or explicit threats of violence.
Joshua Steever Case Study
On April 13, the leader of Aryan Strikeforce—Joshua Steever from Phillipsburg (Warren County), New Jersey—was arrested along with five other members for allegedly conspiring to sell methamphetamine, firearms, and machinegun parts to fund the organization’s activities. Steever has numerous arrests throughout the United States, including bias offenses and aggravated assault. Aryan Strikeforce has over 30 chapters domestically and internationally. The group creates and uses a variety of images—relying heavily on neo-Nazi ideology.