White Supremacists: Rhetorical Shifts Unlikely to Deter Violence

To appeal to new audiences susceptible to its radical messaging, the national white supremacist movement has tried to deemphasize hate symbols and attacks against non-white communities. These organizations have attempted to “rebrand” since at least last year, when they took a more high-profile role with conferences and rallies, official statements, and recruitment efforts. 

  • On November 4, 2016, the National Socialist Movement (NSM), the primary white supremacist umbrella group, declared its intent to stop using the swastika. NSM stated it has “every intention to bring our Party . . . into the halls of Government here in the United States, and to do that we must reach more of the public. The masses believe exactly as we do, but have steered clear of us due to our use of the swastika. Your Party Platform remains the same, your Party remains unchanged, it is a cosmetic overhaul only.”

  • To date, the website of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan denies it is a hate group and focuses messaging on the “love of the white race” and “restoring America to a White Christian nation.” The organization also claims it does not want to harm the “darker races” but “simply want[s] to live separate from them.” 

Nonetheless, NJOHSP assesses white supremacist extremists—particularly those frustrated with the perceived inaction of the broader movement—remain a moderate threat to New Jersey. Since January 2017, two attacks and one plot have been attributed to white supremacist extremists across the United States.  

  • On March 21, James Harris Jackson, a self-identified white supremacist, traveled from Baltimore to New York to kill black men. He murdered an African-American man with a sword and told investigators the attack was a “test run for a larger killing spree.”
  • On February 16, South Carolina authorities arrested Benjamin McDowell—who established white supremacist ties while serving an 18-month sentence related to a second-degree burglary charge in 2011—for allegedly planning to attack a synagogue “in the spirit of Dylann Roof,” who murdered nine at a South Carolina black church in 2015. Like Roof, McDowell was frustrated other white supremacists were not “taking action,” telling authorities he wanted to “conduct an attack on non-whites without getting caught.”

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at analysis@njohsp.gov or 609-584-4000.