DUNWOODY, Ga. — Two members of the Anti-Defamation League joined a special episode of the Georgia Politics Podcast Feb. 3 to discuss extremist groups nationwide and here in Georgia. The ADL is a leading anti-hate organization founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry.
Dr. Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the Southern Division, and Amy Iandiorio, Investigative Researcher at the Center on Extremism, took questions and provided research analysis about extremist group growth and how tracking has changed since being removed from popular social media platforms.
On the day of the recording, the Center on Extremism released an annual report, “Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2020.” The ADL launched a podcast last September titled “Extremely,” as a medium for more information about modern hate and extremism.
Information about the ADL’s research and ongoing outreach is available at the web address ADL.org
Excerpts from the ADL Interview
Q: Could you give the audience a textbook definition of what you consider an extremist group to be?
A: (Amy) An extremist group or movement would be a collection of groups or individuals that has a set of beliefs that is far out of the mainstream usually around religion, culture and politics.
In terms of what the ADL Center on Extremism monitors, its groups with fringe ideologies that take violent action or incorporate violent aims into those tactics.
Q: Is there a common notion extremist groups believe?
A: (Amy) Within the far-right, there are some similar ideologies, but I think at it’s core a lot of these movements are grievance-based. There could be a shared sense of loss or grievance that unites multiple different ideologies. It could be groups of people who directly target an “other” because they feel that other has taken something from them. Anti-government, White supremacist and sovereign citizen groups sometimes overlap who they choose to point their target towards.
Q: What population or group is specifically vulnerable to be targeted by some of the extremist movements?
A: (Amy) I think it depends on the individual and the ideology. Looking at people who might be more inclined to White supremacist beliefs could be an individual who feels their status or place in society as a White person is being threatened in some sense. I think it’s very person-based which is part of the struggle of understanding and tracking radicalization and extremism.
Q: Is there something specific about extremist groups in Georgia that has caught your attention?
A: (Allison) We have seen a pretty consistent trend of many manifestations of extremist groups in Atlanta and places I don’t think we would normally see them. We have seen White supremacists put up propaganda in places we would not expect, including college campuses. It’s Emory, Kennesaw and Georgia Tech. There was a period where one of the extremist groups had the tactic of dropping interstate banners and one of those was dropped on the Georgia connector, one of the most trafficked areas in the world.
Q: On the ADL’s website, there is a quote about free speech. It says “We believe the best answer to hate speech is not censorship, but more speech.” Could you explain that for the audience?
A: (Allison) We have always been huge proponents of free speech. It’s been a big piece of our civil rights work for many years. While we wish that people did not think or say hateful things, we are not going to legislate our way out of those. Free speech is a real cornerstone in democracy. When there is hate speech, we say the antithesis is throwing as much light as you can on the shadows and drowning out the hate speech with the good speech.