Jack Bernard: Recognizing the extent of the white supremacy problem (Opinion)

In past centuries, anarchists have taken various forms. Often, they have been left-wing groups, such as the SLA, SDS and the Weathermen in the 1960s.

Now, that’s not the case. Through the invaluable assistance of social media, right-wing conspiracy theories regarding non-existent government plots to take away the freedoms of honest, religious, patriotic Americans have grown exponentially. Plus, racists of all colors are still out there spouting their hate and successfully spreading it on social media. Too little is being done by government and the business community to counteract this dangerous foolishness.

There are both black and white hate groups in the United States (an astounding 1,020 of them, an all-time high). There are chapters of five white supremacy hate groups in West Virginia, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, including Act for America, Asatru Folk Assembly, the National Alliance, Proud Boys and Warriors for Christ.

Their common belief is that a race war is coming, government will be decimated and incapable of action, and each man or woman will be left defending themselves. Across our nation, many of these white supremacy groups have repeatedly engaged in violence.

Survivalists also think that the collapse of government is imminent. Again, it will be everyone fighting it out with their neighbors for food and sustenance. Government will be gone, either by nuclear or biological weapons. Get your guns, grab your closest relatives and head for your concrete bunker. Lock the door before the “libitards,” who denied that this would ever happen, try to break into your private haven.

I have owned guns for decades. Most gun owners are reasonable, but not all.

Gun fanatics are the most prevalent in red America, land of the armed. Millions are members of either the NRA or organizations much more radical. The more extreme ones are convinced that law enforcement and the military are insufficient to keep the forces of darkness from invading our homes and taking away our freedoms. In their view, gun control is 100 percent bad, just a government plot to lull all of us to sleep and then have the “gun grabbers” take our weapons all at once.

According to them, it will be just like Nazi Germany. They will come in the middle of the night and take us, the “good Americans,” away to the camps and ovens. “The only way to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun,” these fanatics say, so arm everyone.

I have seen every bit of the above on social media. There are millions of Americans who believe in some variation of the above anarchistic scenarios.

We have freedom of speech in the United States, so can nothing be done about the destructive spread of false, malicious rumors, leading to the creation of hysteria among a small but growing subset of Americans?

As Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said, freedom of speech doesn’t permit you to yell fire in a crowded theater. Neither does it permit crazed persons to advocate or incite violence, which happens all over the internet, especially on social media.

We can stop the fear mongering. But it will take a continuing effort by both the private sector and government.

As a first step, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others must be mandated to exclude from their products all postings that are designed to provoke acts of violence. These firms make billions of dollars; this is just a minor expense for them.

Secondly, we must devote adequate resources on the state and federal level toward identifying dangerous anarchists of all persuasions. Based on the analysis done by SPLC and others, the greatest domestic terrorism threat is clearly from the far-right white supremacy movement. They have engaged in violent behavior in the past, and their violence has been accelerating over the past few years.

We can stop racists and other anarchists. But we must first recognize the extent of the problem and then devote sufficient money, time and energy to ameliorating the threat. It’s up to us to elect people who will accomplish this goal.

Jack Bernard, of Peachtree City, Georgia,

was the first director of health planning

for Georgia. He is a former chairman

of the Jasper County (Georgia) Commission and Republican Party.