WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, convened a hearing with outside experts focusing on the threat of white supremacist extremism, including violence inspired by racist ideologies such as Great Replacement Theory. The Committee explored how these hateful ideologies continue to proliferate and incite violent attacks against communities – including the deadly attack in Buffalo, New York that targeted the African American community last month. Peters and the witnesses also discussed how highly influential individuals continue to utilize broadcast media platforms and social media and to spread racist and extremist rhetoric. During the hearing, Peters highlighted that the majority of extremist-related murders across the nation continue to be committed by white supremacists.
“Despite clear data showing the threat posed by domestic extremism, particularly white supremacist and anti-government violence, our nation’s counterterrorism agencies have not been as nimble or as proactive as needed to effectively track or address this pernicious threat,” said Senator Peters during his opening statement. “Once relegated to the fringes of our society, these extreme and abhorrent beliefs are now a constant presence in our nation’s mainstream. Cable TV hosts push them in primetime nightly, and public leaders amplify them to their followers, for their own profit and political gain. These are public figures who should know the power of their words and their influence – figures who should know better than to spread these conspiracy theories and lies.”
Peters continued: “No longer do extremists need to be recruited or seek out like-minded individuals. They can simply log on to social media, or turn on the TV, and be presented with the hateful discourse that drives these violent and deadly attacks. Attacks that not only leave traumatic scars on the victims and survivors and their families, but terrorize entire communities, who will live with this threat in the back of their minds as they go about their daily lives.”
During the hearing, Peters asked the witnesses about the history of Great Replacement Theory and how this racist ideology continues to be pushed into the mainstream and radicalize individuals. The hearing also examined the rapid proliferation of white supremacist ideologies on social media platforms, how this continues to provoke and incite attacks, and what more social media companies should do to monitor and remove violent extremist content. The witnesses also assessed the federal government’s strategy to address the threat of domestic terrorism, including white supremacist violence. While the Biden Administration laid out the first ever national strategy to address the threat of domestic terrorism, further actions are needed to implement their plan – beginning with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation fully complying with the law Peters authored requiring the agencies to track and report data on domestic terrorism. Finally, lawmakers discussed how they can work to bolster the Administration’s efforts to address the threat posed by white supremacist violence, including providing more support to state and local governments.
The hearing builds on Peters’ work to investigate the rise of domestic terrorism, including white supremacist and anti-government violence. He is leading efforts to examine the role social media platforms play in the amplification of domestic extremist content. Peters also convened a two-part hearing with experts representing faith-based, civil rights, and academic and policy research organizations on the continued rise of domestic terrorism, including white supremacist and anti-government violence. Peters also secured $250 million in funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which supports the needs of houses of worship and other nonprofit organizations that want to secure their facilities against potential terrorist attacks. In 2019, Peters helped convene the Committee’s first domestic terrorism hearing with a focus on white supremacist violence.