Tonight on FRONTLINE: “Documenting Hate: New American Nazis”

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November 20, 2018

Since last year, we have been collaborating with the non-profit news organization ProPublica to report on the resurgent white supremacy movement in America. With correspondent A.C. Thompson, director Richard Rowley and producer Karim Hajj, we produced the film Documenting Hate: Charlottesville in August for the anniversary of the deadly rally.

Our reporting has helped lead to multiple arrests, and tonight, we’ll bring you our second film in this series: Documenting Hate: New American Nazis. 

Premiering at a special time (9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST – check local PBS listings), it’s an investigation of a violent neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division that has actively recruited inside the U.S. military, and that calls for racially-motivated “lone wolf” attacks like the shooting last month at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. In fact, our reporting in the past few days has shown that authorities are looking at the online relationship between the accused synagogue shooter and two neo-Nazi brothers with a connection to Atomwaffen.

ProPublica and A.C. are long-time collaborators with FRONTLINE. We turned to them after they established “Documenting Hate,” a cross-platform effort aimed at collecting and verifying hate crimes and bias incidents across the country.

Like ProPublica, we had been seeing the rising number of hate-based crimes and felt an urgency to investigate: Who was behind these acts? What was motivating them? Why was this happening in our country? Of course, the massacre in Pittsburgh, just weeks before broadcast, gave these questions even greater urgency.

As we made Documenting Hate: Charlottesville and Documenting Hate: New American Nazis, I had many conversations with A.C. and the team about what they were finding, and I was struck multiple times by their observations.

“One thing that surprised me was the hard turn towards anti-Semitism among young people in the current white supremacist movement,” A.C. told me. “In the early days of this white power revival — say 2015, 2016 — the movement was animated by a discomfort with immigration and the changing demographics in America and disdain for Muslims. But pretty quickly the movement became immersed in anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, the same sort of twisted lore and logic that had motivated the hardcore racist fringe during the 1980s and 1990s — and for many, many years before that.”

As we finished both documentaries together in the edit room, we all decided to end each film with a simple — and troubling — message: this story is far from over.

You’ll see us continuing to report on this issue, with more text stories and documentaries to come.

Documenting Hate: New American Nazis premieres tonight at a special time — 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST — on PBS stations (check local listings) and online, followed by an updated rebroadcast of Documenting Hate: Charlottesville. Read related reporting at propublica.org.

Thanks for all your support and for being a vital part of the FRONTLINE community.

Raney Aronson-Rath
FRONTLINE Executive Producer

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