Identifying an extremist’s ideology should be the easiest part of writing about them, since it is their ideology that provides the impetus for writing about them in the first place. To do it properly, however, requires an acknowledgment that the face they show a reporter is rarely the one they show to their community. While the Times, for instance, said that Tony Hovater’s Traditionalist Worker Party’s “stated mission is to ‘fight for the interests of White Americans,’” the party’s website, festooned with quotes from Hitler and Goebbels, describes the group as “National Socialist.” They’re neo-Nazis, in other words, and they’re not really bothering to hide it. It is a failure (of research, or perhaps of nerve) not to say so.
Even more important than a group’s ideology, however, is its work — what do members actually do within the organization and in their interactions with outsiders. Providing the reader with a sense of place and community is crucial to a profile of any subculture — whether it’s Scrabble players, stamp collectors, or white supremacists. How do they spend their time? How do they interact with each other? How do they recruit? Do they engage in, or encourage, violence? (Scrabble players typically don’t. White supremacists often do.) These people aren’t just musing on abstract concepts, they are out in the world, trying to change it. Tell us what they’re doing.
And tell us, as well, what they’re trying to change it to. This is crucial in illuminating the worldview of self-described white nationalists in particular. To be a white nationalist in America is, generally speaking, to want America to be a white nation. But America isn’t a white nation. It’s a multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial nation. So what do the white nationalists imagine is going to happen to all the people of color (and Jews, and gays, and trans people, and feminists, etc.)? Ask the question. If the answer doesn’t make any sense, ask it again.