Haters gonna hate. It’s one of the most accepted aphorisms of all time, because hate is easy. Hate gets to conceal its identity under white sheets and pointed hoods as it lights crosses on lawns. Hate hides behind computer screens and anonymously hurls the n-word on social media. Hate smiles in your face and stabs you in New York City’s Times Square.
Maybe that’s why haters hate—because there are no consequences. It is easy to spread racism and prejudice when there is no fear of repercussions. If there were someone fearless and committed enough to unmask the faces of hatemongers, maybe haters would have second thoughts.
Meet Daryle Lamont Jenkins—neo-Nazi hunter.
For more than 30 years, Jenkins has dedicated his life to chasing down white supremacists and exposing them to the glare of public scrutiny. His unapologetic style of reap-what-you-sow justice mixes the Southern Poverty Law Center’s meticulous method of cataloging hate groups with the guerrilla vigilantism of Anonymous. Jenkins is relentless in his quest to drag fascists out of the shadows and into the disinfecting sunlight, and has amassed a network of photographers, reporters and regular citizens dedicated to his cause.
“I was always interested in this stuff,” said Jenkins, a native of Somerset, N.J. “When I saw pictures and news footage of Klansmen and people terrorizing activists during the civil rights era, I always wondered, ‘Where did these people go?’”
That simple quest sent him on a mission that eventually blossomed into his life’s work. He became obsessed with newspaper articles and press clippings about Ku Klux Klan rallies, but it was The Oprah Winfrey Show that jump-started him into the arena of public activism.
“Oprah was where I really started. In the late ’80s, she did a show on skinheads,” Jenkins told The Root in an exclusive one-on-one interview. “Back then, the only way I had to save this information was to record it on videotape. I taped that first show and began saving all of this information. I still have all of those videos.”
As a member of the alternative music and punk rock scene, Jenkins adopted the underground “fanzine” method of publicity and began sharing his information with others, and even started his own cable-access show. He scanned the New York area’s burgeoning conservative radio programs and began to notice the growing connections between the conservative movement and the fringe right.
“These mainstream, right-wing hosts like Bob Grant would regularly have guests like Jared Taylor on their radio shows,” said Jenkins.
The SPLC, one of the country’s most well-known and respected organizations that document hate groups for media and law-enforcement agencies, describes Taylor as a “courtly presenter of ideas that most would describe as crudely white supremacist—a kind of modern-day version of the refined but racist colonialist of old.”
In 1999, Jenkins started a small website dedicated to revealing the ties between fringe groups and the conservative movement.
“This was back in the days before everybody was on the internet,” he reminisced. “This was a Geocities website!”
After a few minutes with Jenkins, you begin to wonder why he even needs a website, or videotapes, because he seems to have an encyclopedic memory of racist groups and individuals that borders on being a rare form of white supremacist savant. He spits out the names of harbingers of hate as if he knows them personally—and, in a sense, he does.
One of the many names that Jenkins rattled off was Bob Grant’s talk-radio successor, who caught Jenkins’ attention more than two decades ago. In 1996, Jenkins discovered a radio show on New York’s WABC, and he has kept his eye on its host ever since. In Jenkins’ view, this host’s ascendance to fame epitomizes how mainstream media enables extremists by giving them platforms to spread their message. “I mean, this guy would promote guests like Hal Turner, a white nationalist from North Bergen [N.J.], who ran for Congress,” Jenkins explained. “But if you even mention Hal Turner now, he will ban you from his show!”
The “this guy” to whom Jenkins refers is Fox News commentator, and right-wing superhero, Sean Hannity.
“I don’t trust Sean Hannity when it comes to race,” said Jenkins. “For one thing, he constantly defends white people who use the n-word. People like Dog the Bounty Hunter, Don Imus and Dr. Laura Schlessinger. He seems to love the nastiest elements of the far right.”