There is, of course, no single answer. Some who were there that weekend in Charlottesville are hardened racists involved with long-running organizations like the League of the South. Many are fresh converts to white supremacist organizing, young people attracted to nativist and anti-Muslim ideas circulated on social media by leaders of the so-called alt-right, the newest branch of the white power movement. Some are paranoid characters thrilled to traffic in the symbols and coded language of vast global conspiracy theories. Others are sophisticated provocateurs who see the current political moment as a chance to push a “white agenda,” with angry positions on immigration, diversity and economic isolationism.
ProPublica spent weeks examining one distinctive group at the center of the violence in Charlottesville: an organization called the Rise Above Movement, one of whose members was the white man dispensing beatings near Emancipation Park Aug. 12.
One thing that's most disturbing about this group: this it not a bunch of people hiding in the shadows: they're very public, to the point of having their activities recorded and posted to YouTube.
Another thing that's perhaps even more disturbing is the lack of police response:
Despite their prior records, and open boasting of current violence, RAM has seemingly drawn little notice from law enforcement. Four episodes of violence documented by ProPublica resulted in only a single arrest — and in that case prosecutors declined to go forward. Law enforcement officials in the four cities — Charlottesville, Huntington Beach, San Bernardino and Berkeley — either would not comment about RAM or said they had too little evidence or too few resources to seriously investigate the group’s members.
In Virginia, two months after the deadly events in Charlottesville, Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, would not say if the police had identified RAM as a dangerous group.
So, RAM members descend on protests with the express purpose of physically attacking protesters, but the police decline to publicly identify them as dangerous.
There's also the matter of lack of police intervention in these attacks -- although police have shown themselves to be more than willing to arrest anti-right protesters, with more than appropriate force.
It's fairly long, but worth reading.
And another, courtesy of Digby, with a focus on the "Christian" right as another facet of the rise of Nazism in the West:
Were there ever a doubt that the Christian right, as represented by the Family Research Council, was anything other than a white Christian identity movement, that notion was laid to rest at this year’s Values Voter Summit, which took place October 13 and 14 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. In fact, you might say that this year’s gathering of right-wing believers contained many of the elements of a Stephen K. Bannon production—a combination of fire, brimstone, explosions, and nationalism, presented in an acrid cloud of coded racism.