The Clear and Present Threat From White Supremacist Terrorism
Experts are warning about the growing threat from White Supremacist terrorism, and ignoring these warnings will continue to cost lives. We are on a path towards another Oklahoma City.
I have not read the so-called “manifesto.” There are already experts in far right extremism and the White Supremacist movement reading the document in detail, and providing in-depth analysis of various aspects of the document. Perhaps, sometime in the future I will read the document. For now, I will not be reading the document, for several reasons. Most importantly, as someone that researches and reports on various aspects of extremism, it’s critical to understand your ability to mentally and emotionally digests these types of materials.
While I understand that within academia and the research community, there is an understanding that the term “manifesto” does not bestow any credibility to the document, this understanding is not necessarily understood by the general public. When the mainstream media refers to these types documents as a “manifesto,” it creates an implicit impression of intellectual weight. These documents should be referred to for what they truly are: “confessions.”
While it is important for academics and researchers who study radicalization and extremist violence to read and analyze these documents, I have serious doubts that these writings will reveal any important new understanding of the White Supremacist movement. However, these writings may reveal more information about the mechanics of radicalization, and how various types of media that amplify extremist messages contribute to radicalization.
There were warnings about the rise of right-wing authoritarianism, years before right-wing populist demagogues such as Jair Bolsonaro, Viktor Orbán, and Donald Trump exploited cultural grievances to achieve political power. There were warnings about the increased activities of far right violent extremists, years before the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and Proud Boys led the January 6th Insurrection. There are now warnings about the growing threat from White Supremacist terrorism, and ignoring these warnings will continue to cost lives. We are on a path towards a White Supremacist terrorist mass casualty attack — another Oklahoma City.
Below is a selection of writings from various journalists, researchers, and academics that have offered their analysis of the White Supremacists terrorist attack in Buffalo:
Ben Collins reports that “in the manifesto, Gendron claims that he was radicalized on 4chan while he was “bored” at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. The document also claims “critical race theory,” a recent right-wing talking point that has come to generally encompass teaching about race in school, is part of a Jewish plot, and a reason to justify mass killings of Jews. In the manifesto, Gendron repeatedly cites Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist mass shooter who killed 51 people and injured 40 others at a Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque in 2019. Like Gendron, Tarrant livestreamed his attack. Tarrant told investigators he was also a frequent visitor to 4chan. The theory has been cited by several mass shooters since 2018, including Robert Bowers, who has been charged with killing 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, in 2018; Patrick Crusius, who allegedly killed 23 people in an El Paso, Texas, Walmart; and John Earnest, who pleaded guilty to murdering one and injuring three others at a Poway, California, synagogue in 2019. [NBC News]
Kathleen Belew writes that in “white-power ideology, mass violence is seen as a tool rather than an end point. Here we need look no further than the manifestos that are now routinely shared online from gunman to gunman, imparting instructions for future mass shooters as well as explaining how the attack itself is meant to provoke race war and civil unrest. The Buffalo document includes long sections of text pasted from the manifesto connected to the Christchurch shooting; the El Paso document did the same. All of this is much too important to ignore as a disconnected string of events or to set aside as simply inexplicable acts of hate and prejudice. The alleged shooter in Buffalo is said to have written that boredom, isolation, and internet radicalization led him to his act. When we imagine how many others like him are in front of their screens, alone but together, we might summon an appropriate level of concern to move us to action. Every person should demand accountability from our elected officials for these events, whether January 6 or yesterday’s mass shooting. The death toll is still mounting, and the threat to our democracy grows.” [The Atlantic]
Chauncey DeVega writes that the “mainstream news media has already begun pivoting to a narrative of "healing" and "hope" in the aftermath of the Buffalo attack. That too is part of a long history in which the suffering and pain of Black and brown people is minimized so as not to injure the sensibilities and feelings of white society. Moreover, minimizing that suffering also serves to negate Black and brown people's demands for justice and equal treatment. We will be told, ad infinitum, that Payton Gendron is an individual who is responsible for his own actions, and that it's unfair to suggest that Donald Trump, the Republicans or the right-wing media had anything to do with what happened in Buffalo. In point of fact, racism and white supremacy are learned behaviors. One of the greatest luxuries enjoyed by white people in American society is that of being perceived as the ultimate individuals, whose behavior is never understood to reflect on the larger group.” [Salon]
Wajahat Ali writes that “in the past few years, these terrorists, all radicalized by the same conspiracy, have attacked Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, and others. This time, it was Black people whom the terrorist blamed for weakening and replacing his people. How do we know? Because he clearly and methodically detailed his poisoned ideology in his alleged manifesto. In case there was any doubt—or if my media colleagues decide to yet again whitewash the actions of yet another white supremacist terrorist as being a “lone wolf” or infantilize him as a troubled, young man—he describes himself as a white nationalist, fascist, neo-Nazi, and an anti-Semite. He describes his attack as an act of terrorism, which he rationalizes as a “partisan action against an occupying force.” [The Daily Beast]
Cas Mudde writes that “since the storming of the Capitol on 6 January 2021, I have had various informal conversations with people who work in Congress or in other state agencies about the far right. They tell me that they want to talk about the threat it poses, but then rapidly narrow the focus to “online radicalization” and violent groups with scary names like Atomwaffen Division or Feuerkrieg Division. This is not just because these groups get disproportionate attention in the media and the counter-terrorism industry, but because they are politically safe. These groups are so extreme that they are out of bounds for almost all political elites, even on the right. But they are also small and marginal.” [The Guardian]
Parker Molloy writes that “it’s easier to pretend that our problems are modern, that things were fine up until some just-barely-out-of-memory time. You hear this come up a lot when older politicians like Joe Biden or Nancy Pelosi talk about the importance of having a “strong Republican Party” or hoping that Republicans would have an “epiphany” post-Trump. Sure, it may have been easier to get bills through Congress decades ago, and the right-wing extremism has certainly gotten more intense in recent years, but are things really all that different now than they were then? The systems in place prevent people from enacting meaningful change. On the rare occasions when meaningful change is made, such as the civil rights movement, the systems of power rewrite the history of how we got there.”
Judd Legum writes the “philosophical underpinnings of European white nationalism became increasingly popular among American racists. The white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville in 2017 chanted "you will not replace us" and "Jews will not replace us." Even though that gathering resulted in deadly violence, the racist conspiracy theory only became more popular. It was embraced first by fringe members of Congress like former Representative Steve King (R-IA), who tweeted "[w]e can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies" in 2017. But it was mainstreamed and popularized by Fox News' Tucker Carlson, the nation's most-watched political pundit. In 2021, despite heavy criticism for promoting racist conspiracy theories, Carlson described the great replacement theory as "true" and "what’s happening, actually."
Don Moynihan writes the “Great Replacement Theory drove mass murders in Christchurch and Norway. But the US is unique in how the far the idea has been mainstreamed thanks to Fox News and Republican political leaders, and in the relatively easy access to weapons. There is no single moment when these ideas became mainstream. But the Charlottesville rally, where Trump refused to push back at a movement featuring participants chanting “Jews will not replace us” is as good a place as any. Trump’s trafficking in racial tropes, and his reliance on Stephen Miller, a political appointee with long ties to the white nationalist movement, to guide his immigration policy changed the dynamic.”
Kristin Du Mez writes that “as a historian of white evangelicalism, I also find myself thinking of the context of the recently manufactured anti-CRT campaign. As a close observer of white evangelical communities, I’ve seen this reactionary movement take hold in real time. I’ve watched friends get pilloried for calling on fellow Christians to pursue racial justice. (I’m old enough to remember when this was still an acceptable thing to do in most evangelical spaces.) I’ve had my own speaking event cancelled because of wholly fabricated allegations that I’m a CRT activist. (Maybe I would be if I had the expertise, but I don’t, and I’m not.) I’ve watched evangelical leaders push the anti-CRT agenda knowing full well that not a single member of their churches is likely to have had any substantive exposure to actual Critical Race Theory. Yet I’ve watched them remain absolutely silent as “replacement theory” has started to infiltrate their communities. Silent in the face of the racist histories that have shaped the towns in which they live and the churches they lead. I’ve watched evangelical leaders condemn a Black brother in Christ for preaching biblical justice—deeply rooted in Gospel teachings—while defending White “brothers in Christ” who promote explicit racism but purportedly “get the Gospel right.” Enough is enough.”
Robert P. Jones writes that “after the immediate shock of the shootings abated, those words came back to me: repentance and conversion, the healing of both the oppressed and the oppressor. The building of the beloved community. We white Christians have learned these words. I mean, we know them. And we love to quote them in Januaries. But we must, once and for all, get clear about the stakes before we again utter mere lip service to Rev. Dr. King’s vision. The beloved community is the repudiation of the violent theology of replacement germinating in white supremacy. We white Christians must figure out how to drag ourselves and our peers to kneel at the altar of repentance. We must confess our complicity in the heretical and only half-unconscious belief that God has ordained whites to replace—that is to say, to kill and displace—others, and that, once accomplished, white dominance is to be perpetually preserved as the divinely approved state of affairs.”
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