Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The slaughter of 20 persons in and around a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, by a virulent white nationalist on Saturday was not just a “mass shooting.” It was a profound act of terrorism.
Nor was it the action of a single person. The alleged shooter was invested in Trump’s talking points about a wall and had bought into the crazed conspiracy theory that wealthy Jewish entrepreneurs are bringing in immigrants to work cheaply and replace the white race. Hence his fulminating against the so-called “Hispanic invasion” and his praise of the shooter at New Zealand’s Christchurch mosque (a shooter himself inspired by Trump).
It isn’t enough to say that the El Paso terrorist was “hate-filled and racist,” as El Paso police characterized him. That makes it sound personal and idiosyncratic. This man was part of a movement, a movement that is being actively promoted from the White House. The difference between a crime and terrorism is that a crime is for personal gain and its not ideological. This was ideological.
Does anyone have any doubt at all that if the person had been a Muslim with a similar manifesto, substituting Islamic themes and grievances for those of white nationalism, the national security state and the US media would be in overdrive blaming the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims?
And yet white nationalists skate because their ideology seems less threatening to. . . white people.
It isn’t less threatening. It is a national emergency. Research published at WaPo shows that in counties where Trump held rallies in 2016, hate crimes rocketed 226%.
Nationally, hate crimes are growing 9% a year, with Arab-Americans, Jews, and LGBTQ individuals seeing big spikes in hate crimes directed against them.
And, of course, the insistence of the Washington Establishment that we all be exposed to murderous violence by unbalanced persons wielding semi-automatic military-style weaponry allows such massacres to be carried out. But the toxic ideology of behind that insistence (and it has nothing at all to do with ordinary guns or hunting) is also deeply entangled in white supremacy.
It is, moreover, often said that there is no international dimension to white nationalist terrorism, so that it is classed as domestic.
But we know that Russian troll farms have promoted both the National Rifle Association and white nationalism. No, the problems don’t all emanate from Moscow. But some of them do, and we should be frank about that.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is angry about being called Moscow Mitch. But his ex-aides lobbied for a big investment in his state by a formerly blacklisted Russian oligarch, and then he blocked legislation to make US elections safer from Russian interference. A Russian spy attempting to use the NRA to influence the Republican Party has actually been convicted.
Russian bots also spread Islamophobia and spread white nationalist themes, going after Colin Kaepernick.
US Conservatives are responsible for the toxic mix of white supremacy and 300 million guns (most of them in the hands of 3 percent of the population). But there are powerful international forces attempting to reinforce these policies in order to divide and weaken America.
As for Trump’s culpability, I wrote last March:
- “One of the tactics of the so-called “Islamic State group” or ISIL had been to put out calls on the internet and social media for people to engage in random acts of violence . . .Some have called this random, one-off violence, which is almost impossible to forestall, “stochastic” terrorism. When an operation is the result of a fair-sized organization such as al-Qaeda or the Ku Klux Klan, the organization can be tracked and infiltrated and stopped. But some person somewhere or two or three of them, who seem a little off but do not trip any law enforcement wires, can plot out a massacre with relative ease. Mass shootings are not intrinsically difficult to pull off. Just going into a restaurant or church or mosque and shooting people down with automatic or semi-automatic weapons is like rolling out of bed for someone without a conscience or someone who is sick…
The bad news is that Trump’s promotion of key themes of white supremacism, in conjunction with the billionaire Mercers and bizarre ideologues like Steve Bannon, have clearly produced a new wave of stochastic white nationalist terrorism.
A whole series of acts of terrorism have now demonstrated significant links to Donald J. Trump’s resurgent white nationalism, a key component of which is hatred for Muslims.
The Islamophobes like to argue that Islam is an inherently violent religion, that its adherents are quite literally commanded to such violence by its holy scriptures, the Qur’an. It’s a position that, as I explain in my new book, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires, is both utterly false and ahistorical.
… this phenomenon of white nationalists inspired to violence by Trump is hardly new or unusual. We had the New Zealand mosque shooter. The Charlottesville white terrorist who killed Heather Heyer, and his colleagues among Neo-Nazis who chanted “Jews will not replace us,” were in part celebrating that Trump had come to power. He declined to condemn them, insisting that there were very fine people “on both sides.” One side was Nazis.
The 2018 white terrorist who shot up a mosque in Quebec City spent the hours before his murders scouring the internet for Trump quotes and was obsessed by an imagined threat from immigrants.
Cesar Sayoc, who mailed bombs to targets in Florida, was obsessed with Trump and said that when he heard the president, he “finally found someone who spoke to him.” Sayoc had a history of mental illness, but so too have many ISIL-inspired losers.
Members of the “White Rabbits” white terrorist militia who bombed a Minnesota mosque had volunteered to help build Trump’s border Wall.
US Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson, plotted the death of 20 prominent television and other journalists on behalf of Trump, inspired by the president’s constant attacks on the press as purveyors of falsehood and for being “the worst people.”
There is even a “hate map” showing all the places Trump supporters have attacked minorities.
Trump has authorized public hatred and has encouraged that protesters be physically assaulted, and reporters trying to cover his Nuremberg Rallies have felt their lives in danger from overheated fans. This promotion of brown shirt violence toward journalists and the left and Muslims has not always been explicit, but the mentally fragile do not need explicit. Their febrile imaginations supply the missing instructions . . .
[This string of massacres] reveals the lunacy of Nancy Pelosi taking impeachment off the table in the face of this monster in the White House, clearly mentally imbalanced, without conscience, narcissistic, a pathological liar, and promoting hatred and violence at every turn.
After 9/11, America’s challenge was al-Qaeda-style asymmetric terrorism. Today, almost all terrorism in the United States has a white nationalist character, and the person promoting stochastic terrorism by the Far Right is the president of the United States.”
And what I said last March still holds true.