(Editorial, August 4, 2019) If one of the perpetrators of this weekend’s two mass shootings had adhered to the ideology of radical Islam, the resources of the American government and its international allies would mobilize without delay.
The awesome power of the state would work tirelessly to deny future terrorists access to weaponry, money and forums to spread their ideology. The movement would be infiltrated by spies and informants. Its financiers would face sanctions. Places of congregation would be surveilled. Those who gave aid or comfort to terrorists would be prosecuted. Programs would be established to de-radicalize former adherents.
No American would settle for “thoughts and prayers” as a counterterrorism strategy. No American would accept laying the blame for such an attack on video games, like the Texas lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, did in an interview on Sunday when discussing the mass shooting in El Paso that took 20 lives and left 27 people wounded.
In predictable corners, moderate Muslims would be excoriated for not speaking out more forcefully against the extremists in their midst. Foreign nations would be hit with sanctions for not doing enough to help the cause. Politicians might go so far as to call for a total ban on Muslims entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
Even a casual observer today can figure out what is going on. The world, and the West in particular, has a serious white nationalist terrorist problem that has been ignored or excused for far too long. As President George W. Bush declared in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, we must be a country “awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution.”
There are serious questions about how the United States has approached Islamic extremism, but if even a degree of that vigilance and unity of effort was put toward white nationalism, we’d be safer.
White nationalist terror attacks are local, but the ideology is global. On Saturday, a terrorist who, according to a federal law enforcement official, wrote that he feared a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” was replacing white Americans opened fire in a Walmart in El Paso. In a manifesto, the gunman wrote that he drew some inspiration from the white nationalist terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left 51 people dead. The F.B.I. is investigating the El Paso mass shooting as a possible act of domestic terrorism. The motive behind another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio is under investigation.
In April, another terrorist who opened fire at a synagogue in Poway, Calif., echoed the words of the Christchurch suspect, too and appeared to draw inspiration from a massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last fall. The alleged Christchurch terrorist, for his part, wrote that he drew inspiration from white supremacist attacks in Norway, the United States, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
An investigation by The Times earlier this year found that “at least a third of white extremist killers since 2011 were inspired by others who perpetrated similar attacks, professed a reverence for them or showed an interest in their tactics.”
AMERICANS WENT to sleep on August 3rd reading about a mass shooting that had left 20 people dead in El Paso, Texas, and woke up to news of another shooting overnight in which nine people, plus the shooter, had been killed in Dayton, Ohio. Both come just one week after a gunman killed three people and himself at a festival in Gilroy, California. The El Paso massacre was the deadliest mass shooting in America since November 2017, when a gunman in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killed 26 people. As of Sunday morning, there have been 32 shootings with three or more victims in America this year.
Shortly before opening fire, the El Paso shooter—a 21-year-old from suburban Dallas named Patrick Crusius—appears to have posted a manifesto on 8chan, a messageboard popular with the far right (8chan’s moderators quickly deleted it; other 8chan posters have repeatedly reposted it). The manifesto opens with a statement of support for Brenton Tarrant, who earlier this year killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Mr Tarrant’s manifesto, which propounded a belief in “The Great Replacement”, a far-right conspiracy theory that holds that feckless Western elites are “replacing” those of European descent with non-white immigrants.
Mr Crusius wrote that his attack was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”, a state that until 1836 was part of Mexico. El Paso itself has long been majority Latino. It forms part of a huge binational conurbation, of which Juárez, just across the border in Mexico, comprises the larger part. He claimed that Texas risks becoming “a Democrat stronghold”, but condemned both major political parties. (He suggested, however, that “At least with Republicans, the process of mass immigration and citizenship could be greatly reduced.”) He also sounded anti-corporatist themes and warned of environmental collapse and automation of jobs. He objected to being called a white supremacist, but railed against immigration, diversity and “race mixing”. And he advocated dividing America “into a confederacy of territories with at least 1 territory for each race”. In essence, his manifesto is a warmed-over, less coherent version of what the Christchurch murderer wrote, but with less irony and more self-pity.
Strictly speaking, Mr Crusius appears to have acted alone: he was the sole shooter, and mentions no help in planning or carrying out the attack. But that does not make him a lone wolf. His murder has a noxious lineage. The Christchurch killer inspired him, just as Anders Breivik, a Norwegian right-wing terrorist who murdered 77 people in and near Oslo, inspired Mr Tarrant. In recent years Western countries have seen a surge in far-right violence. Between 2010 and 2017, America suffered 2.4 times as many right-wing terror attacks as jihadist ones. Online message boards make it easier for terrorists to forge operational links across national boundaries. They also provide fertile soil for radicalisation.
President Donald Trump called the El Paso shooting “an act of cowardice”. Mr Crusius said his “opinions on immigration, automation and the rest predate Mr Trump and his campaign for president”. But no president has campaigned on immigration fears as explicitly as Mr Trump, nor has any mainstream American politician—much less a president—as directly stoked the flames of racial grievance.
Less is known about the Dayton shooter, who was killed less than a minute after opening fire. He used a .223 “long gun” with high-capacity magazines, which are legal in Ohio and 41 other states. The Gilroy killer’s motive is similarly unclear, though in a deleted social-media post he appears to have ranted about “hordes of mestizos”. What is depressingly clear, however, is that as long as America makes it easy for young, angry men to buy weapons of war, it should expect more mass shootings.
How Does Online Racism Spawn Mass Shooters? By James Palmer
White nationalist terrorism is becoming normalized through internet forums. FOREIGN POLICY –EXPLAINER
Where are they radicalized?
Two of the chief sites for online white nationalist radicalization are 4chan and 8chan. 4chan is a long-running forum, set up in 2003 chiefly for the discussion of Japanese anime and manga. Today, roughly 22 million users, the majority of them young men, post on the site every month to a variety of themed imageboards such as /v/ (video games), /lgbt/, and /x/ (paranormal). But noticeably, the site is totally anonymous, with no logins required, usernames optional, and threads set to expire after a certain time; users are often known as “anons.”
Plenty of goofy fun has emerged from 4chan—it invented rickrolling and lolcats—but it also rapidly took on a misogynistic, bullying culture, producing infamous online harassment campaigns such as Gamergate, a targeted assault on women in the video game industry that engulfed the internet in 2014. The far-right QAnon conspiracy theory, which sees Donald Trump as fighting a vast, global pedophile conspiracy—began with 4chan posts, and white supremacists from sites like the neo-Nazi Stormfront have been actively recruiting on 4chan since at least 2012.
The most notorious part of 4chan is /pol/, short for “politically incorrect,” a politics discussion board founded in 2011 to replace the original /news/ board after it became overrun with racists. Perhaps unsurprisingly, /pol/ itself was rapidly overrun with racists; the overarching culture of the board is far-right, violently racist, and enthusiastically supportive of Trump. (It should be noted, however, that other parts of 4chan have expressed their dislike for /pol/.)
8chan, meanwhile, founded in 2013, is a more extremist version of /pol/. Hosted in the Philippines, the site has become a cesspool of anti-Muslim conspiracies, neo-Nazism, and other far-right content. 8chan’s version of /pol/ has a single purpose, argues Robert Evans at the open-source investigative firm Bellingcat: “to radicalize their fellow anons to ‘real-life effortposting,’ i.e. acts of violence in the physical world.”
The culture of both 4chan and 8chan is deliberately ironic, over the top, and extreme. This gives cover for users to claim their posts are merely joking—and accounts for some of the deliberate trolling found inside the Christchurch manifesto. In part, throwing in random references to unconnected topics such as the video game Fortnite or online memes is a strategy to get the media to pick up and amplify the message through stories on unrelated topics. The dehumanization involved in racist jokes also hardens participants, wearing away any residual empathy for others.
Mass Shootings in 2019: A Week of Bloodshed Underscores the Scale of Violence
How Many Attacks Will It Take Until the White-Supremacist Threat Is Taken Seriously?
Attacks by White Extremists Are Growing. So Are Their Connections
8chan: the far-right website linked to the rise in hate crimes
8chan Is a Megaphone for Gunmen. ‘Shut the Site Down,’ Says Its Creator
‘How do you stop these people?’: Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric looms over El Paso massacre
More than 1,200 children in US killed by guns in the last year
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