Are we finally beginning to acknowledge the threat and reach of global white supremacist terrorism?
It’s here. It’s real. It’s deadly. It’s global. It’s viral. And it’s growing.
March 15, 2019. The day when a 28-year old white supremacist terrorist shot and killed 50 people in two mosques in the beautiful city of Christchurch, New Zealand — a place that describes itself as ‘migrant friendly’, ‘attracting job seekers globally’ and ‘a great place to live, work and raise a family’.
The victims were from all over the world, including Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Malaysia. They were teachers, doctors, engineers, sportsmen, technologists, parents, children, old people. Many were refugees who thought they had found a safe place to be.
The method was familiar:
Attack a group of people peacefully assembled to participate in their religion or another activity bringing people together.
Using high-powered firearms, shoot randomly into the crowd, creating maximum injury and terror. Release to the world a manifesto declaring the ideological beliefs causing you to commit this deed.
If possible, make sure the event is captured on video and spread throughout the worldwide network of ideological and terrorist recruiting internet sites.
The Christchurch Killer: Profile of a White Power Terrorist
Brenton Tarrant was Australian by birth and citizenship, self-described as ‘an ordinary white man from a working class, low income family’ who had decided to ‘to take a stand to ensure a future for my people’.
For the past few years, he had lived in Dunedin, New Zealand, practicing how to shoot high-powered rifles at a gun club and planning his attack on the mosques.
According to the 74-page manifesto he released to time with his massacre at the mosques, he was an avowed white supremacist neo-Nazi (signing off the manifesto with ‘I will see you in Valhalla’) and deeply immersed in the global online world of white nationalist internet forums. At his arraignment in Christchurch District Court after the massacre, he flashed the White Power hand gesture as he smiled.
He apparently became radicalized in the course of a 2017 trip to Europe, in which he became enraged at what he perceived as the ‘milquetoast’ European, especially French, response to extremist Muslim terrorism and to the population changes brought about by immigration.
According to David Kirkpatrick, reviewing and quoting from the manifesto in The New York Times, Tarrant was interested in American politics above all, and his manifesto can be seen as directed to a U.S. white nationalist audience.
Tarrant wrote that he saw Donald Trump as ‘a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose’.
And that he chose to use firearms in his massacre ‘for the affect it would have on social discourse, the extra media coverage they would provide and the affect it could have on the politics of the United States and thereby the political situation of the world’.
His goal in the shooting, he said, was ‘to create conflict between the two ideologies within the United States on the ownership of firearms in order to further the social, cultural, political and racial divide’, thus ‘ensuring the death of the melting-pot pipe dream’.
Lone Gunman Illusion vs. Reality of a Worldwide Movement
The world was shocked — once again.
We’ve seen this scenario before:
We saw it on October 27, 2018, when Robert Bowers walked into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh with an AR-15-style assault rifle and three handguns, shouting anti-Semitic slurs, and killed 11 Jewish worshippers gathered there for the sabbath.
We saw it on January 29, 2017, when Alexandre Bissonette shot and killed six Muslim worshippers and wounded another twenty as they left the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec after Friday evening prayers.
We saw it on June 17, 2015 when Dylann Roof walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church’s weekly Bible study meeting with a semi-automatic pistol and killed nine black parishioners while their heads were bowed down for the benediction.
We saw it on August 5, 2012 when Wade Michael Page entered the Sikh temple of Oak Creek, Wisconsin as they were getting ready for Sunday services, killed six people and wounded four more.
And we saw it on July 22, 2011, when Anders Breivik opened fire on a large assembly of young people gathered on the Norwegian island of Utoya for a yearly summer camp sponsored by the immigrant-friendly Norwegian Labour party, killing sixty-nine people and wounding hundreds of others.
And once again, there was talk of whether the perpetrator had acted alone or as part of a wider organized plot involving other actors.
Like all these other horrific mass murders, the New Zealand mosque massacre was judged to be a ‘lone wolf’ attack by a disturbed and/or ideologically motivated individual, outside of any command structure and without material assistance from any group.
Technically, this is correct. Each of these mass shootings was indeed carried out by one person, working independently, not backed by associates involved logistically with the attacks.
But where the world has been turning a blind eye to reality is that the absence of a command structure doesn’t mean these crimes are somehow isolated.
These crimes are related to each other, building on and inspiring each other. They are part of a larger movement which is much more lethal than the sum of the individual acts of violence perpetrated by its followers.
This movement is the ideology of white supremacist hatred for all people who are not white, of European background and Christian by religion.
The violent tactics it uses to spread its message and intimidate the subjects of its hate can only be understood as terrorism.
And it’s not restricted to specific nations, but a transnational movement with global reach.
Organizations at the forefront of fighting racial hatred and seeking justice have been warning us for years that this White Power movement is real, no longer fringe, growing rapidly, increasingly expressed through acts of terror, and needs to be taken with utmost seriousness — a threat to democratic society and cultural openness at least as great as that of any foreign interference in elections or armed invasion.
In the words of Richard Cohen, President of the Southern Poverty Law Center:
“The atrocity in New Zealand shows us, once again, that we’re dealing with an international terrorist movement linked by a dangerous white supremacist ideology that’s metastasizing in the echo chambers of internet chat rooms and on social media networks. . . The growing white supremacist movement represents a clear and present threat to democracies across the world.”
In this context, it’s unconscionable that the President of the United States should have, once again, dismissed a white global white supremacist terrorist attack as nothing more than an the act of a lone disturbed individual.
It’s unconscionable that he should have, once again, refused to use the immense power of the U.S. presidential pulpit to categorically denounce this hate crime and all hate crimes.
And it’s unconscionable that he continues to deny the rise of global white supremacist nationalism, and the crucial role of his rhetoric and actions in encouraging it.
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Karine Schomer, PhD is a writer, speaker, scholar, and a political and social commentator. She writes on Medium at https://medium.com/@schomer44. In her essays, she explores the worlds of society, politics, culture, history, language, world civilizations and life lessons. You can read her writer’s philosophy The Idea Factory. In her professional life, she earns her keep as a consultant at www.cmct.net and www.indiapractice.com.