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El Paso – the United States’ descent into xenophobic barbarism (part 11)

By Europaeus *

Continued from Part 10

White Supremacy

After the El Paso and Dayton massacres, Margaret Kimberley observed: “Americans have an openly racist president, racist foreign policy, racist law enforcement and racist corporate media.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign [she] wrote, “Who’s the Fascist?” The commentary was an attempt to decipher truth from posturing when discussing the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency.

“American domestic and foreign policies were moving closer and closer to a definition of fascism before Trump ran for office. The United States threatens the world with nuclear annihilation, kills thousands with sanctions, and covers the world with military bases. At home the mass incarceration state created the largest prison system in the world. The surveillance state steadily diminishes civil liberties and human rights. Fascism is nothing new in this nation.”

The writer went on to observe: “ … racism is at the heart of domestic violence. A settler colonial state depended upon gun carrying white people to uphold the social order. The militias referred to in the second amendment were slave patrols needed to enforce the peculiar institution. Those militias continue in the modern day police force and in the minds of millions of people.

Speaking of the police, all the talk of hate crime is a reminder that they commit more of it than anyone else does. Every day one black person and two others of different races will be killed by the police. Yet the term hate crime is rarely applied to the people who kill at will and with complete impunity.

The police have little to fear because most white Americans trust them and support their effort to keep black people under physical control. Even people who responded with outrage or attended a vigil for the victims don’t question the dictates of U.S. imperialism and police brutality. Both phenomena are white supremacist to the core.”

Ms. Kimberley then noted: “ … the mass hate crime didn’t begin in November 2016. Black church goers were murdered by a young white man in Charleston, South Carolina before Trump was elected. The names Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook also became infamous before Trump took office.

The El Paso police took the killer into custody without firing a shot, or putting him in a chokehold. Nor did the killer turn his gun on them. There seems to have been a mutual understanding that the police and white people are on the same side, even when whites are mass killers.”

And Ms. Kimberley concluded: “Americans have an openly racist president, racist foreign policy, racist law enforcement and racist corporate media. The heirs of the slave patrols promise not to give up their guns and politicians either agree with them or cower in fear of the well organized lobby.

White supremacy is foundational to the United States. Rooting it out requires more self-awareness than this country is currently able to muster. In the meantime, no one should be shocked when the next mass shooting makes the news. White supremacy is not the province of crazy killers or orange faced presidents. It is a normalized belief system for millions of people.” (M. Kimberley, ‘Freedom rider: who’s a white supremacist?’, Black Agenda Report, 7 August 2019).

People on the left of politics, rallying behind a seething hatred of Trump, may be tossing around ideas on how best to criminalise their political opponents.

As Mike Giglio wrote for The Atlantic: “At the moment, there is a significant disparity in the amount of funds, personnel, and law-enforcement tools that America devotes to combatting Islamist versus white-nationalist terrorism. Finding a way to add ‘white nationalists’ to the list of U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations could help address that, Seamus Hughes, the deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, told me. It would lower the bar for law enforcement to be able to charge a person for providing material support to white-nationalist terrorists.” How does one identify ‘white nationalists’?

There are the obvious candidates – shaved head guys standard bearing Nazi flags – now inseparable from Confederate flags, marching in torchlight processions, or marked for life with Odal rune and Iron Cross tattoos.

After the events at Charlottesville, Virginia and the so-called ‘Unite the Right’ rally, the corporate media made it look like these people are a national security threat. The Southern Poverty Law Center would have one believe that there are hundreds of thousands of violent racist white evil-doers spread across the country.

But not even the S.P.L.C. can provide an accurate count – or even a clear definition – of what and who these terrible people are. The S.P.L.C. has not counted the members of the so-called ‘alt-right.’ But it claims to know the numbers.

However, it is safely estimated that the Ku Klux Klan counts between 5,000 and 8,000 members nationwide. Back in the 1920s, when cities across the south were erecting monuments to Confederate generals, the Klan had 4 million members. As Roger L. Simon points out, this would be an impressive decrease even if the population of the United States had not swelled since the 1920s. Back then, the Klan constituted about 4 per cent of the entire American population. Now, the K.K.K. is near its nadir. That would make them less than 0.003 per cent of the population, even on the higher end of the S.P.L.C.’s estimate.

In the past, these people were basically ignored, derided as anachronistic paranoiacs, even laughed at, but now, since the election of Donald J. Trump, they are everywhere, more lethal and worrisome than the jihadi serial murderers of the Islamic State.

The apparently hysterical claim that the country faces the threat of ‘white terrorism’ is promoted by the corporate media. They insist that now, before it grows any stronger, should be the time to move against it with the same kind of concerted international focus of attention and resources which were trained on Osama bin Laden. Now is the time for a global war on ‘white nationalist terrorism’… The media claim that networks of ‘white nationalist’ apologists, sympathisers, supporters and facilitators – vital to any terrorist movement – are deeply embedded in the political and social fabric. They are literally the enemy within… Therefore, voters in ‘western’ nations must understand that the fellow travellers of ‘white nationalist’ terrorism are not acceptable participants in modern democracies, and vote them out, or see that they are prosecuted, or both.

The F.B.I. was instructed by Congress to provide a definition of a white domestic terrorist. It released a bulletin claiming for “the first time that [the F.B.I.] has identified fringe conspiracy theories as a domestic terrorist threat.”

This recent intelligence bulletin comes as the F.B.I. is facing pressure to explain whom it considers an extremist, and how the government prosecutes domestic terrorists. In recent times the F.B.I. director has addressed domestic terrorism on multiple occasions but did not publicly mention this new conspiracy theorist threat.

Like a number of recent mass shootings, the one in El Paso came with a manifesto, a document laying out political and ideological reasons for the violence and connecting it to other acts of violence. Americans are familiar with those. They can recite them. And yet their society still lacks a fundamental understanding of the nature of this violence and what it means.

Too many people still think of these attacks as single events, rather than interconnected actions carried out by domestic terrorists. One spends too much ink categorising them into anti-immigrant, racist, anti-Muslim or anti-Semitic attacks. True, they are these things. But they are also connected with one another through a broader white power ideology.

Similarly, too many people think that such shootings are the goal of fringe activism. They are not. They are planned to incite a much larger slaughter by ‘awakening’ other people to join the movement.

As history professor Kathleen Belew of the University of Chicago noted, attacks like that in El Paso are not an end in themselves. They are a call to arms, toward something much more frightening. The El Paso manifesto ties the attacker into the mainstream of the ‘white power movement’, which came together after the Vietnam war and united Klan, neo-Nazi, skinhead and other activists. That movement, comparable in size to the much better known John Birch Society, never faced a major prosecution or crackdown to hobble its activity. As a result, it was able to sink deep roots into society, largely under the radar of most Americans.

That movement is often called ‘white nationalist’, but too many people misunderstand that moniker as simply overzealous patriotism, or as promoting ‘whiteness’ within the nation. However, the nation at the heart of ‘white nationalism’ is not the United States. It is the ‘Aryan nation’, imagined as a transnational white polity with interests fundamentally opposed to the United States and, for many activists, bent on the overthrow of the federal government.

The ‘white power movement’ imagines race war, incited by mass violence among other strategies. The core texts of this movement, like The Turner diaries – a 1978 novel by William Luther Pierce, published under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald, which depicts a violent revolution in the United States which leads to the overthrow of the federal government, nuclear war, and, ultimately, a race war leading to the systematic extermination of non-whites – or Camp of the saints, the already mentioned Le camp des saints, a 1973 French dystopian fiction novel by author and explorer Jean Raspail. It is a speculative fictional account depicting the destruction of Western civilisation through ‘Third World’ mass immigration to France and the West. These are not just quaint novels, but rather provide a road map to how such violence could succeed. To call them manuals is too simplistic: They provide the collective ideas and vision by which a fringe movement can attempt a violent confrontation which could lead to race war.

These ideas run from the earlier period directly into today’s manifesti. The document of the ‘white nationalist’ Dylann Roof, who killed nine African-American churchgoers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, discussed his desire to provoke race war. The Christchurch manifesto used images and phrases from the earlier movement. In the El Paso manifesto, the anti-immigrant rhetoric is thoroughly ensconced in other ‘white power’ ideas.

To be sure, mass attackers today have a new set of different words, such as ‘replacement’, as a code for racial annihilation through intermarriage, immigration and demographic change. But the idea of that threat has been central to ‘white power’ activism for decades.

To people in this movement, the impending demographic change understood by many commentators as a soft transformation – the moment when a town, a county, or a nation will no longer be majority-white – is not soft at all, but rather represents an apocalyptic threat.

Much of this follows a strategy. First, it claims a state of emergency and gives a rationale for the act of violence. But critically, it also issues a call to action for others. The El Paso manifesto does so overtly, and offers tactical details about the attacker’s weapons, meant to instruct others. It has specific advice about how to choose targets. Some paragraphs give rote gesture to not being ‘white supremacist’, even as the document invokes phrase after phrase, ideological marker after ideological marker, of the ‘white power movement’. These are all markers of the genre.

As horrible as the El Paso attack was, this movement is capable of even larger-scale violence. The 19 April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, its most horrific act to date, was the largest mass murder on American soil between Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Not only does one still lack a widespread understanding of that bombing as an act of political violence, but one fails to reckon with the many activists who erect shrines to Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber, and hope to follow in his footsteps.

The history of the ‘white power movement’ shows that what seems new in El Paso is not new at all. This movement is not newly dangerous because of social media; it has been using the Internet and its precursors in precisely this way since 1984. Neither is this movement newly anti-immigrant, despite the current politics which have inflamed anti-immigrant fervour. ‘White power’ activists have been mapping white homelands and attempting migrations to and defence of those spaces for decades.

What is new here is the widespread effectiveness of these actions, the technologies of killing which increase the body count and the frequency of mass violence.

It is not enough to dismiss mass shootings as horror beyond one’s comprehension. One must also understand their meaning and confront the movement which relies upon them. (K. Belew, ‘The right way to understand white nationalist terrorism,’ The New York Times, 4 August 2019).

Continued tomorrow … (Part 12)


* Europaeus landed in Australia over fifty years ago. Except for the blue skies and starry nights between 02.12.1972 and 10.11.1975 the place has been constantly overwhelmed by what Hannah Arendt called the ‘sand storm’ – a metaphor for totalitarianism.

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  1. New England Cocky

    Excellent offering Europaeus, well done!!


    ““American domestic and foreign policies were moving closer and closer to a definition of fascism before Trump ran for office. The United States threatens the world with nuclear annihilation, kills thousands with sanctions, and covers the world with military bases. At home the mass incarceration state created the largest prison system in the world. The surveillance state steadily diminishes civil liberties and human rights. Fascism is nothing new in this nation.” Margaret Kimberley

  2. Reeking Wetkecks

    Yesterday I watched a documentary on YouTube about the beginnings of Rock ‘n Roll. The racism and bigotry shown in the old newsreel interviews of almost seventy years ago could have been recorded yesterday at a Trump rally. ‘Vile nigger music, corrupting our white youth.’ One bloated redneck said it was a ‘Communist plot’.
    The US is the US. It will never change. There are even rumblings about ‘another civil war’ if the filthy Democrats (who are actually to the right of our filthy Coalition) bring down our Prezdent’.
    I know that many of my comments are anti-American, but the fact is I’ve hardly ever met an American that I didn’t like on a personal level. When I hitchhiked around Europe in the 1960’d I always teamed up with Yanks at the YHA hostels because they were generally good company, but as a nation they are toxic.
    If you want to gauge the level of downright ignorance that prevails in the worlds most powerful nation, I’d invite you to indulge in Quora sometimes. Some of the questions posed by our cousins over the water are saddeningly hilarious. Sample: ‘Why did Germany not just invade Britain via the channel tunnel in WW2?’

  3. Wat Tyler

    The US has visited countless 9/11s on other countries, and beshat itself when someone did it to them. Vindictive, avaricious bullies.

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