THE GLOBAL TERROR NETWORK
From the Christchurch Mosque to the San Diego Synagogue
CJ Werleman on the spreading of ‘white genocide’ ideology and the online radicalisation behind the rising tide of far-right terror attacks.
Al Qaeda describes hijacking and blowing up passenger airlines as its “blue ribbon” event, with the attacks of 9/11 serving as a source of inspiration for the foiled “shoe bomber”, “underwear bomber”, and the 24 men who were charged with plotting to detonate simultaneous bombs on airliners departing the UK for North America in 2006.
Nearly two decades later, however, right-wing extremism has replaced “Islamist” terrorism as the United States’ number one domestic terrorist threat – a reality underscored by the fact that 100% of all terrorist attacks on US soil since the end of 2017 were carried out by right-wing or white supremacist groups and individuals.
But, in the same way 9/11 became the rally cry for would-be violent Islamic extremists, the Christchurch mosque attack, which left 51 Muslim worshippers dead, has become the “blue ribbon” event for would-be violent right-wing extremists, serving as the rally cry for the demented and deranged.
Copycat Terrorism – Livestreamed
In the week following the terrorist attack in Christchurch on 15 March, anti-Muslim hate crimes and threats against other minorities spiked in Australia, the US, Europe and the UK – with the latter recording 95 incidents, including 85 which directly referenced Christchurch, according to Tell Mama UK.
On 24 March, 19-year-old John T Earnest, an avowed white nationalist, set fire to a mosque in Escondido, California, before leaving behind a note that referenced Brenton Tarrant, the terrorist who carried out the attack in New Zealand. Tragically, however, authorities would only come to identify Earnest as the suspect on Saturday, the final day of Passover, and only after he had been arrested for shooting and killing one Jewish worshipper and injuring another three at a synagogue in San Diego – timing his attack to coincide with the six month half-anniversary of the Tree Of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh.
“Attacks always spark reactions from different extremist communities but, when it comes to the far-right, there was never anything like the response to the Christchurch attack”Rita Katz
Mimicking the Christchurch attacker in almost every conceivable way, Earnest reportedly posted details of his plan to attack on the far-right website 8chan, including a letter in which he claimed responsibility for the fire at the mosque last month, identified Tarrant and Adolf Hitler as among those who “inspire” him, and complained that conservatives aren’t violent enough in support of their politics.
More disturbing still is the fact that Earnest reportedly intended to livestream his attack to 8chan via his Facebook account, but had unknowingly set this feature to a private setting, thus accidentally denying his online supporters footage of his dastardly deeds.
“Attacks always spark reactions from different extremist communities, but when it comes to the far-right, there was never anything like the response to the Christchurch attack,” Rita Katz, director of SITE Intelligence Group, told The Sydney Morning Herald, adding that Tarrant’s targeting of Muslims, coupled with his “deadly execution” and live streaming of the attack has generated an “unprecedented response”, describing it as “like nothing we’ve ever seen thus far from the far-right across the globe”. If Katz’s observation could be any more sombre, consider that she gave this assessment a week prior to Sunday’s attack in San Diego.
Echoes of al-Qaeda – Online Radicalisation
In so many ways these right-wing terrorists not only mimic each other but also mimic the kind of meme-sharing and conspiracies shared by Islamic extremist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda – with the common thread being a perception that their respective civilisations are under threat from an external other.
For violent jihadists, it’s the threat of US imperialism and the stubborn legacy of European colonialism that fuels their perceived existential crisis, while for right-wing extremists, it’s non-white, non-Christian immigrants who are destroying their “way of life” in the West.
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The central conspiracy underpinning right-wing extremism is that there’s a Jewish plot to overrun Western countries with immigrants, including Muslims, so that liberal, multicultural, cosmopolitan, and ‘globalist’ elites may rule the democratic political world.
When this conspiracy doesn’t manifest in violence, it appears in the form of hundreds of white males marching through the streets of Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us” – a slogan that represents the epistemology of the ‘Great Replacement’ theory.
When you consider how Robert Bowers, the terrorist who killed 11 Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, blamed a Jewish refugee organisation for “bringing in the [sic] Filthy EVIL Muslims into the country”, one can see how the ‘White Genocide’ and ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy ties together.
White Genocide Goes Mainstream
These memes and conspiracies are not only found front and centre within the chat rooms of the far-right blogosphere, but have also become normalised in the discourse of mainstream conservative political parties, with laws and promises to build walls and ban immigrant intakes, refugees, and Muslims – for the purpose of saving “white civilisation” from non-white hordes.
Matteo Salvini, Italy’s Deputy Premier and Interior Minister, told supporters on Sunday that Europe was at risk of becoming an “Islamic caliphate” because Muslim immigrants are swarming Europe with the purpose of undermining Italian democratic values and subverting the country’s way of life.
It has become normal, and near acceptable to say things about a race, ethnicity or culture today that would have been universally condemned a mere few years ago.
“Either Europe saves itself now, or it never will,” thundered Salvini. “Either we take it back, as we are doing with Italy, or it will become an Islamic caliphate with no hope or future.”
It’s impossible to discern rhetorical difference between Salvini’s electoral politics and the maniacal and threatening ramblings of white nationalist terrorists Earnest, Bowers or Tarrant.
In short, it has become normal and near acceptable to say things about a race, ethnicity or culture today that would have been universally condemned a mere few years ago.
In the US today, however, right-wing politicians routinely dehumanise immigrants as “invaders”, “criminals”, and “pests”. Given that all mass atrocities and genocides are preceded by words rather than violence, it’s not difficult to trace the spike in right-wing terrorism to everyday political rhetoric.
The US is now in staring face-to-face with a domestic white nationalist terrorism crisis.