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Tue 17 September 2019
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CJ Werleman argues that mass shootings in the US to further a white nationalist agenda could spread to other parts of the Western democratic world – for which it must be prepared.


When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold is a truism often told to describe how dependent the health of the global economy is on the world’s only economic and military superpower.

But, as the forces of globalisation – specifically, modern means of communication and travel – shrink the distance between space and time, the rest of the Western democratic world becomes infected by pretty much whatever is making the United States sick.

The disease that is causing the country to cough, sputter and shake with convulsions is the terminal psychosis of white nationalism, and it’s one that started in the extremities before making its way to the head and back down into the body.

If this metaphor works, you will have guessed that the head is the US President Donald Trump and the body mainstream American society.

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There’s no doubt that the country is standing face-to-face with a white nationalist domestic terrorism crisis and it’s a contagion spreading to just about every nation in the Western hemisphere, meaning that countries other than the US need to urgently re-examine and strengthen their existing gun laws.

The data and the evidence affirm this. Not only are right-wing extremists responsible for 100% of terrorist attacks on US soil since end of 2017 and 73% of all extremist-related murders during the past decade, but during Trump’s time in office, these attacks are occurring more often and with increasingly deadlier consequences.

In the past few years, Trump-loving and sympathising right-wing extremists have carried out too many mass casualty shootings to count. There was the attacker who murdered 22 Hispanic American shoppers in El Paso and the gunman who attacked the Gilroy Garlic Festival killing four people in northern California this month; the gunman who attacked a synagogue in San Diego in April, killing one; the gunman who killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; the gunman who shot dead 17 of his former classmates at a high school in Florida; and the guy who sent a string a pipe bombs to CNN, Democratic Party law-makers and various critics of Donald Trump.

It’s likely that you will have heard and read about all of the aforementioned attacks, but that you are less familiar with the would-be right-wing terrorist attacks that are being foiled moments before they are about to happen.

Last week, a man was arrested in Las Vegas for plotting to carry out an attack on a local synagogue and LGBTQ bar. Over the weekend, federal authorities announced that they had foiled three potential mass shootings after arresting three men in different states “who expressed interest in or threatened to carry them out”, with one man threatening to carry out a shooting at a Jewish community centre; another expressing a desire to kill 100 people or more; and another posting his desire to attack on Facebook.

What most of these right-wing terrorists have in common is the internalisation of a trope that is central to Trump’s popularity with his base: that white Americans are locked in a ‘do or die’ struggle with non-white immigrants for jobs, security, citizenship and status.

More broadly, it’s the conspiratorial belief that the white race and Western civilisation is being replaced and over-run by non-whites thanks to a secret cabal consisting of Jews and the liberal elite. Hatred and fear of Muslims is the glue that unites right-wing extremist groups and individuals across the Western world.

It was this “great replacement” or “white genocide” conspiracy theory that inspired Anders Breivik to murder 77 liberal Norwegian students and their teachers in 2011, and it was the source of inspiration for the Australian white nationalist who murdered 51 Muslim worshippers at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, several months ago.

Last weekend, a 21-year-old right-wing extremist attacked a mosque located 20km from the Norwegian capital Oslo. He was armed with a shotgun and told authorities that he wanted to emulate Brenton Tarrant, the gunman who carried out the attacks in Christchurch. “My time is up, I was chosen by Saint Tarrant after all,” one of his online posts read. “We can’t let this continue, you gotta bump the race war threat in real life… it’s been fun.”

The German Ministry of Interior published a report last week showing neo-Nazi and other far-right groups carried out 8,605 crimes in the first six months of 2019, while the country’s domestic security agency BfV found that there are more than 21,000 right-wing extremists in Germany, with roughly half considered to be “violence oriented”.

In July, the UK’s counter-terrorism authorities included the threat of far-right extremism in their terrorism warnings for the first time, with then Home Secretary Sajid Javid stating: “While the Islamist threat remains, we have recently seen an increase in terrorist activity motivated by the extreme right wing.”

Peter Neumann, a professor of security studies at King’s College London, told The Guardian: “We are now no longer talking about one-off events, but a loosely coordinated chain of far-right attacks across the world, where members of these networks inspire – and challenge – each other to beat each others’ body counts.

“The ultimate motivation… is to launch a race war. The aim is to carry out attacks, claim responsibility, explain your action, and inspire others to follow.”

Clearly, what is besieging the US is also a crisis plaguing its Western democratic peers everywhere. Far-right movements and political groups are gaining traction in the elections and parliaments of Europe, Australia, Canada and the UK.

But, whereas the US has experienced its 249th mass shooting in 2019, the others – with the exception of New Zealand – have experienced none. The UK, Australia, and Europe have their tight gun control laws to thank for that, but with pro-gun lobby groups gaining influence thanks to the internationalisation of the conservative US political agenda, now might be the time for every Western country to re-examine their respective gun laws to escape the fate of all the Americans that have been, and will be, brutally gunned down.

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