White nationalism, populism, and domestic terrorism

Written by  //  August 19, 2019  //  Government & Governance, Terrorism, U.S.  //  No comments

The OK sign is becoming an alt-right symbol

White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots
A long-overdue excavation of the book that Hitler called his “bible,” and the man who wrote it
(The Atlantic Magazine) Americans want to believe that the surge in white-supremacist violence and recruitment—the march in Charlottesville, Virginia, where neo-Nazis chanted “Jews will not replace us”; the hate crimes whose perpetrators invoke the president’s name as a battle cry—has no roots in U.S. soil, that it is racist zealotry with a foreign pedigree and marginal allure.
The concept of “white genocide”—extinction under an onslaught of genetically or culturally inferior nonwhite interlopers—may indeed seem like a fringe conspiracy theory with an alien lineage, the province of neo-Nazis and their fellow travelers. In popular memory, it’s a vestige of a racist ideology that the Greatest Generation did its best to scour from the Earth. History, though, tells a different story. King’s recent question, posed in a New York Times interview, may be appalling: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?” But it is apt. “That language” has an American past in need of excavation. Without such an effort, we may fail to appreciate the tenacity of the dogma it expresses, and the difficulty of eradicating it. (April 2019)

This Is Your Brain on Nationalism
The Biology of Us and Them
(Foreign Affairs March/April 2019) Put simply, neurobiology, endocrinology, and developmental psychology all paint a grim picture of our lives as social beings. When it comes to group belonging, humans don’t seem too far from the families of chimps killing each other in the forests of Uganda: people’s most fundamental allegiance is to the familiar. Anything or anyone else is likely to be met, at least initially, with a measure of skepticism, fear, or hostility. In practice, humans can second-guess and tame their aggressive tendencies toward the Other. Yet doing so is usually a secondary, corrective step.
To understand the dynamics of human group identity, including the resurgence of nationalism—that potentially most destructive form of in-group bias—requires grasping the biological and cognitive underpinnings that shape them.
… The human mind’s propensity for us-versus-them thinking runs deep. Numerous careful studies have shown that the brain makes such distinctions automatically and with mind-boggling speed. Stick a volunteer in a brain scanner and quickly flash pictures of faces. Among typical white subjects in the scanner, the sight of a black man’s face activates the amygdala, a brain region central to emotions of fear and aggression, in under one-tenth of a second. In most cases, the prefrontal cortex, a region crucial for impulse control and emotional regulation, springs into action a second or two later and silences the amygdala: “Don’t think that way, that’s not who I am.” Still, the initial reaction is usually one of fear, even among those who know better.
This finding is no outlier. Looking at the face of someone of the same race activates a specialized part of the primate brain called the fusiform cortex, which recognizes faces, but it is activated less so when the face in question is that of someone of another race.

19 August
Conservative Scholar: The Real Racists Are People Who Call Trump Racist
(New York) Conservatives are permitted to concede some flaws here and there in Donald Trump’s job performance without risking their good standing in the movement
But acknowledging Trump’s racism is almost verboten. If Trump is a racist, then the party’s voting base is also racist, and its elected officials are complicit in the country’s founding evil.
But acknowledging Trump’s racism is almost verboten. If Trump is a racist, then the party’s voting base is also racist, and its elected officials are complicit in the country’s founding evil.
Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald comes to the president’s defense in a new Wall Street Journal op-ed (“Trump Isn’t the One Dividing Us by Race”). Mac Donald has devoted her career to the proposition that anti-white racism is a far more serious problem than anti-black racism, and her latest effort represents the state of the art in Trumpian racial apologetics.

18 August
Why we should remember 1619
Enslaved Africans were brought to Jamestown. Their descendants have led the fight for freedom
By Amanda Brickell Bellows, lecturer in the history department at The New School. Her first book, “American Slavery and Russian Serfdom in the Post-Emancipation Imagination,” will be published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2020.
(WaPo) Four hundred years ago, the first Africans set foot on mainland English America.
On this anniversary, we should acknowledge slavery’s deep roots and recognize the significant role that captive and free African Americans have played in building the United States of today. During the nation’s earliest days, economics and racism intersected to launch the insidious institution that would bring fortune and privilege to some and inequality, violence and death to others. As enslaved laborers, African Americans’ backbreaking work supported colonial economic growth and enriched slave traders, merchants and their owners. Striving for freedom, African Americans fought for emancipation and the abolition of slavery. During Reconstruction and the civil rights movement, they secured significant constitutional and legislative changes that expanded rights for all Americans, a struggle that continues today.

14 August
Trump and racism: What do the data say?
(Brookings) The Brookings Cafeteria podcast last week discussed the role President Trump’s racist rhetoric has played in encouraging violence in America. Predictably, some podcast listeners responded skeptically on Twitter, doubting the association between Trump and hateful behavior. It would be naïve to think that data will change many individuals’ minds on this topic, but nonetheless, there is substantial evidence that Trump has encouraged racism and benefitted politically from it.
First, Donald Trump’s support in the 2016 campaign was clearly driven by racism, sexism, and xenophobia. While some observers have explained Trump’s success as a result of economic anxiety, the data demonstrate that anti-immigrant sentiment, racism, and sexism are much more strongly related to support for Trump. Trump’s much-discussed vote advantage with non-college-educated whites is misleading; when accounting for racism and sexism, the education gap among whites in the 2016 election returns to the typical levels of previous elections since 2000. Trump did not do especially well with non-college-educated whites, compared to other Republicans. He did especially well with white people who express sexist views about women and who deny racism exists.

13 August
Schumer to ask Trump to redirect $5 billion in wall funding to gun initiatives
In a bid to keep pressure on the White House to respond to mass shootings, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is preparing to ask that President Trump withdraw a request for $5 billion in border wall funding and redirect the money toward programs that aim to reduce gun violence and white supremacist extremism.
While it’s highly unlikely that Trump will retreat from efforts to fund his long-promised border wall, the move by Schumer (D-N.Y.) is designed to keep a focus on the Republican response to the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.
The dual scourges of gun violence and violent white supremacist extremism in this country are a national security threat plain and simple, and it’s time the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress starting treating them as such,” Schumer said in a statement.
El Paso attack upends white nationalist normalization plan
Two years ago, America’s white nationalist movement stunned the country. Neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, had turned deadly when a far-right protester drove a car through a crowd, killing one and injuring dozens. Some movement leaders regrouped. Instead of stoking outrage, they set out to build support with another tack: Looking normal.
The larger goal was what many white nationalists call “Phase 2” — gaining mainstream acceptance for far-right ideas widely rejected as repugnant and getting white nationalists into positions of influence. The normalization effort included softened rhetoric and social gatherings that, for many groups, would increasingly replace confrontational rallies.
… The El Paso attack has also put new pressure on a man some white nationalists praise as helping advance their movement: Donald Trump. The U.S. president has come under sustained criticism for his racially incendiary rhetoric since launching his candidacy in 2015 — including his repeated use of the word “invasion” to describe immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border.
… After Charlottesville, the lie-low approach was seen as a necessity by some in the movement. Many white nationalist groups were sued and lost access to social media, which has caused them to avoid public confrontations, said Heidi Beirich, who studies far-right groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization that tracks extremists.
A Reuters photojournalist has observed the [normalization] approach up close — at a children’s nursery in a “church” run by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK); a restaurant-and-bar that caters to white supremacists in Georgia; a barbecue held in Arkansas by the ShieldWall Network, a self-avowed neo-Nazi group with dozens of members. Even as they described their hopes of mainstreaming, many members of these and other groups also voiced the violent tropes that animate the movement.
One is the so-called Great Replacement conspiracy theory, common in white nationalist circles, which holds that leftist elites are engineering the replacement of white majorities globally through policies that encourage mass migrations as white birth rates decline. The manifesto tied to the El Paso shooting referenced the replacement theory in explaining why the shooter chose to kill Hispanic people.

9 August
An Alarming Weekend of White-Nationalist Activity
(New York) Following the shooting at an El Paso Walmart that left 22 people dead last weekend, the nation renewed its focus on the threat of white supremacy. While, thankfully, there were no additional large-scale incidents in the U.S., multiple reports in recent days have underscored the serious threat posed by white nationalist violence.
Despite the rise of white-nationalist violence in the United States — anticipated by the Department of Homeland Security as early as 2009 — the DHS and the Trump administration have failed to make countering acts driven by the ideology a priority. (Its rhetoric, repeated by the president close to habitually at this point, is another matter entirely.) In an interview on Meet the Press on Sunday, Acting DHS Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan said that domestic terrorism of the sort was now becoming a priority “for the first time.” But according to two sources within the administration who spoke with the New York Times, DHS officials feel that they cannot address topics of domestic terrorism and white-supremacist violence with Trump because he’s not interested.

8 August
We worked to defeat the Islamic State. White nationalist terrorism is an equal threat.
Brookings President John R. Allen and Brett McGurk both served as special presidential envoys leading the U.S. global campaign against the Islamic State. They argue that the scourge of white nationalist terrorism today, as evidenced by recent mass shootings, has become a national security emergency on par with the ISIS threat and should be treated as such.
(Opinion WaPo) The United States now faces a new national security threat. The enemy is not the Islamic State but domestic and homegrown white nationalist terrorism. And “terrorism” is the term that must be used. The strain of thought driving this terrorism is now a global phenomenon, with mass atrocities in Norway, New Zealand, South Carolina and also, law enforcement authorities suspect, El Paso. The attacks are cheered on by adherents in dark (but readily accessible) corners of the Internet. The terrorist acts may differ from Islamic State attacks in degree, but they are similar in kind: driven by hateful narratives, dehumanization, the rationalization of violence and the glorification of murder, combined with ready access to recruits and weapons of war.
The first step to overcoming this dangerous strain of violence is to speak clearly and without equivocation. It is terrorism directed at innocent American civilians. If the Islamic State or al-Qaeda were committing such acts, the nation would mobilize as one to overcome it. The U.S. government would deploy all legal means at its disposal to root out the facilitators of violence and protect the American people from further harm. The United States would speak with a clear voice and lead the world in a determined response, strengthening alliances and sharing information with its allies. Unfortunately, when it comes to white nationalist terrorism, President Trump speaks with equivocation, and his rhetoric, wittingly or not, has the effect of providing cover for extremists who excuse their actions in the language of political grievance.
Why free speech makes it difficult to prosecute white supremacy in America

State Department worker outed by civil rights group as a white nationalist placed on leave
Matthew Q. Gebert was part of a cell called The Right Stuff in Northern Virginia, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
(NBC) A State Department official whom a civil rights group outed as an alleged white nationalist had been placed on leave, sources said Thursday.
The news about Matthew Q. Gebert, 38, came a day after researchers from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch program revealed he allegedly used the pseudonym “Coach Finstock” on white nationalist forums and hosted parties at his Virginia home for like-minded individuals.
The two U.S. officials familiar with Gebert’s situation who confirmed to NBC News that he is on leave declined to say when he left his desk or speculate on when, or if, he might return.

6 August
What Is the Great Replacement?
The Paris-based author Thomas Chatterton Williams discusses the French origins of the conspiracy theory mentioned in the El Paso manifesto.
(NYT) On Saturday, a gunman opened fired in a Walmart store in El Paso, killing 22 people and injuring more than two dozen others.
The authorities said the suspect, Patrick Crusius, a 21-year-old white man, wrote a hate-filled, anti-immigrant manifesto that appeared online minutes before the massacre. Echoing the man accused of fatally shooting dozens of people at two mosques in New Zealand in March, the El Paso gunman’s manifesto mentioned the “great replacement,” a conspiracy theory that warns of white genocide.
The man often said to be behind the great replacement theory is Renaud Camus, a French writer who in 2017 was profiled by Thomas Chatterton Williams, a journalist and author who has written extensively about race.
… “The great replacement is very simple,” Mr. Camus has said. “You have one people, and in the space of a generation you have a different people.” He also stresses that the specific identity of the new population is less important than the act of replacement itself. This lets him claim that he would be equally devastated if the Japanese were to be replaced by the Chinese. The idea is not new, though. Charles de Gaulle and Enoch Powell, the right-wing British politician, both famously and publicly fretted over reverse colonization. What Mr. Camus did was to take a familiar concept and rebrand it in a catchy way.

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