The evolving white supremacist ideology
The simplistic notion that terrorists, whether Muslim jihadi or white supremacist, are just “cowards” and “mentally ill” is still prevalent even among high-level decision-makers. Reacting to the El Paso shooting on August 4, 2019, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Today’s shooting in El Paso, Texas was not only tragic, it was an act of cowardice.” On Aug. 5, in his White House statement after an additional shooting occurred in Dayton, Ohio, Trump alluded to white supremacism as a dangerous ideology, but went on to characterise the shooters as “people that are very, very seriously mentally ill.”
On the same day, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney explained on US ABC’s This Week show that “these are sick people. You cannot be a white supremacist and be normal in the head. These are sick people. You know it, I know it, the president knows it.”
These observations echo similar attitudes concerning jihadi terrorism in Europe. In May 2017, following the Manchester Arena terrorist attack, UK Prime Minister Theresa May denounced the attackers as “callous and cowardly”.
In August 2017, French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb declared: “We are working with the Minister of Health to try and identify all profiles of those that may take action tomorrow… the government is thinking of mobilising all psychiatric hospitals and private psychiatrists to try and deter the threat of individual terrorists…”
Sociopolitical developments of the last decades have led to new arguments that have become part of hate discourse – namely, that European culture and traditions are being endangered by immigrants who will replace it.
These arguments, which expand the scope of existing hatred against African-Americans, Jews, and the LGBTQ community, appeal to many. Participants in the new discourse enjoy a sense of belonging to a group of loyalists, sharing admiration of their heroes, and using jargon that has been newly developed, comprising catchy slogans, smartly coded acronyms, and visual symbols. Social media is being leveraged to quickly spread these messages to an eager audience of thousands.
For example, a recent study shows that the number of tweets mentioning the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, which was introduced by Jean R.G. Camus in France in 2011, increased from 120,000 in 2014 to 330,000 in 2018 (mainly in Europe).
Thus, in recent years, prophets of this new white supremacist theory have been rather successful in disseminating their doctrine. They have convinced many that what they call “the white race” faces a concrete and immediate danger of losing its special status, or even the extinction of its identity and culture through “white genocide” arising from mass immigration, either to Europe from Africa and the Middle East or to the US from Latin America.
The declared enemies of the white supremacists are not only these immigrants themselves but also those who enable immigration through their alleged global influence – that is, the Jews. These apocalyptic depictions encourage urgent, concrete action, in order to overcome the danger. The arguments and symbolism developed by white supremacist groups have become effective in recruiting new supporters, instilling in their minds a sense of mission and urgency and driving some of them to action, namely carrying out terrorist acts against their perceived enemies.
According to their statements, they hope to achieve the direct purpose of reducing the number of these “enemies” – including through the provocation of civil war in the US – and the indirect aim of showing the way to others who would follow them. As shown below, they have been quite successful in inspiring followers. Thus, although the history of white supremacy is relatively short, the effect of its indoctrination is comparable to the centuries-old preaching leading to jihadi terror. This new pace is of course facilitated by the social networks.
Following the El Paso shooting, a new level of alert to the danger of white supremacist violence has been reached in the US. There are indeed fundamental similarities between Muslim jihadi terrorists and white supremacist terrorists but regarding the vital struggle against their incitement in the US there is an important difference: Unless they are jihadis, US authorities will not act against domestic extremists spreading incitement. Thus, in his testimony to the US Senate Judiciary Committee on July 23, 2019, FBI director Christopher Wray stated clearly: “We, the FBI, don’t investigate ideology, no matter how repugnant. We investigate violence, and any extremist ideology, when it turns to violence, we are all over it.” However, for its victims, when ideology turns to violence, it is too late.
|1925||Publication of Mein Kampf||Adolf Hitler’s autobiographical manifesto, which outlines his political and ideological worldviews.|
|1978||Publication of The Turner Diaries||The Turner Diaries, a novel by William Luther Pierce, outlines a civil war between the white supremacist “Organisation” and the US government (“The System”) which is controlled by Jews. In the book, the “Day of the Rope”, which takes place on Aug. 1, is an event in which the white supremacists carry out brutal massacres, ethnically cleansing Los Angeles by killing its Jewish and black inhabitants, and publicly hanging people labelled “race traitors,” including federal officials and white women who have had relations with black men.
Pages of this book were found in the vehicle of Timothy McVeigh, who together with Terry Nichols bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people and wounding some 700. David Copeland, a member of the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Movement, said he was inspired by the book to carry out the London nail bombings in April 1999, which resulted in the death of three people and wounded 140. This day was also mentioned by Poway synagogue shooter John Earnest in the manifesto attributed to him.
|1992||Publication of Siege||A collection of newsletters that James Mason wrote in the 1980s in collaboration with sect leader and mass murderer Charles Manson. With a focus on Holocaust denial and antisemitic and anti-gay themes, it calls for the establishment of a network of decentralised terror cells and for taking up arms against the “system.”|
|2011||Publication of The Great Replacement||Camus’s book warns against the purported danger of the replacement of ethnic French people (i.e. Caucasian French) by immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa. According to his theory, these immigrants are purportedly aided by a trans-national group of globalist capitalist ruling elites called “Mondialists.”|
|22 July 2011||Oslo, Norway attacks||Anders Behring Breivik carried out two sequential terrorist attacks. He first detonated a car bomb in Oslo, which killed eight people and wounded about 200. He then proceeded to the island of Utoya, the site of a summer camp run by the youth division of the ruling Norwegian Labor Party. He used semi-automatic weapons to fire on campers and staff, killing 69 and wounding 66. Breivik stated that he had chosen to target this group in order to raise awareness of his manifesto and his ideology, which is anti-Muslim and anti-immigration. He directly inspired Christchurch shooter Tarrant.|
|13 April 2014||Overland Park Jewish Community Center shooting||Frazier Miller was a neo-Nazi who, for many years, preached hatred of Jews, and in 1987 wrote: “The Jews are our main and most formidable enemies.” In 2014, he shot dead three people near the Overland Park Jewish Community Centre, near Kansas City, Kansas They were later found to be Christians.|
|17 June 2015||Charleston church Shooting||Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, shot dead nine people and wounded three during an evening service. He claimed that his goal was to start a race war. His manifesto reflected many tenets of white supremacism, among them the belief that African Americans were raping white woman. He directly inspired Tarrant.|
|29 January 2017||Quebec City mosque shooting||Alexandre Bissonnette entered the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, shot and killed nine and wounded 19 during an evening service. Bissonnette had been known to espouse far-right, white nationalist, and anti-Muslim views, and had harassed Muslims on a Facebook page for refugees. He directly inspired Tarrant.|
|7 April 2017||2017 Stockholm truck attack||Rakhmat Akilov, a 39-year-old asylum seeker from Uzbekistan, hijacked a truck and deliberately drove into crowds along a central street, killing five people and wounding 14, including 11-year-old Ebba Akerlund. Tarrant wrote his attack was “To take revenge for Ebba Akerlund.”|
|19 June 2017||Finsbury Park attack||Darren Osborne drove into a crowd of Muslims leaving a mosque after prayers in Finsbury Park, London, killing one person and wounding nine others. He directly inspired Tarrant.|
|3 February 2018||Macerata attack||Fascist activist Luca Traini, shot and wounded six African immigrants in Macerata, Italy. He claimed to have done this to avenge the murder of 18-year-old Pamela Mastropietro, whom he believed had been murdered by an African immigrant. He directly inspired Tarrant.|
|27 October 2018||Pittsburgh synagogue shooting||Robert Bowers entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA during morning services, shooting to death 11 people and wounding seven. He had been active on social media site Gab, posting antisemitic and white nationalist content. He directly inspired Earnest.|
|15 March 2019||Christchurch mosque shootings||Brenton Tarrant entered the Al Noor Mosque and later the Linwood Islamic Centre during Friday services, and shot dead a total of 51 people and wounded 49. In his manifesto, Tarrant expressed xenophobic and white supremacist sentiment calling for the removal of Muslims from European lands and including neo-Nazi symbols such as the Black Sun and the Cross of Odin. He directly inspired Earnest, El Paso shooter Crusius and Norway mosque shooter Manshaus.|
|27 April 2019||Poway, CA synagogue shooting||John Earnest shot and killed one person and wounded three others at Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, Caifornia, before his weapon jammed. He directly inspired Manshaus.|
|3 August 2019||El Paso shooting||Patrick Crusius entered a Walmart store in the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, Texas, where he opened fire, killing 22 and wounding 24. A manifesto posted online just prior to the attack and generally attributed to him stated that the attack was inspired by Tarrant’s manifesto and was aimed against Latinos, calling them a threat to the future of white Americans. He directly inspired Manshaus.|
|19 August 2019||Baerum Mosque shooting||Philip Manshaus entered the al-Noor Islamic Centre in Baerum, a town 20km outside Oslo, Norway, and opened fire. One person was wounded.|
In struggling against terrorism of both origins, one must first realise that deeds are led by words which, in turn, reflect ideology. This being the case, the struggle must start with fighting white supremacist incitement across social media. Thus, the authorities’ ability to do so effectively hinges on the criminalisation of such incitement, as it aids and abets terrorism.
In the US this is a formidable challenge, since freedom of speech is cherished by Americans across the political spectrum as an all-important pillar of American democracy. However, the 11 white supremacist terrorist attacks in this decade prove that circumstances have drastically changed. Some of these terrorists operated after careful selection of the locations and timing of their attacks: an African Methodist Episcopal church, synagogues, and mosques – specifically during prayer times – or Latinos in a city known to host many of them.
Hence, inciting against “the African-Americans,” “the Jews,” or “the Latino immigrants” can no longer be considered a general, vague threat. As shown in this report, these terrorist attacks are directly influenced by white supremacist incitement and by previous attacks, even from overseas. The evolving reality calls for a fresh look into the legal tools needed to combat this danger.
The aim of this report is to briefly describe the main sources of inspiration of white supremacist terrorists who have acted since 2011, and to show that white supremacist argumentation, jargon, and symbols are demonstrably contagious and dangerous.
White supremacist propaganda creates the impression that the danger to what supremacists refer to as “the white race” is imminent and that immediate action to reverse the process is needed. The above example illustrates that indoctrination regarding the fate of the white majority in the US: a countdown to the time when, according to statistical projections, the US will no longer have a white majority, which is assumed will occur in 2045.
The use of ideological literature as a source of inspiration is evident among many white supremacist groups and individuals. These books, at times, even serve as “professional guidebooks” providing operational ideas to be implemented in real life. An example of this came to light in the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, when pages of The Turner Diaries – which include a call for attacking federal buildings – were found in the vehicle of Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrator.
While the “white supremacist library” includes books probably numbering in the dozens, there are a few books that are regularly promoted and serve as an ideological basis for the white supremacist cause and operation: Siege, The Turner Diaries, The Great Replacement and Mein Kampf.
The Turner Diaries (1978)
A 1978 novel by American white supremacist, neo-Nazi, antisemitic author and political commentator William Pierce. In 1973, Pierce founded the National Alliance, an organisation that was intended to be a political vanguard that would ultimately create a white nationalist movement that would overthrow the US federal government.
The Turner Diaries, which Pierce wrote under the pen name Andrew Macdonald, is a fictional account of a guerrilla war waged by a white supremacist organisation that aims to overthrow the US government and set up a neo-Nazi regime. In this book, violent attacks and public executions of “race-traitors” of the white European race take place. Such “traitors” include white women cohabiting with blacks, Jews, or other “non-white” males. The attacks take place in southern California on Aug. 1, 1993, which is denoted as “the Day of the Rope.”
White supremacists online refer to this frequently and share many calls for carrying out what it describes. For example, in the manifesto attributed to Poway, California synagogue shooter John Earnest, one finds: “Some of you have been waiting for The Day of the Rope for years. Well, The Day of the Rope is here right now.”
This book is a compilation of newsletters written in the 1980s by neo-Nazi James Mason in collaboration with sect leader and mass murderer Charles Manson. Focusing on Holocaust denial and antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ themes, it calls for the establishment of a network of decentralised terror cells and for taking up arms against the “system.” The book is a main inspiration for the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division group, which has promoted it and Mason’s ideas as “Siege Culture”. This book is also a recurring theme in white supremacist circles, under the slogan “Read Siege”.
The Great Replacement (2011)
This book was written by the extreme-right French writer Jean R.G. Camus. The “Great Replacement” theory predicts that ethnic French people (Caucasian French) will be replaced by immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa. Thus, European civilisation and its identity are in danger of being overrun by mass immigration, especially migrants of Muslim origin, with the aid of a transnational group of globalist capitalist ruling elites called “Mondialists”. Within a few years, this conspiracy theory became influential in far-right and white nationalist circles in Europe and also in the US. Christchurch mosque shooter Brenton Tarrant adopted “The Great Replacement” as the title of his manifesto.
Mein Kampf (1925)
This book by Adolf Hitler is prominent within white supremacist circles. This autobiographical manifesto, which outlines his political and ideological worldviews, is used as a political, cultural and social platform for many individuals and groups, not only by self-proclaimed neo-Nazis. This is apparent both in the symbols of the online activity – advocating Hitler and Nazi Germany by images, videos and memes – and in the operational aspects of white supremacist activity.
A significant method of promoting and celebrating white supremacist ideology is by the attribution of sainthood to white supremacist terrorists, as can be seen in the below figures.