White nationalism : A growing force?

In the age of instant communication, with world-wide reach, nationalist groups target communities of colour and also religious minorities through the available social platforms. 

Background 

The ideology of the white nationalist lies in the belief that they are under attack from everyone - feminists to left-wing politicians to Muslims, Jews, immigrants, refugees and black people – who have all supposedly united to weaken the white race, through means as varied as interracial marriage, immigration, “cultural Marxism” and criticism of straight white men. In the last 215 days, the US has seen 252 mass shootings – an average of more than one a day.

On 15th March 2019, 51 people were killed and 49 injured at two mosques in New Zealand’s Christchurch. The attacks have been associated with an increase in white supremacism and extremism.

Analysis

The deadly mass shootings, first in El Paso, Texas, and then in Dayton, Ohio, are the latest instances of homegrown terrorism in the US in 2019, bringing the total number of such incidents up to at least 22. A mass shooting can be defined as one in which at least four or more are shot in a single spree

Approximately 253 cities have experienced gun violence and domestic terrorism, with 127 of these resulting in fatal consequences. A total of 281 people have been killed and over 1,000 injured this year. The US government has reported that since the 9/11 attacks,  white supremacists and other far-right extremists have been charged with almost three times as many attacks on U.S. soil as Islamic terrorists have been. But nationalist terrorism does not receive even a fraction of the attention given to Islamic extremism.

Critics have condemned President Trump's racist rhetoric and hold him responsible for inflaming racial division. After the El Paso shooting, President Trump denounced white supremacy and warned of the perils of the internet and social media. “In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Mr. Trump said at the White House. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated.”

Democrats and some Republicans have sought for tougher background checks on prospective gun buyers. The US has more guns per capita than anywhere else in the world.  In February, bills were passed to extend the waiting periods for would-be gun buyers. The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are also pushing proposals to curb gun violence. Globally, right-wing terrorism has resulted in devastating attacks from New Zealand to Norway.  In the US, free speech laws protect the expression of hate-oriented rhetoric and make it challenging to confront a movement that exists largely in the shadows of cyberspace. 

Law enforcement agents have been pushing to codify domestic terrorism as a federal crime. “Acts of violence intended to intimidate civilian populations or to influence or affect government policy should be prosecuted as domestic terrorism regardless of the ideology behind them,” Brian O’Hare, president of the FBI Agents Association, wrote in a statement.

At the beginning of Trump's presidency, the administration gutted the DHS office that focused on violent extremism in the U.S. and withdrew funding for grants that were meant to go to organizations countering neo-Nazis, white supremacists, anti-government militants and other like-minded groups. FBI officials have noted that just 20% of the Bureau’s counterterrorism field agents are focused on domestic probes. According to the Brookings Institution’s Eric Rosand, when it comes to domestic terrorism, “the United States continues to rely almost entirely on the police”.

Although the federal government has built global spanning surveillance to defend America from the danger posed by Islamist terror groups, and created intelligence networks that are capable of stopping attacks before they occur, no comparable system exists for domestic terror cases.

The reorganization of domestic terrorism categories by the Justice Department has made it harder to track or measure the scale of attacks. According to former FBI officials, these attacks are often grouped as hate crimes or put off to state and local authorities. Due to this, there is a lack of data which in turn impacts the resources available to the FBI.

Assessment 

  • Ethnoviolence cannot be considered as a single event, rather as interconnected actions carried out by domestic terrorists.
  • Ethnic killing is often caused by collective resentment i.e. the feeling of injustice that prevails within a privileged portion of society, when they experience power slipping into the hands of a group that hadn’t previously held it. Members of dominant groups simply believe they deserve to be the dominant force in their societies and resent those challenging their positions at the top of the pyramid. 
  • Increasing immigrant population and demographic shifts are contributing to the resentment. Fear of unemployment, wage competition and the worry over the costs of social programmes are often cited as reasons to oppose immigration. Other reasons relate to cultural alienation and fear that immigrants will undermine the traditional language, religion, political power, or way of life of the native population. New Zealand’s massacre was the result of a document called ‘The Great Replacement’. It is predicted that white women are not having enough children and the falling birth rates will lead to more non-white people around the world.
  • American hate crime perpetrators are connected by pseudo-religious doctrines that proclaim that the white race will be involved in the cataclysmic war against other races and political enemies. For example, the Christian Identity or Identity Christianity which holds only Germanic, Anglo Saxon, Celtic, Nordic and Aryan people as the descendants of ancient Israelites or the ‘chosen people’. According to their doctrines, it is believed that non-whites will be exterminated or enslaved to serve the white race on Earth.

Image Courtesy:  Takver|Flickr

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