“Lone-wolf” is probably not the best term. See Jason Burke’s 2017 article, just as relevant for today’s terrorists: Burke, Jason. 2017. “The Myth of the ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorist.” The Guardian, March 30, 2017, sec. News.
. . . a new trend among perpetrators of far-right violence: They want the world to know why they did it.
So they provide a comprehensive ideological manifesto that aims to explain the reasoning behind their actions as well as to encourage others to follow in their steps.
In the past, only leaders of far-right groups did this. Now, it’s common among lone-wolf perpetrators . . .
In the past decade, the language of white supremacists has transformed in important ways. It crossed national borders, broadened its focus and has been influenced by current mainstream political discourse.
Compare Patrick Cursius, the El Paso mass murderer, in his manifesto:
The best solution to this, for now, would be to divide America into a confederacy of territories with at least 1 territory for each race. This physical separation would nearly eliminate race mixing and improve social unity by granting each race self-determination within their respective territory(s).
Since the 19th century, the American white supremacy movement has stressed the superiority of Western culture and the need to preserve the dominance and racial purity of the white race. Racial segregation is essential. An example given by Perliger is 1980s KKK map of allocating set areas of the U.S. to particular races: Jews in New York, Hispanics in Florida, etc.
From Genes to Culture, “Unite the Whites”
But recently, a growing number of far-right activists have preferred to focus on cultural and social differences between communities, rather than on attributes such as race and ethnic origin.
They justify their violence as a way to preserve certain cultural-religious practices, rather than relying on their old justification – maintaining the genetic purity of the white race. In these activists’ view, the battle has moved from genes to culture.
For example, a member of the National Socialist Movement, an American neo-Nazi organization, wrote in a 2018 online post that white American is an identity like African American or Jewish American. In a statement that probably wouldn’t have been made by previous generations of neo-Nazis, the member wrote that all whites should come together, using their knowledge and weapons, to stop non-Europeans from pushing their secular agenda via government and media power.
While he’s responsible for his actions the reasons for those actions go beyond him.
Someone recently expressed some surprise that an Australian terrorist in New Zealand would be focussed on Europe in his “manifesto”. Jason Wilson sees nothing surprising here at all, however. All white nationalists everywhere talk about Europe and their European identity, he explains.
European identity and sense of grand sweep of European white people history is what they are all about.
Their fundamental idea is that white people, the descendants of Europeans, are being replaced in their home countries by non-white immigrants from non-European cultures.
He was acting for political motives. Those political motives were incubated in a movement and the context for that movement has been an increasingly Islamophobic discourse in the English speaking west in last 20 years or so since the “war on terror” started.
What is especially worrying, however, is that these views are not confined to invisible pockets of extremists. Far right extremists, says Wilson, have been making adept use of the internet and the cloak of irony to sneak their discourse under the radar and into the mainstream of political discussion. Fox news, of course, we know about, but also the vast Australian News Corp media. Prominent Australian right wing columnist, Andrew Bolt, last year was writing about the very same theme at the centre of Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement –– the “threat” of a coming demographic replacement in Australia.
I had to look it up. Here is Bolt’s spiel; Tarrant could well have adapted it entirely from memory:
Notice that line about immigrants being responsible for traffic problems. Anyone who has kept an ear to Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison will know he regularly “connects with his voter base” by mentioning the same problems in the same problematic context, even since the Christchurch shooting.
Jason Wilson again:
In a moral sense obviously he is responsible for his actions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look at the movement he’s come out of and the broader context of the societies that he’s been living in over the last number of years – to think about how we might understand those actions.
But it gets worse, so go listen to some music or read a good book if you’ve had enough. Recall how Tarrant described himself as an eco-fascist and how I made some point about Nazism having a strong ecological interest? Well, here is Jason Wilson’s most recent article:
Some see looming ecological collapse as an opportunity to re-order society along their preferred, frankly genocidal, lines.
The Nazi slogan “blood and soil” was coined by their foremost ecological thinker, Richard Walter Darré, who meant it to capture a mystical link between race and a particular territory.
In the decades since the rise of the modern environmental movement, the far right has continued its efforts to co-opt ecological thoughts and corrupt environmental movements
. . . . .
It’s hard to know exactly how many people are immersed in this milieu, but we have seen the damage just one man can do. What else might this ideology inspire?
More broadly, while conservatives (like Trump) are fixated on denialism, parts of the radical right not only acknowledge environmental collapse, but welcome it as an opportunity to re-order society along their preferred lines, and to cleanse the Earth of those they despise.
This makes a democratic, just, and global response to climate change all the more urgent. We must save our planet, and we must not create even the smallest opportunities for fascists.
I feel unwell. Time to go and watch a nice murder mystery on tv and see if once again the most innocent back-seat character at the beginning of the show in the end turns out to be the killer.
“We are very focused in ensuring you have the support that you need in the days and the weeks and the months that follow.
Many of those who have lost their lives will be the ones who will be bringing the income into their households. Many will have dependants and spouses. I want to give you assurance the through our system in New Zealand, through ACC, there is provision to provide for those families.
That provision exists regardless of the immigration status of those who have lost their lives and regardless of the immigration status of their loved ones. It includes the cost of burial. It includes support for lost income and that can last for not just months but it can last for years. So I give you that assurance”
Last night I read through the Christchurch (NZ) terrorist Brenton Tarrant’s ‘manifesto’, The Great Replacement, and was disturbed at how rational so much of it sounded. It did not read like the incoherent ravings of a madman and I suppose that’s what made it particularly disturbing.
I refer to white supremacy throughout the following but for what it’s worth Tarrant describes himself as an “ethno-nationalist” and “eco-fascist”.
Similarity 1 — free the homeland
Bin Laden wanted “crusaders” out of Muslim lands. Islamists fought the Russians in Afghanistan for that reason and then turned on the U.S. for its troop presence in the Arabian peninsula. Other Islamists followed and declared their intent ultimately to see the Western imperialist powers leave Muslim lands withdraw their financial and military support for pro-Western “secular-Muslim” dictators.
Brenton Tarrant makes a similar point his central theme: to declare war on “the invaders” of “European lands”. His consistent term for immigrants is “invaders”. Australia and New Zealand are included in his definition of European. The reason he says he chose New Zealand in the end was to demonstrate that there was no place on earth that “invaders” could go where they would be safe.
It hardly needs to spelled out that there is a significant difference between a people who enter foreign lands to secure control over resources and related strategic interests in the one case and those who enter foreign lands escaping from the ravages of war and breakdowns of civil society in the other. But that’s not how Tarrant sees it.
For the white supremacist the threat is that “white” and “European” people will become an oppressed minority because of the higher birthrate among the “invaders”. And race is a biological reality, he writes. The unarmed “invader” is actually a more serious threat than the armed invader because the unarmed are not opposed and are allowed to “take over” and “replace” the whites by default. If we would shoot armed invaders it is even more imperative to shoot unarmed invaders. Children, too, because they will grow up to become adult oppressors. (That reminds me of the argument used by certain Israelis to justify the killing of Palestinian babies and children.)
Similarity 2 — provoke a violent response
Bin Laden anticipated that the 9/11 attacks would provoke the U.S. into invading Middle Eastern countries in retaliation and that would result eventually in bringing the Muslim-West confrontation to a head with the eventual victory for the former. A violent response would radicalize many more opponents of the West to action and they experienced the ever more brutal revenge of the Western war machine.
The Great Replacement expresses a similar hope: that Muslims will retaliate to his act with similar violence and so bring about even more hatred and active resistance from the “whites” against them, eventually forcing them to leave. Not only on a local level, but even on a world-wide scale the author hopes for a further clear division between Western/European powers and Islamic nations.
(The tract even hopes for an ever more hostile debate over gun ownership in the United States in particular. So much so that eventually it will end in violence with those with the guns winning once and for all.)
Similarity 3 — revenge
Islamist terrorists speak of the Western imperialist nations as “crusaders”. They see a litany of barbarous crimes by Europeans (and their white appendage nations) extending back centuries.
The white supremacists (at least in The Great Replacement) reject the term “Islamophobe” because they do not fear Islam itself. But they do demonize the Muslims by presenting their history as one long bloody river of conquest and murders from the sixth century right up to today.
Does anyone else think here of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and how the Jews were demonized as a race throughout their history and up to the present day?
Similarity 4 — inspire by example
Tarrant says he does not act for fame and glory. He knows his name will not be remembered years from now. But he does express hope that by taking the “necessary” action that he has he will encourage others who feel the same way to follow and do the same.
Certainly some Islamists have acted for fame, but more commonly to set an “inspiring example” of courage to others.
Similarity 5 — belief in violence
Democracy is “mob rule” with the mob controlled by corporate powers, says the white supremacist in The Great Replacement. No great victory was ever won without sacrifice in blood. Violence, war, is the only way.
By contrast, white societies are said to be becoming weak because of their preference for diversity over unity, for their weak-willed acceptance of the dilution of their culture in the face of the foreign “invader”. Survival depends on more whites rising up to literally fight and die, to take on violence to save their culture and race.
Islamist literature exalts violence, too, and glorifies the blood of martyrs. Enough said.
Similarity 6 — vision of a future paradise
If Islamists envisioned a “pure” Islamic society on earth and paradise in heaven, we read in The Great Replacement a vision of a future where white nations (and eventually all humanity) are living in freedom and in harmony with a protected and flourishing green and clean and fruitful environment. It reminds me of the Nazi vision but Tarrant insists he is not a Nazi. Yet he does profess dedication to the vision of the pre-WW2 British fascist Oswald Mosley.
. . .
That’s enough. I just wanted to make a note of the above while still fresh in my mind after reading The Great Replacement. Normally in a more serious analysis I would cite passages from both the work discussed and those I’m comparing it with. Maybe I will do that to add some weight to the points above at a future date.
Tarrant, Brenton. 2019. “The Great Replacement: Towards a New Society.”