FBI Director Christopher Wray recently testified before a Congressional hearing that White Supremacists are a major cause of domestic terrorism.
Most domestic terrorists come from the white supremacist, anti-abortion, anti-government, and militia movements.
Last Sunday, a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, an annual summer festival in the city of Gilroy, California, located about 30 miles south of San Jose. The gunman killed three people, including a six-year-old boy, and injured at least 12 others. The Gilroy Garlic Fest Shooter Plugged a White Power Manifesto on Instagram:
[W]itnesses claim to have heard [the shooter] say he was “really angry” while he was opening fire on the crowd, there’s not much indication as to his potential motive for the shooting. While his social media platforms appear to have been deleted as of Monday morning, one post on his alleged Instagram read: “Ayyy garlic festival time. Come get wasted on overpriced shit.” Another post on the now-deleted Instagram included a picture of a Smokey the Bear sign advocating for forest fire prevention, with [the shooter] writing in the caption: “Why overcrowd towns and pave more open space to cater to make room for hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white twats?” then plugging the text Might Is Right by Ragnar Redbeard.
A 19th-century text of unknown authorship (its origins have been attributed to everyone from British author Arthur Desmond to Call of the Wild novelist Jack London), Might Is Right has long been considered a key text in the white supremacist movement, says Keegan Hankes, a senior analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s intelligence project. “It’s widely popular and present among ethnocentric white nationalists of all levels, from suit-and-tie white supremacists to neo-Nazis,” Hankes tells Rolling Stone.
The text, which has been banned in multiple countries, essentially advocates for social Darwinism, or the idea that members of certain races or ethnicities are inherently better equipped for survival than others. The author argues that true egalitarianism does not and cannot exist, and that the “white race” is inherently biologically superior to other races.
Although the social Darwinist arguments in the text were not considered all that radical in the 19th century, when the eugenics movement was at its height, it has since been embraced by everyone from noted satanist Anton LaVey to Katja Lane, the wife of white-nationalist-organization The Order founder David Lane, who wrote the preface for its 1999 reprinting. It is also available on the white supremacist website Counter-Currents, and the PDF version has become a staple of white supremacist digital libraries and forums.
“The most important thing [about the text] is this belief in ethnocentricity and biological determinism that is getting pulled from the late 19th century to this current day,” says Hankes. “The ideas are ubiquitous today in white supremacist circles.”
It’s still unclear whether the shooting was racially motivated, or if [the shooter] had any other concrete ties to extremist circles. FBI: Media ‘wrong’ on Garlic Festival shooter’s white supremacy ideology, despite social media post:
FBI officials called media reports characterizing the Gilroy festival gunman’s ideology “wrong” after outlets referenced a social media post and literature associated with white supremacists.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday outside the festival grounds – where three were killed and 12 injured Sunday – John Bennett, FBI special agent in charge, said investigators still do not know what the ideology was of the 19-year-old shooter, Santino William Legan.
“We’re looking at multiple threads of conversations that he’s had,” Bennett told reporters, according to footage from KTVU. “However, we’re still not comfortable in saying it’s an ideology, one way or another.”
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair said investigators had no reason to believe the shooter was targeting any particular characteristics Sunday. They were still reviewing his social media and digital media forensics, among other pieces of information.
Bennett said Wednesday that, just because someone posts about an 1890s book, it’s information anyone can put out.
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[T]he San Francisco Chronicle reported officials found reading materials on white supremacy and radical Islam, per an anonymous federal law enforcement source. The reading materials were apparently not included in the items found in the search warrant released Tuesday, according to The Chronicle.
Bennett said those findings of literature are “erroneous and incorrect information,” though he said there were many materials found and they need to be sorted.
“To call it ideology in one way or the other is conflicting readings,” he told reporters. “Just because someone has a book in their house doesn’t mean they are leaning one way or another.”
He added officials are not “overly concerned” of items found in the apartment.
They are not ruling anything out at this point in the investigation, though, Bennett said.
UPDATE 8/6/2019: FBI opens domestic terror probe into Gilroy shooting:
The 19-year-old gunman who used an assault-style rifle to shoot people at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last week had a “target list” made up of religious institutions and political groups of both parties, as well as federal buildings and courthouses, authorities said.
Given the threats to nationwide organizations, the FBI is opening a domestic terrorist investigation into the shooting, FBI special agent in charge of the San Francisco office John Bennett said.
On Saturday, 20 people were killed and 26 people were injured when a gunman, a 21-year-old white man from Allen, Texas, began shooting in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
About 20 minutes earlier, a post on the online message board 8chan believed to be from the suspect laid out a dark vision of America overrun by Hispanic immigrants. Minutes Before El Paso Killing, Hate-Filled Manifesto Appears Online:
It spoke of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” It detailed a plan to separate America into territories by race. It warned that white people were being replaced by foreigners.
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The words of the manifesto, in citing the “great replacement” theory, echo the slogan that was chanted during [the Unite The Right] white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017: “Jews will not replace us.”
Recall that Donald Trump angrily drew a false equivalency in defending the white supremacists arguing that “You had very fine people, on both sides.”
The writer of the manifesto also suggested that Democrats in the United States have a strategy to gain a permanent majority by embracing the growing Hispanic population, a notion that has gained currency on right-wing radio shows for years.
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The four-page document said politicians of both parties were to blame for the United States “rotting from the inside out,” and that “the heavy Hispanic population in Texas will make us a Democrat stronghold.”
The manifesto also railed against automation and embraced an argument familiar in anti-immigrant circles: that immigrants are taking jobs from “natives.”
“My opinions on automation, immigration, and the rest predate Trump and his campaign for president,” the document says.
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The authorities were scrutinizing the 2,300-word screed on Saturday and attempting to determine whether it was written by the same man who killed 20 people and injured more than two dozen others near the Mexican border.
Police officers were interviewing the [gunman], a 21-year-old white man from Allen, Tex., a roughly 10-hour drive to the Walmart. What brought him to a crowded shopping center in El Paso is one of the many questions on the minds of investigators.
The manifesto that may be linked to [the gunman] described an imminent attack and railed against immigrants, saying, “if we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable.”
From New Zealand to Pittsburgh to a synagogue in Poway, Calif., aggrieved white men over the last several months have turned to mass murder in service of hatred against immigrants, Jews and others they perceive as threats to the white race.
The unsigned manifesto, titled “The Inconvenient Truth,” draws direct inspiration from the mass murder of Muslims at two mosques in New Zealand in March that left 51 people dead. In that attack, the alleged killer published a manifesto online promoting a white supremacist theory called “the great replacement.” The theory has been promoted by a French writer named Renaud Camus, and argues that elites in Europe have been working to replace white Europeans with immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa.
Christchurch has become a rallying cry for extremists the world over. The manifesto potentially linked to the El Paso killings begins, “In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto. This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
The gunman who opened fire in April at a synagogue in Poway, Calif., near San Diego, posted an anti-Semitic diatribe on 8chan, the same online message board where the El Paso document surfaced. The Poway manifesto echoed the words of the Christchurch suspect, and also drew inspiration from a massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last October. In that mass shooting, the suspect railed against immigrants, Jews and other groups.
The El Paso shooting, if the manifesto is linked to [the gunman], potentially underscored the global spread of white supremacist ideology in the age of social media and at a time when immigration in America and elsewhere has become a divisive political topic.
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If the manifesto is conclusively linked to [the gunman], the federal authorities may treat Saturday’s attack as a hate crime or an incident of domestic terrorism.
The F.B.I. has said that more Americans have died in domestic terrorist attacks than international ones since Sept. 11, and that domestic terrorism is increasingly motivated by white supremacist ideology.
Christopher Wray, the director of the F.B.I., told Congress last month that the bureau had made about 100 domestic terrorism arrests in the first three quarters of the year, roughly the same number of international arrests over that time period.
No United States government agency is responsible for designating domestic terrorism organizations, and there is no criminal charge of domestic terrorism. Individuals who are considered domestic terrorists are charged under other existing laws, such as hate crime, gun and conspiracy statutes.
Let’s be clear: if these were terrorist attacks by ISIS terrorists in the U.S., the government would be fully mobilized and we would be on a war footing right now. But because these terrorist acts are domestic terrorism by white nationalist Americans, a constituency of the conservative right, the response is muted and not treated with the same seriousness. This country needs to prosecute domestic terrorism with the same degree of seriousness as foreign terrorism.
UPDATE: In April, Homeland Security Disbanded The Domestic Terror Intelligence Unit: The Department of Homeland Security has disbanded a group of intelligence analysts who focused on domestic terrorism, The Daily Beast has learned. Numerous current and former DHS officials say they find the development concerning, as the threat of homegrown terrorism—including white supremacist terrorism—is growing. “It’s especially problematic given the growth in right-wing extremism and domestic terrorism we are seeing in the U.S. and abroad,” one former intelligence official told The Daily Beast.
The language used by the El Paso gunman reflects the rhetoric used by our white nationalist president. The Root chronicles All the Times Donald Trump Tweeted the Word ‘Infested’:
Using the Trump Twitter Archive, a project started by Brendan Brown that monitors, compiles and archives Donald Trump’s Twitter handle in real-time, we found eight instances of Donald Trump using the word “infest” or “infested.” The site currently catalogs all of Trump’s tweets but does not have some tweets that were deleted before Jan. 27, 2017, because, prior to that date, the site only collected his tweets a few times a day.
Ben Zimmer, the language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, explains What Trump Talks About When He Talks About Infestations:
Back when he was just a New York real estate developer, Donald Trump often complained about pernicious “infestations” that would bring down his property values. In a 1992 interview, Trump told Charlie Rose about the area of Manhattan where he hoped to build the Riverside South complex: “We’re looking to get zoning for a piece of land that’s unzoned, that’s employing no people, that’s sitting there rotting. It’s rat-infested.”
Three years later, after Trump became a co-owner of the Empire State Building, he tried to oust the building’s management company, run by his nemeses Leona and Harry Helmsley, by filing a lawsuit in which he claimed that the Empire State had become nothing more than a “tarnished, second-rate, rodent-infested commercial building.”
And in 2010, annoyed at delays in bringing an enormous banquet facility called “Trump on the Ocean” to Jones Beach State Park, Trump griped that the only thing visitors could see was “a rat-infested dump.” (Hurricane Sandyfinally scuttled Trump’s beachfront boondoggle two years later.)
As president, Trump is still fixated on infestations, but now he wields that language against those he sees as political foes, especially people of color. He tweeted Saturday that the majority-black Baltimore district of Rep. Elijah Cummings is a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.” That followed his notorious tweet of July 14, in which he told four progressive congresswomen of color to “go back” to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Trump’s defenders are saying he was referring to rodents and crime, not people. But the history of how “infestation” has been used politically shows that the distinction is blurrier than they would like to admit. Historically, the verb “infest” has been used to talk not just about literal pests and diseases, but also to compare people—very often minorities and immigrant groups—to pests and diseases.
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Over time, “infestation” became primarily associated with pestilent animals or pathogens that could do harm to humans by overrunning them in large numbers. But the idea that people from stigmatized groups could be the ones doing the infesting would become a potent trope in anti-immigration rhetoric in the United States and elsewhere.
Chris Wallace confronted Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, on “Fox News Sunday” about the president’s rhetoric. “‘Infested.’ It sounds like vermin,” Wallace said. “And these are all six members of Congress who are people of color.” Mulvaney countered that Wallace was “spending way too much time reading between the lines.” The Fox host responded: “I’m not reading between the lines. I’m reading the lines.”
As CNN host Victor Blackwell pointed out in an emotional response to the jabs at Cummings, “Donald Trump has tweeted more than 43,000 times. He’s insulted thousands of people, many different types of people. But when he tweets about infestation, it’s about black and brown people.”
Trump’s targets in the past have included Rep. John Lewis, whose Atlanta district he called “crime infested,” and who he said should focus on “the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S.” Trump has claimedthat Democrats want “illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country.” He has said that sanctuary cities involve “this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept,” and that “we have an ‘infestation’ of MS-13 GANGS in certain parts of our country.” And back in the Obama era, he questioned why soldiers were being sent into “Ebola infested areas of Africa.”
Trump’s rhetorical choice is far from benign, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow notes, because “infestations justify exterminations.” Rolling Stone senior writer Jamil Smith made a similar point last year after Trump lashed out at MS-13 gang members: “When Trump speaks of immigrants ‘infesting’ America, he speaks in the language of genocide, not governance. By likening people to insects or vermin, even if he considers them criminals, he provides himself license to be an exterminator. We know that story.”
In his 2018 book Contagion and the National Body, Gerald O’Brien, a professor of social work at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, surveyed the history of U.S. immigration debates for illustrations of the “organism metaphor,” which draws parallels between the human body and the body politic. O’Brien found that “groups that are targeted for control are often compared to parasites or ‘low animals’ capable of infection and contamination.”
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O’Brien’s research draws on metaphor theory, as pioneered by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their 1980 book Metaphors We Live By. When people in marginalized groups are likened to vermin or parasites, O’Brien argues that the metaphor can be reinforced by the idea that such people live in vermin-infested environments. In other words, when Trump describes Cummings’ constituents as living in a “rat and rodent infested mess,” he is reinforcing the metaphor that the people belong in the same conceptual category as the vermin.
As Andreas Musolff explored in Metaphor, Nation and the Holocaust: The Concept of the Body Politic, it was just this type of infestation metaphor that propelled Nazi ideology against the Jews, who in the party’s propaganda were constantly analogized to parasites, tapeworms, termites and the like. O’Brien finds similar rhetoric in American anti-Semitic literature[.]
Trump may be unaware of this rhetorical history, but that does not make it less disturbing that his language has been overrun by such a troubling turn of phrase.
And there is Trump’s repeated use of “invasion” of migrants from Central America. Back in May, Trump turns shooting migrants into a punchline at Florida rally:
With an assist from one of his fans, President Donald Trump turned the idea of shooting migrants and asylum seekers who try to cross the southern border into a punchline during his campaign speech on Wednesday evening in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Referring to border agents who deal with undocumented border crossers, Trump brought up the possibility of using deadly force, but quickly ruled out the idea, saying he “would never do that.”
“And don’t forget — we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons. We can’t,” Trump said. “Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people? You can’t. There’s—”
Before Trump could finish his thought, a woman in the audience yelled out. While it was unclear exactly what she said during television coverage of the event, numerous eyewitnesses reported she said, “Shoot them!”
Trump apparently found the suggestion amusing. He gestured at the person who yelled and said, “That’s only in the Panhandle, you can get away with that statement. Only in the Panhandle!”
What Trump is engaged in is so-called stochastic terrorism. “This is an obscure and non-legal term that has been occasionally discussed in the academic world for the past decade and a half, and it applies with precision here. Stochastic terrorism, as described by a blogger who summarized the concept several years back, means using language and other forms of communication ‘to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.'” See, David Cohen’s 2016 piece at Rolling Stone. To paraphrase Cohen:
Predicting any one particular individual following his call to use violence against [migrants] is statistically impossible. But we can predict that there could be a presently unknown lone wolf who hears his call and takes action in the future.
Stated differently: Trump puts out the dog whistle knowing that some dog will hear it, even though he doesn’t know which dog.
Early Sunday morning, only hours after the mass shooting in El Paso, there was yet another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio. 9 dead, 26 injured in a shooting in Dayton, Ohio:
Officers killed the lone suspect after he fired for less than a minute from a “.223 high-capacity” gun, and he had additional magazines with him, Mayor Nan Whaley said.
“In less than one minute, Dayton first responders neutralized the shooter,” Whaley said.
“I really want to — think about that minute. The shooter was able to kill nine people and injure 26 in less than a minute. And if we did not have police in the Oregon District and the thousands of people in the Oregon District enjoying their Saturday evening, what we could have had in this city,” Whaley said.
“The question has to be raised, why does Dayton have to be the 250th mass shooting this year?”
The suspect has not been identified. It is not yet known whether this shooting is also politically or racially motivated.
While much of the focus today is on our lax gun safety laws, once again, we also have to address the fact that law enforcement does not have the legal and investigative tools it needs to address white supremacist domestic terrorism.
Congressional leaders should cancel the congressional recess, call everyone back to Washington to enact a series of gun safety laws — already passed in the House — and to enact domestic terrorism laws modeled on the foreign terrorism laws, to give law enforcement the legal and investigative tools they need to address this domestic violence.