Domestic Threats in the Era of Nationalism

Robert G. Rabil

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As the Trump administration spotlights the anti-fascist group Antifa as the source of chaos and anarchy engulfing the countrywide protests for equal rights and justice, little, if any, has been said about White nationalists who have infiltrated the protests with the objective of creating a popular pandemonium. Surely, Antifa’s looters and anarchists, among others, should face justice; nevertheless, underestimating or turning a blind eye to the premeditated actions of White nationalists is a recipe to promote violence on a national and global scale. In fact, White nationalism as a movement has become a transnational crusade as ideologically and operationally dangerous as the Salafi-Jihadi Islamic State.       

Recently the social media giant Facebook removed multiple account networks connected with White nationalist Proud Boys and America Guard, designated as extremist hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). These groups encouraged their members to bring guns to the Black Life Matters-led protests suffusing the United States. Among the many charges facing those arrested by federal authorities, the most serious charge involved three men in Nevada linked to a far-right extremist group Boogaloo advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government. These individuals and groups, though loosely affiliated, are an integral part of the White nationalist ideology that has transcended national borders and is expressed in civilizational terms.  

According to the ADL, White nationalism is a term that originated among White supremacists as a euphemism for White supremacy. Eventually, some White supremacists tried to distinguish it further by using it to refer to a form of White supremacy that emphasizes defining a country or region by White racial identity and that seeks to promote the interests of Whites exclusively, typically at the expense of people of other backgrounds.  

The ADL adds that over time, White supremacists of whatever sort adhere to at least one of the following beliefs: 1) Whites should be dominant over people of other backgrounds; 2) Whites should live by themselves in a Whites-only society; 3) White people have their own “culture” that is superior to other cultures; and 4) White people are genetically superior to other people.  

Anti-Semitism is also paramount for White nationalists, most of whom believe that Jews constitute a distinctive race infused with parasitic and evil roots, bent on destroying Western civilization. These defining traits of White nationalists, who apprehensively operated on the margins of European and American societies, gradually developed into a transnational ideology congealing around their sacrosanct right of survival.  

The central theme of their ideology can be traced to Renaud Camus’s Le Grand Remplacement [The Great Replacement] in which he argues that the flood of black and brown immigrants into the European continent will eventually amount to an extinction-level event of White native Europeans. Witnessing the impact of rising immigration to France, the emergence of subcultures, and failure of multiculturalism as an integrationist policy, Camus believes that Western societies are variably subject to “ethnic and civilizational substitution.” The act of replacement, for him, is civilizational.  

Although he denied any genetic conception of races, his literature has been appropriated by far-right and White nationalist groups throughout Europe and the English-speaking world. However, these groups added to Camus’s central theme of Great Replacement a variation of concepts meant not only to widen the popular base of White nationalism but also to infuse it with an actionable immediacy. For example, Richard Spencer, a public face of White nationalism, embraced Camus’s arguments, though identifying himself as an Identitarian. Although the term has also French roots in the work of Alain de Benoist, Spencer’s ilks used the term in a utilitarian fashion to deflect racial superiority and underscore the differential right in diversity. In other words, Identitarians claim the exclusive right to their own culture and territories in the face of what they perceive the gradual act of civilizational replacement. 

The intellectual defense against this existential identity threat had been expounded by French journalist Guillaume Faye’s Archeofuturism: European Visions of the Post-Catastrophic Age (2010 in English); The Colonisation of Europe (2016); and Why We Fight: Manifesto of the European Resistance (2019). Faye lambasts Western liberalism and unrestrained immigration, which has taken a form of massive colonization settlement of the West by peoples from the Global South. He harshly criticizes European leaders for helping bring the demise of Europe and asserts that Islam is carrying out a hostile takeover both of France and Europe.

Faye’s arguments, complementing those of Camus and Benoist, have become an infallible script of White nationalism. Spencer, along with Greg Johnson, has been promoting Faye’s arguments and open about the influence of Faye on his thinking as an identitarian. References to Faye and Benoists appeared regularly in the alt-right and pro-Donald Trump forums on Reddit and 4chan. Steve Bannon’s alt-right Breitbart has promoted their work, too. According to Southern Poverty Law Center, “there has been an observable shift at Breitbart.com to an outright embrace of White-nationalist ‘Identitarian’ movements across the continent. And that, in turn, has meant that propaganda from these movements has been transmitted whole to its readers across all its platforms, including the U.S. and elsewhere.”

Thanks to this cross-pollination of ideas going back to the history of slavery White nationalism has transformed into a malleable global ideological crucible in which radical movements and slogans are churned out to stop this Great Replacement. Today the most referred slogan for White nationalists is the “14 Words.” The slogan states: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” The other widespread slogan that has become a rallying cry and a catchphrase on fliers is: “You Will Not Replace Us.”

During the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, organized by Richard Spencer, Mike Enoch, Jason Kessler, Augustus Invictus, Baked Alaska and others, demonstrators chanted “Jews will not replace us.” The event was ostensibly asserting the legitimacy of White culture and supremacy.  

One of the earliest violent manifestations of White nationalism was carried out by the Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik who perpetrated Norway’s biggest massacre since World War II. Hours before the deadly attack in January 2017, Breivik e-mailed a 1,500-page manifesto to 5,700 people, titled 2083—A European Declaration of Independence. In the document, Breivik, proclaiming himself a savior of Christianity, attacks multiculturalism and the threat of Muslim immigration to Norway. In October 2018, Robert Bowers opened fire during Shabbat services, at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, killing eleven and wounding seven. This was the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in American history on a Synagogue known for helping immigrants.

Similarly, the March 2019 Islamophobic attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, amounted to the deadliest mass shooting in the country’s history. The perpetrator Brenton Tarrant was reportedly radicalized when he traveled to Europe. He felt taken aback by the omnipresence of immigrants, their crimes and the paralysis gripping the dispirited native populations, who, he considered, are dying out. He also issued a manifesto entitled “The Great Replacement.”  

Steeped in anti-Islam, the manifesto refers to nonWhites as “invaders” who threaten to “replace” White people. Tarrant confessed to using guns so as to frighten people and create conflict, especially in the United States over gun laws, as well as balkanizing the United States into warring racial factions. Significantly, he argued in the manifesto that: 

The radicalization of young Western men is not just unavoidable, but inevitable. It should come as no shock that European men, in every nation, and on every continent are turning to radical notions and methods to combat social and moral decay of their nations and the continued ethnic replacement of their people. Radical, explosive action is the only desired, and required, response to an attempted genocide.

Tarrant’s manifesto is unequivocally a testament to the transnational spread of White nationalism’s ideology and the urgency to stop the act of civilizational replacement. This act of terror was followed by another attack on an American synagogue in Poway, California. On April 27, 2019, John Timothy Earnest entered the Chabad of Poway synagogue on the last day of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Approximately one hundred people were inside the synagogue. Earnest shot and killed one person and wounded the Rabbi of the congregation before his rifle jammed. A massacre was avoided. Earnest issued a manifesto that blended historical anti-Judaism, anti-Semitism and racism. Wrapping himself in the mantle of Christianity, Earnest faulted the Jews for their endless crimes against God and humanity and for committing a genocide against the European race. He wrote: “It is unlawful and cowardly to stand on the sidelines as the European people are genocided around you. I did not want to have to kill Jews. But they have given us no other option.” 

No sooner, in August 2019, Patrick Crusius, twenty-one years old, entered the Cielo Vista Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and opened fire on shoppers at a packed Walmart store, killing and wounding scores of people. The El Paso shooting was one of the most brutal assaults on Hispanics in U.S. history. Crusius also issued a manifesto “The Inconvenient Truth” explaining his act of terror. Confessing his support of the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto, Crusius asserted that “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas . . . They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion. . . . Actually the Hispanic community was not my target before I read the Great Replacement.” 

He added that “The inconvenient truth is that our leaders, both Democrat and Republican, have been failing us for decades. They are either complacent or involved in one of the biggest betrayals of the American public in our history. The takeover of the United States . . . I am honored to head the fight to reclaim my country from destruction.” 

Surely, it is from this fount of White nationalism’s ideology and urgency to save White society and culture that extremist groups and individuals emerged, such as the accelerationists, including the Boogaloo, to take it upon themselves to hasten a race war following which they hope to triumph over the Jews, blacks, browns and Muslims to the exclusive purity of their White culture.  

This is the background against which extremist groups within the crucible of White nationalism are trying to exploit the ongoing protests for equal rights and justice to bring about their racial war. Their actionable ideology is a logical outgrowth of White nationalism, which has become a transnational civilizational movement intellectually and operationally armed with a determination to stop through varying means what they consider the extinction event of the Great Replacement. Consequently, White nationalism has become an existential threat to all minorities in White societies, a threat as ideologically driven as Salafi-jihadism. 

To be sure, the threat of White nationalism has not yet become clear in some of the corridors of power in Washington. Tragically, it is being intentionally or unintentionally fed a domestic and international ethno-nationalist diet of sorts, which has served as a legitimatizing fodder to its ideology. From the banks of the Indus river in India to the Pannonian basin in Hungary to the Great Wall of China, to the banks of the Potomac river political leaders and activists have defended their policies in ethnic and/or nationalist terms congruent with the ideological underpinnings of White nationalism. The Trump administration has to take note not only of Antifa’s threat to society but also of White nationalism, which has transcended borders and congealed around a racist sacrosanct right to exclusively exist at the expense of all non-Whites. Otherwise, a racial war may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  

Robert G. Rabil is a professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University. He is the author of several highly commendable peer-reviewed books. His views are his own. He can be reached @robertgrabil.

Image: Reuters.

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