How Trump Is Fueling White Right-Wing Nationalist Terrorism Around The World
More than 10 years ago, the FBI and terrorist watch groups and many other groups warned that the biggest threat to the Western world were white right-wing nationalists and white supremacists. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on right-wing extremism. After that report was issued, in response to criticism from conservatives, the unit issuing the report was dismantled and the analysts were re-assigned to teams focusing on Islamic extremism. As recently as 2017, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned that white supremacist groups had already carried out more attacks than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years and were likely to “continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year.”
We saw the culmination of how dangerous white right-wing nationalists are when Trump was elected as President of the United States of America (and Viktor Orban in Hungary and others in parts of Germany, Italy, and on and on).
Today, the Trump administration continues to ignore white right-wing nationalist terrorism and instead emphasizes topics that perpetuate terrorism to begin with. For example, the Department of Homeland Security focused on a caravan of migrant refugees making their way to the US border from Central America instead of the increasing number of attacks from white extremists. Some suggest that this underscores a weakness at the center of US national security.
The mosque shootings in New Zealand exemplify just how dangerous Trump is not only in the US, but all over the world (well, those of us paying attention can point out all of the many ways that Trump is harmful around the world, but I digress). The shooter explicitly stated that “Trump is a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” in his manifesto. We should have been warned when David Duke and so many other white right-wing extremists enthusiastically endorsed Trump.
Immediately following the mosque shootings, before his communications team advised him to “denounce the forces that brought this to bear” (oh, the irony), Trump was tweeting to Breitbart (that tweet has since been removed). Interestingly, when shootings occur in which the suspect is Muslim, Trump tweets right away, including right-wing racist conspiracy theories such as how Muslims should be shot with bullets soaked in pig’s blood).
As Wajahat Ali has noted, it’s not just Muslims who are at risk for these “White ISIS” terrorist attacks. It’s Jewish people, as we have seen in the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and in other Jewish places in Kansas and throughout Europe. It’s Christians, as we have seen in South Carolina, Texas, and the Philippines. It’s Sikhs, as we have seen in Wisconsin and Washington. It’s Central Americans. It’s Native Americans. It’s LGBT people. Any immigrants. It’s a violent extremist ideology that puts all of society at risk. Ali pointed out that a day after the shooting, Friday for us, and on Sunday, many people are going to go to their places of worship and will have to keep one eye open for a lunatic who is inspired by Trump to barge in with a military style weapon.
To be sure, these things happened before Trump came into power. But Trump is unquestionably fueling the fire and inciting violence across the US and the world, especially violence against Jewish people and Muslims. As reporter Eric Levitz noted, Trump continually propagates racist and white nationalist rhetoric, as well as racist conspiracy theories, that essentially tell people that “illegal immigrants threaten their lives today, and are on the cusp of irrevocably destroying their culture tomorrow.” Levitz goes on to point out that “Trump broadcasts these incendiary lies so incessantly, they’ve achieved a status similar to that of sirens and screeching tires in New York City — abrasive sounds so omnipresent, they barely register in one’s consciousness.”
Hate crimes are significantly up all over the Western world since Trump’s election, and are likely undercounted. In the US, there was an average of 87 hate incidents a day during the ten-day period after Trump’s election, which was five times higher than those in 2015. In Canada, hate crimes have increased by almost 50 percent between 2016 and 2017. The UK has seen hate crimes increase by about 123 percent since 2013, with spikes after the Brexit vote. Italy may also be seeing a rise in hate crimes. The 2018 European Islamophobia Report from the Foundation for Political, Economic, and Social Research detailed how racism and hate crimes against Muslims in particular has become widespread and normalized throughout Europe.
There are currently more hate groups now than ever before. White nationalist groups just in the US have grown more than 50 percent just between 2017 and 2018, numbering at almost 150 now. The FBI has also been tracking how White nationalists are infiltrating law enforcement agencies. In the meantime, under Trump, the Department of Homeland Security “gutted an interagency task force that represents the only federal effort at preventing radicalization for any form of terrorism.” One of the targets of this task force was White supremacy. Even after the most recent shooting in New Zealand, Trump still insists that that there is no rise in white nationalism.
As a society, we must acknowledge that right-wing nationalism and racist hate is a global threat. And that propaganda that plays into that hate stemming from so-called leaders is exacerbates that threat. As reporter John Nichols pointed out, “The United States is a powerful, influential country. But the measures of American leadership on the global stage are fluid. They depend on the quality of the individuals who occupy positions of public trust and authority. Yet, whenever the moment demands more, Trump offers less.”