To confront American jihadists — white nationalists adopting the methods and language of Muslim extremists — politicians must abandon old battles and find new answers.
After three shootings killing more than 30, reformed white nationalist Christian Picciolini told The Atlantic his former compatriots are “all trying to outdo each other, not just the last person, but Timothy McVeigh.”
McVeigh killed 168 people in 1995, bombing the Oklahoma City federal building with 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate in a rented truck.
“Terrorists will always find another way to do it,” Picciolini added. “I have to ask myself, Do we have white-nationalist airline pilots? There have to be. I knew people in powerful positions, in politics, in law enforcement, who were secretly white nationalists. I think we’d be stupid and selfish to think that we don’t have those in the truck-driving industry.”
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino found 17 homicides by U.S. white nationalists in 2018.
“There’s an open and ongoing debate about whether the government has an appropriate role fighting ideologies at all, but if it’s going to fight one ideology, such as jihadism, it should take an even-handed approach and also confront white supremacist ideology,” J. M. Berger, extremist ideologies expert, told The Atlantic. “The government was doing little programmatic work under the Obama administration in this respect, and it’s doing even less programmatic work now.”
The Trump administration disbanded a group of intelligence analysts focused on domestic terrorism in the Department of Homeland Security, according to The Daily Beast. “Numerous current and former DHS officials say they find the development concerning, as the threat of homegrown terrorism — including white supremacist terrorism—is growing.”
“You hear this administration say how domestic terrorism is a clear priority,” said former DHS official Nate Snyder. “But you can’t say that and then all of a sudden get rid of the unit that’s there to detect threats.”
President Donald Trump has tweeted his support for background checks, which he supported after the Las Vegas massacre of 58 people, but dropped under pressure from the National Rifle Association. “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks,” he tweeted, seeking “something good, if not GREAT.”
Background checks and greater gun control, particularly regarding military-style weapons, are advisable, but won’t stop this epidemic.
The country is awash in an estimated 393 million guns, often in the hands of psychopathic males with a propensity to kill immigrants, religious minorities, women, gays and in African-American communities, each other.
Since June 17, 2015, when a white nationalist killed nine African Americans at a Charleston, S.C., Bible study, four or more people have been killed in a mass shooting every 47 days. All but three of the shooters were men.
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Solitary acts by white nationalists killing individuals or couples have been on the rise as well.
They are driven by their “Great Replacement” canard that elites want to destroy the white race by replacing them with immigrants and refugees. They want to preempt “an invasion,” language also used by Trump and the far right, but also rail against Corporate America and jobs lost, borrowing from the far left.
They are acting globally, murdering a pro-immigration conservative German politician, a pro-Brexit member of Parliament in Britain and 51 Muslims at New Zealand mosques.
They are not “lone wolves,” but part of a jihadist community with message boards cheering them on.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has said, “The bureau doesn’t investigate the ideology, no matter how repugnant. We investigate violence.” That must change.
Clinton Watts, a former FBI counterterrorism expert, wants the FBI to devote more resources to white-nationalist terrorism, which “may help them detect violent plots earlier, and increase the amount of information for sharing with state and local partners who may be better informed and positioned for thwarting extremist violence.”
The Patriot Act gives the government power to wiretap or monitor chat rooms operated by suspected jihadists. It should be extended to white nationalists.
Congress should revisit the 1996 Community Decency Act with its broad free speech protections, except for child pornography. It limits the legal liability for platforms promoting hate speech, allowing sites like 8chan to be a message board for white nationalists reveling in atrocities.
8chan is operated in the Philippines by Jim Watkins, an Army veteran. His operation is financed, in part, by audiobooks available on Amazon. That must stop.
An advertising campaign needs to be launched that hate, like cigarettes, is harmful to our health.
If Trump wants to unify the country, he must stop using the language of white nationalists. Democrats must focus on taking down the perpetrators, not the devices, which can take any form.
This jihad must be confronted. It requires the same united resolve seen after 9-11.