Whether he admits it or not, Donald Trump’s explicit summons to hate and his dog-whistle signals have helped to encourage white supremacists at home and abroad. Worse, his administration is undoing programs designed to deal with the problem. The gunman who slaughtered 50 people in two New Zealand mosques was allegedly motivated by online white supremacist rhetoric, and he left a 70+ page manifesto specifying French right-wing anti-Muslim haters as his inspiration. Much of the language echoes the mob in Charlottesville, where the President found “good people on both sides.”
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney proclaimed on Fox News Sunday, “the president is not a white supremacist.” He may not be, but, as Andrew Gillum deftly pointed out in his losing Florida gubernatorial battle against Ron DeSantis, damage is done when racists believe the candidate is a soulmate racist and act accordingly. In his 70- plus page screed Australian Brenton Tarrant, the alleged shooter, praised Trump “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”
Fox’s Chris Wallace, one of the high-quality piano players in Trump’s favorite propaganda brothel, tried to press Mulvaney on whether the President bore any responsibility for his inflammatory rhetoric, such as warning “Islam hates us” and ordering troops to the Mexican border to protect us from an “invasion” of illegal immigrants.
Mulvaney said absolutely not, implying this was an isolated incident. Then, with a straight face, Mulvaney dodged a question of whether the president would consider delivering a speech condemning white nationalism, white supremacy and anti-Muslim bigotry. Meanwhile, former Massachusetts US Senator Scott Brown, now US Ambassador to New Zealand, said on CNN he had not read the suspect’s writing explaining his motivation, will not read it and urged others not to. Their tone reflected the view of their boss who said, on Friday after the shooting, that he didn’t think white nationalism is an increasing threat.
But it is, internationally and domestically. The globalization of toxic social media has acted as an accelerant. Look at the sources of inspiration for the attacks. The New Zealand shooter’s manifesto is but the latest example.
The Global Terrorism Database includes US data showing clearly that, since 9/11, there have been more attacks by white domestic terrorists — killing more people—than attacks by Islamic terrorists. Right-wing terrorism and hate-driven violence, Mr. President, are indeed increasing. According to FBI statistics released last year hate crimes in the US were up 17 percent.
The Obama Administration created a $10 million Countering Violent Extremism Grant Program in 2016 to fight domestic terrorism of all types. The Department of Homeland Security awarded $400,000 to the Chicago-based Life After Hate, a national network of former white supremacists who speak to young people to dissuade them from following supremacist ideology. It was the only grantee organization that specifically fought white supremacist ideology. When Trump took over, he defunded Life After Hate. After the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, the administration apparently killed the entire domestic terrorism program
Gary LaFree, criminology chairman at the University of Maryland and founding director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (“START”) was quoted in the Washington Post: “If you have politicians saying things like our nation is under attack, that there are these marauding bands of immigrants coming into the country, that plays into this right-wing narrative. They begin to think it’s okay to use violence. ”
Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, added that political leaders, “from the White House down, used to serve as a check on conduct and speech that was abhorrent to most people. I see that eroding….The current political rhetoric is at least enabling, and certainly not discouraging, violence. ”
It can happen here. It already has. It will again.