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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 34, New Delhi, August 8, 2020

The Augmentation Of White Supremacist Terrorism | Tejasvini Akhawat

Friday 7 August 2020

by Tejasvini Akhawat

Any kind of occurrence that is violent in nature can invariably be classified as a manifestation of terrorism. The minimalism and lack of austerity associated with the white supremacist terrorism cannot be justified on the grounds and sentiments of anti-Semitic, xenophobia, ultra-nationalism, islamophobia, all of which, to hail history, have in one form or the other served as root causes for formation of major terrorist camps and organisations. If this was the case, then radical groups such as Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), Palestinian Front (PF), Chechen rebels etc. would never have been designated as terrorist groups if their initial objectives were to be examined and understood. A belief in non-violent fight for justice and independence was embraced and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi. The independence struggle of India led by Gandhi was unique and inspirational in orientation and practice adhering to the idea of non-violence or complete absence of physical attack on the opposition. It heralded a new age of drawing attention to the cause through peaceful demonstrations and opposition and paved the way for many upcoming movements and campaigns to adopt it as its modus operandi like in the case of Martin Luther King Jr. and the American civil rights movement. Gandhi’s ideals, principles and vision are seminal and grows on to become even more significant with each passing day. Ordinarily, after an interval of 4-5 decades, cyclical national changes occur across regions, which eventually affect the global footings and equations. [1] The application of Gandhi’s thoughts and viewpoints on peaceful protest should be brought into effective action.

The invalidating of white supremacist terrorist acts can be observed in the terminologies often used for these perpetrators demarcating clear distinction between these and acts of regular terrorism. Remarks such as ‘went on a rampage, attacker snapped, flipped, was psychologically unstable, had behaviour problems, a frenzy of rage, out of hatred’ and adjectives like hysterical, mad, mentally fickle, emotionally weak etc. are examples of it. The uncanniness of incomplete elucidation of the attacks substantiates the white supremacist terrorism pattern that is not only growing in defined shape, however, also looming considerably in the recent times. The inadequate media handling along with imprudent international political claims from the populist leaders have aided in nullifying the terrorising acts. [2] The attacks are more often broadcasted in the news solely by the name of the perpetrator and the city attacked without having to have any allegiance to specific group or particular ideology vis-à-vis the violent attacks conducted in the rest of the world. [3]

Furthermore, these white terrorist operations are typed as components of the domestic terrorism rather than as part of the larger multinational problem and battle of beliefs. The hesitation in calling these ‘shooters’ and ‘attackers’ as terrorists, speaks volumes for the apathetic attitude and indifference to the white supremacist terrorism theory notably by the western world. [4] Most often their motivations are not clearly stated or reflected upon neither are their associations to organisations discussed or disclosed. The slender approach of dealing with white supremacist terrorism is rather dispiriting indicating a prejudiced approach for bigotry acts.

The spirit with which the international media as well as political mass figures are reacting to white supremacist terrorism is indeed discriminatory to what their reactions are on groups and attacks by say ISIS, Al Qaeda. [5] Some of the renowned international journals have opined to not consider white supremacist terrorism as “major threat.” They have also suggested to concentrate energies and channelize resources on the ‘Jihadi terrorism’, which does not dilute the fact that the white supremacist terrorism have caused widespread damage (also to property) and taken several thousand lives creating horror and tension in the ever so fragile world situation. [6] Going by the facts, out of the total attacks in the last decade or so in the United States, approximately 70% were carried out by white supremacists. Moreover, according to the ‘Country Reports on Terrorism- 2019’ released by Bureau of Counterterrorism, US Department of State, the white terrorism posed substantial threat to the US national security in 2019 and is ‘on the rise and spreading geographically’. [7]

Though the phenomenon of white supremacist terrorism is not recent, evidently beginning from the 1800s, the presentation of it is certainly new-fangled. The trend has become absolutely vivid and noticeable since 2015. The half-yearly 2019 assessment of the white supremacist terrorism whether it is the Christchurch Mosque shootings (New Zealand, March’19) [8] or the Poway Synagogue shooting (USA, April’19) [9] or El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio attacks (USA, August’19) [10] have shown uniform traits. The Christchurch Mosque attacker is a proud author of the infamous 74-page long manifesto titled ‘The Great Replacement’ or ‘The White Genocide Conspiracy Theory’ that clearly states the objective of his attack. Similarly, inspired from the Christchurch Mosque attack, the El Paso, Dayton attackers or more appropriately, the terrorists, emulated and posted a manifesto online before the attack titled ‘The Inconvenient Truth’ that said “the attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” [11]

The fight for freedom has been eternal. However, there is a difference between freedom and anarchy, which serves as the basis of peaceful co-existence of humankind. The absolute nature of freedom ironically entails the rights of the white supremacists and upholds them in the mightiest manner. If terrorism is a war for ideology than the western white supremacy theory stands first in the order of any modern ideologies. Terrorism entirely borne out of and based on religion and race is the worst shape of terrorism and should be condemned at every stage. Acts of violence cannot be judged based on the perpetrator’s race or creed and even religion for that matter. While typical terrorist organisations exist, their formation happens when like-minded individuals, sharing identical ideology and common objectives come together and they further radicalise others with indoctrination of propaganda for their proposed agendas. Terrorism in this sense, thus, becomes an individualistic phenomenon that grows on to become organisational, spreading across space and time. Any terrorist attack taking away lives of innocent humans and instilling fear in the minds of the rest is a punishable offence under law of land.

The fettering inquietude caused by the white supremacist across regions mainly strategic, has returned to haunt them in body and spirit. The uneasiness in accepting the broader phenomenon of white supremacist terrorism is a consequence of this. An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. Hate breeds hate and revenge leads to further fierce reactions and brutal responses creating a vicious circle. An avant-garde from it is tough and requires immense international cooperation to rise above petty domestic political agendas of the haughty political canaille heads.

The author has a Masters degree from The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland, with a specialisation on Terrorism.

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