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The Problem With Treating Far-Right-Extremist Attacks as Isolated Incidents

Updated at 2:34 p.m. ET on August 4, 2019.

There was, it seems , no time to avert the massacre.

The anti-immigrant, white-nationalist manifesto heralding an imminent onslaught was uploaded to the online message board 8chan merely minutes before a crap-shooter killed at least 20 people out shopping on a late-summer Saturday in El Paso, Texas.

But in another sense, if U.S. authorities confirm that the document was written by the 21 -year-old lily-white male suspected of committing the atrocity, then there was plenty of time–numerous years in which violence by far-right, white-supremacist extremists has emerged as arguably the premier domestic-terrorist threat in the United Nation. The government may be working to prevent these violent acts, but it’s dedicated less attention and fewer resources to the toxic ideology that knits them together.

The Anti-Defamation League recently reported that right-wing radicals were linked to more slayings in the United Nation( at least 50) in 2018 than in any other year since 1995, when Timothy McVeigh bombed an Oklahoma City federal building. The company likewise found that in the last decades, approximately 73 percentage of extremist-related fatalities have been associated with domestic right-wing extremists, relative to about 23 percent attributable to Islamist extremists.

Such radicals ought to have tied to deadly rampages over the past year at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, California, and possibly to a mass killing just last week at a garlic festival in California. The statement posted shortly before the El Paso shooting quoth the live-streamed assault on two mosques in New Zealand earlier this year, along with that perpetrator’s sprawling white-nationalist manifesto, as inspiration.( The motivating for a killing spree in Dayton, Ohio, mere hours after the El Paso shooting isn’t yet clear .)

[ Read: Ideology kills. How do you police it ?]

President Donald Trump, who has stoked fright “of migrants “, aggravated racial separations, and condoned the activities of white patriots, has cut funding for, and in a number of cases wholly eliminated, initiatives begun under Barack Obama to counter violent extremism( known as “CVE” ), in particular of the white-supremacist variety. But the Obama administration’s efforts also tend to be exaggerated. Today the U.S. government’s CVE programs “largely continue as they have for the past decade: underfunded, understaffed, and focused on individuals influenced by the Islamic State and other jihadi groups more than right-wing radicals, ” the extremism experts Seamus Hughes and Haroro Ingram wrote in March.

“The overwhelming majority of our domestic counterterrorism infrastructure is geared toward the threat of international[ jihadist] terrorism, ” the former Department of Homeland Security official George Selim told me.

The FBI has noted that most of its domestic-terrorism instances featuring a racial motivating involve white supremacists. The bureau doesn’t “investigate the ideology , no matter how repugnant. We analyse violence, ” FBI Director Christopher Wray explained in July, adding that the agency operates with wide-ranging categories of “racially motivated” violence in mind.

Yet domestic terrorism by lily-white patriots is too often treated as “isolated, unconnected incidents, ” argues the terrorism expert Clint Watts. This violence looks different than the sophisticated international jihadist assaults that Americans have come to associate with “terrorism” over the activities of the decade. It is carried out by Americans utilizing artilleries, and thus bound up in the divisive political debate about gun violence. And it is largely a leaderless movement, in contrast to groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, which have identifiable presidents.( In this, it has more in common with homegrown jihadist terrorism .) These gaps, however, are fraudulent. Watts points out that in recent years, discernible motifs have developed in white-nationalist violence–the recurring targeting, for example, of minorities, and especially of black, Jewish, and Muslim regions of worship.

[ Read: How white-supremacist violence echoes other forms of terrorism]

Watts wishings Congress to make domestic terrorism a federal crime( suspected domestic terrorists now generally face gun, plot, or hate-crime charges) and to pass a statute for designating domestic terrorism organisations or domestic terrorists( the State Department does this for international terrorists and terrorist groups ). He’s also recommend that the FBI director launch a national domestic-terrorism case for “white-nationalist-inspired terrorism, ” which would “help the FBI dedicate more resources and personnel to white-nationalist terrorism, may help them detect violent stories earlier, and increase the amount of information for sharing with government and local partners who may be better informed and outlook for foiling radical violence.”

Short of opening such investigation into the cases or reacting to violent acts, Watts mentions, it’s nearly impossible for federal investigates to prevent white-nationalist onslaughts, since would-be perpetrators’ speech is protected by the First Amendment and their access to limbs assured by the Second Amendment.

All the government can currently do to combat the threat of white-supremacist domestic terrorism is “arrest, prosecute, and imprison” through investigations into possible violations of federal criminal law, clarified Selim, who’s now with the Anti-Defamation League. We don’t yet have the full picture of the El Paso attempt, he stressed, but considering what we know so far, the FBI had no basis for initiating an investigation or making an arrest prior to the shooting.

If the allegations and the alleged shooter’s connection to the manifesto are proved true-life, “then this is just another node of where the federal government, as well as country and local enforcement actions, need to continue to expand the scope of the health risks and menace spotting into social-media channels like the ones allegedly used in this and other the incidence of domestic terror, ” Selim said.

“There’s an open and ongoing debate about whether the government has an appropriate role resist ideologies at all, but if it’s going to fight one ideology, such as jihadism, it should take an even-handed approach and likewise tackled white supremacist ideology, ” J. M. Berger, an expert on radical ideologies, told me by email. “The government was doing little programmatic project under the Obama administration in this respect, and it’s doing even less programmatic work now.”

“At this point, ” he added, “it would be a win if the administration would just stop throwing red meat to white supremacists, but there seems to be little chance of that.”

Read more: theatlantic.com

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