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The ‘Great Replacement’ and what can be done about racial killings

By Barrington M. Salmon -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Aug 6, 2019 - 12:13:50 PM

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WASHINGTON — It is only August but since the beginning of 2019—and 215 days into this year—there have been 251 mass shootings in the United States, according to stats from the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization which tracks every mass shooting in the country. The nonprofit characterizes a mass shooting as any incident in which at least four people were shot, excluding the shooter.

The latest massacres occurred over the Aug. 3 weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, where “an anti-immigrant White supremacist” gunman shot and killed 22 people, most of them Latinos, in a crowded Walmart. Hours later, another shooter opened fire on a crowd in an entertainment district. The back-to-back killing sprees left 31 people dead and almost 60 people injured, many critically.

Federal officials were treating the El Paso attack as a domestic terrorism case, the U.S. attorney there said. The Justice Department is weighing federal hate-crime charges that would carry the death penalty against the gunman, identified as Patrick Crusius, 21.

As has become customary, lawmakers began reacting to the tragedies. No one in the Republican congressional leadership positions accepted invitations to go on Sunday talk shows except Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Republicans have taken to blaming video games, mental illness, drag queens, Colin Kaepernick, the LGBTQ community, and a licentious, godless society on the orgy of violence.

The rest of the Republicans offered their customary thoughts and prayers and some, like Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pointed to video games as the trigger for these right wing murderers. In answer to a question from a reporter following the massacre at a Walmart frequented by Latino patrons, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke reacted angrily.

“What do you think? You know the shit (President Trump’s) been saying. He’s been calling Mexican residents rapists and criminals,” he said. “I don’t know. Members of the press what the f-- k! Hold on a second. You know, it’s these questions that you know the answers to. I mean connect the dots about what he’s been doing in this country. He’s not tolerating racism, he’s promoting racism. He’s not tolerating violence, he’s inciting racism and violence in this country. So I don’t know what kind of question that is …”

Mr. O’Rourke and other critics, particularly Democrats running for president, castigated President Donald Trump for pouring gasoline on the issues of race and the GOP for turning a blind eye to Mr. Trump’s racism and xenophobia.

Critics complained not enough blame was placed where it actually belonged: On White nationalist extremists who are terrorizing Blacks, Latinos, Jews and others, spurred on by his careless calculated rhetoric, and the unwillingness of Sen. Majority Mitch McConnell to allow any gun control bill to come to the floor that would reduce easy access to guns because the GOP is beholden to the National Rifle Association.

Simon Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said the best place to start for those seeking to understand the genesis of this strain of White extremism is to look at the theory of the great replacement.

“It’s a White nationalist ideology based on the idea of White people being replaced by Brown people,” he said. “It’s seen as a Jewish plot.” As Mr. Clark explains in his March 2019 report, “Confronting the Domestic Right-Wing Terrorist Threat,” “the great replacement theory has been embraced by the right-wing, anti-Semitic identitarian movement, which claims that a secret conspiracy aims to replace white Europeans with alien others as part of a plot to destroy Christian, European culture.” The theory of the great replacement can be traced back to the 1973 novel Le Camp des Saints, by Jean Raspail, which details the collapse of Western culture from an unstoppable “tidal wave” of immigrants from developing countries commonly referred to as the Third World.

“Tucker Carlson talks about this all the time and it has been picked up by (Iowa Republican Rep.) Steve King who is a consistent purveyor of these ideas. It has also been picked and used by this president,” said Mr. Clark. “There’s no way to look at El Paso and not say that we are dealing with radicalized terrorists. This is pretty standardized behavior. This wasn’t an accident. The president had his rally in El Paso. And the ‘lone wolf’ stuff is totally misleading. 8chan is found in the deep web but it’s open. And now, mainstream voices are echoing and promoting these ideas.”

Despite what we’re hearing, Mr. Clark said, nothing indicates that the shooter had mental health issues.

“Generally, there’s no evidence that terrorists have any higher mental health issues than the general population,” he said. “They had to be reasonably coherent to plan these attacks. Let’s call this what it is: White nationalist terrorism caused by the mainstream media and egged on by a competitive process by deeply lost individuals.”

Both Mr. Clark and Mike German, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law and a former FBI agent specializing in domestic counterterrorism, warn that violent right-wing extremism is a serious and growing threat—but it’s one that can be contained and defeated with the correct approach. In a recent report released by the Center for American Progress, Mr. Clark posited six recommendations in order to prevent far-right extremist violence. The Trump administration, law enforcement agencies— from the FBI to local police forces—elected officials, and researchers on counterterrorism can turn to the recommendations for lessons of previous counterterrorism campaigns to find solutions to today’s threat, Mr. Clark said. Their recommendations are: 1. acknowledging the problem.“Dismissing this violence as isolated incidents perpetrated by lone wolves or disturbed individuals rather than recognizing them as manifestations of a genocidal ideology grounded in racism and White nationalism is to lose an opportunity to focus the public’s and law enforcement’s attention on the problem,” Mr. Clark explained.

  1. Gathering and publishing credible statistics; 3. Collaborating with European and nongovernmental partners; 4. Calling out rhetoric that radicalizes because the political radicalization that leads to violence does not happen in a vacuum. “Overheated rhetoric, (the) promotion of conspiracy theories, and demonization of minorities can and has encouraged violence so those who use these must be called out and held to account,” Mr. Clark said.

  2. Remove hate content from private platforms; and 6. Ensure that law enforcement has the tools it needs to combat domestic terrorists.

“After 9/11, the FBI has a mandate that’s unreasonable and which justified increased surveillance. They spied on us but this hasn’t made us safer,” Mr. German said. “There are things the Department of Justice (DOJ) can do in terms of policy but they have the wrong priorities—we don’t need a new law. There are dozens of laws. I don’t know if they’re trying to justify not doing anything.”

Rather than focus on White extremists, the Justice Dept. is using its extended powers to go after Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock demonstrators and anti-Trump activists, said critics.

Mr. German said Mr. Trump, by his inflamed words and actions, has sanctioned the behavior of White nationalists. And he and other political leaders have, in addition to their tacit approval, have also brought racist far-right fringe ideas into the mainstream.

“I think his rhetoric has been harmful. He has given voice to ideas once discussed differently,” Mr. German said. “It is now a part of our policy. His base and constituents were used to hearing dog whistles—protecting White people from ‘them.’ ”

President Trump, from the time he was first announcing his candidacy, was using very divisive rhetoric that fit very well into the White nationalist ideology and identifying the targets that were the “ ‘them’ that we needed to protect us from,” Mr. German told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. “And those tend to be immigrant communities. And I think that gave White nationalists a bit of comfort that their ideas had permeated into the mainstream. We saw a lot of these White nationalists become part of the mainstream conversation, when mainstream media started interviewing them about the candidacy of Donald Trump.”

Another problem, Mr. German said, is the longstanding problem of the U.S. Justice Department, which as a matter of policy and practice, has deprioritized the investigation of White supremacists.

“We talk about a rise in White supremacist violence, but the truth is, we don’t know whether there’s a rise, because nobody actually accounts for this violence. The federal government today doesn’t know how many White supremacists kill people each year. And they haven’t been keeping these records even as counterterrorism became its number one priority.”

“So, what they need to do is change these policies. Recently, some former and current Justice Department officials have been arguing that they need new laws, that there aren’t sufficient laws. Well, I worked these cases in the 1990s, and nobody suggested we didn’t have enough law. In fact, there are plenty of laws. And we wrote a report at the Brennan Center last year, ‘Wrong Priorities on Fighting Terrorism,’ to show the scope of the laws, not just 52 terrorism laws that apply to domestic terrorism, but five federal hate crime statutes addressing the kind of crimes that White supremacists often commit, organized crime statutes that would prevent the organized groups that act violently and persist because their members can replace one another, and also other conspiracy statutes. So, there are plenty of laws. It’s a matter of policy.”

Mr. German said it’s very important that the public goes to all elected officials to say they want them to take action. What’s of even more importance, he added, is for the government to pursue restorative justice for communities injured by hate crimes, discrimination and other forms of racial hatred.