When the President Inspires Violence

I normally try to avoid making predictable takes on the news, but sometimes there really isn’t more than one take. The ringleader of a deadly terrorist attack on two New Zealand mosques left a 74-page manifesto explaining their rationale for going on a murder spree that has so far caused 49 deaths and many more serious injuries. In that manifesto, the author explains “that he supported President Donald Trump as a ‘symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose’ but not as a ‘policy maker.'” The overall tenor of the manifesto is a familiar argument about immigration causing a “white genocide.” In The Atlantic, Adam Serwer has a helpful recap of the American source of this theory, as it originated with a man named Madison Grant and his 1916 book: The Passing of the Great Race.

Grant’s purportedly scientific argument that the exalted “Nordic” race that had founded America was in peril, and all of modern society’s accomplishments along with it, helped catalyze nativist legislators in Congress to pass comprehensive restrictionist immigration policies in the early 1920s. His book went on to become Adolf Hitler’s “bible,” as the führer wrote to tell him. Grant’s doctrine has since been rejuvenated and rebranded by his ideological descendants as “white genocide” (the term genocide hadn’t yet been coined in Grant’s day). In an introduction to the 2013 edition of another of Grant’s works, the white nationalist Richard Spencer warns that “one possible outcome of the ongoing demographic transformation is a thoroughly miscegenated, and thus homogeneous and ‘assimilated,’ nation, which would have little resemblance to the White America that came before it.”

The author of the manifesto was very much thinking about how the attack would reverberate in America. He claimed that he chose to use firearms because he hoped it would spur the American left to push even harder for gun control and lead to a backlash from the American right and “the balkanization of the US.”

He also singled out some other American influences.

His other heroes include the right wing commentator Candace Owens. ‘Each time she spoke I was stunned by her insights and her own views helped push me further and further into the belief of violence over meekness.

Given that Candace Owens is an African-American best known for having some right-wing influence over rapper Kanye West, this reference may be consistent with the author’s desire to sow divisions in American society that lead to its break-up. Having said that, Ms. Owens has made remarks about the threat of Islamic immigration that align with the views of the terrorists—and our president.

And that’s the main problem here. Some rhetoric helps “push [people] further and further into the belief of violence over meekness.”  Those who create that rhetoric are partially culpable when they inspire people to commit acts of terrorism against religious or ethnic minorities.  Even a useful idiot like Candace Owens, who is ostensibly concerned with leading a “Blexit” of black voters away from the Democratic Party, can serve the purposes of people who think of her as genetic pollutant.

As for President Trump, he now serves as a “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” even among people who don’t value him as a policymaker. That this is getting people killed by the dozens in mosques and synagogues is a global emergency, but there are also more mundane consequences that crop up in big and small ways. There’s obviously the funding for the stupid border wall, which earned the president a bipartisan rebuke from Congress yesterday when they voted to overturn his emergency declaration. There’s the effort to game the census by discouraging Latinos from participating, which landed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in hot water during his congressional testimony on Thursday. There are a host of policy changes on immigration policy that are being felt all across the world, including the State Department’s recent decision to shut down its international immigration offices.

The Trump administration is preparing to shutter all international offices of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a move that could slow the processing of family visa applications, foreign adoptions and citizenship petitions from members of the military stationed abroad.

USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said in an email to staff Tuesday that he is working to transfer those duties — now performed by employees worldwide — to domestic offices and the State Department’s embassies and consulates. He wrote that if the State Department agrees, the agency would move to close its international field offices in coming months “in an effort to maximize our agency’s finite resources.”

Our immigration policies aren’t sacrosanct and they can be changed, but when those changes are easily perceived as part of a concerted effort to preserve the purity and ascendance of the white race, it’s incumbent on the policy implementers to be very careful with their rhetoric. This administration is anything but careful. They don’t want to be careful. They actively seek a political benefit from these policies and they know exactly where they will get support for pushing them. At a minimum, they don’t care what will result, and if mosques and synagogues become targets then that’s just the cost of making divisive policy shifts.

They’ll tell us that they are not responsible for getting people killed, but they absolutely are responsible. This shooting happened the same day that Trump specifically encouraged his supporters to commit violence during an interview with Breitbart News.

I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.

If there is going to be a “balkanization” of America, it will be brought about more by the recklessness and immorality of the Trump administration than by any sinister plans hatched in New Zealand.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com