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August 12, 2015 0

From Charleston to Chattanooga: The Face of Terror in America

By Oren Segal and Mark Pit­cav­age
Direc­tors of the Anti-Defamation League’s Cen­ter on Extremism

Ter­ror­ism is some­times referred to as the “face­less enemy,” but it has hardly been face­less in the United States this sum­mer.  Too many peo­ple have emerged from the shad­ows to inflict death and suffering.

The parade of vio­lence has seemed unend­ing, from Elton Simp­son and Nadir Soofi, who attacked police offi­cers pro­vid­ing secu­rity for the so-called “Muham­mad Art Exhibit” in Texas in May, to John Houser, the Hitler-admiring man obsessed with the moral decay of Amer­ica who recently opened fire at a Louisiana movie the­ater show­ing the movie Train­wreck.

Of the var­i­ous killers and would-be killers this sum­mer, two stand out.  The first is Dylann Storm Roof, the white suprema­cist who allegedly con­fessed to the June mas­sacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Car­olina, that left nine African-Americans dead.dylann-storm-roof-gun-confederate-flag-600

The sec­ond is Muham­mad Youssef Abdu­lazeez, who in July engaged in a shoot­ing spree tar­get­ing a Chat­tanooga mil­i­tary recruit­ing cen­ter and a nearby naval reserve cen­ter.  Abdu­lazeez, who may have been inspired by rad­i­cal Mus­lim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed five people—all mil­i­tary personnel—before being killed by police.

In many ways, Roof and Abdu­lazeez per­son­ify America’s ter­ror­ist threat; they are the faces of the “face­less enemy.”  Most obvi­ously, each rep­re­sents a major source of ter­ror­ism.  Roof was a white suprema­cist who allegedly hoped to start a “race war” in which whites would pre­vail.  White suprema­cists have for decades been the most pro­lific source of domes­tic extremist-related lethal vio­lence.  Along with the other main seg­ment of the extreme right, anti-government mili­tia groups and sov­er­eign cit­i­zens, they are respon­si­ble for the great major­ity of extremist-related deaths in the U.S.

Abdu­lazeez, on whom there is less infor­ma­tion regard­ing moti­va­tion, may well have latched onto the ideas of al-Awlaki—including his encour­age­ment of attacks on mil­i­tary targets—as a way to atone for some of his per­sonal demons, includ­ing drugs and alco­hol.  Domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists have in recent years attempted or con­ducted a large num­ber of ter­ror­ist plots, con­spir­a­cies and acts, despite being fewer in num­ber than right-wing extremists.

Both men also chose tar­gets typ­i­cal of their move­ments.  For Abdu­lazeez, it was the mil­i­tary; here he fol­lowed in the foot­steps of Abdul­hakim Mujahid Muham­mad, who killed a sol­dier at a recruit­ing cen­ter in Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas, in 2009, and Nidal Malik Has­san, who killed 13 peo­ple at Fort Hood, Texas, that same year.  Other Islamic extrem­ists have also recently plot­ted attacks against mil­i­tary tar­gets in the U.S., though with­out success.mohammad-youssef-abdulazeez

Roof went on a shoot­ing ram­page against African-Americans.  Sprees of vio­lence against racial, eth­nic, or reli­gious minori­ties are a com­mon type of white suprema­cist ter­ror­ism.  In recent years, there have been a num­ber of such episodes, includ­ing Fra­zier Glenn Miller’s attacks on Jew­ish insti­tu­tions in Over­land Park, Kansas, in 2014; Wade Michael Page’s ram­page at a Sikh tem­ple in Oak Creek, Wis­con­sin, in 2012, and Keith Luke’s attacks on African immi­grants in Brock­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts, in 2009.

Both Roof and Abdu­lazeez used firearms for their attacks, which is also typ­i­cal of Amer­i­can ter­ror­ism.  Although the pub­lic usu­ally thinks of ter­ror­ism in terms of bombs, ter­ror­ists like Ted Kaczyn­ski and the Boston Marathon bombers are rare in Amer­ica.  The vast major­ity of extremist-related mur­ders involve guns—easy to acquire, sim­ple to use, and deadly.  This is why Charleston and Chat­tanooga num­ber among the 10 dead­liest extremist-related attacks of the past 50 years.  Indeed, with the excep­tion of the Okla­homa City bomb­ing, the “top 10” attacks all involved firearms.

Abdu­lazeez and Roof were both young men, dis­af­fected, fac­ing per­sonal stresses of dif­fer­ent kinds (Abdu­lazeez also suf­fered from men­tal ill­ness).  Although ter­ror­ism knows no age limits—Nidal Hasan was 39 at the time of his Fort Hood ram­page, while white suprema­cist James Von Brunn, who attacked the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­r­ial Museum in 2009, was in his late 80s—many of the attacks and plots in recent years by both Islamic and right-wing extrem­ists have been com­mit­ted by men in their mid-20s or younger.

Like Abdu­lazeez and Roof, a num­ber of these extrem­ists com­mit­ted their attacks as lone wolves, unat­tached to any par­tic­u­lar group.  Over­all, the num­ber of lethal lone wolf attacks in the past two decades has been fairly low, num­ber­ing only a few dozen, but in recent years, lone wolves seem to have been emerg­ing at a faster rate.  One rea­son may be the increas­ing role played by the Inter­net in facil­i­tat­ing self-radicalization.  It was through the Inter­net that Roof edu­cated him­self in white supremacy; it was via the Inter­net that Abdu­lazeez down­loaded record­ings of al-Awlaki.

Here one can see a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence between right-wing extrem­ists and domes­tic Islamic rad­i­cals.  While they can both eas­ily immerse them­selves in a sea of on-line pro­pa­ganda designed to instill and rein­force extreme views, right-wing extrem­ist Inter­net sources are pri­mar­ily based in the United States and, there­fore, must watch what they say.  White suprema­cists who openly use the Inter­net to encour­age vio­lence and ter­ror­ism open them­selves up to crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion and, if vio­lence occurs, pos­si­ble civil lia­bil­ity; as a result, their encour­age­ment of vio­lence is often more implicit than explicit.

Domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists, in con­trast, receive most of their rad­i­cal­iz­ing mes­sages from abroad, from ter­ror­ist groups and like-minded sup­port­ers who are freer to use the Inter­net to call for vio­lence and ter­ror­ism within the U.S.  Pro­pa­ganda from Al Qaeda in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, for exam­ple, was an inspi­ra­tion for the Boston Marathon bomb­ing.  In the past two years, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken such tac­tics to a new level alto­gether, employ­ing a vir­tual army of on-line recruiters who use social media plat­forms to reach and rad­i­cal­ize sus­cep­ti­ble indi­vid­u­als across the globe.  Seek­ing to instill a deep sense of com­mu­nity and pur­pose, ISIS sup­port­ers encour­age Amer­i­cans to come to the Mid­dle East to help it fight its wars—many of the 80+ U.S. res­i­dents linked to Islamic extrem­ist activ­ity since 2014 have made such attempts. But ISIS also urges peo­ple to launch attacks in the U.S.

Roof and Abdu­lazeez were both cold-blooded killers.  Their attacks deeply affected the cit­i­zens of Charleston and Chat­tanooga and, indeed, the whole coun­try, though not always in the same ways.  In par­tic­u­lar, the Chat­tanooga shoot­ings, like some sim­i­lar attacks before them, stirred anti-Muslim sen­ti­ments directed at America’s entire Mus­lim com­mu­nity, a dis­turb­ing phe­nom­e­non for which there is no par­al­lel with regard to white suprema­cist attacks.

But their attacks were sim­i­lar in that they were both essen­tially futile, able to achieve lit­tle but death and mis­ery.  Indeed, the reac­tions to the attacks illus­trate just how inef­fec­tive they actu­ally were.  The Chat­tanooga attack, for exam­ple, inspired an out­pour­ing of sup­port for the U.S. mil­i­tary. The Charleston response was even more pow­er­ful.  Far from start­ing a “race war,” Roof’s slaugh­ter not only brought Charlesto­ni­ans of all races together but also resulted in a bipar­ti­san effort to remove the Con­fed­er­ate flag from the South Car­olina capitol.

Amer­i­can extrem­ists, of what­ever stripe, can hurt and even kill, but the one thing they can’t do is win.

Mr. Segal is an author­ity on Islamic extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism in the United States; Dr. Pit­cav­age is an expert on right-wing extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism in the United States.

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July 24, 2015 4

Lafayette Shooting Suspect Fixated on Perceived Moral Decay


John Rus­sell Hauser (Louisiana State Police)

A pre­lim­i­nary exam­i­na­tion of the on-line writ­ings of John Rus­sell Houser, who killed him­self last night after a vicious shoot­ing spree at a movie the­ater in Lafayette, Louisiana, that left two dead and nine oth­ers injured, reveals a twisted, angry man upset at a per­ceived moral decay that he thought was destroy­ing the United States.

Houser, orig­i­nally from Geor­gia but who had lived in var­i­ous places across the South prior to the shoot­ing, spent much of his free time in recent years mak­ing short, angry posts to on-line dis­cus­sion forums and com­ment sec­tions on var­i­ous web­sites, often using the screen name “Rusty Houser.” In many of these posts, Houser dis­cussed his belief that the United States was “about to fall.”

His dis­con­tent with the United States led him to make extreme anti-American state­ments, such as describ­ing the United States as “the enemy of the world.” When, in the win­ter of 2015, some 200 cars piled up in a multi-vehicle snow­storm acci­dent, Houser claimed that “the lack of moral Amer­i­cans stand­ing for any­thing makes me wish it were 200 747’s.”

In another post­ing, he wrote that he was “with all those who hate the filth farm known as the U.S.” In 2014, Houser claimed that “all coun­tries that hate the U.S.” needed to unite.

As some of these state­ments indi­cate, Houser was obsessed with the notion of moral decay in the United States; this obses­sion fueled much of his anger.

Anti-black racism played an impor­tant role in Houser’s vision of decay and doom. He repeat­edly argued that blacks should be deported because they, as he said in one 2013 post­ing, “WILL NOT WORK and have NO FAMILY VALUES.” This was lan­guage Houser used again and again, some­times refer­ring to blacks explic­itly, at other times describ­ing them in other ways, such as “another race, not Latinos.”

In 2014, Houser claimed that “fail­ing to men­tion the role of Blacks in build­ing and main­tain­ing the alliance of evil that lit­er­ally grips the globe” would slow the re-taking of Amer­ica. “Else­where, this par­tic­u­lar role is the Jew. Here in the U.S., it is the Black.” In another 2014 post­ing, Houser elab­o­rated on the morality-hating peo­ple who allegedly con­trolled Amer­ica, an alliance con­sist­ing of 1) upper class whites; 2) Blacks; and 3) “mis­fits,” which Houser listed as “homos, trans­ves­tites, peo­ple who will not work, peo­ple with no cul­ture, etc.”

Other sources of decay for Houser included athe­ists, lib­er­als, and gays—in the lat­ter instance, Houser even sup­ported the rabidly homo­pho­bic West­boro Bap­tist Church.

In con­trast, Houser admired other eth­nic or reli­gious groups, such as Lati­nos or Mus­lims. This was because he viewed such groups as either hard work­ing or with strong moral val­ues, or both. “I will never under­stand,” he posted in 2013,” why the hard work­ing, morally supe­rior Lati­nos never bring up for dis­cus­sion the other race which is known to be com­pletely the oppo­site for the most part.”

Refer­ring to Mus­lim immi­grants, for exam­ple, he said, “those com­ing in are far more decent morally than the aver­age Amer­i­can.” Ira­ni­ans, he wrote in late 2013, were “far higher morally than this finan­cially fail­ing filth farm.”

Faced with this fan­tasy sce­nario of doom and decay, Hauser seemed to have hoped for a man on horse­back who would sweep away all the per­ceived moral filth—a Travis Bickle writ large. “The one bright spot,” he wrote on one forum in 2013, “is that all mat­ters in need of tidy­ing up will be dealt with in sum­mary fash­ion soon.”

One of his mod­els for such a leader was Adolf Hitler, whom he repeat­edly praised. In 2013, he wrote that “Hitler’s reac­tion to much would be invalu­able now, if 98% weren’t brain­washed in the U.S.” In early 2015, he claimed that Hitler “accom­plished far more” than any other lead­ers. Around the same time, he claimed that “decent peo­ple can retake the entire world, as Hitler proved.”

In a dif­fer­ent 2015 post­ing, Houser wrote that “Hitler is loved for the results of his prag­ma­tism” and that “the U.S. is no more than a finan­cially fail­ing filth farm. Soon the phrase ‘rul­ing with an iron hand’ will be palat­able anew.”

In 2013, Houser had sim­i­lar views on Amer­i­can white suprema­cist fig­ure David Duke, writ­ing that “at one time [Duke] appeared exactly what the U.S. needed.”

Houser also admired the Golden Dawn, a Greek neo-Nazi polit­i­cal party, describ­ing them in 2014 as “com­posed of moral peo­ple.” Else­where, he described their ideas as “a legit­i­mate effort to solve prob­lems” and their lead­ers as “intel­li­gent, well spo­ken, and exer­cis­ing good faith.”

Houser had sim­i­larly admir­ing views of a vari­ety of other extrem­ist groups and move­ments, includ­ing rad­i­cal Islamists. “Yes, I am salut­ing the fun­da­men­tal­ist Mus­lims,” he said in Jan­u­ary 2015, “They have stood against evil.” He added, in a follow-up post, “They have my com­plete Chris­t­ian respect.”

These atti­tudes and opin­ions, which reveal them­selves so strik­ingly in Houser’s writ­ings, raise the unset­tling but real pos­si­bil­ity that he delib­er­ately chose a show­ing of the movie Train­wreck at which to launch a Taxi Dri­ver–like spree of vio­lence. The writer and star of the movie, tal­ented young come­dian Amy Schumer, has received con­sid­er­able media atten­tion thanks to the movie and her pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion show, and, given her cho­sen comedic per­sona of a sex­u­ally free-wheeling woman, as well as her lib­eral opin­ions, one could imag­ine how a dis­turbed mind like Houser’s could come to focus on the movie as a sym­bol for all of his dark fan­tasies about moral decay in America.

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June 19, 2015 2

White Supremacists React To Charleston Tragedy With Anger, Vitriol


Dylann Storm Roof

As news spread of the tragic shoot­ing ram­page at the Emmanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, South Car­olina, America’s white suprema­cists reacted swiftly.  The killing spree left nine dead and a com­mu­nity in shock. The alleged shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, was arrested on June 18 and charged with nine counts of mur­der one day later.

Some white suprema­cists were, pre­dictably, openly delighted by the mas­sacre. On The Daily Stormer, a pop­u­lar neo-Nazi web site, there was unabashed praise for Roof. “He had the balls to do what most white suprema­cists only talk big about,” com­mented Spar­tan 117 (punc­tu­a­tion and word­ing in com­ments repro­duced here are as in the orig­i­nals). “He is prob­a­bly tired of all the race mix­ing pro­pa­ganda, arro­gant blacks, and tired of the negro get­ting pushed down his throat at every turn…. who cares what fate befalls the negros. We should have as much con­sid­er­a­tion for blacks as we do a fuck­ing tape­worm latched onto to our gut. Face it, negros are an enemy peo­ple to us, we shouldn’t care what hap­pens to these arro­gant n—–s.”

Oth­ers cheered Roof because they believe his actions would has­ten the destruc­tion of Amer­i­can cities, seen by some white suprema­cists as ground zero for the diver­sity “prob­lem.”  A poster iden­ti­fy­ing him­self as John Sov­er­eign wrote on the white suprema­cist dis­cus­sion forum Van­guard News Net­work (VNN) that “the best thing that will come out of this is more ape rage and more cities destroyed…Good! Keep it up.”

Many posters on Storm­front, the most pop­u­lar white suprema­cist Inter­net forum, fret­ted over the impact the shoot­ing would have on the white suprema­cist cause, empha­siz­ing the appar­ent lack of con­nec­tion between Roof and orga­nized racist groups. “I’ve heard of tar­get­ing ‘soft tar­gets,’” wrote user Fid­dler, “but this lat­est lone wolf nitwit picked a ‘mushy target.’Could he have pos­si­bly cho­sen more sym­pa­thetic victims?”

Gen­er­ally, com­ments on Storm­front were more muted than at some other white suprema­cist venues, with a few Storm­fron­ters even express­ing dis­gust over the vio­lence. This drew the ire of white suprema­cists on other forums, such as VNN.  “They are cry­ing over the split blood of these ‘Chris­t­ian’ N—–s over on Storm­front,” posted user EricPow­ers on  VNN. “Can’t believe so many peo­ple have sym­pa­thy on these N—–s just because their Chris­tians. Like that some how makes them sympathetic.”

The real “vic­tims” in this tragedy, accord­ing to some white suprema­cists, were the white suprema­cists themselves—and their 2nd Amend­ment rights. Right-wing extrem­ists fre­quently cast vio­lent acts in the news as con­spir­a­cies and “false flag” oper­a­tions intended to falsely cast blame on the extreme right, pos­si­bly as an excuse for some sort of crack­down.  Roof, to many extrem­ists, was just a pawn in a larger conspiracy–perhaps orches­trated by the Jews—to exac­er­bate racial ten­sions and deprive Amer­i­cans of their guns. The true risk after a shoot­ing like this, accord­ing to Daily Stormer poster Ben­nis Mar­dens, was that “the Jews” would respond by crack­ing down on gun own­er­ship. “The kid is nuts,” Mar­dens wrote. “He’s not a ‘hero.’ He didn’t help our cause. Now the Jews will push for gun con­fis­ca­tion and more hate crimes legislation….Furthermore, not all black peo­ple hate white peo­ple. They ARE more tribal than we are, for sure, but their anger toward us is CAUSED by the Jew media and Jew academics.”

Brian Avran, a self-described National Social­ist, raised the idea of “race war” in a June 18 Face­book post: “I smell a psyop/ gov­ern­ment op. just like Sandy hook, Aurora and Columbine. This church shoot­ing is what the media needs; a ran­dom act of white-on-black vio­lence to push their hate whitey agenda, since an epi­demic of black-on-white vio­lence is hap­pen­ing every day, which goes unre­ported. ‘They’ want a race war. it might also be used as incen­tive for more gun con­trol laws. “

“It didn’t take long for the media to begin the race bait­ing with the Dylann Roof shoot­ing,” wrote Storm­front mem­ber “stuck on stu­pid.”  “This will be used to flame the fires of the on going race war. Please arm your­self and be pre­pared to defend your life at any moment.”

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