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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 8, 2015 2

White Supremacists Angry About Alleged Demise of White Race

Claim­ing that they are an endan­gered species account­ing for a mere 9% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, white suprema­cists are react­ing with anger to what they view as soci­etal focus on cre­at­ing white guilt and hatred against white peo­ple, white her­itage and Christianity.endangered species

The hype spread­ing through their ranks warns of their “cul­tural cleans­ing” and ulti­mately “white geno­cide.” This rhetoric is not based on any new con­cepts, but there are some new irri­tants that are gal­va­niz­ing white suprema­cists and revi­tal­iz­ing their notion that with­out action the white race is doomed to extinction.

The most recent irri­tant stems from the rev­e­la­tion that racist Dylann Storm Roof, the alleged mur­derer of nine black parish­ioners at a Charleston, South Car­olina church, used the Con­fed­er­ate flag as a sym­bol of hate.

White suprema­cists are incensed over the recent nation­wide move­ment to rid pub­lic parks and build­ings, license plates, and retail stores of Con­fed­er­ate flags after the Charleston shoot­ing. One Klan group is plan­ning a July rally to protest of the removal of the Con­fed­er­ate flag from South Carolina’s Statehouse.

In addi­tion to white suprema­cists’ mount­ing frus­tra­tion over pub­lic dis­dain for the Con­fed­er­ate flag are the numer­ous peti­tions and efforts to rename dozens of parks, bridges and uni­ver­sity build­ings which are named after con­fed­er­ate sol­diers and/or Klansmen.

The frus­tra­tion over these attempts is not new. In 2013, approx­i­mately 75 white suprema­cists protested the renam­ing of three Mem­phis, Ten­nessee, parks pre­vi­ously named in honor of the Con­fed­er­acy, its leader, and a Klan leader. This protest demon­strated unusual unity among white suprema­cists with three dif­fer­ent Klan groups, a neo-Nazi group, and mem­bers of sev­eral racist skin­head groups in attendance.

Another issue dis­turb­ing white suprema­cists is their per­cep­tion of the way the media cov­ers crime. Extrem­ists believe black on white crime is under-reported com­pared to white on black crime. This view­point was recently com­pounded fol­low­ing media reports regard­ing the killing of black men by white police offi­cers, the “black lives mat­ter” move­ment, and the sub­se­quent civil unrest.

One note­wor­thy reac­tion by white suprema­cist to these media reports has been their sup­port for law enforce­ment offi­cers, which they have nor­mally with­held. In 2014, at least three Klan mem­bers attended an Impe­r­ial, Mis­souri, rally in sup­port of Dar­ren Wil­son, the police offi­cer who fatally shot unarmed black rob­bery sus­pect Michael Brown in Ferguson.

More sur­pris­ingly, due to their long stand­ing cul­tural dis­dain for police, a small group of racist skin­heads recently demon­strated for a week in May 2015 in sup­port of police in Olympia, Wash­ing­ton, after an offi­cer shot two unarmed black men.

White suprema­cists are also mim­ic­k­ing the “black lives mat­ter” slo­gan. Not only did white suprema­cist lead­ers of the neo-Nazi National Alliance and Tra­di­tion­al­ist Youth Net­work inter­rupt a May 2015 “black lives mat­ter” press con­fer­ence in Cincin­nati, but mem­bers of the Aryan Renais­sance Soci­ety dis­trib­uted “white lives mat­ter” fliers in Rhode Island and Con­necti­cut last month.

White suprema­cists believe that Amer­i­can soci­ety is espous­ing an anti-white agenda that pro­motes diver­sity and inte­gra­tion in order to insure that whites become a minor­ity. In reac­tion, they have declared that the days of fence sit­ting are over and are call­ing for whites to fight against the so-called destruc­tion of the white race.

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July 2, 2015 0

Confederate heritage group denounces extremists, but has them in ranks

The Sons of Con­fed­er­ate Vet­er­ans (SCV), a so-called Con­fed­er­ate “her­itage” group, recently denounced the deci­sion of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a North Carolina-based Klan group, to hold a July 2015 protest in front of the South Car­olina state­house in Columbia.

Missouri CCC members receive SVC awards

Mis­souri CCC mem­bers receive SVC awards

Accord­ing to a press release issued by the SCV, the group’s mem­ber­ship “vehe­mently oppose[s] and denounce[s] this hate­ful and divi­sive event.” The SCV also trum­peted what it referred to as its “strictly enforced ‘hate’ pol­icy,” claim­ing that any­one with ties to any racist orga­ni­za­tion or hate group is denied mem­ber­ship and will be “imme­di­ately expelled.” The state­ment was attrib­uted to Charles Kelly Bar­row, the “commander-in-chief” of the SCV.

One may legit­i­mately won­der how “strictly enforced” the SCV’s “hate” pol­icy actu­ally is. After all, one of the major fig­ures in the SCV for many years has been Kirk Lyons, who has played a major role in the politi­ciza­tion of the SCV dur­ing that span. For decades, Lyons has been a friend to and rep­re­sented numer­ous white suprema­cists in court cases, once describ­ing him­self as an “active sym­pa­thizer” of their causes. Lyons has also spo­ken to or before a vari­ety of extrem­ist groups, rang­ing from the white suprema­cist web­site Storm­front to the equally white suprema­cist Coun­cil of Con­ser­v­a­tive Cit­i­zens (CCC).

The SCV has its own CCC prob­lem. The con­nec­tions between the “her­itage” group and the white suprema­cist group—the lat­ter allegedly a source of edu­ca­tion and inspi­ra­tion for Charleston church shoot­ing sus­pect Dylann Storm Roof—are exten­sive. In Jan­u­ary 2014, for exam­ple, three mem­bers of the Coun­cil of Con­ser­v­a­tive Cit­i­zens, includ­ing its founder and leader Gor­don Lee Baum (who died in March 2015), all of whom were SCV mem­bers, received “SCV War Vet­eran Medals” from one of the group’s Mis­souri chap­ters. Another CCC founder, Leonard Wil­son, who died in 2013, was an SCV mem­ber and the for­mer Alabama state com­man­der of the SCV.

In 2014, SCV mem­ber (and for­mer Ten­nessee state com­man­der) Gene Andrews spoke at the CCC’s annual national con­fer­ence. Andrews also con­tributed an arti­cle to the CCC web­site in 2010. In 2009 and 2011, Cecil Fayard, then the “National Chap­lain” of the SCV, spoke before the Car­roll County, Mis­sis­sippi, chap­ter of the CCC. In 2008, SCV mem­ber John Flip­pin, also a CCC mem­ber, spoke before the Web­ster County, Mis­sis­sippi, chap­ter. These are just a few exam­ples of SCV-CCC crossover.

Even Charles Kelly Bar­row, the cur­rent com­man­der, may have had extrem­ist ties. Accord­ing to a 2002 South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter report, Bar­row was a mem­ber of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate hate group that has recently orga­nized protests that have included neo-Nazis and issued dire warn­ings of “race war.”

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