In February 2019, US Coast Guard officer Christopher Paul Hasson was arrested by federal authorities. He had been plotting to carry out terrorist acts against US Democrat politicians, socialist groups, journalists and media personalities. Hasson, a self-confessed white nationalist, had the presence of mind to compile a spreadsheet of targets, which included Senator Ilhan Omar (D), a black Muslim, and “Sen blumen jew”, an anti-Semitic reference to Senator Richard Blumenthal (D).
Hasson was inspired by the Norwegian racist killer Anders Breivik, from whose manifesto Hasson quoted. Stockpiling weapons, and steroids to beef up, Hasson was driven by ideas of instigating a race war in the United States. Steeped in the literature and online propaganda of the white nationalist Right, Hasson intended to carry out mass killings in the hope that ‘whitey would get off the couch‘, to use his words.
He conducted internet searches regarding the location and movements of US politicians he deemed to be a threat, monitored their security arrangements, and absorbed racist and white nationalist literature in online forums. In 2017, in the aftermath of the racial violence at Charlottesville, Hasson wrote that a whites-only homeland in the United States was necessary to preserve the future of his people.
He corresponded with other neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups in the United States, and followed the workings and ideas of European neo-fascist and ultra-rightist parties. Denouncing those whites who accepted racial integration and equality as ‘race traitors‘, he expounded his apocalyptic views of a race war that would result in the extermination of non-white peoples and the establishment of a white homeland.
Domestic terrorism offences
At the time of writing, Hasson has been charged with drug and illegal firearms offences, but not domestic terrorism. Documents filed with the federal court set out the white supremacist views that Hasson expressed, and the stockpiling of weapons for the terrorist acts he intended to commit. This is a glaring omission, and speaks volumes about the hypocrisies which underlie our conversations about terrorism.
A perpetrator of Islamic or Middle Eastern background would have received saturation coverage in the corporate media. There would be panels of self-proclaimed experts analysing the alleged ideological origins of the perpetrator’s actions in the philosophy and teachings of Islam. Hasson is a typical example of an ever-growing, yet under-examined, menace of ultra-right terrorism.
Thomas Cullen, the US Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, wrote of this rising and serious threat of white supremacist terrorism. Cullen writes that not only have hate crimes risen significantly over the last two years, murders committed by groups and individuals associated with the far-right have increased dramatically. A hate crime is defined as a violent act against a victim because of the latter’s race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
Hasson is not an isolated example. The Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) documents in its yearly hate crimes report that there has been a 30 percent increase in active hate groups over the 2014-2018 period. The incidence of hate crimes and terrorist acts has not only increased, but the majority have been perpetrated by groups from the far-right. Entitled Rage Against Change, the report elaborates how white nationalist ideas have been popularised not only by Alt-Right followers, but also by the Trump administration.
Enabling violent nostalgia
Since his 2016 election campaign and rise to the White House, Donald Trump has enabled the spread of extremist ideas, allowed attacks on the achievements of the civil rights movement, and used his political office to launch tirades against racial and ethnic minorities – accompanied by a good dose of misogyny and homophobia. Nostalgic for a mythologised past of white supremacy, the Trump administration has done its utmost to expound the underlying logic – if you can call it that – of bigotry and prejudice.
When Trump and his colleagues demonise refugees, Muslim immigrants, and Hispanics, they are actively cultivating the misleading notions of non-white immigration as a threat to the majority white population. By cultivating hysteria about the purported influx of Hispanic immigrants at the US-Mexico border, Trump is manufacturing a crisis, and recycling long-standing white nationalist paranoid fantasies about a racial influx.
Portraying whites as victims in this racially-paranoid worldview is not an invention of the Trump campaign, but has a long pedigree in the white nationalist Right.
The Turner Diaries
While Trump is careful not to suggest that all-out race war is inevitable, he does insist that a mythical ‘racism against whites’ is a socially significant force in American politics. The idea of an apocalyptic race war, brought on by a tyrannical combination of anti-white discrimination and liberal cosmopolitan elitism, is nothing new in American society. Prior to the rise of the Alternative Right, there was The Turner Diaries.
That last statement is not my own, but rather comes from an article in The Atlantic magazine. A self-published political dystopian novel, The Turner Diaries tells of a fictional white supremacist guerrilla fighting in a white nationalist uprising which leads to the extermination of the non-white population in the US, and eventually throughout the world.
Published in 1978 by American white supremacist and neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce, the Turner Diaries has achieved a kind of Bible-status among the white nationalist Right. The themes elaborated in the novel have inspired terrorist actions in the US, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The novel elaborates how ‘race traitors’ are disposed of as enemies of the white race, along with African Americans, Jews, Hispanics and other minorities. This book, rather than extolling a bygone era of slavery, the hooded bedsheets of the Klan and goose-stepping Nazis, shifted white nationalism onto a futuristic perspective. It provided a blueprint for white nationalist action, and served to unite previously fractured groupings.
The tone of the novel is lurid and violent – with misogyny and anti-Semitism dripping from its pores. While a bad book, its impact cannot be underestimated – it has become a seminal text in the canon of racist hate literature. It has served to inspire terrorist violence, and has spawned a veritable genre of racist literature. A hero fighting against the odds is not a new idea in American literature – but Pierce gave it a white supremacist spin.
While the focus of terrorism discussions has been narrowed to groups such Islamic State, Al Qaeda and similar outfits, the growing threat of domestic ultra-rightist terrorism has been ignored. We need to confront the ideology that had produced distorted and violent racial-war fantasies of Hasson and his co-thinkers.