‘Self-Detonating’ Lone Wolves: How White American Right Wing Terrorists Are Radicalized


By David M. Perry
In These Times (3/26/18)

When Mark Conditt was a teenager, he participated in a club called Righteous Invasion of Truth. RIOT kids were homeschooled and religious, and spent their club time playing war games, practicing weapons skills, and reading the Bible. As a community college student in 2012, he wrote blogs against homosexuality and abortion. In 2018, he planted bombs in Austin, Texas, appearing to target African-American communities, then blew himself up as police closed in. The question isn’t whether Conditt was a terrorist, but where was this terrorist radicalized? More important, who else is being radicalized in the same way, and what can we do about it?

It’s easy to connect the dots after an attack. A radicalized white man commits murders. Investigators dive into his past. The dots emerge in the clarity of hindsight. In the interests of preventing future attacks, though, we need a clear understanding of how white terrorism works in this country. While not organized by some kind of hierarchical conspiracy or secret cabal, these discrete acts of violence are part of a systematic campaign to terrorize and divide Americans. What’s worse, it’s working.

When hundreds of “lone wolves” are reading the same websites, talking to each other, consuming the same stories, picking up easily accessible weapons, and killing the same targets, they have become a pack.

We know where Elliot Rodger, the 2014 Isla Vista shooter, was radicalized. When the Southern Poverty Law Center published its report last month on “alt-right” violence, focusing on the many incidents in 2017, the SPLC began its account with the 2014 killings by Rodger, a student at the University of California–Santa Barbara. Based on Rodger’s experiences in specific online fora, the SPLC has dubbed Rodger America’s first “alt-right” killer. In his writings and videos, Rodger used misogynistic and racist tropes common in the worlds of “gamergate,” a forum called PUAhate (Pick Up Artist Hate), and other online spaces where he could connect with like-minded men. No one ordered Rodger to kill people, but the valorization of targeted violence permeates those communities. He ultimately murdered seven people and wounded an additional 14. According to the SPLC, Rodger’s violent acts were celebrated in various online communities, including by people who went on to kill in turn. The SPLC cites other misogynist killers, but also people like Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black citizens in a Charleston church. Roof’s racism appears to have intensified as he spent more and more time on the Council of Conservative Citizens’ website. More recently, a pro-Trump white supremacist killed two people at his school in New Mexico, after spending five years glorifying school shooters on alt-right websites.

In 2017, Michael Hari drove from Champaign, Illinois, to Bloomington, Minnesota,just outside the Twin Cities. There, he and two friends broke a window in a mosque and threw a pipe bomb in through the window. Hari ran a YouTube channel where you could watch him and his friends putting on ski masks and making terroristic proclamations about driving Muslims out of the country. It’s not clear why they drove to Minnesota and targeted this specific mosque. Hari is also accused of attempting to bomb a woman’s health clinic in Champaign. Writing for HuffPost, Christopher Mathias links Hari’s organization to other anti-Muslim militias that are proliferating around the country, including The Crusaders, a group in Kansas City, Missouri, that plotted to blow up a mosque and apartment complex that housed immigrants from Somalia.

Then there are the Nazis. Atomwaffen, an explicitly neo-Nazi group, has been murdering people. …

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(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )


The Alt-Right Is Killing People, And Ramping Up For More Violence

“Every single one of you has to become an officer capable of independent activism. Our movement needs to start resembling a Leaderless Resistance.” — “Vincent Law” at AltRight.com

(Editor’s Note: This is an extremely important overview of the rapidly metastasizing national threat of violent, right wing violence. Given the enablers occupying the White House we can’t expect federal authorities to be properly monitoring and dealing with the situation. — Mark L. Taylor)

By Keegan Hankes and Alex Amend
Southern Poverty Law Center (2/5/18)

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) counted over 100 people killed or injured by alleged perpetrators influenced by the so-called “alt-right” — a movement that continues to access the mainstream and reach young recruits.

On December 7, 2017, a 21-year-old white male posing as a student entered Aztec High School in rural New Mexico and began firing a handgun, killing two students before taking his own life.

At the time, the news of the shooting went largely ignored, but the online activity of the alleged killer, William Edward Atchison, bore all the hallmarks of the “alt-right”—the now infamous subculture and political movement consisting of vicious trolls, racist activists, and bitter misogynists.

But Atchison wasn’t the first to fit the profile of alt-right killer—that morbid milestone belongs to Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who in 2014 killed seven in Isla Vista, California, after uploading a sprawling manifesto filled with hatred of young women and interracial couples (Atchison went by “Elliot Rodger” in one of his many online personas and lauded the “supreme gentleman,” a title Rodger gave himself and has since become a meme on the alt-right).

Including Rodger’s murderous rampage there have been at least 13 alt-right related fatal episodes, leaving 43 dead and more than 60 injured (see list). Nine of the 12 incidents counted here occurred in 2017 alone, making last year the most violent year for the movement.

The alt-right is giving a growing population of aggrieved young, white men a worldview that experts find is ripe for violence.  The externalization of blame for one’s own disappointing circumstances in life — and particularly its offloading onto minority communities — is one of several indicators of mass violence.

Like Atchison and Rodger, these perpetrators were all male and, with the exception of three men, all under the age of 30 at the time they are alleged to have killed. The average age of the alt-right killers is 26. The youngest was 17. One, Alexandre Bissonnette, is Canadian, but the rest are American. While some certainly displayed signs of mental illness, all share a history of consuming and/or participating in the type of far-right ecosystem that defines the alt-right.

The “alternative right” was coined in part by white nationalist leader Richard Bertrand Spencer in 2008, but the movement as it’s known today can largely be traced back to 2012 and 2013 when two major events occurred: the killing of the black teenager Trayvon Martin and the so-called Gamergate controversy where female game developers and journalists were systematically threatened with rape and death. Both were formative moments for a young generation of far-right activists raised on the internet and who found community on chaotic forums like 4chan and Reddit where the classic tenets of white nationalism — most notably the belief that white identity is under attack by multiculturalism and political correctness — flourish under dizzying layers of toxic irony.

Phenomenally large audience

Significantly, Gamergate also launched the career of Milo Yiannopolous who later used his perch at Breitbart News to whitewash the movement and push it further into the mainstream (former senior adviser to President Donald Trump and Breitbart executive editor Stephen Bannon infamously called the site “the platform for the alt-right.”).

Today, the audience available to alt-right propaganda remains “phenomenally larger” than that available to ISIS-type recruiters, according to MoonshotCVE, a London-based group that counters online radicalization. This accessibility makes it easy for gradual indoctrination, particularly on social media platforms where tech companies long ignored the warning signs that their platforms were contributing to the radicalization of far-right extremists. That so much violence has taken on the shades of a specific subculture like the alt-right quickly shows just how critical these wide-open platforms have been to the growth of the movement.

“Our target audience is white males between the ages of 10 and 30. I include children as young a ten, because an element of this is that we want to look like superheroes. We want to be something that boys fantasize about being a part of.” — Andrew Anglin, The Daily Stormer

But the dark engine of the movement is reactionary white male resentment. Alt-right propaganda is designed to nourish the precise grievances recited by the disillusioned and indignant young men that dominate its ranks. It provides a coherent—but malicious—worldview. For a recruit, the alt-right helps explain why they don’t have the jobs or the sexual partners or the overall societal and cultural respect that they believe (and are told) to be rightfully theirs. This appeal is resonating at a moment in the United States when economic inequality is worsening and a majority-minority United States is forecasted for 2044—developments exploited by racist propagandists. As a writer on Spencer’s AltRight.com wrote this past December:

And all of modern society seems to offer literally nothing to young White men. It’s as if society doesn’t want them to tune in, show up and have a stake in the future of that institution.

As a result, new institutions step up to pick up the slack.

PUA [Pick Up Artists] meet-ups help them learn the skills to get girls. In the place of a gentleman’s club, or underground boxing ring, or boy scouts-type activity, the Alt-Right has stepped up to give camaraderie and a sense of purpose. The internet gives them their entertainment and a place to intellectually grow.

As all the old institutions die, new ones rise to meet the demand and fill the vacuum. Till the perks come back, young White men are going to keep tuning out of society, cast adrift by previous generations that just don’t give a damn.

The lucky ones will wash up on our shores. The unlucky ones…well.

The violence that left one dead at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer should not be understood as the high-water mark for the movement as some analysts have argued. The alt-right worldview, this rebranding of old hatreds, will remain compelling to disaffected white males and those who claim to speak for them for the foreseeable future. Worse, as this study suggests, punctuated violence will continue. For the same vision of society that the alt-right promulgates—its externalization of blame that lands on a host of enemies seen to be in the ascendancy—also aligns with the indicators of mass violence.

Meanwhile, the alt-right is redoubling its efforts at youth recruitment, intensifying its rhetoric and calling for radical, individual action. …

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Healing From Hate: What Drives Young Men To Violent Extremism And How To Turn Them

NPR (4/1/18)

Sociologist Michael Kimmel says some white men feel their place in American society is being threatened. Kimmel talks with NPR’s Korva Coleman about his new book Healing from Hate.

Link to 5-Minute Audio