The Recent attacks in Christchurch New Zealand that took the lives of at least 50 innocent people in their house of worship were the latest example of violent far-right extremism, a hate-fueled ideology that is being defended and promoted by figures such as Donald Trump. However, while Trump continues to fan the flames of hatred as his presidency drags on, he is not solely to blame for the resurgence of violent white-nationalism. In American mainstream political discourse, there are a slew of right-wing pundits, who in their refusal to abandon the both-sides argument, and their continued promotion of Islamophobia/hateful speech, are complicit when violent extremism rears its head.
It seems that every few weeks now, a new violent individual is heard of in the news, as just last month a self-declared white nationalist, who just happened to be a member of the United States Coast Guard, was arrested after plotting a racially motivated terrorist attack. The attack would have involved targeting large parts of the population through methods such as biological warfare and attacks on American food supplies. According to court documents, the would-be attacker wanted to establish a “white homeland” and took inspiration from other far-right extremists such as Anders Breivik.
This arrest came just a few months after the tragic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh by an individual with similar views, and a mere month before the deadly situation in Christchurch, an indication that the threat of far-right violence is on the rise not just in America, but around the globe. Yet, it is essential not to blame Trump solely for the radicalization of these dangerous individuals, as a slew of pundits from around the internet have also been directly mentioned countless times over as playing a vital role in the radicalization process, most recently in the case of the New Zealand attacker.
Seconds before he proceeded to live-stream his crimes on 8chan, the Christchurch attacker ushered the phrase, “Remember Lads, Subscribe to PewDiePie,” a saying that has become notorious among those in the community of famous YouTuber, PewDiePie, otherwise known as Felix Kjellberg. Despite voicing disgust for being mentioned by the attacker that day, Kjellberg’s history of promoting far-right tropes cannot be forgotten by merely issuing an apology, yet as stated in the attackers 74-page Manifesto, he was not the only individual to inspire him.
The manifesto published by the attacker before starting his attack came with the sole purpose of inspiring copycat actors, and he mentioned how figures on the right such as Candace Owens, Kjellberg, and Norwegian Terrorist Anders Breivik inspired him. Additionally, after the attack figures such as Chelsea Clinton and Ben Shapiro, the current Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Wire, also came under fire for being complicit in promoting views similar to the attackers.
These points have more claim given that Shapiro had previously been mentioned as a source of inspiration for the individual who perpetrated the 2018 mosque shootings in Quebec. It’s hard to argue against this when a simple trip to YouTube may see you bombarded by content from Shapiro and The Daily Wire with titles such as, “The Myth About Radical Islam” and “Ben Shapiro: The Myth of the Tiny Radical Muslim Minority,” videos that show up for individuals due to YouTube’s video suggestion algorithm.
In the end, while much of the attacker’s manifesto can be interpreted as mere trolling, it does show the damage that far-right, white nationalist rhetoric has had on the world, and when individuals such as Trump continue to say that both sides are at fault, it only reaffirms far-right extremists, that their views are acceptable in society.
In part to rhetoric such as this, America has no shortage of violent extremist organizations, and in fact, in 2018 alone The Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map tracked 1,020 active hate groups operating throughout the United States. While many of these groups adhere to various ideologies, various far-right groups such as The Proud Boys are notorious for their violent actions, and some lesser known groups are even classified as literal terrorist organizations with the blood of innocents on their hands.
One group, in particular, is Atomwaffen, a small but dangerous Neo-Nazi terrorist group that operates in the United States. It was mid-2018 when the group’s frighting discord chats were leaked revealing that members often joked of the killings they perpetrated and discussed plans to disrupt the American Power Supply and eventually overthrow the United States government. While far smaller than better-known groups such as the Proud Boys or Patriot Front, the existence of Atomwaffen as an active terrorist group on American soil is ironic when Donald Trump rambles on about the threat of so-called “invaders at the border, ignoring the fact that there has been a rise in hate groups since 2014.
When asked during a recent press conference about whether he thinks the rise of far-right extremism is a threat, Trump stated, “I don’t really. It’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess, if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s a case. I don’t know enough about it yet, they’re just learning about the person and the people involved. But it’s certainly a terrible thing.”
These comments mirror those issued by Trump many times in the past when confronted on this issue, and they make it clear that despite how many pleas, the president will never disavow far-right violence. Instead, Trump will continue to stick to his usual tactics, as it’s clear that his base has no care for his views on the far-right, and they would instead rather eat up the same cries of border invaders and crazy Democrats.
With the Trump administration at the helm, it has seen far-right Nationalism, white supremacy, and extremism spread like wildfire, yet as shown in a 2015 Study from The Hampton Institute, this trend of violence and hate has been on the rise long before Trump was elected. Trump has worked merely as an enabler, and it is up to the people to call out hate, and to abandon the both-sides argument, as it is apparent that far-right extremism will still be around long after Trump has eaten his last Big Mac.