Despite the FBI's warning that most domestic terror cases are motivated by white supremacy, far-right ideology is yet to attract the same attention in security studies and public conversation as violence carried out in the name of Islam. This attention skew has real consequences: the Christchurch shooting and its ideological justification could have been a wake-up call to the authorities in the U.S., allowing for a more focused prevention effort that could have forestalled or deterred the El Paso gunman.
It's been widely reported that the El Paso shooter declared his broad support for the manifesto attributed to the New Zealand shooter line of what was reported as his own 4-page screed. What got less attention is the fact that in that manifesto Christchurch shooter specifically spoke of Texas. "Soon the replacement of the whites within Texas will hit its apogee and with the non-white political and social control of Texas," the manifesto said, "and with this control, the electoral college will be heavily stacked in favor of a Democratic victory so that every electoral cycle will be a certainty."
The Texas shooter's apparent manifesto ran, in its turn: "America will soon become a one party-state. The Democrat party will own America and they know it... The heavy Hispanic population in Texas will make us a Democrat stronghold. Losing Texas and a few other states with heavy Hispanic population to the Democrats is all it would take for them to win nearly every presidential election."
Linking minority populations with Democrat support is not an uncommon talking point in far-right circles. But coupled with the El Paso shooter's explicit references to Christchurch elsewhere in the manifesto, it can certainly be said that, the New Zealand shooter published a call to arms to reduce the number of "Hispanic invaders" to Texas, and the Texas shooter responded.
Both the track record and brief bios provided in the two manifestoes make it clear that the shooters are not angry "lone wolves," but rather, are part of global white-supremacist networks motivated by methodical rationale. When the Texas shooter says: "an under-prepared attack and a meh manifesto is better than no attack and no manifesto" or when he advices his followers to go after low hanging fruits and to avoid the super soldier COD [Call of Duty] fantasies, he resonates with the New Zealand shooter's appeal to focus on the cause and not the fame and to use whatever means possible.
This line of thinking is not uncommon in security studies literature, and series of studies on the utility function or incentive structure of other forms of desperate attacks directly corroborate to the same line of thinking. And although we are yet to see white supremacist suicide bombers, the assumption on which many shooters depart on their sprees is that they won't survive a shootout with first responders; effectively, there is little or no difference between these mass shootings and suicide attacks.
There is consensus that groups use suicide attacks for strategic reasons, not in fits of mass hysteria or individual psychotic episode. The reluctance to ascribe similar strategic thinking to white supremacists is bewildering. In fact, it is still not clear whether the law enforcement agencies in the US have been able to fathom the level of interconnected violence the transnational white supremacists are able to unleash—or whether they are even recognized as a decentralized transnational terrorist network, which they meet every criteria for.
The secret to this organized violence is the ability to capitalize their own social media platforms such as 8chan, which effectively acted for the white nationalists' in the same fashion DABIQ acted for ISIS—as a recruitment magazine. It took three 8chan linked mass shooting incidents this year before the site finally went down after losing its security provider, Cloudflare.
It is high time more studies and discussions in the public sphere begin analyzing white supremacy attacks as strategic, organized acts of violence—amounting to decentralized transnational networks on par with Al Qaeda and the online radicalization processes around the Islamic State; and to treat their adherents, online spaces and discourse accordingly.
Nazmus Sakib is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Political Science, Texas Tech University.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own.