From Rhodesia to Charleston: Looking for Who is Responsible for ‘Lone Wolf’ Racial Terrorism

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The twenty-four hour news cycle often produces strong flashes when it transcribes hot news stories, coming in brief moments before the full picture has been painted.  A shooting at the historic Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina.  Nine people declared official casualties of the church.  Reports say that the shooter began as a parishioner joined in Bible study before picking up heavy artillery and opening fire.

At first this came as a big surprise, and certainly a break from the recent barrage of police murders that have marked the last months of coverage.  This stood out as a return to a type of interpersonal violence that is easy to condemn and classify across the political spectrum. Confusion erupted and we saw that commentators were slow to cite race as the cause and to classify the deaths as an act of racial terrorism.  The shooting in Charleston, which appears to many people on first glance as a completely random act of violence, is one that fits perfectly in an American tradition that has seen incidents like these without any evidence of slowing.  It was not until eyewitness reports come in did the rhetoric begin to change, that its racial connection was solidified.  One survivor reported that when confronted the shooter said,” I have to do it.  You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country.  You have to go.”  Now that his self-described “Manifesto” is in hand it is incredibly clear what this was: an act of racial warfare.

The document he produced can easily be dismissed as the rantings of a deranged young man, which, in some ways, it is, yet that misses one of the key insights that comes across in his work.  The thought process and ideas he cites were not original to him and were instead adopted directly from publications and organizations that have constructed narratives about black populations in the United States.  No substantive analysis is being done on the text, which is a common occurrence in American law enforcement as it brings out our desire to avoid adding reason and logic to events that seem to defy explanation.  The first part of this is the immediate assumption of mental illness, which then relieves them of having to search for any logically sound reasoning.  Mental illness is commonly used to completely reject normal engagement, which is partially why so many media outlets have denied this as an act of terrorism.  Simply put: crazy people do crazy things, but terrorism, on the other hand is ideological.  The second primary reason is that in it he takes a positive view towards racism, saying essentially that racist ideas are “correct.”  This comes directly up against the understood notion in the liberal establishment that racism as a conscious concept has been completely overcome and that any example of racist ideas no longer need to be engaged because they are self-refuting.  This is something that the radical left often shares as movements have long dispelled and challenged racist myths, yet this does not mean that a substantial population are not still promoting conscious racism in influential ways.

Racism as a public ideology has gained pariah status while racial inequity has seeped into the very fabric of the American state and economic system.  White privilege has been the target of movements seeking to abolish the racial caste system that was fermented to protect Chattel slavery and kept us through eras of Jim Crow and mass incarceration.  As this racial hierarchy is challenged there remains a vanguardist minority that seeks to re-establish White Supremacy as a formal system.  Today, a certain subset of the organized racist-right maintains a pseudo-academic and pseudo-scientific veneer that hides open bigotry as a motivating factor and has created a series of ideas and philosophical foundations to argue their racialized points.  These ideas remain on the fringe, but can seep into the culture in a number of ways.  While the radical White Nationalist community does not maintain a popular public face, they have been influential in crossover political topics like immigration.  They have been successful in influencing the debates in favor of discussions around America’s racial heritage in ways that other contemporary “hot button” issues just would not.  The fringes of the right, from paleoconservatives to Constitutionalists, tax resisters to militia men, all have had historic connections to the vanguardist racist-right, and we see these ideas represented in flash moments in crossover points like the Ron Paul campaign or the battle in Nevada over ranching property rights. The strongest example of their influence, however, is with how they radicalize people in more profound and individualized ways.

Dylann Roof’s Manifesto, published on his website The Last Rhodesian, is both incoherent and lacking in deep thought, but shows moments where his thought process strays from his own delusions. The vast majority of the bumbling document discusses things like the Trayvon Martin murder, the ANC election during the 1990s in South Africa, and support for segregation. He discusses, at length, what is phrased as “black on white crime,” a rhetorical favorite for racialist groups who are attempting to create a narrative about a supposed plague of racialized violence against whites. This is still a surface idea that derives from his most central concept: that blacks are a genetically inferior subspecies.

“Anyone who thinks that White and black people look as different as we do on the outside, but are somehow magically the same on the inside, is delusional. How could our faces, skin, hair, and body structure all be different, but our brains be exactly the same? This is the nonsense we are led to believe. Negroes have lower IQs, lower impulse control, and higher testosterone levels in generals. These three things alone are a recipe for violent behavior. If a scientist publishes a paper on the differences between the races in Western Europe or Americans, he can expect to lose his job. There are personality traits within human families, and within different breeds of cats or dogs, so why not within the races?”

The behavior he rants about is seen as only a consequence of intelligence. Criminality, sexual control, the ability towards delayed gratification, the ability to maintain families and careers are all a subset of what he sees as the mental inferiority of black people as an ethnic category. This is taken straight out of the artificial debate over race and IQ, a concept that has been suggested since the earliest days of slavery when the white plantation class manipulated new scientific understandings to give a social excuse for their cruelty. This played out as “racial hygiene” and Eugenics, the idea that we can affect genetic outcomes by limiting the breeding of supposed “inferiors,” all of which is central to the institutional violence seen in places like the early American south. This debate was relaunched with right-wing money in post-WWII American scientific climate, where the language and aesthetics shifted after Nazism was so roundly associated with mechanistic genocide. The Pioneer Fund was created to support research that would designate blacks as genetically inferior to whites. The Pioneer Fund provided funding to studies on twins and adopted racially mixed siblings in an effort to first determine that intelligence and other dominant mental faculties were predominately genetic and, second, to prove that in the same social conditions, black s and whites will perform with different effectiveness. With this we have seen controversial and questionable studies that, though the scientific community almost roundly rejects their conclusions, continue to be retread by those looking to justify their racial anger. Arthur Jensen did this famously for decades, and in recent years people like J. Phillip Rushton and Richard Lynn used their positions as tenured faculty to push a version of evolutionary psychology that sees population groups as being more or less intelligence based on their geographic region. As marginal as we think these ideas are, they have occasional breaches into the mainstream. In 1994, Charles Murray, a generally popular conservative now with the American Enterprise Institute, co-authored The Bell Curve, which, among other things, determined that intelligence is largely genetic and will dictate socio-economic positioning. Within this racial differences in intelligence is given real credibility, so much so that it has been the foundation of racist publications from that point forward. More recently, Nicholas Waid’s book A Troublesome Inheritance does its best to determine that race is not a social construct and instead dictates things like personality types, familial structures, and social progress. And, of course, for these white authors, black people remain stunted at the bottom of their evolutionary ladder.

Some of the dominant institutions on the right maintaining the genetically inspired racial myths come with American Renaissance and, as we have seen in the news recently, the Council of Conservative Citizens. American Renaissance has been having their regular conferences since 1990 where they bring on fringe academics to talk about topics like race and IQ, all tinged with value-laden language and dog-whistle epithets. In recent years the dialogue has shifted someone to a more philosophical tone where calls for a “white homeland” are commonplace. This is the definition of the “suit and tie” racist crowd where open racial slurs are almost non-existent, where Nazi and Klan symbolism is disallowed, and innocuous names and subject titles make it appear as a boring academic conference rather than a call for racial holy war. American Renaissance has been paramount in propagating a term coined by conservative columnist Steve Sailer, Human Biological Diversity (HBD). This harmless sounding euphemism is a code word for the idea that certain population groups, namely racial groups, simply have biological difference between them. What difference is discussed more than all others? Intelligence.

This has led to a pseudo-academic blogosphere discussing these alleged racial differences in language that often disassociates itself from criticism. As Holocaust Denial did in the 1980s-90s, HBD has the ability to cross over into subcultures simply because it uses academic-sounding language that people rarely have the tools to refute. When you combine that with a growing sense of distrust in our dominant scientific and health institutions with a general decline in education and of left ideological explanations for our current social catastrophe, it is easy to see why a dissident movement is forming around ideas that most previously would have seen as insane. As we move further towards economic and ecological collapse, more extreme versions of these dissident movements begin to pop up. With Neo-Reactionaries and the Dark Enlightenment we are witnessing a desire to return to a world that knows no democracy and equality, that sees tradition, authority, stratification, and top-down control as natural and preferred. These may seem like ideas best left to the dark side of Internet message board, but in counter-cultural, big-tech, and new intellectual movements, these far-right ideas are seeing resurgence. Race and intelligence are seen as one of the most central components of their arguments, proving that democracy is a failure because not all people are simply capable of running society.

One of the key elements that separate these groups from racists of the past is their use of slight variants in the theory; in this instance it is the “Asian hypothesis.” This essentially notes that East Asians, on average, score higher on IQ tests even then whites, which has led to many Asian bloggers to support HBD claims. This allows HBD fanatics to buck the “white supremacist” claim while still closely allying whites as the upper-levels of the stratification with Sub-Saharan Africans and Australian Aborigines rounding out the bottom. This logic is, again, one that has to be learned and is not present in unaffiliated racists, except those whose ideas where shaped by this community. This is why, when Roof addresses the Asian community in his writing, it takes on a special significance.

“I have great respent(sic) for the East Asian races. Even if we were to go extinct they could carry something on. They are by nature very racist and could be great allies of the White race. I am not opposed at all to allies with the Northeast Asian races.”

The organization that Roof has specifically linked to, the Council of Conservative Citizens, was formed in the 1980s by Gordon Baum on the mailing lists of the “white citizen’s councils” that fought segregation. They held onto Republican rhetoric, associating themselves with the edges of the GOP while openly touting White Nationalist ideas rooted in HBD. In recent years the association with Republican party leaders has gone public as major politics were seen to speak as their conference Between 2000 and 2004 38 major elected officials have spoken at CofCC at conferences, including people like Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour and Trent Lot. In recent years the fallout has pushed CofCC further to the right, now banned from participating in conferences like CPAC. Alongside these featured politicians were talks on Jewish banking control, the beauty of Chattel slavery, and the “white genocide” that is happening through immigration and miscegenation.

The romantization that Roof had with the racist right was not only with the mainstreaming CofCC but also with more ingrained racist institutions like the seminal white nationalist forum Stormfront. Created by former Klan leader Don Black, it has existed as a sort of hub for the more radical elements of the far right movement. According to the SPLC, almost 100 murders from the last six years can be traced back to Stormfront. As they try to update their image by banning images of the Third Reich and open racial slurs, the truth remains that the discourse that remains there is still tied to vulgar violence.

The issue of this as a “lone wolf” attack has led a lot of people confused. The term in this context comes from an essay from White Aryan Resistance founder Tom Metzger as an option for violent action outside of an organizational structure. This has become incredibly important as we are seeing militant racist organizations like skinhead gangs or variants of the KKK decline sharply, yet we see violent actions remain constant. In the SPLC’s study of domestic right-wing terrorism over the last six years, they concluded that a full 74% of attacks where from a single person, and 90% either alone or in pairs. While the organized violent actors may be on the decline, the side that has only been increasing is the growing undercurrent of publications and blogs promoting the scientific racism of the future.

What happens is that incidents like these can blind us to whom the real actors are. Is there an active Klan group orchestrating these attacks? Was it a skinhead faction bent on making a name for themselves? Roof himself notes that neither one of these are at play any longer, so he needs to take the reigns. The voice of the future of these movements is one that never would publicly advocate violence of this kind, and may even honestly believe it to be the antithesis of successful racial organizing. Yet in the hands of an increasingly disaffected population it is like a grenade waiting to find a target. Roof was raised on the intellectual racially oriented movement work that created a theory of social-biology, not the open violence of something like Aryan Nations. Our work in the anti-fascist/anti-racist movement has, traditionally, been focused towards open Neo-Nazis in the north and the KKK in the south, but as these become the players of the past we have yet to adapt to the new face of hate. In the future, it will be discourse that logically leads to acts of “lone wolf” violence, yet it is the rhetoric itself that creates an ideological underpinning and support where the only logical response is murder. If we are to create anti-fascist movements that can actually confront the real threat of openly racist violence then it has to look at the seemingly disconnected source that builds the logic and justification for the trigger pulled later.

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How Are Racists Responding to the Church Shooting and Confederate Flag Controversy?

No matter how the particular far right and neo-fascist movement sees itself, mass killings in the name of their racial agenda is always going to be bad news. Aryan Nations was a meeting spot for neo-Nazis, Klansmen, Christian Identity Adherents, and racist militia movements, and was completely undone after a passing family was attacked in front of their compound. White Aryan Resistance was financially undercut after associated skinheads murdered Ethiopian student Mulugeta Seraw in Portland, Oregon. Charges are often brought against associated organizations, and even if they are not formally indicted they certainly are put under the federal looking glass. This is the current state of the Council of Conservative Citizens who is having the FBI going through their materials with a fine toothcomb.

Beyond the hope that other ‘lone wolves’ will be inspired by the violence in a sort of “propaganda of the deed” dynamic, it undercuts their messaging in serious ways. While insurrectionary and vanguardist racial groups certainly exist, even they tend to want to argue philosophical ideas around their racial perspectives and engage in movement building. The modern racialist movement has been heavily influenced by internet-fed pseudo intellectualism, is returning to fascist roots in philosophical movements like the Conservative Revolution and French New Right, and are trying to create a semi-coherent set of ideas that can feed their endgame. In general, the uniting point here is the advocacy of a white ethnostate, though the specifics are particular to the political faction at the microphone.

When instances of violence come up it is difficult to present themselves and thoughtful and peaceful ‘activists.’ The Council of Conservative Citizens is a specifically good example of this in that they existed as a fully aboveground white nationalist organization that maintained ties to the mainstream GOP. It is now clear from his writing that Dylann Roof was inspired to action by the reports of racial differences and ‘black on white crime’ as reported on the CofCC’s website. There you will find pseudoscience about race and intelligence, trumped up reports on racial crime, and other types of ultra conservative and nationalist rants. What you will not find, however, are calls for Racial Holy War. That being said, their publication and their rhetoric, even as mild as it is for their movement, still resulted in violence. This is the kind of association that will rattle their movement to the core, and will likely completely demolish the Council.

The action itself has ramped up a debate that has come in and out of fashion: the remove of the Confederate Battle Flag from public spaces in the south. For many of these groups that are associated with neo-Confederacy as a part of their racial mythology, this could be a bridge to far. Unfortunately for them, any credibility that they had in the popular media market has been stunted by their association with nine dead parishioners in a famed black church in South Carolina.

So how are white nationalists reacting to this situation?

This has been incredibly variable, especially in the CofCC. Many of the people who are deeper in the leadership of the CofCC have rebuked any media contact, but several of their members who are associated with a number of racialist organizations have decided to step up in its defense. Jared Taylor, best known for the white nationalist and scientific-racist organization American Renaissance, has gone on media interviews defending the CofCC. While he continues the line that they are not responsible for the crime, which they have openly condemned, the information cited is still real and legitimate.

“He did not get inspiration from the Council’s website, he got information. And the reason the information was so disturbing to him is because the facts, the reality, of the overwhelmingly “black on white” nature of interracial crime is something that is almost never reported. It’s, in fact, deliberately concealed.”

He continued to return to the racial demographics of crime from several different, unrelated questions. This has been the pattern for Taylor’s interaction with the media; especially debates he tries to get in any forum that will have him. Taylor does go on to say that he and the Council absolutely condemns the shooting.

James Edwards, who sits on the board of both the CofCC and the white nationalist American Freedom Party, hosts his regular radio show The Political Cesspool where he ranted and raved in the usual confusing manor. Though he certainly denounced the shooting, he also praised what he said was the clarity and “intelligence” of his manifesto (which was riddled with racial slurs and writing errors). He doubted the “official story” that has come out and indulged in conspiracy theories about how he could be a government plant, the shooting could have been a result of the medication the shooter was taking, and that the manifesto was created after the fact. He used this as an opportunity to support Roof’s assertions about things like “black on white rape,” which has been a favorite racist talking point since the days of slavery. When going on Richard Spencer’s Radix Podcast to discuss this, he went on about how this was going to be used to strip the South of its “heritage.” In response, Spencer actually spent a great deal of time trying to remind us that we need to begin targeting those with mental illness for the removal from polite society.

In an attempt to act as an unofficial “spokesperson” for the Council, Edwards released a statement to the press that read:

“I unequivocally condemn Dylann Roof’s murderous actions, but in no way was there a legitimate “link” between the alleged shooter and the Council of Conservative Citizens. To say that there is a “link” because he once visited the website reeks of Soviet-era smear tactics. The C of CC cannot reasonably be held accountable for the psychotic reaction this deranged individual had in response to reading truthful statements regarding interracial crime.

According to the Department of Justice, every year there are approximately 500,000 violent, interracial crimes (completed or attempted / threatened). Of these, nearly 83 percent are committed by blacks against whites.

Every year, there are some 20,000 rapes or sexual assaults (including threats) of white women by blacks, but crimes of this sort by white men against black women are so unusual, they scarcely appear in crime statistics.

My prayers go out to the families of the victims in Charleston. After the healing begins to occur it is my sincere hope that mature Americans can finally begin to have an honest conversation about race, rather than being subjected to a one-sided lecture.”

In Richard Spencer’s article on the shooting at Radix Journal he began by noting, without any sense of irony, that this is a tragedy that is going to be used by others as a political tool. He takes it back to the brewing controversy over the Confederate flag where he works hard to ignore the obvious associations between a history of institutional violence against African Americans and the symbol of the Antebellum South.

“As I write, it appears that the shooting has become the tipping point in this decades-long controversy. Roof’s crime, of course, had nothing at all to do with the Confederacy, or how best to honor those who died in a lost cause. That so many have justified removing the flag on the basis of the shooting demonstrates the power of symbolism and narrative over history and fact.

Moreover, it is necessary for us to talk about the meaning of this event, and its political after-effects, for the reason that it was not a “senseless act of violence,” much like John Hinckley Jr. apparently shot Ronald Reagan in order to impress Jodie Foster.”

While he does continue to tow the line of apologism for the act itself, he moves into a kind of meta-commentary where he begins to question whether or not political violence in this way should really be that condemnable.

“Whether political violence is considered to be legitimate and necessary—or illegitimate “terrorism”—is determined by its success and symbolic impact. We forget that the vaunted “Founding Fathers” could have, so easily, been remembered as dangerous eccentrics, who rebelled against their rightful (and quite liberal) monarch out of personal ambition or avarice. In turn, the Confederacy could have been remembered as a just, Jeffersonian order, if it had achieved military victory.”

Counter-Currents Publishing, which has made a name for itself in trying to create a philosophically backed fascist movement modeled on European right-wing intellectuals, joined right in with the usual vile rhetoric that they revel in. Not only were several articles on the subject published, while also being distracted by the recent marriage equality ruling, they also published Roof’s manifesto in an unabridged and annotated version. This will likely not be the last time that this brief blog post driven by homicidal racial rage is republished as the work of some sort of “visionary.” Writing at Counter-Currents website, Brian Tobin laments that these acts of extreme violence are simply the result of an integrated society that is deteriorating because of its multiracial character.

“ How much longer will the majority of whites in America — the ones who can not afford to live in any area other than the “culturally enriched” — be pushed around by policy makers who use them as lab rats in their “cultural” experiment for “public” good? How long will they sit and watch their neighborhoods turn into Third World, crime-ridden slums, right before their eyes, and say nothing? How long will it take for the “backpack of white privilege” to weigh so heavily that it begins to send its wearers into great rage, anger, and frustration?

And isn’t history supposed to be our greatest teacher? Yet no one wants to admit that Dylan Roof is now part of our collective history and memory. The only way to avoid another Dylan Roof episode from airing on network TV is if we finally start learning from (y)our mistakes.

I honestly believe that Dylan Roof’s actions should be heeded as a warning. A warning to the current establishment; a warning to those who wish to maintain the status quo.

What warning is that, you ask? Either embrace the truth and put an end to your relentless critique and attack on White Americans, their history, and their culture, or feel the backlash of those with backpacks becoming to heavy to carry without complaint. To either grant white Americans the same privileges that are afforded to minorities of all stripes, or accept the consequences of which history has written, and the television narrated.”

Though many of the smaller blogs and message boards have erupted in outrage over being associated with such a person and that the flag would be the after target, those associated with the neo-Confederate movement have been somewhat muted. The League of the South, which was created by nationalists coming out of the preservationist Sons of Confederate Veterans, has been having website issues, so they don’t really have the ability to make much of a public episode over it. The Traditionalist Youth Network, which was best known for their campus White Student Union projects, has deep ties to Southern Nationalism and the symbols there in. Matt Parrot, one of the least sensational of the crowd, noted that it would be impossible for people to differentiate between their work and that of the shooter.

“We’ve consistently renounced and rejected violence and hatred at every opportunity, but it honestly doesn’t matter. The American government, media, and academia refuse to distinguish between ourselves and Dylann Roof. For them, the fact that he had ideas similar to our own confirms that our ideas are evil and must be stamped out at all costs. America will willfully disregard the fact that terrorist violence knows no ideology. There are environmental terrorists, socialist terrorists, anarchist terrorists, religious terrorists, anti-religious terrorists, and an impressive list of anti-racist and anti-white terrorists in recent memory.

Dylann Roof falsely believed the lie that the ideology underlying White Advocacy necessarily entails violence. This is a lie which permeates our society, the belief that to be pro-white must necessarily entail being vehemently–even murderously–anti-minority. It doesn’t, but the ADL, the SPLC, the mainstream media, and the federal government have invested millions and millions in crystallizing this falsehood in the collective American mind; that the only way to promote White interests is with violence. A small minority of White Nationalists, many of them outright cranks and many of them surely government assets operating honeypots, also repeat this lie.

It is a lie, and it needs to be put to rest before more lives are lost.”

Matthew Heimbach, the more vocal Southern identitarian of the group, has been notably absent from this discourse, which may give evidence of person problems taking predominance.

It has been pretty well understood that the battle over the Confederate flag is one that has already been won in the minds of most Americans. For white nationalists, this would be a poor way to maintain their goals and a bad place to dig in their heels. But with those who have grave ties to Southern heritage, it is the only historical continuity that gives their sense of racial separatism any American legitimacy.

League of the South members with a microprotest.
League of the South members with a microprotest.

The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, one of the many disaffiliated organizations trying to build themselves in the image of the 1920s Klan, has announced that they will be marching on the South Carolina statehouse in July. After stating that the flag is the wrong target and is a part of “white people’s culture” they set the date for July 18th where they will be calling for other white nationalists to join them in support. This is a unique stand, and one that is fitting for the kind of irrational, emotion-laden organizing the Klan is known for, and it will be difficult to image they get more than a couple dozen people out. And very few without their bed sheets.

Occidental Dissent, which does argue militant white revolution from a Southern Nationalist perspective, lists eight different rallies that have taken place. The Virginia/Maryland chapter of the League of the South did have a “rally” in support of the flag, though it looks like there were only a small handful of people. There are also micro actions in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, but with usually only a carload of Southern supporters, it is hard to think how they would look against the crowds ripping the flag off its pole.

For the rest of the crowd, they will certainly be flying the flag when tied to the South, but there will likely be a more quiet response. For the “alt right” and Dark Enlightenment crowd, American symbols are something to wholesale reject. For places like the CofCC, they know very clearly that they have much more to lose by jumping into the fight. What you can expect is massive Anti-Fascists actions at any even associated with this as the numbers are swelling against them. What could be a nice turn, and something we are seeing painted over monuments to Confederate generals, is that the Black Lives Matter branding and organizing will link up here and provide a lasting analysis of white supremacy in America. While these white nationalists are on the vanguard of restoring white privilege to its glory days, it is institutional racism that affects most People of Color’s lives on a daily basis. If the two issues can be united then this can be a powerful step in a movement to undo a history of white domination.

Taking on Fascism and Racism from the Ground Up.