Words By Ellie Doughty
The US has long been the global leader in the ‘war on terror’. Interestingly, attaching the same term ‘terrorist’ to those domestic white supremacists sewn into America’s make up appears to be a very last resort. Organisations of white supremacist terrorists, such as the 90s Michigan Militia, the Klu Klux Klan and more recently QAnon are an arguably bigger threat than the Islamic extremist organisations more commonly shouted about in American political discourse. The majority of deadly extremist attacks in the US are motivated by far-right ideology and white supremacy (an often complementary combination), precisely because they are not paid the same grave attention or gravitas as that of organisations like Al Qaeda. Only one murder in the US has been linked to an anti-fascist ‘far-left’ attack in 25 years, the shooting of Aaron Danielson in 2020.
Data in the Guardian reads that white supremacists were in fact responsible for 67% of the domestic terror attacks and plots enacted in America by October of 2020 that year alone. In previous years the annual number for victims of domestic terrorism has been much higher than that of 2020, with CSIS analysts accrediting that in part to the anomalous fact that as of October there had yet to be a politically motivated mass shooting. Recall the El Paso Warlmart shooting in 2019 targeted against Latinos, making up the somewhere between 22 and 66 people who died annually as victims of domestic terrorism.
It was only in May of 2019 that the FBI eventually admitted that the threat of domestic extremism and conspiracy theorists constituted a terrorist threat and potential violence. Beyond the FBI the same hesitancy to label dangerous white supremacist groups for what they are is not difficult to find. The US government and judicial branch did not prosecute Dylann Storm Roof who murdered 9 African Americans at a church in South Carolina in 2015 for domestic terrorism; but rather hate crimes, weapon related charges and murder. Hate ‘crimes’ and ‘groups’ are terms often designated to white supremacist terror organisations, to the detriment of American people’s safety and in contrast with Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ stance; which begs the question; are the terrorists only terrorists if they’re not White Americans with a weapons & ammunition loyalty card and an American flag hanging off their enormous 4X4?
The small FBI concession and other occasional acknolwedgements of this type of terrorism are not enough. Countering violent extremism requires significant resources, financial and research-centered, in hopes of disbandment. But the domestic deradicalization programs in the US are hugely inhibited by the lack of such resources which instead are paid to the never-ending ‘war on terror’ abroad. Statistically, the money America spends on counterring Islamic extremist terrorism abroad, and the number of troops they send out for foreign occupation and engagement are positively correlated with an increase of global attacks and anti-American feeling.
If some of the unimaginably huge resource pool dedicated to this was directed internally, America might be in with a better chance at easing some of the white supremacist racism which still very actively overshadows it’s ideals of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.
American white supremacism has been a problem for longer than anyone alive could personally recall. And yet, it took the domestic terror incident of January 6th when the Capitol was stormed by pro-Trump conspiracy theorists for a significant change in elite rhetorics. Both Pelosi and Biden referred to the rioters as ‘domestic terrorists’ and there have already been calls for the government to utilise some it’s truly vast counterterror measures against the threat and its associations. Even Trump’s ex-Assistance Secretary of Homeland Security compared the symbol of Trump to his supporters who attacked Congress to the symbol of Bin Laden to Al Qaeda. Perhaps this coming year and those afterwards will see the great leader of the free world and his army, refocus their vigilant and often misguided attempts at countering Islamic terrorism, into addressing the ever more present threat produced by so many years of cavernous inequity.
It seems that Trump’s foiled efforts to designate far left wing group Antifa a terrorist organization, whilst simultaneously feeding the hungry white supremacists of his following, has backfired. The domestic terror threat the US has tried to ignore for so long is now standing in its hallowed halls, waving the flag around, bare-chested and painted with the American stars and stripes. A catalyst for change, one can hope.