Possible Extemp Questions
Is white nationalism a threat?
What can the US do to reduce the risks of white nationalism?
Should white nationalism be considered terrorism?
The fight against white nationalism is different (2019). Attacks such as the one in El Paso mirror the sort of ISIS attack that became more common as its caliphate deteriorated. Whereas ISIS operatives once planned and coordinated attacks such as those in Paris in 2015 and Brussels in 2016, it eventually grew more dependent on random acts of violence by so-called lone wolves inspired by the group’s ideology. These relatively unsophisticated atrocities—driving a truck into a crowd, for example, or shooting up an Orlando nightclub—paled in comparison to the type of terrorist operations with which Americans became familiar on 9/11. But they were effective at making the threat seem like it could come from anyone, anytime, and at turning people’s suspicions on one another.
Part of ISIS’s goal was to provoke civil strife in Western countries by turning Muslims and non-Muslims against one another. But even as ISIS fades from the concerns of many Americans, a wider unrest seems only to be intensifying in U.S. society.
The strategy of violent white supremacy is evolving (2019). Terrorism has always been a double-edged sword, as Timothy McVeigh learned when his attack produced condemnation and loathing instead of inspiring the revolution he had hoped for. In the short term, at least, the El Paso attack (coming between two other significant acts of gun violence) has resulted in substantial calls for more aggressive action against the white-nationalist movement, although it is unclear whether real change is afoot.
And all of this may also be mere prologue. While white nationalists are currently enjoying the most hospitable political environment they have seen in decades, America’s electoral system creates constant opportunities for change. The 2020 election, accompanied by uncertainty about America’s future direction, seems unlikely to calm the waters. What kind of country will emerge after the election is anyone’s guess.
Leaderless attacks will likely be with us for the foreseeable future. Twenty-seven years after Beam published his essay, though, it is still too soon to know whether they will ever amount to something like a resistance.
A reformed white nationalist says the worst is yet toe come (2019). It’s going to get worse. That’s the warning of a former violent extremist, Christian Picciolini, who joined a neo-Nazi movement 30 years ago and now tries to get people out of them. White-supremacist terrorists—the ones who have left dozens dead in attacks in Pittsburgh, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas, in recent months—aren’t just trying to outdo one another, he told us. They’re trying to outdo Timothy McVeigh, the anti-government terrorist who blew up an Oklahoma City federal building and killed more than 100 people in 1995—the worst terrorist attack in the United States before September 11, 2001.
The American exception (2019). The United States is not the only nation to suffer from white supremacism, but in America, it has proved uniquely deadly.
How many attacks will it take to until the white supremacist threat is taken seriously? (2019). The anti-immigrant, white-nationalist manifesto heralding an imminent attack was uploaded to the online message board 8chan only minutes before a shooter killed at least 20 people out shopping on a late-summer Saturday in El Paso, Texas.
But in another sense, if U.S. authorities confirm that the document was written by the 21-year-old white male suspected of committing the atrocity, then there was plenty of time—numerous years in which violence by far-right, white-supremacist extremists has emerged as arguably the premier domestic-terrorist threat in the United States. The government may be working to prevent these violent acts, but it’s devoted less attention and fewer resources to the toxic ideology that knits them together.
The Anti-Defamation League recently reported that right-wing extremists were linked to more murders in the United States (at least 50) in 2018 than in any other year since 1995, when Timothy McVeigh bombed an Oklahoma City federal building. The organization also found that in the past decade, roughly 73 percent of extremist-related fatalities have been associated with domestic right-wing extremists, relative to about 23 percent attributed to Islamist extremists.
Such extremists have been tied to deadly rampages over the past year at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, California, and possibly to a mass shooting just last week at a garlic festival in California. The statement posted shortly before the El Paso shooting cited the live-streamed assault on two mosques in New Zealand earlier this year, along with that perpetrator’s sprawling white-nationalist manifesto, as inspiration. (The motive for a killing spree in Dayton, Ohio, mere hours after the El Paso shooting isn’t yet clear.)