The far right has entered the mainstream but when it attacks and people die, the media still won’t use the word ‘terrorism’
Sun 28 Oct 2018
On Saturday morning, I woke up to an article about a new report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which concludes that “far-right extremists have ramped up an intimidating wave of anti-Semitic harassment against Jewish journalists, political candidates and others ahead of next month’s US midterm elections”.
The ADL had found a vast number of antisemitic messages on Twitter. About a third were from bots but the most “worrisome and harmful” were from accounts of “real-life humans”, including leaders of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.
This should come as no surprise to anyone with even a casual knowledge of contemporary US politics. Obviously, the first amendment protects antisemitic messages, as it should. But this does not take away from the fact that the recent spike in open and virulent far-right rhetoric will inevitably have real-world consequences.
In just one week, no less than three far-right terrorist attacks have made the news. I won’t name the various suspected terrorists, as this only increases their importance and could encourage copycats. But on Friday, the man suspected of sending more than a dozen pipe bombs to prominent critics of Donald Trump was arrested in Florida. The suspect had been driving around in a “Maga van” for months, the vehicle plastered with pictures of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, with the faces of some of their critics, including George Soros, in crosshairs.
Two days earlier, a white man had shot two black people in a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky. You probably haven’t even heard of this attack, which is being investigated as a possible hate crime. The man first tried to enter the First Baptist church of Jeffersontown, a predominantly African American church, police said, but was thankfully unsuccessful because the church was locked down. According to a witness, after he succeeded in shooting black people the gunman told a white bystander: “Whites don’t kill whites.”
And then, on Saturday, another white man wreaked havoc in a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people and injuring six, including four police officers. According to law enforcement agents, he shouted antisemitic abuse during the attack. The suspect was taken into custody.
Responses to the three attacks have been predictable. Far-right pundits and websites claimed the pipe bombings were a “false flag” operation, continuing to spread bizarre conspiracy theories even after the suspect was arrested. Conservatives pulled out their usual “crazy person” defense, calling attack after attack an “incident”. Trump functioned, as always, as the amplifier-in-chief, initially suggesting a false flag operation with regard to the pipe bomber and calling the Pittsburgh shooter “a maniac”, before using the tragedy to call upon houses of worship to arm themselves and to openly muse about the importance of reinstating the death penalty – nationwide, I assume.