From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/05/world/americas/terrorism-white-nationalist-supremacy-isis.html
By Max Fisher
Aug. 5, 2019
Many scholars of terrorism see worrying similarities between the rise of the Islamic State and that of white nationalist terrorism, seen most recently in the carnage in El Paso, Tex.
“The parallels are stunning,” said Will McCants, a prominent expert in the field.
And they are growing more notable with each new attack.
Experts say that the similarities are far from a coincidence. White nationalist terrorism is following a progression eerily similar to that of jihadism under the leadership of the Islamic State, in ways that do much to explain why the attacks have suddenly grown so frequent and deadly.
In both, there is the apocalyptic ideology that predicts — and promises to hasten — a civilizational conflict that will consume the world. There is theatrical, indiscriminate violence that will supposedly bring about this final battle, but often does little more than grant the killer a brief flash of empowerment and win attention for the cause.
There are self-starter recruits who, gathering in social media’s dark corners, drive their own radicalization. And for these recruits, the official ideology may serve simply as an outlet for existing tendencies toward hatred and violence.
Differences between white nationalists and the Islamic State remain vast. While Islamic State leaders leveraged their followers’ zeal into a short-lived government, the new white nationalism has no formal leadership at all.
“I think a lot of people working on online extremism saw this coming,” said J.M. Berger, author of the book “Extremism,” and a fellow with VOX-Pol, a group that studies online extremism, referring to the similarities between white nationalism and the Islamic State.
In retrospect, it is not hard to see why.
The world-shaking infamy of the Islamic State has made it a natural model even — perhaps especially — for extremists who see Muslims as enemies.
A set of global changes, particularly the rise of social media, has made it easy for any decentralized terrorist cause to drift toward ever-grander, and evermore nonsensical, violence.
“Structurally, it didn’t matter whether those extremists were jihadists or white nationalists,” Mr. Berger said.
White nationalism in all forms has been on the rise for some years. Its violent fringe was all but certain to rise as well.
The feedback loop of radicalization and violence, once triggered, can take on a terrible momentum all its own, with each attack boosting the online radicalization and doomsday ideology that, in turn, drive more attacks.
The lessons are concerning. It is nearly impossible to eradicate a movement animated by ideas and decentralized social networks. Nor is it easy to prevent attacks when the perpetrators’ ideology makes nearly any target as good as the next, and requires little more training or guidance than opening a web forum.