How The El Paso Terrorist’s Manifesto Echoes Trump’s Rhetoric
Dr. Louie Dean Valencia-García is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right and Assistant Professor of Digital History at Texas State University.
At least 22 people were killed, with dozens injured, at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday. Patrick Crusius, a suspected white nationalist terrorist, has been taken into police custody. In a world where Muslims, Jews, and black people are murdered in their houses of worship, people of color are assaulted and killed by peace officers and adults and children seeking refuge are put in cages by the United States government, such violence in a border city does not surprise given the climate created by US President Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric.
As Democratic presidential candidate and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke pointed out after the attack, comparing Trump’s language to that of the Nazi Third Reich, the president is a white nationalist. What is believed to be Crusius’s manifesto, posted to the now terminated online message board 8Chan, helps us to make sense of this ‘senseless act of violence’.
A Manifestation Of Hate
While the Declaration of Independence set off a chain reaction that inspired oppressed people to demand their rights, the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people, mostly children, at a Norwegian labor party summer camp in 2011, caused an inverse reaction in the name of defending Europe from a Muslim invasion. Sindre Bangstad argues Behring Breivik’s manifesto shows ‘an acute awareness that language is intimately connected to power’. For Bangstad, Behring Breivik ‘wages a virtual war on the ordinary meaning of words, terms and concepts’ in order to ‘rationalize the horrendous acts of terror’ he committed.
Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, charged with killing 51 Muslims at a Mosque in 2018 in Christchurch, New Zealand, is the suspected author of a conspiracy theory-driven manifesto that claims ‘[r]adical, explosive action is the only desired, and required, response to an attempted [white] genocide’. That manifesto encourages supporters to ‘destabilize’ Western government and to use ‘accelerationism’ to push ‘radical, violent change’ in order to prevent a ‘replacement’ of white people.
The four-page El Paso manifesto states the ‘attack is in response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas’—echoing Trump’s own rhetoric about an invasion—and suggests that in order to stop ‘race-mixing’ the United States should be divided into a ‘confederacy of territories with at least one territory for each race’. The author of the manifesto argues the attack was a defense against an ‘ethnic replacement’ and claims to have realized that the ‘Hispanic community’ was his target after reading The Great Replacement, the 74-page New Zealand manifesto. The New Zealand manifesto itself was inspired by Behring Breivik’s 1518-page manifesto, which promotes the idea that white populations in Europe are being replaced by Muslims.
The El Paso manifesto argues, ‘Even though new migrants do the dirty work, their kids typically don’t. They want to live the American Dream which is why they get college degrees and fill higher-paying skilled positions’. Indeed, this anxiety about immigrants and jobs reflects much of Donald Trump’s current rhetoric. Curiously, the El Paso manifesto also alludes to a concern for the environment, water and oil production. The manifesto argues, ‘I just want to say that I love the people of this country, but god damn most of y’all are just too stubborn to change your lifestyle. So the next logical step is to decrease the number of people in America using resources. If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can become more sustainable’.
This reiterates a Christchurch manifesto’s claim that climate change and immigration are interconnected, arguing ‘the environment is being destroyed by overpopulation, we Europeans are one of the groups that are not overpopulating the world. The invaders are the ones over-populating the world. Kill the invaders, kill the overpopulation and by doing so save the environment’. Taken together, the Christchurch manifesto’s rhetoric and Donald Trump’s have found complete synergy in El Paso.
The Mainstreaming of White Nationalism in the US
Anxiety about ‘replacement’ plagues not only radical right actors but also the Republican Party. The ascendency of previously marginalized communities has both white nationalists and Republicans afraid that they will be replaced. The white nationalist imagines a white genocide occurring through racial mixing; mainstream white American conservatives fear being replaced in positions of power. This has most recently been seen in Donald Trump’s attacks on four congresswomen of color, the so-called ‘Squad’. With the exception of Representative Rashida Tlaib, each of those elected women ‘replaced’ white representatives.
The Republicans lost their absolute power in Congress with the arrival of these women. Such anxiety of a loss of power is also seen in the Republican party’s lack of initiative to protect the security of voting machines, the continued disenfranchisement of people of color through voter ID laws, the removal of polling locations and the creation of gerrymandered districts. As white nationalist and Republican ideologies move closer to each other, so rises their desperation and willingness to use the triggers of government and actual weapons.
Just hours after the El Paso terrorist act Saturday evening, in Dayton, Ohio, at least nine people were murdered in that city’s downtown—leaving 27 people wounded. It is unclear whether or not that shooting was inspired by the El Paso act. Even if no connection is found, the Dayton shooting still is the third such event in recent days—following the Gilroy Garlic Festival in shooting on 28 July in California, where three were killed and 12 injured. The Gilroy shooting suspect, Santino William Legan, reportedly posted on Instagram his anxiety of ‘hordes of mestizos’ overcrowding Californian towns.
White nationalists are coming out of the woodwork in support of the El Paso attack. We are potentially seeing the strategy of ‘accelerationism’ at play, threatening what holds of democratic and pluralist society. Indeed, we are in the midst of a wave of radical-right violence coming from individuals who feel empowered because they feel both part of a growing movement and are having their beliefs legitimized by Donald Trump.
This article is brought to you by the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). Through their research, CARR intends to lead discussions on the development of radical right extremism around the world.