White Nationalist Terror Attack in El Paso Was Not an Isolated Incident
Gerald Horne and Arun Gupta outline the history of white terror in America and what its modern manifestation means for our future.
Gerald Horne and Arun Gupta outline the history of white terror in America and what its modern manifestation means for our future.
MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner. Great to have you all with us.
We just experienced a terrorist attack in El Paso with at least 22 people murdered, and now it’s being reported that the killer in Dayton might’ve been incensed that his sister was dating a black man, and killed the next five black people that he saw after he killed his sister. I think back to 1995, Timothy McVeigh, who committed the largest mass murder since Pearl Harbor; Ruby Ridge; Waco; and of course Charlottesville, the Confederate and Nazi flags flying together, and the murder took place there. Now, the killings in El Paso and Dayton. These are not mere isolated incidents, but part of a right-wing identity movement in this modern era born of the Vietnam War, whose roots go back to the end of the Civil War and the birth of the Klan and the end of Reconstruction. What we are facing is the potential of mass violence and the growth of an armed right-wing movement in this country.
Am I being hyperbolic? Alarmist? Well, let’s see what our guests think. We’re joined today by Gerald Horne. Dr. Gerald Horne holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. He’s the author of numerous books, most recently Storming the Heavens and The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism.
And Arun Gupta is a writer and contributor to numerous journals, The Washington Post, YES! Magazine, In these Times, The Progressive, TeleSUR, The Nation and many more. Graduate of the French Culinary Institute of New York and author of a book coming out, Bacon as a Weapon of Mass Destruction: A Junk-Food Loving Chef’s Inquiry into Taste. Gentlemen, welcome. Good to have you with us.
ARUN GUPTA: Good to be with you today.
MARC STEINER: I don’t want just to focus on Donald Trump in all this, but let me play this brief clip though that we put together so you can watch and our viewers can watch, and you can comment on just what this means, and the dangers that may lurk beneath.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are outraged and sickened by this monstrous evil. In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy.
AUDIENCE: Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Today we also send the condolences of our nation to President Obrador of Mexico and all the people of Mexico for the loss of their citizens in the El Paso shooting. Terrible, terrible thing.
At this very moment, large, well-organized caravans of migrants are marching toward our southern border. Some people call it an invasion. It’s like an invasion. …Rushing their border. That’s what’s happening.
And remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I opened, everybody said, “Oh, he was so tough.” And I used the word rape. This journey coming up, women are raped at levels that nobody’s ever seen before.
But each of us can choose to build a culture that celebrates the inherent worth and dignity of every human life, that’s what we have to do.
Two or three border security people that are brave, and great. … And don’t forget, we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons. We can’t. Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people?
AUDIENCE: Shoot them.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You can’t. That’s only in the panhandle, you can get away with that stuff.
MARC STEINER: Gerald, let me start with you. When you see these kind of contradictory things that he says, and what they’re saying to the American public, the danger that may lurk under this, so talk a little bit about your analysis of what you just saw.
GERALD HORNE: Certainly, the 45th US President bears responsibility and complicity for his rhetoric and his actions with regard to these terrorist slayings in Texas and Ohio, but I dare say that the entire Republican Party is also guilty. What I mean is, is that if you look at the recent history of the Republican Party with Ronald Wilson Reagan talking about “welfare queens”— by which he was meant to suggest that black women in particular were defrauding the US government so that hardworking, so-called white taxpayers would not have as big a paycheck—or a George H. W. Bush using the Willie Horton ads to demonize black men as criminals. It seems that the 63 million-strong Republican Party base needed a more intense injection of the drug of racism, and so therefore we now have Donald J. Trump, who has ripped off the mask and has spoken much more vigorously with regard to racism, which has obviously inspired some within his base to take matters into their own hands.
But I would make another point as well. That is to say, that if you look at the troubled history of United States of America, what you will quickly find is that white nationalism and white terrorism helped to build the United States of America. We in North America are sitting on stolen land. How did that happen? Did the Native Americans willingly and voluntarily give up their land? No, they gave up their land at the point of a gun.
MARC STEINER: Right.
GERALD HORNE: Were the enslaved Africans—my ancestors— did they work willingly and voluntarily for free? No, they were forced to work by debt of terrorism, and this continues after the US Civil War, post 1865 with the spade of lynchings. And so I think we all, if we really want to understand what has transpired in this country over the past 24 to 36 hours, we may have to make a deeper dive into the ugliness of US history.
MARC STEINER: Arun?
ARUN GUPTA: So the terms I use for what happened in El Paso and now it appears Dayton is “pograms.” That’s what we’re seeing. Racialized terror, ethnic cleansing, mass murder based on people’s racial, ethnic, religious identity. Let’s not forget that almost a year ago, less than a year ago, Robert Bowers went into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh because he was—this is a neo-Nazi—he was so enraged by the invasion, and that’s what all Trump was talking about last October in the run up to the midterm elections. The invasion, the caravan invasion, over and over again. And Bowers specifically targeted the Tree of Life synagogue because of this a Jewish aid called HIAS that helps resettle refugees. He said that himself.
Then we also saw the MAGA bomber, Cesar Sayoc, last fall who is going after Trump opponents, sending them mail bombs. Trump embraced the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville saying “They’re very fine people” among them, among murderous neo-Nazis. And we know his whole history on and on and on, but the way to understand Donald Trump, he engages in what’s called stochastic terrorism. And what that means is that there’s a general increase in the level of terrorism, but any one event is unpredictable.
Now, I looked at Patrick Crusius’s manifesto. This is the El Paso shooter— and I’m writing a piece about this for the Raw Story—and the words come straight out of Donald Trump’s mouth. He starts off with the Hispanic invasion of Texas. He starts talking about the Great Replacement. The Great Replacement is just this viciously racist manifesto from France that claims that whites in Europe are going to be replaced by Muslims. It’s basically all this lurid Nazi thought fantasy about the untermenge , the under people, the subhumans replacing the noble white, Christian civilization.
And Donald Trump has promoted this. The Great Replacement is synonymous with white genocide. Tucker Carlson, who’s show is— the real name of his show should be the Tucker Carlson White Power Hour— has promoted white genocide, claiming this is going on in South Africa against farmers even though any killings of farmers are at a 20-year low in South Africa. And then Donald Trump promoted Tucker Carlson.
And so, Gerald is right. It’s the Republican Party, but there’s this whole ecosystem, especially of right-wing media and these right-wing figures. One of them, one of the biggest right-wing figures, Ben Shapiro—This is also what makes it hard for, I think, a lot of people to grasp. There’s not much that’s hard to grasp. Ben Shapiro, who is Jewish, has been one of the most vicious supporters and promoters of white supremacism. And he, in fact, was admired greatly by Alexander Bissonnette, who was the guy who shot up a mosque in Quebec City in January of 2017. That was in response to Trump’s Muslim ban because he was afraid that Canada was going to take in all these refugees. And then Tarrant, the guy in New Zealand, was an admirer of Bissonnette, and Crusius is an admirer of Tarrant, the New Zealand shooter. So you see this whole entire chain, and it starts with these right-wing media figures who then Trump promotes. And so what we have is really a terrorist-in-chief.
MARC STEINER: I want to ask Gerald and also bring this home in a sense into our history and what we might be watching here. I think this is really important for us to focus on, at least from my perspective. We’ve seen in the history of this country, after the Civil War, both the Klan was created and as were the black veterans who led the movement during Reconstruction in many ways. The same thing with the Civil Rights movement – World War II and Korean [War] black veterans doing the same thing. We also saw the beginning of the Klan kind of moving up. And after the Vietnam War it exploded again.
So people look at this sometimes as like isolated incidents. This is one mad bomber. This is one crazy guy who is blowing up a building, another person who’s gone in and shot up people, but they’re all these isolated incidents. There’s a mental illness here. But it seems to me that what we’re facing is something a great deal more dangerous and sinister, if we look at our history and our present, which is the rise of an armed right-wing movement in this country. I was looking at a poll just the other day that showed that a plurality of police officers and a number of people in the armed forces also support Trump and this whole idea. So am I making too much of this, Gerald? It seems to me that we are facing something we’re maybe not taking quite as seriously as we should.
GERALD HORNE: Well, I tend to agree with you, and just to inject a bit of good news amidst all the gloom is that the government of Mexico, at least certain officials from Mexico City, have suggested that they’re going to be moving aggressively to protect their nationals who go across the border, for example, into El Paso, a number of whom were killed in the last 24 or 36 hours by this terrorism. This is good news because we know that the way that we have been able to fight back effectively against right-wing nationalism and terrorism historically has been through international solidarity.
I would hope and trust that Mexico would then take this not only into Mexican courts and try to indict this killer and get him extradited to Mexico along with those who might’ve conspired with him, perhaps even those who sold him his weapons as well, but also take an initiative at the Organization of American States headquartered conveniently in Washington, DC, and try to pass resolutions that I would imagine would be supported by countries like Jamaica and Barbados who are pressing reparations claims against the North Atlantic powers for enslavement. And then perhaps even co-op nations like Uruguay, which as you know, unlike many other nations in this hemisphere, have not broken relations with Venezuela. And the same could be said for Mexico.
So I think that hopefully this can lead to an entire international campaign against the 63-million strong Trump base, which I’m afraid to say also contains about 60% to 67% of the entire Euro-American electorate, rising to 90% in states like Mississippi and Alabama. It’s apparent that that’s the kind of initiative that we need because if you look at the Trump base, what you’ll quickly detect is that these terrorists remind me of what was said about the New Deal in the 1930s. Recall that the Communist Party, they were referred to as New Dealers in a hurry, and the Democrats were New Dealers. Well, these terrorists are fascist in a hurry, whereas a good deal of the Trump base are willing to take the step by step approach to fascism, packing the courts, cutting taxes, shredding the safety net, et cetera.
And if you look at the manifesto of the accused terrorist in El Paso, it’s apparent that he would like to speed up the route to fascism, whereas Mr. Trump and his routine and routinely Republican supporters are willing to take the step by step approach. I think our approach should be to go against each and every one of them. The most effective way to do that is not only through domestic solidarity, but through global solidarity as well.
MARC STEINER: There is real danger here as well, I think, that the violence could increase. As people have said here, we had discussions internally here, and I remember Eddie Conway saying to me “We’re not going to get out of this without a fight” because of what is being confronted. And again, I’m asking this because some people might hear what I say and think this is hyperbole and I’m getting just overwrought about this. But, Arun, let me start with you and then I want to go back to Gerald before we have to conclude. It seems to me that this also calls for, as Gerald was alluding to at the end of his comments, that this calls for some kind of strategy on the part of others in this country to confront this before it does take hold in a major way.
ARUN GUPTA: Oh yeah, most certainly. Look, we are in a moment where we have concentration camps and pogroms, and what does that sound like? This is fascism. A few weeks ago the mainstream media were patting themselves on the back for calling Trump’s comments about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the other Congresswomen racist. They were congratulating themselves for being so bold, whereas it’s been evidenced since June of 2015 when he came down the gold escalator in Trump Towers that this guy is a full metal racist. When he begins his campaign first on birtherism and then calling Mexicans rapists, drug dealers and criminals, and then starts talking about a Muslim ban, “very fine people” among neo-Nazis, and on and on, there’s no question he is a racist.
But the question we should be talking now is, are we seeing the development of a fascist state and society? And I think we really are. This is really classical fascism. MAGA, Make America Great Again, is a call for national birth, national renewal against degeneracy. Donald Trump is an authoritarian demagogue who wants to create an ethno-state through ethnic cleansing, talking about removing the millions of undocumented people, talking about “shithole countries,” and that we need people from Norway instead. This is classical fascism.
And so the terrorism we see, we need to link it directly to what is going on with the state. The same people who are torturing thousands of innocent children whose only crime is to legally seek asylum, are the ones who are inspiring and provoking these white nationalist terrorists around the country. And so it’s that combination of extra state violence with the state repression, and it’s against the exact same groups, right? Who can ignore the fact that Trump had been ranting about invaders for the last couple of months, and all this “send her back” stuff, and then you have a guy who drives apparently 600 miles to mass murder Hispanic people. Then Trump is going after African Americans, and talking about infested cities, and then you have some guy who then starts murdering African American people.
These are intimately connected. One is not separate from the other. And the paramilitary force, of course, is a hallmark of fascism. We can have this debate, and I think honest people can disagree, but we need to be debating the rise of fascism because that is what we are seeing.
MARC STEINER: And, Gerald, whether it’s the Native community or a black community, this rise is nothing new. So what should be the conversation we’re having? What should be the response collectively?
GERALD HORNE: Well, first of all, I think we need to begin to connect the dots. Part of the problem, speaking as a historian, is the way history is written. You have a number of historians, for example, who will write about genocide against Native Americans, or you have historians who write about enslavement of Africans, but few of them connect that to the origins of the United States of America because, I dare say, they’re either ideologically weak or frightened to say the truth. And so we need venues like The Real News to get the truth out. And certainly with regard to fascism, once again instead of some illusionists and those who are delusional are stressing what they consider to be the triumph of the Bill of Rights, which by the way did not apply to most of the denizens of North America, not least Native Americans and Africans, not to mention women of various ancestries.
We need more stress on the point that any country that was born at a moment of mass enslavement of Africans and genocide against Native Americans, is certainly capable of fascism. That’s the implication of the recent book by Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, Fascism: A Warning. That’s the implication of the recent remarks by Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez when she toured what she saw as concentration camps along the border, and spoke rather movingly and eloquently about the seeds of fascism being planted along the border. So certainly we need a more honest discourse as a first step towards building domestic antifascist solidarity that within stretches arms across the border and the first instance to Mexico.
MARC STEINER: I think it’d be good for us, at The Real News here, to actually do something you’ve just suggested in a way, Gerald, which is to create something that actually tells that history and ties it to the present so people can see the continuity of what’s going on here with our country, which I think in a very popular way, really hasn’t been done.
Well, Arun Gupta and Dr. Gerald Horne, thank you both so much for being here today. I deeply appreciate your thoughts. I look forward to many more conversations. Thank you so much.
ARUN GUPTA: Thank you.
GERALD HORNE: Thank you.
MARC STEINER: And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. You know we’re going to stay on top of all of this for all of you and ourselves. Take care.