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Six things we learned from the New Zealand massacre: Tim Wise on the crisis of whiteness

3 0 20
20.03.2019

Last Friday, a professed white supremacist attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing at least 50 people and injuring dozens of others. This right-wing mass murderer's online "manifesto" specifically cited President Trump as an inspiration for his evil acts, describing Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose."

It is mistaken to consider the Christchurch mass murderer as a "lone wolf." He may not have formally identified with a specific group, but he is part of a global right-wing terror network and social-political movement that shares many similarities with ISIS and other radical Islamic terror organizations.

These include, but are not limited to:

Ultimately, the Christchurch terrorist and other members of the global far right who use political violence to advance their goals are only the enforcers and most extreme agents of a larger and broader movement.

In the United States, this social and political movement is most visible among the "alt-right." But at this point it also encompasses much of the Republican Party and its supporters, Christian nationalists and "dominionists," and most of the right-wing news media, including Fox News, Breitbart, Alex Jones' Infowars and other, more marginal outlets. Donald Trump is the movement's figurehead, whether he consciously intends to be or not.

In Europe and elsewhere, this movement is represented by right-wing political parties, street gangs and authoritarian leaders in numerous nations, including Hungary, Poland, Italy, France, Turkey, Brazil, the Philippines and of course Vladimir Putin's Russia. As in the United States, these right-wing leaders and supporters have their own news media and other means of disseminating talking points and winning new converts.

As always, the global class of plutocrats and kleptocrats is strategizing how best to profit from this moment of fake right-wing populism.

This most recent configuration of right-wing politics represents what might be called a global "crisis of whiteness," a collective emotional breakdown caused by new technologies, anxieties about migration and demographic changes, and anger at the neoliberal order and the social and economic injustice it has both spawned and enforced.

What is the role of Trump and other right-wing leaders in inspiring and encouraging political violence? How does the Christchurch terror attack illustrate the intersection of white privilege and spectacular violence? Why is this apparent mass murderer and self-proclaimed fascist being humanized by some voices in the mass media? How does white privilege prevent a frank discussion of the true origins of right-wing violence and mass shootings? Are there any viable strategies for winning back Donald Trump's voters and others who have been swept up in this global tide of authoritarian white identity politics? How does the struggle for racial justice central to the fight to win and protect global democracy?

In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Tim Wise, one of the nation's leading anti-racism activists and a frequent guest on MSNBC and other news outlets. Wise is the author of numerous books, including “Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority” and “Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America.”

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity. You can hear our full conversation on my podcast, "The Chauncey DeVega Show."

Last Friday's terrorist attack in New Zealand is part of a much larger pattern of violence by white right-wing terrorists in the United States and around the world. Given the forces that swept Trump into office, and the global movement he is part of, why are people still surprised by this kind of right-wing violence? It has been escalating for several years.

I think we're surprised or at least shocked every time such a horrible event takes place because it is natural for human beings to seek out normalcy and decency when confronted by tragedy. Most people are good and would never do something horrible like what happened in New Zealand last Friday.

But perhaps even more terrifying is that there are people who are good and nice on most days -- they appear to be pretty normal -- but under certain circumstances, they can be driven to the kinds of horrific actions that we see in places like New Zealand, Charleston, Quebec, Pittsburgh -- or in Wisconsin with the Sikh temple shooting. I don't think........

© Salon