The resemblance between the two is uncanny. Both command allegiance of a small group of people. At the core of each group is hate. In each case, they are committed to killing anyone who disagrees. Even though they operate locally, both are global in nature.
For the past several years, the world’s attention has remained fixated on the rising threat from jihadi fundamentalism. Meanwhile, a new kind of fundamentalism that spread its roots in several western countries has largely escaped our attention. That is, until now. Last week’s cowardly attack by a white nationalist in Christchurch, New Zealand that left 50 people dead and another 40 or so wounded has caused bewilderment in the minds of many westerners.
But it should not. The Christchurch massacre, no matter how ghastly it may seem, was waiting to happen, right in front of their eyes. They simply chose to ignore it.
There has been a steady growth of a white ethnocentric sentiment that targets immigrants, including Muslims, who seek shelter in the west. The most extreme elements within this movement are white nationalists who believe the outsiders, whether black, yellow or brown, are polluting their pure Judeo-Christian culture. This purity is defined by two elements: all its members are white and all are Christians. To keep their civilization as pristine as they envisage, they want to see everyone outside the group expelled. If that proves difficult, the least they want is halting all non-white immigration. Migrants from Norway are fine. Anyone from the ‘shit-hole countries’ is not.
There was a time when KKK was considered the vanguard of this white nationalist movement in the US. In the past 70 years, with the gradual expansion of civil rights and establishment of some form of liberal democracy, KKK has become just another fringe group. Too extremist to be taken seriously.
Wrong. These people, whether organized in groups or unorganized individuals, were always part of the western civilization. Many of them have always been convinced that there is a divine blessing for their civilizational mission. Just recall Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden. Addressing the Americans, the old British white nationalist unabashedly had urged the white Americans to go and win it all so that the darkies become civilized. It is what God wants them to do.
The same demonic spirit inspired the Nazis who in the name of their ethnic purity sent millions of Jews to the gas chamber.
As long as the white people ruled the world – which they did for nearly five hundred years – there was no reason for worry. Things started to change when the darkies demanded freedom and began winning independence. Once free, they demanded equality. Worse happened after the Second World War, when the West needing additional workforce for their growing economy, allowed non-whites to immigrate into their countries. It took them a handful of decades to realize that these ‘outsiders’ were multiplying too fast, and threatened to overtake them demographically. That’s when they began repeating the mantra: you will not replace us.
One of the key players in this movement has been Pat Buchanan, a Republican politician who unsuccessfully ran three times for the White House. In his “The death of the West,” he predicted the West would die unless the ‘invasion’ from outside is stopped. He even had a firm date when this death would occur: 2050, by which time the US would become a Third World country. If you want to stop it, he seemed to tell his white brethren, go gather your pitchforks.
In 2016, another Presidential candidate would use the word ‘invasion’ to describe the threat from the metaphorical south. Unlike Buchanan, he captured the White House and mainstreamed white nationalism.
This tide is swelling not just along the US shores. Call it whatever you like, white nationalism, white supremacy or ethno nationalism, in much of Europe there is now a rising demand to close all doors to immigration. Even the civilized British voted to get out of the European Union to rein in immigration. Using this anti-immigration fever, some demagogic politicians have risen to the top. Take, for example, Victor Orban of Hungry. Already his country’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Orban has told Europe, stop immigration or die. His best-known one-liner, A nation which expects its biological survival from immigrants won’t survive, has inspired white nationalists everywhere, including in the US where one of the best-known white nationalists Pat Ramsey hailed Orban as a hero. Unsurprisingly, Ramsey called Orban the “Donald Trump of Europe’!
Since Donald Trump’s election, there has been a remarkable rise in activities of white supremacist groups in the US. The Southern Poverty Law Center has compiled a list of such groups, it shows their activities now include not just the conservative ‘Trump Belt’, but far beyond. The Center even categorized them into different thematic groups: Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, racist skinhead and Christian Identity. All are united by one idea, supremacy of the white people and hatred for everybody else.
With continuing immigration, threats from white nationalists will only grow. Like jihadi fundamentalism, combatting the menace will require much more than ‘prayers and good wishes.’
First and foremost, we need to protest. We need to rise against all forms of fundamentalism, whether it draws inspirations from religion, ethnicity or any form of bigotry. Our silence will only allow the bigoted groups to claim accommodation on Main Street.
Secondly, the clear target of white nationalists is immigrants. They too need to step up and become part of the resistance. Instead of staying in the shadow, immigrants need to find a partnership with progressive forces and become visible.
Thirdly, white nationalism has found a great tool to spread its fangs. It’s called the internet. It not only allows them to unite in brotherhood, but also to spread lies and malicious stories, the sole purpose of which is spreading fear. Big tech companies, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google, need to police themselves better to shut off these hate-mongering groups. Instead of relying on their civic sense, we need to proactively tell them what needs to be done.
There is also a need to better understand why white nationalism appeals to a significant portion of the population. No matter how hateful and pernicious, this movement has invented a rational. No one can deny that immigration has caused fear in the minds of people in the West. Instead of dismissing such fears as irrelevant, we need to dispel them. It is equally important to explain how a globalized world can bring prosperity to all sides.
Hate can never win if we all do our part.
21 March 2019, New York