White Extremists Attacks Are Growing, And So Are Their Links To One Another

Screengrab / Vox / Youtube

The Internet has created breeding grounds for the spread of white extremist ideology and violent tactics.

Before his attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the alleged gunman posted a manifesto online saying he was inspired by white extremist terrorism in the United States, Italy, Sweden, Norway, and the United Kingdom. His references to other extremist attacks put him in an unofficial network of white terrorists around the world whose violence is becoming increasingly frequent in the Western world.

On Wednesday,The New York Times released an analysis of recent terrorism attacks and concluded that at least 33 percent of white extremist murderers over the past eight years received inspiration from others who had performed similar attacks. The killers expressed either reverence for one another or an interest in each other's tactics. Their connections span across continents and oceans, highlighting the extent to which social media and the Internet have served as breeding grounds for spreading racist, extremist ideology.

In one occasion, a school shooter from New Mexico contacted a gunman who shot civilians in Munich. Between the two of them, they killed 11 people.

According to J.M. Berger, a research fellow with academic program to research online extremism VOX-Pol and author of the book "Extremism," a Norway attack in 2011 served as inspiration for many recent acts of extremist violence. Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 in a bombing and shooting, but before he committed the heinous acts, he wrote a long manifesto outlining what he perceived as the "threat" of immigration and Islam.

“I think that Breivik was a turning point, because he was sort of a proof of concept as to how much an individual actor could accomplish,” Berger said. “He killed so many people at one time operating by himself, it really set a new bar for what one person can do.”

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Comments (3)
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Liz Nash
Liz Nash

I've actually been doing research into this matter myself, for two or three of years now.

Social Media has been playing an enormous role in 'White, far right extremist' rhetoric and has given individuals and groups a meeting ground to share their ideologies. Also, Bulletin board sites like Craigslist and even Reddit have played a part in giving some a place to 'advertise' for recruits to their cause. (though, Craigslist does try to remove such posts as soon as they're revealed)

This issue is getting worse, too. With an international user base, on free social media sites, the tinder is set and ready for flame for some of the more 'ardent' White extremists/Nationalists/Purists. Add to this the Russian and other 'troll farms' that feed fake memes and news articles to these hate groups, and it's only a matter of time before something terrible happens.... and it's accelerating.

The sad thing is that I can think of ZERO solutions to the problem. Free speech is a highly valued thing and at least in the US, unless or until someone actually makes a specific threat and/or encourages others to harm people, there isn't a lot the Social Media sites can do.

I imagine, as these sites ARE privately owned, they can amend their Terms of Service to include or exclude pretty much anything they want to, regardless of Free Speech laws, as no one is 'bound' or forced to use their free services, and if they don't like the 'rules' they could go elsewhere to post things. But, I seriously doubt sites like Facebook or Twitter would be willing to alter their TOS to such a degree so as to minimize the 'gathering' of groups with certain 'mind sets'. Laying out examples of 'hate speech' and then enforcing such a policy would be a positive step, but would get loud and obnoxious outcry.

As a global community, we need to learn to accept restrictions from people that offer us free Social Media sites, I think. People have become more demanding of rights they feel they 'deserve', when using these sites... often forgetting they get the service for free, and by choice. I for one would welcome such restrictions and would gladly champion any experimentation in that direction.