Confronting White Supremacy

“Fascism Will Not Go Away by Itself”: George Ciccariello-Maher on Confronting White Supremacy

Just before the mass shooting at a crowded El Paso Walmart this weekend, the gunman wrote in a lengthy manifesto saying that the massacre was in response to what he described as a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” He also prompted a white supremacist conspiracy theory known as “great replacement” that has been cited by other mass shooters. From Mexico City, we speak with George Ciccariello-Maher, visiting scholar at NYU’s Hemispheric Institute. In December 2017, Ciccariello-Maher resigned from Drexel University after a year of harassment and death threats from right-wing white supremacists. The threats stemmed from a 2016 tweet that said, “All I want for Christmas is white genocide,” mocking the white supremacist ideology that white people are being replaced by communities of color and non-white immigrants.

Transcript
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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As we continue to look at Saturday’s mass shooting in El Paso, we turn now to focus on the gunman’s racist conspiracy-fueled vision of the world. In a manifesto that echoed President Trump in parts, the gunman wrote about a, quote, “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” He also promoted a white supremacist conspiracy theory known as “great replacement” that has been cited by other mass shooters.

AMY GOODMAN: Our next guest has long called out racists for promoting such views. In December 2017, George Ciccariello-Maher resigned from Drexel University after a year of harassment and death threats from right-wing white supremacists. The threats against him and his family began after he tweeted in 2016, “All I want for Christmas is white genocide,” mocking the white supremacist ideology that white people are being replaced by communities of color and non-white immigrants. George Ciccariello-Maher joins us today from Mexico City.

We welcome you to Democracy Now! Your response to the two massacres, in Dayton and in El Paso? In El Paso, at this point, the number is eight Mexican nationals have died in that attack, where the gunman cited the “Hispanic invasion.”

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Well, there’s not much to say beyond the fact that, of course, this is a continuity of what’s been going on for a long time in the United States. But, unfortunately, I think what we’re seeing is a real crystallization in the El Paso attack of the ways in which Trump’s anti-migrant panic and rhetoric and hatred, dehumanization of migrants, of the migrant caravan, has dovetailed seamlessly with broader white nationalist, white supremacist theories, theories developed in France, theories that influenced, for example, the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand, theories in which this paranoid vision of the world is painted, in which those who, of course, have the most power in the world — white people — are painted as the victims, as the victims of a replacement, as the victims of genocide.

And so you have this trajectory — it goes from Europe to Christchurch to the United States — in which this idea of replacement has fueled not only white supremacist violence, mass shootings, but these are the same theories, of course, that were so important for Steve Bannon and others in the Trump administration. And so, it’s no surprise that these things are coming together. Sadly, what we’re seeing in the brutality of El Paso is the ways in which these theories are crystal clear in inspiring open acts of violence alongside the everyday acts of violence, the murders by vigilantes of migrants on the border, deaths at the hansd of Border Patrol, family separation and the everyday violence of border policing.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And this whole issue of the gunman’s raising this claim of a “Hispanic invasion,” when — especially in Texas, because, obviously, those who are familiar with the history of Texas know that there was a prior armed invasion that occurred in Texas in the 1820s and ’30s of Anglos who moved into what was part of Mexico. This whole concept now of raising the fear among Americans that there is an invasion occurring?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Yeah, absolutely. The absurdity is incredible, when you think about the fact that this was a state that provoked a war through armed Anglo invasion, and which continued after annexation, after seizing Texas from Mexico, continued to dispossess, you know, formerly Mexican Latinos and Tejanos of their land, of their possessions, by force. And this, of course, is the background of Texan history. And it really, I think, points out, again, the absurdity of this theory that really inverts the world that we live in.

When you read the El Paso shooter’s manifesto, he says, “I’m not instigating this. They are the instigators. I am the victim. I am the one who is being forced to act.” And you see this in a lot of white supremacist narratives today. And it really helps to explain not only the prevalence of these theories, the ways that they tap into mainstream culture. You don’t have to say that you’re the master race; you can simply say that you’re under attack or you’re the victim of diversity or you’re the victim of affirmative action, to feel this kind of white resentment. But it also — it convinces these shooters that they need to act: They are in the face of a catastrophe, a biological, genetic catastrophe that they need to confront. And this is part of what’s behind this wave of shootings. This is what we really need to grasp and what we really need to understand today.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And eight of the people killed in the shooting in El Paso were actually Mexican nationals. During a press conference, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard called the shooting an act of terrorism against Mexicans in the U.S., and said the Mexican government will look into whether there’s enough evidence to solicit the extradition of the gunman to face charges in Mexico City. This whole issue of the presence of Mexican nationals? And also, on Monday, I wanted to mention also that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the United States needed to do more to control the sale of weapons. This is what he said.

PRESIDENT ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR: [translated] The U.S. needs to control the indiscriminate sale of weapons. I say this with all due respect. It is not our intention to meddle in the internal matters of any country. But, yes, the matter should be reviewed, because it has an effect on many. And in this case, it affects U.S. citizens, and it also affects us.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was President AMLO. Your reactions?

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: Yes. I mean, it’s been clear for a long time that despite the U.S. narrative, one heightened and amplified by Trump, that somehow violence is seeping northward across the border from Mexico, Mexicans have long known that it’s actually U.S.-made weapons that are being funneled en masse across the border into Mexico and fueling the amplified violence of the past few decades. This is absolutely clear.

And in a way, it’s very good, I think, to see the López Obrador administration pointing out the fact that this is an attack on Mexican nationals, the fact that it is an attack that is geared toward racist and ethnic ends, as a way of really putting a point on what’s happened and making clear this is not just another massacre. It’s not just another individual with mental health issues or someone who was playing violent video games. It’s an attack on people for very specific reasons.

At the same time, I think we should be careful to not get lost in a clash between two governments, the United States and Mexico, and to lose sight of the fact that many of the migrants — in fact, most of the migrants — that Trump has been demonizing have been Central Americans — right? — have been migrants that have been and gone through their own travail passing through Mexico, which is not always a safe or welcoming place for those migrants. And so, it’s good to see the Mexican government taking this action. We must also realize that the migration crisis is a much broader one. Again, it’s one that happens on the ground.

It’s important to understand that the shooter in El Paso saw himself as participating in border control. His goal was to prevent people from migrating. His goal was to push back what he saw as an invading wave. And the same thing is being done by Minutemen on the border. The same thing is being done by pushing migrants themselves out into the desert and toward death. And so, this is part of a much broader policy, that goes back into Democratic administrations, as well, that we need to confront.

AMY GOODMAN: Also, Uruguay issued a warning for its citizens who are traveling to the United States in the aftermath of the two deadly mass shootings, warned them of deadly hate crimes against them. George Ciccariello-Maher, can you talk about the difference in how President Trump has treated white supremacists and anti-fascists. Two weeks ago, Trump tweeted, “Consideration is being given to declaring ANTIFA, the gutless Radical Left Wack Jobs who go around hitting (only non-fighters) people over the heads with baseball bats, a major Organization of Terror (along with MS-13 & others). Would make it easier for police to do their job!” Trump tweeted. Wants to put antifa on the terror list.

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: I mean, this is not surprising, coming from Trump. It’s a diversionary tactic, antifa. The death count of antifa is still zero. But the point is precisely, and more importantly, that Trump has coddled and encouraged white supremacists, because these are — you know, they represent an important part of his most radical base. He did not want to alienate them, and this is why, after Charlottesville, for example, he spoke of good people on both sides. He has always sought to use dog whistles and other forms of communication directly with antifa. Steve Bannon, again, represented a direct link with white supremacists and fascist organizations, who were directly involved in pushing policy initiatives in the White House. These connections are known, and they are clear.

Trump withdrew and diverted funding away from taking seriously white nationalist violence in the United States, and has continually tried to emphasize instead the violence of so-called black nationalists, the violence of anti-fascists, when the reality is, what we need to understand is that it is antifa that has done the organizing in the streets. It is antifa that has done the information collecting that has allowed for many of these white nationalist organizations to be weakened, to be driven back, that has pushed people like Richard Spencer to admit that they can’t really organize in the streets anymore. This is what antifa has been doing.

And it’s not just Trump that’s been undermining it. It’s been Democrats. It’s been those who want to equate antifa with fascism itself. But we need to, I think, all stand up and embrace anti-fascist organizing. Of course, not attacking innocent people who haven’t done anything, but embrace the fact that fascism will not go away by itself. This is something we’ve been told over and over again. And what we’re seeing today is that these white supremacist organizations are going to continue to attack. Members of the Proud Boys, members of Identity Evropa, these are all mass shooters waiting to happen. They are preaching hatred. They’re participating in the hatred, and they’re engaged every day in attempting to make the United States a much more hateful country. This kind of violence is the inevitable result.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, George Ciccariello-Maher, I wanted to ask you — President Trump today proposed tightening background checks, but suggested pairing any kind of gun legislation with immigration reform, and somehow linking these two. I’m wondering your reaction to that surprising announcement.

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER: I mean, it is surprising, because he’s taking, in effect, the cause, one of the main causes of this massacre, and trying to make it look as if it were the solution. You know, the reality is that he is the one who has engaged in this kind of anti-migrant rhetoric, that is pressing people like the El Paso shooter to the margins, who are then going and reading theories of the great replacement, that inspired, for example, the Christchurch shooter, as well, reading these documents online and then jumping into action.

If you read — and, unfortunately, I think people should read the manifesto of the El Paso shooter, because you see exactly that this is Trump’s rhetoric. But it’s also the rhetoric of border control that’s been — you know, that’s been purveyed for decades, under Democrats, under Republicans. It’s the kind of rhetoric that tacitly allows these things to happen. CNN, not just Fox News — Tucker Carlson, of course, is a great purveyor of the myth of white genocide and white replacement, but CNN ran a headline about the disappearance of white America. These are the kind of things that passively allow this paranoia to seep into mainstream white America, that, in a context of devastation economically, in a context of economic suffering, allows people to be mobilized, to be radicalized by these white nationalist organizations, which are spreading, which are using the internet and which are encouraging people, through 8chan, which, luckily, it looks like, has been weakened — encouraging people to engage in these kind of attacks.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you so much for being with us. Yes, it looks like 8chan has been brought down, the place where the shooter allegedly posted this manifesto, this anti-immigrant, racist, white supremacist manifesto, something like 20 minutes before he opened fire. George Ciccariello-Maher, I want to thank you so much for being with us, political scientist, visiting scholar at the Hemispheric Institute at New York University, author of Decolonizing Dialectics, speaking to us from Mexico City.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, a couple from Parkland who lost their beloved son decided, on what would have been his 19th birthday, to go to El Paso to raise a mural in his honor. Then the massacre happened. Stay with us.

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