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“The Lessons Of Charleston”: The Real Threat To America Is Right-Wing Terrorism

On Wednesday night, a man named Dylann Storm Roof allegedly entered a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, during a prayer meeting. There he reportedly sat quietly for almost an hour, before opening fire with a pistol and killing nine people. He has since been captured.

When a mass shooting happens, people naturally wonder about the motivation. What we know so far is that Roof made overtly racist remarks to his friends; boasted a Facebook profile picture that showed him wearing the flags of white supremacist African states; and allegedly told one of the victims, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” It seems a safe bet that racism was a likely motive in the Charleston shooting.

Until we know more about the gunman, it’s impossible to get more specific than that. What can be said, however, is that the attack is congruous with America’s history of white supremacy and right-wing extremism, a real domestic threat that far outstrips that of Islamist terrorism. If terror is the mortal threat it has long been trumped up to be, then we must conclude that our whole political and law enforcement apparatus has been pointed in the wrong direction.

First, this should be emphasized: Random murders of black civilians are not some historical aberration. On the contrary, they were the very foundation of the political system in the American South for something like 90 years. Segregation and Jim Crow did not just mean separate drinking fountains, but a system of racial subordination in which blacks were controlled through fear of psychotic violence. This shooting spree is the worst single incident in many years — but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Colfax Massacre. If he had done it in 1890, the Charleston gunman probably wouldn’t have even been arrested.

That ugly history has not been confronted in a remotely honest way. Right now, the flag of treason, chattel slavery, and apartheid flies over a Civil War memorial on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse. In 2014, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley defended this placement, noting that she had heard no complaints from local CEOs.

That brings me to right-wing militant activity, which also has not been confronted. In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security finished a report on right-wing extremism, started during the Bush years. It argued that the election of the first black president, the Great Recession, and veterans having trouble adjusting to civilian life (Timothy McVeigh was a veteran of Desert Storm), and other factors might lead to a spate of terrorist attacks, similar to what happened in the 1990s. It was mainly a cautionary note, proposing little aside from increased watchfulness and naming no specific threats.

Nevertheless, the backlash from conservatives was immediate and fierce. Pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin spun it as indicting all veterans and conservatives. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano eventually withdrew the report, and apologized repeatedly.

Six years later, how have things turned out?

Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.

In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012. [The New York Times]

Those few Islamist plots — a great many of which were basically created wholesale by the FBI — are presented as justification for tremendous effort on the part of law enforcement and the military. They assassinate American Muslims overseas. They deluge American mosques with infiltrators and spies. They keep innocent people in Guantanamo Bay for year after year.

Since 9/11, right-wing terrorists have killed more than five times as many people as Islamist ones. Yet a short study warning to keep a watchful attitude towards the former is met with enraged hostility. It reveals both the small actual danger of Islamist terrorism, and the utterly ridiculous and hypocritical way in which anti-terrorism resources are allocated.

Still, if conservatives are confident in their ideas, and do not subscribe to the paranoid delusions of the sovereign citizen, white supremacist, or neo-Nazi movements, they should not feel threatened by close investigations of such people. But I’m not holding my breath.


By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, June 19, 2015

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Domestic Terrorism, Right Wing Extremisim, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If Not Now, When?”: Charleston Church Massacre Is Yet Another Wake-Up Call For Gun Control

This will be short. I am tired of politicians and pundits telling us after horrible gun tragedies that now is not the time to confront our “gun problem.”

Many of us remember when John F. Kennedy was murdered with a mail-order rifle; Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by an easily-bought Remington .30-06 rifle; and Robert F. Kennedy was killed with a cheap handgun. That was a half century ago.

We have watched as gun violence has continued to consume us as a nation. And yet, our leaders do not act; our culture does not change. The National Rifle Association and other groups, pardon the expression, have a gun to our heads.

When threats to our society confront us we act: Trans fats are banned because they have harmful health effects; smoking is prohibited on planes, in restaurants and in public places; air bags and seat belts are mandated because they save lives; billions are appropriated to combat terrorism, which is deemed a threat to our nation.

But where is the courage to embrace control of guns? Where are the common sense solutions that nearly every other civilized, developed nation has put in place? Why have we not responded to this threat, to this reality? If not now, when?

We can grieve and act at the same time. We can mourn and call for solutions to our gun problem, to our racial problem, all at the same time.

In 2013, the Congressional Research Service determined that there were 78 incidents of mass shootings over the past thirty years killing 547 people – incidents such as occurred at Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and now in Charleston.

That same year, Pew Research Center reported that 37 percent of American households have guns, and that there were between 270 and 310 million guns in the United States, nearly one for every man, woman and child.

We acted in 1968 to pass gun control legislation. We acted under President Bill Clinton. But not nearly enough time, effort or courage has been exhibited by our leaders or our citizens to confront this problem.

We are terrorized by our own love affair with guns. It is long past time to get over it. It is time to recognize that acts like the Charleston massacre should change attitudes and change laws. The longer we wait, the more people will die.


By: Peter Fenn, Political Strategist and Head of Fenn Communications; U. S. News and World Report, June 19, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Emanuel AME Church, Gun Control, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Brutal And Cowardly Attack”: Charleston Church Massacre Inspired By White Supremacy

“I have to do it. You’re raping our women and taking over the country. You have to go,” declared the young white gunman as he emptied clip after clip of a .45 caliber handgun into the small group of African-American churchgoers at a Wednesday evening Bible study.

After sitting amid the congregation for nearly an hour, he stood up and started firing the handgun he’d recently received as a birthday present. He kept firing, reloading his gun five times in a rampage that left eight people dead on the floor of the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Another, the ninth, died on the way to the hospital. The church had been founded by worshipers fleeing racism; white slaveholders had previously burned it to the ground for its connection with a thwarted slave revolt; and in the civil rights era it became a symbol and headquarters of the movement. Now it was once again in the crosshairs.

The church sits less than a dozen miles from the park where Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, was gunned down by a white police officer. The calls of “Black Lives Matter” were still ringing throughout Charleston, when gunshots again cut down black lives.

The victims of this brutal and cowardly attack inside the sanctuary of a house of worship included a South Carolina state senator, a librarian, and a recent college graduate.

The alleged killer, later identified as Dylann Storm Roof of nearby Lexington, fled the scene in his black four-door sedan adorned with an ornamental license plate that read “Confederate States of America” with the image of the Confederate flag. After a 15-hour manhunt, Roof was arrested without incident nearly 250 miles away, during a traffic stop in Shelby, North Carolina.

Though new details continue to be unearthed, a portrait of 21-year-old Roof as a withdrawn, troubled man with an interest in white supremacy is starting to emerge.

The Daily Beast quoted a classmate from White Knoll High School about his reputation for spouting racism. “Just he had that kind of Southern pride, I guess some would say. Strong conservative beliefs,” said John Mullins. “He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that. You don’t really think of it like that.”

“Southern pride” still runs deep in parts of South Carolina. The wounds of slavery and the Civil War are still unhealed, in many ways. Despite many protests, the Confederate flag continues to fly over the state capitol building. In January 2000, at the dawn of the new millennium, 6,000 Confederate flag supporters marched through Columbia, the state capital, according to Leonard Zeskind’s Blood and Politics.

This spring, just 90 miles from the shooting, a statewide Tea Party convention invited a white nationalist leader to speak. The organizers canceled his appearance after the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights exposed his ideology. At that same convention, however, Tea Party officials and potential presidential candidates shared the stage with a Tea Partier who promotes a book that refers to blacks as “pickaninnies,” claims that slaves were treated humanely, and insists that slavery was just as inhumane for the slavemasters.

Beyond the racist jokes and Confederate flags on his car, Roof displayed more of the warning signs of involvement with white nationalism on his Facebook page. His profile photo shows him in the winter woods staring into the camera, clad in a black jacket with two flags affixed above over his chest: an apartheid-era South African flag, and a flag used to represent the unrecognized state of Rhodesia, after the former British colony of South Rhodesia fractured and a white minority attempted to take control of the country. Both patches are worn by white nationalists in the United States to express support for white minority rule.

Roof’s recent arrests also indicate that he may have had additional targets in mind for his killing spree. Last February he attracted attention at the Columbiana Centre, a shopping mall, when he asked store employees “out-of-the-ordinary questions” such as how many people were working and what time they would be leaving, according to a police report. A police officer questioning Roof at the scene discovered that he was illegally in possession of a controlled substance; he was arrested and charged with felony drug possession. In April, Roof was charged with trespassing on the roof of the same mall.

In a sad commentary about the dominance of local gun culture, the same morning that The Charleston Post and Courier ran a front-page story about the shooting with the headline “Church attack kills 9,” some readers found the headline obscured by a sticker advertising “Ladies’ Night” at the ATP Gun Shop & Range in Summerville, South Carolina.


By: Devin Burghart, Vice President of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights; the National Memo, June 18, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Emanuel AME Church, Racism, White Supremacy | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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