When Mark Conditt was a teenager, he participated in a club called Righteous Invasion of Truth. RIOT kids were homeschooled and religious, and spent their club time playing war games, practicing weapons skills, and reading the Bible. As a community college student in 2012, he wrote blogs against homosexuality and abortion. In 2018, he planted bombs in Austin, Texas, appearing to target African-American communities, then blew himself up as police closed in. The question isn’t whether Conditt was a terrorist, but where was this terrorist radicalized? More important, who else is being radicalized in the same way, and what can we do about it?
It’s easy to connect the dots after an attack. A radicalized white man commits murders. Investigators dive into his past. The dots emerge in the clarity of hindsight. In the interests of preventing future attacks, though, we need a clear understanding of how white terrorism works in this country. While not organized by some kind of hierarchical conspiracy or secret cabal, these discrete acts of violence are part of a systematic campaign to terrorize and divide Americans. What’s worse, it’s working.
We know where Elliot Rodger, the 2014 Isla Vista shooter, was radicalized. When the Southern Poverty Law Center published its report last month on “alt-right” violence, focusing on the many incidents in 2017, the SPLC began its account with the 2014 killings by Rodger, a student at the University of California–Santa Barbara. Based on Rodger’s experiences in specific online fora, the SPLC has dubbed Rodger America’s first “alt-right” killer. In his writings and videos, Rodger used misogynistic and racist tropes common in the worlds of “gamergate,” a forum called PUAhate (Pick Up Artist Hate), and other online spaces where he could connect with like-minded men. No one ordered Rodger to kill people, but the valorization of targeted violence permeates those communities. He ultimately murdered seven people and wounded an additional 14. According to the SPLC, Rodger’s violent acts were celebrated in various online communities, including by people who went on to kill in turn. The SPLC cites other misogynist killers, but also people like Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black citizens in a Charleston church. Roof’s racism appears to have intensified as he spent more and more time on the Council of Conservative Citizens’ website. More recently, a pro-Trump white supremacist killed two people at his school in New Mexico, after spending five years glorifying school shooters on alt-right websites. [Continue reading…]
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