Donald Trump: A charismatic leader for white nationalists

By | August 8, 2019

Barbara McQuade writes:

From my work as a former national-security prosecutor, I know that many individuals who engage in terrorism are alienated from society and are looking for something larger than themselves to find meaning in their lives. They have endured loss or unfulfilled expectations, and are looking for scapegoats. A powerful leader who speaks to their grievances can inspire them to act.

For many radical Islamist terrorists, that leader was Anwar al-Awlaki, a cleric who was born and lived in the United States before moving to Yemen. Even after his 2011 death by drone strike, records of Awlaki’s sermons posted online continued to motivate young men (or mostly young men) to commit atrocities, in the Middle East and in the West as well.

Awlaki inspired a defendant who was prosecuted in my district of Eastern Michigan, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a graduate student from a prominent Nigerian family, who would become known as the “underwear bomber.” Abdulmutallab discovered Awlaki online and traveled to Yemen to meet him. Abdulmutallab agreed to conceal a bomb in his underwear on a commercial flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. Only good luck and malfunction of the bomb prevented the 285 people onboard from dying and the wreckage from falling on residents of Woodhaven, Michigan, on Christmas morning.

Other terrorists, including those who conducted deadly attacks on the Boston Marathon, Fort Hood, a military installation in Chattanooga, and a cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, also drew inspiration from the grimly charismatic Awlaki.

Awlaki inflamed tensions by pitting Muslims against Americans. “We are two opposites that will never come together,” he once said. “What they want can only be accomplished by our elimination. Therefore this is a defining battle.”

Domestic terrorists, like their international counterparts, respond to inspirational triggers. FBI Director Christopher Wray testified recently that a majority of this year’s domestic terrorism cases involving a racial motive were thought to have been tied to white-supremacist ideology. For a charismatic leader, those who subscribe to this hateful worldview need look no further than the president of the United States. [Continue reading…]

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