scholars of terrorism see worrying similarities between the rise of Daesh and
that of white nationalist terrorism, seen most recently in the carnage in El Paso,
parallels are stunning,” said Will McCants, a prominent expert in the field.
are growing more notable with each new attack.
that the similarities are far from a coincidence. White nationalist terrorism
is following a progression eerily similar to that of fundamentalism under the
leadership of Daesh, in ways that do much to explain why the attacks have
suddenly grown so frequent and deadly.
there is the apocalyptic ideology that predicts — and promises to hasten — a
civilisational conflict that will consume the world. There is theatrical,
indiscriminate violence that will supposedly bring about this final battle, but
often does little more than grant the killer a brief flash of empowerment and
win attention for the cause.
self-starter recruits who, gathering in social media’s dark corners, drive
their own radicalisation. And for these recruits, the official ideology may
serve simply as an outlet for existing tendencies towards hatred and violence.
between white nationalists and the Daesh remain vast. While Daesh leaders
leveraged their followers’ zeal into a short-lived government, the new white
nationalism has no formal leadership at all.
“I think a
lot of people working on online extremism saw this coming,” said J.M. Berger,
author of the book Extremism, and a fellow with VOX-Pol, a group that studies
online extremism, referring to the similarities between white nationalism and
retrospect, it is not hard to see why.
infamy of Daesh has made it a natural model even — perhaps especially — for
extremists who see Muslims as enemies.
feedback loop of radicalisation and violence, once triggered, can take on a
terrible momentum all its own, with each attack boosting the online
radicalisation and doomsday ideology that, in turn, drive more attacks.
are concerning. It is nearly impossible to eradicate a movement animated by
ideas and decentralised social networks. Nor is it easy to prevent attacks when
the perpetrators’ ideology makes nearly any target as good as the next, and
requires little more training or guidance than opening a web forum.
changes that played a role in allowing the rise of Daesh are only accelerating,
Berger warned — changes like the proliferation of social networks.
open up a vast new arena for communication, it’s a vector for contagion,” he
nihilism that increasingly defines global terrorism first emerged in the
sectarian cauldron of the United States-occupied Iraq.
criminal from Jordan, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, exploited the chaos brought by the
US-led invasion to slaughter occupiers and Iraqi Muslims alike, circulating
videos of his deeds.
for all its religious claims, had, like most terror groups, killed civilians in
pursuit of worldly goals like a US withdrawal from the Middle East.
Zarqawi seemed driven by sadism, a thirst for fame and an apocalyptic ideology
that he is thought to have only vaguely grasped.
objected, fearing he would alienate the Muslim world and distract from
extremism’s more concrete goals.
instead proved so popular among recruits that Al Qaida let him fight under its
name. After his death, his group re-emerged as the Daesh.
unlikely rise hinted at a new approach to terrorism — and sheds light on why
white nationalist terrorism is converging on similar beliefs and practices.
terrorists are not born wishing to kill. They have to be groomed. Where past
terror groups had appealed to the political aspirations and hatreds of its
recruits, Al Zarqawi’s found ways to activate a desire for bloodshed itself.
invasion of Iraq had seemed, for many Middle Easterners, to turn the world
upside down. Al Zarqawi and later Daesh, instead of promising to turn it
right-side-up, offered an explanation: The world was rushing towards an
end-of-days battle between Muslims and infidels.
world, McCants wrote in 2015: “The apocalyptic recruiting pitch makes more
tracts, recruiting pitches and radicalisation tales of Daesh during its rise
echo, almost word-for-word, those of the white nationalist terrorists of today.
latter, the world is said to be careening towards a global race war between
whites and nonwhites.
The Camp of
the Saints, a bizarre 1973 French novel that has since become an unofficial
book of prophesy for many white nationalists, describes a concerted effort by
non-white foreigners to overwhelm and subjugate Europeans, who fight back in a
genocidal race war.
manifestoes left by the terrorist attackers at Christchurch, New Zealand, and
El Paso have warned of this coming war too. They also say their attacks were
intended to provoke more racial violence, hastening the fight’s arrival.
requires little more than a community with like-minded beliefs, said Maura
Conway, a terrorism scholar at Dublin City University. While white backlash to
social and demographic change is nothing new, social media has allowed whites
receptive to the most extreme version to find one another.
like what Daesh had found, social media gave white extremists a venue on which
to post videos of their exploits, where they would go viral, setting off the
Berger wrote that Daesh had been “the first group to employ these amplifying
tactics on social media”. But, he added, “it will not be the last”.
Fisher writes The Interpreter, a news column and newsletter that explore the
ideas and context behind major world events.
Source: The Gulf News