Over and over again, the shooter’s manifesto talks about “invaders” and “invasion.” As the shooter puts it, the real blame for the shootings is an immigration policy that fails to protect “the historic European-Christian composition of society and embrace our language, culture and values as a people.” Wait, that’s not the shooter, that’s a racist Australian senator. “We are talking about an invasion of our country.” Hang on, that’s Trump. “We are experiencing an invasion on a level never seen before in history.” There. That one is the shooter. And none of the three appear to get the irony of decrying “invasion” in support of a white European “culture” that moved in in the last few hundreds years to displace natives who had lived there for thousands.
It doesn’t matter what Sarah Sanders says. “Invasion” is the language of violence. It’s a term that so heightens the threat that it licenses “good patriots” to do anything in response. “Enemies of the people” is the language of violence. And certainly warning people that he has tough guys ready to do bad things to his opponents is the language of violence. Donald Trump has advocated for beating up protesters, for greatly expanding the death penalty, and for taking away children as a means of controlling their parents.
These are dehumanizing statements that generate inhuman responses.
Right-wing media, when not completely ignoring the events in New Zealand, will try to make much of the fact that the shooter indicated that he was not in favor of many Trump policies, and that he had “socialist leanings” in wanting higher wages and less power given to corporations. But the shooter did not enter a house of worship and shoot people who were bowing in prayer in their backs because he was upset over New Zealand’ minimum wage law. He did it because they were Muslims.
And of course Trump isn’t his only source. But Trump is a source—and an important one in advancing both the interest and the anger of militant white radicals.
As New York Times contributor Wajahat Ali writes, “We are dealing with angry, disaffected men, mostly white, who find purpose and community with these extremist groups who give them a hero’s narrative through violent ideology of white supremacy. They are saving civilization by getting rid of the rest of us. It’s like White ISIS.”
What White ISIS wants is clear enough: a white state. Not only does the New Zealand shooter make clear that a big part of his purpose is not to generate cross-racial hatred in America: His real hope is that it will be a step on “making whites wake up.” Because, as he says again and again, “democracy isn’t the answer.”
Anyone complaining about the “threat of demographics,” whether that’s the shooter or Texas Republicans, is fundamentally engaged in an argument that all votes, and all people, are not equal. That there is value to be had in protecting some idealized white culture. That, as the shooter puts it clearly, “diversity is weakness.”
White nationalism might be at its most extreme when it picks up a gun, or a bomb. But it comes in many shades—all of them white, of course. Those shades include gerrymandering districts to minimize the impact of non-white votes. They include passing laws that make it more difficult for non-white voters to be counted at the polls. All of them, from gun to ballot box, are ways of promoting inequality and fundamentally eliminating democracy to make sure that particular racial group maintains control.
What makes Trump “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” for the shooter is the same thing that speaks to these Arizona voters featured in a National Review article.
“When I listen to Donald Trump, I hear the America I grew up in. He wants to make things like they used to be,” McKinney, a retired court clerk, says afterward. “Where I grew up, in the San Joaquin Valley, it was a good, solid community, but it fell apart when the government started pandering to all of these immigrants who don’t understand our culture and don’t want to assimilate.”
A “good, solid community” being one without immigrants. That’s what many voters hear when they listen to Donald Trump. It’s what racists hear around the world.