Ethnonationalist Terrorism: Informative Essay

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For many right-wing terrorists, the key driver that motivates their cause is the fear of extinction of the so-called white race. Whether this be through the prospect of equality for black people within the United States that motivated the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), or the increasing presence of Muslims within Norweigan society that enraged Anders Breivik, it is evident that a great deal of right-wing terrorists are driven by the fear of extinction of the white race. However, in order for this statement to be true, it must be applicable to right-wing terrorist organizations and individuals globally. For many right-wing groups in Asia and Africa, it is clear that their motivation is not the extinction of the white race. Specifically, for Islamist groups that can be deemed as right-wing organizations due to their isolationist and conservative viewpoints, the eradication of the white race and at least the separation of Muslim people from all other people globally is their key motivation. Therefore, the key driver for right-wing terrorists globally is not the extinction of the white race specifically, but the erosion of respective morality within the country or religion that they believe is being harmed.

In numerous forms of extreme right-wing terrorism, the fear of the extinction of the white race is a key driver which motivates their violent actions. Before investigating whether or not this fear is the key driver for right-wing terrorist organizations, it is important to understand what the definition of terrorism is. Still, a disputed term, terrorism can be understood as ‘the deliberate use of violence against a person or persons while employing guerilla warfare tactics in an effort to achieve political, ideological and religious goals’ (Hughbank 2010, p.18). Through this definition, it is clear to see that there are numerous racially motivated right-wing groups and lone actors that constitute terrorists, such as the KKK and Norweigan Anders Behring Breivik. Some extreme right-wing terrorist groups in the United States and globally seek to achieve a ‘Racial Holy War (RAHOWA) which would restore white racial supremacy in the United States – and perhaps beyond’ (Taylor, Holbrook & Currie 2013, p.20). However, there are numerous far-right groups that would also see a form of separatism as adequate, where a separate white bastion in a physical environment’ (Taylor, Holbrook & Currie 2013, p.20) would allow these individuals not to be disrupted by other races. In both of these instances, the key driver of their cause is the fear of the extinction of the white race, whether through the uprising of other races or through interracial relationships. The aforementioned race war is a desire for the KKK, who ‘lash out at the object of their hate’, repeatedly conducting violent actions against darker-skinned people (Brannan 2007, p.207). This has been blatantly demonstrated in events such as the Greensboro Massacre, an event that took place on November 3rd, 1979, where five people from the Communist Workers Party were killed for their participation against the KKK and their support of black workers' rights (Cunningham, Nugent, & Slodden 2010). During a tense protest which yielded antagonization from both groups, ‘KKK and Nazi members retrieved guns from their cars and opened fire on the demonstrators’ (Cunningham, Nugent, & Slodden 2010, p.1521), demonstrating their willingness to not only use violence to further their cause but to kill those who supported the liberation and freedom of black people. This notion of fear and hatred for the KKK largely stems from their desire to preserve the white race in the United States, with the organization viewing racial equality as the first step towards a mixed-race society. As such, it is clearly not just a key driver for the group, but the key driver. The fear of extinction of the Nordic race, and thus the white race, is also a key motivation for Anders Breivik. Breivik is a Norweigan right-wing terrorist who killed 77 people and injured hundreds more in attacks on the Norweigan Labour Party in 2011. These acts, while targeted at Norweigan citizens, attempted to send the message that there was discontent with the political direction that Norway was heading in and that the increasing presence of Muslims, Socialists, and Feminists within Norweigan society would lead to the downfall of the nation. Breivik’s views, while inconsistent and often times confusing, are ‘strongly linked with racism’ with the consistent ‘stated focus on the Muslims’ highlighting his racist motivations for the attack (Hemmingby, 2015, p.33). Breivik also explicitly ‘writes extensively about ‘the Nordic race’ and the ‘need to preserve it’ by avoiding ‘racial mixing’’, a clear link to classic right-wing terrorist motivations (Bangstad, 2014, p.94). Thus, Breivik believes that by carrying out this terrorist attack, he can incite a race war between Europeans and immigrants of different backgrounds to ensure the preservation of the homogenous Nordic society and halt the Cultural Marxism that he believes is plaguing Northern Europe. For Breivik, while he despises other influences in Nordic society such as Feminism and Socialism, the increasing presence of foreigners and what that might mean for white Nordic people was his key driver for carrying out the attack on the Norweigan Labour Party camp. Thus, it is evident that right-wing terrorist organizations in the West are bound by the fear of the extinction of the white race as a key driver.

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Despite the fear of the extinction of the white race being a prevalent factor in Western right-wing terrorism, internationally speaking, numerous right-wing terrorist organizations are in direct opposition to this ideal. In order for this idea to be true, all right-wing terrorist organizations must fear the extinction of the white race and have that fear be a key driver that motivates their terroristic actions. Evidently, right-wing terrorist organizations exist outside of the Western idea of what right-wing terrorism is, for instance in Africa and South East Asia. As such, these groups, if they are ethno-nationalists, would not fear the extinction of the white race, but rather the extinction of their own ethnic group. This can be understood through the lens of Islamic terrorism and how it can be perceived as right-wing outside of its usual categorization as simply Islamism. In order for Islamic terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS to be deemed as right-wing terrorists, it is important to understand what constitutes both terrorism and the right wing. These groups can be evidently denoted as terrorists as they carry out attacks against other people with political and religious motivations. For Al Qaeda and ISIS, ‘They believe that their murderous actions will earn them a place in heaven as a martyr’ (Hughbank 2010, p.19), demonstrating that the desire for a utopian afterlife is what guides their actions. In addition, both of these groups can be understood as right-wing terrorist organizations, as they believe in a reversion of political and religious ideals, alongside the eradication or removal of foreign interference such as Jews and the West. Both Al Qaeda and ISIS believe that the West is ‘engaged in a cultural, economic, and military onslaught that seeks to destroy the religion of Islam’ (Haykel 2016, p.72), therefore they can both be deemed right-wing terrorist groups as they seek the downfall of a particular group of people. Specifically, Al Qaeda became a terrorist organization that despised the West after the ‘American military intervention in the Gulf and its preliminary stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia’(Ibrahimi 2018, p.142). These actions by the United States led to Al Qaeda becoming much more ‘far-enemy-centric, caliphate-based, and anti-Americanist’ (Ibrahimi 2018, p.143). However, according to Rohan Gunaratna, Al Qaeda is not specifically against Americans and their way of life, so much as ‘what they perceive the American government…is doing to Muslim countries' (2002, p.45). While Al Qaeda’s motivations for their actions may be understood due to the influence of the West in the Middle East, it is clear that they can be seen as a right-wing terrorist organisation as they despise a specific nation and the ideology that underpins it. A major difference between the two terrorist organisations is that Al Qaeda is attempting to ‘destabilize states while ISIS is trying to build one’ (Chaliand 2016, p.442), meaning that they are attempting to establish the Caliphate, the Islamic State, where all Muslims will be under its authority and it is ruled under Sharia law. ISIS is seeking to ‘ensure that a rigidly fundamentalist interpretation of Islam becomes the only accepted religion’ globally while displaying a ‘resistance to Western influence and encroachment’’ (Hoffman 2017, p.99). Thus, it is evident that ISIS can also be deemed as a right-wing terrorist organisation, as they wish to establish a land mass free from apostates and non-believers, a clear showing of hatred for another group and an evident display of the fear of the extinction of the Muslim people. Ultimately, if Islamic terrorist organisations can be seen as right-wing terrorists through their fear of outside influence and desire for regression, the key driver for these organisations globally may not be the fear of extinction of the white race, but the fear of the extinction of their respective races.

As it is clear that not all forms of right-wing terrorism are driven by the fear of the extinction of the white race, it is reasonable to then assume that right-wing terrorist organisations globally can be defined by other universal ideals. In order to comprehend what the key driver is for right-wing terrorism, it is crucial that the different motivations for terrorism are understood. Broadly, terrorism can be divided into four separate categories, those being ‘social-revolutionary, ethnic-nationalistic, religious and vigilantist’ (Heitmeyer 2005, p.144). While the ethno-nationalist element is prominent within right-wing terrorist organisations, ‘other forms of terror… must not be overlooked’ (Heitmeyer 2005, p.145). Evidently, many of these groups are social-revolutionaries, as they desire a change in the political landscape that would see a regression of current day policy to the way that their respective nation was operating in the past. In addition, many of these groups may also be seen as vigilantists, as they believe that they are making a personal sacrifice against the encroaching evil in order to preserve good in society. This idea may also be influenced by a religious viewpoint, with many right-wing terrorist organisations claiming that they are carrying out their actions in the name of God or Allah as is written in scripture. As such, there are many different motivations for right-wing terrorism that cannot be broadly understood as solely ethno-nationalist. Daniel Koehler references Ehud Sprinzak when he suggests that right-wing terrorism can be understood as the desired eradication of ‘‘inferior’ human beings ‘who want to get more than they deserve’’ (2017, p.52). This can certainly be seen within the context of racially motivated terrorist attacks in the United States, where the KKK killed, lynched and injured black people across the country in order to halt the progress of equality. However, this can be equally seen in the modern day Middle East, with ISIS seeking the eradication of apostates and non-believers, usually in the form of symbolically Western individuals such as journalists. As George Michael suggests, ‘the far right is a very nuanced movement, consisting of a multitude of different groups, which often disagree on issues’ (2003, p.36). This can be seen not only globally, but in the context of the United States, where the KKK often targeted Catholic members of the far-right who they believed were not adequately supporting the regressive cause. In addition, they also targeted homosexuals, many of whom were white, demonstrating that the sole motivator for their cause was not only the eradication of the white race, but the shift in the United States moral standpoint. Therefore, in all cases of right-wing terrorism including Islamism, Taylor, Holbrook & Currie suppose that ‘Leaders of extreme right-wing groups...are thus faced with a perceived threat to those values and identities they hold dear’ (2013, p.234). This, unlike the fear of the eradication of the white race, is the key driver for all right-wing terrorist organisations globally, as it is the encroaching change to the status quo and the threat to what they deem to be moral that underpins their respective ideologies. While this idea of a threat to morality could also be applied to other terrorist organisations, the common demoninator that underpins right-wing extremist terrorism is that they ‘are strongly opposed to liberal democracy’ (Ravndal 2018, p.847), regardless of the group or idea that they target. Thus, the key driver for all right-wing terrorist organisations is not the fear of extinction of the white race, but the fear of a shift in the moral standing of their respective countries, whether that be through equality for different races, religions, sexualities or viewpoints.

Ultimately, the fear of extinction of the white race is a key driver that motivates many different right-wing terrorist organisations. Whether it be the KKK or Anders Breivik, these right-wing groups and individuals see different cultures and races as potentially damaging to their own people, and thus carry out acts of violence against them and those who support them. However, right-wing terrorist groups globally, such as Islamist groups, clearly do not fear the extinction of the white race, but rather fear the extinction of the Muslim people, as they commit acts of violence in the name of Allah to preserve their identity. As such, this means that the fear of extinction of the white race cannot be a key driver in all forms of right-wing terrorism, as many groups globally are fundementally against this idea. As such, the key driver that motivates all right-wing terrorist groups and individuals globally is the fear of a change in the moral status quo within their respective nation or area and the liberal democratic idea of equality for all.

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