The deaths of 11 mostly elderly Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh this weekend was the culmination of one of the worst weeks I can remember in America.
On top of the bombs sent to major Democrats by a psychopathic supporter of Donald Trump, the massacre of innocent Jews is a reminder that fascism and white nationalism are still a very serious threat in modern day America. It is also a reminder of where white nationalism inevitably ends up: with dead Jews.
I do not want to claim that Jews have suffered more than any other ethnic/religious group in history -- many other groups have been brutalized throughout the ages. But the ideology of white supremacy is predicated on a hatred of Jews that has shown to be particularly murderous. Anti-semitism is central to white supremacy because it has historically provided a scapegoat for the failures of white European societies. Under the pretext that they killed Christ, white Europeans have persecuted Jews for centuries, and the killings this past weekend show that not a huge amount has changed.
Robert Bowers: Profile of a Racist
The little we know about Robert Bowers, the man who murdered the 11 members of the Tree of Life Synagogue, reveals him to be the classic white, male, anti-semite. As The New York Times reported, he as "an isolated, awkward man who lived alone and struggled with basic human interactions, neighbors and others who knew him said on Sunday."
"For months online before the shooting, Mr. Bowers unleashed a torrent of anti-immigrant and anti-Jewish invective and conspiracy theories on Gab, a social media network that has been embraced by white nationalists," the report continued.
"He had 21 guns registered in his name and carried out the massacre with an AR-15-style assault rifle and three handguns, the authorities have said."
White Nationalism is Synonymous With Anti-Semitism
As students of history well know, the rise of fascism in Western and European societies is closely correlated with a rise in anti-semitism. We are seeing this play out in America as Donald Trump's brand of ethno-nationalism continues spreading through society. It is no coincidence that the Anti-Defamation League reported a 57 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the US in 2017 -- a clear indication of Trump's toxic influence on white America. Trump has legitimized bigotry and unleashed white male rage, and the events this past week can be directly attributed to him.
If you monitor pro-Trump right wing websites like Breitbart over time (which we have done here at the Banter), a noticeable pattern emerges. Editors and writers use subtle dogwhistles, select particular stories and ignore others that fuel a conspiratorial view of the world (and as Buzzfeed reported, we know that Breitbart even worked with neo-Nazis and other white nationalists to help build a political movement that fueled the rise of Donald Trump).
Central to the Alt Right universe Breitbart has created is the notion of a "globalist" conspiracy -- a shadowy network of rich liberals and Jews dedicated to eroding the nation state, enriching banks, supporting Israel, and destroying Christianity etc, etc. Trump has used the globalist conspiracy to rile up his supporters, joining in for example, with the deeply unpleasant anti-semitic attacks on the far right's favorite "globalist" figure George Soros:
Lee Rogers of the White Supremacist site the Daily Stormer continued this disgusting conspiracy in the days after Trump's tweet that no doubt helped fuel more antisemitism.
“It is impossible to deny that subversive anti-American Jews were the primary force involved in a sinister plot to destroy Kavanaugh,” he wrote. “These Jews do not represent the interest of America. They represent the interest of their diabolical and evil race first and foremost.”
[Editorial note: for reference, we don't link to Neo Nazi sites]
There is no evidence Trump is an anti-semite himself, but there is ample evidence he uses anti-semitic sentiment to help his cause. Just as the president publicly attacks prominent black athletes to help rile his base, he is happy to fan anti-semitic flames to further his standing with angry white Americans.
Unfortunately, those angry white Americans are heavily armed, and 11 elderly Jewish worshippers have paid the price with their lives.
This is where white nationalism ultimately ends, as it always has. It is an ideology that cannot be placated or reasoned with, so it must be fought until it is incapable of attaining power. Our ancestors learned this the hard way, and we would do well to learn from their mistakes by confronting it before it spirals out of control.