Intellectual Enablers Carry a Responsibility for Mass Shootings

Western Europe has so far largely served as a source of ideas that inspire right-wing violence like the shooting in El Paso.
El Paso shooting, US domestic terrorism, El Paso Texas news, El Paso shooter, El Paso massacre, US mass shootings, Anders Behring Breivik Norway, far-right violence US, far-right ideology, Renaud Camus,

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August 05, 2019 14:33 EDT

Another day, another mass murder. This time in El Paso, Texas, leaving scores dead, scores injured. This time the targets were Hispanics. Last time, Muslims — or Jews. Next time it may be the (white) “racial traitors” responsible for the current “invasion” from all corners of the earth. Republicans in Congress, Fox News talking heads, capitalists financing Donald Trump reelection campaign are all delusional if they believe they will be spared. The author of “The Inconvenient Truth,” posted online moments before the El Paso massacre, made it quite clear: “America is rotting from the inside out,” and neither Democrats nor Republican have done anything against it.

Anders Behring Breivik — the perpetrator of the Utøya Island massacre and a bombing in Oslo in 2011 that collectively claimed 77 lives — has demonstrated that this is far from an empty threat. Breivik’s main victims were members of the Norwegian Labor Party’s youth organization, presumably to prevent a new generation of “do-gooders” from actively fostering the “cultural and ethnic replacement” — “The Inconvenient Truth” of the Norwegian people. “Wehret den Anfängen,” as they say in German — nip things in the bud.

Intellectual Arsonists

The reference is to the “theory” of the “great replacement” advanced by the French essayist Renaud Camus. It already served as justification for the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand last year and is bound to serve as justification for white supremacist massacres to come. Today, Camus is generally credited for having developed the notion of the great replacement. In reality, its genealogy goes all the way back to late 19th-century France. This was a period of political turmoil that became the breeding ground for a number of racist, xenophobic and nativist ideational constructs — it would be stretching the concept to characterize them as ideologies — which had a lasting impact on French politics.  

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It was also a time when France experienced a growing tide of immigrants from neighboring countries, looking for work. It was the literary icon and politician Maurice Barrès, a left-wing populist turned right-wing nationalist, who coined the phrase as part of his “national socialist” program intent on appealing to the workers in his electoral district. It was informed by the charge that migrants refused to assimilate into French culture and the French way of life. Instead, Barrès claimed, they sought to impose theirs, in the process destroying French civilization and the French patrie (fatherland) itself.

Camus’s version of the great replacement follows the same lines, yet with a twist. In Camus’ version, the great replacement represents a “genocide via substitution” and, as such, a crime against humanity. If it is not recognized as such, it is because national and supranational economic and political elites (i.e., the EU bureaucracy) are actively involved (via a secret design) in advancing its progress, largely because of their distain, if not outright contempt, for ordinary native-born Europeans. This has been a popular trope on the contemporary political radical right in Western Europe, and particularly in Germany, where it is propagated by the Alternative for Germany party.

Camus’s influence has been particularly pronounced among the various identitarian movements. They have made it their calling to defend Europe against the “onslaught” from across the Mediterranean and what they consider the threat of cultural subversion posed by Islam. Although not prone to violence, the German Verfassungsschutz (Office for the Protection of the Constitution) has declared them extremists, if for no other reason that they represent dangerous “geistige Brandstifter” (intellectual arsonists).

Much to Think About

It is somewhat ironic that the American far right would adopt a French idea. But perhaps they suffer from memory loss, having forgotten the shrill nationalist resentment that gave birth to the brief episode of “freedom fries.” But then, the Iraq adventure has become part of that history long ago, inglorious and better buried.

But then, the American far right need hardly borrow from these despicable, pesky “frogs,” as the British like to refer to the French. They have their own nativist illuminati (irony intended) to justify their actions. A prime example is Samuel P. Huntington, the eminent Harvard political scientist who passed away in 2008. For the general public, Huntington is best known for his expose on the “clash of civilizations” that, again somewhat ironically, has given European radical right-wing populists much to think about.

What is perhaps less known is that at the end of his life Huntington was increasingly haunted by Camusian nightmares about the invasion underway from the south. Writing in Foreign Policy, Huntington detected a process which he pithily characterized as “from diversity to dominance” — or the gradual Hispanization of the United States — the result of mass migration from south of the border. For, as Huntington maintained, unlike earlier immigrant groups such as, for instance, the Irish and Italians, once themselves targets of ferocious nativist attacks, “Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic enclaves — from Los Angeles to Miami — and rejecting the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream.”

In fact, Huntington charged, Hispanic immigrants, particularly those originating from Mexico, had nothing but “contempt” for America’s Anglo-Saxon Protestant “founding” culture — the basis for American basic values such as “individualism, the work ethic, and the belief that humans have the ability and the duty to try to create a heaven on earth, a ‘city on a hill.’”

I Didn’t Know

I doubt that the El Paso mass murderer ever read Huntington. After all, Huntington was part of that intellectual elite which radical right-wing populists utterly despise. This, however, does not absolve intellectuals such as Huntington from responsibility. I don’t know whether or not Camus is able to sleep at night, knowing that his rantings contributed to the murderous acts in Christchurch and El Paso that cost scores of innocent lives.

As a German, I am more than familiar with phrases such “I never imagined” or “I didn’t know.” Seriously? It is time that intellectuals — and those who pretend to be intellectuals — and “influencers” take responsibility for their vacuous musings (most prominently these days on the question of global warming and climate change), not least because they are bound to have real-life tragic consequences.

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So far Western European societies have largely been spared from the new scourge of white supremacy-inspired mass murder on the scale of Christchurch and El Paso. Instead, Western Europe has so far largely served as a source of ideas, promoted in numerous texts online and books, some of them international bestsellers, such as the late Oriana Fallaci’s “The Rage and the Pride.”

But make no mistake, the beginnings of the white panic and siege mentality that inform white-supremacist angst and rage in the United States are also being felt throughout Western Europe, fueled by American-style provocateurs cashing in on popular anxieties and resentments and popular media, ranging from tabloids to popular news magazines. What lacks is the freely available access to firearms that allows virtually anyone to purchase semi-automatic weapons — at least until somebody has figured out how to 3D print them in the privacy of his or her home.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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