Two years ago today, a lone 21-year-old white man walked into a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and opened fire. Shortly beforehand, he had posted a sick justification online, as so many radical Right terrorists have done over the past decade.
All the shooter needed was five minutes to murder 23 people, while wounding another two dozen – many critically – the youngest of whom was two months old. That baby was among those described as ‘invaders’ in a manifesto posted on the notorious 8chan imageboard. Though the site’s moderators quickly took down the original post, it remains only a few clicks away, having been widely downloaded and shared by users.
In the very first sentence of that hateful screed, the El Paso terrorist explicitly cited the ‘Christchurch manifesto’, published months earlier and half a world away, shortly before the murder of 51 people at two mosques in the New Zealand city on 15 March 2019.
Rather than targeting Muslims, as was the case in Christchurch, the El Paso terrorist claimed that his savagery was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”. “They are the instigators, not me,” he continued, “I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”
He called this ‘an inconvenient truth’. But the majority of his victims were American citizens. And all were innocents going about their daily lives, murdered by a man with a racist ideology, who proudly claimed: “I am against race mixing […] physical separation would nearly eliminate race mixing and improve social unity by granting each race self-determination within their respective territory(s).”
In this respect, the El Paso terrorist was no so different from the Poway shooter mere months before him, targeting Jewish people at a Synagogue over Passover in the city I hail from, San Diego, or the Charleston murders in 2015 , which targeted Black people at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. People of faith at their most vulnerable, gunned down on account of their identity while at prayer.
Unlike our armaments death drive, however, this is not just an American problem. The Christchurch shooter posted his genocidal manifesto on 8chan, before targeting Muslims at Friday prayers. Just over six months later, another 20-something white man uploaded a manifesto before going on a shooting spree in Halle, Germany, targeting Jews at a Synagogue over Yom Kippur.
Between those two dates, another white man in his twenties, this time Norwegian, posted on Endchan that he had been inspired by New Zealand’s Christchurch shooting before trying to attack the Al-Noor Mosque in Baerum, Norway.
This is a preventable sickness. The manifestos on these chans inspire further killings. They justify murderous racism to an army of angry and violent young men, who have increasingly talked of these pitiful cowards as ‘saints’ or ‘martyrs’. The inconvenient truth is that these victims are not dear enough to us to fix this problem. Honour the victims by tackling this pandemic, too. Enough is enough.
How this ‘self-determination’ could be achieved short of ethnic cleansing was addressed by neither the terrorist, nor the more respectable mob preaching a similar doctrine in suits and ties, under the label ‘immigration reform’. These may include the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Centre for Immigration Studies, and the assorted anti-immigrant rabble-rousers funded by the radical-Right Tanton Network, which my colleague from CARR, Mark Potok, has done so much to expose in work published today, to commemorate the two-year anniversary of this domestic terrorist attack.
Pandemic of violence
This is far from all of the horrors revealed two years on from the worst mass murder of Latinos in modern American history. Alongside the racism too often neglected in the US, which underpinned the El Paso mass shooting, these, too, are inconvenient truths.
Firstly, tomorrow, 4 August 2021, is the second anniversary of another similar shooting, which killed and wounded more than two dozen innocents in Dayton, Ohio, only 13 hours after the terrorist attack in El Paso.
In Dayton, the murderer fired more than a bullet a second before he was neutralised by police, reportedly only 30 seconds after commencing his attack on a bar at 1am.
This is a preventable pandemic of weapons of war, which are sold, fetishized and serving their purpose not on battlefields, but on American streets. For all of the US’s famed ingenuity, it is a problem our country cannot seem to address, much less solve. With the number of gun deaths at roughly the rate of a 9/11 each month, that is something that shames us all.
Secondly, the terrorist murderer in El Paso posted his racist manifesto on the chan platforms so beloved of self-directed terrorists (who are often misleadingly called ‘lone wolves’). 4chan, 8chan, 8kun, Edchan: these days, there are almost as many of these sites as there are terrorists drawing upon them, as networks of support for their deathly methods, inspirations, and manifestos.