Why alleged New Zealand mosque killer represents a broader ‘social movement’

Why alleged New Zealand mosque killer represents a broader ‘social movement’


JUDY WOODRUFF: We explore the broader questions
about the ideology behind this act of terror with Humera Khan. She’s the executive director of Muflehun. It’s a nonprofit organization that works to
prevent the spread of hate, extremism and violence in the United States. Kathleen Belew is an assistant professor of
history at the University of Chicago and has written extensively about white supremacy
movements.. And Matthew Knott, he’s a reporter for The
Sydney Morning Herald based in New York. Before moving to the United States, he covered
Australian politics. And we welcome all three of you to the “NewsHour.” Matthew Knott, I’m going to start with you. This man moved to New Zealand from Australia
just a few years ago. Tell us a little about the political climate
in Australia right now. MATTHEW KNOTT, The Sydney Morning Herald:
Yes. It’s absolutely devastating for people in
Australia that this has happened, not just because we’re so close with New Zealand — we
consider ourselves two halves of the same whole, really — but the fact, when it emerged,
that it was an Australia has really shocked and made people so upset in Australia, that
it was an Australian responsible. And it does reflect some of what has been
happening in our politics in recent years. There has been a growth of anti-Islamic rhetoric. One of the parties that has held the balance
of power in our Parliament since our last election in 2016 is called One Nation. And one of its principal planks of its policies
is a very strong critique of Islam. The leader of that party, whose name is Pauline
Hanson, described Islam as a disease that needs to be vaccinated against. So this has been a big part of our political
rhetoric over recent years. So, it’s very disappointing to see — to see
this playing out this way. JUDY WOODRUFF: You were telling us that some
of this thinking has become normalized in Australia. MATTHEW KNOTT: Yes, that is the thing. This party, One Nation, came to the fore in
the ’90s, predominantly protesting against Asian immigration and against benefits for
indigenous Australians. And that was — the party was basically stamped
out of existence by the mainstream parties, who said that wasn’t acceptable. And then it has come to the — come back to
prominence in recent years with anti-Islamic rhetoric, and that has proven more acceptable
to the Australian public. After winning four seats in the Australian
Senate, the government and the opposition both needed the votes of this party to get
anything done. JUDY WOODRUFF: Yes. And I want to… MATTHEW KNOTT: And so it has been normalized
in our discourse. JUDY WOODRUFF: Humera Khan, you have spent
a lot of time looking at extremism like this. You have read this man’s manifesto, what he
called his manifesto today. What came through to you? HUMERA KHAN, Executive Director, Muflehun:
So, I think there’s a few things here. One is that there’s nothing — there’s nothing
particularly new in there which we haven’t seen in previous manifestos. So, he’s drawing on ideologies from a spectrum
of right-wing groups, right? But you see the similarities of what has been
repeated before. So you hear the stuff which has been used
by — which is being used by the neo-Nazis, by the white supremacists. There’s a variety of — so he’s pulling from
it. He mentions manifestos of previous attackers,
and he is inspired by them. So, in that sense, there wasn’t — the content
wasn’t new, but it was being put together. And I think what is really important or something
we shouldn’t underestimate is how malignant that ideology is. And it is ideological extremism. JUDY WOODRUFF: How malignant is it? How widespread is it? You obviously have studied this. How powerful is it? HUMERA KHAN: Well, you saw the attacks in
New Zealand, right? But this is not the first, right? We also saw the attacks in Norway. But if you look at just in America, we saw
the attack on the Pittsburgh synagogue, right? JUDY WOODRUFF: Right. HUMERA KHAN: In Quebec, we saw an attack on
a mosque where nine people — or six people were killed. So this is nothing new. And we are seeing these attacks on houses
of worship, which have been going on for a long time. We saw Dylann Roof attack the church in South
Carolina. JUDY WOODRUFF: In South Carolina. HUMERA KHAN: South Carolina. So the thing is that this is another person,
but it’s the same. It’s versions of the same ideology. JUDY WOODRUFF: Which is white supremacy, or
a version. (CROSSTALK) HUMERA KHAN: Yes, exactly. So it’s the spectrum of right wing. And they don’t hesitate to actually — again,
so, when they mobilize, like every other terrorist groups, they are willing to kill. JUDY WOODRUFF: Kathleen Belew, again, you
have also spent time studying this. What are — what should we be learning from
this by now, after all these incidents? KATHLEEN BELEW, University of Chicago: You
know, this is a social movement. I think this is the most important thing to
understand. This is an action carried out by the white
power movement. It has decades of history in the United States
and beyond. It is part of a social groundswell. Its members are deeply connected with one
another. And they’re ideologically driven, as my co-panelists
have said. That means that we have to think about how
to connect these disparate acts of violence together into one story, so that we can start
to think about formulating a response to this as a movement. These aren’t lone wolf attacks. These aren’t individual errant madman. These are political actors who understand
what they’re doing to be motivated and purposeful. And the other thing about acts like this — and
I — again, I’m a historian. I study the period from the Vietnam War to
the Oklahoma City bombing, which is the moment of sort of formation of this movement and
its kind of first wave of intense radicalization and anti-state violence. When we think about acts like the New Zealand
shooting, the Oklahoma City, the massacre in Charleston, the attack on the Tree of Life
Synagogue, these actions are not meant to be end, in and of themselves. The violent action, the mass attack, that’s
not the end point of this ideology. These actors envision these acts as purposeful
political statements meant to awaken a broader white public to the urgency of their ideology
and to race war. JUDY WOODRUFF: And race war, literally? KATHLEEN BELEW: Yes. That’s why I think it’s important to call
this what it is, which is the white power movement. I think, when people say white nationalist
or white supremacist, it serves to sort of soften the very radical and revolutionary
nature of this activism. White nationalist makes people sort of think
that the nation implied is going to be the nation of the United States or the nation
of New Zealand, when, in fact, these activists think about a white nation that transcends
national boundaries. They’re pursuing an Aryan nation. And they’re often doing this violently, with
the end goal of ethnic cleansing and race war. JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Matthew Knott, know that
this is that serious, that this — that what they really want is elimination of people
who are not white, is that recognized in Australia? MATTHEW KNOTT: I think it is going to be now. I think this is a big wakeup call for everyone
in Australian politics and in Australian media that the rhetoric and our discourse matters,
and you have to be careful about where it goes and what you tolerate. And the things that our security agents say
again and again is that, to work with Muslim communities, you need to not put them offside. And to have the type of rhetoric we have had
by mainstream politicians is not helpful in that. So, this is already prompting a lot of soul-searching
in Australia about what has become normalized in our discourse. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Humera Khan, what about
the response here in the United States? President Trump was asked about this today. He said he doesn’t think that white nationalism
is a problem in this country. He says it’s just a small group of people. What sort of response are you seeing today
from our leaders to this? HUMERA KHAN: There’s an inadequate one, perhaps,
is perhaps the best way of saying it. Look, we need to acknowledge that this is
domestic terrorism, right, that this is terrorism, and it has to be dealt with from that perspective. I know this is the — today, the House Homeland
Security Committee actually — actually asked the FBI for information on domestic terrorism. So I think that’s a start. But it can’t end there, because what we have
had is, for years, this issue has not been pursued enough, right? One question I keep asking is, where are the
prevention programs, right? Where is actually the strategic plan, the
leadership and the funding which is going to be needed to actually counter — not just
counter, but also prevent this issue? JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you see any movement on
the part of the U.S. government to do that? HUMERA KHAN: At this moment, no. Hopefully, that will change. But I think there has — there needs to be. But it’s also not just the government. This is a place where — because, as the professor
described it, right, this is a movement. This is a social movement. It’s not just up to the government or the
government’s responsibility to deal with it. Everyone has a responsibility, which means
every sector of society. It means religious, the clergy, society itself,
the education system. Everyone actually has to mobilize, recognize
that this is an issue and deal with it. JUDY WOODRUFF: Kathleen Belew, back to you. I mean, how do you see, whether it’s the United
States or Australia or other countries — but, clearly, we’re a program in the United States
— what should, what can this country be doing about this now? KATHLEEN BELEW: So, when we think about this
kind of a movement, it is a fringe movement. It is a comparatively small group of people. But the thing is that people in fringe movements
have outsized capacity for violence and outsized capacity for spreading ideas into other circles. I think that this is a movement — and the
history shows this — that has really done a lot of work to disguise itself and to appear
as sort of scattered, lone acts of violence. And we see over and over again the idea of
the lone wolf attacker, the madman, a few bad apples, when, in fact, these are coherent
and connected actions. So, the work of contextualizing them, putting
them in conversation with one another, and understanding these events as connected is
absolutely crucial, if we want to mount any kind of public response. This movement uses a strategy called leaderless
resistance, which is effectively very much like self-styled terror. The idea is that a cell or one man can work
to foment violence without direct communication with leadership. And this was implemented, of course, to stymie
prosecution in court. And that’s one level of response. The larger consequence of leaderless resistance
has been that our society as a whole has not been able to understand this violence. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s clear we have heard
so much about Islamic terrorism. It is very clear now that we need to look
at white supremacy as another form of terrorism. Kathleen Belew, Matthew Knott, Humera Khan,
thank you very much. KATHLEEN BELEW: Thank you. HUMERA KHAN: Thank you.

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