People like MAGAbomber, Cesar Sayoc; the Butcher of Squirrel Hill, Robert Bowers; and "whites don't shoot whites" killer, Gregory Bush; are routinely dismissed by Trump & Company as rogues, nutjobs, loners who have no connection to the Mango Mussolini. Trump prefers to blame the mainstream media for the rash of wanton mayhem.
Not so fast, lard ass. At the epicenter of this maelstrom stands one man - Donald J. Trump. The Atlantic reports that an analysis of 30,000 online extremists finds that Trump is "the glue that binds."
While the author found the alt.right to be a collection of sometimes competing ideologies, he identifies three elements that unite them: opposition to immigrants and Muslims; conspiracy theories; and, above all, allegiance to Donald Trump.
America is caught in a wave of radicalization being driven from the top, by the toxic rhetoric Trump blasts almost daily from the biggest pulpit in the world, the U.S. presidency. His casual invocations of violence and consistent demonization of his political enemies have opened the floodgates of hate in communities where anger has long simmered.
...I recently analyzed about 30,000 Twitter accounts that self-identified as alt-right, or followed someone who did, for vox-Pol, the European academic network studying extremism on social media. The results were illuminating.
The alt-right is often described as a movement or ideology. It is better understood as a political bloc that seeks to unify the activities of several different extremist movements or ideologies. While it is international in reach, its center of gravity can be found in the United States. Because the alt-right is a bloc, it has to be understood by mapping its components and analyzing how they overlap and how they differ. (Not everyone who associates with the bloc online self-identifies as alt-right.)
Support for Trump: This, more than anything else, was the glue that held the alt-right social network together. Support for Trump was shared by virtually all parts of the network and was reflected in nearly every metric, including tabulations of the most-followed, most-retweeted, and most-influential accounts; the most-used words in Twitter profiles; and in the top two hashtags (#maga, which outperformed all other hashtags by a wide margin, and #trump).The melting pot of violent, right-wing radicalism.
...While investigations are ongoing in all three of last week’s incidents, each terrorist appeared to take a different path toward violence. The alt-right bloc and the movements adjacent to it are just cohesive enough that those who enter their echo chamber can access an à la carte menu of ideological bullet points that are especially attractive to potential lone-actor terrorists. Adherents can pick and choose from a multitude of grievances and conspiracies originating with different ideological strains, and some will emerge with a set of beliefs and influences that may be hard to decipher.
This can be seen most clearly in the case of Sayoc, the suspect in the mail-bomb spree. Sayoc was prolific on social media, but so far his online activity shows a general right-wing orientation, a love of conspiracies, and a baffling claim of nonwhite ethnic identity, while some who knew him offline said he identified as a white supremacist. ...Sayoc appears to have availed himself of the à la carte nature of the American far-right landscape, picking and choosing conspiracy theories and hyperpartisan opinions from wherever he encountered them, without locking himself into a specific ideology, except, perhaps, “Trump superfan.”
In the case of the deadly synagogue shooting on Saturday, the perpetrator was much more clearly involved with anti-Semitism and the alt-right, maintaining a presence on gab.com, the social network popular with alt-right users because of its relatively permissive environment. Many alt-right members, white nationalists, and other extremists relocated their social-media activity to Gab after being suspended on Twitter or Facebook. Reflecting the à la carte menu of influences available to him, the shooter was cool on Trump (finding him to be too friendly with Jews) but extremely hot on Trump’s rhetorical target du jour: the immigrant caravan, which has increasingly dominated the far-right ecosystem in recent days. Trump’s perseverations on the issue have created a feedback loop driving still more coverage, in both mainstream and alternative outlets. Whether or not the Pittsburgh shooter was a Trump fan, he was influenced by the consequences of Trump’s rhetoric.
In the case of the Kentucky shooter, little is known so far about his path to radicalization, although he appeared to target African Americans and had some history of violence against his African American ex-wife going back some years.Another article in The Atlantic traces how, early in his administration, Trump defunded groups that had been working to counter violent extremism.