‘Charleston shooting suspect sought segregation, but US has come together’
The incident in Charleston when nine African-Americans were killed in a church allegedly by a white man named Dylann Roof has brought the problem of homegrown terrorism in the US back into the spotlight. Researchers say America is six years into a major resurgence of right-wing extremism.
RT:How big is the white supremacist terror threat in the US in your opinion?
Max Abrahms: I’ve been very public about saying that this attack in Charleston is indeed a terrorist attack. It’s not a hate crime. Of course there is no consensus over the definition of terrorism, but social scientists tend to apply three criteria. It has to be a non-state actor – an individual, a small cell or a larger terrorist group, not a government that uses violence against some sort of a civilian target for some kind of a presume political goal. And in this case the incident certainly lines up with that definition. The attacker, Dylann Roof, is clearly not a government. He attacked a church which is a civilian target. He slaughtered nine African-Americans, all civilian. And the more we learn about this guy, the more it’s clear that he was politically motivated. He is a white supremacist. He favors apartheid, segregation, etc. However, even though I would certainly label this attack as a terrorist one, I do so without trivializing or minimizing the Islamic State threat and with respect I actually believe that… yes although it’s true the US has a white supremacist terrorism problem that goes all the way to the KKK, the Ku Klux Klan, no question about it. Today the primary threat is from IS and its sympathizers and the reason why is because even though the likelihood of an attack may be higher by one of this lone wolf sometimes called right wing extremists, IS is unprecedented in its military capability. It has weapons that the right wing extremists wish they had.
RT:Why do some officials and media seem so reluctant to call the Charleston shooting an act of terror?
MA: By any objective criteria it was a terrorist attack. However, in the US Americans just out of convention have tended not to label white supremacist violence as terrorism. What Americans think of terrorists even those targeting the US… Americans tend to think of foreign terrorists, international terrorists.
RT:Do you expect the Charleston tragedy to trigger any major government reaction to right-wing terrorism?
MA: Yes, I do. One of my main empirical findings over the years is that terrorism is actually politically counterproductive for the perpetrators. When individuals or groups blow up civilians in general the government tends to do the political opposite of what the perpetrators were demanding. In this case Dylann Roof was in favor of a race war between whites and blacks, he wanted segregation and apartheid. But what has happened in the US since the attack is that the country has actually come together. It’s not more divided, it’s more united. For the first time there is very serious talk about removing for example, the confederate flag entirely from southern states. The biggest retail companies like Wal-Mart and Sears are now pulling all merchandise dealing with the confederate flag. Virginia is removing any marking of the confederate flag on its license plate. Republican candidates who had received money from these kinds of associated hate groups returned that money. In general I think that there is a very strong tide against this kind of terrorism.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.