Patrick Crusius, the white supremacist allegedly behind the August 3 massacre in El Paso, Texas, was very clear about his rationale for committing this act of violence. In an online screed titled, “The Inconvenient Truth,” he wrote, “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas… I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.” These words echo what we’ve heard in recent years from a number of public figures.
While mainstream anti-immigrant figures may not condone the actions of violent white supremacists, they play a key role in creating an environment that is hospitable – or inciting – to anti-immigrant anger and fear.
Many of the anti-immigrant views in Crusius’ racist post --rising non-white immigration, fear of race mixing, changing demographics—were also part of other racist essays left by other white supremacist murderers, including Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 Muslims in two Christchurch mosques (and who Crusius names as an inspiration) and Robert Bowers, who killed 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue in part because he blamed the Jews for increased non-white immigration to the U.S.. Both Tarrant and Bowers, in turn, influenced John Earnest, who killed one woman and wounded many others in a Poway synagogue because he blamed Jews for the putative “genocide” of the “European race.”
These self-styled “manifestos” are not created in a vacuum. White supremacists in both the U.S. and Europe believe that they are under siege, and that changing demographics and increased immigration are destroying white European culture. They assert that whites will soon be minorities in traditionally white nations and immediate action is needed to stop these ethnic and cultural changes. And these anxieties are expressed and amplified by mainstream politicians and pundits who also believe that Europe and the U.S. are being overrun by immigrants, particularly Latinos and Muslims, who refuse to assimilate into “Western” culture and are “destroying” the culture and cohesiveness of the countries.
In numerous tweets over the last four years, President Trump has used the word “invasion” to describe the influx of immigrants coming into the U.S. In July 2015, as he was launching his presidential campaign, he tweeted, “WHAT U REALLY SHOULD B ANGRY ABT IS THE INVASION OF MILLIONS OF ILLEGALS TKING OVER AMERICA! NOT DonaldTrump [sic].” He has used the term again and again to describe Central Americans seeking refuge in the U.S. In November 2018, Trump tweeted, “The U.S. is ill-prepared for this invasion, and will not stand for it.” In June 2019, he wrote, “We cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came." The President’s anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric has earned him praise from a range of racist extremists, and perhaps more importantly, has created a space in which white supremacists feel emboldened to not just express their racist ideology, but to act on it.
Even in the wake of the massacre in El Paso, President Trump blamed the media for inciting anger that led to the mass shooting in Texas as well as an unrelated mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, which took place less than 24 hours later. He wrote, “Fake news has contributed greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years.” Similarly, Crusius directed anger at the media, writing in his manifesto, “I know that the media will probably call me a white supremacist anyway and blame Trump’s rhetoric. The media is infamous for fake news.”
President Trump is not the only public figure to promote ideas that are prevalent in Crusius’s online screed. Tucker Carlson, a Fox News host, has made a number of virulent anti-immigrant comments. In July 2019, on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” he attacked Representative Ilhan Omar, a Muslim Congresswoman from Minnesota. He said, “Maybe we are importing people from places whose values are simply antithetical to ours. Who knows what the problem is, but there is a problem, and whatever the cause, this cannot continue. It's not sustainable. No country can import large numbers of people who hate it and expect to survive.” Most recently, Carlson claimed that white supremacy “is not a real problem in America,” adding that the threat of white supremacy “is a hoax.”
Stoking anti-immigrant fear
In his racist rant, Crusius wrote, “In short, immigration can only be detrimental to the future of America.” He went on to say, “Hispanics will take control of the local and state government of my beloved Texas, changing policy to better suit their needs. They will turn Texas into an instrument of a political coup which will hasten the destruction of our country.”
Both Laura Ingraham, a Fox news host, and Anne Coulter, a conservative writer and pundit, often make strident anti-immigrant statements. The two have argued that immigrants are replacing Republicans at the polls. In October 2018, on “The Ingraham Angle,” Ingraham said, “Of this my friends you can be sure, your views on immigration will have zero impact and zero influence on a House dominated by Democrats who want to replace you, the American voters, with newly amnestied citizens and an ever-increasing number of chain migrants.”
A month later, Coulter made a similar statement in a November 2018 interview on the “Breitbart News Daily” show on Sirius XM Radio, telling the host, “Every day, more and more immigrants turn 18 and start voting, canceling out all of your votes… Trump will be the last Republican president.”
In his racist essay, Crusius asserted that, “The Democrat [sic] party will own America and they know it. They have already begun the transition by pandering heavily to the Hispanic voting bloc in the 1st Democratic Debate. They intend to use open borders, free healthcare for illegals, citizenship and more to enact a political coup by importing and then legalizing millions of new voters.”
Coulter has also been very critical of President Trump for not carrying out his promises to stop undocumented immigrants from entering the country. In April 2018, she told a conservative radio host that President Trump’s plan to deploy the National Guard at the border was insufficient because they were not allowed to shoot the immigrants. When the host suggested that just seeing the guards would be a deterrent, she said, “I don’t know, we’ll see, if I were an illegal—I mean, unless they’re going to shoot one and send a message to the rest, as Voltaire’s line in Candide is—‘We hang one to encourage the others’—if you shoot one to encourage the others, maybe they’ll learn, but otherwise, we’ll see, we’ll see.”
Crusius and Tarrant would appear to agree with Coulter’s thinking; each discussed the same kind of incentive to prevent immigration. In his racist essay, Crusius wrote that “the Hispanic population is willing to return to their home countries if given the right incentive,” and added, “an incentive that myself and many other patriotic Americans will provide” (presumably using the threat of violence to scare them off). Similarly, Tarrant wrote in his own racist essay that his attack in Christchurch was meant, “to directly reduce immigration rates to European lands by intimidating and physically removing the invaders themselves.”
Crusius believed that he had to take action to save the U. S. from “ethnic replacement,” saying that he aligned himself with what he called “other patriotic Americans.” Like Benton Tarrant and Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist and white supremacist who killed 77 people in 2011, these white supremacists believe that they are heroes: they took action to save their country and preserve white, European culture.
None of these killers expressed remorse for the loss of life and pain they caused. In fact, they believed that their actions were justified due to their imagined eventual “victories” of preserving white European culture. In Breivik’s manifesto, “2083—A European Declaration of Independence” (the year 2083 is an apparent reference to the 400th anniversary of the siege of Vienna by the Ottoman empire), he asserted that he was certain that the distribution of his manifesto to “a large portion of European patriots will contribute to ensure our victory in the end.” Tarrant, in his racist essay, wrote: “Live or die, know I did it all for you; my friends, my family, my people, my culture, my RACE.” Crusius followed in their footsteps, writing in his manifesto, “I am honored to head the fight to reclaim my country from destruction.”
While public figures who promote anti-immigrant views say they do not condone violence, their constant rhetorical demonization of immigrants creates an environment where white supremacists feel justified to turn their hateful words into action.