Le Monde’s editorial looks back at the premeditated, racist massacre in Buffalo, which shows that domestic terrorism, fueled by white supremacy, is what now threatens Americans.
The tragedy on Saturday, May 14, that brought bloodshed to this predominantly African American neighborhood in the city of Buffalo, New York, confirms that the type of terrorism that now most threatens Americans is the domestic kind, fueled by white supremacy; as was the case in the attack against a church attended by African Americans in Charleston, North Carolina, in 2015, the attack against the synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 2018, and the attack that took place in a shopping center in El Paso, Texas, near the Mexican border a year later.
Racism, the delusional denunciation of an “invasion” of the country, and a rehashing of the conspiracy about a “great replacement” of Americans by immigrants, have once again served as fuel. That is what a bone-chilling manifesto claimed and assumed, a text that the Buffalo killer in all likelihood posted before his murderous rampage and that confirms how virulent antisemitism is among the extreme right in America.
FBI Director Christopher Wray has long recognized this threat, but has been unable to combat the climate in which these hate crimes occur. While small supremacist groups are part of the dark history of American political violence, they benefit from a continuous and growing hysteria primarily driven by a radical fringe of the Republican Party. By fueling one-upmanship on immigration, this growing hysteria prevents difficult compromises, which alone could provide the United States with both an equitable and efficient policy.
Throughout his time in office, Donald Trump forcefully nurtured this drift with xenophobic diatribes and his inability to acknowledge the evil during clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, pitting white supremacists against anti-racists shortly after he took office in 2017. Trump also actively contributed to the decline of democratic norms, portraying the adversary as an enemy to destroy, and doing so to the extent that a significant Republican minority now considers the use of violence in politics to be legitimate.
One can see further indications of this decline in the assault in January 2021 on the Capitol by Trump supporters and the determined effort by Republicans to block a congressional investigation into possible complicity between the rioters and the former president’s entourage.
The responsibility isn’t only political. Every night on Fox News, incendiary polemicist Tucker Carlson fuels hatred against foreigners while denying there is any threat posed by white supremacists, all with the blessing of the Murdoch family, which owns the conservative network. By broadcasting the terrorist attack in Buffalo, recorded live by its alleged perpetrator, some social media networks added a final layer of recklessness to this disaster.
This spiral is all the more tragic in that it unfolds in a country ravaged by another fever — firearms, and their use in mass shootings. Here again, the Republican Party is at work, as it blocks any laws that would regulate the gun market in deference to the constitutional amendment that defends the right to bear arms.* The Republican Party fights to oppose even the most consensual measures, supported by an overwhelming majority of citizens in the United States. The devastating effects of this poisoning of minds are unfortunately counted in human lives.
*Editor’s note: The author is referring the Second Amendment, which provides “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”