New analysis explores how GOP lawmakers are fueling far-right extremists like the Buffalo mass shooting

New analysis explores how GOP lawmakers are fueling far-right extremists like the Buffalo mass shooting
Far-right demonstrators marching with Nazi and Confederate flags at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, Wikimedia Commons

The latest mass shooting, which claimed the lives of 10 Black victims in Buffalo, N.Y., has reignited concerns about dangerous rhetoric perpetuated by far-right media and conspiracy theorists. The Guardian's Cas Mudde recently explored how right-wing media and Republican lawmakers have contributed to this ongoing problem.

"The problem is, we can talk endlessly about better regulating social media or calling for even more funding and powers for public and private 'counter-terrorism' organizations, but none of that will make us safer as long as the broader conservative movement embraces and propagates far-right propaganda," wrote Mudde, who is also a professor for the University of Georgia's School of Public and International Affairs. "This is a point worth repeating, even if I and others have made it many times before."

Mudde went on to validate his point by highlighting how the Buffalo shooter's manifesto echoed dangerous talking points from far-right media. The disturbed terrorist referenced concerns about "the Left," America's "open borders," and immigration.

"The so-called 'manifesto' of the terrorist included a lot of the standard tropes of the far-right, including the so-called Great Replacement Theory. Often linked to antisemitism, this conspiracy theory holds that 'the Left' is supporting 'open borders' to replace the 'original people' with 'immigrants,' who are inferior and therefore easier to control. Variants of this theory go back to at least the original Populists of the mid-19th century, but in its current iteration it has been around since the start of the 1980s postwar far-right in Europe."

He also expressed concern about Republican lawmakers' conflicting position on this topic. "Since the storming of the Capitol on 6 January 2021, I have had various informal conversations with people who work in Congress or in other state agencies about the far right," Mudde wrote. "They tell me that they want to talk about the threat it poses, but then rapidly narrow the focus to 'online radicalization' and violent groups with scary names like Atomwaffen Division or Feuerkrieg Division. This is not just because these groups get disproportionate attention in the media and the counter-terrorism industry, but because they are politically safe. These groups are so extreme that they are out of bounds for almost all political elites, even on the right. But they are also small and marginal."

He added, "This is not the case for most other more mainstream actors and ideas of the far right. In fact, their power is now so great in Washington, that it is almost impossible to come up with a term that is acceptable to both sides of the political spectrum. Republicans are skeptical about terms like 'far-right' and 'racism,' fearing this would include groups and ideas they sympathize with. This is not without reason."

"The Grand Old Party has become a far-right party that advances racist arguments in both implicit and explicit form. And many organizations within the broader “conservative” movement have followed suit, from Fox News to Turning Point USA."

With the direction the Republican Party is going toward, Mudde emphasized the reality America is facing as he offered a piece of advice to President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.

"The sad reality is that fighting the far right has become a highly partisan affair in the United States," Mudde wrote. "Any attempt to make this a bipartisan effort means watering down of measures and limiting them to the most extremist fringes. If Biden and the Democrats really want to fight white supremacy, including institutional racism, they must do it without the Republican party."

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