The terrorist who attacked two mosques cited Donald Trump as a symbol of white identity, but the connection doesn’t begin or end with that fact. New Zealand’s Muslim refugees are, in large part, immigrants. And both the president and the terrorist see immigration as an “invasion.”
And like Trump, the terrorist saw that nonwhite immigration as invasion. Both Trump and the terrorist have called immigration “an invasion on a level never seen before in history.”
And that rhetoric is so much a part of his tool kit, Trump used the ‘invasion’ rhetoric just hours after the mosque attacks. He said that while signing his veto of the Senate’s attempt to block his emergency declaration.
“People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” the president said, according to pool reports.
The mass murderer's manifesto describes non-white immigration as an "invasion" at least 6 times https://t.co/iu4dZIYaTE
— Christopher Mathias (@letsgomathias) March 15, 2019
That veto, the use of that rhetoric, and explicitly denying that white nationalism is a threat in the wake of a terrible terrorist attack motivated by the same rhetoric shows the priorities of the president both explicitly and implicity.
To President Trump, white supremacists aren’t a threat, immigrants are. Those are both his words, and his actions.
Obviously, President Trump is not personally culpable for Christchurch. There are a lot of symbols this attacker used that call back to noted white supremacist movements in recent years and Trump is far from the only person in just the United States government to use the “invasion” rhetoric.
The president has never called for these murders — neither of Muslims in Christchurch nor of Jews in Pittsburgh — and that is an important fact to remember. He is not, for instance, acting like fellow radical right-wing provocateur Gavin McInnes. His rhetoric mirrors that used by violent actors and his priority is not the opposition of that violence, but he personally has not acted in a violent manner toward these communities.
Where the president has definite culpability is in future white nationalist actions, as even in the light of the Christchurch attack the President said he doesn’t see white nationalism as a rising global threat, which it clearly is. In the United States alone, far-right extremism made up almost all domestic terrorism in 2018.
“It’s outrageous to even make that connection between this deranged individual that committed this evil crime to the president who has repeatedly condemned bigotry, racism and made it very clear that this is a terrorist attack,” White House director of strategic communication Mercedes Schlapp told reporters. “We are there to support and stand with the people of New Zealand.”
What struck me Friday was how much the New Zealand shooter's manifesto sounds like arguments against immigration that I hear in the House, particularly from two Members of Congress.
— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) March 15, 2019
But that strikes a dissonance with the president’s own words, from his Birther conspiracy advocacy to his Muslim ban, the Islamic world has never had the support of Donald Trump. And that history has struck a chord with followers.
“We have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one,” a Trump supporter asked at a rally in 2015. “When can we get rid of them?”
The weight of any single thought expressed by the attacker who name-dropped a YouTuber seemingly at random during his act of terror should be taken with a reasonable grain of salt, but the way invasion rhetoric has been so central to white nationalism makes its coming from the president in the wake of Christchurch impossible to ignore.
“The President of the United States obviously happened to, today, talk about his wall and in a very, very eerie and unfortunately word echo used the exact same word to talk about brown people,” said CNN’s Erin Bennett.
That echo has consequences, when in the largest echo chamber in the world.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.