March 19, 2019

Far-Right Extremism and the Christchurch Massacre: Adapting to New Threats

Within 24 hours of the massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand—in which an Australian assailant murdered 50 people attending worship services at two mosques—the public reaction and discussion took two notable paths. The first was a nearly universal acknowledgment among informed observers that far-right violent extremism has grown into a sizable international threat. Almost in an instant, commentators in the U.S., where this type of terrorism is typically placed under the umbrella of domestic terrorism, began to articulate this form of extremism as a global threat. (I’m using “far-right violent extremism” for purposes of this piece but could also use “white nationalism” or “white supremacism” or “white power groups.” The director of national intelligence describes these types of groups in Europe as “violent ethno-supremacist and ultranationalist groups.”) The second was backlash against U.S.-based social media companies for not stopping the spread of the video the assailant livestreamed, and the manifesto he posted online, more quickly and more effectively.

Both observations represent challenges that are specific to our day: the first, a recognition of a new threat; the second, a reaction to how society handles the threat. These two different reaction streams underscore a common challenge: how governments, allied partners, national security professionals and society can adapt to modern emerging threat environments with an eye toward the future and not the past. Here are three recommendations intended to aid the public debate surrounding emerging national security threats.

Read the full article in Lawfare.