“Thwarted lives have the most character-conditioned hate… The easiest idea to sell someone is that they are better than someone else. The appeal of the Ku Klux Klan and racist agitators rests on this type of salesmanship,” wrote psychologist Gordon Allport in 1958.
His warning from more than 60 years ago came true again in modern-day America on May 14. On that day, a young white gunman named Payton Gendron—motivated by what the killer himself listed as white supremacy, antisemitism and fascism—opened fire at a supermarket in an African-American community in Buffalo, NY, killing 10 people and raising once again the specter of domestic terrorism right here in America.
Not since 1901, when a pistol-packing anarchist murdered President William McKinley in Buffalo, has an act of gun violence focused the eyes of the world on the city near Niagara Falls. The massacre in Buffalo was only the latest in a long line of killings that can be traced back to the deadly doctrines of right-wing extremists. In 2015, a front-page story in The New York Times warned about the dangers of homegrown terrorism, saying that since Sept. 11, 2001, when foreign-born terrorists attacked the United States, “… nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, anti-government fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by fanatical Muslims.”
The massacre in Buffalo is only the latest in a long line of murders committed by homegrown Hitler’s helpers right here in the United States in recent years. In 2015, Dylann Roof gunned down nine worshippers at a historic African-American church in Charleston, SC. Roof was a follower of Klan and neo-Confederate ideology who is now in prison in the Palmetto State. The families of his victims forgave him, but the state did not, and Roof will spend the rest of his life behind bars for his crimes.
In 2014, a year before Roof’s madness shocked America and the world, a longtime right-wing extremist named Frazier Glenn Miller was arrested after he gunned down three people outside a Jewish community center and a Jewish retirement home in Overland Park, KS. Miller was 73 at the time of his crime, and he was the leader of neo-Nazi groups in North Carolina. He called himself an “Aryan warrior” and shouted “Heil Hitler!” from the back seat of the police car where he was handcuffed after his arrest. Miller died in prison at the age of 80 in 2021.
In 2009, a white supremacist and Holocaust denier named James von Brunn killed a security guard during an attack on the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. When police searched his apartment in nearby Annapolis, MD, they found a rifle, ammunition, child pornography and a painting of Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler posed together. Von Brunn died in custody at the age of 89 in 2010.
Miller and von Brunn were old men when they committed their crimes. Roof and Gendron were young. All shared the mad ideology of the extreme right wing.
For too long, domestic terrorists have attacked schools, churches, mosques and synagogues across this nation. For too long, African-American communities have been plagued by institutionalized racism, white supremacy, poverty, guns and gangs. The massacre in Buffalo is just one more sad confirmation of the words of warning written by journalist George Seldes back in 1950: “The main threat to democracy comes not from the extreme left but from the extreme right, which is able to buy huge sections of the press and radio and wages a constant campaign to smear and discredit every progressive and humanitarian measure.”
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