White Nationalists Are Debunking White Supremacy

The accused El Paso shooter, like other white extremists, says immigrants are outperforming whites on the merits.

People pay their respects at a memorial of crosses and flowers honoring the shooting victims.
A makeshift memorial at the Cielo Vista Mall Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on Monday. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

On Saturday, just before murdering 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Patrick Crusius posted a manifesto online. Like the manifestos of other racist mass shooters, his screed was full of vile, incendiary nonsense about the people he hated—in this case, Hispanics. But if you read these manifestos, you’ll discover something odd: Many of the killers, in the course of their rants, acknowledge that the groups they’ve targeted have virtues or accomplishments that make them formidable—and in some cases superior—competitors. White nationalists are accidentally debunking white supremacy.

Racist terrorists who have left behind manifestos or other writings—Dylann Roof (Charleston, 2015), Robert Bowers (Pittsburgh, 2018), John Earnest (Poway, California, 2019), and others—generally regard whites as victims. That’s their standard excuse for murder: that they were acting in self-defense. They’ve fretted about “ethnic replacement,” “demographic annihilation,” and “white genocide.” Crusius claimed to be fighting a “Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me,” he wrote. “I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”

But if whites are superior, then why, in these racist fantasies, are they losing?

The conventional answer to that question, among white nationalists, is that the “invaders”—usually Muslims or Latinos—are arriving in hordes and cranking out too many babies. But in the terrorist manifestos, that argument has been overtaken by more complicated theories. The “invaders,” it seems, have found new ways to outperform the “master race.”

In 2011, Anders Breivik, a Norwegian mass murderer, killed 77 people to stop what he thought was the Islamization of Europe. In his 1,500-page manifesto, Breivik railed against “Eurabia,” a fictitious Marxist-Islamist plot to “subjugate” whites. But Breivik also denounced what he called “Muslim superiority syndrome.” This mentality, he explained, consisted of a religious confidence that Muslims maintained even when they were oppressed. The conquered believer “looks from his height at erring mankind with compassion,” feeling “a sense of triumph over error and nonsense,” Breivik wrote, quoting an Islamic text. “He remains certain that this is a temporary condition which will pass away.”

This mental resilience, which sounds more like unbreakable faith than arrogance, unnerved Breivik. So did genetics. “Blue eyes and blond hair (and possibly many psychological traits) almost never survives a race-mixing process,” he wrote, “due to the fact that Nordic genotypes are recessive.” Breivik contrasted these features with “African, Arab or Oriental genotypes,” which, by his confused reckoning, were “more genetically dominant.” Breivik was wrong: Blond hair isn’t recessive, psychological traits are multifactorial, and lots of mixed-race people look white. But he was grappling with an inconvenient truth: There’s nothing magical about Nordic genes.

Brenton Tarrant, an Australian terrorist, read Breivik’s treatise and absorbed some of his ideas. In a manifesto released just before he gunned down 51 Muslims at two New Zealand mosques earlier this year, Tarrant warned that “Europeans” might soon “find their very own genes being bred out of existence through miscegenation and differing racial birth rates.” But Tarrant raised an additional concern: the decline of white culture. “Every day we become fewer in number, we grow older, we grow weaker,” he wrote. “Our people are dying.”

The weakness of white society, as Tarrant saw it, was partly a matter of aging and low fertility. But much of it was self-inflicted moral emptiness. He lamented the “nihilism, consumerism, and individualism” of white culture, “a society with no core beliefs, no purpose and no vision.” By contrast, he noted, Muslims were “one of the strongest groups,” with a culture of vibrant norms, “higher social trust and strong, robust traditions.”

In fact, said Tarrant, Muslim culture was so much healthier than white culture that assimilation was absurd. “Expecting immigrants to assimilate to a dying, decadent culture is laughable,” he wrote. “Who would willing[ly] leave their own strong, dominant and rising culture to join an elderly, decaying, degenerate culture?” Not only were immigrants clinging to their culture, he observed, but “our own people are beginning to join them, looking outside their own watered down and deteriorating culture.”

Nor did Tarrant believe that whites could compete economically. He wrote that global free trade should be discouraged, since the white Europe he envisioned couldn’t compete. He concluded with a desperate plea: “BLOCK FOREIGN GOODS FROM WHITE MARKETS.”

Crusius studied Tarrant’s manifesto and embraced many of his ideas, adapting them to the American Southwest. The “invaders” Crusius targeted were Latinos, not Muslims. But he expressed the same alarm about immigration, birth rates, and cultural inferiority. White culture, Crusius warned, would likely diminish “as stronger and/or more appealing cultures overtake weaker and/or undesirable ones.”

Unlike Tarrant, who worried that Muslims in Australia and New Zealand would refuse to join a decadent white society, Crusius recognized that Hispanics in Texas were intermarrying with Anglos. And this alarmed him. “2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics form interracial unions at much higher rates than average,” Crusius wrote. This “race mixing … destroys genetic diversity.” He feared that white genes, like white culture, might be overwhelmed.

Crusius agreed with Tarrant that market competition threatened whites. But in Texas, he recognized, this competition took the form of immigration, not trade. And unlike other racists, who see minorities as welfare leeches, Crusius understood that the real power of immigrants came from their ambitions and achievements. “Even though new migrants do the dirty work, their kids typically don’t,” he wrote. “They want to live the American Dream which is why they get college degrees and fill higher-paying skilled positions.” These children of immigrants, Crusius observed, were challenging “natives” for the best jobs—refuting white overconfidence in the most painful way.

These reflections on the assets of immigrant communities—spiritual strength, cultural strength, economic and educational ambition—have led some white nationalists to recalculate their propaganda. Breivik, for instance, rejected “supremacist arguments” and portrayed white Europeans instead as an oppressed native tribe, like “Aborigines in Australia and Native Americans in the US.” “Rhetoric related to ‘indigenous rights’ is an untapped goldmine,” he wrote. “Playing the victim card is the most potent strategy of our times.” He concluded with this message: “Preserving your tribe, cultural and demographical, is a basic human right and has nothing to do with ‘white supremacy.’ ”

Tarrant offered a similar pitch, based on the idea of “diversity.” His massacre of Muslims, he argued, “was not an attack on diversity, but an attack in the name of diversity.” How? According to his manifesto, the goal was “to ensure diverse peoples remain diverse, separate, unique, undiluted.” “A rainbow is only beautiful due to its variety of colours,” he wrote. “Mix the colours together and you destroy them all.”

What’s happening among these extremists, in short, is a shift from white supremacy to white nationalism. That’s no consolation to the hundreds of people they’ve killed or wounded, or to the millions they’ve terrified. But it does undercut a core premise of their ideology. Even racist mass murderers are being forced to admit, in their own manifestos, that whites are losing their economic and cultural dominance based on merit. The dogma of white supremacy is collapsing.