The terrorist attack that saw the killing of ten people in the German town of Hanau, nine of them at two shisha cafes, has exposed once again the real and significant threat posed by the far-right across Europe and the United States. The attack is the latest in a rising trend of terror attacks against Muslims and other minorities, including the 2019 Christchurch massacre. Despite the increasing death toll from far-right violence, however, the significance of the attack continues to be downplayed by western governments and media.
It was late on Wednesday that Tobias Rathjen, 43, opened fire at two shisha cafes full of Muslims at two separate locations in the town of Hanau near Frankfurt. Rathjen then proceeded back to his home to kill his own mother and take his own life.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Rathjen acted from “extreme far-right, racist motives” and while Merkel was unequivocal in her condemnation of the attack and its racist origins, she failed to identify the atrocity as a terrorist attack.
“Racism is poison, hatred is poison. And this poison exists in our society and it has been a reason for many crimes already: from the NSU atrocities and the murder of Walter Luebcke to the killings in Halle. We do not differentiate between people according to their origin or religion. We oppose those who try to divide Germany with all our strength and determination.”German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Boris Johnson meanwhile stated that his “thoughts [were] with the people of Germany” after “this racist assault”. Again, the word “terrorist” was significant by its absence.
This statement of course coming from the same man who stated that Islamophobia is a “natural reaction” to Islam and that “Islam is the problem”.
A study from the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) revealed that in 2018 terrorist attacks by the far-right accounted for 17.2% of all incidents in the West while attacks by Islamist groups accounted for just 6.8% of attacks. 62.8% of terrorist attacks were not attributed to any group.
Andrew Parker, the director-general of MI5 and Cressida Dick, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, have both stated that far-right terrorism is “a key threat to the safety and prosperity of the country”.
Yet, despite all the clear evidence that the far-right is emerging as the most significant threat to society in 2020, both the government and media still refuse to identify the threat as terrorism. Equally, they refuse to take any significant action against groups such as Britain First in the same way that action was been taken against the likes of Muslims Against Crusades.
The failure to identify and condemn far-right terror not only fuels the belief that only Muslims can now be terrorists but aids and comforts those planning such atrocities in the belief that their acts are righteous and not an abomination no different to the likes of Islamic State.
The language of the condemnations from Merkel, Johnson and others is also significant.
Frequently following attacks carried out by Islamic radicals, we are told that the terrorists won’t “change our way of life”, that “democracy will prevail” and the old “they hate our freedoms” chestnut. These statements are never applied to the far-right for the very simple reason that the far-right pose no threat to the existing western ruling orthodoxy who are overwhelmingly white, Christian, wealthy and learning ever increasingly toward the same ideologies that fueled the attack in Hanau.
To the elites of power, freedoms and democracy appear to be something that must be rationed with their portion of the freedom being significantly larger than that offered to anyone else. Indeed, in many ways, the far-right are merely taking western governmental policy and rhetoric to what they perceive as a logical conclusion.
In identifying the far-right as a terrorist threat, western governments and media would be forced to take punitive measures against the likes of Britain First and the AfD in the same way they do Islamic groups, including those who are officially non-violent. These groups are increasingly lending their support to the likes of the Conservative Party and Republican Party in the United States. Calling out far-right terror would equally force society to deeply analyse their government’s own rhetoric and policies, revealing the fact that our own leaders have failed in their first duty of protecting their citizens.
Public discourse on far-right terrorism can only have one conclusion, that our government and press has fueled the far-right and led to attacks such as Hanau and Christchurch in the same way that western foreign policy has led to the rise of al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
Since 9/11, western governments led by the United States and aided and abetted by both Britain and the EU have significantly othered Muslims both abroad and in their own countries. From Muslim travel bans to the Prevent programme, the west has created the illusion that Muslims and Islam are an existential threat to the western society to justify sickening levels of military expenditure and an imperialist foreign policy designed to secure the Middle East for ideological, capitalist and military hegemony.
Such a public discourse on far-right terror would only reveal that this othering of Muslims is a lie and that everyone, Christians, Jews, Hindus and atheists alike, can all engage in acts of terror. They would reveal that the defining factor in all terrorist cases is radicalisation fueled by governmental policies – foreign policy and the disenfranchisement of the working class youth by neoliberalism, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Into this void has stepped Islamic State and the far-right.
The mass realisation that the “war on terror” has been a lie and that so-called “liberal democracy” constantly needs an enemy to fight to act as a smokescreen to ensure the upholding of increasingly oppressive neoliberal ideology, could be fatal. The backlash to the Iraq war, Syria and Libya played a significant role in the rise of Donald Trump where no socialist candidate was available to channel public anger.
To the capitalist elite, the number of people who die on all sides is largely irrelevant so long as the wheel of neoliberalism keeps turning. Whether you are a Muslim or “white working class” is of little interest, we are all “others” and there is no greater threat possible than both sides realising who the enemy actually is.
In a world of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, the potential for blowback against the government and media’s pro-far-right sympathies is immense. Indeed, the media’s role in what transpired in Hanau is just as prominent as the AfD or other far-right groups.
The terrorist attack made page 22 of The Sun newspaper behind “news” on such important world figures as Gemma Collins. By the time of publication, the essential facts of the case were widely known, including the number of victims and the shisha bar location.
The Sun, however, is far from alone in downplaying the significance of far-right terrorism.
The Sun‘s website published three articles on the Hanau terrorist attack in the 24 hours following the attack. The Daily Mail online, which at time of writing is leading on a story about George and Amal Clooney’s house being flooded, published four. While this may seem a decent amount of coverage for an attack that happened abroad, it is significantly lower than the coverage granted to comparable attacks carried out by Muslims in France, Spain and other counties throughout the EU.
The focus of much of the coverage has, as is typical with white far-right killers, begin to focus on mental health issues and while these issues certainly will have played a role in his actions, these issues are rarely if ever mentioned when the same media give coverage to the background of Muslim offenders.
The British press for decades has promoted the views of the far-right. Such is the scale of the issue that it could be argued that the ideology has a near-monopoly on the media, from The Sun and Times of the Murdoch stable to the Express, Mail and increasingly right-wing Telegraph, it is nearly impossible to escape the propaganda on British newsstands. Nor is it possible to escape into television, with the likes of Raheem Kassam appearing on the BBC’s Today programme, Ezra Levant appearing on BBC 5 Live’s Breakfast Show and the likes of Nigel Farage being regular guests on Question Time.
If newspapers or other media outlets engaged in the same level of pro-“Jihadi” content as they espouse their sympathies for the far-right, they would be immediately shut down under existing terror laws.
A combination of age-old and deep-seated racism coupled with increasingly authoritarian neoliberalism, a capitalist military-industrial complex and a racist press prone to fake news and propaganda have all contributed to a unique firestorm of hate against Muslims across the west. This firestorm has been embraced a minority of those from a disenfranchised working class, these individuals having no other avenue of representation after decades of the centre deliberately destroying what remained of socialism in local communities.
Tobias Rathjen pulled the trigger on Wednesday night and his crimes must never be downplayed nor his hate-filled personality be given room for excuses, yet it must equally never be ignored that it was our own governments and media who created a man so filled with hate and fear that he was willing to pick up a gun and coldly murder ten innocent people. There is blood on their hands once more.
Main Image: Thousands protest in Hamburg outside AfD offices