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El Paso shooting and the rise of eco-fascism

  • 07 August 2019


'There is no conservatism without nature, there is no nationalism without environmentalism.' Not surprisingly, many people took that line from the Christchurch killer's manifesto as another piece of rhetorical flummery in a document stitched together by an unstable criminal.

We're much more accustomed to think of the far right pushing anti-environmentalism than ecology. An opposition to environmentalism usually facilitates rightwing populist talking points: in particular, the notion of an out-of-touch and treacherous elite, imposing its progressive agenda on the nation's common folk. Yet before the shooter in El Paso opened fire in a Walmart, he, too, released a manifesto in which he voiced his concern about ecological destruction.

'The decimation of the environment is creating a massive burden for future generations,' he wrote. 'Water sheds around the country, especially in agricultural areas, are being depleted ... Consumer culture is creating thousands of tons of unnecessary plastic and electronic waste ... Urban sprawl creates inefficient cities which unnecessarily destroys millions of acres of land.'  It's rhetoric with which most progressives would agree. So what's it doing in the screed of a racist killer?

The El Paso gunman declared his basic solidarity with the political perspective articulated by the Christchurch murderer. So let's start with that.

In his manifesto, the Christchurch perpetrator declared himself a fascist. In mainstream politics, the word 'fascism' usually gets employed as hyperbole — an insult levelled at anyone with rightwing ideas or authoritarian tendencies. As a result, few commentators tried to understand what the Christchurch killer actually meant. For he didn't use the term loosely but rather in a precise and technical sense: he was, he said, an admirer of the fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, a man who sought to apply the principles of Mussolini and (later) Hitler in Britain.

Fascism distinguishes itself from other political tendencies by its commitment to redemptive violence. Fascists seek the physical extermination of those committed to social equality: labour movement activists, socialists, social democrats, immigrants and others whom they deem 'traitors'. They valorise the supposedly natural differences between individuals, between men and women, and between ethnic or 'racial' groups.

The fascist program generally calls for some kind of violent nationalist revolution to purge the nation and restore an organic hierarchy. To that end, they draw upon whatever national myths or ideologies they can scrabble together, without any necessary coherence.


"The more we can unite social and environmental justice in a program of hope, the greater the difficulty