Lone Wolf Race Warriors
Lone Wolf Race Warriors
- Mattias GardellMattias GardellDepartment of Comparative Religion, Uppsala University
The term “lone wolf” is a metaphor that began to be used by advocates of White radical nationalism in the United States in the 1970s to name unorganized individuals who committed violent crime, including murder, to further White racist and White radical nationalist aims. In the 1980s and 1990s, seminal radical nationalist thinkers, including James Mason, William Pierce, Louis Beam, Tom Metzger, and David Lane, incorporated lone wolf violence as part of decentralized revolutionary tactics, often, although not exclusively, named “leaderless resistance.” Contemplating the fact that White racist organizations, including the Ku Klux Klan, had not been able to safeguard the privileges, resources, and powers long attached to Whiteness by US law, Mason, Pierce, Beam, Metzger, and Lane concluded that White racist organizations not only were too dysfunctional but also far too visible, and therefore easy to monitor, infiltrate, and neutralize. While the White nationalist cause still needed public figures and organizations to attract and educate new cadres, armed White racist resistance had to be decentralized and leaderless. White nationalist leaders should issue generalized calls to arms but give no direct orders and have no knowledge about who was planning to do what. The perpetrators would themselves be responsible for preparing and executing their violent crime and securing adequate resources. The lone wolf should go under the radar and melt into the general population by avoiding racist organizations and attributes and should never tell anyone about his—White racist lone wolves are so far predominantly male—opinions and activities. The perpetrator would risk his life or freedom but be awarded heroic status in the White nationalist hall of fame. To White nationalist leaders, the tactics are cost effective. Should the lone wolf succeed, the violence would benefit the cause; should he fail, he could bring down no one. During the Internet age, the lone wolf tactics spread through viral marketing and globalized media throughout what White nationalists call the “once White world” in America, Europe, South Africa, and Oceania. The tactics had by then evolved into two schools or types of lone wolves: the lone racist serial offender, who seeks to avoid getting caught and operates in the shadows for an extended period of time; and the mega-impact lone wolf, who wants to get everyone’s attention by one sensational attack, in which the perpetrator is more likely to die or get caught during, or immediately after, the big assault—a sacrifice that is likely to increase the fame of the perpetrator. Both lone wolf types count on the media to amplify their impact and heroic status, and to spread the message of the White revolution to which lone wolves seek to contribute. Lone wolves inspire copycats, and the number of attacks escalated during the first decades of the new millennium. In early 2020, the increase of lone wolf violence was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, as restrictions closed attackers’ favorite targets, for example, mosques, synagogues, churches, and schools, and imposed curfews and banned public gatherings.
- Religion and Politics