Eco-fascism encountered: the natural environment in justifications of terrorist violence in the Christchurch mosque shooting and the El Paso shooting

The tragic events in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March 2019, where 51 lives were lost, have prompted significant actions such as a gun reform bill in New Zealand and brought attention to the concept of “the great replacement.” This idea also surfaced in the context of a mass shooting in El Paso, United States, in August 2019, which saw 22 fatalities. Despite the ongoing gun control debates in the U.S., significant reform remains doubtful. However, the El Paso incident, like the one in Christchurch, has reignited discussions on “the great replacement,” necessitating further examination. The attackers in both instances shared manifestos that explored their extreme right-wing ideologies, including connections between radical right views and environmental concerns, a concept often termed ecofascism. This discussion will delve into the ecofascist undertones presented as part of their justifications.

Before the Christchurch attack, ecofascism occasionally surfaced in media discussions. Post-attack, it gained increased attention, similar to how ecofascism was quickly linked to the El Paso shooting across social media platforms. Notably, the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto’s environmental aspects were even highlighted by Kellyanne Conway, counsellor to then-U.S. President Donald Trump, who labeled the shooter an ‘eco-terrorist’ in an attempt to distance the administration. This leads to an exploration of ecofascism, defined by Peter Staudenmaier as a genuine fascist movement’s environmentalist concerns, examining its historical roots in German National Socialism and its complex relationship with environmental conservation.

The manifestos of the Christchurch and El Paso shooters, titled “The Great Replacement. Towards a New Society We March Ever Forwards” and “An Inconvenient Truth,” respectively, notably discuss environmental protection. The Christchurch manifesto, in particular, places a significant emphasis on environmentalism, branding the shooter an ‘Ethno-nationalist Eco-fascist’ advocating for ethnic autonomy and an environmentally conscious society. The El Paso manifesto, while shorter, also addresses environmental depletion, blaming corporations for ecological destruction.

The discussion on ecofascism in these manifestos presents a vision of green nationalism, contrasting with mainstream liberal and left-wing environmentalism. It romanticizes a return to a simpler, more natural way of life while intertwining the protection of the environment with ethnonationalist and authoritarian ideologies. This stance criticizes mass immigration and urbanization for their perceived negative impacts on the environment, framing a radical-right perspective that champions the countryside and traditional ways of living over modern urban life.

Furthermore, both manifestos address climate change, linking it to overpopulation and advocating for drastic measures to ensure environmental sustainability. This highlights a distinct ecofascist approach that diverges from broader environmental movements, emphasizing the need to critically engage with such ideologies to understand their full implications within the broader context of radical-right extremism.

In conclusion, the manifestos from the Christchurch and El Paso shootings exemplify the intersection of extreme right-wing ideologies and environmental concerns, encapsulating a form of ecofascism that warrants serious consideration and analysis beyond mere dismissal. This exploration sheds light on the complex and often dangerous intertwining of ethnonationalism, authoritarianism, and environmentalism within certain segments of the radical right.

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