The dangerous rise in overlapping extremism
ALLEN — While the motive behind the Allen outlet mall shooting remains unclear, the gunman’s online activity displayed an obsession for violence and an extremist ideology.
Experts also said online accounts linked to the 33-year-old perpetrator showed a troubling new trend of overlapping extreme ideologies.
“This gunman is a very good example of this trend that we are seeing of self-radicalization, of picking and choosing your ideology, and then acting out for reasons that are not clear,” said Jessica Reaves, the director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Center on Extremism.
Social media accounts linked to the gunman displayed neo-Nazi beliefs, anti-Muslim and anti-Asian sentiments, along with a hatred and distrust for women.
Reaves said this “salad bar extremism” makes it difficult to understand one’s motivation for violence. The overlapping of extreme ideologies is most often seen and fueled online.
Intelligence analyst Sam Lichtenstein, who closely monitors extremism, said despite their different beliefs, hate groups often come together online and talk to each other. The danger, he said, is someone who gets connected to one hate group is often quickly exposed to many.
“They are able to take inspiration from one another and share ideas,” explained Lichtenstein, who works for RANE Network, a private intelligence company. “This comingling of extremist narratives that can really further someone towards violence.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security, over the last 10 years, domestic terrorism-related investigations have grown by 357%.
In Texas, last year, the ADL tracked more than 600 incidents of hate—ranging from a swastika sticker posted at a public park to the hostage situation at a Colleyville synagogue.
While many attacks are perpetrated by “lone wolfs,” in the past 10 years, the number of hate groups in Texas tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center has increased to 52, with the largest concentration in North Texas.