Invader or invaded

“We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”

Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña (1782 – 1831), Mexican revolutionary leader and President
Vicente Ramón Guerrero Saldaña (1782 – 1831), Mexican revolutionary leader and President. | Image: wikiquote

By Cassandra Devereaux

Vicente Guerrero was the first descendant of African slaves to serve as a North American head of state. He was a general in the war for Mexico’s independence from the Spanish Empire, and was Mexico’s second President. Under his administration, he issued a decree abolishing slavery throught Mexico’s territories. The idea of ending their use of chattel slavery did not sit well with everybody. In late 1835, one of the northern territories declared independence and through force of arms, successfully seceded from Mexico several months later, and continued to use slave labor. In 1845, this former Mexican territory was annexed into the United States as the State of Texas. It was in El Paso, a city on the border of Texas and its former national home of Mexico that a white 21 year old killer named Patrick Crusius came with assault rifles and body armor. He carefully targeted Latinx shoppers and murdered 22 individuals, wounding dozens more. The shooter, a white man, left behind a manifesto which repeatedly referred to the Latinx population as “invaders”.

“This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”

He acknowledges the irony of a white man in a nation founded on indiginous genocide murdering Latinx people as invaders, but frames this as a justification rather than a contradiction:

 “The natives didn’t take the invasion of Europeans seriously, and now what’s left is just a shadow of what was.”

There is an aphorism in the U.S. Latinx population: “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” Nevertheless, the highest halls of power in this brutal empire echo with  language referring to Latinx people as invaders. The President himself said,

“We’re on track for a million people rushing our borders…People hate the word invasion but that’s what it is.”

Fox News has played a large role in furthering this deceitful reasoning. The cable network that both follows and feeds Trump’s rhetoric has helped create a vicious circle of anti-migrant fear. A Media Matters for America report dated 8/6/19 notes that Fox had referred to migrants as invaders over 70 times since the year began. Per this report, it had aired clips of Trump referring to a migrant invasion over 55 times, and Tucker Carlson, Brian Kilmeade and Laura Ingraham alone has pushed the rhetoric 21 times. The same day this report came out, Ingraham and her guests doubled down on the use of the word ‘invasion’ as the chyron argued that to decry the use of racist invasion rhetoric was “stirring up hate”. On Fox & Friends, a program to which Trump sometimes spontaneously calls in, co-host Brian Kilmeade, said:

“If you use the term an “invasion,” that’s not anti-Hispanic. It’s a fact.”

It’s worth noting that Fox personality Geraldo Rivera called for a police presence wherever people gather. Sean Hannety, in a mind boggling display of conservative reasoning, called for retired police and military to volunteer so they wouldn’t have to be paid. The right wing’s solutions to such problems usually involve more men with guns protecting property.

This wave of Fox News personalities doubling down as their words bore bitter fruit came a mere three days after the terrorist issued his manifesto using the exact logic and in the very language that Trump has been using and Fox broadcasting. Their words were his justification for mass slaughter. Also on August 6, Trump invoked Fox as a defense and counterattack when he (and Fox’s Kilmeade) took personally a call from Barack Obama to reject racist rhetoric. The hand-in-glove union of billionaire president and corporate cable juggernaut could not be clearer.

It would be a mistake, however, to consider similar complicity  by corporate entities and moneyed organizations to begin and end with Fox. Despite years of promises to curtail extremism on its platform, Facebook published over 2000  Trump campaign ads using the incendiary comparison of migrants to invaders.Other right wing organizations and media outlets have been actively cashing in on stoking xenophobic fear of an invasion. If, as seems likely, these shameless opportunists follow Fox’s lead to double down on their rhetoric, they will be drenched in blood already spilled and a rising tide to come. Because the El Paso white supremacist mass murderer was not unique.

It was exactly a week earlier that 19-year-old Santino William Legan opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California. While his motives were unclear, immediately prior to his act of terror, he posted on his social media a slur expressing disdain for biracial individuals whose heritage includes but is not limited to Latinx peoples. He also advised people to read Might Is Right. Written under the nom de plume “Ragnar Redbeard,” this 19th century text is an extraordinarily popular work among white hate advocates that argues that the weak are to be hated, women are the property of men, and that Anglo-Saxons are the superior “race”. It is also deeply antisemitic.

It would be irresponsible not to talk about Connor Betts. On the very day of the El Paso shooting, Connor Betts killed 9 and wounded dozens more in Dayton Ohio. Betts’ social media reveals activity expressing sympathy for left of center politics from the Social Democrat to the antifascist.. He shared a video denouncing Trump’s border policy and talked about socialism.  At the same time, he left no manifesto nor made a political statement before killing. He chose mostly Black victims, and killed his sibling who had a Black boyfriend and whose friends identify as a transman. He had once been suspended from school for composing a list on the boys’ room wall of girls he wanted to rape and kill. Ex girlfriends describe an obsession with massacres and murder.

It would be incorrect to suggest that the far right’s talk of invaders are the singular ingredient that causes every shooting to happen as it does not seem to be the case here. The issue of mass murder is deeper, and its systemic. However, we know that the vast majority of political mass murder in the U.S. today is committed by white men expressing far right motives. We know that every politically motivated mass shooting in the United States in 2018 was done in the service of far right ideology.

In Crusius’ manifesto which he published on the unsavory message board 8chan before entering the El Paso Walmart, he expressed support for the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto, also published on 8chan. The Christchurch massacre in March of this year saw Brenton Tarrant enter a mosque in the New Zealand town and shoot the Muslims gathered for prayer. 51 died and 49 were injured. He wore a camera and streamed the mass slaughter, joking and invoking memes such as “subscribe to PewDiePie,” a reference to an immensely popular YouTuber from Scandinavia who spits racial slurs, flirts with ‘ironic’ fascism, and once paid for two men in India to make and hold up a sign that read, “DEATH TO ALL JEWS”. The manifesto, titled “The Great Replacement,” also was laden with 8chan memes, and those that gather on those boards under the cloak of anonymity were gleeful at the shooting, gushing about the “high score” set by Tarrant’s body count. But for all the memes in his manifesto, there was an ideological core. He was worried about a low birth rate among white people, leading to a “white genocide”. His explanation? Higher birth rates among oppressed nationalities, and their migration into the colonizer nations, which he expressed in this line:

“We are experiencing an invasion on a level never seen before in history.”

Identical invasion rhetoric from another settler colonial state born of the British Empire on the genocide of indigenous peoples. With great deliberation Crusius denied that he was inspired by Trump in his manifesto out of fear it would harm the president politically:

“My opinions on automation, immigration, and the rest predate Trump and his campaign for president. I putting this here because some people will blame the President or certain presidential candidates for the attack. This is not the case. I know that the media will probably call me a white supremacist anyway and blame Trump’s rhetoric. The media is infamous for fake news.”[1]

It’s interesting that he used Trump’s “fake news” mantra in the same paragraph he assiduously sought to provide cover for the man. On his twitter profile, he ‘liked’ multiple Presidential posts calling the media “fake news”. He also parroted Trump’s famous ‘nasty woman’ appellatio used originally in the 2016 campaign. Also, he ‘liked’ a photo of multiple firearms arranged to spell out “Trump”, and frequently retweeted stories favoring Trump. He seems to have been deeply influenced by the President, whatever political views might have been prior to 2016. This he held in common with his predecessor in terror in New Zealand. In his manifesto, Tarrant wrote that while he didn’t support him as a policy maker, he admired Trump as ‘a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.’

Both white supremacist terrorists admired Trump. both men’s manifestos talked about migrants as invaders, expressed the fear that they would lead to the destruction of “the white race”, and expressed their hope of sparking civil wars. Tarrant even hoped that his actions in New Zealand would lead to a civil war not only there but also in the United States. We can understand both of these massacres as examples of “propaganda of the deed”. This term originates in 19th century anarchism. Willem van Spronsen’s action attacking ICE vehicles used to transport migrants is an example of this concept in action. But while he utilized the method in attacking vehicular infrastructure used to detain and deport innocents by a ruthless state mechanism Tarrant and Crusius utilized it in spilling the blood of innocents. Spronsen’s goal was to protect while Tarrant and Crusuis’ goal was to terrorize and oppress.

Another term, one has been used frequently of late is, “stochastic terrrorism”. In 2011, an anonymous blogger defined it this way:

Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.  In short, remote-control murder by lone wolf.”

The stochastic terrorist doesn’t need to pick up a gun or build a bomb. Their weapon is their ability to influence and inspire. They throw incendiary rhetoric into a volatile environment inhabited by extremists, fully understanding that it will inspire an act of terror. Trump, and his gang at Fox fit this description. During the 2016 campaign, Trump talked about “second amendment people” being the only ones who could “do something about” a problem, he understood what he was saying, who would hear it, and what it might inspire. And indeed, “second amendment people” have been extremely active in the years since. When Trump, or Ingraham, or Carlson, or any number of far right voices invoke “invasion” they’re doing something very specific. Likening the presence of Latinx people to an invasion is an invocation of the language of military aggression. There are few appropriate responses to military aggression; all are militant, most are violently so. This notion frames those with privilege as being in a position of self-defense, and self defense justifies violence.

It is inevitable that some who bear hatred for the targeted nationalities and do not think critically about this notion of migrant as invader will choose the response that would be appropriate for people defending their homes from actual invading armies. The irony that those vilified in this way are fleeing conditions brought about by generations of the United States’ imperialist aggressions. They are not the invader but the invaded. Our responsibility is not to turn them back, put them in camps, or kill them. Our responsibility begins with giving whole-hearted support to the victims of U.S. imperialism’s pillaging of Latin America’s resources.

As Capitalism approaches catastrophic failure and climate change bears down on us without pity, the bourgeoisie fears the destruction of the status quo. They fear the consequences for their lives and legacies of exploitation and violence. They fear chickens coming home to roost. In the people coming for sanctuary bearing generational scars of their crimes, they see exactly that, and they’re terrified. They use elements of the U.S. working class which are right leaning as a line of defense.

We have been taught from youth to revere our country and rulers. We are taught on the very first day of our schooling to stand, face the flag, put our hand over our hearts, and intone our fealty in unison. This runs so deep that some will fracture a child’s skull for the sin of not removing his hat while standing for the National Anthem, and justify it afterward. This chauvinistic nationalism of the U.S. empire breeds unthinking violence, and this is nowhere more visible than in military recruitment. Our military sponsors movies and TV that portrays them in a positive light. They pay sports organizations to lionize them in the form of tributes to their soldiers. They have been publishing free video games since 2002 that allows one to play as a soldier in acts of American adventurism, spinning a view of the U.S. military as heroic and righteous.

By extension this portrays our victims as villainous, which helps the invasion narrative to go down more easily when those brutalized by U.S. imperialism in the global south show up asking for mercy. We are taught a distorted history, inspiring fury at attempts to correct the story. The organizer of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville understood this fury. The choice to center the event on the park that had been renamed from Robert E. Lee to Emancipation Park, about the Lee statue that many were trying to remove, is illustrative of this fury. They invoked the fear of an insidious element undermining ‘their’ country from within.

The U.S. working class has been gaslighted nearly from the cradle to do the bidding of the bourgeoisie and uphold its armed agents via an almost religious reverence for this inhuman, criminal state. Many white workers are primed to place their bodies between the bourgeoisie and revolutionary justice, seeing it as a matter of honor. And when they are told those seeking sanctuary are invaders, it is seen through that lens. This is not a mental illness, as many suggest. It’s a matter of bad information, bad ideology, a culture of violent jingoism, and a lack of willingness to examine their ideas critically.

As the empire deteriorates, people are beginning to understand that things are very wrong. Some of these people embrace conspiracy theories…some merely harmless like flat earthers. Other conspiracies are dangerous, such as the anti-vaxxer movement that directs parents into refusing to get their children vaccinated, leading to  measles outbreaks. More of these conspiracy theories are virulently disturbed, bigoted, and violent, such as the vile Qanon, which arose on that breeding ground of reaction 8chan. Aside from these conspiracies, people’s politics are shifting from the feckless center as the need for change becomes ever apparent. It is vital that we reach people first, before the far right does. If we succeed, we can raise their class consciousness and inspire them to join us in building a just world. If we fail and the forces of reaction have the first word, they may have a new recruit to uphold the rule of the merciless dictatorship of capital to ravage the global south and create new generations of refugees.

In the wake of the First World War, William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called The Second Coming, a response to the explosion in the world of incomprehensible violence: 

“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere  

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst  

Are full of passionate intensity.”

We can see this passionate intensity everywhere we look. It’s an intensity that assaults innocents, cages those who plead for mercy, leaves children weeping, or seizing on the ground with a fractured skull, bleeding from the ears for not taking off his hat for a song. It chants its vile slogans in rooms full of flags to a braggadocios president who is exporting misery in the form of economic sanctions, military action, and arms sales. Cruelty is surging, and flaring across the culture.

Those who are fighting the bourgeois oppressors to birth a compassionate world… we are the “best” and therefore, we dare not lack conviction. Things are getting worse, more violent, more cruel at a staggering rate. A week’s worth of news can be enough to make us feel beat down and defeated. But we have each other, we have theory and example from revolutions of the past, solidarity from around the globe,and ingenuity and determination to win. We must organize our class, and join in common purpose in the name of mercy and justice. We will open the cages, uplift the downtrodden, clear away the poison choking us. We will save the invaded and will invade no more. Brick by brick, we will build a new world, working shoulder to shoulder in common purpose with the workers and oppressed peoples of the world.This is our moment to start.


[1] “I putting” was his grammatical error


This article was written on August 9, 2019 but not published until now, due to an oversight.


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