As Stephan Balliet opened fire last week at a synagogue and kebab shop in Halle, Germany, the world watched, horrified but no longer surprised. The shooting was a near carbon copy of the terrorist attack earlier this year in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a far-right gunman broadcast his killing of fifty-one people at two mosques live on the internet.
The Yom Kippur shooting in Halle, like Christchurch, represents the confluence of three significant trends in terrorism: a rising far right, the targeting of places of worship, and the use of social media and livestreams.
The far right is beginning to dominate the terrorism stage in the Western world. It was responsible for every single extremism-related killing in the United States in 2018—including six mass-casualty incidents. Last year was the most violent in terms of U.S. terrorism since 1982, according to START’s Global Terrorism Database. Right-wing assailants have also perpetrated high-level political assassinations in the United Kingdom and Germany. Anti-Semitism has been particularly prevalent; Germany, for example, suffered 1,800 acts of anti-Semitism last year, its highest since 2006.
These networked adversaries, operating within a loose, leaderless ideological framework, are a different kind of terrorist. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s new Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence [PDF] highlights this, noting the proliferation of perpetrators writing manifestos rather than being motivated by radicalizers or taking orders from commanders. Like his predecessors, the Halle shooter posted a manifesto online, hoping to provide a call to arms for fellow white nationalists. Although Balliet is German, he wrote it in English, suggesting he sought a global audience.