How 4chan fantasies and Republican rhetoric molded the Buffalo mass murderer: report

How 4chan fantasies and Republican rhetoric molded the Buffalo mass murderer: report
Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York with Donald Trump in 2018, Wikimedia Commons

The self-identified white supremacist who slaughtered 10 Black people inside of a Buffalo, New York supermarket last week was a known risk to local law enforcement and even published a 180-page manifesto in which he outlined his hateful ideations.

According to an analysis published in The Guardian on Wednesday, however, the ideas that the mass shooter espoused – enhanced by his aridly creepy selection of words – were not his original thoughts. Instead, the outlet found that the gunman copied and pasted his text from various posts that he read on the dark web right-wing hub known as 4chan.

The document "allegedly released by the accused along with a video of the attack, is rife with pseudo-scientific racism, antisemitic conspiracy theories and a call for others to mimic his violence," the investigation revealed, adding that "the screed is mostly plagiarized from other extremists" on 4chan.

Peppered throughout the viciously bigoted musings were references to the Great Replacement Theory, a fringe belief that immigrants with higher levels of epidermal melanin are invading the United States and committing genocide against White Americans.

The hateful treatise "details the baseless racism that underpins the philosophy, including the idea that Jewish people secretly control the world, and that the genetic differences between the races make them incompatible. One particular image, sourced from 4chan, claims to show 'the truth about race' – compiling a handful of debunked, misunderstood, or cherrypicked studies to assert the claim that certain races are inferior to whites," wrote The Guardian, noting that it "even seeks to back up its claims with the long-abandoned pseudoscience of phrenology, which studies the sizes and shapes of craniums."

Excerpts of missives authored by the indicted domestic terrorist on the instant messaging app Discord that The Guardian obtained indicate that he felt as if he had found a community in which he belonged. The Guardian also pointed out that he viewed 4chan as a dependable source of information, noting that "he confessed to browsing 4chan daily" and admitted that he “barely interacts with regular people."

The perpetrator stated in one exchange that “I only really turned racist when 4chan started giving me facts." In another instance, he claimed that “White genocide is real when you look at data, but is not talked about on popular media outlets."

While 4chan certainly had a profound influence on his worldview, it is not fully to blame for poisoning the assailant's impressionable mind, which at 18 years of age, significant scientific research has determined, is still developing.

The foundation of those repugnant conspiracy theories has been promoted by prominent conservative figures like Fox News propagandist Tucker Carlson and his colleague Laura Ingraham; misogynist podcasters Nick Fuentes, Charlie Kirk, and Ben Shapiro; Republican Ohio Senate candidate JD Vance (whom former President Donald Trump endorsed), and, most notably, Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, who chairs the GOP Conference in the House of Representatives and is the only Jewish Republican currently serving in Congress.

Stefanik in particular has been under heavy fire in the wake of the Buffalo massacre over her cache of anti-immigrant talking points as well as her championing of Great Replacement during conversations with journalists and appearances on mainstream news networks.

The danger they pose is immediate and substantial. But it is not unforeseen.

Last September, The Times Union Editorial Board warned that the "undeniable echo of Nazi Germany" has been "resonating ever since in the right-wing, repackaged lately in what’s known as ‘replacement theory,’ espoused by conservative media figures like Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. And it has seeped into the mainstream political discourse in the Capital Region, where Rep. Elise Stefanik has adapted this despicable tactic for campaign ads."

Stefanik, the newspaper's editors continued, "isn’t so brazen as to use the slogans themselves; rather, she couches the hate in alarmist anti-immigrant rhetoric that’s become standard fare for the party of Donald Trump. And she doesn’t quite attack immigrants directly; instead, she alleges that Democrats are looking to grant citizenship to undocumented immigrants in order to gain a permanent liberal majority, or, as she calls it, a ‘permanent election insurrection.’ Quite a choice of words, of course, considering that the country is still suffering the aftershocks of the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington by supporters of Mr. Trump who tried to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election."

Queen’s University Assistant Professor of Religion Amarnath Amarasingam expanded on these points to The Guardian.

“We have seen (the great replacement myth) playing a greater role in mobilizing individuals to violence because it has a somewhat unique ability to foster a sense of emergency,” she explained. “You can hear it all over the Buffalo shooter’s manifesto – a deep sense of urgency that there is an imminent collapse of white people and white culture. Combine all this with the furious nihilism, racism, and angst of 4chan and it all becomes deeply worrying.”

So how did a seemingly unsuspecting teenager become helplessly enraptured by online hate? The answer provided by The Guardian was as bewilderingly simple as it was unnerving.

The culprit whose name was not mentioned in this article out of respect for his victims – "including Aaron Salter, a security guard who tried to stop the shooting; local activist Katherine Massey; and substitute teacher Pearl Young" – reportedly joined 4chan out of "extreme boredom" during the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020.

He has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder.

The Guardian's full article is available here.

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