Dylann Roof’s manifesto can be read here. (Update: It seems to have been removed, but you can read a full PDF version of the document here). Roof compiles a dossier of the various “races,” their putative prospects and faults. He has stuff on Jews and Hispanics — seems mostly ambivalent toward both — but it’s obvious this white nationalist fuck was mostly preoccupied with black people. The section on “blacks” takes up more than half of the document, dwarfing all the others combined. Jews and Hispanics were not the main object of Roof’s virulent hatred, and he expressed “a great deal of respect” for East Asians.
Nothing infuriates me more than white supremacists. “Last Rhodesian.” Go figure.
“Lone wolf” as organizational strategy
Anyway, this massacre is not a matter of some deranged individual. People like Dylann Roof don’t just pop up out of nowhere, in isolation from historically-evolved social and material conditions. They are products of a racist society. So it’s a structural and systemic issue rather than an issue of one or two “bad apples.”
However, as a friend pointed out to me, the “lone wolf” description actually makes sense when it comes to the strategy that’s been consciously cultivated by neo-Nazi organizations in the US over the years. Not to unduly “individualize” this phenomenon or anything like that. This kid discovered websites online that seemed to support and further articulate his preexisting racial prejudices, and he networked face-to-face with local hate groups. But this matches the pattern of decentralized organizational behavior that’s cropped up in recent decades. My friend put it best:
The anger at the use of the term “lone wolf” to describe Dylann Roof is severely misplaced. The use of the term in this context does not medicalize racist violence, it actually deepens our understanding of it. A ‘lone wolf’ is a white supremacist terrorist that is acting according to the decentralized organizational model that neo-Nazi leaders like Tom Metzger, founder of White Aryan Resistance, began to promote in the 1990s. Older American neo-Nazis, like George Lincoln Rockwell, had simply tried to mimic the NSDAP’s structure and ride the wave of 1950s anticommunism to cultural and political success. This shift in tactics was caused, primarily, by the decline of segregationist supporting institutions and politicians, including David Duke, as well as the successful infiltration of many White Supremacist groups by the federal government. Beyond transitioning to a decentralized organizational model, many neo-Nazi groups also began to deploy a whole host of entryist strategies to try and infiltrate mainstream conservative groups like the Minute Men and government institutions like the military. They also tried to repackage and, consequently, normalize their beliefs through a number of campaigns that transitioned their public views away from explicit eliminatory antisemitism, white imperialism, lynching, and eugenics and toward conspiracy theories about the United Nations, nativist opposition to immigration, criminal stereotyping, and race realism. Many of these groups also began to promote apartheid South Africa as a model for their vision of America and increasingly distanced themselves from Hitler and his followers. By not using the term “lone wolf,” antiracists end up stripping part of the recent history of neo-Nazism in the United States out of their description of this murderous fascist.
Just to reiterate, this does not in any way call into question the pervasiveness of racism in American society. Nor does it entertain the fantastic explanation of the attack as some sort of “assault on our religious liberty,” as 2016 presidential candidate Rick Santorum characterize the killings. It’s pointless to psychologize this tragedy, chalking it up to mental illness or imbalance, or to attribute it to some other ideology (like anti-Christian hatred).
Terrorism and hate crime as legal categories
Clearly, the shooting was ideologically motivated: namely, by notions of racial supremacy. It was a deliberate act of terrorism targeting the black community of Charleston.
Legally speaking, however, I think categories such as “hate crime” and “terrorist” are superfluous. Not just here, but also in the case of Frazier Glenn Cross/Miller with the triple-homicide at that Jewish center in Kansas a couple years ago. I’m not suggesting that these aren’t terrorist or racist crimes. Obviously they are. Still, I’m not sure if these categories really add to the crime of premeditated mass murder. For clearly biased political reasons, the appellation “terrorist” is typically only applied in cases of jihadist violence (and not with white supremacist killings). Both are terrorist, no doubt. At the juridical level, however, this classification is mostly just tacked on in order to compound the number of years faced by persons accused of more minor crimes. Usually it’s used to threaten or punish individuals of Middle Eastern descent entrapped by law enforcement in supposed terror plots.
While we’re on the subject, a few words on this last point. Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks broadcast has pointed out an unsettling truth: since 2002, right-wing homegrown white terrorists have killed more Americans than Muslim extremists. So much for the spurious notion that foreign jihadists constitute the greatest threat to American lives. Continue reading