“The Empire never ended.”
–Philip K. Dick
We started last week with the crash into a Los Angeles highway of a small plane that was literally cosplaying as a Nazi fighter jet. That was Tuesday.
Despite all the jokes (and, let’s face it, serious speculation around some parts) that perhaps an actual Nazi plane got lost in a wormhole and was unceremoniously dumped into U.S. 101, looking back on it now it should have been a particularly eerie omen.
By Sunday the United States would see a very probable racially-motivated killing in Kentucky, a serial bomb-sender targeting (among at least 12 public figures) two past Democratic presidents AND Robert De Niro (!), and the deadliest antisemitic assault in the nation’s history.
Looking at the comment section of one semi-“legit” fringe news website, the sentiment regarding the shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue could be roughly broken down as follows:
- About half outright cheered the attacks.
- Another 40 percent or so believed it was a “false flag” in the vein of Sandy Hook, probably orchestrated by “the Dems.”
- The remaining sliver thought the rest of the commenters were assholes, and that the site was “ruined.”
51-year-old Gregory A. Bush, the alleged shooter of two African-Americans in the Kentucky case, has a history of racially-charged postings on social media. An apparent comic book fan with a passion for Marvel, he often referenced the menace of “SJWs.”
The casting of a Black man as the Human Torch in the last Fantastic Four movie was particularly upsetting to Bush, though he thought the push-back on a white man playing Iron Fist was too “politically correct.”
He also admitted he had paranoid schizophrenia, and that he could get in trouble when not taking his meds.
Bush had a history of domestic violence against his ex-wife and his own parents. Said Bush’s father in court documents: “He carries a gun everywhere he goes. He is dangerous. He is paranoid. I want him to stay away.”
Before the killings at the Kroger’s supermarket, Bush allegedly tried (and failed) to break into the church of a mostly Black congregation. After murdering Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones, Bush was confronted by Ed Harrell, another shopper in the parking lot. Bush was quoted as telling Harrell, “whites don’t kill whites.”
As of this writing, Bush’s profile is still on Facebook.
56-year-old Cesar Sayoc had a long, long history of posting (barely coherent) alt-right material on social media. On his two Twitter accounts he would often post the same memes over and over and over again in a row. He also would send violent threats to various people over the service (including Ron Howard and Jim Carrey), accompanied by graphic pictures of dismemberment.
An avid bodybuilder and former male stripper, Sayoc really seemed to derive a newfound sense of identity in his middle-age from the conservative memes he posted and the Trump rallies he attended.
Per one former employer of Sayoc’s:
“He was very angry and angry at the world, at blacks, Jews, gays. He always talked about ‘if I had complete autonomy none of these gays or these blacks would survive.’ He never said he would kill them or murder them or bomb them he just said ‘if I had complete autonomy the gays, the black and Jews would not survive.’ He was very, very strange.”
Sayoc has a long history of the trouble with the law, including making a bomb threat in 2002 and allegedly committing domestic violence against his own grandmother.
At the time he allegedly sent out 12 pipe bombs to his well-known “Democrat/Liberal” targets, he was living out of his van. The van contained garbage, dirty clothes, bomb-making equipment, nooses, and mannequins with their heads missing. The vehicle was plastered with alt-right memes; Sayoc literally lived inside the memes that gave him such a sense of identity and belonging.
He also literally weaponized memes, by allegedly stuffing at least one of them in a sent pipe bomb.
At 46, Robert Bowers is the “baby” in our unholy trinity of terrorists. Like Bush and Sayoc, he was fond of using social media to express his ultra-conservative viewpoints. Details are still coming out about Bowers, but what we do know is that in January he opened up an account on the platform Gab, which is (or was) a favorite among white nationalists. In his bio he wrote, simply, “Jews are the children of Satan.”
Unlike Sayoc, Bowers was not particularly fond of Donald Trump—feeling he wasn’t far Right enough, and a friend of Israel to boot. When finally captured by police after killing eleven at the Tree of Life synagogue, he reportedly said he wanted all Jews to die.
Here are the names of the people Bowers murdered, whose deaths a portion of those aforementioned commenters of that unnamed website cheered:
Joyce Feinberg, 75
Richard Gottfried, 65
Rose Mallinger, 97
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
Cecil Rosenthal, 59
David Rosenthal, 54
Bernice Simon, 84
Sylvan Simon, 86
Daniel Stein, 71
Melvin Wax, 88
Irving Younger, 69
How many more Bushes, Bowers and Sayocs are there out there? I can guarantee you: loads.
There is a running narrative in some conspiracy circles that is very Apocalyptic, and it’s been running for a while. Some even see Trump as the “Trumpet” of the Book of Revelation—a call to arms, perhaps, looking forward to a Golden Time when the “wheat” can finally be separated from the “chaff.”
So what we have now is like…like if somebody just turned on the Batshit-Signal, and set off this entire segment of highly angry unstable people.
It’s really scary, and I think this isn’t the last of it by far.
Oh, and special kudos to Twitter, who had these types of abusive death-threat assholes on their platform like a decade ago and didn’t do shit about them; well, at least they got their metrics from the abusers and the bots. And that’s what was really important—right guys???
We had this “toy”—this Internet—and we used it and abused it and now it’s fucking broken. What happens when we were kids and we used our toy to hit the other kid over the head? We had the toy taken away from us.
People can talk about Freedom of Speech, and I can look at my own work and say: “I need this covered by Freedom of Speech”…but at the end of the day, one of the most effective ways of violating somebody’s freedom of speech is to fucking murder them!
One of the most effective ways to violate the freedom of speech of others is to threaten and harass and persecute them until they stop using their ability to have freedom of speech because they are scared they and/or their loved ones are going to be fucking murdered! And then when you get a “ban” for threatening someone or directing violence towards them, you go: “violation of my freedom of speech!”
This happened to me like 10 years ago! I had decided to start deleting really abusive comments on my blog. And it was this big fuss in my community that I chose to do this: that it was “undemocratic” and that somehow I “owed” them to keep everything up for “journalistic integrity.”
You can imagine how they lost their shit when I eventually closed comments; one of the best ideas I ever had. (Though having anonymous blogs where I wasn’t a female was also pretty good.)
There was this fantasy that we could have this open Internet where we could share everything with everybody…this massive community pool. And it’s now in its late stages, like Rome before the fall.
Of course…banning offensive sub-groups only drives them further underground; feeds and justifies their paranoia, teaches them the tools of decentralized organization; allows them to operate under-the-radar (which can end up being even more destructive).
But the thing is, folks…we’re there already.
We’re there already.