Anatomy of hate: Why Buffalo killings signal a great American malaise
10 people died during a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York
The suspect has been identified as 18-year-old Payton Gendron
Gendron posted a 180-page manifesto on social media
A lone white man, spouting racial hate, goes on a rampage, and the United States of America suffers yet another “stain on its soul” – the story is, now, near-routine. From El Paso to Buffalo, the shooting, the hate-messaging, the condemnation and the moving on have become nauseatingly familiar. Yet, the Buffalo killings are important in their political impact, and in understanding what deep recesses of the internet are doing to American society.
Payton Gendron is an 18-year-old white male. He is under probe for having written something allegedly problematic at school. On Saturday, the teen who is said to have defined himself as “a white supremacist and a fascist,” according to a BBC report, set out with an assault rifle, walked into a primarily black neighbourhood in Buffalo, New York, and started shooting first outside and then inside a supermarket all the while running a live stream on social media.
Ten people died in the attack and Buffalo mayor Byron Brown said the suspect arrived to take “as many black lives as possible.” Mayor Brown also said the Buffalo killings will be a turning point. “I believe what happened in Buffalo, New York yesterday is going to be a turning point. I think it’s going to be different after this, in terms of energy and the activity we see.”
Before the rampage, the suspect, authorities said, posted a 180-page ‘manifesto’ articulating the ‘white replacement theory’. The theory posits that a cabal of global elites is trying to destroy white nations, via the systematic replacement of white populations. Jason Stanley, a professor of philosophy at Yale University, writing for the Guardian, states white replacement theory that the roots of white replacement theory go back to the Nazi regime.
White replacement theory also states that Jews are enablers of this white replacement, which they do by supporting causes such as Black Lives Matter and NAACP. Nearly 29 pages of Gendron’s manifesto deal with Jewish support for non-white races. The section ends with Gendron’s manifesto saying: “Jews are spreading ideas such as Critical Race Theory and white shame/guilt to brainwash Whites into hating themselves and their people.”
Working as lone wolves, the white supremacists out for blood are not without an ideological framework. Gendron’s 180-page manifesto acknowledges Brenton Tarrant, the man who killed 51 people at a mosque in New Zealand’s Christchurch in 2019.
Tarrant too had a manifesto which, like Gendron’s, decried the “white genocide” that will supposedly take place as a result of low fertility rates among whites and high fertility rates among non-white immigrants. Gendron’s manifesto, however, is an American version with references to Jim Crow and lynching.
The Buffalo killings are not just similar to the Christchurch attack, but to a string of others. In El Paso, a 21-year-old posted a document on social media protesting the ‘Hispanic invasion of Texas’ and then walked into a Walmart to kill 21 people. In 2018, another white male killed nine people in Charleston, South Carolina.
The FBI, US’s premier federal investigation agency, reported in 2021 that hate crimes in the country were up to the highest level in 12 years. While major mass shootings such as the one in Buffalo garner attention, thousands of other hate-based attacks take place every year, according to attorney-general Merrick Garland.