The past few days saw a flurry of mass shootings in the United States. However, what was interesting to see was that while two shooters were far-right, the Dayton shooter displayed far-left sympathies. This perfectly shuts the case on the gun debate being that of a left-right argument. In fact, the gun debate is an argument between authoritarianism and liberty.
The argument for gun rights is not a new one. In 1776, America passed its 2nd amendment.
The United States was shaken to its very core this weekend. Two horrific massacres striking two small communities, one at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas and one at a Bar & Grill in Dayton, Ohio.
As the world watched in horror at what has become an all-too-regular kind of tragedy in America, the news media began to piece together suspects. Though the motives for one have been made a bit more clear by the revelation of an online manifesto posted moments before the attack, the motives in Dayton remained a bit of a mystery, until internet sleuths did their digging.
Who was the Dayton shooter?
A Twitter account with the handle @IamtheSpookster started to gain an online head of steam, as users started to comb through nearly 10,000 tweets of his. The user looked strikingly similar to the shooter, the user was clearly in the Dayton area, and above all, the shooter appeared to have an interest in fringe political movements. Specifically, the far-left and Antifa.
Spookster, as he will be referred to in this article, was a deeply troubled person beyond this. According to multiple former classmates of the gunman, Spookster had been suspended from school for compiling a “hit list” of people he wanted to kill, and a “rape list” of girls he wanted to rape.
The list came to prevalence after police said there was nothing in the background of the 24-year-old Spookster that would have disabled him from purchasing the .223-caliber rifle along with extended ammunition magazines that he used to open fire at a crowded Dayton bar.
A clearly troubled young man was able to get his hands onto a deadly weapon, and use it to cause mass pain. That’s sadly nothing new. Although the El Paso shooter’s intentions were much easier to read into, it takes a bit more investigating to fully understand.
An Antifa sympathizer?
Spookster both tweeted and retweeted a variety of posts that made his intentions much clearer. Antifascist posts, calls to arms, and sympathizing with terrorism were all clearly expressed.
Spookster retweeted sympathetic tweets about the Antifa terrorist “comrade” who entered an ICE facility in Washington, going so far as to call him a “martyr.” Spookster retweeted a post from a now-deleted account called “@tacticaldipshit,” which called for people who are being accused of terrorism “just for protesting” to instead “think about doing terrorist sh*t.”
Other tweets clearly show where his sympathies were on the recent Andy Ngo attack that took place in Oregon a few weeks ago. Ngo, a journalist who specializes in Antifa, was beaten by several masked members of Antifa at a street rally in Portland, to which he suffered a brain hemorrhage and a torn ear lobe, amongst other injuries.
Spookster retweeted a number of posts directly mocking Ngo which championed violence. “Arm, train, prepare” read one of his many posts. Other posts showed a direct obsession with what he perceived to be a growing neo-Nazi movement in America, with a willingness to deplatform those who Antifa deemed to be Nazis.
The account was all but confirmed to be the shooter’s when the account was deleted from Twitter, which has been commonplace for spree killers for years on the platform—Though that never used to be the case. To this day, one can still very easily find the Twitter account of one of the brothers who conducted the Boston Marathon Massacre, who Tweeted “Ain’t no love in the heart of the city, stay safe people” directly after detonating a bomb which killed three people and injured several hundred others.
Was there an Antifa-motive?
None of this explicitly explains why Spookster decided to do what he did. Killing his sister and others at a bar and grill doesn’t exactly scream Antifa “activism.” But perhaps more clues could be found in who Spookster was following.
His account originally showed that he followed over 1300 people. The last account followed by Spookster was @accelerbot, a bot account which retweets all tweets which use the keyword “accelerationism.”
If “accelerationism” sounds familiar to you, there’s a good reason for it. The word came to prominence after the New Zealand Mosque shooter’s manifesto reached the public.
Accelerationism, in this sense, is defined as “the idea that violence should be used to push Western countries into becoming failed states. Adherents hope the collapse will give rise to radical, presently unthinkable changes in our society.”
The @accelerbot account was created in March 2019, the same month as the New Zealand massacre.
This is something that both the El Paso shooter and Spookster have in common. The El Paso shooter’s manifesto also included the word, as the term appears to be a new key that radicalized maniacs are using to rationalize such heinous actions.
The rise of accelerationism
In this sense, we see a far-left Antifa version of the idea. For a new, just society to arise, the status-quo must first be undermined to the point where it collapses. By leaving his account open for the masses to see, it creates a swarm of interest that garners more media attention, and actually stokes the flames underneath Antifa, further justifying this as an atrocity committed by “the left.” Like Alfred Pennyworth said in the Dark Knight, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” This is the ethos of the accelerationist ideology, an ideology which is not exclusive to the far-right, as the SPLC would like you to believe.
You may have noticed that when talking about how many people Spookster followed, we said that the account showed he “originally followed over 1300 people.” While the @iamspookster account was gaining notoriety across the web, the number quickly dipped lower and lower, ending at around 1250 before finally getting deactivated.
This is because of users who were followed by @iamthespookster who blocked him or deactivated their accounts, thus removing all retweets of theirs from Spookster’s timeline. Many people were quick to attempt to erase their association with the shooter. Most notably, Jared Hold of Right Wing Watch, a journalist who has been previously linked to Antifa.
Though the El Paso shooter has garnered attention as being a white supremacist who followed in the New Zealand shooter’s footsteps, it’s doubtful that Spookster’s media coverage will continue in that same vein. The continually soft coverage of Antifa and actions committed by their sympathizers will continue, and it would be a shock to no one if the coverage of this particular tragedy focused solely on gun control, rather than political violence. The scapegoat role for that cause has already been assigned to El Paso.
On one of the bloodiest weekends in recent American history, a reported white supremacist gunman took 20 lives in an El Paso Wal-Mart. Only 13 hours later, a reported Antifa sympathizer in Dayton, Ohio killed his sister and her boyfriend as well as seven others at a popular nightspot, though his personal motivation is still unclear. These two young men who seemingly followed opposing ideologies both saw mass violence and death as the solution.
This kind of violence doesn’t stem from either an exclusively left or right perspective, but from an undercurrent of tribalism in our society that can cause young people to feel worthless and hopeless. When people feel isolated, they reach out desperately for somewhere to belong.
Over the same weekend as this numbing violence, the young socialists of America gathered in Atlanta for an annual convention. They bickerered about the gendered use of the word “guys” and how clapping is too triggering and must be replaced by jazz hands. The live streams for the four-day event are a tragicomic, yet stunningly accurate depiction of the self-parody that has become the American left. These ideologues are eating themselves alive, while completely ignoring the effect their divisive language is having on society at large.
However, divisive language is not the sole purview of the left. The right has its fair share of alienating talking points. Fox News anchors miss the mark when they spout off about the dangerous video games pose in radicalizing those like the young El Paso gunman. Xenophobic, identitarian, anti-immigration language doesn’t help either. It’s almost as if there are bad actors on both sides.
While the left blames “white supremacy” for the problem, and the right thinks that a permissive culture that advocates for violence is at fault, often refusing to acknowledge the problem of white supremacists, neither is looking at the issues that are truly tearing us apart. At the root of both the vile scourge of actual white supremacists and the fevered Antifa activist’s dream that everyone who disagrees with them is a white supremacist is the desire to categoize and group people. To put it more simply—identity politics.
Tribalism is a substantial threat to the peaceful fabric of North American life. It leads to censorship, panic, and conspiratorial thinking. We have abandoned our commonality in favour of elucidating and entrenching our differences. We point fingers and otherize, telling those different from us exactly why those differences make whatever our group is better than whatever their group is. When we box and package ourselves, we make it easier to be divided. We assemble according to shared characteristics, and bond over how different our group is from other groups. It isn’t long before groups take pride in those aspects of self that they all share, and it isn’t long after that pride in shared characteristics within the group morph into feelings of group superiority over others.
White supremacists subscribe to identity politics. They use the prevalence of cultural tribalism to be culturally tribal themselves. The left uses identity politics to unify the members of a group, and then to ascertain, identify, or invent commonalities among groups of groups. This is why the left has the appearance of being comprised of groups of groups, while the right appears to be a solid voting block. Media ideologues vie for control of the narrative, pitting labels of white supremacy against armchair diagnoses of mental illness while real life bodies pile up.
People who murder innocents do it for the same purpose: to terrorize a community and instill fear. That’s what these men were doing. Despite reasons given, whether the manifesto of the El Paso shooter, or whatever reasons we may never know from the Dayton shooter, they picked up weapons with the intent of mass murder because they felt this was the only way to assert power. It goes without saying that these were horrible, terrorist acts. But the fact is that they keep happening, with young people radicalizing on both the right and the left.
Is it likely that a boorish, politically incorrect president or hyper-realistic video games or heavy metal music (to invoke a previous social panic) are to blame for the violence of young rebels without a legitimate cause? It seems more likely that the identity politics that dictates ideological safety and group identity as more important than individual freedom and equality under the law has played a major factor.
Identity politics on the left and the right has become so insidious that people of all races, genders, orientations, and religions are afraid to find commonality. We know culture is polarized, but doesn’t have to be that way between individuals.
When people receive the message from culture at large that they’re worthless, whether for reasons of race, immigration status, or gender, how do we expect them to react? Are they just supposed to take it?
While pundits and pontificators have been quick to blame the recent violence on everything from gun laws to Trump to video games, the lowest of the low have used the recent tragedies as cudgels in order to score cheap political points. Violent tragedies like this predate any of the supposed causes that the talking heads put forward.
Every time this happens the response is the same. Calls for things to change, for gun control, more mental health education or access to care, impeaching Trump, twirl on, media. At the memorial for the victims in Dayton, the crowd chanted “do something!” That is a desperate call. What no one says is that this is definitely going to happen again.
We could clamp down on everything, but until young people feel valued by a society that seems more willing to throw them under the bus, this problem of radicalized, ostracized youth will keep getting worse.
We need to face facts. Mass violence has been around longer than Donald Trump, video games, rock music, guns, and all of the other purported causes. But the one thing that’s been around as long as mass violence is tribalism. And let’s be loud and clear about it: identity politics is tribalism. We need to understand that our differences do not make us better or worse than anyone else. If we want to live in a safer and more civil society, tribalism, on the left and right, needs to end.
The United States is going through a unique polarization. Those on the right and the left wing are increasingly alienated from and hostile to one another.
One of the more frightening trends occurring is the normalization of the left’s extremist views. While extremist views on the right have been rooted out exposed in the public square, extremist views from the left need not hide at all, as their viewpoints seem to be more tolerated by mainstream voices.
The schism continues to deepen. As a result of the lunacy that continually hits us over the head every day, many have simply given up on listening to opinions from the opposite side of the aisle.
More grey than black or white
A clear and tiring example of this is civil rights activist Shaun King, who has not been listening for some time now. King himself gained prominence following the shooting of Michael Brown, in which a police officer shot an 18-year-old African American boy; he stayed in the public consciousness as a Black Lives Matter activist, keeping himself relevant until a number of controversies began to hound him.
Following the attack on an ICE detention centre in Tacoma, Washington by a 69-year-old self-proclaimed “Antifa” terrorist named Willem Van Spronson, King decided to praise the perpetrator’s actions, along with a number of other prominent left-wing activists.
A “letter” to comrades
In the tweet, King calls Van Spronsen’s manifesto a “beautiful, painful, devastating letter.”
The manifesto itself is heavily peppered in Marxist dialect, addressing his “comrades,” writing to apologize for missing “the rest of the revolution.”
“I am Antifa,” says Van Spronsen, aligning himself with a group that the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security has designated as “Anarcho-Extremists.”
“The semi-automatic weapon I used was a cheap, home built unregistered “ghost” ar15, [sic] had six magazines,” writes Van Spronsen. “I strongly encourage comrades and incoming comrades to arm themselves.” He continues, “we are now responsible for defending people from the predatory state. Ignore the law in arming yourself if you have the luxury. I did.”
Who are the real radicals?
Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims. To simply call a spade a spade, Shaun King is championing the writings of a disillusioned terrorist.
What the exact solution is to the complex crisis cursing the United States’ southern border is obviously unclear. But is there any position more “extreme” than calling for the liquidation of the border?
Is there a position more “extreme” than calling for “No border, no wall, no U.S.A. at all“? To end the United States as it is currently known, and to accept an enormous flood of immigrants larger than what we already know, radically changing the country in ways not yet understood?
Somehow, these are not considered to be a radical viewpoint.
King later went on to delete the tweets praising terrorist actions, making them disappear as if nothing ever happened. King did not apologize, but more likely did not want to deal with the amount of blowback he was already beginning to receive.
This is apart of the problem, also. When someone does something that is very clearly stupid, like sympathize with a terrorist gunman, they are then called out for their stupidity.
No matter what these people say, they will indefinitely be labelled as either “Russian bots” or trolls from 4chan. At no point is self-reflection necessary, and in the end, King will surely walk away feel validified.
This is part of what’s known as the “backfire effect,” this effect takes place when, in the face of contradictory evidence, established beliefs do not change but actually get stronger.
This effect has been demonstrated in a number of psychological tests. Subjects are given data that either reinforces, or goes against their existing biases.
In the majority of cases, people will double down on their beliefs. Their confidence in their prior position is increased, regardless of any evidence they were faced with.
In a pessimistic sense, this would make most refutations useless. And now that we are this far down the line, that’s exactly how it all feels. Useless.
"I am Antifa": Far-left extremist writes in manifesto before bombing Washington-state immigration centre
A far-left militant has been shot and killed in Tacoma, Washington after bombing an immigration centre and engaging in an armed confrontation with police officers.
The 69-year old man behind the attack was identified as prominent anarchist Willem Van Spronsen. The attack was at the Tacoma Northwest Detention Centre, where illegal immigrants are held until they are deported out of the United States.
It is alleged that Van Spronsen showed up to the centre armed with firearms and bombed one of the vehicles in the vicinity before police officers arrived and discharged their firearms at the suspect.
Before the violent armed attack, Van Spronsen published a manifesto in which he wrote “I am Antifa”.
In his manifesto, the attacker echoes the language of Democratic Party congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has referred to the detention centres as “concentration camps” and increased her rhetoric against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers (ICE).
Van Spronsen has had several encounters with law enforcement in the past. In one case in 2018, he was arrested on third-degree assault charges for harming a police officer.
Further reports have found that Van Spronsen was a member of a far-left militia called Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club, of which CNN host W. Kamau Bell was a supporter of.
Several left-wing commentators and groups have praised Van Spronsen as a martyr and have been openly calling for further violent action.
This attack is the latest incident in a trend of escalating violence among far-left extremists in the United States and abroad. Most recently, journalist Andy Ngo was assaulted and sent to the hospital with a brain hemorrhage after covering a violent Antifa mob in Portland.
The Post Millennial has also detailed in the past several incidents of far-left violence here in Canada.