WASHINGTON — The teenager accused of gunning down 10 African Americans at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, followed an insidious racist belief that is gaining ground among white Americans that minorities take over society.
18-year-old suspect Payton Gendron was explicitly inspired by the white supremacist gunman who murdered 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.
The Christchurch killer had warned in a manifesto of a ‘great replacement’ of white Christians of European descent with blacks, Jews, Muslims, Latinos and others, a theory that has found growing echo in American right-wing politics and cable news.
Often taking the rambling text verbatim, Gendron produced his own chilling 180-page manifesto – in which he spells out his goal: “to kill as many black people as possible.”
Gendron himself came from a rural New York state town that had a very small number of non-white residents.
He learned of his hatred almost exclusively online, a pattern of “radicalization” that law enforcement authorities say has only increased in recent years to become a major threat to the United States.
Gendron traveled 200 miles (320 kilometers) to Tops Market in Buffalo to carry out his attack in a neighborhood he knew had a large African American population, during the busiest shopping time of the week.
ALL WHITE CITY
The 18-year-old murder suspect is the son of two New York State engineers, Mr Paul and Mrs Pamela Gendron.
They live in a modest two-story house, with a large, manicured lawn, in a quiet rural lane in Conklin, New York.
Nestled on the winding Susquehanna River and surrounded by forests and small farms, Conklin has a handful of trucking and distribution centers, as well as the headquarters of an electronics company.
Its population of 5,000, according to the 2020 census, was 96% white and only 0.6% African American.
Gendron graduated from high school in June 2021 after 18 difficult months coping with the Covid-19 pandemic, when students were often isolated at home with online lessons and personal interactions more than ever confined to social media.
The New York Times quoted classmates as saying he was generally quiet, even “reclusive,” and preferred online classes even when in-person classes resumed.
He was interested in firearms common among rural American teenagers. But in his senior year, authorities received a warning about him.
Law enforcement officials said that last year, before graduating, Gendron said his plans for the future were to undertake a murder-suicide.
He underwent a psychiatric evaluation and claimed he was joking. Released after a few days, his file would then have been forgotten until the massacre of Saturday, May 14.
In his writings, Gendron said he came to his point while surfing the often radical chat site 4chan and other conspiracy theory websites amid “extreme boredom” during the shutdowns. Covid-19.
Much of its manifesto is taken directly from the “Great Replacement” text published by Christchurch killer Brenton Tarrant, which claims that white Europeans were threatened by “ethnic replacement” and “genocide”.
“Brenton started my real research into the issues of immigration and aliens in our white lands, without his livestream I would probably have no idea of the real issues facing the West,” Gendron wrote.
Gendron explained in great detail his plans for the attacks, choosing the target, selecting his arms, body armor and other equipment, and how he would broadcast it live with a helmet-mounted camera, all like Tarrant had done.
Despite its links to mass murder, the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory has become increasingly common in conservative circles in Europe and the United States over the past decade.
It was featured at a 2017 national rally of right-wing groups in Charlottesville, Virginia.
And it was quoted by the man who gunned down 22 people, many of them Latinos, at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in August 2019, and who said he was “defending my country against cultural replacement and ethnicity caused by an invasion.”
According to an AP-NORC poll last December, nearly half of all Republicans believe immigrants are replacing native-born Americans.
And the New York Times counted 400 occasions when Fox News star Mr. Tucker Carlson pushed the idea that white people would be replaced by other groups.
Ms. Liz Cheney, the dissenting Republican representative, warns that her party dangerously promotes this view.
Party leaders have “enabled white nationalism, white supremacy and anti-Semitism,” she wrote on Twitter after Saturday’s killings.
“History has taught us that what begins with words ends up much worse.” AFP