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Reviews |  The Buffalo shooter’s manifesto offers no clues.  Only self-mythologization.


These are the story the terrorists want to tell about themselves, not the truth. The Buffalo shooter’s manifesto doesn’t mention his history of animal abuse, for example. As with any writer of his own story, he was making choices about how he wanted to be seen.

Manifestos from people like this have two audiences: normal people, or what extremely online people might call the norms, and true believers. Normies are, well, normal people who aren’t cooked in the language of online racists, who won’t pick up on layers of intentional irony — long asides about cryptocurrency and the environment, for example — that terrorists like the Buffalo shooter or the Christchurch, New Zealand, or Poway, California shooters use to unify their messages. (It seems the Buffalo shooter even directly copied parts of the Christchurch shooter’s manifesto.)

Normal people usually read a terrorist’s manifesto and take it at face value: if he says he was inspired by X, then he was inspired by X.

After the 2019 Christchurch shootings that claimed the lives of 50 people at two mosques, former senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway was apparently one such gullible reader, telling Fox News that people should read the killer’s manifesto, saying, “Unlike most mass shootings, this man came with pre-receipts, if you will. He released a 70-page manifesto, and I guess everyone has it browsed, looked up Donald Trump’s name, and here he is, once. But he also said he aligns closely with China’s ideology. He said he’s not a conservative, that he wasn’t a Nazi I think he called himself an eco-naturalist or an eco-fascist Christchurch shooter said he wasn’t a Nazi so for Conway he And he didn’t focus too much on Trump, so he couldn’t have been inspired by anything the ex-president said.

And although the Buffalo shooter’s manifesto contains crude and offensive illustrations and descriptions of Jews and blacks, it is also clearly aimed in part at this Norman audience, with a question and answer section in which the shooter explains how he became an outspoken racist and anti-Semite. He tries to place his transition into a racist murderer in a context that will somehow give meaning to his readers: he wasn’t like that before, but then he “learned” more about the evils of black Americans and the crimes of Jewish people through memes and online messages.

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