Denver shooter showed ‘pointers about’, participated in hate-filled online space, extremism experts say

The Colorado gunman who killed five people and injured two others in a planned attack last week at several locations in the Denver subway participated in extremist circles online and expressed his beliefs before killing, according to two extremism experts who have studied its online presence.

The gunman’s writings are blatantly misogynistic and racist and often focus on violence, extremism experts said. Her books and writings online glorify violence, expose an alleged attack on white masculinity, and advocate for a return to unequal gender roles.

On Twitter, he wrote that aggressive white men are no longer relevant and “war is coming”. In another tweet, he wrote that “a generation of flawed men” had been programmed to be passive and gentle – traits he said belonged to women – and that feminine traits made them “passive eunuch slaves. “. He angrily wrote that laws, social norms and law enforcement protected the weak from the strong.

“I’m done with this,” he wrote in 2020. “The weak had better get attached… (expletive) is about to become real. “

“While we couldn’t necessarily identify an ideology or extremist group he was with, he was in a generally extreme and right-wing space,” said Jessica Reaves, editorial director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

The shooter participated in an area of ​​extremist culture called the ‘manosphere’ – a collection of loosely connected websites and chat rooms where men oppose the idea that women are equal and discuss an alleged masculinity crisis. The shooter’s writings echo many beliefs found in the manosphere and he has publicly connected online with men from several well-known white and hate nationalist groups.

“What I am seeing is an individual who carried many indicators of concern,” said Matthew Kriner, senior researcher at the Center on Terrorism, Extremism and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies.

Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen told a news conference the day after the Dec. 27 shooting that the gunman was on law enforcement radar and had been the subject of at at least two surveys. None of those investigations resulted in any arrests, Pazen said. The Denver Police Department and the FBI declined to release more information about previous investigations.

Police said the shooter knew his victims and interviews with some of those affected reveal he may be taking revenge on them. The Denver Post limits the use of the shooter’s name in an attempt to minimize the amount of infamy he earns as a result of his violence.

A former employee said the gunman was running a tattoo business with some of the people he targeted in his shots and the gunman blamed everyone when the business failed. The shooter also named several of those he targeted in his self-published three-volume book that described killing them. Lakewood Police Officer Ashley Ferris shot the gunman after confronting him in a busy shopping and dining area.

While there is no evidence the shooter killed in pursuit of an ideological goal, research and history show that the extreme beliefs expressed online can translate into real-life violence, Kriner said. .

The shooter’s emphasis on survival skills, physical strength, the need for tribes, European myths, and genetic purity also aligns him with a category of hate groups that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as neo groups. -Völkisch, or Folkish. Groups in this category draw on “images and myths from a bygone and fictionalized Viking age” and “seek to transcend nationalism and use whiteness as appropriate for their ill-conceived purposes,” according to the center.

“Although outward-facing violence rarely erupts from the folk movement, it hinges on a pathetic warrior with ethnic or racial charges,” according to the center.

The Denver shooter made several references in his book and online to Wolves of Vinland, one of the hate groups in the Folkish category, Kriner said. Groups like the Wolves of Vinland practice “bastard Nordic pagan extremism,” Kriner said.

“They are fascists, but they are esoteric fascists,” Kriner said. “They’re going to hide that behind this Nordic veneer to make it more palatable.”

Kriner and Reaves disagree on whether the Denver shooter should be called an extremist. Kriner has said that his misogyny alone qualifies him as an extremist. Reaves said the shooter appeared to have beliefs that would once have been considered extreme – such as the belief that white masculinity is under attack – but these beliefs have become common enough that it has become difficult to use those beliefs alone to label a person like an extremist.

“It’s become so common at this point – you hear it from mainstream politicians – that the line is blurry at this point,” she said.

It’s hard to say how many actual connections the shooter had in the extremist realm, Reaves said.

“What we have seen time and time again is that the men who commit these crimes do not associate in any way, or in any real way, with any movement,” Reaves said. “Most of them have become radicalized online and we operate on our own. “

While some extremists have distanced themselves from the shooter since the murders, others are celebrating the killer and his actions online, Kriner and Reaves said.

“Our concern for the future and what we’ll be looking at for a while is how it plays out in extremist spaces online and if he’s honored, raised and praised like a saint,” Reaves said.

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