Why did some right-wing activists focus on the Jacksonville shooting?
In the hours after the racially motivated shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, over the weekend, parts of the far-right and alt-right in US politics were quick to compare it to an earlier mass shooting – alleging a politically motivated cover-up and conspiracy. But their claims contradict the facts established by police and extremism experts.
The letters began shortly after news broke that three blacks had been murdered by a white man in his twenties.
One typical post from an influencer on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, had been viewed at least 1.4 million times by Monday evening — and just one of hundreds of similar posts.
They all claimed or implied that the documents left by the Jacksonville gunman had been made public by authorities, and compared the situation to the shooting at a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, in March. This attack killed three children and three adults before the police killed the attacker.
No documents or statements written by the attackers were released in either case.
Some fringe accounts and far-right activists have alleged that the Nashville shooting was motivated by sexist ideology or hatred of Christians and have hinted at a politically motivated cover-up to hide the truth.
But this account does not fit the facts, according to experts and statements by law enforcement.
Statement or not?
Although police initially cited notes and other writings left by the shooter in Nashville, officials later clarified that the documents did not amount to a “manifesto”—a clear statement of ideology and intent describing the motives behind such a horrific crime.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch later told the media that describing the documents as a statement was a “mischaracterization”.
“The ideological expressions did not appear in these writings,” Rausch told a religious news site. “It’s the really unfortunate mental health issues that you can see as you read the magazines.”
he is too Mayor meeting in April said That the shooter had no clear motive or ideology.
There is another factor that has so far prevented the publication of magazines.
“In the case of the Nashville shooting, the families of the victims are fighting a legal battle against publishing the killer’s writings,” says Sarah Aniano, a disinformation analyst at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
In the Jacksonville case, law enforcement officials said they saw clear evidence of a motive in the killer’s writings.
“He targeted a certain group of people, and that’s black people,” Sheriff TK Waters said at a news conference after the attack.
Pictures of the weapons used in the shooting, which police say were purchased legally, showed rough sketches of swastikas and slogans painted on the firearms.
And unlike many tweets claiming the two cases were handled differently, the Jacksonville writings — like the Nashville documents — have not been made public.
There is no evidence that the Florida shooter posted it online before committing the murder. Extremism experts and journalists could not find copies online.
Ms. Anyano says that although it is not clear about the motive, the Nashville mass shooting has been the focus of some online activists because of reports that the killer, a former student at the school, was a transgender man.
“The calls for the far-right manifesto have been around since it happened,” she says. “It’s based on the hope that the Manifesto will somehow prove that so-called gender ideology is dangerous. That’s why they so badly want to see it.”
“Of course it is natural and understandable that people want insight into what might lead someone to carry out a mass shooting,” says Ms. Anyanu, but experts say it is not always a good idea to publish such documents, for fear that it will glorify and inspire the killers. . Other mass shootings.
Some activists’ response to the Jacksonville killings is part of a larger pattern of attempts to divert attention away from the motivations of white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
When a man with a swastika tattoo opened fire in a Texas mall in May, killing eight people, Activists tried to discredit Despite reports that the killer may have been motivated by far-right beliefs.
They claimed – without evidence – that the shooting was somehow part of a “psychological operation” or that the killer’s social media accounts were “fake”.
While such rumors seem fringe and hardly believable, they have spread to millions and even been repeated by Elon Musk.
In the Jacksonville case, Ms. Anyano says, “They don’t want to demonize the white male youth, because these same activists believe it is the male white male youth who are under attack.”
Even if the Nashville papers were published and indicated no apparent motive – as the authorities said – Ms. Anyano says the fringe influencers would still find ways to twist her to fit their narrative.
With Shayan Sardarizadeh reporting, BBC Verify