Because there is seemingly no end to the grief and indignity, last week saw the racially-motivated murder of nine African Americans by homegrown terrorist Dylann Roof. Naturally, a website has surfaced featuring what appears to be Roof’s white supremacist manifesto that gives the motives and mentality behind the massacre. It’s deeply racist and deeply disturbing and it is our duty as Americans to read it. And should it eventually be authenticated as Roof’s work, the manifesto should be a constant point of reference when discussing the events that transpired.
Now, I understand that this might be considered a contrarian position. There have been calls to ignore the manifesto because of it’s content. The #NoNotoriety hashtag is trying to reclaim the spotlight from Roof and celebrate the lives of the victims instead. This isn’t a new idea:
- Zeynep Tufekci made the link between “contagious suicide” and gratuitous media coverage of mass killings in The Atlantic back in 2012.
- Ari Schulman covered similar ground, calling for the media to minimize the celebrity factor of mass shooters in the Wall Street Journal in 2013.
- Ezra Klein echoed those sentiments in the wake of the Elliot Rodger spree killing in 2014.
The reasoning goes that mass shooters, specifically, see their heinous acts as a vector to achieve fame and notoriety. By obscuring the face of evil, the media – who is absolutely obligated to cover the story – reduces the incentive to commit the crime. I feel that, I really do, but I think that the Roof Manifesto is valuable as opposed to the Unabomber Manifesto or My Twisted World because the thoughts that led to the Charleston Shooting are present in so many Americans.
“Now, I’m not a mass murderer, but…”
Dylann Roof is a treasonous fascist who believed in forced segregation and hoped that his acts of terrorism would spark a race war. On the other hand, there are hundreds of thousands (millions? tens of millions?) of Americans who would at least nod along to parts of Roof’s Manifesto. If you think I’m being hyperbolic, you need to wake up. There are people in your life who can see Roof’s point.
That’s not to say that America is slowly fermenting a generation of mass murderers – in fact I believe it’s exactly opposite. The distance between your basic garden-variety racist and Dylann Roof is so vast that when they see their beliefs reflected in his words, it will nauseate them. And maybe, just maybe, it will cause them to question those beliefs. That is my hope, anyway.