Posted on April 16, 2023

The Question of Manifestoes

Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, April 16, 2023

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A few weeks after a transgender person massacred students and teachers at a Christian school near Nashville, the American Right is in full retreat. Corporate America is sponsoring transgenderism, and blacks have turned the Tennessee legislature into a new civil-rights battleground. The crime itself has already been forgotten, except as an excuse for gun control. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) called the shooting a hate crime, so now he is a media villain.

The rationale for hate crimes is that a crime is especially bad if it is driven by a grudge against a protected group. This evidently harms society more than a “random” individual crime. Whatever we think about that, our rulers say criminal motive is important.

Therefore, for those who still believe in standards, it might be surprising that the police have not yet released the transgender shooter’s “manifesto.” “There’s quite a bit of writing to it,” said the Metro Nashville police chief, adding that both his department and the FBI have been “working on this.” Judging from at least one report, the manifesto may not even be a political document, and more about imitating other school shooters. More than two-thirds of respondents to a Rasmussen poll want the manifesto released, and initial reports suggested it would be.

Now “experts” have decided against this. “Media psychologist” Pamela Rutledge says it should be withheld “if it’s something that names people and damages others’ reputations” or “incites others to violence.” Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere says “it should not be published,” instead urging more discussion about “deadly weaponry.” The head of Log Cabin Republicans also says publishing it would be “glorification” of the shooter. Media Matters slammed conservatives for suggesting the manifesto was a political statement. The quickest way to rebut false claims would be to release the document.

Nashville school shooter Audrey Hale.

We can imagine the real reason. When the Buffalo shooter mentioned The Great Replacement, it drove censorship by both the regime and allied media on the grounds that the idea itself causes violence. Dylann Roof cited several news reports posted on the Council of Conservative Citizens’ website when he explained his actions. Although the CofCC was reprinting links from mainstream media, the guilt-by-association was tremendously damaging to the once powerful organization. Media also widely circulated Anders Breivik’s manifesto, especially so they could attack people he cited. In all these cases, the manifestos were easy to find and there seemed to be little worry about “glorification.” The manifestos were useful excuses for censorship and scoring political points.

We’ll see what happens with the Nashville killer’s manifesto.

There’s precedent for censorship. In 2015, a black man, Vester Lee Flanagan, shot two whites on live television. Flanagan was reportedly always “looking out for people to say things he would take offensive to,” and had filed race and sex discrimination lawsuits. He also reportedly took offense because one of his victims, reporter Alison Bailey Parker, had said she was going into the “field” or was “swinging by” an address. Flanagan apparently thought this language was racist; Parker’s colleagues deny that it was.

Denying the racism of murder victims may seem strange, but that’s what America requires. “When blacks get fired and then murder their former white coworkers (as at the two beer company mass murders in 2010 and 2020), these days people feel it is important to clear the names of the white victims from the charge of racism,” wrote Steve Sailer. If they were “racists,” presumably it’s alright to kill them. Jonathan Chait thought the reporters at Breitbart were “racist demagogues” for even calling the killing a “race murder.” Other reporters were similarly outraged because people noticed race.

Vester Lee Flanagan’s motives aren’t a mystery. He sent a 32-page manifesto that reportedly claimed he was avenging Dylann Roof’s shooting. “What sent me over the top was the church shooting,” he said. “And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.” He also complained on social media about one of the victims’ “racist comments” and said he wanted a “race war.” He was also bothered by his waning sexual attractiveness to homosexuals.

However, investigators refused to release the full text. The sheriff’s office said it would “re-victimize these individuals and their families by making public his rambling correspondence and writings.” At the time, the writings were part of an investigation, which meant they were exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. The sheriff’s office said it might never release them.

The New Republic published a story calling Flanagan an “injustice collector,” a man looking for things to be angry about. (That kind of person seems to have multiplied since 2015, with help from the media). Author Dave Cullen argued that it is simplistic to point to race, or anything else, as the key factor that pushed Flanagan over what the shooter called his “tipping point.” “Injustice collectors hate everyone, and that’s not what we mean by a ‘hate crime,’ ” wrote Mr. Cullen.

“Hate crimes” require an absurd exercise in mind-reading, and police sometimes dismiss explicit claims because they know the “real” reason a criminal did something. Today, there are powerful reasons to dismiss even the possibility of anti-white or anti-Christian violence. If you wanted to how someone who kills white people was “radicalized,” you’d have to cite almost every news organization in the country. The media have no trouble explaining the motives of any criminal even loosely tied to the “far-right.”

Motives may also matter on security questions. The federal government arrested a 21-year old National Guardsman, Jake Teixieira, who allegedly posted military secrets to impress his Discord group. The press has changed since the days of the Pentagon Papers; the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Bellingcat worked hard to find the source and attack his politics. The Post was offended by Mr. Teixieira’s “baseless notion” that the federal government let the Buffalo shooting take place “so they could argue for increased funding.”

The slavish devotion of the mainstream media to the national-security state may be surprising to those raised on Vietnam-era tales about the bravery of the adversarial press. It’s all about the motives of the leaker. Now, American intelligence agencies may use the incident to monitor social media and chatrooms more closely. This may quickly get out of control; the FBI associates such terms as “based” or “red-pilled” with “extremism.” This probably wouldn’t be happening if Mr. Teixieira were a leftist. Journalists during the Trump Administration didn’t help the government hunt down leakers, nor were leaks used as an excuse for restricting speech.

Government and media seem to have no firm principles for deciding what Americans have the right to know. If a criminal act can be used to smear their enemies, they will publicize every detail about the motive and the suspect. If not, they won’t. What’s clear is that the trend is for yet more government control of speech, with tame journalists as the sole authorized sources of information.

Dissident speech has already been banned from mainstream social media, and the number of banned subjects continues to grow. It will get worse every time a right-leaning person can be linked to a crime. Leftists needn’t worry about that.