Analysis & Opinions - The Atlantic

The Jacksonville Killer Wanted Everyone to Know His Message of Hate

| Aug. 27, 2023

He didn't want to merely murder people; he wanted to do so with the attention of the world.

Much is already known about the gunman who killed three Black customers at a Dollar General shop in Jacksonville, Florida, yesterday. He was in possession of an AR-15-style weapon and a handgun; he left manifestos about his hatred toward African Americans; he was wearing a tactical-style uniform as if going to war. There are still questions about how he acquired the guns, his mental state, and whether he had accomplices. But the basic storyline is written. He made it easy. He wanted us to know.

His actions yesterday were not just a hate crime. They were a performance for all the world to see. This is the age of mass shooting as production. And we misunderstand what is happening if we see this as a play with only one act at a time.

At the powerful post-shooting press conference yesterday, Sheriff T. K. Waters was clear, sharing as much information as was readily available. He did not sanitize, quoting the N-word directly from the manifesto, the shock of hearing the word putting to rest such euphemisms as racially motivated or tinged.

Waters plainly wanted to calm the public, the Black public, by stating that the gunman "acted completely alone," as if to assure the community that it was no longer under threat. His statement that "there is absolutely no evidence that the shooter is part of any large group" may technically be true but is a false narrative. White supremacists, and in particular neo-Nazis, are not acting in isolation, and they like to put on a show.

Right-wing violence is done by individuals, but they are organizing and learning from an online apparatus as well as the actions of previous like-minded killers. Mass killings from the past, in New Zealand or Norway or South Carolina, are studied and replicated, each feeding off of the others. Like foreign terror groups, these men seek to use violence as a way to attract attention to their cause....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kayyem, Juliette.“The Jacksonville Killer Wanted Everyone to Know His Message of Hate.” The Atlantic, August 27, 2023.

The Author

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