Mass Shooter in the Making

TOPSHOT - This photo illustration created on April 13, 2023, shows the Discord logo and the suspect, national guardsman Jack Teixeira, reflected in an image of the Pentagon in Washington, DC. - FBI agents on Thursday... TOPSHOT - This photo illustration created on April 13, 2023, shows the Discord logo and the suspect, national guardsman Jack Teixeira, reflected in an image of the Pentagon in Washington, DC. - FBI agents on Thursday arrested a young national guardsman suspected of being behind a major leak of sensitive US government secrets -- including about the Ukraine war. US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the arrest made "in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information." (Photo by Stefani REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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There’s a new filing out in the Jack Teixeira case, written up here by the Times. It’s a government motion to keep Teixeira locked up while awaiting trial. The government argues, unsurprisingly, that Teixeira is a major flight risk and that he still knows lots of information that could cause grave damage if shared with hostile foreign powers. But what is new and newsworthy if not entirely surprising is that Teixeira’s record suggests he was carrying most of the red flags we’d expect for a future mass shooter. You can see the filing here.

As the government filing explains, Teixeira was suspended from high school in 2018 when a classmate “overheard him make remarks about weapons, including Molotov cocktails, guns at the school and racial threats.” Later that year he was denied a firearms identification card because of the local police department’s concerns about his threats and suspension at the high school.

In addition to a steady stream of comments about violence and murder, Teixeira also had some fantasy and/or plan to carry out some kind of mass shooting event with an “assassination van.” He sought advice about the best kind of rifle to use from the back of an SUV or what he termed “mobile gun trucks” and “[o]ff-road” and “good assassination vehicles.” It was apparently with this kind of hardware in mind that he said if he had his way he would “kill a [expletive] ton of people” in an effort at “culling the weak minded.”

Finally, he had hardware to back up these fantasies/plans. He had extensive arsenals at both his primary home and that of his father, what the government calls a “virtual arsenal of weapons, including bolt-action rifles, rifles, AR and AK-style weapons and a bazooka.” At his main home these were contained in a gun locker next to his bed, in addition to stashes of ammunition, “tactical pouches on his dresser” and some kind of silencer type device. Other military style gear in his home he apparently tried to throw away shortly before his arrest.

Josh Kovensky goes deeper into this evidence here.

It’s probably fair to say that only a small subset of the teens and young men who have this mix of military style weapons arsenal and obsessive planning and fantasizing about mass murder go on to commit an actual mass shooting massacre. But pretty much all the mass shooters have some version of this background. The evidence collected since Teixeira’s arrest suggest someone who was a prime candidate for a future mass shooting, even though the evidence provided in this detection filing gives us no way of knowing how likely it was that he would have made good on these violent fantasies or when he might have done so.

But this new evidence adds to a debate we were having shortly after Teixeira’s arrest. As we noted then many reports pointing to the apparent contradiction of a “patriot” from a “patriotic” and military service oriented family being behind one of the most damaging classified intelligence leaks in recent US history. But there was more than this. While some coverage noted Teixeira as part of a growing threat of far right domestic terrorism, most of it was thoroughly de-politicized. It tended to portray him as somewhere between a mentor to online teens and a needy misfit looking to get attention through access to classified government information.

But this mass-shooter in the making evidence is simply more pointing in a very different direction. Teixeira was clearly deeply consumed by the online world of the digital hard right — culling “dead weight” in the population, virulent and violent racist and anti-semitic screeds, the desire for purifying acts of mass violence, alignment with the foreign policy views of the revanchist far-right. (All of this raises pretty important questions about how this guy got his security clearances. But that’s a slightly different topic.) All of this is crystal clear if you’ve ever studied these worlds. Just as importantly, a growing number of mass shootings in the U.S., which are properly seen as mass terror incidents, are inspired by this world. It’s a domestic terror movement carried out mostly by lone wolves, inspired by “influencers” in this online world. A certain necessary precondition of most domestic mass terror events is a certain mix of often sexualized disappointment and rage mostly found in adolescent and young adult men. Combine this with the mix of social isolation and mentorship one finds online and you’ve got all the kindling you need. But this isn’t unique. You’d find a comparable profile in lots of young men who get involved in various kinds of mass violence and terror organizations all over the world. What makes it an issue now is the recruiting from this broader movement. Teixeira is just another example.

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