The Interplay of Manifestos and Right-Wing Media Dialogue

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August 4, 2019 1:11 a.m.

Authorities are still sorting out the background of the gunman in this horrific far-right terror attack in El Paso, Texas. But he appears to have left a “manifesto” and a lengthy social media trail. Assuming these identifications are correct, they portray a sadly familiar “great-replacement” theory, white-supremacist radical.

What is particularly notable in this case is the intermingling and co-evolution of these manifestos with more mainstream right-wing media dialog.

There’s abundant evidence the shooter is a big fan of President Trump and certainly of his worldview. And yet the manifesto includes a sort of preemptive rebuttal of any claims that he is a Trump supporter or that Trump influenced him. He predicts that “the media” will identify him as a white supremacist and blame President Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric for radicalizing him and provoking the attack. Such claims, he writes, would be “fake news” and such claims will indeed only prove that “the media” is “fake news.”

After these horrors, we expect right-wing talking heads to attack any suggestion that these attacks might be related to the President’s politics and rhetoric. But here the assailant is doing so himself in advance. Indeed he denies Trump’s influence by using Trump’s signature attack lines. For someone who specifically denies Trump radicalized him, he’s very focused on protecting the President. He doth protest rather too much.

The gaslighting is actually baked into the attack itself. He wants to be both the assailant and part of the post-massacre spin and pro-Trump defense.

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