A gun is worth a thousand Nazi words
"A picture is worth a thousand words" applies when it comes to photography and art. But when it comes to a crime, all of whose details are documented by the assailants themselves, all words fail to leave the mouth - or fingertips - in awe.
The United States was shaken late Saturday by the news of a white, gun-toting neo-Nazi teen that wanted to reflect his supremacist ideology on the ground as a means of realizing his aspiration of eradicating those whose existence goes against his beliefs.
18-year-old Payton Gendron carried out a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, claiming the lives of 10 people while three others are being provided with medical care. Gendron shot 13 people; 11 Black people and two White people, which reflects the motive behind the attack streamed on Twitch for the whole world to see the gruesome reality of the far-right.
The crime took place in a predominantly black neighborhood located more than 320 km (200 miles) away from where he resides, meaning it was not by mere coincidence and had been premeditated, for one does not simply find themselves in a parking lot 300 km away from home, donning military-style gear, a bulletproof vest, and a tactical helmet, opening fire on strangers.
The shooting spree is currently under investigation as both "a hate crime and a case of racially-motivated violent extremism." But is it truly a hate crime?
What are the implications of such an act that emboldens supremacist acts and further racially-motivated crimes?
We have to start with crimes of this sort in the United States unrelated to race and conducted arbitrarily throughout the country: mass shootings.
A bullet with 'US' on it
The US, home to the loosest gun laws in the world, has the most mass shootings in the world. US citizens lead the world in terms of gun ownership, with estimations suggesting that there were 390 million guns in circulation in 2018, with a rate of 120.5 guns per 100 residents.
In the country where you can buy firearms at your local convenience store, more than 45,000 Americans died due to gun violence alone, exceeding any other year on the record. But as Democrats and Republicans battle it out on the Congress floor, dozens of Americans die at the end of a barrel of a gun on a daily basis.
With any advocacy on gun control ruled "unconstitutional" by many avid arms enjoyers, the American people are the only collateral damage there is. And though gun advocacy is prominent on both sides of the political spectrum, it is the right that is the most significant backer of even looser gun laws, for it sees it as a means of propagating its values.
One in the chamber for the far-right
While many pro-gun advocates argue that laws protecting arms possessions are to protect citizens against criminals and the government if the latter were to "turn" oppressive, the far-right is utilizing this argument to give rise to itself as it is gaining more momentum and popularity in itself.
Read more - 2021 Roundup: The rise of the radical right
The right-wing has been gaining more ground in light of the latest events, as it saw an increase in popularity over the course of the pandemic, as was evident in Europe; the war in Ukraine was a climax for the far-right.
The latest period in Europe saw the French rooting for the radical Eric Zemmour, the Swedes burning a Qur'an, the Indians discussing a ban on Hijabs, not to mention almost the entirety of the West rooting for the Azov Battalion.
The Ukraine war not only gave more prominence to what is probably the most notorious far-right organization in Europe, the Azov Battalion, but also put the latter on a pedestal as the "heroes" fighting the Russians trying to "invade" Ukraine.
Azov is a regiment of the Ukrainian Army that is infamous for its neo-Nazism, racism, nationalism, and overall violence. The battalion has been a prominent enabler in the Ukrainian campaign on the Donbass region, which has been in effect for eight years. It simply consists of shelling and bombing the region for its aspirations to become independent.
What is Azov's significance here? It's simple:
This image right here
Obviously, there is more to it than one image, but this picture, before the revelation of its successors, caused netizens to conclude the nature of the Buffalo attack and the motives of the attacker.
The white supremacist terrorist who killed at least 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York and livestreamed it, Payton Gendron, published a fascist manifesto using the same "black sun" Nazi symbol used by Ukraine's neo-Nazi Azov militia, which NATO is arming & training pic.twitter.com/nx4mqTRcjM— Benjamin Norton (@BenjaminNorton) May 15, 2022
With that in mind and the fact that Gendron's victims were predominantly Black, the theories were no longer theories; the shooter is a Nazi, and this is why:
Gendron did not only commit a massacre in Buffalo, New York; he live-streamed it for the world to see, and that stream was just further proof of his Nazism.
The rifle acted as a canvas for the radical teen to fill as a means of portraying his views in a manner that reflected the racism deep-rooted within him.
Looking at the carrying handle of the rifle, one can see the number 14.
The number 14 is widely used by white supremacists as a reference to the "14 Words"; the most popular white supremacist slogan coined by David Lane, a member of The Order, a white supremacist terrorist group.
"We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children," the 14 words read.
Looking at the front sight housing, one can clearly see the n-word. There is no need for introducing the infamous term coined by slave-owners to dehumanize their slaves and inherited by their white successors that still use it to discriminate against black people.
From left to right, Gendron's racism can be summarized with just a few words written down on the murder weapon.
BLM is clearly in reference to the Black Lives Matter movement that gained momentum all over the world in light of widespread discrimination and police brutality. The word MOG, on the other hand, means to overpower a certain person, movement, or ideology; to "assert one's dominance over".
Philip Manshaus is a 21-year-old Nazi from Norway who was indicted for terrorism and murder. He first killed his step-sister Johanne Ihle-Hansen, 17, and then opened fire at a mosque in Oslo.
His trial for terror and murder saw him spouting various racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
The only victim of his actions was his step-sister, as he was unable to hurt any of the worshippers who were at the mosque during the attempted attack.
John Earnest is a 19-year-old from California who was sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison for federal hate crimes over a Synagogue shooting and attempted Mosque arson due to his extremist, white supremacist views.
He attempted to kill 50 people at the Poway Synagogue in California, US, and only managed to kill one woman and injure three others.
Earnest also admitted that over a month before his attempted Synagogue massacre, he attempted to burn down the Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque in California, citing his hatred of Muslims and the religious character of the building as the reason being.
Anders Breivik is a 43-year-old Nazi from Norway who has been in prison for more than a decade for terrorism and murder. He holds the record for the Nordic state's worst murdering rampage, when he set off a bomb in Oslo, killing eight people.
Afterward, he headed to Utoya Island where he stalked the teen members of the Labor Party's youth wing before murdering another 69 people.
Breivik has come to the limelight again recently after he appeared in court asking to be released on parole after serving 10 years in prison. His trial was characterized by him claiming he had left violence behind him while performing a Nazi salute.
Shotgun shell pellets
Nazis and nationalists enable each other around the world, with one crime giving rise to another and therefore triggering a domino-like effect; one attack leads to another and gives fellow extremists inspiration to commit massacres.
Payton Gendron was hoping to say that he was inspired by other neo-Nazis, or at least was paying homage to them, by signing their names on his rifle that he used to shoot thirteen innocent people at a supermarket.
The scenes of the live stream were heavily reminiscent of the Christchurch Mosque shootings in New Zealand. The attack was motivated by Islamophobia and the assailant, Brenton Tarrant, used similar gear, barging into two Mosques and killing 51 people performing Friday prayers. The whole crime was live-streamed using a go-pro showing the criminal's POV of the whole massacre.
Gendron referred to the Christchurch shooter in his "manifesto", which described his preparations for the attack in detail and made reference to several crimes perpetrated by white supremacists, including in Charleston, South Carolina, El Paso, Texas, and the aforementioned Christchurch shootings.
The Buffalo shooter's manifesto makes it very clear that he was hindered by the gun control laws that do exist and enabled by the existence of loopholes. I've never seen this clear of a demonstration of the direct line between the gun policies we choose and mass murder. pic.twitter.com/rfdOoaWOwq— Nathan J Robinson (@NathanJRobinson) May 14, 2022
With the far-right being on the rise, and gun laws not getting any stricter in the US, one can only hope that innocent people remain safe from arbitrary, racially-motivated aggressions that have taken countless lives around the globe. However, western media enabling neo-Nazis and describing them as "heroes" may not be the best approach to the pivotal issue of white supremacy.
And to answer the question posed at the beginning of this piece: yes. The massacre carried out by Payton Grendon is a full-fledged hate crime, and a macro inspection of the crime would prove it to be so, objectively.