Following the mass shooting in Allen, Texas on 6 May, rumours quickly began circulating about the shooter’s background and his ideological motivations. Reactions on both mainstream and alternative platforms included (but were not limited to) conspiracy theories about the attack, the circulation of disinformation, racist speculations about the shooter’s motives, and overall disbelief that he could be a White supremacist given he was Hispanic. In response, journalists and researchers highlighted the complexities and historical shifting of ‘Whiteness’ as a racial category as well as the long history of fascism in South America in connection to the RWDS (‘Right Wing Death Squad’) patch worn by the shooter.
Law enforcement has not yet announced a motive for the shooter. However, an examination of the extensive digital trail the perpetrator left behind provides some insights into his mindset, and may shed light on the specific personal appeal that White supremacism, fascism, and misogyny held for him. While following news reports about the shooting, I also began reading through over three hundred pages of his hand-written journals and reviewing posts he made on the Russian social media platform, Odnoklassniki. This Insight will focus on the following three thematic elements found in his writings, the ways they intersect with one another, and how they relate to his gravitation towards White supremacy: (1) Misogyny; (2) Racism: A focus on Anti-East/South Asian Bigotry; and (3) Internalised Racism.
A note on harmful amplification of extremist content:
Before proceeding, it is important to include an overview of how this will be done to prevent the harmful amplification of this primary source content. Using Data and Society’s ‘The Oxygen and Amplification Guide’ by Whitney Philips as a framework, this Insight establishes the newsworthiness of providing further information about this subject matter:
- Tipping Point: Wider public knowledge and interest in the attack is broad therefore removing the risk of unnecessarily exposing larger audiences to this subject matter. Excerpts of the shooter’s writings are making rounds in news stories and social media posts meaning that there is also wide knowledge that this content exists.
- Social benefit: Although news reports and analyses have discussed the shooter’s misogyny, antisemitism, anti-Black racism, anti-LGBTQ+, and other bigoted views (as revealed by his writings and posts), this Insight hopes to contribute towards providing a deeper analysis of the intersecting nature of various forms of bigotry and, in reference to the shooter, his extreme levels of internalised racism.
- Potential harms: There are always risks for producing potential harms when covering mass shootings, terrorist attacks, and other forms of violence. To reduce potential harm, this Insight will avoid directly quoting the shooter’s writings and posts (with the exception of his comments reflecting his internalised racism) and it will not include screenshots of this content. It will instead provide general descriptions for the purposes of contextualisation. An exception is made in this case because the direct quotes reveal both the patterned ways of thinking he developed about internalised racism and the depth to which he internalised it. His comments on his self-hatred are rather direct but they do not veer into the same type of derogatory language that he uses about other groups of people that he dislikes. His straightforward language also reduces the amplification of harm of providing direct quotes and although internalised racism is a heavy subject matter, it is crucial to centralise is presence when discussing this mass shooter which will be further discussed.
The perpetrator expressed a wide array of bigoted views against women, racial and religious minorities, LGBTQ+ communities, immigrants, and people he viewed as political enemies. This section, however, will focus specifically on the three elements of misogyny, anti-Asian and anti-Muslim bigotry, and internalised racism. The topic of misogyny has been discussed regarding this case but the last two have not been as widely covered in news reports.
In numerous social media posts, the shooter refers to women with derogatory and dehumanising language often found in incel, far-right, and White supremacist online spaces. He also discusses feelings of loneliness, and when he does recount interactions with women, the descriptions of his ‘flirtatious’ interactions seem superficially lustful and lacking in any meaningful forms of intellectual and emotional connection on a personal level. Judging from his own writings, he appears to have noticed the impact of the absence of such connections, as evidenced by his comments about feeling alienated, insecure, and unwanted. In a social media post, he describes himself as being “deeply angry” towards women. As his journal entries continue, his language becomes increasingly toxic. He blames women for feeling lonely and characterises them as being inherently manipulative individuals who use men for two primary goals: physical gratification and obtaining resources such as financial wealth. In several entries, he fantasises about sexual violence as a form of revenge and in one instance, he celebrates it as a “special” form of “evil” that should be used against races that he hates. Other sections of his journal are devoted to diatribes concerning preconceived notions about rigid gender dynamics between men and women; some of which also include rants about East Asian men being undesirable partners for women overall.
The views expressed by the perpetrator are not unique but instead reflect wider narrative patterns found in toxic online communities (and he specifically mentions some far-right online spaces where he spent his time). Regarding the relationship between incel communities, misogyny, and White supremacism, Maeve Park analyses the nuanced nature of how they can intersect in these online spaces:
While incel communities are not inherently White supremacist and the Blackpill is not overtly White supremacist, neo-Nazism and White supremacy find a happy home inside incel forums. Incels who may not have started off as racist become consistently exposed to racist rhetoric and content which can serve to radicalise some users into far-right extremist ideologies
As Amarnath Amarasingam highlights, the public central focus on the shooter’s fascism eclipsed the significance that his misogyny and personal struggles with loneliness had on his ideological development and affiliation.
Racism: A Focus On Anti-East/South Asian Bigotry
In addition to the multitude of bigoted views he expresses, anti-East/South Asian racism constitutes a consistent thread – particularly throughout his journal writings. When talking about East Asians, his hatred coalesces around men in particular. He parrots narratives about East Asian men being undesirable, timid, and rejected by everyone, including East Asian women. Other entries portray East Asians as foreign invaders and blame Chinese people as a whole for the COVID-19 pandemic. His tirades against South Asians (specifically Indians) and Arabs often incorporated the same anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Muslim slurs; demonstrating how anti-Muslim bigotry often includes a process of racialisation where Muslims are viewed as a monolithic group regardless of their ethnic or religious diversity. Some entries about South Asians more closely mirrored xenophobic comments he made about East Asians, while other sections contained racist rants about both East and South Asians in the same paragraph.
Throughout his journal, he expresses varying levels of self-resentment – including internalised racism. In his more direct acknowledgements of internalised racism, he shares a story about when he rejected his ethnicity: “This one time this loser called me out in front of everybody. The day before, this loser said, “Say ‘Viva la Raza.’ I was self loathing at the time so I said, ‘I’m not it.’ We went back and forth.” As reflected by this account, it appears that he processed and understood his internalised racism as a form of self-hatred. In another entry, he shares more about his “self loathing phases” and projects his internalised racism onto others by claiming that they feel this way too, even though they will not admit it:
“When I was going through my self loathing phases, one of my eses asked me one of those gotcha questions, ‘Why do you hate Hispanics? Aren’t you Hispanic?’ I just flat out said ‘I hate myself.’ I know these losers won’t admit it.”
According to his own reflections, the outright rejection shifted overtime into a state of resignation where he still appears to resent being Hispanic but has accepted it as a fact of life, “…their [there] was a time when I was ashamed to be Hispanic. I’m Hispanic whether I like or not. I’ve made peace with that.” In another entry, he describes how he responded when questioned about his ethnicity, “This White guy came up to me one day while I was on assignment. I don’t even know how it came up but he said, ‘Are you Hispanic?’ I told him ‘fuck don’t remind me.’ I’m Hispanic weather I like it or not. [sic]”. He repeats the phrasing ‘whether I like it or not’ again: “I used to think of myself as Benny from The Sandlot. An All American kid who just happens to be not White. I’m just a visitor. I’m Hispanic whether I like it or not.” The reappearance of that phrase reflects his attempts to reconcile his ethnic identity and his comment about wanting to be an “All American kid” although he is not White shows how he felt a sense of alienation (i.e. “I’m just a visitor”) due to his ethnicity.
But how did he come to feel this way? Although he does not delve much into the topic, he talks about social rejection by his peers which in turn impacted his self-perception and he blames others for why he developed these feelings to begin with:
“When I was growing up, Hispanics shunned me. I don’t know if it was because I was American born or what…”
“ Speaking for myself obviously, I haven’t had positive experiences with Hispanics…it was these losers’ behavior that caused me to think like that…[different entry] There was a time when I wished I was white. It was because my own race was treating me like shit but then I started having positive experiences with Hispanics.”
Although he says in several entries that he “snapped out of it [phases of internalised racism]” and had moments where he wanted to “explore” his roots, there is a consistent undercurrent of an inferiority complex fuelled by a tumultuous mix of internalised racism along with more general personal insecurities. These sentiments are also reflected in an imagined geopolitical hierarchy where he lauds Western Europe’s “superiority” and states that the “Western man towers over everybody.” On the following page, he fantasises about how easy it would be for “Aryans” to take over the United States and “white America” to dominate Mexico. It is important to note that his entry about geopolitical hierarchies came after his reflections about feeling more positively toward other Hispanics because it reveals how entrenched these feelings of inferiority really were even though he tried to navigate through self-resentment.
There is also another dynamic to consider. He noticeably projects his internalised racism onto East Asians and claims that they (especially men) want to be White, “They’re [East Asian men] self-loathing is even worst then my case…we know the sort of losers [are]…[sic]”. By relegating East Asians to a lower rung on the ladder of self-hatred, he incorporates highly gendered forms (i.e. animosity towards men) of anti-Asian racism narratives to comfort himself about his own internalised racism.
It is crucial to address the presence of internalised racism in his writings because it, in part, explains why White supremacism appealed to him; a “double-consciousness” that W.E.B. Du Bois describes as “a peculiar sensation…this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others…” Self-loathing (the term the shooter uses to describe his feelings) and projecting it onto others (i.e. East Asian men and other Hispanics) perhaps speaks to a greater psychological injury which can shape one’s worldview. This subject matter requires deeper discussions and examinations about the complexities of internalised racism, its relevancy to people of colour who join White supremacist groups/advocate for White supremacism, and the relation to power dynamics shaped by systemic racism as a whole.
The three examined narratives found in the shooter’s writings and posts demonstrate how racism, misogyny, and internalised racism exist alongside one another while also intersecting in many instances. As Alexandra Phelan and colleagues state in their report, “male chauvinism and misogyny carry across these communities into more extreme expressions of far-right ideology becoming intertwined with racism, xenophobia, nationalism, etc.” These various narratives reinforce one another through gendered social norms which are, in turn, used to establish misogynistic standards and racial hierarchies informed by toxic expectations about masculinity (i.e. the example of anti-East Asian racism directed towards East Asian men who are portrayed as un-masculine and further dehumanised).
In relation to explaining the shooter’s gravitation towards White supremacism, his writings show how his disdain for other minorities, internalised racism, fixation on race, online activities, and in-person interactions with White supremacists collectively contributed towards his identity and ideological formation. Although they were not discussed in this Insight, there were other elements present in his writings that go beyond ideological affiliation which reflect a disturbed individual who was troubled in a myriad of other ways. More information will continue to come out about this case and the examination presented here is limited by the currently available information and the primary source documents showing the perspective of the shooter.
The victims of the Allen, Texas shooting are:
- Kyu Song Cho, age 37
- Cindy Cho, age 35
- Female, age 11
- Female, age 8
- Male, age 3
- Christian LaCour, age 20
- Elio Cumana-Rivas, male age 32
- Aishwarya Thatikonda, age 26