“I WAS NOT RAISED IN A RACIST HOME OR ENVIRONMENT.”
SO WROTE DYLANN ROOF, WHO EXECUTED 9 GOD-FEARING PEOPLE ATTENDING A BIBLE STUDY CLASS IN AN ICONIC BLACK CHURCH IN JUNE IN CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA. IN FACT, THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT ROOF HAS EVER ACTUALLY MET ANY MEMBER OF A RACIST ORGANIZATION IN REAL LIFE.
This does not mitigate the atrocities carried out on June 19, of course, or the racially-motivated attacks that occur throughout the United States every year. But the more complex issue that catapulted Dylann Roof to commit his act of racial terrorism is more accurately identified as a product of easily available and often false incendiary information which is now the primary source of knowledge to the new digital age generation. Roof was a lonely teenager, who cherry picked selective extremist ideology and assembling them to soothe the mind of a troubled youth, pointing to a deeper, and less easy to address problem - the generational and cultural shift that influences the new generation of lone wolf terrorists. Story by Nate Thayer.
The available evidence of the Dylann Roof case indicates that we are witnessing a much broader trend than the metastizing cancer of organized racial hatred and intolerance: the rise of the troubled lone wolf allied to no group. Emboldened by the anonymity of the internet, this new Terrorist 2.0 is unique to the digital age.
The fractured, angry young man who is the emerging portrait for the new terrorist that pulled the trigger in the June massacre is on closer analysis, far from being yet another foot soldier of extremist armies of the past. Rather he is a distinctly more Millennial phenomena where one can hop from forum to random internet forum at ease via cyberspace without attracting attention.
Roof is a poster boy for many who embrace the emerging 21st century violent extremist.
Despite media conjecture, a new disturbing reality is emerging. Dylann Roof may never have been a true racist. This is equally disturbing, for the reason that if it wasn’t race that inclined him to open fire on a black Church, what made him do it?
In Contempt of the White Klans
Traditional white nationalist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan view rogue operators with suspicion.
“Speaking as a traditional Klansman, there are very few of us left,” said KKK Grand Dragon Thomas Pugh of Mississippi, who has been active since the 1960’s in several different Klan organizations. “Cyber Klans are groups that exist essentially on the internet and are about the same as TV evangelists and snake oil salesmen. I call them ‘mom and pop’ Klans.”
The largest Ku Klux organization in the U.S. agrees with Dylann Roof on the issue of extremist political organizations being largely relegated to cyberspace, at least when it comes to South Carolina. “To be honest, we consider South Carolina to be a dying state in terms of organizing membership,” said Frank Ancona, the Imperial Wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in an interview. “They are basically an internet group. Our South Carolina state membership is about 10 people–they all have excuses why they can’t meet each other. They are spread out. We don’t have monthly meetings there.”
The Traditional American Knights of the KKK reject violence and require criminal background checks before membership is approved.
“My thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives were tragically taken by this lunatic and I pray that God will bring peace to those families, the community, and our Nation,” said the Traditionalist American Knights of the KKK leader Frank Ancona about the murdered black congregants.
“It literally made me sick to my stomach. Those poor families….”
Ancona said his KKK group recently combined their North and South Carolina state chapters because of a dearth of members.
Rather than fit the profile of a classic racist, Roof was an unfocused troubled youth – a cyber warrior. These are a growing cadre of self-taught and self-appointed lone wolfs, fueled by non-political personal issues, often the product of troubled youth unrelated to politics.
Hunkered down behind a computer screen, Cyber Warriors quickly find confidence and self-esteem in the anonymity of the web. That’s not to say that Roof didn’t cherry pick ideological guidance from a hodge-podge of convenient hate groups. He was attracted to an amalgam of virulent strains of neo-Nazi, and White Separatist organizations fuelled by hot button topics from the swirling rhetoric of hundreds of online hate groups that exist mostly only in cyber space. An analysis of his writings and photographs show, and sources within the White Power movement agree.
But there is no clear loyalty Roof demonstrates towards any specific political group or ideology. In fact, it is improbable–and there is no evidence– that Roof ever met with any white nationalist group leader or participated in any white nationalist events.
Roof expresses his personal admiration for the 2011 Japanese hit film Himizu. In that film, an alienated young man prepares to go on a violent spree of carnage.
“To take a saying from my favorite film, ‘Even if my life is worth less than a speck of dirt, I want to use it for the good of society’,” Roof wrote.
But what “good” could that be exactly that Roof had in mind?
“We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet,” Roof wrote at one point.
“Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”
In fact, Roof mentions only two specific groups in his manifesto posted on his website before the murders: the Council of Conservative Citizens and the Northwest Front. Roof makes credible references suggesting he was partially fueled by the incendiary racist rhetoric of the mainstream Council of Conservative Citizens.
In addition, analysis of his text and photos suggest Roof took extensive guidance from a fringe Nazi white nationalist Harold Covington. Covington is head of a group called the Northwest Front and has been linked to numerous acts of violence, including racial, religious, and political assassinations, and attacks on black churches for more than 3 decades.
Covington moved to Apartheid ruled South Africa as a youth and later joined the army of white ruled then Rhodesia–now Zimbabwe–as a mercenary, before being deported for his extremist political activities by then white Prime Minister Ian Smith in the 1970’s.
Prior to moving to South Africa, he had joined the National Socialist White People’s Party after enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1972. He was soon discharged for his racist activities. He then moved to Apartheid South Africa where he lived for 6 months working as a file clerk and studying the works of Adolph Hitler. After that, he moved to White-ruled Rhodesia, where he became a mercenary for the Rhodesian army. During his time in Rhodesia, he helped found the Rhodesian White People’s Party. Because of his political activities he was deported from Rhodesia by the then ruling white Prime Minister, Ian Smith, in 1976.
Covington, who was born in North Carolina and has a long record of extremist white nationalist political activism there, and his Northwest Front has had a footprint in South Carolina as recently as October 2014. The Northwest Front distributed literature recently in Roof’s home state of South Carolina reading “Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white. If white people had a country of our own, this wouldn’t be happening.”
“The central part of our message is that white people are a group under threat. We are facing the genocide of our race,” said Harold Covington, last year, calling for all white people to migrate to the Northwest Pacific to create a “white nation.”
“After I got out of the army I served on permanent NSWPP staff,” said Covington in a recent interview with one far right website sympathetic to his views. “I then became editor of the Party newspaper White Power in Arlington, Virginia. In 1974 I worked for a construction company in Johannesburg, South Africa for about six months, and then went to Rhodesia and joined the Rhodesian Army. In 1976 I was deported from Rhodesia for my activities with the proto-NS (National Socialist) Rhodesia White People’s Party…..I was deported on the personal orders of Ian Smith, and we all know what Mr. Smith’s conservatism did to Rhodesia.”
“I suppose he wanted to move someplace where everything was white and bright, so after a yearlong stint at the Nazi Party headquarters, he wound up going to Rhodesia, and he joined the Rhodesian Army. . He started agitating over there, and the [white-led] Ian Smith government said, “We have problems enough without this nutcase,” and they bounced him,” said his estranged brother in an interview with the SPLC.
Over the last 4 decades, Covington has moved throughout the White Nationalist fringe political scene associating with dozens of extremist parties, and has developed an almost universal rancorous relationship with most of his erstwhile comrades, after attacking numerous other high-profile leaders of the white supremacist movement in online rants.
Covington and Roof shared an unusual political agenda. At least 9 of the 57 photographs on Dylann Roof’s website show him wearing a jacket with patches of the flags of white ruled Rhodesia and Apartheid era South Africa. In addition, the name of his website is registered as “The Last Rhodesian.”
Referring to himself as a “white nationalist”, Roof had admitted before that:
“The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. But more importantly this prompted me to type in the words ‘Black on White crime’ into Google, and I have never been the same since that day. The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders,” wrote Roof. “At this moment I realized that something was very wrong.”
Photographs of Roof depict a white-ruled Rhodesian national flag stitched to his jacket. But Roof did not acquire the Rhodesia flag patch through Covington or any other white nationalist organization. Instead, he purchased it over the internet. The patches were manufactured and sold by a single collector in the western U.S. who sells historical military paraphernalia.
“I had those patches made for FN FAL rifle collectors because of the historical significance of the FAL rifle,” said Don Brown, who asked that his real last name not be used, in an interview. Brown collects and sells military and other collectors items in an online business. “That was my sole reason for having the patch made.”
“I didn’t even consider that some lunatic would see this flag as a symbol of white supremacy and murder 9 God-loving people. This was not even in my realm thinking when I had the Rhodesian flag patches made. Its sole relevance was for FN FAL rifle collectors,” he said.
Brown removed the patch from his available items for sale the day after the pictures of Roof surfaced and he recognized it as having come from him. “I have therefore removed the Patch if it is going to be used as a symbol of hate. I do not condone or subscribe to this thinking.”
In photographs posted by Roof on his website, there are other depictions of neo-Nazi symbols which are shared by Covington. Two of the 57 pictures from Roof’s website, www.lastrhodesian.com., created in February of this year and registered using Roof’s name, correct home address, and correct telephone number, depict symbolism forwarded by extremist groups neo Nazi White Separatist ideology, including Harold Covington.
Dylann Roof is shown posing on a beach where he had drawn the words “14 88″ in the sand in two separate photographs taken on March 18, according the meta data from the original photographs uploaded by Roof onto his website.
The 14 stands for a slogan consisting of 14 words: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.” The 88 stands for a passage from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Volume 1, Chapter 8 which is 88 words in length, or by some accounts “Heil Hitler”–the ‘H’ representing the 8th letter of the alphabet. Also in that photograph are two other White supremacist and neo Nazi symbols. One is a 45 degree angle square on top of two tilted legs below the “14 88″ known as a Odal Rune, a pagan symbol of Odinism and also a Nazi symbol adopted by the far right neo Nazi skinhead movement in both Europe and the U.S in the late 20th century. Among Nazi sympathizers and white racialists, it stands for Aryan heritage. Above the “14 88″, is a symbol associated with Nazi and Aryan ideology, the “Sun Wheel”, used by many neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
The ’14’ stands for the 14 words of jailed white power icon David Lane, a leader of the white separatist paramilitary organization “The Order”:
“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.”
Lane also used the slogan “14/88″ as reference to his 88 Precepts representing “14 Words and 88 Precepts”, a doctrine of a white nationalist pagan religion, Wotanism, involving a “Pyramid Prophecy” code within the King James Bible.
There are several versions of what “88” represents. Some White Nationalists and supporters of Nazi ideology contend that it stands for the 8th letter of the alphabet, “H”, hence “88” for “Heil Hitler”. Others say 88 stands for a passage from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Volume 1, Chapter 8 which is 88 words in length: “What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe. Every thought and every idea, every doctrine and all knowledge, must serve this purpose. And everything must be examined from this point of view and used or rejected according to its utility.”
In one of photographs posted by Dylann Roof taken on a South Carolina beach, there is a symbol of a square at a 45 degree angle on top of two tilted legs below the “14 88″ written in the sand. This is the symbol known as a Odal Rune, originally a Viking symbol of the pagan religion of Odinism and also a symbol of Nazi rule used by an SS Division before being adopted by the far right neo Nazi skinhead movement in both Europe and the U.S in the late 20th century. Among White Nationalists and racialists it stands for Aryan heritage and cultural pride.
Was He Alone?
Roof’s birthday is April 4, 1994. He was given a birthday present of cash by his father to buy a weapon. Of the 57 photographs on Roof’s website, the meta data shows the first photograph of Roof with a gun was 3 days later, on April 7, 2015.
One significant question stands out on the theory that Dylann Roof acted alone:
Who took many of the pictures of him depicting white supremacist ideology and featuring Nazi symbolism?
Several of the photographs were modified and uploaded into a file on his website in the hours prior to the church shooting. One photograph’s meta data shows a picture uploaded with a “File Created” time stamp of 2:45 P.M on June 17; another at 2:48 P.M.; one at 2:49 P.M.; another at 2:49 P.M.; and a final one at 4:53 P.M., four hours before he arrived at the church. Roof was shown entering the church from a side door at 8:06 P.M. to attend a bible study class. The first call to police emergency phones was received about an hour later, at 9:05 P.M. Exit data analysis of the images shows 33 of the photos are high-resolution taken with a Kodak Easyshare Camera C1530, which Roof is pictured holding in a self-portrait taken in a public restroom mirror. 26 other images have been modified and or downloaded from social media.
Roof’s use of white supremacist imagery only appeared in the immediate weeks prior to the mass murders, while his first photograph with a confederate flag taken on April 27. The first indication of Roof using white supremacist symbolism in the 57 photographs posted on his website was April 29. (These are the photos which show him on the beach with neo Nazi symbols scrawled in the sand.)
Pictures of Roof when arrested on June 19 in North Carolina also clearly show no tattoo on that finger, 5 weeks later.
Roof was arrested February 28 for possession of drugs. He was then interrogated by police on March 13, where they found 6 40 round clips for an AR-15 (semi) automatic weapon, but had not (and never did) purchase that actual weapon.
The first pictures of Roof with the Glock were taken on April 7–4 days after his birthday. On April 27, photos show Roof, for the first time, with a confederate flag holding the Glock pistol he purchased in early April.
A site called The New Nation News site has hundreds of links to alleged black on white crimes (“Black man charged with having homo sex with male dog”; “(Black) Man who shot, killed (White) Good Samaritan in 2010 pleads guilty”), and asserts statistics with no sourcing, such as “The Truth of Interracial Rape in the United States : In the United States in 2005, 37,460 white females were sexually assaulted or raped by a black man, while between zero and ten black females were sexually assaulted or raped by a white man.” Dylann Roof said:
“I have to do it! You rape our women and you’re taking over our country! And youhave to go!”
Those were his words as he gunned down 9 people in Church last Wednesday, according to Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of the pastor, who spoke to a survivor of the shootings. Other categories from the CCC promoted website reads “Census Shows White Deaths Outpace Births”, “Pew: White majority over, next generation more than 50% non-white”, and “White students no longer to be majority in school”.
In his manifesto, Roof said he was launched into research after reading the CCC documents online. ” Now White parents are forced to move to the suburbs to send their children to “good schools”. But what constitutes a “good school”? The fact is that how good a school is considered directly corresponds to how White it is,” wrote Roof.
“I hate with a passion the whole idea of the suburbs. To me it represents nothing but scared White people running. But what about the White people that are left behind? What about the White children who, because of school zoning laws, are forced to go to a school that is 90 percent black?….Who is fighting for him? Who is fighting for these White people forced by economic circumstances to live among Negroes? No one, but someone has to.”
The close-ups of the tattoo do not indicate it is a temporary inked tattoo. Why is it missing five weeks after it first appeared? The origins and sources of Dylann Roof’s anger and hatred remain an enigma.
Given that the symbols prominent in the white nationalist were only adopted so close to the date of the shooting, there remains many unanswered questions of the origins and motivations of what prompted Roof to launch his murderous, racist shooting rampage. But one answer is clear: The national tragedy authored by Dylann Roof was not a singular product of organized white supremacism. It was the product of Dylann Roof and his troubled mind.