Jun 21, 2015

Dylann Roof's white nationalism

The racist manifesto and photos on Dylann Storm Roof’s website spell out many of the beliefs that drove him to murder nine people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17. Leading white nationalist websites have distanced themselves from Roof’s terrorist actions, but many of them have praised his ideas about race and U.S. society.

Most of the manifesto (which I will assume was in fact written by Roof) is a rehash of standard white supremacist propaganda themes — African Americans are “stupid and violent”; slavery and segregation were benign; Jews stir up black people to cause trouble; and whites today are scared, disempowered, and under attack. The manifesto also rejects American patriotism as “an absolute joke”: “Many veterans believe we owe them something for ‘protecting our way of life’ or ‘protecting our freedom’. But im not sure what way of life they are talking about. How about we protect the White race and stop fighting for the jews.”

Roof called his website (which is no longer active but is archived here) LastRhodesian.com, expressing solidarity with the former white settler colonial Republic of Rhodesia. The website included many photos of Roof posing with a Confederate battle flag, a gun, a burning American flag, or the neonazi code-phrase “1488” written in the sand. (“88” stands for “HH” or “Heil Hitler,” while “14” refers to the “Fourteen Words” slogan coined by neonazi David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.”)

Despite his use of neonazi symbolism and rejection of U.S. patriotism, Roof differs with standard white nationalist positions on several points of racial ideology. For example, he declares that “the majority of American and European jews are White. In my opinion the issues with jews is not their blood, but their identity. I think that if we could somehow destroy the jewish identity, then they wouldnt cause much of a problem.” The manifesto also expresses ambivalence about Latinos (“there are good hispanics and bad hispanics”) and even a wish for a racist alliance between white nationalists and East Asians. Roof also rejected the idea of a racially pure white enclave in the Pacific Northwest, a vision promoted by the old Aryan Nations organization and others: “To me the whole idea just parralells the concept of White people running to the suburbs. The whole idea is pathetic and just another way to run from the problem without facing it.”

Other white nationalist websites have had mixed responses to Roof and his manifesto. Several commenters on Stormfront questioned the manifesto’s authenticity, or dismissed the Emanuel Church massacre itself as a “false flag” operation designed to discredit the white nationalist cause. On the Vanguard News Network, Tim McGreen wrote, “I rather doubt [Roof] is capable of writing anything. Unless it can be proven otherwise I am convinced that ZOG invented this whole story, complete with fake pictures of the ‘perpetrator’ and a fake ‘manifesto’.” (“ZOG” stands for “Zionist Occupation Government” and is standard neonazi-speak for the U.S. government.) A more positive spin came from “Macromedia” on Stormfront: “This young man gave a sophisticated analysis of black behavior and the media's role in it…. Though I can't condone or support the shooting of unarmed citizens in religious service, this act forces America to read his manifesto…. Perhaps this will reverse the tide by awakening many more, just like Dylann himself was awakened in the wake of Trayvon.”

On Counter-Currents, which offers a more intellectual brand of white nationalism, Editor-in-Chief Greg Johnson argued, “It seems unlikely that this manifesto is fake, since Roof is alive and could expose it if it were.” Johnson added, “If I had a son, he would look like Dylann Roof.” The general sentiment on Counter-Currents was respect for Roof’s views and disappointment about the massacre — not because of the people killed or injured but because it makes white nationalism look bad. As one commenter (“Christopher”) put it: “A cogent and insightful piece. [Roof] quite plainly is a white nationalist, and a moderately intelligent one at that. This makes his choice of target even more puzzling; based on this text, he should be smart enough to know that attacking a church would do significant damage to the cause and would do nothing to halt the kinds of things he’s upset about.”

Marcus Cicero* offered a detailed critique of Roof’s manifesto on his new website Majority Rebellion (tagline: “help save Western civilization”). In a guest post on Brad Griffin's Occidental Dissent blog, Cicero referred to Roof as a “drug-addled maniac [who] is obviously mentally-deranged, and has only caused an exponential increase in the level of hatred geared toward pro-White and pro-South causes and individuals.” Still, Cicero argued that the manifesto “does not come across as all that controversial or fanatical,” and that much of Roof’s discussion of U.S. society “show[s] at least a respectable understanding of the workings of both Blacks and the Jew, [and] contains truths that nearly every White Nationalist would be able to agree with.” He also agreed with Roof in rejecting the Northwest Enclave idea: “although I personally dislike having to agree with this lone-wolf fool, who has likely hurt our Cause due to his idiocy, facts are facts.” On the other hand, in Cicero’s view, Roof does not sufficiently understand the inherent genetic inferiority of Hispanics, East Asians, and Jews.

[*Note: The original version of this post mistakenly attributed Cicero’s statements about Roof to Brad Griffin, who runs the blog Occidental Dissent under the pseudonym Hunter Wallace. Griffin pointed out this error in a comment below.]

Dylann Roof’s manifesto helps us understand the Emanuel Church massacre as an expression of white nationalist politics. This is useful, but it’s not enough. Because in a larger sense, the massacre is also an expression of U.S. society as an overall system. As AlterNet’s Kali Holloway wrote in “Dylann Roof is America,” “We are a country where mass shootings are weekly news, where gun violence is a fact of daily life, where there is a legacy of terror against black people and communities, where white racists have long targeted black churches, where African-American life is so devalued it can be taken with impunity.” Roof’s reported comment to the Emanuel Church congregants before he shot them — “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go” — expresses widespread, deeply rooted white myths about black people, as Jamelle Bouie has argued, among others. And as the website Africa is a Country reminded us, Roof’s glorification of white-dominated Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa puts him in the same camp as “mainstream” politicians such as Jeane Kirkpatrick, Jesse Helms, Pat Robertson, and Dick Cheney.

Photo: From LastRhodesian.com, republished on Daily Kos.


Brad Griffin said...

Majority Rebellion is Marcus Cicero's website. Occidental Dissent is my website. If you are going to quote me, please do so accurately.

Matthew N Lyons said...

Correction noted. The Occidental Dissent post about Roof that led me to the Majority Rebellion site was a guest post by Marcus Cicero, not by Griffin as I initially thought. I will update my post to address this error.

Bernard said...

My condolences to the surviving families, and to the members of the Emanuel AME Church, who were directly affected by the racially-motivated, lone wolf, terror attack on June 17.

I am inspired by the spirit of Christian forgiveness toward Dylann Storm Roof offered by the black victims' families in Charleston.

In the spirit of the theme that 'Black Lives Matter', here is a link to a report that gives biographical sketches of the nine persons who were senselessly murdered for being black.

The white supremacist sees whites as inherently and racially superior to persons of other races; other races are believed to have inherent genetic inferiority.

It is important to clarify that belief in the “supremacy” of any race or group is not, in itself, against the law in the USA. As a matter of fact, such a belief or position is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. (Similarly, individual belief in the “supremacy” of black people or Protestant people would also be protected freedom of thought. Etc.) Such thought crimes are not illegal or unconstitutional in the USA. It's murder or violence, animated by ideas of “supremacy,” that is illegal.


Matthew Lyons wrote above: “Dylann Roof’s manifesto helps us understand the Emanuel Church massacre as an expression of white nationalist politics.”

As Matthew points out, Dylann Storm Roof advocated for, and differed with, the ideological or philosophical beliefs of white nationalists. But the gun he used to murder was his own. He shot the 9 victims without outside command or direction from any white nationalist group. Roof's murderous tactics were conceived and directed solely on his own. Dylann Roof may never have had personal contact with, or direction from, persons in any white supremacist group.

Matthew reports that “Leading white nationalist websites have distanced themselves from Roof’s terrorist actions”

Extremist violence often comes from some places you’re least suspecting. But “guilt by association” is unfair.

See this list of Lone Wolf terrorists to gain a broader perspective. The link includes lone wolves of various minority groups targeting others.

President Obama said thoughtfully at Clementa Pinckney's funeral:

“It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.”

Bernard said...

Millicent Brown would, perhaps, rather fight than forgive.

Forgiveness is a religious response, a prominent theme in the Bible. Forgiveness is a remarkable manifestation of Christianity.

Forgiveness bestowed on Dylann Roof a love that he may have never experienced before in his life.

See Damon Linker's comment here:


Bernard said...

Some of Dylann Roof's photos are inhabited by the distant ghosts of 300,000 Confederate war dead (1861-1865), and they are animated by the symbols of the Confederate cause.

The Emanuel AME Church is haunted by the ghost of an unsuccessful slave rebellion (1820-1822), planned by Denmark Vesey, one of that Church's founding members.

The June 17th tragedy, even more distantly, might raise the immense shadow of the mostly undocumented suffering of 12,500,000 victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade (from the 15th through the 19th Centuries).

No one objected when President Obama said “the cause of slavery was wrong.” Only 23 days after the Charleston murders, the Confederate battle flag was ceremoniously taken down, for the final time, at the state capitol in South Carolina.

The 21 year old Dylann Roof wrote in his manifesto: “Only a fourth to a third of people in the South owned even one slave. Yet every White person is treated as if they had a slave owning ancestor. This applies in the states where slavery never existed, as well as people whose families immigrated after slavery was abolished.”

“Some of my best thoughts, actually many of them, have been [snip] left out [of the manifesto] and lost forever.”

I humbly offer a few related thoughts to contribute to a history of the Civil War.

The South broke away from the United States in 1861 to protect slavery as its way to produce wealth, mainly for very wealthy white slave owners, who had the most to lose from slave emancipation. Slavery lay at the heart of the Confederate nation. As a means to this end, slave owners sought to secure the “thought crime” of white supremacy in the American South.

There was no Marshall Plan (or Reconciliation Commission) to rebuild the American South after losing the Civil War in 1865, as there was for Nazi Germany after losing World War II in 1945.

The Civil War, and the emancipation of the black slaves in the old South, destroyed much of the South's wealth creation capacity. If the North and South were treated as separate nations, the South was the fourth most prosperous nation in the world in 1860. Income per person in the South then dropped to less than 40% of that of the North. That income disparity between North and South lasted well into the 20th century. Many of the South's largest cities, and much of its human and material resources, were destroyed by the Northern/Union armies. Confederate soldiers, those who survived the Civil War, received no treatment for their “post traumatic stress disorder” and no veterans' pensions.

Cosmic vengeance for the Civil War, for slavery, for segregation, for the “thought crime” of white supremacism, and for raising of the Confederate flag has cursed the white American South for a very long time. These facts can be checked and openly discussed without hostility or insult.

On the other side, when a 21 year old lone wolf holds onto a mythology, an historical narrative, that he and his “tribe” are being collectively punished for generations and grievously wronged, he may not know how to express that accumulation of his experience effectively, tactfully, and non-violently to get some understanding, justice and restitution.

About lone wolves, see:


Suppressed and conflicting mythologies have fed the mass murder, kidnapping, expulsion, or enslavement of civilian non-combatants over many generations.

For example, see these well expressed analyses, also on this blog website, of another unfinished violent struggle between two antithetical mythologies:



Bernard said...

Two good Wikipedia links:

Charleston Church shooting June 17, 2015

Dylann Storm Roof

Bernard said...

Some different thoughts about the Charleston Church shooting from a blog that monitors the Christian Right.:

Historian, Gerald Horne, on Charleston, Church, & Slave Resistance

An Assassin's Motivation?

Matthew N Lyons said...

A comment by me dated 7/6/2015 was deleted by mistake. Here it is again (wording may be slightly different): On the question of forgiveness for Dylann Roof, see Millicent Brown's comments in http://www.npr.org/2015/07/02/419405863/charlestons-black-leaders-want-justice-as-much-as-forgiveness