To date, there have been 307 mass shootings in the United States in 2018 alone — nearly as many mass shootings as there are days in the year. According to a study in the ScienceDaily Journal, more people have died or been injured in mass school shootings in the United States in the past 18 years than in the entire 20th century. This rise of uncharted violence and terror begs the ultimate question, why? In order to attempt to answer this complex question, we must first establish the psychological profiles of the typical offender and extrapolate based on those assessments.
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The key case studies this paper will consult are those of Robert Bowers and Cesar Sayoc.
On October 28th, Robert Bowers, 46, shot and killed 11 people when he stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue. Here are some of the characteristics identified in Bowers’ profile: 1. He possessed (and broadcasted) extreme bigoted views, and was likely radicalized entirely online. While in custody after the Pittsburgh shooting and upon receiving medical treatment, Bowers told a SWAT officer he wanted all Jews to die and also that [Jews] were committing genocide to his people, according to the police criminal complaint. But that was just a simple side comment as compared to his previous sentiments on the social media platform Gab. On this website, Bowers regularly posted vulgar anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic comments with the central theme that Jews were either threatening the sanctity of the United States on their own or that they were aiding and abetting illegal invaders to do the same. Thus, Bowers directed the highest concentration of his vulgar sentiments towards HIAS (the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society). And according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s article Analyzing a Terrorist’s Social Media Manifesto, Bowers participated in a wider range of fixations and grievances shared across the broader far-right, including a call to arms against Antifa and a conspiratorial focus on the caravan of Central Americans fleeing violence. Additionally, the article went on to make the connection that much of Bowers’ online presence resembles those of countless other extremist users in that as with other alt-right killers, it’s likely that Bowers was radicalized entirely online. His posts on Gab echoed the classic themes in alt-right profiles: white genocide, nativism, and globalism. In this respect, Bowers is very similar to a lot of social media profiles operated by alt-right members. Additionally, there appear to be many similarities between Dylann Roof and Bowers — both were tired of seeing their ideological peers only active on the internet. They also shared similar ideological views around white genocide, and both targeted specific communities they saw as threatening and in need of cleansing (based on a steady intake stream of racist propaganda online). Both sought out victims in houses of worship.
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