Shooter pushed staple of white supremacist internet forums

The material is part of a years-long recruiting technique by white nationalists to target those vulnerable to their message on forums frequently populated by teenagers.

NBC News/July 29, 2019

By Ben Collins

An Instagram post connected to the 19-year-old who killed three people at a food festival in Northern California points to literature that is part of an ecosystem of white nationalist literature, according to extremism researchers.

On Sunday, police officers shot and killed Santino William Legan at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, after he opened fire at the event. Earlier the same day, a post appeared on an Instagram page attributed to him referring to a proto-fascist white supremacist manifesto by a pseudonymous 19th-century author.

NBC News has declined to identify the literature by name in order to limit its spread.

According to extremism researchers, the manifesto is part of a collection of white nationalist literature that’s been pirated and distributed for free on far-right websites. The material is part of a yearslong recruiting technique by white nationalists to target those vulnerable to their message on forums frequently populated by teenagers.

The book strongly advocates combat, violence and death along racial lines, and is filled with anti-Semitic rhetoric. It is a staple among neo-Nazis and white supremacists on extremist sites such as 4chan’s /pol/ board, National Vanguard, Stormfront and The Daily Stormer. Links to the PDF version of the book have been posted hundreds of times on 4chan in the last several years, including as recently as last month.

Daryle Lamont Jenkins, the founder and executive director of the anti-racist One People's Project organization, said this specific sort of propaganda circulation has been a strategy by white supremacists for 30 years.

“It goes back as far as the ‘80s,” Jenkins said. “I remember Aryan Nations was some of the first to start using the internet ... then the general public came on in ’95. White supremacists have been using the internet to disseminate their views for that long.”

“The people who are reading it — they’re not going to the bookstore to get Mein Kampf.”

The connection adds to other young men who have also posted racist and nationalist propaganda to social media just before perpetrating violent attacks.

Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress that in the last nine months, a “majority of the domestic terrorism cases we’ve investigated (with a racial motive) are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.”

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