SCI Director Dr. Erroll Southers spoke with the San Francisco Chronicle about the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, which left three people dead and 12 others wounded. As details emerge about the attacker’s online activities and statements, there is growing concern about the nexus between online extremist communities and acts of mass violence. The article reads in part:
Still, some experts see signals that the Gilroy shooting may fit a pattern of mass killers whose views have been sculpted online. Many of them follow a similar script: Before raising their guns, they disseminate messages on social media, as though to establish themselves as warriors for a larger cause even though they are about to target innocent people.
“There’s a motivating factor here that’s much more personal … than extremist ideology,” said Erroll Southers, a professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in violent extremism.
Southers described these shooters in a way that appears counterintuitive: They commit acts of brutality, but want to be remembered for doing something noble.
Thus, the man who fired a semiautomatic rifle into a crowded San Diego synagogue in April posted a screed on the website Pastebin. The shooter who rampaged into two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, distributed a manifesto on 8chan. And last year, the gunman who opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh shared anti-Semitic messages on a small social network called Gab.
These violent sprees, experts say, are in part an outcropping of the internet age.
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