Payton Gendron’s murderous rampage in Buffalo, New York, is yet another jolting and disturbing reminder of the deadly dangers of white supremacy in contemporary America.
Gendron, an 18-year-old from a small town in central New York state, drove 300 kilometres to kill 10 shoppers at a Tops Friendly Market store on May 14. Eight of his victims were African Americans. Armed with an assault rifle, and wearing military-style clothing and body armor, he cold-bloodedly live-streamed the massacre with a camera affixed to his helmet.
This was clearly a premeditated assault and doubtless a racially-motivated hate crime, judging by the gruesome outcome and the 180-page vitriolic manifesto he posted online before the attack.
Steeped in neo-Nazi ideology, and subscribing to the racist Great Replacement conspiracy theory, which holds that white Christians in America are being “replaced” by non-whites, Gendron was the latest in a lamentably long line of despicable white supremacists who have resorted to violence to act out their abysmal beliefs.
Gendron, who has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder, said he was inspired by previous white supremacist mass shooters. They include such scoundrels as Robert Bowers, who killed 11 Jews at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in 2018, and Brenton Tarrant, who fatally shot 51 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.
In his manifesto, Gendron not only railed against African Americas, but castigated Jews, whom, he claimed, are “the biggest problem.”
Clearly a dyed-in-the-wool antisemite, Gendron believes that a race war between Jews and non-Jews is necessary to cleanse the United States of undesirable elements. This is a view that hard-core American racists have espoused for decades now.
“The real war I’m advocating for is the gentiles vs. the Jews,” he wrote in his tract. “We outnumber them by 100x, and they are not strong by themselves.”
He added, “By their Jewish ways, they turn us against each other. When you realize this, you will know that the Jews are the biggest problem the Western world has ever had. They must be called out and killed. I wish all JEWS to HELL! Go back to hell where you came from DEMON!”
It’s unclear at this point when and where he was so grotesquely brainwashed. But it would not be unreasonable to assume that Gendron, a lone wolf rather than a member of a particular organization, was massively influenced by the venomous social media posts found on the internet, a spreader of fascism and racism.
By all accounts, he bought his weapon legally over the counter, raising the question yet again why gun control laws are so relatively lax. There have been more than 200 mass shootings in the United States so far this year, but neither the federal government nor any of the 50 states have shown a serious interest in enacting legislation that will solve this increasingly grave and deadly malaise.
Beyond the need for gun control, America must ultimately come to grips with the wave of terrorism that white supremacist ideas have unleashed over the centuries. African Americans have not been its sole victims. Racists have attacked Jews and Hispanics as well.
If the United States is to live up to its image as a haven of democracy for all its citizens, it must crack down hard and relentlessly on the blight of domestic terrorism and make an example of vermin like Payton Gendron.
The death penalty is the only punishment he so richly deserves.