By Max Jones / Original to ScheerPost
In the midst of the news coverage of the horrific May 14 Buffalo shooting by 18-year old Payton S. Gendron, there has been much discourse centered around the dangers of white supremacy and the importance of combating such ideologies. This reaction is understandable; a lone gunman killed 10 Black people in a racially motivated terrorist attack. The call to decipher which ideologies drove this gunman to such vitriolic hatred in order to root out those ideologies is a stance with which most people can at least empathize.
But the mainstream media has taken a political approach to exposing the ideologies, rather than searching for objective truth. At first, the predominantly liberal media’s unified blaming of the attack on Tucker Carlson appeared reasonable. Carlson for years has alluded to the ideology that most predominantly inspired Gendron’s attack—the “great replacement theory.” Carlson consistently claims the Democratic Party is allowing swarms of undocumented immigrants to enter the country as a way of replacing “legacy Americans” with new “obedient voters” from faraway lands. Connecting Gendron to Tucker seems not only easy, but logical, knowing the main thesis of Gendron’s manifesto is that “White birth rates must change” because whites, or Europeans, as he most often refers to them, are experiencing “ethnic [and cultural] replacement.”
However, digging deeper into Gendron’s manifesto, it becomes at least questionable whether Carlson had anything to do with inspiring the bigoted and hateful views of Gendron. For one, Gendron makes it clear in a chapter of his manifesto titled “CONSERVATISM IS DEAD, THANK GOD,” that he despises American conservatism and he describes conservatism as “corporatism in disguise,” proclaiming “[he] wants no part of it.”
Moreover, Carlson is not mentioned once among the plethora of people Gendron lists as having inspired him, while naming instead other mass shooters he believes were combating “ethnic and cultural genocide.” This, and the fact that the great replacement theory has existed long before Carlson, makes his connection to the attack more uncertain than it looks at first glance.
What we do know from Gendron’s manifesto is that he cites Brenton Tarrant, the 2019 New Zealand mosque shooter who killed 51 people as “the person that radicalized [him] the most.” Tarrant’s inspiration is felt all throughout the document, mostly because the majority of the Buffalo shooter’s manifesto is either directly plagiarized from, or inspired by, Tarrant’s writings. Entire chapters are plagiarized, including almost every major ideological take that Gendron claims. At times he rewords certain parts of Tarrant’s manifesto, usually only to give background information on himself or update a fact that has changed since Tarrant wrote it. Everything from the format of Gendron’s writings, the ideas, to the actual words, are either directly inspired by or taken from Tarrant’s writings.
The hypocrisy of the media’s coverage of this story, and their weaponization of it to demonize Carlson and Fox News, was exposed in journalist Michael Tracey’s Twitter thread a day after the killings in Buffalo.
He noted TIME magazine’s coverage of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion more than a year ago, describing the battalion’s role in transnational white supremacist networks as “unrivaled,”and as having “no rivals on…its recruiting power.” The TIME piece made it clear that Tarrant spent time in Ukraine, where he was in contact with far-right groups, and that during his mosque attacks he wore a vest with the symbol used in the Azov Battalion’s logo, “The Black Sun.” The symbol was also featured in Tarrant’s manifesto.
This declaration of the Azov Battalion’s power and influence in global white supremacy, and of the group’s possible influence on Tarrant’s attack, was written before the Russia-Ukraine war, in which the U.S. has been actively providing arms for the Ukrainian military, which includes the Azov Battalion. The mainstream media has been consistently downplaying or omitting the role of Azov in Ukraine, and has even suggested that the paramilitary group is not fascist or neo-Nazi. This is despite claims by the Ukrainian neo-Nazi party leader, Yevhen Karas, that Nazi influence in Ukraine is strong, and his dismissal of the West’s diminishment of Nazis in Ukraine as propoganda:
Tarrant’s connections to Ukraine are well-documented. In his manifesto, he speaks of being radicalized “Over a great deal of time, and over a great deal of places,” and proclaims, “You will find no reprieve, not in Iceland, not in Poland, not in New Zealand, not in Argentina, not in Ukraine, not anywhere in the world. I know, because I have been there.”
We also know, according to Andrew Little, the Minster of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, that while Tarrant was in Ukraine “he was making contact with far-right groups.”
While Gendron’s potential ties to Azov are not nearly as strong as Tarrant’s, both his inspiration from Tarrant, his sporting the Black Sun that Azov uses, and his inclusion of the symbol in his manifesto, are undeniable.
Gendron wearing the Black Sun:
Black Sun in Gendron’s Manifesto:
Despite this, the Azov Battalion’s connection to Tarrant (and therefore Gendron), and Gendron’s use of the Black Sun, has been almost entirely omitted in corporate news. In the few times the group’s possible connection to the shooting has been brought up, it has only been to denounce any people drawing a connection to Azov as “Pro-Kremlin influencers” seeking to undermine Ukrainian war efforts. Suggesting that there is any connection to Azov’s influence and recruiting power, which again, TIME magazine described as “unrivaled” only a year ago, in the Buffalo shooting, is not a conspiracy, but merely an assumption made through investigation of Gendron’s manifesto and its connection to Tarrant’s manifesto.
Before the Russia-Ukraine war, making connections to the Azov Battalion’s role in white supremacist attacks like Tarrant’s was noncontroversial. But now, any suggestion that connects the Azov Battalion to the Buffalo shooter, is dismissed as having come from “Pro-Kremlin influencers,” conspiracy theorists, Russian puppets, etc.
It’s doubtful, but perhaps Gendron has no idea what the Azov Battalion is. Maybe his use of the symbol commonly used by Azov—the Black Sun—as well as his inspiration from the Ukrainian far-right-connected Tarrant, is entirely disconnected from the Azov Battalion. Perhaps Gendron was only influenced by the Azov Battalion indirectly through his idolization of the possibly Azov-connected Tarrant. Or maybe the Buffalo shooter was directly inspired by the Azov Battalion, and his inclusion of the black sun and idolization of Brenton Tarrant roots straight back to the Azov Battalion. The truth is that we cannot know to what degree the neo-Nazi militia influenced Gendron, just as we cannot know to what degree he was influenced by Tucker Carslon, on whom the corporate liberal media was quick to blame for this entire tragedy.
The question we must ask is this: How—despite neither Carlson nor Fox News being mentioned once in Gendron’s 180 page manifesto, as well as Gendron’s clear disdain for the conservatism Carlson represents—is it accurate to assign Carlson blame for this attack, while the mainstream media has labeled any connection between the shooter’s ideology and the Azov Battalion as pro-Russian propaganda whose only goal is to undermine Ukraine’s war efforts.
Is it true that those curious enough to look into a possible connection between Gendron and Azov are arms of the Kremlin? Or is corporate media doing a horrible job at presenting all the facts and possible connections of this case? Should we also consider the media’s actions as an attempt to steer the discourse of the tragedy in a direction that is politically/financially advantageous to corporate media, by disavowing any perspectives that are inconvenient to their advertising contracts with BlackRock/defense contractors?
We cannot know for sure. We can only try our best to decipher the “loosely” connected dots leading to a larger truth—just as we must in discerning the true connection, if any, of Gendron to Tucker Carlson or the Azov Battalion.
As we focus on connecting the dots in the specifics of any story, we should never lose sight of the macro connections that events have, especially relating to violence, to American culture and government. In the wake of the recent school shooting in Texas, liberal media has used the story to suggest that violence in America is solely an issue of guns, ignoring the shortcomings of states with the most gun control. Conservative media has used the story to suggest that the violence of mass shootings is a problem of “evil,” and not one of guns or systemic failure.
Both sides refuse to question whether the rot of the American people’s economic security, or the violent culture some believe has manifested through Western imperialism, plays any role in making the United States, and the very few other Western nations that have experienced mass shootings, so unique in regard to the consistency of these violent acts of nihilism. As with the specifics in this individual story, we must give our best effort to connect the patterns of trauma our society endures with the cultural pathologies and systemic structures that make the United States what it is. We might not ever find a direct answer, but the search that confronts even the most ingrained and normalized aspects of our society’s existence is what will bring us closer to the truth.