The man charged in connection with a deadly synagogue shooting over the weekend referred to a male supremacist ideology in an 8chan post before the attack, according to authorities.
The suspect, John Earnest, a self-described white supremacist and anti-Semite, has been charged with murder and attempted murder for the Saturday attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue in southern California, in which one person was killed and three others injured. He also associated himself with a male supremacist ideology.
Authorities believe Earnest posted a manifesto on the online message board 8chan before the attack, in which he mentions the red pill movement, a group associated with anti-feminist and misogynist views, men’s rights activists, and “incels,” or involuntary celibates.
Keegan Hankes, a research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said misogyny plays a big role in radicalizing people and attracting them to some of the most extreme, racist, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic parts of the internet that often embrace violent rhetoric.
“The men’s rights movement and misogyny plays a tremendous role in getting people involved in much more hardcore racist communities and it really does not get the lip service it deserves in the part it plays in the path down extremism,” Hankes said.
There is a clear link between the embrace of this type of misogynistic rhetoric, as well as records of violence and abuse against women and girls.
Earnest reportedly wrote in his manifesto that he drew inspiration from last year’s Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, who harassed a female anti-fascist activist and regularly made misogynistic remarks about her on Gab, a social media website favored by white supremacists and misogynists.
Regardless of whether shooters express white supremacist beliefs, they often show misogynistic tendencies and a record of violence against women.
Last year, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old student at a Sante Fe, Texas, high school shot and killed 10 people, including a girl who rejected his advances. Scott P. Beierle opened fire on a yoga studio in Florida last November and killed two women and injured five other people. Beierle made misogynistic and racist online videos and complained about women who rejected him. He also had been accused of sexual assault and harassment by several women.
Also in 2018, Alek Minassian killed 10 people and wounded 14, most of them women, in Toronto after he drove a van down a busy street. Minassian identified with a group of people who identify themselves as “incels,” men who display a hatred for women and think they are victims because women they find attractive won’t sleep with them. Minassian admired Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and injured 14 people in California in 2014. Rodger made a video about a “war on women,” in which he said, “I will punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex.”
The list goes on. In 2017, James Alex Fields Jr., a neo-Nazi, drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, and killed a woman, Heather Heyer. In 2010, his mother called 911 after he hit her and put his hands over her mouth. On other occasions, he spit in her face and took out a knife. Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people and injured many others at a gay nightclub in Orlando in 2016, also perpetrated violence against his ex-wife. Robert Dear, who shot and killed three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood in 2015, had a history of domestic violence and leering. There are many, many more.
Misogynist and racist communities are often deeply connected. According to a 2017 Data and Society report on what is referred to as “the alt-right,” even though men’s rights activists, white nationalists, and other far-right groups may disagree with each other on some beliefs, their online tactics are similar and they “converge on common issues.”
Hankes said of Earnest and 8chan specifically, “Rampant misogyny of the type that has come to characterize certain parts of the alt-right and obviously had a big impact on broader white supremacism depending on the rhetoric. If [Earnest’s] post is authentic, then he was radicalized on that site within 18 months. It’s really staggering how fast that is. You can’t tell me he didn’t come into contact with violent misogyny, particularly because of the /pol/politically incorrect part [of 8chan].”
Incel communities and other online misogynist communities often post open fantasies about rape and violence that Hankes said is sometimes even more severe than some of the white supremacist forums he has come across. Communities on 8chan and Reddit provide space for the red pill movement, but it also thrives on YouTube, where Hankes said there are few barriers preventing misogynist and racist voices from accumulating a large audience.
“A lot of the time, misogyny and men’s rights subculture are connective tissue between some of the more chaotic bigoted parts of the internet and outright white supremacy,” Hankes said.
Hankes referred to a claim by the Daily Stormer that its misogynistic and men’s rights content received the most traffic and were more popular than white supremacist parts of their site, although he said to “consider the source.”
The Anti-Defamation League has said about male supremacist online activity that, “There is a robust symbiosis between misogyny and white supremacy; the two ideologies are powerfully intertwined” and that “This cross-pollination means the largely anonymous outrage of the men’s rights arena acts as a bridge to the white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideology of the alt-right.”
“I think the kind of easiest assumptions to make and the conclusion to draw from that is that you can appeal to a much broader audience this way … People like Mike Cernovich, people like the ‘alt-right’ — although I’m not a huge fan of the designation — but the people who are involved in these sometimes violent but very extreme subcultures, they know that. They use that as a stepping stone to walk people down this path. I don’t know if that’s true of [John Earnest], that’s certainly true of the broader community,” Hankes said.
Hankes said that when he talks to people about how they got involved in these extreme movements and went from being a conservative to an outright white supremacist or men’s rights activist, the kind of people they refer to are Mike Cernovich and Stefan Molyneux. Molyneux has over 915,000 subscribers on YouTube. He has interviewed people like Paul Elam of a Voice for Men about “male disposability,” and Richard Lynn, a psychology professor, who said he believes that there are “several different races in the world and they all have different IQs.”
“They cite these people on the outskirts or just outside of the boundaries of the mainframe of conservatism and they’re doing a very effective job of laundering these ideas and selling them to a mass audience and that’s an audience that I would add are enabled by places like YouTube,” he said.
A 2018 Data & Society report that cites data from 65 political influencers on 81 different YouTube channels says this network of far-right voices easily indoctrinates people and that “YouTube is built to incentivize the behavior of these political influencers.”
After the synagogue shooting over the weekend, white supremacists gathered on a Facebook page to support Earnest and make racist posts. A user that identified as Earnest included the Facebook page link in an 8chan message board before the shooting began.
Hankes said these social media companies need to start taking misogynist rhetoric seriously, since so much if it is tinged with violence and poses “the same violent threat” as white supremacist online content.