Even as details emerged that the shooter who terrorized a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin played in a white supremacist band and sported racist tattoos, members of the white supremacist forum Stormfront have bent over backwards to avoid any association with the shooting. We don't often hear white supremacists' take on the news—and usually, that's a good thing. But this time, we have a rare chance to examine how white supremacists process news that implicates their symbols and slogans with a horrific massacre. Since coverage of the shooting began on Sunday afternoon, participants in one main thread have hatched all sorts of strategies — denial, conspiracy theories, silence, blind rage— to evade responsibility for the kind of violence their ideology promotes. The rhetorical gymnastics and logical flights of fancy to deny any connection with this event have been staggering.
Stormfront was founded by Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Don Black in the 1990s and has since become one of the Internet's foremost destinations for racist reactions to the news. A user calling himself Proud White Chap kicked off a thread titled "Here we go again: Mass Shooting At Sikh Temple In Oak Creek, Wisconsin" at 2:41 p.m. on Sunday. "This isn't good folks no matter which way you slice it!!" Proud White Chap pointed to the initial description of the suspect showing up in early news reports: "white male, with a heavy build, bald head and wearing a sleeveless T-shirt."
Denial was the first dominant phase of the discussion. Stormfront members initially hoped the shooter wouldn't turn out to be a white supremacist. "This is never really any of us guys," wrote Proud White Chap confidently. "It's always a drug addled mentally disturbed, pampered White liberal type." They seemed equally certain that the media will misinterpret the event, blaming white supremacists for the violence. "Sure enough this is probably going to be seen as a racist crime," complains Geboren Weiss. Proud White Chap agreed, citing other recent shootings: "They will crucify us and turn every stone on this one right on the heels of George Zimmerman and James Holmes."
But slowly, doubt begins to creep in. What if the shooter actually did have ties to white supremacy? "This was a BIG mistake if White nationalists are involved," wrote Whitehouse90310 less than an hour after the thread started, who is quick to accuse others: "Lets hope they are White muslims (which given the bad history between Sikhs and Muslims they probably are)." Speculation quickly turned into anger. JoeyJoeJoe seethes, "If this perp is some white neo-nazi idiot, like it sounds like, I'm going to be so f***ing po'd. Typical redneck idiot ruining everything we work for, and try to separate ourselves from ... I'm sick of these god damn idiots ruining the reputation of our race."
While Whitehouse90310 and JoeyJoeJoe fretted over the damage the event may wreak on the public perception of white supremacy (as if it has any reputable image to uphold in the first place), some commenters began expressing unconditional support for the shooter. Without hesitation, jbcross32 commends Page:
finally a man whos got some nerve, hows this non violent crap been working for all u guys who are slamming this guy, spread all the propaganda u want, the message isnt getting out, this is how points are made
Participants continued to decry the menace of multiculturalism, excoriate the Jewish media, and complain about white persecution for another 20 pages or so until Monday morning, when images of shooter Wade Michael Page began circulating online. Photographs from his band's MySpace page show him standing in front of a Nazi flag and sporting a Celtic cross tattoo, the same symbol Stormfront uses in its own logo. But Stormfront initially ignored these links. When forum member Istvan uploaded a photo of Page at 11:24 a.m., he noticeably cropped out his tattoo and part of the flag:
It took nearly a half hour until someone finally asked, "So the shooter was 'one of us'?" PAT88, uploaded the unedited photos at 11:52am. "This is not looking good! ... The media will have a field day with this."
Upon realizing that they can't write this off anymore, many were quick to condemn the shooting. "We as White Nationalists CONDEMN this outrageous mass murder!" assures Reichman. "There is no other word for it but murder!" Contrasting this Sikh temple shooting with the Aurora massacre, SussToTheJew begrudgingly admitted the obvious: this looks pretty bad for white supremacists. "I believe the 'Batman' shooter was just a friggin' nut," he wrote. "But if I was to play the game, I'd have to posit it this way: the Batman shooter was about guns—and here's the sticky bit—this nut is about Stormfront. It sounds like a case will be promoted here for 'closer scrutiny of hate sites'."
With a frowny emoticon, MattwhiteAmerica also acknowledged the undeniable, but included a plea that readers remember who the good guys are in this story:
This lone wolf stuff doesn't do anything besides play into reinforcing the brainwashing against us on whites we need on our side ... Anything Lone wolf is the jews wildest dream of showing the brainwashed that we're evil! We have to do everything in our power to paint a picture that we're the good guys that just care for preserving our people.
You read that right. Apparently, white supremacists are the good guys here. Even though the murder of six innocent people was probably racially motivated, carried out by a man who played in a White Power band and sported a tattoo of a symbol used in Stormfront's logo, clearly the people who regularly gather online to write things like this are the good guys:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.