Conspiracy theorists on Twitter spent the weekend insisting the racist shooter in Jacksonville, Florida who killed three people on Saturday was part of a “psyop” somehow organized by the U.S. government. As evidence for the theory, many far-right accounts said the shooter’s manifesto was immediately released, while other left-wing shooters have had their manifestos withheld. What’s the only problem? That’s simply not true.
“Anyone else notice how we got the Jacksonville shooter’s manifesto within hours of the ‘racially motivated’ incident, but we still don’t have the Nashville Trans Terrorist’s manifesto 5 months after they murdered Christian schoolchildren?” one account known as DC_Draino tweeted on Sunday.
“It’s a simple explanation: One boosts the regime’s racially divisive narrative. The other doesn’t,” the account continued, referring to President Joe Biden’s administration as a regime.
Jacksonville sheriff T.K. Waters gave a press conference Sunday to explain the case. He also revealed that Ryan Christopher Palmeter, 21, shot three Blacks at the Dollar General in a racist crime. Waters says the shooter wrote “several” manifestos that “detailed the shooter’s disgusting ideology of hate.” Palmeter eventually turned the gun on himself.
“Plainly put, this shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people,” Waters said at the Sunday news conference.
In spite of reports spread on Twitter, now known officially as X (the social media platform), where many people claim that the manifestos were released by the local authorities, these manifestos are not available.
Online, right-wing commentators have repeatedly demanded that the manifesto for the shooter responsible for killing six people inside a Nashville Christian high school in march 2023 be made public. Police haven’t released the manifesto, or any other writings of Aiden Hale (the 28-year old who committed the crime before being shot by the police). And while many conspiracy theorists try to suggest there’s some nefarious motive behind not releasing the manifesto, the Associated Press points out there’s no national standard for releasing such writings.
Many mass shootings, no matter what their politics are, do not share their manifestos online. But the advent of the internet in the past 20 years has enabled many violent attackers to post their hateful thoughts before they begin their attack. The Jacksonville Shooter and the Nashville Christian School Shooter both did not publish their manifestos.
One example of hateful writings spreading far and wide is the manifesto shared by the shooter in Christchurch in New Zealand who murdered 51 people in two mosques before committing the attack. He posted it on 8chan. In addition to the fact that the New Zealand police didn’t release this manifesto, they also made it an offence for anyone in New Zealand to have the document.
Whenever mass shooters commit their heinous crimes, it’s only natural for the public to have questions about why they did it. But shootings are so common and occur for such a wide variety of reasons that it’s hard to say there’s much public interest in releasing their screeds.
Gun Violence Archive reports that the U.S. had 476 mass killings in this past year. Everyone knows that this high number is unheard of among wealthy countries. Some U.S. lawmakers will claim that our epidemic of mass shootings is a result of mental health issues or declining prayer. The U.S. has the highest level of religiousness among wealthy nations. But, every country in the world suffers from mental illnesses. Our number of firearms is what sets us apart.
Americans have bought more than 60 million new firearms during this epidemic, which is an astounding number in a country with over 330 millions people. Our elected leaders have shown little desire to introduce new regulations on guns, so this number is only going to increase over the next few months and even years. It is up to the police whether or not they release mass shooter manifestos. But there’s absolutely no evidence that releasing manifestos will help get our violence problem under control.