People don’t commit violence against other groups - or even condone it - spontaneously. First they must be taught to see other people as pests, vermin, aliens, or threats. Malicious leaders often use the same types of rhetoric to do this, in myriad cultures, languages, countries, and historical periods. We call this Dangerous Speech. Violence might be prevented by making it less abundant or less convincing. We work to find the best ways to do this – while protecting freedom of expression.
Individuals who carry out attacks such as the one in El Paso are not only audience members who have heard Dangerous Speech and have been convinced to commit violence. They are also speakers themselves. Their words (through manifestos and social media posts) and their actions (the shootings) are performances designed, at least in part, to move others to commit similar atrocities in the future.
As with several other massacres in the past year, the attacker in the El Paso shooting appears to have online ties with white supremacist ideology and published a racist screed prior to his attack. We’ve written on the ideas espoused by this killer many times in the past.