Buffalo Shooter Sentenced to LWOP, Awaits More Fed Charges
Capital punishment, or death row, has long been one of the big Americana debates, along with immigration and abortion rights. Many oppose the legal right of a state to kill someone convicted of a crime so heinous it warrants the ultimate punishment. Still, in modern America, people are still executed.
Yesterday, 19-year-old Payton Gendron, the white gunman who pleaded guilty to state charges in the massacre of 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket, would be willing to plead guilty to federal charges if spared the death penalty, his lawyer said in court Friday. He is due back in court today. New York AG Letitia James released a report about the promotion of hateful ideologies in our current social media climate.
One key aspect of the report highlights the online spaces where hate exists and is sadly promoted onto fragile minds like young Peyton. Dylann Roof would be another example, and so would Kyle Rittenhouse.
Violent White Supremacist Radicalization Traumatizes Vulnerable Communities: The Buffalo shooter killed ten Black people and wounded several other individuals. The victims leave behind dozens of loved ones whose grief is compounded by the fear that another attack could similarly target them and their community. That fear is grounded, in part, in the ease with which the shooter planned and enacted his attack, and the lack of options to hold accountable any of the individuals or entities who may have been complicit in his radicalization or otherwise enabled it. Community members described the extra layer of shock and hardship caused by the shooter’s decision to target a grocery store in an underserviced area that is otherwise a food desert. The Buffalo Black community has consistently demonstrated its strength and resilience in the wake of this horror, but we must acknowledge the role that systemic racism and poverty played in leaving the community vulnerable.
The link and video continued to spread for days, including on Twitter and other mainstream sites, despite efforts by some social media services to take them down. TREMG published a mental health-related piece about Black online users’ surveillance of violence against their own race. “Studies show that exposure to videos of race-based violence causes depressive symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder. These findings are complex because we often share violent content to help hold police accountable or to “stay informed.” White supremacists continue using technology to spread their hate far and wide. We cannot control their actions, but we CAN control how we receive the news. Protecting our peace is crucial to our liberation!”
Another key finding, which linked to users on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram shared content in the aftermath of hate-based events, said that online social apps do not hold accountability.
Online Platforms Currently Lack Accountability: By his own account, the shooter’s path to radicalization was cemented by explicitly racist, bigoted, and violent content he viewed online on 4chan, Reddit, and elsewhere. He used the platform Discord to keep a private journal for months, where he wrote down his hateful beliefs and developed specific plans for equipping himself and perpetrating his massacre. He live-streamed his attack through both Twitch and Discord. In the wake of the attack, other users disseminated graphic videos of his attack throughout the internet, everywhere from fringe websites to mainstream platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others. The First Amendment has no categorical exemption for hate speech; most of the content the shooter viewed is rankly offensive, but its creation and distribution cannot, constitutionally, be unlawful. Moreover, even when a user posts content that is unlawful, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA), codified at 47 U.S.C.
§ 230, largely insulates platforms from liability for claims related to their content moderation decisions.
On the opposite side of the same spectrum, BLM activists have reported having their content stifled via shadow-banning practices, which we also reported on at TREMG.
Why does death row against white supremacy matter to the collective good of all Americans? We looked at the Nuremberg trials, for starters.
Held directly after World War II, the Nuremberg Trials were a series of 13 military tribunals in which nearly 200 German government, military, medical and business leaders were tried for war crimes. In the first and most famous of these trials—the Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal—24 high-ranking Nazi Party officials, including Rudolf Hess, Hermann Göring, and Wilhelm Frick were tried for crimes against humanity during the Holocaust. (Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and two of his top associates committed suicide at the war’s end; many other party leaders escaped prosecution.)
The trial location was also significantly placed at the same venue where the Nazis trained soldiers to carry out the Third Reich. In today’s context of the United States, the antebellum south would be where the Americana trials of white supremacy would be held. According to the 1619 Project, it would be specific to Jamestown, Virginia, when the first enslaved African landed on the shores of America, then comprised of only 13 colonies. In our upcoming special report, Attacked: How U.S. Media Ecosystems Curate Hate Crimes, we’ve traced big media campaign stories throughout history to specific attacks against any given community driven by hatred. Before the violence, there was always programming. That’s just a low-brow way of saying propaganda is just as harmless as the act of violence or the war that ensues because an entire army has set its main goal on the genocide of a group of humans.
Peyton, in 2022 at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, NY, is no different than an SS officer in 1941 directing Polish catholic children to death at Aschuwitz-Birkeneu. He is no different to the countless American men and women, some who took oaths to protect and serve our democracy and opted to storm a government building hoping to prop up their own leader, Donald Trump.
Rest in power to all of the Black Lives stolen. #BlackHistoryMonth