On June 17, 21 year-old Dylann Storm Roof entered the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, and committed the most violent racially motivated attack in the U.S. since the Civil Rights Movement. Using a .45 caliber handgun, the caucasian Roof killed nine and wounded a tenth. All of the victims were black.
“I believe this is a hate crime,” Police Chief Greg Mullen told reporters at a press conference the night of the shooting.
Fox News chose to report the massacre the following morning from a different perspective.
An image declaring “Attack on Faith” remained on the screen during the June 18th edition of the “Fox & Friends” segment covering the Charleston shooting.
Discussing the tragedy with Pastor E.W. Jackson, Fox host Steve Doocy decided to re-write recent history:
“It was released earlier – and extraordinarily, they called it a ‘hate crime’ – and some look at, because it was a white guy, apparently, and a black church, but you made a great point just a moment ago about the hostility towards Christians, and it was a church! So, maybe that’s what they’re talking about.”
Just days later, Pastor Jackson would further push this false narrative, blaming the shooting on the “growing hostility and antipathy to Christianity and what this stands for, the biblical worldview about sexual morality and other things,” to radio host John Fredericks.
Interestingly, this is the exact opposite of how the same show handled the non-racially motivated 2013 murder of caucasian Christopher Lane.
On Saturday, the shooter’s manifesto was discovered online. Although his name does not appear on the manifesto site, it has been registered under Roof’s name since February.
Roof’s twisted words quickly confirm the information from law enforcement: race was the motive behind the massacre.
Echoes of the extreme right can be found throughout the document. Roof writes: “I have read hundreds of slaves’ narratives from my state. And almost all of these were positive.” While reading this passage, I couldn’t help but be reminded of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch and CPAC speaker Phil Robertson’s 2014 comments to GQ referring to pre Civil Rights era black cotton workers as “happy.”
Discussing the concern of the growing black population, Roof channels Sarah Palin’s famous 2010 “It’s time to take our country back” battle cry that has since been immortalized in Tea Party signs and internet memes:
“I believe that even if we made up only 30 percent of the population we could take it back completely.”
The manifesto is accompanied by several disturbing photos of Roof, posing with the gun believed to have been used in the shooting. Other images include Roof holding the Confederate battle flag, with the flag itself quickly becoming one of the many issues to rise from this tragedy.
“Today we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say it is time to remove the flag from our Capitol grounds,” South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley told reporters earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley ordered all four Confederate flags (including the battle flag) to be removed from the Capitol.
Corporations Wal-Mart, Amazon, Ebay and others have announced they will no longer sell the flag. In addition, Warner Bros., the studio behind “The Dukes of Hazzard,” released a statement revealing it would no longer produce merchandise from the classic television series depicting the flag.
For some people, the lack of the Confederate battle flag on a die cast car is when shit got real.
“Dukes” actor Ben Jones responded to the Warner Bros. announcement via his Facebook page in all caps (which is annoying as hell):
“OUR BELOVED SYMBOL IS NOW BEING ATTACKED IN A WAVE OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS THAT IS UNPRECEDENTED IN OUR NATION OF FREE SPEECH AND FREE EXPRESSION. ACTIVISTS AND POLITICIANS ARE VILLIFYING SOUTHERN CULTURE AND OUR HERITAGE AS BEING BIGOTED AND RACIST.”
Let’s re-visit the history of the flag that is vilified as “being bigoted and racist.”
During his 1861 Cornerstone Address, Vice President of the Confederate States of America Alexander H. Stephens explained the foundation of their new government:
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
Cooter, you’re going to lose that slander case.
Journalist Yoni Appelbaum explains when the flag made its return after the Civil War in a recent piece for The Atlantic:
“But as a political symbol, the flag was revived when northern Democrats began to press for an end to the South’s system of racial oppression. In 1948, the Dixiecrats revolted against President Harry Truman – who had desegregated the armed forces and supported anti-lynching bills. The movement began in Mississippi in February of 1948, with thousands of activists ‘shouting rebel yells and waving the confederate flag,’ as the Associated Press reported at the time. Some actually removed old, mothballed flags from the trunks where they had until then been gathering dust.”
Ben Jones’ Facebook post concludes (still in all caps):
“COOTER’S IS GOING TO CONTINUE TO SELL OUR SOUTHERN SYMBOLS AS LONG AS THERE IS A COOTER’S. I WILL FIGHT THESE PEOPLE UNTIL HELL FREEZES OVER, AND THEN I WILL FIGHT THEM ON ICE.”
Who the hell is this guy fighting? Frozen’s Princess Elsa? If a business owner wants to continue to sell flag merchandise, nobody is stopping you. Let’s stop the revisionist history on the flag, though.
Haley wasn’t the only conservative leader supporting the removal of the flag, South Carolina’s own Republican Senator Lindsey Graham also had a change of heart on the subject. That’s not the only issue Graham has been re-thinking:
“I own a bunch of guns, and I haven’t hurt anybody. But there is something wrong with the background system,” Graham told CNN last Friday.
This is a different approach for Graham, who previously voted against the Manchin-Toomey Background Check Amendment in 2013.
Multiple sources are reporting Roof purchased the firearm used in the shooting with birthday money on April 11. Roof did have an arrest record at the time of the transaction.
Just months earlier, he had been arrested on two different occasions. In February, Roof was arrested for a misdemeanor drug charge. In April, he was taken into custody for trespassing at the Columbiana Centre, a local mall. Neither arrest could have prevented Roof’s legal gun purchase. However, that’s not true in every state.
In Minnesota, if an individual is arrested on a misdemeanor they are prohibited from purchasing a firearm for 3 years.
Conservative sites like Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller were quick to insinuate that the shooter chose the church because it was a “gun-free zone.” This extreme-right-wing fear mongering, talking point is wrong… again.
“I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites [sic] in the country,” Roof reveals in his manifesto.
Not to be outdone by the likes of the The Daily Caller, NRA board member Charles Cotton took the victim-blaming route when discussing Charleston victim, Reverend Clementa Pinkney, on an online forum:
“Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”
Cotton sounds like he’s auditioning for the role of a cenobite in Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser.”
In addition to being the church’s reverend, Pinckney was also a state legislator who supported stricter background checks for gun purchases in 2013. The bill stalled in committee.
However, the Reverend was successful in passing a bill he co-sponsored, requiring police officers to wear body cameras after the white officer-involved shooting death of unarmed Walter Scott.
Like the concept that gun-free zones attract mass shooters, the idea that an increase in right-to-carry laws equals a decrease in crime is complete bullshit.
However, this didn’t stop GOP 2016 presidential candidate and recent NRA guest speaker Mike Huckabee from making a similar statement to Fox News’ Todd Starnes:
“The one thing that would have at least ameliorated the horrible situation in Charleston would have been if somebody in that prayer meeting had a conceal carry or there had been an off-duty policeman, somebody with the legal authority to carry a firearm and could have stopped the shooter.”
In 1993, the then Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Huckabee sent a video message to the Council of Conservative Citizens’ national convention. If that organization sounds familiar, it may be because it’s the same white nationalist group that Dylann Roof cites in his manifesto.
There are several pundits, politicians and people on social media who claim it’s too soon to discuss these issues. I can’t think of a more appropriate time to discuss gun control, mental illness, hate, the battle flag and race.
“Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public,” President Barack Obama told podcast interviewer Mark Maron just two days after the shootings. “That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination.”
We see this every day reflected in our prison system, unemployment numbers, the birther movement and internet memes like this:
You have to actually acknowledge the issues if you ever have any hope of changing them.