Dylann Roof and Political Violence

My hope had been to say nothing about the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, and the alleged perpetrator, Dylann Roof. This didn’t derive from an unwillingness to face a difficult subject; I generally find it distasteful to drag someone else’s pain into a political discussion.

Then again, the Charleston shooting, like every media event, quickly became an information war. The winners have been those who most effectively fit what happened into their pre-existing narrative. This began with the cheap moral grandstanding of politicians and media personalities, who self-righteously condemned an act that everyone on earth found appalling. It spiraled into a debate over gun control and then to demands to remove the Confederate Battle Flag, which, for the time being at least, still flies at the South Carolina State House.

As I write, it appears that the shooting has become the tipping point in this decades-long controversy. Roof’s crime, of course, had nothing at all to do with the Confederacy, or how best to honor those who died in a lost cause. That so many have justified removing the flag on the basis of the shooting demonstrates the power of symbolism and narrative over history and fact.

Moreover, it is necessary for us to talk about the meaning of this event, and its political after-effects, for the reason that it was not a “senseless act of violence,” much like John Hinckley Jr. apparently shot Ronald Reagan in order to impress Jodie Foster.

Dylann Roof was, most likely, suffering from a severe mental disorder, and he also might have been on psychiatric medication, either of which could have precipitated his actions (or not). Nevertheless, his “manifesto,” if genuine, reveals that Roof conceived of his murderous act as a kind of politics. Much like Anders Breivik, Roof wanted to send a message. Indeed, he felt compelled to do so—“I have no choice.”

Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.

There is a strange quality to this writing, which putatively marks Roof’s last words before the attack. He is in a rush to get on with the bloody business, and even apologizes for typos. Nevertheless, what he published was no insane screed, the kind of thing in which madness is palpable. For our movement’s sake, it would have be better if Roof had produced something that was crazy or stupid, and thus easily dismissed.

Roof might fit the bill of a “loser” or “reject”—a high-school drop-out, he lived a life of trailer-park poverty, one in which, it should be pointed out, he developed friendships with African-Americans. But his writing indicates that he was capable of critical thought and had seriously pondered the implications of race on American society.

We owe a few things to anyone in Roof’s state. He deserves a fair trial, for one, and we should also try to take his words seriously and try to understand him, if not approve of him.

He writes,

Only a fourth to a third of people in the South owned even one slave. Yet every White person is treated as if they had a slave owning ancestor. This applies to in the states where slavery never existed, as well as people whose families immigrated after slavery was abolished.

In seeking a scapegoat, the media has centered on the Council of Conservative Citizens, and in particular its website, in which it links to stories about Black-on-White crime, most of them from local news organizations and most of them ignored by the mass media.

But Roof dug deeper than that, and recognized that things like slavery, Jim Crow, and the Confederacy—or, in other contexts, the Holocaust and fascism—are not so much historical facts as symbols of collective guilt, overhanging all aspects of society. A White person who immigrated to South Carolina from Poland in 1980 is haunted by the same specters as a direct descendant of Jefferson Davis.

Now White parents are forced to move to the suburbs to send their children to “good schools”. But what constitutes a “good school”? The fact is that how good a school is considered directly corresponds to how White it is. I hate with a passion the whole idea of the suburbs. To me it represents nothing but scared White people running. Running because they are too weak, scared, and brainwashed to fight. Why should we have to flee the cities we created for the security of the suburbs? Why are the suburbs secure in the first place? Because they are White. The pathetic part is that these White people dont even admit to themselves why they are moving. They tell themselves it is for better schools or simply to live in a nicer neighborhood. But it is honestly just a way to escape niggers and other minorities.

Roof’s feeling is that so much of the “American way of life” and “American Dream” are shot through with lies and delusions. These painful truths about America, which Roof stumbled upon, became a burden to him, a burden he could not bear, at the least not alone. And he must have known that, even if he survived his violent attack, his life would effectively be over.

“Doing Something”

Whether political violence is considered to be legitimate and necessary—or illegitimate “terrorism”—is determined by its success and symbolic impact. We forget that the vaunted “Founding Fathers” could have, so easily, been remembered as dangerous eccentrics, who rebelled against their rightful (and quite liberal) monarch out of personal ambition or avarice. In turn, the Confederacy could have been remembered as a just, Jeffersonian order, if it had achieved military victory.

Whatever the case, Roof’s actions have been disastrous to the extreme. It’s hard to imagine a worse political symbol than firing upon unarmed, peaceful people in a church. For that, he has achieved nothing but ignominy.

In my years as a writer and organizer, I’ve heard a familiar refrain coming from young and old: “When are we going to do something!?" This was, in effect, the question Roof was asking himself, obsessively.

These “doing something” suggestions have, in my experience, never involved violence; instead, there have been vague notions of running for office, engaging in protests, or releasing political agenda or new constitutions. The assumption is that talk is cheap, and that holding up a sign or having an official title is more impactful than writing. (The history of the world says otherwise.)

That’s not to say that many of us don’t dream of The Day, when everything will change. For Identitarianism is, after all, a revolutionary movement, one that envisions a new type of society, something different and higher than our current dispensation, an “old-new land,” to borrow a phrase from Theodor Herzl.

But any “visionary” movement must be backed by hard realism. We must recognize the immense moral thrust that drives political correctness, globalism, egalitarianism, and all the rest. In other words, we must be realistic about “why they hate us” and not believe that some new candidate, or new data point, or policy argument could change any of this.

We must also recognize that, at the moment, any kind of extra-legal or violent action—no matter how brilliantly conceived—would bring to Identitarianism the shame and horror that will forever accompany the name Dylann Roof.

In building a new culture, we are doing what we should be doing, and we are doing the only thing we can be doing.

Or as another writer advised: Keep calm. Ride the Tiger. Dream of the Day.