For the second time in two months, this nation has been rocked by a mass shooting. And for the second time in two months, attempts to identify the gunman have wound up doing more harm than good.
On Sunday morning, the morning service was just getting underway at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, an unincorporated town 20 miles east of San Antonio. Sometime around 11:15 a. m. Central, a lone gunman walked into the church and started opening fire with what investigators identified as an AR-15 clone. At last report, at least 26 people are dead–roughly seven percent of the town’s estimated population of 362 people, and over half of the people in the sanctuary that day.
According to Congressman Henry Cuellar, whose district includes Sutherland Springs, the gunman led police on a chase into nearby Guadalupe County. CBS News reports that the gunman was later found dead, though it is not clear whether he took his own life or he was killed by police.
The gunman has since been identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, a 26-year-old man from nearby Comal County. He was a member of the Air Force from 2010 until he was court-martialed and received a bad conduct discharge in 2014.
But even before these details were known, far-right blogger Mike Cernovich had a theory as to the gunman’s motive.
Really, Mike? Where’s your evidence? It was only after Kelley was identified as the gunman that Cernovich saw fit to try to furnish any evidence–and failed.
So based on someone’s picture, we automatically assume that someone is antifa? It’s hard to understate how dangerous this is.
Unfortunately, far right Twitter has also picked up the cry.
DEVIN KELLEY THE CHURCH GUNMAN KNOWN AS AN ANTIFA SYMPATHIZER!! ANTIFA SHOULD NOW BE MARKED AS A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION!!!
— Tony Ananias Vida (@KingdomsArrival) November 5, 2017
This appears disturbingly reminiscent of what happened in the hours after the mass shooting on the Las Vegas strip. For a time, rumors abounded that the perp was a man named Geary Danley. Once word got out that Danley was an open and unashamed liberal, right-wing extremists branded the shooting as an act of “liberal terrorism.” It spread to such an extent that hours after Stephen Paddock was fingered as the shooter, a Google search for Danley’s name turned up numerous links falsely identifying him as the shooter.
The best-case scenario is that after all the talk about antifa activists planning to stage violence on Saturday, the fringe was trying to find a way to keep the narrative of “antifa terrorism” going. Wouldn’t you know–this shooting happens.
It’s not the first time that Cernovich’s name has been linked to attempts to smear liberals.When he spoke at Columbia University last Monday, someone unfurled a banner that appeared to be sponsored by a notorious pro-pedophilia outfit. Cernovich and other far-right luminaries blasted a picture of the banner all over social media. However, all available evidence suggests this banner was planted by far-right activists–though as of yet it’s not clear whether Cernovich himself was in on the scheme.
And on Wednesday, he declared New York City mayor Bill de Blasio was an accessory to a truck-ramming attack for daring to criticize Trump. And earlier, he was best known as one of the loudest promoters of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.
Now this. The longer Cernovich and the far right continue to peddle this smear, the more proof we’ll have that they have no shame. We shouldn’t be debunking conspiracy theories. We should be coming up with ways to be with this church and this town in the face of a tragedy.
(featured image courtesy FBC Sunderland Springs’ Facebook)