Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
| Hate for hate's sake|
The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting was an antisemitic terrorist attack on the Tree of Life Congregation — Or L'Simcha synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 27, 2018. 11 Jewish-Americans were killed and 6 people (mostly police officers) injured, including the shooter himself, making it the deadliest attack on Jews in American history. This attack was one of several terrorist incidents ahead of the 2018 United States legislative elections, along with the mail bombing attempts towards Democrats and liberals by Cesar Sayoc, the Jeffersontown Kroger shooting in Louisville, Kentucky, towards African Americans at a grocery store by Gregory Alan Bush, and the Tallahassee shooting at a Florida yoga studio towards women by incel Scott Paul Beierle.
The man behind the shooting was 46-year old Baldwin, Pennsylvania resident Robert Gregory Bowers (1972–). Bowers was originally a normal conservative and fan of radio host Jim Quinn, but he would become an extremely antisemitic and racist white nationalist over time.
Bowers was a regular user on Gab, a self-described "free speech" social media site and alternative to Twitter, which has since become a home for the far-right and the alt-right, especially those banned from other platforms. Bowers registered on Gab in January 2018 under the handle "onedingo" and his bio stated, "Jews are the children of Satan (John 8:44). The Lord Jesus Christ [has] come in the flesh." which indicated he practiced an antisemitic and racist version of Christianity. Bowers' Gab profile had a photo of the number 1488, a numerical symbol popular among neo-Nazis and white nationalists, derived from David Lane's Fourteen Words and the Nazi slogan Heil Hitler (H being the eighth letter of the alphabet). As you can expect, the shooter's Gab feed was filled to the brim with antisemitism, racism, Holocaust denial, and hatred of Donald Trump for not being antisemitic enough and for the arrest of alt-right organizations Rise Above Movement (RAM) and the Proud Boys for their roles in the violence at the Unite the Right/Charlottesville riots and the Metropolitan Republican Club NYC brawl with Antifa, as well as references to the Central American migrant caravan (for which he blamed Jews) and use of a racial slur to describe Jews, either posted by himself or reposted (Gab's version of retweeting) by other users on the website. His feed also showed interactions with other alt-right users such as Brad "Hunter Wallace" Griffin of Occidental Dissent and the Southern nationalist/Neo-Confederate organization League of the South (one of the key organizers in the Charlottesville riots/Unite the Right and their leader Michael Hill a planned speaker), with which he worked to dox a left-wing blogger; the virulently antisemitic Patrick Little of the California Republican Party branch before being kicked out; the equally anti-Semitic Jared Wyand of Project Purge and formally the Republican Party; Daniel "Jack Corbin" McMahon, a self-described "Antifa Hunter" and fascist; Daniel "Grandpa Lampshade" Kenneth Jeffreys, a neo-Nazi host for the UK-based Radio Aryan and an associate for The Daily Stormer; and other Gab users who held his views. Bowers believed in white genocide propaganda; for instance, he once posted, "Daily Reminder: Diversity means chasing down the last white person," and his most infamous quote, "HIAS likes to bring invaders that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."
Reactions from the far-right
The American far-right, which contains a large number of anti-Semites, were divided about the Pittsburgh shooting. Robert Bowers was especially divisive given the mention of "optics" (an alt-right term for how to market white nationalism and/or neo-Nazism to the masses). One faction, led by Andrew Anglin of The Daily Stormer and Greg Johnson of Counter-Currents Publishing, viewed the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting as counter-productive to their cause (despite Stormer having users, such as Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer, who condone violence against non-whites and Jews); another, led by Alex Linder of VNNforum and "Vic Mackey" of the Bowl Patrol (an online neo-Nazi Dylann Roof Charleston church shooter murder cult), celebrated said shooting and Robert Bowers in particular.
Jeffrey Raphael Clark, aka "DC Bowl Gang" and "DC_Stormer", a Washington, D.C.-based neo-Nazi, alt-right member of the Bowl Patrol, and self-described "Meth-smoking, Pipe bomb making, mailman-murdering, Che Gueverra of the altright", would be later arrested after his family reported Clark's violent behavior. Clark specifically praised Dylann Roof, Cesar Sayoc (the 2018 United States mail bombing attempts "MAGABomber"), and Bowers online; his pinned post on his Gab account was a graphic and bloody image of Roof killing 9 blacks in the style of the video game Doom, and he wrote that Sayoc's actions were "a dry run for things to come" and Bowers' victims "deserved it". Clark, unsurprisingly, had deep ties to the alt-right. He and his late brother Edward (who killed himself after the synagogue shooting) were part of the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America (VA; rebranded since Charlottesville as Patriot Front), to which James Alex Fields (the Charlottesville car attacker) also belonged, and both Clark brothers posed with the group's flag. Jeffrey Clark was also a member of the Proud Boys, a "Western chauvinist" alt-lite organization led by Canada-born Gavin McInnes of Vice that also had Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler as a member, and had flyers promoting the Atomwaffen Division (AWD), a paramilitary terrorist group that openly promotes violence against non-whites. Clark also had ties to alt-right ringleader Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute and Jack Posobiec and had attended the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally. D.C. police ultimately found nooses, firearms, drugs, body armor, a license plate, and Nazi and Confederate flags.
- Christchurch terrorist attacks: A mass shooting incident against Muslims in New Zealand on 15 March 2019, which was fueled by hatred. Much like Bowers, the shooter was radicalized by far-right extremists.
- Poway synagogue shooting: another American Jewish synagogue shooting in Poway, California, at Chabad of Poway, in which an elderly Jewish woman named Lori Gilbert-Kaye was killed and 3 others injured. The shooter, John T. Earnest, was inspired by the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, Robert Bowers, and Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the perpetrator of the terrorist attacks at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand.
- Official Gab account of the suspect, which is now suspended
- second archive, A YouTube video featuring the feed of the suspect's account with a police scanner
- Tree of Life – Or L'Simcha Congregation official website
- Vigil for Pittsburgh shooting victims
- Ailworth, Erin; Hagerty, James R. (October 28, 2018). "Pittsburgh Shooting Suspect Described as Man Who Kept to Himself - Robert G. Bowers was active on social media, but few recall him in person; 'very unremarkable, normal—which is scary' says one neighbor". The Wall Street Journal.
- "How Robert Bowers went from conservative to white nationalist". Retrieved November 20, 2018.
- "Tree of Life shooting: How the rise of conspiracy theory politics emboldens anti-Semitism". Vox.
- [https://web.archive.org/web/20191121051646/https://www.discussionist.com/?com=thread&address=10152026130&togglemark=1 Right wing nationalist sentenced to 419 years in prison] by jh4freedom (Jul 15, 2019, 03:17 PM) Discussionist (archived from November 21, 2019).
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- "On Gab, domestic terrorist Robert Bowers engaged with several influential alt-right figures". Southern Poverty Law Center. November 1, 2018.
- "Deadly Shooting at Pittsburgh Synagogue". Anti-Defamation League. October 27, 2018. ""First Trump came for the Charlottesville 4 but I kept supporting Trump because he is a better candidate than Hillary Clinton. Then Trump came for RAM but I kept supporting Trump because he is better than Hillary Clinton. Then Trump came for the Proud Boys but I kept supporting Trump because he is better than Hillary Clinton. Then Trump came for me and there was no one left to support""
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- Kalmbacher, Colin (October 27, 2018). "Who is Synagogue Shooting Suspect Robert Bowers?". Law and Crime.
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- Holt, Jared (December 3, 2018). "'Jack Corbin' and the Violent Underbelly of White Nationalism". Right Wing Watch.
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- Ahmed, Saeed; P. Murphy, Paul (October 27, 2018). CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/27/us/synagogue-attack-suspect-robert-bowers-profile/index.html.
- ""The Jews Should Count Themselves Lucky": Extremists React to Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting". Anti-Defamation League. October 27, 2018.
- Schiano, Chris (January 8, 2019). "'Bowl Patrol': Dylann Roof Fans Hope to Inspire More Mass Shootings". Unicorn Riot.
- Weill, Kelly (November 1, 2018). "Clark Brothers Accused of Planning Race War Followed Alt-Right Heroes". The Daily Beast.