How did President’s Trump language influence the El Paso shooter’s manifesto?

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  18. How did President’s Trump language influence the El Paso shooter’s manifesto?

By: Patrick W. Zimmerman

Some. They clearly draw from common sources, and the rise in white nationalist violence and activism in the last 4 years is indisputably linked to candidate-then-President Trump’s public embrace of racist ideology and public defense of white Americans faced with the prospect of a multinational America. 

However, there are important aspects to the El Paso Shooter’s manifesto1 that do not show up in Trumpism: namely some libertarian-flavored extremely anti-corporate language and a shaking of primordialist quasi-nationalism.

The question

Did Donald Trump’s normalization of racist rhetoric inspire the El Paso shooter?

The short-short version

There’s some overlap between the language of the El Paso Shooter and Donald Trump.  Specifically, the worldview that divides people principally along racial lines and in their shared language of “invasion”. Basically, their common connection is white supremacy.  At the same time, there is also a huge amount of anti-corporate libertarianism that does not show up in Trump’s speech at all.

Most likely they draw from common ideological pools, the white nationalist subculture, but the shooter probably didn’t get radicalized by looking at a lot of Trump’s tweets (though he most certainly read them).

The results

We ran the El Paso manifesto through our series of text processing programs to isolate the most common terms used and then compared them to our existing (way too big) database of Trumpism.  First, let’s look at the terms that pop out from the shooter’s document, with stopwords (like “the”, “and”, and other functional words) as well as other non-political lexicon (“get”, “like”, “even if”, and the like) pruned to get a better sense of the message. Here’s everything with a greater than 0.25% frequency (of the total wordcount)

Frequency of selected terms used by El Paso shooter
Rank Term(s) Count Term Frequency
1 (america|american|americans) 29 1.14%
2 (immigration|migrant|new migrants|visa|illegals|foreign) 26 1.02%
t-3 (corporate|corporation|corporations) 13 0.51%
t-3 (job|jobs|joblessness) 13 0.51%
t-3 (racial|racist|race|racism|interacial|race mixing|ethnic|ethnicities|ethnic replacement) 13 0.51%
t-6 attack 12 0.47%
t-6 people 12 0.47%
8 hispanic 11 0.43%
9 (our country|this country|my country) 10 0.39%
10 millions 9 0.35%
t-11 (democrat|democrats|democratic party) 8 0.31%
t-11 gun 8 0.31%
t-11 (republican|republicans|republican party) 8 0.31%
t-14 (invaders|invasion) 5 0.28%

Comparing that to Trump, we see that there are some things that show strong parallels:

  • American nationalism – (america|american|americans) is the single most frequent term used by the shooter (29 times, 1.14% of his word volume), with (our country|this country|my country in 10th place with 10 mentions for 0.39%.
  • An economic argument for racism – (job|jobs|joblessness), the 3rd highest term (13 mentions, 0.51%)
  • White supremacy – in addition to promotion of “ethnic replacement” ideology, the shooter discusses (racial|racist|race|racism|interacial|race mixing|ethnic|ethnicities|ethnic replacement) tied for 3rd, also with 0.51% of the total word volume and Hispanic (11 mentions, 0.43%). Taken together, racial terms make up 0.90% of the word count.

The biggest difference is the strong anti-corporate flavor of the El Paso Shooter.

  • (corporate|corporation|corporations) comes in tied for 3rd most used term by the shooter (13 mentions, 0.51% of the word count). That’s two more times in the 2543-word manifesto that the term appears in Trump’s 271,739 words spewed on the Twitters since election day 2016 (for a cool 0.004%).

Mouseover for details.

What now?

Depressingly, it’s hard to come up with any other answer than “more shootings,” as long as the dark corners of the internet continue to serve as incubators for radicalism, and the frequency will probably increase as long as they see themselves to be actively encouraged by a major political figure.

1  An archived copy can be accessed at The Internet Archive. Obvious spoilers note: this link contains a document which is important to preserve for historical reasons but which contains incredibly violent and racist calls to mass terrorism, so treat it as such.^

About The Author

Architeuthis Rex, a man of (little) wealth and (questionable) taste. Historian and anthropologist interested in identity, regionalism / nationalism, mass culture, and the social and political contexts in which they exist. Earned Ph.D. in social and cultural History with a concentration in anthropology from Carnegie Mellon University and then (mostly) fled academia to write things that more than 10 other people will actually read. Driven to pursue a doctorate to try and answer the question, "Why do they all hate each other?" — still working on it. Plays beer-league hockey, softball, and soccer. Professional toddler wrangler. Likes dogs, good booze, food, and horribly awesome kung-fu movies.

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