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Professor: Warning Signs Could Have Prevented Tragedy

The weekend mass shooting in Buffalo that claimed the lives of 10 people is the latest attack driven by growing levels of white nationalism, a professor at SUNY Jamestown Community College believes.

Aubrey Russell focuses on counter terrorism in the homeland security department at the college. He said Saturday’s incident at a Tops Markets in Buffalo was not a “one-off incident,” but rather the result of white nationalism and the spread of misinformation through social media.

“White nationalism is a problem, and will continue to be a problem until we as a society get better at holding people accountable,” said Russell who, in a message posted to Facebook and shared with The Post-Journal, noted that the country historically has not done enough to combat domestic white extremist movements, “which has allowed them to flourish.”

Payton Gendron, the alleged shooter responsible for the deaths of 10 people in the predominantly Black neighborhood, said in a racist 180-page document he purportedly wrote that the assault was intended to terrorize all nonwhite, non-Christian people and get them to leave the country.

Gendron, 18, traveled about 200 miles from his home in Conklin, N.Y., to commit the attack, police said.

Russell noted the lack of success combatting domestic white extremist movements and allued to social recruitment behaviors that allowed ISIL to thrive. Those behaviors, he said, have further been “utilized, refined and improved by white extremist groups, and our collective lack of response is both shocking and appalling.”

He added, “That has to change or these terror attacks will not only continue but accelerate in frequency and severity.”

The JCC professor said there were plenty of warning signs prior to Saturday’s mass shooting. Details of Gendron’s plans were shared online, and photographs of the man’s weapons were uploaded to popular message boards

“There were plenty of warning signs to prevent (Saturday’s) tragedy and yet nothing was done to restrict this content until after the shooting occurred and even then you can find copies of all of these documents,” he said.

Russell said within five minutes of searching he was able to find a livestream of the shooting recorded by the gunman, the shooter’s manifesto, his instructions for planning an attack as well as a large portion of his social media activity

“Perhaps more concerning than the content he released, are the thousands of individuals posting content like this every single day,” Russell said. “Groups that share posts like the ones outlined above can easily be found on popular websites like Reddit, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, and hundreds of other websites/message boards/social media platforms, and go largely unmonitored and unfiltered.”

Russell said social media companies need to be held more accountable to crack down on violent and other conspiracy theory driven propaganda.

“When ISIL does this, we are quick to condemn and restrict the content,” he said.

But when white male nationalists post it, comment on it, or share it, we turn our head the other way and pretend that it isn’t happening. This cannot be allowed to continue.”

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