Racist focus in the midst of erratic behavior

It is a measure of how racist sentiment has been inflamed in recent times that people who appear otherwise normal can suddenly act in ways that seem erratic except for the choice of targets of their behavior, as in this case.

An American man who crashed a stolen lorry into a house before shooting two black bystanders was a suspected white supremacist, police say.

Nathan Allen, 28, fatally shot retired policeman Dave Green and military veteran Ramona Cooper in Saturday afternoon’s attack in Massachusetts.

Investigators later found racist and anti-Semitic writings by Allen, who was shot dead by officers at the scene.

He was married, employed and had a PhD and no criminal history, police said.

According to CBS affiliate WBZ-TV, Allen walked through a marsh to a garage in the city of Winthrop where he stole a plumber’s lorry. He crashed the vehicle into an unoccupied home, causing extensive damage.

He then climbed out of the wreckage and attempted unsuccessfully to carjack another vehicle.

Investigators said they found “troubling white supremacist rhetoric” in the gunman’s handwriting.

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins told a press conference on Monday that Allen is believed to have acted alone.

The prosecutor said he had “likely appeared unassuming” before unleashing his attack with a firearm that he legally owned.

Her office’s statement said: “This individual wrote about the superiority of the white race. About whites being ‘apex predators’. He drew swastikas.”

The statement added: “He stole a box truck, crashed it into another vehicle and a property, walked away from the wreckage interacting with multiple individuals and choosing only to shoot and kill the two black people he encountered.”

This person was clearly having some kind of breakdown that resulted in him doing seemingly random things. And yet in the midst of it, he was able to think lucidly enough to pick out among all the people he encountered the only two Black people to kill.


  1. Matt G says

    There are undoubtedly thousands upon thousands of stories of “normal” people who have gone down a dark path in recent years. I used to be active at Jerry Coyne’s blog up until 6-7 years ago when he became like so many of those New Atheists who turned their backs on liberal values (like anti-racism, anti-sexism, etc.). He joined Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, etc. Was he always that way and I just didn’t see it, or did something else happen?

  2. Mano Singham says

    It may be that since some (or all?) of those people are friends of his, he initially felt obliged to defend them when they were attacked out of a sense of solidarity. From there, it can be a short step to starting to subtly adopt their views.

  3. mnb0 says

    @1 Matt G: 6 or more years ago this modern JC banned me (from his perspective he was right) for critizing his lack of liberal values in the least suble way I could think of without using foul language. I think he was always that way. What in my view plays a role -- and this agrees with what MS writes -- is that we live in an age of polarization. That forces lots of people to make a choice, which again encourages tribalism.
    Another factor is that internet seems to encourage group thinking. Only few bloggers seem to be capable of avoiding it. MS is one of them.

    Anyhow, during the heydays of Internet Atheism (the term New Atheism becomes increasingly silly), the likes of Harris, Dawkins etc. were very popular. When the movement (or rather non-movement; I never thought much of it) began to crack apparently many atheists felt that they had to make a choice.

    Once a year or less I take a look at the blog Why Evolution is True. Granted, I don’t make it past the header and the first sentence anymore. Still it seems to me that JC’s views on politics hasn’t changed one iota. So I repeat: he always has been that way since I started to read his blog about ten years ago. His appeal to liberal values (and let me stress: I’m not a liberal myself, not even in the American meaning of the word) never was more than lip service.

  4. garnetstar says

    The only reason this guy’s breakdown didn’t result in a massacre of even more black people is that semi-automatic rifles are illegal in Massachusetts. Have to point that out.

    And yes, choosing that particular ideology to indulge and express your rage at the world for you being a loser is an extremely hideous one.

  5. garnetstar says

    I’ve thought that Coyne’s right-wing positions were due to lack of theory of mind, in which one is incapable of understanding that other minds have other points of view and different experiences, than one’s own does.

    Because, it isn’t just politics. I recall a post of his about antidepressants which was just jaw-droppingly ignorant and designed solely to support his pre-existing opinion (which apparently is that depression isn’t real, since he hasn’t had it.) He was absolutely resistant to all alternate experiences or discussions or facts. So inappropriate for a scientist as to have arisen only by motivated reasoning.

  6. jenorafeuer says

    This person was clearly having some kind of breakdown that resulted in him doing seemingly random things. And yet in the midst of it, he was able to think lucidly enough to pick out among all the people he encountered the only two Black people to kill.

    Anybody who’s done work with domestic abusers will tell you that this is absolutely normal. The same people who will gaslight and beat the woman at home or yell at his female subordinates at work and then whine about how he couldn’t help himself will be perfectly polite to any female superiors, because he knows that yelling at them will have consequences.

    He can control himself just fine; he just has a very specific understanding of exactly who he can get away with abusing, and thus who he can ‘let loose’ around. This guy’s ‘random’ attacks are almost certainly the same thing. There was nothing random about it, he just no longer had any brakes on what he actually wanted to do.

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