Late on Thursday evening, details began to emerge about alleged Oregon mass murderer Chris Harper-Mercer. Everything that has been discovered so far says that he fits the profile of one of these killers: a young male loner who didn’t interact well with most other people, and who spent a good deal of his time on the internet. At this point we have only a little of his own words to give us some insight into his thoughts and politics. But already, at least one right-wing site is trying to connect him with liberals and Democrats.
The UK’s Express newspaper was one of the first to offer a look at the Harper-Mercer’s life. Among the details they shared were these:
- Harper-Mercer described himself as “not religious, but spiritual.” He wrote that he didn’t like organized religion
- He said in his profile on a dating site that he was “mixed-race” and a “lover, conservative, professional, intellectual, introvert”
- His interests included “internet, killing zombies, movies, music, reading”
- He was interested in Nazi regalia, and was also a supporter of the Irish Republican Army (IRA)
- Harper-Mercer apparently admired the actions of Virginia murderer Vester Flanagan. He described Flanagan as “A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone.”
- He also said that he did not drink, and called himself a “conservative, Republican”
It was that last detail that sent some right-wing sites into damage control mode.
The evidence so far is pretty substantial that Harper-Mercer was a confused loner who was interested in guns — a photo on MySpace shows him posing with a rifle — and he probably didn’t have much in the way of a solid political philosophy. Consider: a mixed-race Nazi? An IRA supporter who didn’t like organized religion?
There were a few tweets from liberals that seized on Harper-Mercer’s declaration that he was a “conservative, Republican.” Most reports, at least so far, have avoided painting Harper-Mercer anything other than introverted and disturbed. However, some right-wing sites have taken some pains to point out that Chris Harper-Mercer was not in any way connected to the Republican party.
Red Alert Politics declared that Harper-Mercer was not a Republican, and that his political affiliation on his voter registration was listed as “Independent.” According to the Oregon Secretary of State site, that means he was a member of the Oregon Independent Party, not that he was a political independent. That party puts themselves, by their own definition, in the “both sides suck” area of American politics. But whether he was a card-carrying Republican or not, you can’t explain away the fact that Harper-Mercer repeatedly described himself as a “Conservative.”
That forced Breitbart to jump through a hoop or two to try and connect him with Democrats. According to their story, it’s not clear whether “Republican” refers to U.S. politics, or whether it is a reference to his support for the IRA:
[I]t has not yet been ascertained whether this was a reference to his Irish Republican views – which he shared with State Senator [sic] and Democrat big wig Ted Kennedy, and the scarcely conservative Republican Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
In their zeal to connect Harper-Mercer with Kennedy, Breitbart misses that Kennedy was far from an IRA supporter, even though he has been accused of such. While Kennedy did think early on that the British should get out of Northern Ireland, the violence perpetrated by the IRA eventually caused him to move away from whatever sympathy he may have had for them, and he eventually became one of the biggest supporters of the peace process. Republican Peter King, on the other hand, was such a staunch supporter of the IRA that the Irish government boycotted the 1985 St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City because King was its grand marshall. In 2011, The Washington Post described King as “one of the most zealous American defenders of the militant IRA and its campaign to drive the British out of Northern Ireland.”
Another day, another mass shooting in America, another chance to start a discussion about why these things keep happening here. But all we can manage to do is continue to point fingers at each other.
Here’s a report about Chris Harper-Mercer, via NBC News:
Featured image via NBC News screen shot