To the editor: The FBI stated that it had no record of the white-supremacy terrorist who massacred 10 people in Buffalo. Fair enough: the FBI can’t track the thousands or tens of thousands of messages posted on various online platforms and forums by people with fantasies of violence. But for me, there’s still a glaring question about this case.
While this terrorist apparently acted alone, now we know that he posted on social media well ahead of the murders, and that 15 people accepted his invitation to a chatroom where he wrote about his developing plans and then his preparations in increasingly concrete detail. “Happening: this is not a drill” read one posting.
How did those readers react, if at all? Were they encouraging him? Were they applauding him? Were they actually alarmed but afraid to express their worry, online or to their friends and family? If just one person had called the FBI office in western New York and shown agents screenshots of the terrorist’s postings, with specifics about his planned targets, maybe — just maybe — this terrible tragedy could have been averted. If the FBI brushed off the information, responsibility would be theirs. But it seems to me that every person who read those postings and did nothing has some portion of responsibility for the tragedy, They could have acted, and they didn’t.
It seems that law enforcement has seized the postings. Even if they also have the comments, the online bystanders may not have committed a crime through their inaction, and it’s unlikely that they will face any consequences at all. I think about parents who may be thanking God that their isolated, antisocial sons (it always seems to be sons) weren’t the shooter; I wonder if they will pause and consider the responsibility of people who learn about preparation and plans for violence — and do nothing.
Maggie Brown Cassidy
Putney, May 19