The Highland Park shooter’s online footprint has seen a lot of scrutiny in the week since his attack, and rightly so. In attempting to understand the reasons and motivations for the attack it is important to analyse the complex and confusing impression that the shooter left on the sites he regularly frequented, however the search for any ideological motive is a futile one. Discussions have abounded in recent days about the political affiliations of the man who shot dozens of revellers while they celebrated July 4th, however, no easy narrative around the killer’s ideology can be formed.
Unlike the man who attacked the Tops grocery store in Buffalo or the men who shot worshippers at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, the Highland Park shooter left no political manifesto, no 4Chan posts about birthrates, and no live stream in which he talked about his choice of targets or the reason for his attack. Instead, he left a slew of cryptic music videos, an extensive history of interaction on a popular gore website, and a supposedly coded collection of numbers in an e-book posted to Amazon. The shooter’s online activity was not indicative of extremism as it has traditionally been understood, rather it was indicative of a much broader and arguably more concerning trend in mass violence – ideological nihilism.