Two men involved in separate high-profile killings that had ties to Southern Oregon are part of a class of violent extremists immersed in a right-wing subculture rooted in racism, misogyny and Internet memes, a new study claims.
Christopher Harper-Mercer and Jeremy Christian are among 13 men that the Southern Poverty Law Center classified as "alt-right killers" in a report published this week.
Harper-Mercer, 26, gunned down nine people before he took his own life during a rampage at Umpqua Community College in 2015, marking one of the deadliest mass shootings in Oregon history.
Christian, 35, is accused of fatally stabbing two men — including Ashland's Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche — aboard a Portland MAX train who tried to intervene as he yelled anti-Muslim slurs at a pair of teenage girls, one of them wearing a hijab, last year.
The actions of both men, according to the report, can be traced to a larger trend punctuated by bloodshed.
In its report, the Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes the alt-right as a political movement built around white identity and masculinity that has flourished through a network websites and online forums.
The civil rights group traces the first of these killings to Elliot Rodger, a California man who stabbed three people to death and fatally shot three others before committing suicide in 2014. Before the attack, the 22-year-old published a manifesto that talked about, among other things, his hatred of women and interracial couples.
The report counts Dylann Roof, the white supremacist convicted of fatally shooting nine black members of a South Carolina church in 2015, among the ranks of alt-right killers.
James Fields, who police charged with second-degree murder after they say he plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year, killing one person and injuring 19 others, also is on the list.
The violent episodes perpetuated by those on the list have left 43 people dead and injured more than 60 in the last four years, according to the report.
"While some certainly displayed signs of mental illness, all share a history of consuming and/or participating in the type of far-right ecosystem that defines the alt-right," the report reads.
In a manifesto published before his death, Harper-Mercer rambled about being a virgin, glorified other killers and ranted about black men. He also used the online handle "ironcross45," alluding to a Nazi military badge.
News of the community college shooting received accolades on 4chan, an anonymous message board that traffics in inflammatory memes, the report said. The U.S. Government Accountability Office labeled Harper-Mercer a white supremacist in a report on violent extremism published last year.
Christian's online activity points to a similar ideology. He filled his Facebook page with anti-Semitic posts and screeds on circumcision and Hillary Clinton, according to the report.
A month before the stabbing on the MAX train, Christian attended a right-wing march along 82nd Avenue in Portland where he delivered a Nazi salute and repeatedly used racist slurs, photos and video footage show.
"The alt-right is a broad subculture," said Randy Blazak, a sociologist and chair of Oregon's Coalition Against Hate Crime. "Some of its members are becoming radicalized online."