Late on Thursday night, 22 year old Jake Davison gunned down five victims near his home in Plymouth before turning the gun on himself. The victims included his own mother, Maxine Davison, and a three year old girl, Sophie Martyn. A tragedy in itself, but unfortunately not unpredictable.
While we are privileged in Britain that we do not often suffer from such terror attacks, it follows a long line of similar attacks in the US and elsewhere. The gunman has variously been described as “a loner”, “an incel”, and “an ugly virgin”.
His social media content paints a similar story. Davison ran a Youtube channel in which he regularly moaned about his life, describing himself as “amounting to nothing”, having been “defeated by life”. His channel subscribes to an account named Incel TV. The online subculture, which originally came from the US, involves ‘involuntarily celebate’ men who express extreme hostility, sexism and misogyny.
The police have concluded that the attacker was not a member of the far right, and they were not considering it to be a terror-related incident. But given his social media content, this is difficult to understand. He may not have any tangible links with the organised far-right in Britain, but he is clearly a far-right sympathiser.
Davison’s facebook account, since suspended, shows he ‘likes’ a vast range of typical alt-right content, including various American shooting pages, Trump golf courses, Fox News, UKIP and Breitbart. Breitbart has become synonymous with the alt-right and various other far-right sympathisers have cited it as being central to their political development. Former editor, Ben Shapiro described the site as “the alt-right go-to website … pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers”.
In Britain, we think that we are safe because we stricter gun laws than in the US, that these ideologies cannot harm us. Thursday’s tragedy shows us that we are not. Davison was legally allowed to own the gun he used in the incident. There have been numerous calls for investigating the process around this, as he previously had his license removed, only for him to be given it back last month.
Questions certainly have to be asked about Davison’s access to a firearm. More than this however, we as a society have to ask ourselves why young white men are so often alienated to the point of murderous rampage. What is it about these news outlets and conspiracy theorists that allows them to enter into the minds of young men so easily?
We cannot allow ourselves to fall into this trap where we believe these kinds of tragedies can only happen in the US, and we have to do more to counter the spread of the far-right in our communities. This is no easy task when so much organising is conducted online, but we have to be vigilant to the risks posed by these ideas. We all have to step up our fight against the far-right.