Law enforcement officials have confirmed that a racist manifesto credited to Dylann Roof did, in fact, belong to the 21-year-old accused of killing nine African Americans in a Charleston church last week.
But had it not been for two enterprising Twitter sleuths, Roof’s Web site — which could derail any future attempts to plead insanity — may never have come to light.
“I will not stand for another news cycle of ‘poor little boy gone wrong because of mental illness/dysfunctional family/drug use etc’ while victims like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner are painted as thugs and criminals,” said Emma Quangel, one of the two pseudonymous sleuths who found Roof’s site. “The media and the police didn’t seem to find the manifesto. So when HK suggested a way, I bit.”
HK is Henry Krinkle, the other Twitter investigator, and his “way” was actually pretty rudimentary. Whenever someone registers a Web site, they’re required to fill out several fields of personal information, including their name, phone number and address. That information gets dumped into a database that, in many cases, is publicly searchable; which means — unless you pay for a service that masks your identity — anyone can see who registered a Web site, and which Web sites have been registered by a particular individual.
Krinkle clicked over to DomainTools.com, a site that lets you search this domain database. He searched sites registered under Dylann Roof’s name.
One historical record came up: i.e., a site that was registered in Roof’s name, before it was anonymized or taken down. Domain Tools charged $49 for the full record. And while Krinkle wasn’t immediately interested in paying, Quangel was.
The site that resulted, of course, has since been confirmed by law enforcement as legitimate. It contained a lengthy, racist manifesto that characterized African Americans as “violent” and impulsive, and that also characterized Hispanic and Jewish Americans as “enemies” of whites. It also contains numerous photos of Roof posing with a Confederate flag, burning the American one, and pointing a handgun at the camera.
“I have read the manifesto and understand the concerns of critics who think it should not be given a great deal of attention,” Krinkle told the Post by email. “However, I believe it is important to display the real motivations behind Roof’s act of mass murder so that white supremacy can be exposed for the toxic and dehumanizing ideology that it is.”
Meanwhile, Quangel tweeted: “I hope this ruins yr ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ defense, Dylann!”
By all accounts, the Web site could have that effect: When Roof’s case goes to trial, said Jane Moriarty, a law professor at Duquesne University and the author of a book on the insanity defense, it’s likely that prosecutors will offer his manifesto as evidence that he was “racist and hateful, but not mentally ill.”
“These writings will likely make it difficult to prove insanity,” Moriarty added — though she cautioned that it’s difficult to draw many conclusions at this point, given how little is known about Roof and his history.
This has not, alas, made Krinkle and Quangel particularly popular among white supremacists, false-flag conspiracy theorists, and other denizens of the Web’s underbelly.
Krinkle and Quangel were arguably unpopular in these circles already: Both belong to a peculiar, far-left Internet subculture that is perhaps best described as the place where the “weird Internet” and the fringe political Web overlap. Both maintain hyper-active Twitter accounts and wonky, pseudonymous blogs dedicated largely to conflicts overseas; both have, at one point or another, posted on Rhizzone, a leftist forum and the ideological heir to Something Awful’s notorious political discussion boards. Quangel recently self-published a satirical dystopian novel that pillories both social media and the police state.
They are, in other words, no strangers to Internet controversy.
In the wake of the weekend’s discovery, however, the pair have found themselves on the receiving end of a totally different type of online abuse. Quangel has already been profiled in the Daily Stormer, a prominent neo-Nazi blog, as “an anti-white, open Communist SJW b****.” On 4chan and Infowars, anonymous opponents accuse the pair of having faked Roof’s Web site to advance some kind of anti-white agenda. They’ve been called Russian spies, “traitors” and anti-Semites.
“We have become the target of several white racist skinheads,” Quangel said.
For that reason, among others, the pair are militant about their anonymity. Quangel describes herself as an avowed communist in her 30s, who was born in the American South but currently lives outside the United States. Krinkle is in his “late 20s” and lives in northeastern Ohio; he’s blogged on foreign policy for the past five years, regularly invoking obscure government documents and NGO reports. (From the tone and quality of their writing, we’d guess that both Krinkle and Quangel are academics or activists of some sort — though both declined to elaborate on their careers.)
Whatever their real-life identities, Quangel and Krinkle have proven just how valuable Web sleuthing — at least when it’s done right — can be.
“Guys I think law enforcement would have found it eventually anyways,” Krinkle tweeted in the hours after the manifesto went viral.
“Not at the level and speed that social media [broke] it,” another replied.
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