Many people are trying to figure out why 62-year-old Frank James went on a shooting rampage on April 12 in a Brooklyn, New York, subway station, shooting 10 people and injuring 23. On his YouTube channel, James posted rambling videos under the user name prophetoftruth88, featuring outbursts against LGBTQ, Black women, whites and even Black people.
A reporter for the Intercept labeled James and many mass shooters as Black identity extremists.
“The Brooklyn shooter suspect has a long history of Black identity extremism, like lots of mass shooters,” tweeted journalist Lee Fang. “But many leftists simultaneously argue that this ideology doesn’t exist & FBI should ignore it *AND* if it does exist police are powerless to stop it. Kind of a contradiction.”
“Black identity extremists” was a designation used by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) from August 2017 to July 2019. It first appeared in a counterterrorism report dated Aug. 3, 2017 that was sent to thousands of police departments and described safety concerns about allegedly violent African American activists, according to Al Jazeera.
The FBI abandoned the term “Black identity extremists” in 2019 after being criticized by civil rights leaders over concerns that it “delegitimized activism against police violence and drew a false equivalence with white supremacy.”
Fang writes for Intercept on how public policy is influenced by organized interest groups and money. He was the first to uncover and detail the role of the billionaire Koch brothers in financing the tea party movement, according to his Intercept bio. He has also worked for ThinkProgress and The Nation.
In 2019, another Intercept reporter, Alice Speri, covered the “The Strange Tale of the FBI’s Fictional Black Identity Extremism Movement.” The article centered on a 2017 Federal Bureau of Investigation report warning about the rise of Black identity extremists. The report was written six months into President Donald Trump’s administration when there was a rise in white supremacist activity. But the FBI report spoke of a need to conduct surveillance of Black activists. Critics of the report said the term has been used throughout history to sabotage Black power movements.
Fang’s labeling of subway shooter James as a Black identity extremist prompted Black America to ask for evidence.
“A single individual talking about stabbing co-workers with icepicks in your pocket on Youtube, to get back at them, is apparently representative of a ‘Black identity extremist’ problem. Mathematically, wouldn’t you go to a mental health problem first,” tweeted The Moguldom Nation CEO Jamarlin Martin.
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Some in Black America wondered on social media how Fang could label James a Black identity extremist when James expressed hatred for other Black people. Many would say he was far from “Black Proud.”
The “‘black identity extremist’ here literally called for black people to be wiped off the planet,” tweeted writer Josie Duffy Rice, who served as president of The Appeal, a news outlet that centers on the criminal justice system.
“The Brooklyn shooter is not a ‘Black identity extremist’ (a problematic term coined by the FBI),” tweeted writer Chad Loder, who covers extremism and describes himself as a security culture expert. “The shooter posted videos with titles like ‘should the black woman be forcibly sterilized’ – his views were all over the place. Misogyny, once again, is the strongest predictor.”
Some noted the problem with the term “Black identity extremist.”
“’Black identity extremism’ is deliberately vague encompassing everything from activists opposed to systemic police violence to black nationalist militants. None of this appears to apply to the shooter but easy to see why a ‘what about black on black crime’ guy would run with it,” tweeted @TheDCSentinel, a leftist news co-op based in Washington, D.C.
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