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Expert discusses social media's role in Buffalo mass shooting

Buffalo Supermarket Shooting
Posted at 7:59 PM, May 16, 2022

CINCINNATI — Leaders at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center are reacting to a mass shooting over the weekend in Buffalo, New York.

“We are heartbroken for the 10 lives lost and three others wounded yesterday in the racially-motivated attack in Buffalo,” said Woodrow Keown, president and COO. “We are heartbroken for the families shattered. We are heartbroken for the Black community that again — still — finds itself under literal attack by those who use hate as an emotional and physical weapon.”

Keown believes the 18-year-old suspect had a clear goal to "destroy Black lives and make Black people feel they are not safe or welcome." He said it is time for action and empathy.

“It all starts with education and awareness,” he said. “We keep hammering that point but we are not getting enough people involved in understanding the root causes of these sorts of issues. Why people feel they have to drive three and a half hours to shoot innocent people.”

Police said the suspect was fixated on a theory known as “The Great Replacement,” the idea that white people are being intentionally replaced by minorities and immigrants. It's a theory he is believed to have researched online.

“Social media seems to play a role in just about everything,” said University of Cincinnati social media expert Jeffery Blevins.

Blevins said hate grew rapidly in the early days of the internet.

“Webpages afforded a lot of anonymity to hate groups,” Blevins said. “They’ve allowed them to sadly merchandise and recruit others and raise money. It's very difficult for the government to interdict because we’re talking about cyberspace and not geographical space.”

The fear is that seeing these crimes played out continuously will bring on desensitization.

“Innocent people who have died, their stories, their lives, who they are needs to be told (repeatedly) so that people see that these are humans that have been impacted. It could be your family next. It could be someone that you love,” civil rights attorney Elizabeth OuYang said.

Here are the 10 people who died in Saturday's shooting.

Buffalo supermarket shooting survivor recalls terrifying incident
Remembering the victims: 10 lives lost in the Buffalo mass shooting
200 mass shootings in the U.S. this year