The 18-year-old white man in jail for slaughtering Black shoppers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, may qualify as a so-called “lone wolf,” but that does not mean he came out of nowhere. He was nurtured in a broad political habitat that may end in the hate-filled whispering corners of the dark web but begins in the bright TV lights of Fox News and the noisy rallies of many Republican political candidates.

White racists acting as enforcers of extreme right-wing ideology have committed most of the deadliest attacks in this country in recent years. Though the killers are almost always socially-isolated people, they are far from disconnected. On the contrary, these men are too connected — connected to right-wing media personalities who feed their paranoia and fuel their rage, connected online to racist and neo-Nazi groups that give shape and direction to their beliefs, and connected in unregulated internet spaces, such as 4chan, to other people who share their twisted ideas and reinforce their impulse toward violence.

Few people will make the very rapid descent into racist evil and murder that the Buffalo assailant did, but millions of American are still being lured far into this jungle of mendacity. Richly-paid pundits like Tucker Carlson and GOP candidates for Congress have been repeating a slightly cleaned-up version of the “great replacement” theory that was the Buffalo shooter’s central justification for his crime. That crackpot theory asserts that white Americans are being purposely usurped and overrun by dark-skinned people and a flood of illegal immigrants whom Democrats, Jews and cosmopolitan elites are utilizing to gain electoral power.

Not only do lone wolves believe that is true, but so do as many as a third of our fellow citizens, according to polls. Add that to the many other untruths and distortions that right-wing media and politicians have seeded in the minds of too many misled Americans — like the powerful and pernicious Big Lie about the 2020 election being stolen from Donald Trump — and you have another crime in progress: the sundering of our democracy.

And that cannot be blamed on a lone wolf. 

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