Not too many people are mourning Christopher Dorner, the former Los Angeles police officer who allegedly killed four people before police tracked him to a cabin in the woods where, they say, he perished in a fire. Over his nine-day rampage, Dorner is blamed for the murder of the daughter of a retired LAPD officer, her fiancé, and two law officers; he laid out his plan to kill other officers in a long, rambling manifesto vowing revenge on the LAPD for wrongly kicking him out of the force after he reported an act of police brutality, ruining his life. His threat tied up the entire LAPD for a week.
Police say they fired incendiary tear gas canisters into the cabin before the fire broke out, but deny setting fire to the cabin on purpose. The couple who reported Dorner's location to the police — after he tied them up and stole their car — say they're ambivalent about the alleged killer, who repeatedly told them he didn't want to hurt them and only wanted to "clear my name." But Dorner has his fans, says Rosie Gray at BuzzFeed, and support for the presumed cop-killer "has crept out of the internet's more extreme corners — where such perverse boosterism is commonplace — and into more mainstream venues."
Who are these people hailing Dorner as "a kind of folk hero"? Primarily people "on the Chomsky-esque Left and the Ron Paul Right, who view the killer's manifesto as an articulate indictment of the 'police state' they have always opposed." Thanks to Dorner's wide-ranging manifesto, "this story has a lot of moving parts," J.M. Berger, a journalist who focuses on domestic extremism, tells BuzzFeed. And "with the fragmentation of the media these days, people are more prone to selection bias — they pull out the parts of a story that resonate with them and ignore the parts they don't like. This is really a common practice among extremists, but it's creeping into the mainstream more and more."
Here are some of the broad groupings of Dorner apologists:
1. The social media trolls
What critics call "the Chris Dorner fan club" started with these folks. Within hours of Dorner's manifesto hitting Facebook, fan sites started springing up — We Are All Chris Dorner ("Dorner is the victim of a manhunt and smear campaign"; 4,300 likes), We Stand With Christopher Dorner ("Christopher Dorner is after justice"; 21,100 likes), and Teamdorner ("A MAN WITH MORALS AND A HERO. A REAL REBEL WITH A CAUSE!"; 466 likes), to name a few — and an active Twitter presence, using the hashtag #TeamDorner. These "crackpot fans" tend to focus on Dorner's claims of police corruption, says Philip Caufield at the New York Daily News, and many of them are convinced that the LAPD killed Dorner to silence him.
2. The LAPD-skeptical Left
The online trolling sparked Exhibit A for arguments that Dorner-philia has gone mainstream and is fueled by the Left: A CNN conversation on Wednesday, captured for posterity by the conservative site Townhall. In the segment, CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill, an associate professor at Columbia University, says that Dorner has sparked "an important conversation that we've had about police brutality, about police corruption, about state violence." His actions are "awful, killing innocent people is bad," Hill continues, but "as far as Dorner himself goes, he's been like a real-life superhero to many people.... Many people aren't rooting for him to kill innocent people, they're rooting for somebody who was wronged to get a kind of revenge against the system. It's almost like watching Django Unchained in real life, it's kind of exciting." (Watch below.)
Other news and opinion outlets, from Alternet to Salon to Vibe, have also published articles at least sympathetic to Dorner's cause, though not his methods, BuzzFeed's Gray notes. "The LAPD's troubled history and continued bad reputation are also big factors here," Berger tells BuzzFeed. "I think it's difficult for a lot of people to root for the LAPD under any circumstances. But you really have to ignore big parts of Dorner's story in order to cast him as Dirty Harry or Rambo, as many people have. Dirty Harry didn't kill the daughters of people who got on his wrong side."
3. The libertarian-survivalist Right
This group, led by "many of the usual suspects — Alex Jones' websites, for one" — focuses on the police-state response, says Gray, and especially on how Dorner died. (See Alex Jones below.) But it's not just fringe sites. Reason's Ed Krayewski points out that "the police may have set the fire themselves," and they certainly "responded by coming down on the city of Los Angeles for a week, shooting seemingly indiscriminately at targets that bore only the vaguest resemblance to Dorner and searching homes door to door." Way too many people are killed by police each year, "and as for Dorner, he may not deserve much, but it looks like at the end he didn't even deserve a jury trial."
"There must be something deeply wrong with me psychologically, for I cannot help feeling a sense of solidarity with raging madman of the week Christopher Dorner," says Wilson Blair at ITHP.
Here is a guy with a plan, with real skills, and an intelligent message. Dorner is actually out there taking action, trying to make a real difference, however warped and illogical his message might be. It's more than most of us can say for ourselves when it comes acting on causes we feel passionate about.... So what now? Do we all grab our assault rifles and open season on the LAPD? Not exactly. We need to find a middle ground between killing sprees and Facebook likes. Lets bring Dorner to justice for murder, and then collectively press for reform of the LAPD and police departments all over the nation. We have Dorner to thank for this teachable moment. [ITHP, via InfoWars]
4. Glenn Beck: Dorner is a victim of the anarchist Left
Beck gets his own category, because his apologia for Dorner is premised on the idea that "radical progressives" essentially brainwashed Dorner into his killing spree. "It's not Tea Parties, it's the progressive people," Beck says on his show, pointing toward the Facebook fan pages:
We know, as we have seen, they despise the police. We saw that at Occupy, and in leftist support for cop killers such as Mumia Abu-Jamal. A large part of Dorner's manifesto is hatred for the police. Radical progressives look for the disenfranchised and they stir them up to violence, and you can expect more. There are a lot of crazy people out there on the Left that want anarchy. They want the top to come down. Targeting police and government buildings, setting off bombs and causing destruction. This is the pattern throughout American history. Whenever the radical Left feels like they are very close to getting the oppressive government that they want, they try to shove the American people over the edge. [Blaze TV, via Opposing Views]
Anarchists want "oppressive government"? says Justin Acuff at Addicting Info. "This is why it's impossible for leftists to take people like Beck seriously." Some on the Left who have read Dorner's manifesto do "sympathize with what is clearly a man in a lot of pain and at the end of his sanity," he adds, but that just makes "the entire situation a tragedy."
We don't condone murder; we feel for the pain that drove him over the edge. The deaths of those killed by Dorner simply add to the incredible sadness that the entire situation is marked by. [Addicting Info]
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- China's leader is telling the People's Liberation Army to prepare for war
- How I lost all my money
- The best books we read in 2014
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- How to save money: 12 great personal finance tips
- The religious right isn't retreating — it's reforming
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- How to wrap a present with mathematical precision (and waste less paper)
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
Subscribe to the Week