NEW YORK — The man accused of opening fire on a crowded New York City subway on Tuesday, shooting 10 people, raged against Jews and other groups online and had no consistent ideology, according to an extremism expert from the Anti-Defamation League.
“His social media really portrayed a disturbed individual who’s expressed violence, bigotry, and hate toward a range of ethnic groups, religious faiths, and even sexual identities,” said Carla Hill, the associate director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism. “You couldn’t even point to him being right or left.”
“Although his hatred is not primarily directed at Jews, he did make rants about alleged Jewish power and claims that Jews contribute to the ills of society,” Hill said.
Frank R. James, 62, was arrested on Wednesday and is being charged with a federal terrorism offense that applies to attacks on mass transit systems.
He left a large online footprint, including dozens of videos in which he delivered bigoted, violent rants, some over an hour long. James, who is Black, had no consistent targets for his hatred, and railed against Jews, white people, different sexual identity groups, and other Black people.
In at least one video, called “they hate jew,” posted to Facebook in 2017, James said Jews “have so much contempt for Blacks.”
“These Jews obviously haven’t learned shit from their experience. You know, it hasn’t humbled them in the slightest,” he said, referring to the Holocaust.
“They’re all, or the majority of them, still arrogant and still feel they’re superior and something above Black people. And, again, those motherfuckers don’t contribute shit to life on this earth but shit, piss, pollution, and death and destruction,” he said.
“These fucking Jews, and how they will smile in your fucking face while stabbing you in the back in a heartbeat. And they do it so smoothly, you don’t even realize you’ve been stabbed in the back,” he said.
The tirade against Jews, along with most of James’s social media, has been taken down since the shooting. The anti-Jewish statements were previously reported by Rolling Stone and Algemeiner. The Times of Israel uncovered a series of YouTube videos in which James repeatedly compared Black Americans to Holocaust Jews, predicted a Nazi party takeover in the US, and referred to a coming “American Auschwitz.”
Hill said ADL researchers had been unable to discern any consistent ideology in James’s many online posts.
“We did not find him to be consistent in any particular direction. He’s critical of both the left and the right, he was both for and against Black people, he’s bigoted against almost every other race or ethnicity,” she said.
James even posted favorable comments about the white supremacist group The Base, saying that the group fought for white people, and suggesting that someone should do the same for Black people.
At different points, he also posted in support of the Nation of Islam and its antisemitic leader, Louis Farrakhan, before turning against the movement, and at another time, supported Black Hebrew Israelite ideology.
His lack of any clear motive or ideology is unusual for someone who carries out this kind of attack, Hill said.
“I have a difficult time pointing to any group or movement that he fits in from an extremist standpoint. I would say it’s unusual,” she said. “None of it points to any potential motivation for the shooting or why he chose that ethnically diverse working-class neighborhood to carry out this attack. It makes no sense.”
The only throughline identified by the ADL researchers was James’s attraction to violence.
“The tendency toward violence, the appreciation of violence, images of guns and bullets and body bags and toe tags,” Hill said. “That’s the only consistent theme that I see here.”
Prosecutors said James carefully planned out his attack in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood. He allegedly dressed as a construction worker, donned a gas mask, opened smoke canisters, then fired on passengers as the train pulled into a subway station.
He then changed his clothes and boarded another train to escape the scene, prosecutors said.
Dozens were wounded in the incident, but all are expected to survive.
A trove of evidence, including a rented van, a credit card, and a gun used in the attack all tie James to the shooting, authorities said.