Frank James, the 62-year-old man now under arrest for Tuesday’s mass shooting on a Brooklyn subway train, posted a lot of videos to YouTube and Facebook—over 450 of them, more than the number of subscribers he had (429). Mostly using the handle prophetoftruth88, these videos all featured him rambling angrily about a range of political topics, most of them racial in nature.
His YouTube account, now deleted, offered a kind of chronology of his descent into far-right extremism: James constantly disparaged other Black people, calling them “cattle” and “domesticated animals” whose intended role in white society was to be a slave; he regularly advocated setting up a separate “homeland” for nonwhite Americans. And he talked a lot about death, warning that “it’s gonna take a lot more death … for us to get the picture about how fucked-up we really are.”
Authorities say James set off smoke grenades aboard a subway at the 36th Street station in the Sunset Park neighborhood and opened fire with a handgun, reeling off 33 rounds before exiting the train with other passengers while wearing a gas mask. Ten people were shot, five of them suffering critical injuries, none of them life-threatening; another 19 people were injured while fleeing.
James fled the scene in a rented U-Haul van that he shortly dumped, and eluded investigators for over a day, but he was spotted Wednesday in Manhattan’s East Village and taken into custody without incident. “My fellow New Yorkers: We got him. We got him," Mayor Eric Adams exulted.
Adams was the focus of several of James’ rants. One of them, titled “A Message to the Mayor,” described how he had been through New York City’s mental health system and experienced emotional violence, the kind that would make someone “go and get a gun and shoot motherfuckers.”
“I made up my mind, kind of told myself, you know, I may have to hurt somebody one day, somebody may have to get hurt,” James said. “Because there’s no way that I’m going to do what society asks me to do, which is to try to be—to work hard to play fair, keep my nose to the old grindstone, pull myself by the bootstraps, you know, go to work, pay my taxes, do everything you asked me to do, and then you’re going to smack me in the face.”
Daily Kos obtained copies of many of James’ videos before they were removed from YouTube and Facebook and reviewed them with the assistance of behavioral scientist Caroline Orr Bueno of the University of Maryland. The amount of hatred he expresses both for other Black people, as well as Latinos, Asians, and other nonwhites is noteworthy, as well as his apparent admiration for white supremacists and neo-Nazis for their unapologetic bigotry.
“[N-words] should be wiped off the planet, even though I am one,” James says in one video.
James also believed that the 9/11 terror attacks were “a lie, and a false flag operation” and called 9/11 “the most beautiful day, probably in the history of this fucking world.”
The content of his videos, however, is not obsessively conspiracist as much as it reveals someone who ardently believes in racial segregation. His rhetoric mimics classic white supremacist language so closely at times—particularly in his attacks on other Black people for their “ghetto culture”—that it leaves a powerful impression of internalized self-hate.
In one recent rant, he warned that angry white people were preparing to commit mass genocide against Black people on the scale of the Holocaust:
I keep telling you this: White people and black people, as we call ourselves, should not have any contact with each other. You still refuse to understand this. You want to make up some fuckin’ story about Jesus and the Bible said dumbshit, they don’t see it that way. They hate your fuckin’ guts. And why do they hate your guts? Because they know that your rightful place is as a fuckin’ slave in this country. They know that. You’re the only one that doesn’t realize that.
And now you want to be equal to them by force. They didn’t choose to—they didn’t elect to make you equal. You had to force them to make you an equal. And now they’re just getting more angry, and more angry, that anger’s been building up. And nothing can happen here differently than what happened over in Europe with the Jews.
I want you to believe that that’s possible. …
And if they tried to exterminate us, I would not be mad at them one fuckin’ bit, because a nigger—and that’s what the fuck you are—refuses to understand that you have a serious problem that you have not dealt with since they so-called ‘set you free.’ And they didn’t set you free, they turned you fuckin’ loose. You cannot set free a domesticated animal. You can only turn it loose. And that’s what was done to you.
And your refusal to understand that means the death of your children. It means their early exit off this fuckin’ planet. Your inability to understand that means that your children are gonna die, and they’re gonna be killed in all kinds of ways.
James apparently used a photo of a blue body bag as his avatar on Facebook for awhile, and posted a video there explaining why he did so:
This is where I feel we are as a group of fuckin’ people. Dead. We’re fuckin’ dead.
It represents something in my life too. It represents what I’ve been through, what I’m going through, what I’m gonna go through in the future.
He then voiced his hope that there would be mass death in order to “wake people” up:
And so, as I look at all these situations, and the deaths of these young people, uh … I can’t really say it’s a bad thing. I’m sad to say, it’s not a bad thing at the end of the day. And I’ve told you in the past, I’ll tell you now, it’s gonna take a lot more motherfuckin’ death—it’s gonna take a lot more death, all of a sudden, unexpected death to happen in the so-called Black community in order for us to get the picture about how fucked-up we really are, how out of control we really are.
But I see a day, and I really pray and hope for a day, that this system gets to a point and gets to a place where you’ll have groups of people in power, white people in power, who don’t want to kill us, but just want to separate from us and all those who want to be associated with us, and give us our own quote-unquote ‘homeland.’
As Orr Bueno observes, one of his videos features images of neo-Nazis marching at Charlottesville and the neo-Nazi accelerationist group The Base, but “he speaks about them/their tactics in a strange way, almost as if he admires their tactics even though he detests their cause. (‘They’re planning, they’re plotting, they’re fighting. As they should.’)”
James voices his approval for their agenda—“They want to go back to ‘separate but equal,’ or really, to be perfectly honest with you, separate”—he says, and explains their rationale:
This nation was created for, and by, white men—landholding, rich white men. It was created by them and for them. You were brought here to serve them. And that’s what your role’s supposed to be and it’s not supposed to be anything else except in your mind. But they have to make you believe that you have power. They have to make you believe that you have a say in the government. They have to make you believe, make-believe, some shit that’s not true.
Another video compares Black teenagers in packs to pack animals like wolves and dogs. Other videos ardently defend Russia and Vladimir Putin, suggesting that he has been consuming information from far-right sources—particularly the conspiracist kind:
You hear President Vladimir Putin talk about why he feels the United States is full of shit. He knows why! He knows the United States is full of shit, that’s why he calls it the ‘Empire of Lies.’ And he’s talking about 9/11! 9/11 was a lie, and a false flag operation. That was no Arab terror, I’ll say it for the ten billionth time—that was no Arab terrorist did that shit. So we’re facing—we’re in World War III. Right now!
At other times, he expresses a genocidal hatred of his home community:
This ‘code of the ghetto’ shit is not a lifestyle, it’s a fuckin’ deathstyle. It says we’d be better off fuckin’ dead. The way we think, the way we live in the so-called fuckin’ ghetto or the stinkin’ hood, fuck you, says you oughta die. They ought to fuckin’ exterminate you. Because you have been destroyed. And the way you live proves that.
Orr told Daily Kos that James’ actions and his videos reflected other kinds of far-right extremism that’s been active in creating political violence, particularly accelerationists, the radicals who want to see the world burn, and the sooner the better:
One thing that struck me was the fact that he used several phrases and referenced several ideas that come straight from white supremacist/accelerationist groups and spaces — like the idea of being “replaced” as a race. Related, I thought it was notable that he talked about The Base in a way that was almost saying, “We (African Americans) should be doing that too”. It seemed like a lot of his ideas were very reactionary — as if he thought the best way to respond to things like violent white supremacy was to answer it with an equal amount of violence from the “other” side.
One possible on-ramp is misogyny. There’s quite a tradition of men from oppressed groups identifying more strongly with their status as a man because it offers higher social status and more power than their racial or ethnic identity. However, I’m not sure that fits here, because although he certainly expressed misogynistic views, he also identified strongly with his racial identity. On the other hand, his anti-gay, anti-trans views would be in line with the sort of more modern, chauvinistic extremism that seems to be more common in South American and some parts of Asia.
Published with permission from Daily Kos.