US & Canada

Charleston manifesto: Controversial blogger 'hates violence'

Kyle Rogers
Image caption Kyle Rogers says he "hates violence"

Kyle Rogers has worked for years to broadcast a disturbing message about race relations. He may have had a reader, Dylann Roof, who took his lessons to a grim conclusion.

Kyle Rogers stands under an oak tree in front of his house in Summerville, a town about 25 miles (40km) from Charleston, South Carolina, and talks about his work.

He's head of a website for the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), an organisation that says its members oppose "all effort to mix the races of mankind".

The CCC describes itself as "a conservative activist group", but its worldview skews to the right of just about everything.

The group is on the radar of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. They cite the group's description of African Americans as "a retrograde species of humanity".

Mr Rogers, they wrote, was once "one of the brightest young stars of the white nationalist movement".

For years Mr Rogers has worked in relative obscurity. On Saturday, though, he found himself drawn into the biggest news story in the US, a horrific mass slaying in Charleston.

Dylan Storm Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder after the shootings at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

Image caption A series of images appear to show Dylann Roof burning the US flag and posing with guns

Over the weekend, a website registered in Roof's name came to light. It featured several photos of him along with a written manifesto. Authorities are still determining the authenticity of the site.

The manifesto specifically cited the discovery of research the Council of Conservative Citizens had done on "black-on-white crime".

"I have never been the same since," the manifesto author wrote.

Mr Rogers says he was surprised to find his research cited in the manifesto.

"I was devastated," Mr Rogers says. "I hate violence."

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Media captionWatch - who were the 7,000 victims of hate crimes in 2013?

Mr Rogers lives on a street with one- and two-storey houses, dry-docked boats and lawns with grass struggling in the heat. It's sultry even at nine in the evening.

Inside his house the walls are painted orange, and a window is covered in transparent vinyl.

He glances at his friend, Sarah Page, a woman in black heels and a sun dress who's standing in the driveway, as he describes his journey.

Mr Rogers, 38, is a computer engineer from Ohio who's been writing about race for more than a decade. He's worked mainly as an editor and writer for the Council of Conservative Citizens.

He says he started writing about race for one reason: "I didn't like how the media would hype certain things."

He's careful in the words he chooses, and makes sure none of the language he uses is inflammatory. Instead he downplays the divisive - and destructive - messages his writings convey about race.

Image caption Kyle Rogers, shown with his friend Sarah Page, says he has tried to change media coverage of race issues

"There's just issues that need to be addressed," he says.

By his account he's simply trying to help the public understand that white people also suffer from racially motivated crimes, and that the media coverage of these issues has been unfairly slanted. He says, for example, reporters often don't tell readers the colour of a perpetrator's skin, a detail he sees as important.

He has personally interviewed white people who say they've been victimised by black criminals, he tells me, and told journalists about these cases.

He's written extensively about the Trayvon Martin case, which he sees as a case of media bias in favour of Martin, who was black, and against George Zimmerman, the man who shot Martin dead. Mr Zimmerman's background is white and Hispanic.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rogers believes the circumstances of Travyon Martin's death was deliberately distorted in the media

The manifesto author cited the Trayvon Martin case as the "event that truly awakened me".

"This prompted me to type in the words 'black on white crime' into Google, and I have never been the same since that day."

That search uncovered Mr Rogers' site, with articles claiming that crimes committed by blacks against whites are underreported.

"I was in disbelief," the manifesto author wrote. "How could the news be blowing up the Trayvon Martin case while hundreds of these black on White murders got ignored?"

The news put Rogers' site in the media spotlight. "We were totally blindsided by this," he says.

He tells me repeatedly he doesn't believe media accounts about Mr Roof. Nor does he believe what the Southern Poverty Law Center says about his work, or its influence on the manifesto, saying their researchers have been "hyping this".

"They just make stuff up."

He says it isn't clear, either, what the manifesto author learned from Rogers' website, or how much he relied on it for his argument.

"It just says, 'the first site I came across'," says Mr Rogers, referring to the manifesto.

He says the author may have looked quickly at his work and then gone to other sources,

Perhaps.

The manifesto, however, seems to indicate much more than just a passing familiarity with Rogers' work.

"The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens. There were pages upon pages of these brutal black on White murders," wrote the author of the manifesto. "At this moment I realized that something was very wrong."

Mr Rogers says he knows his work has made some difference.

"I know I've had an impact," he says. "There's stories I've helped draw attention to."


Key points about Dylann Roof's "manifesto"

  • FBI has not confirmed manifesto belongs to Mr Roof, but many signs point to it
  • Site author mentions choosing Charleston specifically because it is "historic" and once had the highest ratio of blacks to whites
  • Photos show Mr Roof posing with guns and the Confederate flag; others show Mr Roof burning the US flag and visiting a slave plantation
  • Website author writes that black people are "stupid" and "violent", was inspired by Trayvon Martin case
  • "It has to be me," author writes of fighting against blacks, and "I am in a great hurry"

Besides writing, Mr Rogers runs a company, Patriotic Flags, that sells flags from around the world, including Confederate flags, pirate flags, and flags from the government of Rhodesia.

Mr Roof wore a Rhodesian flag patch on his clothing in pictures taken before his arrest.

"I've never sold him a Rhodesian patch," Mr Rogers says. "He's never ordered products from me."

As he talks about the accused, Mr Rogers is wearing glasses and his dark hair is cut short. His T-shirt is soaked in sweat, and on the front of it you can see the outline of a flag.

He looks down at his shirt. "It's got an American flag on it," he says.

Ms Page, who lives with her parents in Summerville, says Mr Rogers has been "dragged through the mud" because of the manifesto and its reference to his work.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption People in Charleston have been holding vigils and building memorials for the dead

She and Mr Rogers both seem stunned by the attention and are struggling to make sense of the role his work has played in the shootings.

"Kyle and I have been close friends not a terribly long time," she says. She's been trying lately to keep up with the news, though she says she finds it hard.

"It's all bad," she says. "There have been so many hate crimes."

She says: "Everyone just wants to turn the blame on somebody else."

Down the street neighbours have come out of their houses. They're also grappling with the horror of the shootings and the role their neighbour may have played.

Herman Bradley, a retired postal worker, points to motion-detector lights over Mr Rogers' garage, recently installed for security.

"He may not even have a firearm," says Mr Bradley. "If he's going to get one, he ought to get a shotgun."

He adds: "With a shotgun, you can't miss."

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