A preliminary examination of the on-line writings of John Russell Houser, who killed himself last night after a vicious shooting spree at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, that left two dead and nine others injured, reveals a twisted, angry man upset at a perceived moral decay that he thought was destroying the United States.
Houser, originally from Georgia but who had lived in various places across the South prior to the shooting, spent much of his free time in recent years making short, angry posts to on-line discussion forums and comment sections on various websites, often using the screen name “Rusty Houser.” In many of these posts, Houser discussed his belief that the United States was “about to fall.”
His discontent with the United States led him to make extreme anti-American statements, such as describing the United States as “the enemy of the world.” When, in the winter of 2015, some 200 cars piled up in a multi-vehicle snowstorm accident, Houser claimed that “the lack of moral Americans standing for anything makes me wish it were 200 747’s.”
In another posting, he wrote that he was “with all those who hate the filth farm known as the U.S.” In 2014, Houser claimed that “all countries that hate the U.S.” needed to unite.
As some of these statements indicate, Houser was obsessed with the notion of moral decay in the United States; this obsession fueled much of his anger.
Anti-black racism played an important role in Houser’s vision of decay and doom. He repeatedly argued that blacks should be deported because they, as he said in one 2013 posting, “WILL NOT WORK and have NO FAMILY VALUES.” This was language Houser used again and again, sometimes referring to blacks explicitly, at other times describing them in other ways, such as “another race, not Latinos.”
In 2014, Houser claimed that “failing to mention the role of Blacks in building and maintaining the alliance of evil that literally grips the globe” would slow the re-taking of America. “Elsewhere, this particular role is the Jew. Here in the U.S., it is the Black.” In another 2014 posting, Houser elaborated on the morality-hating people who allegedly controlled America, an alliance consisting of 1) upper class whites; 2) Blacks; and 3) “misfits,” which Houser listed as “homos, transvestites, people who will not work, people with no culture, etc.”
Other sources of decay for Houser included atheists, liberals, and gays—in the latter instance, Houser even supported the rabidly homophobic Westboro Baptist Church.
In contrast, Houser admired other ethnic or religious groups, such as Latinos or Muslims. This was because he viewed such groups as either hard working or with strong moral values, or both. “I will never understand,” he posted in 2013,” why the hard working, morally superior Latinos never bring up for discussion the other race which is known to be completely the opposite for the most part.”
Referring to Muslim immigrants, for example, he said, “those coming in are far more decent morally than the average American.” Iranians, he wrote in late 2013, were “far higher morally than this financially failing filth farm.”
Faced with this fantasy scenario of doom and decay, Hauser seemed to have hoped for a man on horseback who would sweep away all the perceived moral filth—a Travis Bickle writ large. “The one bright spot,” he wrote on one forum in 2013, “is that all matters in need of tidying up will be dealt with in summary fashion soon.”
One of his models for such a leader was Adolf Hitler, whom he repeatedly praised. In 2013, he wrote that “Hitler’s reaction to much would be invaluable now, if 98% weren’t brainwashed in the U.S.” In early 2015, he claimed that Hitler “accomplished far more” than any other leaders. Around the same time, he claimed that “decent people can retake the entire world, as Hitler proved.”
In a different 2015 posting, Houser wrote that “Hitler is loved for the results of his pragmatism” and that “the U.S. is no more than a financially failing filth farm. Soon the phrase ‘ruling with an iron hand’ will be palatable anew.”
In 2013, Houser had similar views on American white supremacist figure David Duke, writing that “at one time [Duke] appeared exactly what the U.S. needed.”
Houser also admired the Golden Dawn, a Greek neo-Nazi political party, describing them in 2014 as “composed of moral people.” Elsewhere, he described their ideas as “a legitimate effort to solve problems” and their leaders as “intelligent, well spoken, and exercising good faith.”
Houser had similarly admiring views of a variety of other extremist groups and movements, including radical Islamists. “Yes, I am saluting the fundamentalist Muslims,” he said in January 2015, “They have stood against evil.” He added, in a follow-up post, “They have my complete Christian respect.”
These attitudes and opinions, which reveal themselves so strikingly in Houser’s writings, raise the unsettling but real possibility that he deliberately chose a showing of the movie Trainwreck at which to launch a Taxi Driver-like spree of violence. The writer and star of the movie, talented young comedian Amy Schumer, has received considerable media attention thanks to the movie and her popular television show, and, given her chosen comedic persona of a sexually free-wheeling woman, as well as her liberal opinions, one could imagine how a disturbed mind like Houser’s could come to focus on the movie as a symbol for all of his dark fantasies about moral decay in America.