After white supremacist Dylann Roof’s 2015 attack at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, many white supremacists tried to distance themselves from the attack or to claim it was a “false flag” operation designed to enable a crackdown on white supremacists. Since 2017, however, an increasing number of mostly younger white supremacists have not only applauded Roof’s attack but have openly promoted him as a hero, or even as a “saint.”
Roof venerators often use Roof’s distinctive bowl-shaped haircut to refer to themselves and like-minded fans. This includes using word “bowl” as part of a screen name such as “Bowltrash” or “The Final Bowlution,” or collectively referring to themselves using terms such as the “Bowl Gang” or “Bowlwaffen Division.” They may also use slang terms such as “Take the bowl pill” or “disrespect the bowl, pay the toll.” Some use phrases such as “take me to church” or “take them to church” as coded references for violence.
Roof promoters also create and share Roof-related memes across the Internet, including depictions of Roof as a saintly figure with a halo around his head. Even more common are memes featuring Roof’s bowl haircut, either by itself or digitally affixed to other people’s heads. In one shared image, Roof’s haircut has been superimposed on a shield designed to resemble the divisional insignia of Waffen SS military units of Nazi Germany.
More recent white supremacist killers such as Robert Bowers, who conducted a shooting spree at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October 2018, and, especially, Brenton Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist who launched a shooting spree targeting mosques in New Zealand in March 2019, have similarly attracted the attention of white supremacist meme propagators.