Should Audrey Hale's manifesto be released? (Update)

We learned yesterday that Audrey Hale, the Nashville shooter, left being a manifesto of some kind. Today, police released surveillance video of Hale’s entry into the school and bodycam video of police making their way inside and eventually shooting her dead. But the manifesto hasn’t been seen by anyone outside of the police. Today the Daily Caller asked if it would be released and got a firm no.


“No, we will not be releasing the manifesto during an open investigation,” the spokesperson told the DCNF.

The police spokesperson did not say for certain whether or not the manifesto would be released in the future after the investigation was closed and restated that due to the ongoing nature of the situation, there was no intention by law enforcement to release the documents.

That explanation doesn’t make much sense to me. The shooter is dead so I’m not sure what the investigation is even about at this point except reaching conclusions about the truth of what happened. I guess it’s possible police could choose to charge the parents in some way but Hale was 28 so they weren’t legally responsible for her behavior.

In any case, releasing the manifesto doesn’t seem like it would be any more detrimental to the investigation than releasing the surveillance and body cam video. At this point, the fact are what they are, including the shooter’s motive.

But curiously, all of the gay rights groups Newsweek contacted about releasing the manifesto agree it should definitely not be released.

“It should not be published,” Jordan Budd, the executive director of Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE), told Newsweek. “The focus should be on how this was able to happen in the first place. There should not be such easy access to deadly weaponry.”…

Laura McGinnis, a spokesperson for PFLAG, agreed, telling Newsweek that publication of these documents could increase the risk of contagion. She said that while the manifesto could help law enforcement and policymakers identify potential warning signs to prevent future tragedies, ultimately, “the contents don’t change the outcome of the tragedy.”

“Regardless of the shooter’s intentions, the real issue here is the ease of access to deadly weapons in Tennessee and elsewhere,” Budd said, adding, “All children, no matter who their parents are or how they identify, should feel safe and supported at school. That includes a world free from gun violence.”


The idea that publication of the killer’s thoughts could lead to contagion seems to assume that people who read the manifesto will find the thoughts of a mass murderer compelling. Wouldn’t it be more likely that people would find justifications for murdering young children deeply repulsive? I think the vast majority of people will fall into the latter category.

But, okay, what about the deranged few that might get the wrong message? Here I’m going to take a guess that the manifesto is not full of novel ideas. On the contrary, I’d be willing to bet it’s full of ideas that are already circulating on Twitter on a daily basis. So you have to wonder if these groups who want to hide the manifesto are actually concerned about contagion or if they’re concerned about finding some familiar talking points in the killer’s thoughts.

It’s possible I’m completely wrong about that. Maybe the manifesto will only reveal that Hale was deeply ill. Nashville police have revealed that Hale “was under doctor’s care for an emotional disorder.” Maybe that’s what comes across, i.e. not a coherent set of thoughts at all but someone who was unable to put thoughts together in a normal way.

Ultimately we all deserve to know why this happened and the manifesto seems like the obvious place to get those answers. In fact, Hale herself suggested that was the case in her final messages sent moments before the attack:


Just before 10 a.m. Monday, the shooter sent an ominous message to a childhood friend, the friend told CNN on Tuesday. In an Instagram message to Averianna Patton, a Nashville radio host, just before 10 a.m. Monday, the shooter said “I’m planning to die today” and that it would be on the news.

“One day this will make more sense,” Hale wrote. “I’ve left more than enough evidence behind. But something bad is about to happen.”

The evidence left behind was presumably the manifesto.

I am sympathetic to the idea that the media should be careful about glorifying mass shooters, many of whom seem motivated by their own fixation on previous mass shooters. But, again, the images and videos connected to the case seem more likely to inspire the already deranged than the text and those are already out there.

Update: A reader sent me this. Here’s Newsweek’s reaction to a previous shooter’s manifesto. It’s headlined “Don’t ‘Blame Trump’: Manifesto Tied To El Paso Shooting Rants About Democrats, Hispanics Invading Country.”

A manifesto tied to the alleged El Paso, Texas, shooter included ranting about Hispanic immigrants “replacing” European-American culture and pre-emptively defended President Donald Trump from media criticism.

Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen, Texas, was arrested Saturday without law enforcement firing a single shot after he allegedly gunned down dozens of people, killing at least 20. The manifesto was posted to the website 8chan about an hour-and-a-half before the El Paso Walmart shooting began. Authorities have not yet definitively said whether the manifesto was written by Crusius and said they were still investigating the hateful screed. The manifesto has been published in its entirety by conservative website, Drudge Report, and rails against Hispanics, immigrants and Republican Party “inaction” against the country’s so-called destruction.

The manifesto acknowledges inspiration from fellow white supremacist Christchurch, New Zealand, shooter Brenton Tarrant, 28, who killed more than 50 people earlier this year.


There’s not a word in the story about the danger of publishing the contents of the manifesto. Why is Newsweek so concerned about this now?

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