In the day and a half since ex-cop Christopher Dorner allegedly went on a vengeful killing spree that's left three dead so far, the search for the 33-year-old former Navy reservist has reached rabid heights. Cops eager to catch Dorner have already shot at a few innocent people thinking it was their man, and police units have fanned out to towns up and down California's southern coast in a manhunt that went through the night.
Amidst all that, a less dramatic rise, though still a noticeable one, is that of Dorner's growing fan base. Despite the fact that Dorner has very possibly executed three people in cold blood, and has said he wants to kill more, men and women around America have begun cheering him on via outlets like Twitter and Facebook, with Dorner continuing to evade capture all the while.
In the past 24 hours, dozens of Facebook fan pages have popped up for Dorner. They've got names like "I Support Christopher Jordan Dorner" and "We Are All Chris Dorner." One of the pages calls Dorner "a man with morals and a hero. A real rebel with a cause!" Still another quotes DH Lawrence in its "About" section: "I never saw a wild thing feel sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever feeling sorry for itself."
Eighty years ago, the public was enamored of murderous scofflaw duo Bonnie and Clyde. And a decade ago, domestic terrorist Eric Rudolph, an anti-abortion zealot, inspired sympathetic bumper stickers reading, "Run, Eric, run!" Today, Dorner, with his twisting and lengthy manifesto, seems to be galvanizing the public against one of the more historically reviled institutions in America: the police.
Many of Dorner's Facebook support pages feature fan-made images like this.
At the heart of the Dorner superfan movement seems to be citizens putting a lot of credibility into Dorner's claims that what's animating his actions is a fight against police corruption. Dorner claims that since 2007 several members of the LAPD have conspired to ruin him after he blew the whistle on an officer who brutalized a man unnecessarily during an arrest. Dorner also says he came to blows with other members of the LAPD who unabashedly bandied about the word "nigger" right in front of him. In essence, Dorner's complaints are the same ones many Angelenos, particularly minorities in low-income communities, have had for decades now: The LAPD is a racist, violent organization that breaks the law at will and systematically excommunicates any officer unwilling to play ball. This is not a novel grievance, but someone literally fighting back is novel, especially when that someone is a former cop and not a common "gangbanger" or a "thug" (read: less credible poor person).
To some, Dorner has all the makings of a folk hero, an apparent representation of the idea that there is a limit to how much sordid oppressiveness authority can inflict before people strike back with equally sordid tactics. This Anonymous tweet sums up that platform nicely:
The LAPD is doing illegal things to catch an ex-cop doing illegal things who was kicked off the force for exposing cops doing illegal things— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) February 8, 2013
Elsewhere, on another Christopher Dorner Facebook fan page, people show their support for Dorner by posting YouTube videos of incidents of police brutality, as if Dorner stands as a rogue force out to avenge every American ever mistreated by a cop. "I am amazed by the outpouring of support," wrote the page's owner last night. "Contact your representatives and ask for a congressional inquiry into the LAPD."
Despite what his proponents might think, Dorner's actions thus far seem less like those of a soldier fighting a righteous war and more like those of a madman slaughtering innocents. His first alleged victim wasn't any who'd "wronged" him; it was the daughter of a former cop he had a grudge against, and her fiance. Dorner is suspected of then shooting three random police officers in Riverside County before going on the lam. There's not much to cheer for about any of this, and yet people obviously are.
The LAPD should do its best to catch Christopher Dorner and, if he's guilty, convict him of whatever crimes he's committed. But after that it would probably be a good idea to ask itself why, when someone says they want to kill lots of LA cops, so many people's first response is to stand and applaud.