Bitter over the end of a long relationship, estranged from his children and working carpentry jobs to keep a roof over his head after a time living on the streets, David DePape retreated into isolation, spending hours each day in the online worlds of gaming and chat rooms.
Mr. DePape, the suspect in the brutal attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, had an obsession with video games as a boy, and at some point in his adult life it appeared to metastasize into something darker. According to his blog posts, the online harassment campaign known as Gamergate, which began in 2014 as a backlash against female critics of the gaming industry and included misogynistic attacks and death threats, became a catalyst of his growing interest in right-wing conspiracy theories and the many rants against women that he posted on his blog.
“How did I get into all this,” he wrote in one passage. “Gamer Gate it was gamer gate.” He described Gamergate as a “consumer led revolt against communism,” and railed against “wokism” and feminism — complaints that appeared to be precursors to his later embrace of the most virulent and bigoted of online conspiracy theories. It all came in an era in which such theories have spread among wider groups of Americans and have been promoted by far-right leaders.
Mr. DePape, 42, sits in a San Francisco jail cell, accused of busting into the Pelosi residence in the early hours of Oct. 28 and bludgeoning the speaker’s 82-year-old husband, Paul Pelosi, with a hammer. The attack last month left Mr. Pelosi unconscious and lying in a pool of his own blood. But the real target, prosecutors say, was Ms. Pelosi, who was in Washington at the time.
Prosecutors, who have been scouring Mr. DePape’s copious online writings, say the attack was politically motivated, and that Mr. DePape intended to hold Ms. Pelosi, who is second in line of succession to the presidency, as a hostage and interrogate her. (On Thursday, she announced she will step down from her leadership role in January.) The attack, less than two weeks before the midterm elections, reverberated across the nation’s political landscape, heightening fears of political violence in an age of misinformation and conspiracy theories. [Continue reading…]