In the wake of an Islamophobic terror attack causing the deaths of at least 49 innocent civilians across two mosques in New Zealand, mourners might look to the terrorists themselves to reason the inconceivable evil at this terrible time.
As more details emerge of the shooters, their actions and how their beliefs shaped their violent extremism in rolling news coverage, video material is circulating – against the authorities’ demands – online which some outlets have cited as the suspects’ cause for committing such an atrocity.
But many news outlets have cited aspects of the material – particularly a so-called manifesto which is part red herring and part an attempt at rationalising evil – without fully understanding what it means in its entirety.
First things first, there can be no good cause or rational or valid reason to slaughter innocent civilians en masse.
It should go without saying, but in a world so divided and confused by such tragedy, the point needs to be made that publicising this kind of twisted rationalisation of their actions can only serve to blur the lines between their thinking and that of right-thinking members of society, especially when misinterpreted.
Of the three men and one woman in custody, one of those arrested is an Australian citizen described by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison as an ‘extremist right-wing violent terrorist’.
Out of respect and in condolence for all those killed in the terrorist attack in New Zealand, I have asked for flags to be flown at half-mast. pic.twitter.com/0qgIrmdgoH
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 15, 2019
The suspect has been identified on social media as Brenton Tarrant. Before live-streaming himself carrying out the attack, he wrote what he called a ‘manifesto’ shared on the largely unregulated message boards of 8chan outlining his intentions.
Since it has been cited in numerous reports on the attack, we read it so you don’t have to.
What UNILAD found was the work of a terrorist utilising methods commonly adopted in dark corners of the Internet to further disseminate hate speech and rally support among anons – or anonymous posters – who otherwise wage war from behind their keyboards.
It’s a language lost on a lot of people; until someone who uses it perpetrates a vile act of hatred on innocent civilians and it becomes news.
Interspersed with the racist anti-immigration Islamophobic rhetoric and references to far-right political movements are the ramblings of an individual employing the calculated practice of so-called shit-posting, designed to derail productive discussion and distract public debate.
Shit-posting is the act of throwing out huge amounts of content, most of it ironic, low-quality trolling, for the purpose of provoking an emotional reaction in less Internet-savvy viewers, according to Robert Evans, a journalist specialising in far-right extremism, writing via Bellingcat.
Commentators have speculated the 74-page manifesto, titled The Great Replacement, may have been constructed as such to spark division, and even violence, between the left and the right.
It has been cited in mainstream media, thanks to references to public figures like the conservative American political activist Candace Owens and other past attacks which made headlines, which are dropped in to entice journalists to further disseminate the material.
These could be in alignment with his genuine beliefs. Likewise, they could be bait placed into the manifesto to be picked up on social media and serve to drive more division over this tragedy; even inspire others to kill, as he specifies is one of his hopes.
With Owens, it worked. She has since responded to with a remark also seemingly curated to create outrage.
The New Zealand shooter's manifesto was entirely written to sow discord.
Of course PewDiePie, Fortnite, Spyro the Dragon, and Candace Owens aren't to blame.
But Candace's response is unforgivable. Heartless.
She played right into the narrative he wrote for her. pic.twitter.com/U6MgMVQD3w
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) March 15, 2019
Moreover, it seems the terrorist had another very specific audience in mind, and filled his so-called manifesto with 8chan in-jokes.
Moments after the reference to Owens, the terrorist finds room to joke the game Spyro the Dragon 3 taught him ethno-nationalism and scathingly adds, ‘Fortnite trained me to be a killer and floss on the corpses of my enemies’.
In a now-removed live-stream he posted carrying out the attack, he tells viewers to ‘subscribe to PewDiePie‘ – one of many references to fringe Internet memes.
The 29-year-old gaming YouTuber – real name Felix Kjellberg – responded on Twitter condemning the terrorist’s actions:
Just heard news of the devastating reports from New Zealand Christchurch.
I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person.
My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected by this tragedy.
— ƿ૯ωძɿ૯ƿɿ૯ (@pewdiepie) March 15, 2019
Another such use of meme culture by the terrorist is Navy Seal Copypasta.
In the manifesto, he claims to be trained in ‘gorilla’ warfare – a purposeful misspelling only recognisable to those who know the meme – and says he’s ‘the top sniper in the entire US Armed Forces’ with a ‘network of spies’ and over seven hundred methods of killing detractors with his bare hands.
To most, it’s the grandiose ravings of a deluded man. To many over at 8chan, it’s a facetious meme designed to portray the poster as a ridiculous ‘tough guy’.
the fucking Navy seal copypasta is in there. it's designed to make alt-righters gleefully cheer and recognize one of their own while radicalizing those on the fence.
— Joe Everly (@everlyj) March 15, 2019
The terrorist even chose the music playing in his car to speak to his fellow trolls in the language they share.
It’s a song from a propaganda music video made by Serbian Army soldiers as a tribute to the warlord responsible for genocide against Bosnian Muslims Radovan Karadžić. It’s known to fascist forums and can be read as a rallying cry of racism.
He dedicates a whole section to using emotion over factual evidence in the war he’s waging against diversity, adding:
Hell, even meme. Create memes, post memes, and spread memes. Memes have done more for the ethno-nationalist movement than any manifesto.
He utilised the language of conspiracy, referencing theories of CIA mutants, peppering his so-called manifesto with talk of ‘false flags’ and equating radicalisation of young people as merely the act of them ‘removing their blindfolds’.
Indeed, he says his own criminally vile actions were ‘blessed’ by the ‘reborn Knights Templar’ – a middle age Christian military group long lost to history invoked by Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a terror attack in Norway in July 2011.
One anon said in response to Tarrant’s claim:
He wrote it to fuck with you. Everything he did was to fuck with you. This place is too far gone.
Much like a troll, he argues any destabilisation – even if achieved by expressing views contrary to your own – is desirable as long as it’s achieved through this kind of emotionally-charged rhetoric.
You will also notice the 14 words written on his gun.
From George Lincoln Rockwell, to David Lane, to God knows how many dead worshippers at a mosque.
— Robert Evans (The Other Robert Evans) (@IwriteOK) March 15, 2019
It seems to have worked on the anonymous posters on 8chan’s /pol/ board, many of whom have anonymously praised his sickening killing spree.
Indeed, he freely admits his intentions are to ‘create an atmosphere of fear and change’ by ‘further destabilising and polarising Western society’.
His mission is to ‘agitate the political enemies of my people’ and ‘drive a wedge’ between NATO countries, as well as ‘to create conflict between the two ideologies within the United States on the ownership of firearms’ to further the country’s divides and create a civil war.
The self-confessed fascist and ethno-nationalist details, at length, his own upbringing – much like the incel terrorist Elliot Rodger did in his 141-page ramblings designed to rationalise his slaughter of innocent people – and calls himself ‘a regular white man’.
The narcissistic narrative, peppered with poetry altered to align with his own views, also sees the writer set out a number of questions, in bold, speaking to himself in third person.
Again, this is a common trope of communication on forums.
The questions and answers seem to signify a confusion and delusion in the anti-immigration proponent’s own thinking. He asks himself if he isn’t an immigrant himself, being an Australian living in New Zealand.
He fixates on European issues, championing a white nationalist approach and vilifying non-white races, yet says ‘all who colonize other people’s land share guilt’.
In case you missed it, although Europe represents only about eight per cent of the planet’s landmass, from 1492 to 1914, Europeans conquered or colonized more than 80 per cent of the entire world.
His sources on the varying fertility rates of different ethnicities – which he inconceivably equates to ‘white genocide’ – are from Wikipedia, a battle ground of so-called edit wars and hotbed of unverified misinformation… So scratch that immediately.
In fact in asking himself about his research sources, he replied:
The Internet, of course. You will not find the truth anywhere else.
Indeed, his rationalisation is often skewed and misinformed to tie in with his own admittedly racist beliefs. He simplifies and decries the suicides of public figures as a symbol of ‘degeneration’ and a ‘dead culture’, while confirming he himself plans to take his own life.
Even to his own supporters – whoever they may be – he says ‘expect death’. Despite claiming he aimed to to achieve fame, he also praises those like him who ’embrace infamy’.
Most horrifying, perhaps, is this man’s delusion that he is acting on behalf of the dead soldiers who fought in World War II, as well as Ebba Aklund, the 12-year-old girl who was one of five killed in a terror attack in Stockholm on April 11 2017.
This eye-for-an-eye mentality has no place here.
What has happened in Christchurch is an extraordinary act of unprecedented violence. It has no place in New Zealand. Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities – New Zealand is their home – they are us.
— Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) March 15, 2019
As New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said earlier today:
We New Zealanders were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone this racism, or because we are an enclave of extremism, we were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things.
We represent diversity and compassion, a home for those who share our values, a refuge for those who need it. And those values will not and can not be shaken by this attack. We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities and 160 languages.
[This is] the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this. This is not who we are.
The shit-posting messages of deception and division from a terrorist, likewise, have no place in reasoned discourse. They should be better understood so they can be better stopped.
Let the language of this so-called manifesto no longer distract from the race-driven hate and bile spouted by this terrorist.
Let him be lost to the darkest corners of the Internet archives, and let the memory of those he murdered live on as we strive towards a better, more unified future which celebrates diversity and condemns division.
If you’re concerned and need to contact a friend or relative please visit the International Committee of the Red Cross, who have set up a website by which you can restore links and register your own safety.
If you have a story you want to tell, share it with UNILAD via [email protected]
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.