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Shitposting, Inspirational Terrorism, and the Christchurch Mosque Massacre

March 15, 2019

By Robert Evans

Translations: Русский

On Friday, March 15th, one or more gunmen opened fire in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. As I write this, three men and one woman have been taken into custody by local law enforcement. It is unclear to what extent they were all involved. The only thing we know is that one of the shooters went by the name Brenton Tarrant on Twitter. He posted pictures of the murder weapons there two days before the rampage. Said weapons are clearly visible in the video of the spree he livestreamed to Facebook.

Shortly after the spree ended, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed that several improvised explosive devices had been disarmed by authorities. If those devices were meant as some kind of booby trap, they were not the only trap “Brenton” left behind. Immediately before carrying out his spree, he posted links to a manifesto on Twitter:

In “The Great Replacement” repeats a variety of “white genocide” talking points, and claims his murder of several dozen Muslims is because they are “invaders” outbreeding the white race. All the evidence we have suggests these are, more or less, the shooter’s beliefs.  

But this manifesto is a trap itself, laid for journalists searching for the meaning behind this horrific crime. There is truth in there, and valuable clues to the shooter’s radicalization, but it is buried beneath a great deal of, for lack of a better word, “shitposting”.

What is Shitposting?

Shitposting 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. The ultimate goal is to derail productive discussion and distract readers. “The Great Replacement” is a clear and brutally obvious example of this technique.

In his manifesto, Brenton credits far-right personality Candace Owens with beginning his radicalization. He states that, “Each time she spoke I was stunned by her insights and her own views helped push me further and further into the belief of violence over meekness. Though I will have to disavow some of her beliefs, the extreme actions she calls for are too much, even for my tastes.”

This detail was picked up instantly by many people online. Owens herself issued a response that seemed almost calculated to generate rage from those on the left:


But in the context of the shooter’s online presence, and the rest of his manifesto, this was almost certainly misdirection. Here is what the author wrote immediately below the section crediting Owens for his radicalization. In it, he jokes that “Spyro the Dragon 3”, a video game, taught him “ethno-nationalism”.

It is possible, even likely that the author was a fan of Owens’s videos: she certainly espouses anti-immigrant rhetoric. But in context seems likely that his references to Owens were calculated to spark division, and perhaps even violence, between the left and the right. At multiple points in the manifesto the author expresses the hope that his massacre will spark further attempts at gun control in the United States, which he believes will lead to gun confiscation and a civil war. He believes this civil war would be the best opportunity destroy the American “melting pot”. This idea is repeated often enough that it seems to be something the author legitimately believes in.

Given the tone surrounding the Candace Owens passage, it seems clear that it was “bait”, thrown out to attract attention on social media and sow further political division. The entire manifesto is dotted, liberally, with references to memes and Internet in-jokes that only the extremely online would get. For example, take this passage from his Q&A:

He goes on to repeat, at length, the Navy SEAL Copypasta, a humorous meme that originated on 4chan circa 2010. The whole manifesto is dotted with little bits like that. They are meant to distract attention from his more honest points, and to draw the attention of his real intended audience.

This Was An Act of Inspirational Terrorism

Before beginning his bloody spree, the Christchurch shooter- presumably the same person who wrote the manifesto- announced his intentions to 8chan’s /pol/ board. He opened by saying that it is “time to stop shitposting and time to make a real life effort”.

Now there are some things the author truly believes, and those things are not hidden- although they are less obvious than his statements about Candace Owens. For one thing, the shooter repeatedly references Oswald Mosley. Mosley was the founder of the British Union of Fascists, a political party in the 1930s that sought to return England to a state of “autarchy”, or complete financial and cultural independence from the rest of the world. The author’s violent anti-immigrant rhetoric jibes completely with this. Mosley is not an entirely obscure figure, but he is also not a particularly prominent thinker in the 21st century right wing.

The words painted on the shooter’s rifle offer further clues as to his ideology:

The 14s, which are repainted in several locations on his weapons, are a reference to the “fourteen words” written by jailed neo-Nazi bank robber David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” Lane was a member of a neo-Nazi terrorist group named The Order, which was inspired by a group of the same name in a White Nationalist fiction book titled The Turner Diaries. In The Turner Diaries, The Order succeeds in sparking a vicious sectarian civil war in the United States through a series of deadly terrorist attacks. This gels with the author’s repeated references to sparking internecine conflict in the United States.

The author does not claim membership to any specific far-right group, and also denies being a Neo-Nazi. Instead, he expresses a sort of allegiance- and ideological sympathy, to several other mass shooters, including Dylann Roof and Anders Breivik. He claims to have been in contact with Breivik, and that the Norwegian mass-shooter’s manifesto was his “true inspiration”.

Breivik’s manifesto has provided inspiration to a number of far-right killers and would-be killers, most recently Coast Guard Lieutenant Christopher Hasson. The author repeatedly states his hope that his spree, and his manifesto, inspires other people to kill.

And that brings us back to 8chan. In addition to sewing discord and creating confusion, the Christchurch shooter’s repeated references to memes and in-jokes were him playing to this very specific crowd. The streamed video of his massacre begins with him telling viewers to “Subscribe to PewDiePie”. This is a reference to yet another fringe Internet meme. Yet another dumb, trollish move calculated to please the other shitposters on 8chan.

And how did they respond to this massacre?

Over and over again, through page after page of posts, anons celebrated this mass murder by one of their own.


Most of the (very few) negative remarks found in the thread are from people, like one of the above posters, who fear this spree will mark “the end of 8pol”. The shooter’s frequent use of in-jokes and memes played extremely well with this crowd.


They even remark on his choice of music during his drive to commit the massacre: “Remove Kebab”. The song is from a propaganda music video made by Serb Army soldiers as a tribute to war criminal Radovan Karadžić. (Remove Kebab was also written on one of the shooter’s firearms.)

The shooter seems to have achieved his goal of providing the anons of 8chan with lulz, and with inspiration. One user hailed him as “the next Breivik”. And before much more than an hour had passed, there were already calls for other anons to follow in his bloody footsteps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Evans

Robert Evans has worked as a conflict journalist in Iraq and Ukraine and reported extensively on far-right extremist groups in the United States. He's particularly interested in the ways terrorist groups recruit, radicalize and communicate through the Internet. He has a podcast on the HowStuffWorks network (https://www.behindthebastards.com) and you can contact him via revanswriter@gmail.com or Twitter: https://twitter.com/IwriteOK

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296 Comments

  1. Karl

    I don’t know what to think….or believe. If history does repeat tho, people are just fooling thier selves now.

    Reply
  2. ashamed /b refugee

    I am ashamed I ever participated in this 4Chan inspired culture. Everything that moot and Anonymous ever stood for has been perverted. If you came here to shitpost, just know it’s not going to have it’s intended humorously shocking effect. A line has been reached and crossed. Even the autists are disgusted.

    Reply
  3. ART

    Like most of America, Candace Owens is against illegal immigration, not legal immigration. It is a disgusting, wicked and hateful lie to say those of us who are against illegal immigration are anti-immigration, xenophobic, or whatever slur those who stir up hate throw around.

    Reply
    • Dedee

      Wrong. You forget a simple fact that normalised anti-immigration tones and speech fuel ignorance and the ignorant tend to be capable of shooting people over ignorant things.

      Reply
      • Toby

        Well dedee anyone can shoot any one over small things is correct but it doesnt cause mass shootings it generally causes domestic violence type situations where in the heat of the moment someone gets mad and shoots someone just because. Something this well planned out and executed takes quite a bit of planning. This shootong was not over ignorance at all. Not only that but this guy had proper training on how to clear rooms and in the two minutes of video i have seen he didnt miss a shot. He is most likely exmilitary but that still leaves the fact that this is a very far right person with ill intentions and an ill mind not ignorance.

        Reply
    • Sushi

      So where is the link to the manifesto??????!!!! Enough with the b.s. interpreting stuff and let tje public decide what association, if any, is attributed to trump

      Reply
      • Dave

        It was in New Zealand you stupid bitch. Trump doesnt govern there. You cant blame him for every event that happens.

        Reply
    • Kiv

      @ART, from your fellow Americans, fuck you. It says so much that you think being called a xenophobe or a racist is the Real Oppression. I’d take a hundred thousand undocumented immigrants, refugees, and asylees (like the migrant caravan, FYI—it’s not illegal to seek asylum no matter how you enter the country) seeking a better life over ten of you.

      Reply
    • Wulf

      No, Trumpites hate *all* immigration. Or did you “mysteriously” miss when the president sang “The Snake” and told his audience to think about immigrants while he sang? Not “illegal immigrants:” “immigrants.” Period.
      Don’t forget last year’s CPAC event where he falsely (what a surprise) agreed with one of his acolytes that 90,000 “fake” Somali refugees were allowed into the country under President Obama. President Obama allowed half that number: the other half came in under the Bush Administration. And to agree that all 90,000–the entire number over the course of sixteen years–are somehow “fake” refugees, with absolutely no evidence whatsoever, is beyond reprehensible. No, these people hate immigration, legal or otherwise. They’ve let the mask slip on numerous occasions now: keep your ears open and you will hear their disdain for immigration and immigrants. Without specifying the “illegal” part.
      These are the same people who want to make the path to legal immigration even harder and more restrictive than it already is. Before it became such a talking point, the right frequently said that the system should be overhauled to make legal immigration easier: now that hostility toward immigrants is popular, they’ve changed their tune and are fine with lying about non-existent “crises.”

      Reply
  4. jj

    Can’t believe the amount of bullshit pseudo sociology on the comments section,trying to political point score or pointing the blame on Owens by the same old virtual signalers.

    Seems the guy traveled around a number of years,traveling to among other places,Pakistan,former Soviet Union’s Asiatic Republics and Europe,including France.
    So he wasn’t some sado surfing the internet all the time,reading far right sites.

    Reply
    • AnnRoseT

      Um, the article specifically says that the mention of Owens was likely intended to sow division. The tinydick terrorist was pointing the finger of blame at Owens, not “virtue signalers”.
      Focusing your anger on people who discuss statements in the sophomoric “manifesto” is exactly what the scumbag intended. As long as you’re doing that, you’re not only carrying out its wishes, you’re continuing the right’s refusal to contemplate why these terrorists admire people like Owens, Trump, etc.

      Reply
    • Dave

      ‘virtue signalling’ is your label for civilised behaviour and denigrating it shows you’re a piece of shit

      Reply
  5. spark

    Breivik’s manifesto was another fake. He took a mainstream American book by historian William S. Lind and switched out the word “American” for “European”. Most of the rest was similarly copy-and-pasted from other sources as if Breivik had intended to cause the overreaction that did happen, in which media, goverments, and other institutions blamed these ideas for inspiring a mass shooting. Yesterday’s shooter claimed to be inspired by Candace Owens, Pewdiepie, and Spyro the Dragon. This does not pass the laugh test, but much of the media is still running with it.

    Other things about Breivik stand out as odd.

    Breivik attacked a recruitment campaign for a foreign terrorist organization, the Palestinians, whose origin is in the personal army of Haj Amin al-Husseini who gave the Germans the idea of giving Jews the “Armenian Solution.” Out of all of the world’s media and news reporters, Debbie Schlussel was the only person who considered this fact worth noting. It changes the perspective on the event entirely. Breivik hit a hostile spy ring that was recruiting the future leadership of a major political party. He did more damage to actual Nazis than Antifa ever will. Why didn’t any other news reporter report this important detail?

    Breivik claimed to have had the support of a wider network of “Knights Templar.” Whatever investigation took place did not find any such network, or whatever they found was not disclosed publicly. Somebody may have helped him copy-edit his book and build the bomb that he used against the Labour Party office. These are time-consuming tasks that require talent and effort. It was highly unlikely that he acted alone.

    And the conspiracy theorists will have fun with this one. After Breivik’s attack, Britain’s Conservative government hired an American group called Demos to design its overreaction that would empower the government to target and suppress any support for traditional British values or opposition to Islam. Demos is affiliated with the Frankfurt School, the same group that William S. Lind warned about, through Adam Wolfensohn of Yad Hanadiv, the Rothschild Foundation. This Frankfurt School / Rothschild group controls a network of online publications that receive editorial assistance from Wadah Khanfar, formerly of Qatari state media al-Jazeera, while the investors are in business with Qatar to build a pipeline to Europe once Syria’s Bashar Assad is out of the way. Demos is also laundering money to the Hamas network in the United States which goes under the name CAIR. Bellingcat is well aware of this Qatari-led, Hamas-supporting, Rothschild-controlled, Frankfurt School fake news network that was exposed in August 2014, but for some reason is not allowed to talk about it. Maybe you will allow a user comment.

    Readers can learn more about the network on 8chan. https://archive.is/oZJL3

    Reply
  6. Sam

    I agree that Candace Owens probably has little to do with his actual radicalization but that fucking response is so telling of what kind of person she is… *LOL 49 people are dead and counting and LOL people are blaming me! how hilarious fuck the left LOL 😂* like what the actual hell is wrong with her???

    I spend enough time lurking this stupid internet to understand all the memes and it’s super depressing in a lot of ways but I feel like we all need to take a breath in the blame we hand out here. If it wasn’t these shit garbage chan boards it would be some other outlet. That being said we really need to figure out what to do about how quickly those sites are breeding these nut bags.

    Reply
    • AnnRoseT

      What to do is limit the sort of insular, unrestricted online communities/outlets that help breed these terrorists. We KNOW that these “outlets” not only enable like-minded trash to find & encourage each other, but end up radicalizing people who otherwise would likely never even acknowledge to themselves just how much hatred they’re capable of. Rightwing white nationalists who run hate sites like Daily Stormer use very deliberate strategies to first spark interest in people with racist inclinations, then tease out their racism with memes and ‘jokes’, then encourage and applaud hatred. This isn’t a free speech issue. These people can legally meet up in person and say whatever stupid shit they want as long as they aren’t conspiring to commit a crime, but they should not be allowed to use public forums to troll for recruits.

      Reply
  7. Ed

    Having spent far too much time trying to talk some sense into the trolls on 4chan and 8chan /pol/ boards, and offer any impressionable new comers a sane counternarrative to the hate spewed there, I can tell you this is not nearly the first mass shooting perpetrated by the goons who frequent those sites. They often talk about death counts as “high scores”.

    It is horrifying – there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of these loons on the edge of violent insanity. No one is doing a thing about it. Rather, our president sends out dog whistles to appeal to this ugly crowd.

    Reply
  8. Fabian

    My brother just pointed out that for people familiar with memes and internet shitposting culture, seeing it being weaponised, distorted and corrupted for base ends brings on a feeling that is probably the same as those in the Dadaist movement felt when Hitler came to power….

    Reply

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