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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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299 Comments

  1. Bingo

    “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.”
    You lie, the Navy SEAL Copypasta is the only meme of the manifesto.

    Reply
  2. Tony

    This ranting reveals a seriously disturbed individual with a low intelligence who is throwing nearly everything into the melting pot what he has done is reprehensible and purely from hatred and not for any other reason

    Reply
    • S B

      BJ….I totally agree with you. Politicians have been using fear and hate to win elections in America AND Australia for far too long now. Our society and our economy is under stress. There NEEDS to be BIG changes all round!!

      Reply
  3. JC

    Candace is a con artist and grifter who was once anti Trump. She now kisses his ass and hardcore shit posters know this. He purposely name dropped to put heat on her.

    Reply
  4. Verner

    Thanks, even if I disagree with multiculturalism’s injunction to “celebrate diversity” uncritically, without regard for very real demographic and cultural resultants of high immigration to the West. To me, the main lesson from New Zealand and other attacks over the years is that no ideology confers a license to kill. Otherwise, we get Oklahoma City’s Murrah Federal Building bombing, the Tokyo subway sarin bags and September 11.

    I didn’t read “The Great Replacement,” which seems like a wall of text proposing “tipping points” theories where an in-migrating group somehow replaces its host’s governance mechanisms with a fancied carbon copy of the ones prevailing in its source countries without being altered by the host culture in process. The theory is applied to US Latinos whose first-comers arrive here speaking only Spanish. Yet most 3rd-generation Latinos speak only English, retaining only Roman Catholicism or father-centered families as evidence of origin, along with an ethnic identity. The Mexican and Cuban diasporas are Latino but not similar to one another.

    Before Khomeini, little fanfare accompanied Iranians and Iraqis settling in America to enter the computer business, Europe’s mistake just that it admitted large pulses of migrants it couldn’t welcome on short notice instead of using “aid in place” to allow for entry at a measured rate. A world of commerce will have immigration. Hopefully, Americans will recognize needs for border security while rejecting the paranoia circulating on 8chan. Most of us aren’t planning to close our doors.

    Reply
  5. SarahGurl

    Just wanna say all this talk about what influenced him to commit this tragedy is laughable it’s even being used to target content from political oppositions. Just maybe just maybe he wasn’t happy to slowly see his people be wiped out from his very own eyes. When you go into a house that was previously occupied my elderly white man that was robbed and spray paint covers the basement saying she liked niger dick that shit changes you. It did to me I have no loyalty to my nation because it’s fundamentally against me

    Reply
    • Jeff Blanks

      NOBODY IS WIPING OUT ANYBODY.

      The problem is that no one wants to have sex with white guys any more because white guys are turning out to be full of shit. They’re even full of shit when they’re KILLING PEOPLE.

      White guys have spent all their lives being told that stomping on hippies is the way to achieve Ultimate Cool. Punks have been telling them this. Neo-traditionalists playing the hipster card have been telling them this. So they respond accordingly, because they think that’s what people want from them. not realizing that that’s what *the System* wants from them. *Why is anyone surprised that things are working out like this*??

      FELLOW WHITE GUYS! STOP BEING FULL OF SHIT!

      Reply
      • Stfu

        You’re so ignorant it hurts. White people still get laid, dummy. You don’t get laid, that’s your issue.

        Reply
      • Jack

        This has to be the dumbest most pointless response ive ever seen in my life! I’m a white guy n my father(also a white guy) thru my entire life told me treating others with respect, kindness n dignity no matter skin color or sexual preference was the cool thing to do. And im not sure if your white, black, purple or green but saying “the problem is nobody wants to have sex with white guys” is actually kinda of an offensive statement to make if u are not white! If that was said about someone of color it would of have definitely been seen as racist remark! But one thing im sure everyone who reads this can agree on is this post is full of shit! Normally women realize after sex the guy was full of shit because he got what he wanted n doesn’t need to impress or bs her anymore. And thats not a race thing, its a guy thing plain n simple. Lastly im pretty sure when u point a gun at someone n pull the trigger hoping to kill them your not really “full of shit” your crazy n insane but you definitely mean business! I would love to hear some examples of how white guys are so full of shit and how that even relates to this situation cause after reading your post if I went by your logic I would definitely have to think you’re not gettin any sex either!

        Reply
    • whatthe

      You realize we are talking about new zealand here? Not to argue against the general stupdity of your statement. Stop pretending that the pure presence of other cultures is an act of war or a genocide.

      Reply
    • Gina

      Y’all forget that Australia only has white ppl because they exterminated most of the native people? The ultimate irony is just that. Ignorant White men think they have ancestral rights to countries with indigenous populations. I don’t know how this fact gets brushed under the rug in some messed up cognitive dissonance. The truth is no one is special and no one is better than anyone else until they do something positive for humanity with their lives. What you do with your life is what matters not how much sunblock you need at the beach. If you spend your life spreading hate because you believe you are *owed* something based on your skin color than you’re just a piece of shit. End of story. It would be helpful for the rest of us if all racists commited mass suicide.

      Reply
      • Jackson

        Agree with all of your sentiments, but I will pull you up on your point about Australia just being white. Whilst the absolute slaughter of the indigenous Australians was abhorrent and the continuing disvantage of that population is a national embarrassment, it is clear that modern Australia is no longer merely a white British outpost at the bottom of the world. Per capita, we are the most multicultural nation on the planet, and have had remarkably high success rates with religious, cultural and economic integration of huge numbers of new migrants who call Australia home. Just like NZ still is, we are lucky to have such a successful asian-influenced multicultural society. Everything else you said though was perfect.

        Reply
      • Asbestos

        Are u 4, u have to try hard to be that stupid. There would be no people of color if racist commited mass genocide on themselves. In other words u window likker they are the racist.

        Reply
  6. recovering

    In the end, these terrorists are “useful idiots” in another warped revolutionary cause. The thing these forums provide is a convenient place to recruit radicals. The members, who believe they have escaped society, are actually quite vulnerable to suggestion, all that’s needed is a coherent narrative to reframe their situation and an offered means of proving themselves.

    What is disturbing about the origin of this attack is that violent terrorism is being legitimized within such circles as a display of loyalty.

    Reply
  7. Bob

    The worst thing about people like this guy is that they are a complete IQ void, there is a legitimate argument to what is happening in Europe today and i would highly recommend that people who don’t believe this read Douglas Murray’s book The Strange death of Europe. Fact is today whereas once people believed what politicians told us they are now ignoring these liberal mouthbreathers and believing what their own eyes are telling them,….Liberalism is not compulsory and to a lot its not acceptable.

    Reply
    • Mr.Bushkin

      This looks like an usual interpretation of the refugee crisis through the social darwinistic glasses of the less educated right wing individuals, who also caused the refugee crisis by igniting the “Arab Spring” related civil wars in the Middle East, starting with Libya.

      The real cause was the necessity to relieve the economically troubled main refugee arrival countries Greece and Italy by re-distributing some of the burden through other EU countries rather than letting Greece and Italy handle this difficult social and economical challenge alone.

      Reply
    • Mr.Bushkin

      “Douglas Murray’s book The Strange death of Europe”

      It’s clearly better to be dead than to become a nazi type social darwinist, who would let the already economically unstable main refugee arrival countries Greece and Italy face the difficult economical and social challenge of the refugee crisis alone, without partially relieving them by re-distributing their burden.

      Reply

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