the home of online investigations

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the following link:

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

Join the Bellingcat Mailing List:

Enter your email address to receive a weekly digest of Bellingcat posts, links to open source research articles, and more.

299 Comments

  1. David

    Great article. Thank you OP. The amount of people coming out of the woodwork who defend his actions or try to justify them is shocking. All the best to you.

    Reply
  2. Doug

    Killers like this aussie are scared little bous whose mommies didn’t worship them enough. There is no white genocide, but they are worms looking for an excuse to crawl in shit. They are simply happy sowing unhappiness because they can’t get what they want – back in their mother’s womb.

    Reply
  3. Clef

    This tragedy could be prevented if the voice of right side can be heard but not mocked. Today’s media is almost entirely controlled by PC Democrats, and those ordinary people who were right or originally centralist radicalized because they felt their voices are pressured. If we can maintain more understandings between different groups, many tragedies that happened before and in the future could be resolved.

    Reply
    • Gina

      It’s like you have never heard of Fox News lol. Let’s see, there’s One America news, Sinclair broadcasting, half of reddit, 8 Chan, 4 Chan, breitbart, stormtrooper, daily caller, and that just barley scratches the surface of popular right wing media.

      Reply
      • Dave

        Gina, can you name outlets that you would consider to be “left wing media”? On the left/right spectrum, where would you place ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Yahoo! News, Google News?

        Reply
      • Jonathan

        Please list all the right wing news stations that are on TV. 8chan, 4chan, and Storm trooper are not right wing news sources. Half of reddit is right wing? Good joke man.

        Reply
      • Black Star

        “consider the results when you google something. Example: border wall. All of the results will be cnn or Washington post articles on the border wall.”

        Really, then why does my Google give as first answer a Wikipedia article and as second a news item from Fox News?

        Lies that can be seen through with a 2 second googling are not very convincing lies.

        Reply
      • Black Star

        “CIA Mockingbird media”… but of course, everything that disagrees with your ready made opinions is automatically a conspiracy to destroy the whole world.

        The only thing real about your drivel is a massive right wing bias.

        Reply
    • Dignan

      So you’re blaming the media… the “Lideral” media… why not just drop the dog whistles and the hedge sticks and come right out and blame the jews.

      Reply
    • Jack Tripper

      That’s an excellent n very accurate point! The left has done n said so many divisive things thru the liberal media with no repercussions or as much as an apology but when right leaning tv personalities share their opinions they’re constantly being threatened with boycotts n losing sponsors on top of having them n their families being heckled n screamed at when out i public. Whats so frustrating about the left is they don’t want to know nor do they care what the right has to say, and it becomes so obvious when their only reply to everything is “your a racist” or “Nazi”… The left only cares about free speech when it agrees with their views. Just look back at how many right leaning speakers have been shut down n silenced at college campuses over the last 2yrs which in some cases has resulted in violence.

      Reply
      • Lynn C Witherington

        Because these things they’ve said produce misery. Misery for vulnerable people, usually. The kind the Right singles out for various kinds of special treatment.

        Reply
    • Neo-peeg

      lol yeah maybe if we just listened to gasthejews1488@gmail they wouldnt kill people. get fucking real nobody is going to stop mocking the far right because listening to them doesn’t get you anywhere.

      Reply
      • Tyler Puls

        Over the last decade Fox News and InfoWars have brought the GOP so far down it’s unrecognizable anymore. It’s outta control. It’s all a competition to see who can say or get people to believe the most ridiculous stuff. Can’t even talk about this kinda shit without getting hit with the latest Tucker Carlson or Hannity talking points and deflections. Just make everyone who isn’t blessed enough to have been born white look like their enemy. This is an article on a white supremacist and people are blaming it on immigrants and the lack of a fucking border wall like all these murderers weren’t born right here and it’s all their fault. People on here are really blaming the “liberal media” for mass shootings as if the killers don’t almost immediately confess their support for Trump and his policies and white supremacist groups. He gets so much support from them because he leads a desperate party that knows it will be obsolete in a few decades as the country grows younger and more diverse and stops buying their bullshit. And then we will start making real progress.

        Reply
  4. Dignan

    So you’re blaming the media… the “Lideral” media… why not just drop the dog whistles and the hedge sticks and come right out and blame the jews.

    Reply
    • DEATHBLOOMS

      Oh now let us all remember that we are not allowed to criticize those who rule over us & yes the jews are the biggest terrorists in tbe world, you idiots are still convinced that 6 million were killed, guess what it is all jew lies but don’t let the truth gdt in the way of the reperations.
      The U.S.S Liberty, numerous bombings, murder, false flag attacks & it goes on & on.
      Jew lies matter $$$

      Reply
    • S

      Did it ever occur to you that most people dont agree with you, and find your fear and anger distasteful? That we arent afraid of immigrants and can debate the merits of capitalism without losing it? That we have friends and family from other parts of the world and we like them? Maybe it’s you who should come out from that shadow and enjoy the sunshine.

      Reply
  5. John Michael

    It’s sad that people could commit such crimes and justify it.
    If this guy his religious and he believes in God then he should know that its a sin and not any sin its the devil sin itself, and it’s called pride and arrogance, which is what either white or black or Asian or Chinese or sametic supremacy all about. they all lead to one thing how to distinguish people and class them and make them unequal. God loved Satan and loved the also the Angels and both were his creations but Satan couldn’t except God love to a Human but excepted his love to Angels, and how can he except he had so much pride and his pride that he was created from fire while human from watery clay, how can both be equal in the eyes of God, Satan couldn’t except this new creation and he disobeyed his Creator by following his pride and with his arrogance he insisted his correct to disobey and when God banished him from heaven forever, he promised God that he will not rest until he deceives humans like this murderer and sadly this killer wasn’t the first and won’t be the last, in conclusion, God promised no one will ever enter heaven if he/she commits this sin, and said pride is the only mine, and who have pride and use it to humiliate or kill another, the guardians of hell will be waiting at the gates of hell to tour him/her with a never-ending torture with their own satans.
    God said hell needs wood to drive its hellfire and the sinners will be the wood for hell every time their skins burn and their flesh melts they will regenerate flesh and skin again and this will be a neverending cycle.
    God promised that he can forgive anything between him and his own creation, but he will not forgive a sin committed between one person to another only if the victim forgives otherwise that will be decided in the life after.

    Reply
    • bob

      is your god a man? a woman? a Gas? have you EVER actually thought about the logistics of a god and his “home”? if theirs a heaven for instance who’s the Chief Constable? assuming of course that there is a police, unless of course there’s just no crime in paradise…. or does anarchy reign?

      Reply
      • jim

        Bad joke, it looks like your ego is blinded by pride.
        You made you and you are mighty-everything, a superman, is it?
        What logistics you’re dreamoing from the One that created everything from nothing!

        Reply
    • Tony Belmonte

      I never seen anywhere where he stated he was a Christian nice try though. That’s what everybody says every time a white person does a terrace act like this they try to blame it on a Christian to make it look like its the christians committing genocide on the Muslims. I don’t think anybody in their right mind agrees with what this guy did but it most definitely is going to make people look a little bit at the mass emigration that takes on and many countries. We can look at history and seen that it was accomplished very tactfully by the muslims starting in the year 1027 or somewhere right around there. And then we look at nations today. England Germany France in the like. They’re doing the same thing there. Look at the United States in places like Michigan and Minnesota they say in 20 years because of population and birthrate muslims will have enough people in the United States to vote an a president. You can not see the facts that they will not assimilate into a country? You cannot see their genocide of christians at an alarming rate in places like Nigeria Africa Iran and other Countries in the Middle East? We cannot take them at their word and what their qur’an Says regarding infidels? I do believe that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. I believe they have the same exact goal as the radicals it’s just that they use different methods and strategies to achieve that goal.Why is this not addressed by anybody? Why is it that there are several Muslim countries safe Muslim countries that of took it in 0 Muslim immigrants? Why is it that the Muslim immigrants are only emigrating to Western cultures or countries? People have really got to stop and think about these things. We can’t just ignore and not like there’s no relevance to it. We cannot act like there is no truth to it. We see it with our own eyes, history has shown it to be true. Please people let’s not be ignorant , There has to be an answer to this

      Reply
      • Emma Gyorosi

        Finally someone speaking the truth!! What this man done was sickening and absurd, but I’m sorry to say that what he has written in his manifesto should be taken very seriously and there is no way that people can stand by and say that millions around the world have not thought, felt or been thinking the same kind of thoughts that he was when he wrote this! If they do then they are the most disposable liars known to man!!!! 💯👌🏽👏🏼

        Reply
  6. Amade

    You make a good point that the references to soft fascists and Islamaphobes distract from the underlying motivation to cause a civil war. But I think the references serve a dual purpose. There is a gateway to fascism, which Bellingcat have done a great job reporting on. Milo, PewDiePie, Owens are the hook—the memes. But the memes become real once people start sliding into hard fascism through 4chan, YouTube etc.

    There is a reason Owens and Trump are named alongside Breivek and Roof, and it’s not because the are innocent.

    Reply
    • Michelle

      I think this guy has some rather self aggrandizing notions. Thinking his massacring Muslims at their places of worship in New Zealand would somehow lead to guns being confiscated in the US and ultimately civil war? What a loon. If mass shootings at Margery Stoneman, Las Vegas, Orlando and especially, to me anyway, Sandy Hook didn’t bring about guns being confiscated or even any real increased regulation nothing ever will.

      Reply
  7. Kiwi Against hate

    Excellent article! All I can add is we as a society need to root out this hate filled persons by any means, infiltrate their networks understand them and defeat them! Allow free speech but be ready to crush and destroy without prejudice once they try to enact or act on their hate filled ideology. Their actions and ideology are a plague, the Internet is their vector but we as a democratic law based society are the antidote and cure from this rabid hate filled ideology! Time will tell… Good will overcome this wistful ideology like the world conquered nazism and extreme Japanese nationalism. I will be a foot soldier like my grandfather was in fighting similar hate filled extremists such as nasizm of all and any religion or ultra nationalism.

    Reply
    • Vivi

      So, you will be the next terrorist killing to avenge the murders of this last terrorist? When will it end? How many innocent lives will be taken before all this honor killing BS ends?

      Reply
    • HappyApple

      hehe, 2 nuclear bombs are really effective, and you think Japan is grateful to the USA after that and all the hatred has gone? they learned to wait and don’t bite more than what you can chew when the Qing Dynasty was powerful they served the interest of the Heaven Empire but when this fall they don’t doubt to stand over his bones, Interest are the final bound between societies.

      Reply
    • tony Belmonte

      So do you say the same things regarding muslims when they are committing genocide at an alarming rate on christians and other nations? Will you be a foot soldier to prevent that as well? Here in lies the problem you cannot have a double standard you cannot act like one guy in a secluded event speaks for all white people. I am not white I am an American. I am half a Spanish. I don’t believe this has anything to do with race no matter what this guy says. I don’t think any group or sect or race or religion of people should attempt to invade any country without that country’s permission of being there. There is nothing wrong with that. it is called laws it is called a constitution in is called Sovereignty. If you think muslims have not attacked condemned chopped heads off conquered lands and taken government’s down then you are sadly mistaken. If you do not see other nations standing up and addressing this even recently in countries like Germany And France and England Whose country’s citizens are fed up. And are trying to address it in a more diplomatic way. But they are being ignored and no one is listening to them. You can even see it in places like Michigan and Minneapolis. And many other areas throughout the United States. And because of the history of the Muslim so called religion you cannot understand why people are a little bit worried? I personally think they have the right to be concerned, and a right to have it addressed in some way. Not ignored and swept under the rug under the name of tolerance.

      Reply
      • Jason Kolakowski

        “…such as nasizm of all and any religion or ultra nationalism.”
        To be fair, he did add “religion” to his list of radicals.

        Reply
    • jim

      You’ll fight nobody, the invaders will make you “bite the dust”.
      What is hate here:
      “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
      You want to secure the future for your non-white children?
      Or, you want only your [non-white] children to be born, the white ones to be aborted?
      … sick people, idiots without discernment, Marxist puppets…

      Reply
  8. Chickenshop17

    PewDiePie TOLD him to do it. He only said that for two reasons, to distance himself from his YouTube ‘friend’ and to get more subscribers. Unsubscribe PewDiePie and DON’T watch his videos, he is a hypocrite

    Reply
    • Andrew P

      I don’t know or care who PewDiePie is, and I don’t care to find out. It is all a lot of internet nonsense. And this idiot’s so-called “manifesto” is the long rambling nonsense of a crazy man. A quick glance told me that it is not worth reading, let alone studying.

      Reply
  9. Bob Spook

    It’s funny how the same people condoning him and the alt-right are the same people who shout “not all muslims” and spout the religion of peace bullshit when a Muslim shoots up a gay bar.

    Reply
    • Waaxa

      do you really mean ‘condoning’, or dd you mean to say the people that ‘condemn’ the alt right? Cuz I don’t know any of you neofascist alt right bigots who “spout about how Islam is the religion of peace”. BTW, Muslims in the US are more accepting of LGBT people than Evangelical Christians. Do you even like gay people or are you using us in bad faith as some kind of prop to prostyle your racist sexist ideology of hate

      Reply
    • robert quinn

      Bingo. Media obtuseness is a given, of course, but many are the ordinary citizens who spot the hypocrisy. I’ve yet to read of this guy as a ‘lone wolf’ or ‘rogue’ agent who acts contrary to Christian beliefs, as one routinely does when it’s an Islamist jihadi terrormongering. Opinionators are already massing to demonize every dissent from the narrative as ‘far-right hate messaging’. It’s Orwellian and demented. (Try and find a corporate media comment about the near-simultaneous attack by Nigerian Muslims against Christians. Good luck.)

      Reply

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)

You can support the work of Bellingcat by donating through the following link:

TRUST IN JOURNALISM - IMPRESS