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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. marcus

    “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. ”
    ———————————
    I don’t know, but I think the author is giving what appears to be too much credit to Tarrant’s “cleverness.” The entire “manifesto” is dotted liberally with so called memes perhaps because the person who wrote the manifesto thinks in terms of memes?

    In other words, not a Great Thinker, but merely a legend in his own mind? Like I’m sure many of these people are? He isn’t clever, or smart or even worth any more consideration than a blindfold before a bullet is placed between his eyes.

    The world has faced fascism before, as well as the white supremacist version and we will defeat them again. One at a time if necessary. Not ONE of the people who commit these murderous acts have gotten away with it and none ever will, each one of you who choose to do these things must be aware of one thing:

    You will be killed at the scene, or you will spend the rest of your life in prison. Furthermore, as evidence of these people’s inability to see long term consequences, the reactions in societies which this is done will be only to INCREASE immigration, to ultimately speed up the thing these people are against as people more and more turn against conservative policies and politicians.

    No not clever at all.

    Reply
    • RonjonThedangerzone

      You ignorant little whore. Fascism was never defeated.

      America and russia adopted all the true evil that was the nazis, Look into operation paperclip.

      We are all doomed, Your squabbling over politics, they invented, to keep us divided from the truth.

      Reply
  2. Incredulous

    Wow, there are some truly ignorant and hateful comments from people on here.

    The media has done a great job of painting Islam as a monolithic religion intent on destroying Western civilisation. Islam is NOT monolithic, it has many different sects, just like Christianity. There are many reasons why some Muslims engage in terrorism, including the following:

    1. Illegal American interference in the Middle East. One overriding purpose – control of oil. Every drone strike that kills innocent people creates potential terrorists. Surprisingly, full-scale invasions (like Iraq) tend to upset people too.

    2. Hard line Islamic fundamentalism as practised by Saudi Arabia (wahabism). The Saudis backed ISIS and Al-Qaeda, with full knowledge of the US government.

    3. Israeli mistreatment of Palestinian Arabs, in violation of the Balfour Declaration.

    Reply
    • Aldousi

      ”Hard line Islamic fundamentalism as practised by Saudi Arabia ”
      Trying to fool the people here by this rubbish. ISIS and Al-Qaeda are a Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorists organization funded, promoted and supported by Qatar, Turkey and Iran. They are blacklisted in Saudi Arabia.
      Turkey has opened it’s borders for Jihadists from all over the world and Iran as well and Qatar funding them as they are funding Hamas.
      Can you tell who sent 1 Billion dollar in an Airplane to the Jihadist in Syria and Iraq ? and why the didn’t transfer the money through the banks? it’s Qatar.
      Can you tell who buy the Syrian oil from ISIS? it’s Turkey.
      Can you tell whose the Godfather of MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD’s ? it’s Erdogan.
      Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain all have boycotted Qatar because it refused to stop funding and promoting terrorism and make Qatar a save haven for the terrorists.

      Reply
    • Ice Blue

      You argue that worldwide Muslim terror is the fault of the murdered. They are simply guilty of breathing whilst American/Israeli or friends of either. Be consistent and tell us why the murdered Muslim victims in New Zealand are to blame for their own deaths. What did THEY do? Or maybe when the victims are Muslim you pick a different reason to suit your particular prejudice. At least in that you ARE consistent

      Reply
  3. robert quinn

    He was a rogue lone wolf. End of story. No need to blindly brushstroke with hate the entire white nationalist movement.

    Reply
    • Yvonne

      Hey great Robert ..
      Can you just have a word to the NZ police and they can sort it
      all out ..just a misunderstanding of course. Have a nice day, I hope
      the medication is working.

      Reply
    • Servus

      “He was a rogue lone wolf. ” – the essence of the BC analysis and a conclusion beyond any reasonable doubt is that the killer was NOT a lone wolf. He was a member of a social network that created an atmosphere of hatred and violence where the coolest thing you could do was to put in practice the violent cries for action and livestream it to the fan-club on the Facebook. BUT he was most likely not a member of any right-wing organisation, he might have had an informal logistics and arms supply network, police will certainly clear up these points.

      “the entire white nationalist movement.” well, one can always extend the used notions until they will no longer make sense. But can you honestly say that the right wing sites the murderer frequented, contributed to and socialised with its members had nothing to do with murdering of 50 random human beings, our brothers and sisters, the youngest being 2 years old? Don’t you think that there is some responsibility of the ideology behind this crime?
      This is not the first “lonely wolf” coming out of the white nationalist movement killing random people.

      ===
      On another note, it has been often discussed recently in the antiterrorist circles that the terrorism has changed and that the new type of terror attacks will be carried out by “lone wolfs” . This distinction has been made to point out the differenced from attacks by structured organised groups. Looking at some recent “lone wolfs” terrorist attacks, like the one in Nice, one can see the same pattern as in Christchurch, a mentally unbalanced emotionally immature individual being a part of a small social group with radical ideas and seeking recognition and admiration with a violent action and … really scary, willing to risk his life in the process.
      The radical Islamist have built whole ethos around sacrifice and reward after death … apparent just plain hatred can do the same trick and suppress the self-preservation instinct.

      Reply
    • Jack r Rigdon

      The worst part is that it probably wouldn’t be very hard for the FBI to track down the anonymous users, as most of them probably could be tracked down using their IP addresses, but no one will and any one of them could try something similar.

      Reply
    • Bramble

      Just so everyone realises – this is a common alt-right joke. Imagine replacing ‘white nationalist’ with ‘Muslim’, then the comment becomes a parody of the stereotyped media reaction to Islamic terrorism (i.e. the ‘Religion of Peace’ meme).

      Sad that under an article about the alt-right’s trolling techniques they pass unoticed in the comments.

      Also it’s ‘chimes with’ not ‘jibes with’.

      Reply
  4. Mark Elliott

    Sorry, just a niggling note to an otherwise brilliant, insightful article: it’s sowing, not sewing, discontent

    Reply
  5. raffik

    why don’t you try to foresee the next retaliatory measures the islamic fanatics will take? 2 churches, where (Europe-Rome/Venice (visibility)), when (christian festivity), how (bomb, automatic guns)?
    Muslim look for revenge, for visibility, they will try to show off again with as much blood as possible.
    This deserves analysis. Instead of post analysis, try to make prevention analysis.

    Reply
    • Mr.Bushkin

      “where (Europe-Rome/Venice (visibility)), when (christian festivity), how (bomb, automatic guns)?”

      In Europe you would rather see the usual knife or car attacks due to lack of freely circulating weapons and explosives.

      Reply
      • Rigert2019a

        Seriously? Did the terrorists in Paris who slaughtered 130 people at the Bataclan and other sites in 2015 have any problems obtaining guns? It’s not that that hard for terrorists to obtain guns in Europe.

        Reply
    • Servus

      “why don’t you try to foresee”
      … this is extremely difficult because the truly organised ISIS type groups have apparently big difficulty in operating in Western Europe. We read from time to time about dismounted networks or arrested individuals.

      The “lone wolf” type attack, by somebody radicalised within a small group and inspired by online propaganda can not be excluded.

      BUT there is also an increased risk of a “copycat” attacks by some right-wing extremists … didn’t last tweet call it out explicitly “next we need a Frenchie…” .

      Reply
  6. Agent Smith

    These people are always lone loonies. They may say they represent this, that or the other organization, religion, political party or whatever but they don’t. They reprent themseves. End of.

    The exceptions are groups of people like the extreme left-wing terrorists in the 70s, they do indeed represent a coherent ideology. But guys like this are just lonely idiots who’ve been on the internet too much.

    We shouldn’t even be discussing their ‘ideology’ or their ‘reasons’ – only their criminality. Because that is all they are, murdering, criminal a-holes.

    Reply
  7. Renn

    Trash media. If he asked to spread his word and if he said he believes it can influence other people do the same.. what the fuck are you fucking media trash people posting and spreading his words? You are doing exactaly what he wants. As soon as possible there will be more killers like him because of your shit posting. Media exists for nothing. It is just a disaster. It doesn’t help it just make it worst.

    Reply
    • Missy

      In the days and weeks ahead, you will see the media spin this over and over. That is what they do, and as far as I’m concerned it just sows the discontent and divisions all around the world and fuels these hate filled crimes. I stopped watching MSM a very long time ago, and I’m happier for it.

      Reply
  8. jason

    What really worries me is the Serb Nationalists element and the shooters reference to Knights Templar…he almost certainly was not referring to Knights Templar of the 1600s but rather “Knights Templar International” of Jim Dowson…I say this because of Dowson’s known movements ,presence and material aid to Christian Nationalist movements especially amongst the SERB Nationalists in Serbia,Kosovo and Montenegro…although links may be tenuous never the less Knights Templar International and Steve Bannnon’s “Movement are continuing to operate in the International arena.I am resident in South East Europe and can count endless times that both of these unsavoury organisations have been responsible for aiding CHAOS across the International arena.The links between these two organisations may be nothing but a coincidence of Agendas but baring in mind that the New Zealand shooter had been extensively travelling through out the balkans in his recent past I can not but come to the conclusion that although he may have been a so called “Lone Wolf”the fact of his movements and references need to be taken in Context…

    Reply

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