The mass shooting of two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing at least 49 people, adds to a grim list of right-wing terrorist attacks that have increased in recent years around the world. Nevertheless, the threat of right-wing terrorism remains blind in many public discourses on extremism. The atrocities show what scholars and many people involved in extremism have been saying for some time: The threat of right-wing extremism is a very real threat that civil society as well as Islamist extremism demand.
From what we know about 28-year-old Australian attacker Brenton Tarrant, he appears to be a standard member of the far-right online community. In a 74-page document titled "The Great Replacement," he calls himself an "ethno-nationalist" and makes the usual far-right ideological ghosts, especially the conspiracy theory, that there is a deliberate conspiracy to admit the white Christian civilization populations through ethnic ones replace minorities, especially Muslims. His choice of victims tells us everything we need to know when anti-Muslim prejudice occurs in right-wing extremist circles.
His own words can only tell us so much and should be taken with a pinch of salt. Much of this is written in an ironic style of online old-right culture, which, as Robert Evans of Bellingcat has already noted, reflects the practice of "shit posting," or "the act of ejecting large amounts of content." ironic, inferior trolling to trigger an emotional reaction among less Internet-savvy onlookers. "We are better able to understand Tarrant's motives from previous attacks, many of which he highly praises in the manifesto.
Far-right terrorism and the type of attack seen in Christchurch are by no means new, but are becoming more frequent and with a higher list of victims. In one of the most famous and deadly attacks to date, Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people in the Oklahoma City bombing 24 years ago. Four years later, in 1999, neo-Nazi David Copeland killed three and wounded scores in London in a series of nail bombs. More recently, we've seen well-known cases, such as the mass shooting of Dylan Roof in a predominantly black church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, while last year 11 were killed by an anti-Semitic white nationalist gunman in a Pittsburgh synagogue. In the media, right-wing terrorist attacks are often associated with mental illness, and mental health is certainly an important issue in terms of radicalization. Nevertheless, all attacks are motivated by a similar ideology – the belief in white suprematism and conspiracy theories that seem ominous plans to eradicate the white race.
Terrorism is the most extreme right-wing tactics that have shown over the last three decades that their ideas (if sharply presented) can produce electoral success. The goal of terrorism, of course, is to attack and kill groups of people despised by right-wing extremists and accused of the alleged degeneration of Western "white" civilization. However, their goals are increasingly the promotion and glorification of racist violence on the Internet and in social media. They try to win others over by proclaiming themselves, former aggressors and future terrorists martyrs. Tarrant filmed his attack not just for the world to see, but to radicalize others and encourage them to follow in their footsteps. He encouraged others to "make plans, train, build alliances, equip themselves, and then act."
Tarrant was clearly inspired by one of the most notorious right-wing attacks that came in 2011, when Anders Breivik murdered 77 (mostly children) in Norway. Breivik's attack appears to be the most similar to Tarran's assassination in both weapons and scope. The writings produced by Breivik and Tarrant are similar in content – a mixture of white nationalist and Islamophobic slogans, myths and conspiracy theories. In addition to the suffering and sacrifices that the attack itself has caused, right-wing terrorist attacks can also affect others. Tarrants document claims, "I support many of those who oppose ethnic and cultural genocide […] Anders Breivik, Dylan Roof "This will not be the last extreme-right terrorist attack, and undoubtedly many who share Tarrants world view will be encouraged and encouraged to carry out similar attacks.
However, we can not just look at the small, scattered white nationalist community to understand their actions. Right-wing extremist rights have been encouraged in recent years by global events and mainstream reactions. Islamist terrorist attacks in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as the sensational media coverage that followed them, have had an impact on their narrative of conflict between Muslim and Christian civilizations.
The victories of the far-right populists in Europe, the election of Donald Trump and Brexit, all of which have armed Islamophobia to success, have all contributed to the right-wing extremists living their lives in a time of great opportunity. The right-wing extremists in the end long for the oxygen of the public as a way to respectability, handed over to them on a plate by influential mainstream commentators and politicians who regularly repeat racist and Islamophobic tropes.
Extremists like Tarrant and countless others have been encouraged not only by an online community of like-minded people, but by a much larger pool. As the shock of the senseless murder of (at least) 49 innocents wears off, we need to focus on both the immediate threat and those providing ideological ammunition and helping violent terrorists.
Dr. Paul Stocker is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Radical Analysis and Visiting Fellow at the University of Northampton. He is author English uprising: Brexit and mainstreaming of the far right.