Far-right ultranationalism poses one of the biggest threats to peace in Western societies - and law enforcement needs to start treating it that way.
“Well, it's time to stop shitposting and time to make a real life effort post. I will carry out an attack against the invaders [Muslims], and will even live stream the attack via Facebook link,” warned Brenton Tarrant on the far-right online forum 8Chan just hours before carrying out his attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left more than 40 dead and many more seriously injured.
If you saw the footage, which I regrettably did, then it’s likely you’re still having difficulty in coming to terms with what can only be described as unimaginably grotesque carnage, something that could only be conspired by someone deranged by a pathological hatred of Muslims.
Tarrant recorded every second of his 17 minutes of horrific mayhem via a camera attached to his helmet. You see him drive his car up the mosque, retrieve a semi-automatic weapon from the trunk, where you see multiple guns, ammunition, and jerry cans.
He then walks towards the mosque and begins shooting. When he burst through the front doors, you hear the cries and screams of panicked and huddled worshippers, and that’s when the slaughter starts, with one-by-one executed at point blank range.
After emptying his ammunition clips, Tarrant walks outside, returns to his car, and reloads. He then reenters the mosque to finish off those who had survived his first wave of horror.
We also know he did not act alone given there are three other suspects in custody.
“How did this happen here?” asked New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, rhetorically, in her televised response to a grieving nation, one totally unfamiliar with mass shootings and terrorism.
It happened because politicians, media, and public not only continue to ignore the threat posed by right-wing extremists and white supremacy, but also continue to provide a platform to those who peddle the kind of racist, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hatred that radicalise broken white men, like Tarrant, into carrying out what has become a new wave of terrorism in the Western hemisphere.
In Tarrant’s own words, via an online post, he claimed he was “radicalised” by popular American conservative pundit Candace Owens, who he said, “helped push me further and further into the belief of violence over meekness.”
Owens, an African American, is lauded by right-wing activists and is routinely given a platform on popular mainstream conservative media outlets, including Fox News, mostly for reassuring white racist narratives, including claims that shootings of unarmed Black motorists by white police officers have nothing to do with racism.
She’s also known for her anti-Muslim screeds, including parroting the Islamophobic and erroneous “Muslim tide” conspiracy theory, which predicts, counter to evidence, Europe will become a Muslim majority continent within the next three decades.
It was this conspiracy, one also espoused by the likes of notorious Muslim hating propagandists Richard Spencer, Sam Harris, Douglas Murray, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, among others, all of whom are regularly granted mainstream media appearances, that also radicalised the Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Breivik into murdering 77 students in 2011.
“Merkel [German Chancellor], the mother of all things anti-white and anti-Germanic, is top of the list. Few have done more to damage and racially cleanse Europe of its people,” reads the opening excerpt to Tarrant’s manifesto titled “The Great Replacement,” a title that references the same “white genocide” conspiracy that radicalised the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooter, who killed 11 Jewish worshippers in October of last year.
In a column I wrote for TRT World last year, I noted how JM Berger, a counterterrorism analyst at the International Center for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) in the Hague, observes how anti-Muslim extremists are radicalising in the same manner as homegrown “jihadists,” insofar as they consume political and social discourse that narrates the following us versus them binary:
1) The out-group is responsible for a crisis that afflicts the eligible in-group
2) The extremist in-group is responsible for a solution that confronts the out-group to resolve the crisis
3) In order to access the solution, members of the eligible in-group must join the extremist in-group.
Tarrant, who espoused the respective “white genocide,” and “Muslim tide” conspiracy theories, was radicalised in the same manner outlined by Berger, as evident in the way he believed the white Western world (in-group) is under threat from Muslim immigrants (out-group).
Alarmingly, Tarrant is not an anomaly or an irregularity. He represents what security agencies around the world deemed to be the number one terrorist threat: right-wing extremism, with right-wing groups and individuals accounting for 100 per cent of all terrorist attacks carried out on US soil in 2018, noting that the Southern Poverty Law Centre credits this growing phenomenon to a “toxic combination of political polarization, anti-immigrant sentiment and modern technologies that help spread propaganda online.”
Clearly, however, Western governments aren’t giving the threat posed by right-wing extremists the attention it deserves, given neither Tarrant or his accomplices were identified on intelligence watch lists, according to the New Zealand Prime Minister, which is troubling given Tarrant was routinely promising to kill and harm Muslims online.
Consider then how Muslims are routinely referred to counter-violent-extremism programs or intelligence agencies for suddenly growing a beard, expressing solidarity with Palestine, or even building a clock for a school project. This dangerous double standard couldn’t be more obvious.
Ultimately, if Western governments continue to ignore the growing popularity of far-right and ultranationalist groups and individuals, both online and off, then they should not be surprised the next time a mosque, synagogue or black church is shot up by a white male who has been fed a media diet of anti-Muslim and anti-minority fear and hatred.
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