When Mass Murder Becomes Activism

I’m sure you have heard about the New Zealand shooting by now.  It is yet another horrible atrocity, but this time, I did watch the video and did read the killer’s manifesto.  There is something very creepy about it all.  It’s clear to me the killer carried out this horrific crime for its effect in the media and on the internet.  The murder of these innocent people was a means to reach an end – his vision of a “better world.”  In a sense, this mass murder was an example of…….internet activism.

The killer did what he did, and was able to do what he did, because for him, the ends justify the means.

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30 Responses to When Mass Murder Becomes Activism

  1. TFBW says:

    I’ve only seen snippets, but I gather that the manifesto and the weird stuff written all over his gear was basically just a bunch of memes. Not even memes with a coherent message, just a huge collection of memes. Before I became aware of that, my first impression was, “this guy is an accelerationist of some sort” — that is, he thinks that we’re heading towards the breakdown of society and he wants to hurry that process on its way. Then I saw the insane memes, and I wondered whether he wasn’t just a complete and utter lunatic with no coherent plan at all.

    After listening to a few different takes on the subject, I went back to the “accelerationist” view. I believe his actions actually do make coherent (if diabolical) sense from that perspective. This bizarre act of terrorism is designed to make everyone mad. Why target a mosque? Because he hates Muslims? That will be the reason the media latches onto: they’ll say he was a Far Right Islamophobe. It’s the obvious answer for people who are attracted to obvious answers, and it suits the media narrative. In contrast, I suspect he chose the target because they are the single most likely target to retaliate in kind. He just wants to provoke more bloodshed. The side bonus is that the media loves to get outraged on behalf of other cultures when rogue White men inflict violence against them, so it’s a diabolically good media plan too.

    Why create a long, incoherent manifesto and plaster everything in memes? That’s designed to solicit a reaction from the Illiberal Left (like most of the media). The incoherent mess of words is a Rorschach inkblot in which they can see whatever they want to see. It doesn’t have to make the slightest bit of coherent sense, because they’ll just glance at the whole and formulate a shallow explanation, not analyse it in any depth. They’ll say he was radicalised on the Internet, and do what they always do in these conditions: demand more censorship. I already hear reports that the 4chan and 8chan sites were blocked country-wide in New Zealand following this incident. And, of course, there will be more demands for gun control. The Illiberal Left will be easily goaded into attacking the First and Second Amendments to the US Constitution on the basis of an act of terrorism in New Zealand.

    And why goad the Illiberal Left into more demands for censorship and gun restrictions? Because that’s the kind of thing that the Right see as an attack on them and their personal freedom. Provoke the Left into provoking the Right with ever-greater intensity until the Right decides to snap back. That’s acceleration.

    It’s designed to foment conflict across the board. Unfortunately, I don’t see any major flaws in the plan.

  2. Michael says:

    TFBW,

    If you find and read his manifesto, it pretty much confirms everything you posted. He’s quite clear about things. For example, when you write:

    And why goad the Illiberal Left into more demands for censorship and gun restrictions? Because that’s the kind of thing that the Right see as an attack on them and their personal freedom. Provoke the Left into provoking the Right with ever-greater intensity until the Right decides to snap back. That’s acceleration.

    That goes all the way down to his decision to use a gun. He writes about the other ways he could have killed people, but chose a gun because it would ignite the very things you mention. In other words, it was the best way to turn his massacre into a meme.

  3. Bilbo says:

    So Michael and TFBW,

    Are you trying to say that the killer didn’t really hate Muslims? That he just killed them as a way to cause further violence in society?

  4. TFBW says:

    I don’t know whether he hates Muslims qua Muslims. He might not have much of an issue with them so long as they’re in their countries. I gather he’s visited Pakistan (at the very least), and probably has some grudging admiration for their strength of conviction. In this particular case, though, I’m fairly sure that the whole thing was done with the level of deliberate calculation only a true psychopath can muster. As such, it wasn’t a crime of passion, and hatred of Muslims is not the motivating factor.

  5. Michael says:

    I think he hates Muslims and sees them as “invaders.” In his mind, his crime will bring us all closer to the race war he wants to see. The murders were more than just hate. They were activism.

  6. TFBW says:

    And why goad the Illiberal Left into more demands for censorship and gun restrictions?

    Good grief I was close. Even to the selection of words.

  7. Bilbo says:

    Michael: “I think he hates Muslims and sees them as “invaders.” In his mind, his crime will bring us all closer to the race war he wants to see. The murders were more than just hate. They were activism.”

    Yes, that’s how I see it. However, if he really wanted a race war, he should have pretended he was a Muslim and murdered people in a Christian church. Christians are in the majority in New Zealand and many of them would have wanted to retaliate against the much smaller population of Muslims in New Zealand.

  8. stcordova says:

    Activism is about theater. Theater for itself, for entertainment is fine. Being a musician, I was a performer for a season, and I love putting on a show. There was a time I would have given everything to put on a good show, but theater should never justify injury to anyone.

    To do theater like this killer, one needs to be devoid of conscience on some level. For that to happen, someone has to visualize innocent people as the enemy, because the alternative to such perpetrators is “you’re the bad guy in the story, you’re not the hero, you’re the villain.” Hence they write long manifestos to convince themselves of their own holiness and the evil of their victims.

  9. TFBW says:

    Bilbo:

    However, if he really wanted a race war, he should have pretended he was a Muslim and murdered people in a Christian church. Christians are in the majority in New Zealand and many of them would have wanted to retaliate against the much smaller population of Muslims in New Zealand.

    Is that a joke? Christianity is the religion of “turn the other cheek”, and “love your enemies”. They aren’t inclined to take up arms in retaliation. Islam is the opposite of that. On top of which, you’re thinking about this far too narrowly if you think the effects were intended primarily for New Zealand. This was done for media effect globally, and the exact location didn’t matter much.

  10. Bilbo says:

    TFBW,
    It doesn’t matter if that Christianity is a religion of “turn the other cheek.” What matters is that there are plenty of Christians who don’t turn the other cheek.

    As far as killing Muslims resulting in a race war? It didn’t happen after the killing of six Muslims in Canada: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quebec_City_mosque_shooting

  11. Bilbo says:

    On the other hand, after the killings by the Muslim couple in San Bernardino, Republican political leaders were willing to go to war. I imagine that a lot of Christians would have supported them.

    Many Republican U.S. presidential candidates at the time, among them Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump, responded by claiming the United States was at war.[278] Chris Christie, who was campaigning in Iowa at the time, declared, “What the fact is this is a new world war and one that won’t look like the last two. And this is one where it’s radical Islamic jihadists everyday are trying to kill Americans and disrupt and destroy our way of life.”[279] Jeb Bush stated, “If this is a war, and I believe it is since they have declared war on us, we need to declare war on them.”[278]

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_San_Bernardino_attack

  12. FZM says:

    Yes, that’s how I see it. However, if he really wanted a race war, he should have pretended he was a Muslim and murdered people in a Christian church. Christians are in the majority in New Zealand and many of them would have wanted to retaliate against the much smaller population of Muslims in New Zealand.

    Islamist terrorism has killed about 130 people (nearly all non-Muslim) in the UK since 2001, about 190 in Spain, about 150 in France… and at least in the UK the number of victims of anti-Muslim killings is, if I remember correctly, under 5. Nearly as many people as Muslims killed by other Muslims for sectarian reasons in Britain.

    None of that has done anything to spark a race war yet. Western Europe should be the place where it is most likely to happen, there are the largest Muslim minority communities there and they are growing quite quickly relative to the society around them.

    I’d be most concerned about retaliation against non-Muslim minorities in Muslim majority countries, they have some real problems.

  13. Bilbo says:

    This article claims that nobody in the Trump administration is using the word “Muslim” in referring to the 49 Muslims who were murdered by th white nationalist in New Zealand. Can anybody find a counterexample?

    https://qz.com/1574282/trumps-new-zealand-shooting-response-doesnt-use-the-word-muslim/

  14. Kevin says:

    Trump: “My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”

    Mike Pence: “We send our condolences & prayers to the families of those who perished in the horrific mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. We condemn this attack on people of faith in the strongest terms. America stands with
    @JacindaArdern & the people of New Zealand. God be with you.”

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate.”

    John Bolton: “We’re obviously greatly disturbed by what seems to be a terror attack, this hate crime, in New Zealand.”

    How precisely does the word “Muslim” enhance the response?

  15. TFBW says:

    @Bilbo:

    What matters is that there are plenty of Christians who don’t turn the other cheek.

    No doubt. I’d be challenged to live up to my own professed beliefs in many cases, make no mistake about it. On the other hand, I’m not seeing a lot of blood on the ground spilled by Christians in retaliation for things, even when encouraged by the sabre-rattling tough talk of the opportunistic politicians that you mention. That could easily just be ignorance on my part, although I suspect that if there were acts of Christian violence to report, the media would be all over it in a flash. Perhaps you can cite some relevant stats.

    The main point I was making, though, is that retaliation and violence are a cultural part of Islam, whereas they’re not a cultural part of Christianity. It’s just reasonable to expect greater retaliation from an attack on Muslims than an attack on Christians. Do you really contend this point?

    As far as killing Muslims resulting in a race war?

    I didn’t say anything about a race war; Michael did. What I said was that the attack on Muslims was meant to inflame Muslims into retaliation, creating more bloodshed and raising tensions—not only between Muslims and Westerners, but between the Left and Right, who are already divided on the issue of Islam (as evinced by the Left calling Trump’s travel restrictions “racist”).

    I also said that an attack on a Mosque is a sensible choice in terms of maximising media coverage. Not all atrocities get the same level of media coverage: compare Parkland (early 2018, 17 school students dead) to Sutherland Springs (late 2017, 26 churchgoers dead) and note the disparity in media coverage. Shooting up a church just doesn’t generate the same media buzz, evidently.

  16. Michael says:

    Yes, that’s how I see it. However, if he really wanted a race war, he should have pretended he was a Muslim and murdered people in a Christian church. Christians are in the majority in New Zealand and many of them would have wanted to retaliate against the much smaller population of Muslims in New Zealand.

    That option was not available to him. There is no way he would have been able to get away with pretending to be a Muslim – he would have had to spend the last decade pretending and learning the language. Keep in mind, he planned on being arrested, not killed. He wrote: “Yes, but death was a definite possibility. These situations are chaotic and virtually impossible to control, no matter the planning. Survival was a better alternative to death in order to further spread my ideals by media coverage and to deplete resources from the state by my own imprisonment.” I don’t think he would want to spend the rest of his life pretending to be a Muslim.

  17. Bilbo says:

    FZM,

    Right, no race war in Europe…yet. But for those who want one, things are looking up:

    https://www.counterextremism.com/european-white-supremacy-groups

    And I agree, that non-Muslims might be at considerable risk of retaliation in Muslim countries.

  18. Bilbo says:

    Kevin: “How precisely does the word “Muslim” enhance the response?”

    Using the word “Muslim” would publicly enhance the fact that Muslims can be and have been the victims of hate. By avoiding using the word “Muslims,” I suspect the Trump administration doesn’t want to enhance that fact.

  19. Bilbo says:

    TFBW:

    “I didn’t say anything about a race war; Michael did. What I said was that the attack on Muslims was meant to inflame Muslims into retaliation, creating more bloodshed and raising tensions—not only between Muslims and Westerners, but between the Left and Right, who are already divided on the issue of Islam (as evinced by the Left calling Trump’s travel restrictions “racist”).”

    Sounds like a race war to me.

    “I also said that an attack on a Mosque is a sensible choice in terms of maximising media coverage. Not all atrocities get the same level of media coverage: compare Parkland (early 2018, 17 school students dead) to Sutherland Springs (late 2017, 26 churchgoers dead) and note the disparity in media coverage. Shooting up a church just doesn’t generate the same media buzz, evidently.”

    I suspect the shooting up of the church did not generate the same media buzz, because the
    “Investigators said the shooting was not motivated by racism or prejudice against religion, but by a dispute with Kelley’s mother-in-law.”
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutherland_Springs_church_shooting

  20. Bilbo says:

    Mike: “I don’t think he would want to spend the rest of his life pretending to be a Muslim.”

    Good point.

  21. TFBW says:

    @Bilbo:

    Sounds like a race war to me.

    It doesn’t sound like one to me, because none of “Muslim”, “Westerner”, “Left”, or “Right” are races. Then again, most people on the Left think that anything against Islam is some kind of crypto-racist dog-whistle, so you’re far from alone in that opinion.

    “Investigators said the shooting was not motivated by racism or prejudice against religion, but by a dispute with Kelley’s mother-in-law.”

    It seems to me that every effort was made to down-play the possible (likely) religious component. The article and official statement make no mention of his pro-atheist social media presence, for example. He shot up that particular church, no doubt, because of the family connection, but he still chose to shoot up a church. If his beef was primarily with his mother-in-law, why commit a mass shooting at a church where she wasn’t even present? Why not just go to her home and take her out? It will take more than an anodyne official statement to persuade me that the shooting wasn’t substantially motivated by religious prejudice, given the facts of the case.

    In any case, you’ll still have to explain to me why the motive, even if non-religious, makes Parkland so much more newsworthy. Even if I accept that the motive was non-religious, there is still a great deficit of media attention for which we must account, given the disparity in body count, and I could easily ascribe that to a collective reluctance on the part of the media to prolong a story in which Christians are the victims. (The fact that the massacre was interrupted by an NRA instructor wielding an AR-15 is another contributing factor, no doubt.) Right or wrong, it’s a fair assessment of the facts at hand, and another reason one might choose not to act against Christians if one is trying to maximise media attention: past experience with the media simply advises against it.

    For best effect, go where the signal is boosted, not attenuated.

  22. TFBW says:

    Further to my comment above, I contend that if the NZ mosque shooter had decided to disguise himself as a Muslim and shoot up a church instead, and had successfully fooled everyone in so doing, the official story would have been that his motives in the attack were unclear (even given a ranting pseudo-Islamic manifesto), and he was believed to have mental health issues. Anything to do with race and religion would be minimised to the maximum possible extent. It would have been a damp squib.

    To back up this claim, I have to reach for the UK as an example. In the UK, they have a problem with “grooming gangs”, which is a polite way of saying “organised child rapists”. Numerous court cases have taken place regarding this, but they get very down-played, and the perpetrators are invariably described as “Asian”. They are “Asian” only in the sense that Pakistan is a country on the Asian continent. It would be far more accurate to just say, “predominantly Muslims of Pakistani origin or heritage”. Last year, Tommy Robinson was imprisoned for several months (sometimes in high-Muslim-population prisons) on a charge relating to his media coverage of a sentencing hearing for members of one such gang who had already been found guilty. His imprisonment was later determined to have been handled improperly in almost every possible way. His real crime, of course, was was to actively portray Islam in a bad light.

    If you think that the media or the political establishment in the West (with very few exceptions that prove the rule) aren’t going to side heavily with Muslims on divisive issues, then you’re never going to be as effective an activist/terrorist as this accelerationist psychopath.

  23. FZM says:

    To back up this claim, I have to reach for the UK as an example. In the UK, they have a problem with “grooming gangs”, which is a polite way of saying “organised child rapists”. Numerous court cases have taken place regarding this, but they get very down-played, and the perpetrators are invariably described as “Asian”. They are “Asian” only in the sense that Pakistan is a country on the Asian continent. It would be far more accurate to just say, “predominantly Muslims of Pakistani origin or heritage”. Last year, Tommy Robinson was imprisoned for several months (sometimes in high-Muslim-population prisons) on a charge relating to his media coverage of a sentencing hearing for members of one such gang who had already been found guilty. His imprisonment was later determined to have been handled improperly in almost every possible way. His real crime, of course, was was to actively portray Islam in a bad light.

    I remember there were complaints by Hindus, Sikhs and other South Asians about this terminology, given that the common denominator in this kind of grooming activity seems to be Islamic heritage/background, not being of South Asian descent. (There were mainly Pakistani gangs, but including Afghans, Libyans etc. as well, and mainly Bangladeshi gangs).

    If you think that the media or the political establishment in the West (with very few exceptions that prove the rule) aren’t going to side heavily with Muslims on divisive issues, then you’re never going to be as effective an activist/terrorist as this accelerationist psychopath.

    The ‘European race war’, if it ever happens (I doubt it), will be because the political establishment in the West hasn’t been able to come up with a more considered attitude to immigration from the Islamic world.

    The British Labour Party looks a good example of this. It is becoming more Social Justice orientated, militantly Feminist/genderqueer and so on, and at the same time more supportive of traditional Islam and the kind of neo-traditionalist Islamic worldviews coming out of places like Pakistan. The combination is at best bizarre.

    I sort of suspect that having given rise to the problem via immigration policies over the past few decades, a lot of the mainstream political class just don’t know how to get to grips with it and what to do about it, so you get the crude and clumsy censorship and other activities to keep a lid on the issues as far as possible.

  24. Kevin says:

    Using the word “Muslim” would publicly enhance the fact that Muslims can be and have been the victims of hate. By avoiding using the word “Muslims,” I suspect the Trump administration doesn’t want to enhance that fact.

    Is “mosque” too obscure for anyone to figure out? As such typical official statements go, these seemed perfectly fine to me.

  25. TFBW says:

    I said, “In contrast, I suspect he chose the target because they are the single most likely target to retaliate in kind. He just wants to provoke more bloodshed.”

    On that front, we have our first possible act of retaliation: Turkish man goes on shooting spree in Utrecht, Netherlands. Three dead, numerous others injured. We’ll see how that pans out.

  26. Bilbo says:

    Kevin: Is “mosque” too obscure for anyone to figure out? As such typical official statements go, these seemed perfectly fine to me.

    If Trump had talked about the eleven people killed in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, without mentioning that they were Jews, would that have seemed fine to you?

    If I understand TFBW ,he doesn’t think the killer was anti-Muslim. I suspect that the Trump administration wants people to believe that. Hence, their avoiding using the word “Muslim.”

  27. TFBW says:

    It depends what you mean by anti-Muslim. If you mean he hates Muslims enough to go on a shooting spree, motivated by nothing more than sheer hatred of Muslims, then no, he’s not that. If you mean he thinks that Muslims will wreck Western society if allowed to get a significant foothold in it, then yes, he’s that, and I gather it was his experience of France which drove him to that conclusion.

    As for whether Trump’s failure to use the word “Muslim” is a deliberate ploy, I agree with Kevin: “mosque” is 100% indicative of “Muslim”. And yes, “synagogue” is 100% indicative of “Jew”, so the same applies. If he wanted to avoid the specifics of the religion, he would have said “place of worship”, or something equivalently generic.

    You are projecting IMO, Bilbo.

  28. Bilbo says:

    “Synagogue” is not 100% indicative of “Jew.” Had Trump failed to condemn the anti-Semitic nature of the attack, he would have been loudly and correctly criticized for it.

    I don’t think I’m projecting. Nobody in the Trump administration could bring themselves to say that Muslims had been killed.

    Before Mike said that the killer was anti-Muslim, you yourself didn’t think the killer was. You’re just the sort of person Trump wants to appeal to.

  29. Kevin says:

    If Trump had talked about the eleven people killed in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, without mentioning that they were Jews, would that have seemed fine to you?

    Yes…? How does that change anything?

    I think this is more criticism for the sake of criticizing than it is an actual problem. Trump condemned the shooting, and everyone knows that Muslims were killed even if they only had the tweets of Trump or Pence to go by.

    “Innocent people” is a more profound description than “Muslims”. I see nothing wrong with Trump’s tweet not having particular words in it.

  30. TFBW says:

    @Bilbo:

    I don’t think I’m projecting.

    Nobody ever does.

    Before Mike said that the killer was anti-Muslim, you yourself didn’t think the killer was.

    I still don’t, given my surmise about the meaning of “anti-Muslim” in context, which you still haven’t clarified. In retrospect, he probably is anti-Muslim by your meaning of the term, but I didn’t understand that you were so obsessed with identity that you consider saying “people in a mosque” (or similar) a way of deliberately avoiding the word “Muslim”. That attitude is just bizarre to me, so excuse me if I fail to follow your meaning closely (if at all).

    I also find it bizarre that some people want to shout from the rooftops (Slate ones) that being White and Australian makes one somehow complicit in this atrocity, and they will consider someone like me (a White Australian) to be morally deficient, if not an outright monster, for thinking that this attack is nothing to do with me at all. Sorry, but the universe I inhabit has a thing called personal responsibility, and I don’t acquire guilt of any sort just because someone who shares some of my attributes commits an atrocity. That kind of false guilt might pass as virtue for some, but I see it as thick layer of pretext covering a desire to avoid personal responsibility by making absolutely everything a group issue.

    You’re just the sort of person Trump wants to appeal to.

    Probably, aside from the fact that I can’t vote for him even if I wanted to. I detect a note of accusation in that statement, though. Are you suggesting that Trump only appeals to racists, or similar? Consider the alternative that he appeals to people who aren’t obsessed with race: people who are disgusted with the modern obsession with Black this, White that, Gay something else, Trans the other thing, Male blah-blah, Female yadda-yadda; the qualification of absolutely everything with some set of identity characteristics.

    I’m an individual, not an intersection of identity groups, and you can get bent if you expect me to behave a particular way because of my Venn diagram location in the latter scheme of things.

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