Growing up, I have always felt that I was desensitized to violence.
This was, in some ways, related to my gaming habits, which bordered on the horizon of six to eight hours of play per day. I know that it’s all supposed to be pixels and numbers, but there is a visceral thrill in executing a headshot or dismembering some unlucky soul who just happened to stand in your way.
Whether it’s Call of Duty, Battlefield or Fallout, the power fantasy of us controlling the main protagonist and plowing through hordes and legions of enemies is undeniable.
We spend the majority of our waking hours working in environments that make us feel acutely powerless. We are constricted in classrooms as well, being forced to learn and give tests for subjects that, to this day, I don’t see why they were essential for myself and many others. Gaming provides us a happy, simulated alternative to the dreariness of our realities.
Gaming does make us desensitized, yes, and being around racist people does make you a little more likely to be conservative and distrusting of immigrants.
However, it takes a special kind of bastard to use all of that as ammunition- and justification- for cutting down 49 people with an assault rifle when they were attending the jumma prayers at their local church on a Friday.
It takes a special kind of deluded mind to plan this assault for years. A self-proclaimed eco-fascist, he read up on the literature of many like-minded individuals. He refers to Anders Breivik as Knight Justiciar Breivik, hinting that Breivik is part of a new Knights Templar.
In his 74 page manifesto, the shooter describes his thoughts about anything relevant to the shootings. He goes into detail how his cowardice went away when he was traveling through France and saw that there were immigrants in every corner. He decided shortly afterwards to take matters into his own hands. He knows that this event is garnering attention from all corners of the world. He is reveling in it, proudly proclaiming that the actions of one deranged man would force the US to fracture itself.
The United States is stronger than that. This has been proven categorically during the nation’s near three hundred years of existence.
It’s hard to refer to this man as anything but a terrorist. He is, perhaps, the worst kind of terrorist: the type who gloats and launches into a monologue, assured of his supremacy and importance to his cause.
He calls himself an uniformed combatant doing his part to fend off the invasion of Muslim immigrants, because he is certain that their high birth rate means that Muslim immigrants will soon outnumber white demographics by 2100, if not sooner. He refers to Europe, Oceania and North America as belonging to ‘my people’.
I am sure the ethnic locals in Britain pushed out by Anglo Saxons and Franks (who created England and France respectively) are thrilled to have met a hastened end to Cultural Marxism.
The 28-year-old bodybuilder and personal trainer hails from a small town named Grafton in Australia. His life took an unexpected turn when his father passed away; he invested in Bitconnect, reaped the benefits and took a personal tour through North Korea, Pakistan, Eastern Europe and France, among others.
Some references he makes on the manifesto suggest extensive involvement in white nationalist forums and message boards.
The man, eager in his bid to reach notoriety on the Internet, even threw out the obligatory ‘subscribe to PewDiePie before he began his killing spree. Felix Kjellberg later tweeted that he felt ‘absolutely sickened by having his name uttered by this person’.
Today’s internet culture is partly to blame for someone trying to coopt social media for such dastardly actions. The shooter had full intention of going viral with his attack on two churches at Christchurch.
He first teased the attack on Twitter, then announced his plans on 8chan before broadcasting his crimes live on Facebook.
2016 proved that memes can be weaponised- quite easily and on a vast scale. The Far Right, including the Neo Nazis, coopted popular memes such as Pepe the Frog to disrupt the course of the conversation on a national level and steer it towards areas which aligned with their usual points of interest.
Although Facebook and Reddit acted quickly to prevent people from sharing the gruesome clips, at some points they were overwhelmed by the sheer number of people witnessing and talking about the crime.
“Were you taught violence and extremism by video games, music, literature, cinema?” he wondered aloud before answering the question. “Yes. Spyro the dragon 3 taught me ethnonationalism. Fortnite trained me to be a killer and to floss on the corpses of my enemies.”
The man’s confidence, suggesting he has won, may have roots in reality. One far right senator from Queensland, Fraser Anning, was quick to blame Muslims for encroaching upon western culture. He calls them out by saying that Muslims “may have been the victims today; usually they are the perpetrators.”
“The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place,” Anning stated in his statement. For his troubles, Anning was later egged by a seventeen year old during an event in Melbourne; Anning subsequently punched the cheeky teenager.
Anning echoes fears commonly held by those in the far right, including Trump’s former advisor, Steve Bannon. Yes, Anning is factually correct that Muslim terrorism is more easily grasped and digested than ‘a lone wolf’ acting on his own deadly impulses.
However, while the focus has been on Muslim terrorists since 9/11, the dangers posed by far right fanatics must not be ignored.
Gun control experts and lobbyists have urged New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern to enact stricter firearms laws.
“Our gun laws will change,” Ms. Ardern confirmed during a press conference held on Saturday. “Now is the time for change.”
Ardern stated that the shooter used five guns. His arsenal included semiautomatic weapons and shotguns, which were acquired through his gun license, itself obtained in November 2017.
There are several Bangladeshis who have been reported as victims of the incident. Dhaka Tribune has so far identified Husna Ara Parvin and Dr. Md. Abdus Samad among the victims. The list of dead and wounded also include Daoud Nadi, who immigrated to New Zeland to escape Afghanistan’s oppression during the Taliban years; Naeem Rashid, a teacher who hails from Abottabad, Pakistan, and his oldest son, Talha Rashid; Khaled Mustafa, who escaped war torn Syria and arrived in New Zealand with his family in 2018, and many others.
Regardless of what happens to the primary suspect, he has reached his goal for starting a global discourse on hate crimes and the various forms it can take. When presented before court, he made a white power gesture with his hands, grinning with a disturbing level of confidence.
In his manifesto, the shooter denies that he was seeking any fame, insisting that he would be forgotten, although his actions will not. I agree with him on both counts.
Someone who can dehumanize others to this degree deserves to be forgotten. That’s why his name hasn’t been mentioned in this article.
At the end of the day, a rose is a rose, and a white supremacist is a white supremacist. Doesn’t matter what kind of name he goes by. The manifesto he wrote has surprising similarities with ISIS and Al Qaeda manuals. Then again, the shooter wanted to provoke a visceral reaction among his audience, enticing youths to spring to action and deliver some ‘justice’ of their own.
There is little more to say at this juncture, as the primary suspect hasn’t been convicted of the crimes he professed to have committed. We must wait longer for that.
In the meanwhile, I must acknowledge the shooter is correct in assuming that his actions will lead to a watershed moment for New Zealand. Let’s hope that the right changes happen at the right time.