First published in AIJAC
The implications of Christchurch
The terrorist massacre in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, was not only an exceptional event for a quiet country at the end of the world, but possibly a new benchmark in the violent radical right-wing arena.
Whilst the domestic terrorist attacks by Anders Behring Breivik on 22 July 2011, in Norway, in which 77 people were killed, targeted local government, the Norwegian civilians, and mainly the Workers’ Youth League summer camp, Australian citizen Brenton Harrison Tarrant left 50 people of Islamic faith dead, and 50 others wounded. The victims are largely Muslim migrants, refugees and residents from countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Turkey, Kuwait, and Somalia.
The potential for jihadist retaliation is huge and ISIS spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, broke a six-month silence to call on ISIS supporters to “take vengeance for their religion” in a 44-minute audio recording.
At this stage it is important to present some initial insights into the event, based on the exceptional political manifesto “The Great Replacement” that Tarrant uploaded to the internet minutes before beginning his shooting spree in the Al-Noor mosque. The manifesto – which I quote from below verbatim – consists of answers to a series of hypothetical questions that Tarrant expects to be asked after he has carried out the attack.
Ideology and strategy
The main idea Tarrant tries to advance is that, as a result of mass immigration and the higher fertility rates of the immigrants, Europe is “experiencing an invasion on a level never seen before in history… [a] WHITE GENOCIDE.” “It’s the birthrates” is the slogan that opens his introduction.
The very title of the manifesto, “The Great Replacement”, is a right-wing conspiracy theory, which states that the white Christian European population is being systematically replaced with non-European people – Arab/Berber Middle Easterners, North African and Sub-Saharan Africans, through mass migration and demographic growth. It assigns blame to a global and liberal elite, such as the European Union, portrayed as directing a planned plot to carry out this replacement of European peoples.
The theory has been popularised by the French writer Renaud Camus in his 2012 book The Great Replacement.
Ironically, Camus denounced the “appalling” Christchurch attack “by someone who had failed to understand my work.”
Tarrant has difficulty in defining his ideology. “Were/are you ‘right wing’? Depending on the definition, sure. Were/are you ‘left wing’? Depending on the definition, sure,” he answers.
Asked if he is a fascist, he states: “I mostly agree with Sir Oswald Mosley’s views.” Yet the famous British fascist politician was close to the Nazis during WWII and a rabid antisemite. And Tarrant claims that he is not an antisemite: “A jew living in israel is no enemy of mine, so long as they do not seek to subvert or harm my people.”
Finally, he describes himself as “an Ethno-nationalist Eco-fascist. Ethnic autonomy for all peoples with a focus on the preservation of nature, and the natural order… Green nationalism is the only true nationalism.” But his nationalism smells a lot like racism: “I place importance on the health and well being of my race above all else.”
It is interesting to note that Christian faith and values are not at the centre of Tarrant’s creed. “Were/are you a christian? That is complicated. When I know, I will tell you.” Yet he addresses Christians by using a long citation from Pope Urban II’s Calls for the First Crusade.
But his manifesto ends with a “Goodbye, god bless you all and I will see you in Valhalla,” the Norse mythology heaven – a Viking symbol “stolen” by white supremacists, far-right hate groups and neo-Nazis.
Tarrant designates “the High Profile Enemies,” who “must pay for their disgusting attacks upon our race…Merkel, the mother of all things anti-white and anti-germanic, is top of the list. Erdogan, the leader of one of the oldest enemies of our people, and the leader of the largest islamic group within Europe. This warlord must bleed his last, whilst he visits his ethnic soldiers…Sadiq Khan, Pakistani muslim invader [who] now sits as representative for the people of London.” “KILL ANGELA MERKEL, KILL ERDOGAN, KILL SADIQ KHAN,” he tells his fellows in Europe.
Interestingly, the nation with the closest political and social values to his own seems to be the People’s Republic of China! The two authoritarian regimes, in Russia and China, arouse his admiration.
The Christchurch terrorist perceives US President Trump “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” but says “as a policy maker and leader? Dear god no.”
Turkey, as a historic enemy of Christianity and conqueror of European territory, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally, as an Islamist world leader, have a special place in the manifesto. Addressing the “Turks” Tarrant predicts: “The Hagia Sophia [a historic cathedral in Instanbul turned into a mosque] will be free of minarets and Constantinople will be rightfully christian owned once more.”
“The number of times he mentioned both Turkey and myself was both curious and worth deeper consideration,” reacted Erdogan, who presents himself as defender of Muslims everywhere. He promised to find out why Tarrant visited Istanbul “for three days once and 40 days for the second time” and claimed the terrorist “talked nonsense by saying ‘we will come to Istanbul and destroy all the mosques and minarets.”
“Where is New Zealand and where is Turkey?” he asked ironically.
At the same time, making reference to Turkey’s victory over Australian and New Zealand troops in the WWI Gallipoli campaign, in inflammatory comments, Erdogan threatened that anyone who came to Turkey with anti-Muslim sentiments would be sent back in coffins. He spoke of the mosque attacks in New Zealand as part of a wider attack on Turkey and evidence of global anti-Muslim sentiment.
Australian PM Scott Morrison reacted angrily to the offensive comments by the Turkish President, warning that “all options are on the table” if the comments were not withdrawn.
Erdogan’s offensive remarks must be considered in the context of the fact that he is battling to win difficult local elections on March 31, seen by him as a “matter of survival” for Turkey. In the same vein, he recently attacked China for its repression against the Muslim Uighurs and Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu as a “tyrant who massacres children.”
The Radicalisation process
One of the most important parts of the manifesto, for understanding the mind of a terrorist, is the description of his personal radicalisation.
Tarrant presents himself as “Just an ordinary White man,” 28 years old, born to a working class, low income family, who did not attend university, “who decided to take a stand to ensure a future for [his] people.”
When young, he was a communist, then an anarchist and finally a libertarian, before becoming an “eco-fascist”.
The radicalisation happened during a period of two years prior to the attack. In this time period “a series of events broke down [his] own reservations, cynicism and revealed the truth of the Wests [sic] current situation.”
The first event was the terror attack in central Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, on April 7, 2017, when a hijacked lorry was deliberately driven into crowds. “The difference was Ebba Akerlund. Young, innocent and dead Ebba,” the youngest victim, 11-years-old. “The indignity of her violent demise and [his] inability to stop it…” convinced Tarrant these “were attacks on [Tarrant’s] people, attacks on [his] culture, attacks on [his] faith and attacks on [his] soul. They would not be ignored.”
The second event was the 2017 French presidential election. Contrary to his expectations, “the milquetoast, feckless, civic nationalist, uncontroversial figure who’s most brave and inspired idea resolved to the possible deportation of illegal immigrants [Marine Le Pen]” lost the election “to the globalist, capitalist, egalitarian, anti-white, ex-investment banker [who] has no national beliefs other than the pursuit of profit [Emmanuel Macron].”
“The final push was witnessing the state of French cities and towns,” where “the french people were often in a minority themselves… childless or of advanced age… [w]hilst the immigrants were young, energised and with large families and many children.”
Interestingly, the person he claimed had “influenced him above all” is Candace Owens, a controversial conservative American black commentator and political activist, known for her pro-Trump stance.
“Lone wolf” or member of a network?
Tarrant claims he is not a direct member of any organisation or group, though he “donated to many nationalist groups and has interacted with many more.”
He apparently made the decision alone and no group ordered his attack. However, he “only had a brief contact with Knight Justiciar Breivik” – far-right Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik – and received blessing for his “mission” after contacting his “brother knights”.
It is not clear how Tarrant contacted Breivik, who has been in jail since July 2011.
Anders Breivik claimed the “Reborn Knights Templar” is “a leaderless network, made to be self-driven cells” and said that “for militants, [Knights Templar] is meant to be a version of Al Qaeda.” Breivik refused to answer questions about who the other members of the network are, but claimed to have carried out his attacks on behalf of the organisation. Breivik also refused to give details on what he claims was the founding session of the “Knights Templar” in London in 2002.
Tarrant praised other white supremacist terrorists: Luca Traini, an Italian who opened fire on people of African origin in the town of Macerata in February 2018; Alexandre Bissonette, the 2017 Quebec mosque killer; Dylann Roof, American white supremacist and mass murderer convicted for perpetrating the Charleston church shooting on June 17, 2015; and Darren Osbourne, jailed for life for his murderous attack on Muslims in London last June.
Much remains to be investigated and researched. Tarrant’s numerous visits across Europe, from France to the Balkans and Turkey, Greece, Bosnia and Croatia and Montenegro, Bulgaria, Hungary and even Israel, should provide more information and hints if there really is a network behind his attack or if these were merely “cultural” trips which helped construct his new ideology.
The planning for the attack began two years in advance and the location in Christchurch was selected three months in advance (similar to Anders Breivik, who planned his attacks for five years).
New Zealand was not the original choice for the attack, but intended initially as a training ground. However, Tarrant found out that New Zealand “was as target rich of an environment as anywhere else in the West” and proved that nowhere in the world is safe from mass immigration, because the invaders are “in all of our lands, even in the remotest areas of the world.”
Tarrant targeted the mosques as “an obvious, visible and large group of invaders.” He claims the attack was “an end in itself, with all the necessary affect required.” His “writing, and their coverage, are just a bonus.”
Most importantly, Tarrant explains that he “received and researched his beliefs” from the internet, and cited two computer games as an inspiration. “You will not find the truth anywhere else. Spyro the dragon 3 taught me ethno-nationalism. Fortnite trained me to be a killer and to floss [dance] on the corpses of my enemies.”
His citation of Pope Urban II, “Let our lives be stronger than death to fight against the enemies of the Christian people” and his decision to give himself up to the police, stand trial and propagate his creed, is a clever propaganda strategy – perhaps an imitation of Breivik’s behavior during the long years of his trial in a liberal environment like Norway.
The message for the young generation in the West
Tarrant considers Australia, just like the rest of the former colonies of Europe, “simply an off-shoot of the European people.” “The origins of my language is European, my culture is European, my political beliefs are European, my philosophical beliefs are European, my identity is European and, most importantly, my blood is European.”
He advises the young European generation to “make your plans, get training, form alliances, get equipped and then act. The time for meekness has long since passed, the time for a political solution has long since passed. Men of the West must be men once more… The invaders must be removed from European soil.”
Although for the moment, immigrants are the immediate target, he detailed plans to deal with capitalists also.
The end of the manifesto proclaims, “Europa arises.”
In the very tense present situation in Europe, against the backdrop of the continuous flow of illegal immigrants and refugees, rising far right and populist parties and regimes, and the threat of returning jihadi foreign fighters, the Christchurch terrorist massacre will almost certainly provoke retaliatory attacks by Muslim extremists and jihadi terrorists.
At the same time, he successfully planned and executed attack by a far-right terrorist and his extremely detailed, clever and inflammatory manifesto could trigger copycat attacks and amplify the terrorist threat from right-wing groups and individuals. Meanwhile, the political establishment, law enforcement and security authorities are barely prepared for even the existing menace of Islamist/jihadist origin.
This is true for Australia, the United States and all Western societies, and should be a starting point for the evaluation of this new threat and the necessary urgent steps to challenge it.
This article is part of the RED-Alert project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation Programme under grant agreement No 740688.