Lessons to draw from the Christchurch terrorist attack

On 15th March, 2019, a cell of terrorists attacked a mosque in Christchurch and killed 49 people. Most of them were faithful Muslims who gathered there for their afternoon prayers; a few were bystanders who were shot. The events occurred in an afternoon when most people would gather and two mosques within five kilometers of each other. The first mosque was close to the city centre and the second mosque in Linwood was in a part of the city where a number of Afghan refugees and immigrants lived. Both these areas are middle income neighbourhoods (// links for decile information).

The assassin, Brent Tarrant is a 28-year old Australia-born New Zealand resident and lived in a house in Dunedin. Two months before this attack, he opened accounts in popular social media and sites 8chan and 4chan where politics and white supremacists hang and discuss. He wrote a 74-page document he referred to as “manifesto” (links are available through 4chan/pol/ and 8chan/pol/ channels but I will not share here).

His “manifesto” tells us that he is an “ordinary white guy” (which it turns out, he is not); he spends a fair amount of time playing games (he refers to the popular gamer Pewdiedie and asking his readers to subscribe to his YouTube channel); he cites research papers and newspaper evidence to justify his claims that Muslim population and Muslim immigrants are growing; the European stock population continues to shrink; he refers to immigration as “invasion”. This is a white supremacist rhetoric. He takes upon himself to eliminate people. He writes in his manifesto that he refers to himself as an eco-fascist (online neo nazis who merge environmentalism with totalitarianism). He cited papers on Malthusian concepts of overpopulation and ranged against multiculturalism; he wrote his philosophy was closest to the Chinese (but why and how? Was it a rant? Or does it signal to a wider conspiracy we do not know or cannot guess?)

Anyway, on the site he had cheerleaders who egged him on; he also had people who wrote against him and he responded with verbal fury threatening to finish them. In the end Brent Tarrant picked up his ammnition of guns (he had legitimate gun license that NZ has promptly reviewed following the incident), loaded his car with IEDs, and proceeded to massacre civilians gathered in a mosque in an afternoon for their prayers.

The incident itself was gory and devastating. There are accounts and documentations of what he did all over the media.

( to be continued … )


Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Also in: https://refind.com/arinbasu

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