Right Wing Extremism and the New Zealand Terror Attack
Another attack, more innocent lives lost, gunned down during the Friday prayer, at a time when they should feel at their safest. The media, both mainstream and social, has flooded with information on the latest right-wing terrorist attack – and from the general public, likely perpetrator-sympathetic media outlets, and even an Australian senator, there are some pretty odious opinions finding oxygen.
Firstly, it’s encouraging that there is a uniformity in describing these murders as a terrorist attack. It seems like not so long ago, white perpetrators were described as mentally unwell, or loners, or whatever. We’ve finally grown into calling these acts precisely what they are, and just as well, as it’s now more likely for right-wing terror to take place than its Islamist cousin.
Yes, the intense attention placed on this event is a little disheartening when considering how many people attending prayer are murdered in the name of ideology in parts of the world not so obviously connected to ours. Attacking people conducting their religious businesses is bread and butter for too many terror-using organisations across the Islamic world. Our focus on this event is, somewhat selfishly, due to its proximity to our lives.
Out of this self-centred approach to grief and outrage, however, there is a practical benefit. This attack was perpetrated by people whose ideology isn’t too dissimilar to that of people we know and love. The sentiment that has bolstered the attackers in the belief that they are doing the right thing is consistently shared unopposed across Facebook by people we are connected to.
In fact, in the aftermath of this terrible act, we see people we live near and work with posting messages of indifference, inevitability and outright gloating in regards to the 49 and counting lives lost. The gamut runs from Easy to understand why, considering how many attacks they do, to I hope he was a good shot. This is tough stuff to read, but if it’s not worthy of Facebook’s filters of hate speech, then why should we filter it here.
We are in possession of a tiny amount of power to put towards preventing this kind of thing happening again; while we navigate through the shock and sadness, we can be proactive in taking action against hate speech and terrorist sympathisers. Unlike the multitude of attacks that take place in a world tenuously connected to ours, we can have an effect on the odious ideology that empowers these atrocities.
For example, when you see friends, family, acquaintances and strangers share sentiments that could be construed as supporting this act of terror we can:
- Call them out (but don’t engage in too much debate for the sake of your sanity),
- Screenshot the particularly odious comments,
- Report real insightments of further violence to the relevant authorities (let’s get more right-wing psychos on the Australian Federal Police’s watchlist),
- Report hate speech to Facebook,
- And if they really deserve it, share your screenshots with the poster’s employees, if they have that information readily accessible.
But getting high school friends fired from their part-time job in your hometown tyre shop isn’t solving too much, apart from making us feel a small sense of achievement in the face of dreadful hopelessness.
What we also need to be aware of is how the dog whistling coalition government, and the media that props it up, are responsible for creating an atmosphere that encourages murderers and terrorists to ferment their hate and empowers them to act upon it in the most horrific ways.
Do not listen to them when they say that they abhor terrorism; do not allow them to distance themselves from the attacks. The rhetoric that demonises immigrants and Muslims and that seeks to appropriate power through division is as to blame for these attacks as the scumbags who pulled the trigger.
We need to hold these powerful people to account for their capitalising off inflaming people’s worst instincts. They have to understand that puerile political point scoring can have a horrific human cost.
We must also be careful in our outrage against the ghoulish Senator Who Shall Not Be Named, and his purposeful capitalising on these murders. Sure, he probably believes what he says, but the manner in which he publicises his views is a very calculated move to manipulate the media into giving him relevance.
Let us not forget that he got something like 19 votes, is only in a position where we have to listen to his bile because scared-weird-little guy, Malcolm Roberts, turned out to be a Pom, and that going into the next election without the backing of One Nation he is very unlikely to be reelected. He currently has next to no political power, or influence. He only exists because we bite at his baiting, and like all trolls, he will fade into irrelevance when he is ignored and eventually loses his public position.
By all means, attend rallies against him and his ilk, but just be aware that without our outrage he barely exist outside of the adoration of hundreds, if not dozens, of very vocal knuckle-dragging scared, pathetic cretins. Fight him, but don’t make him bigger than he deserves to be. He is a gnat, pure and simple (and he couldn’t convince more than 19 of his friends and family to vote for him the first time around. Seriously, but how despised is this prick?).
He wants to make this about him, but it is not. The gunman, with his convoluted manifesto wanted to make it about him, but it’s not. It is about the ideology that empowers these murderers and maintains their supporters. It is about the dog whistling that the government participates in as they pander to Australia’s worst instincts – not makes an effort to remedy the national sickness of otherism. It’s about the dogged heel dragging of Australians who are terrified of giving up their privilege and “way of life”, and how that reluctance to change can be manipulated for political gain by increasingly savvy populist politicians and media personalities.
But most importantly, it’s about the victims. While we’re busy fighting the culture wars on our social media feeds, and baying for the blood of the perpetrators, let’s not forget about the innocent people who were murdered yesterday. Forty-nine as of writing, many of whom moved so far from home to escape violence and persecution. Fuck the attacker, fuck the Senator who doesn’t deserve our breath. Much love to the victims and their families and anybody who feels the pressure of right-wing extremists and the culture that empowers them.
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Ex-editor of Australia’s Surfing Life, current producer and host of 50 Fiestas, Barcelona resident and drinker of all the wine, every last drop of it.