The Australian man who murdered 51 people at a pair of New Zealand mosques on Friday left behind a rambling manifesto outlining his white supremacist worldview and concern that an influx of foreign “invaders” would lead to “white genocide.”
The 74-page document posted online by alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant cites as inspiration Dylann Roof, the American white nationalist who killed nine worshippers at a South Carolina black church in 2015, and Anders Breivik, the Norwegian far-right extremist who murdered dozens in a 2011 terrorist attack.
The manifesto also contained trolling references to online culture that extremist experts said can be a ploy to dupe unsuspecting media and draw more attention to the heinous attack, which Tarrant streamed live on Facebook.
Misdirection aside, the violent rampage at two Muslim houses of worship is clearly consistent with the hateful, Islamophobic views espoused in the document.
“It’s got all the trappings of what we’d expect—completely consistent with a white supremacist terror attack and the motivations behind those,” Pete Simi, an expert on far-right extremism at Chapman University, told TPM.
“This idea of white people being under attack, children in particular” is “a constant rallying point for white supremacists,” Simi added. “There are these core ideas that are kind of the sticking glue [of these movements], and these manifestos reflect that sticking glue.”
“It seems like modern violent extremists prepare for their attacks not just by preparing their guns but by preparing their social media approach,” Oren Segal, Director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told TPM. “Whether it’s streaming it, whether it’s putting out a manifesto, or whether it’s making references that they know people will try to understand.”
Other far-right killers, like Breivik and Roof, also published detailed manifestos online before committing their attacks. Doing so helps propagate their hateful ideas, draw press attention, and inspire future acts of violence. As media critics and extremist experts pointed out on Friday, there is an inherent risk in spreading this ideology simply by reporting on these documents.
But there is also a value in understanding the motivations of individuals who commit mass murder or plot to do so. Christopher Hasson, the Coast Guard lieutenant arrested in February for stockpiling weapons as part of a plan to “establish a white homeland” by force, also allegedly cited Breivik as his inspiration.
“I do think that even in these terrible tragedies people need to understand what motivates people, but that doesn’t mean that these should be part of a canon of literature where you can get fiction, non-fiction and extremist manifestos,” Segal said. “It shouldn’t be so easy to find it.”
In Tarrant’s paranoid, rambling version, part of which is written in a question-and-answer format, he claims to be representing “those that wish a future for white children, and to ensure the existence of our people.”
The line is a slightly altered version of the “14 words,” the white supremacist slogan that pledges to “secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
The document alleges that Muslim immigration to non-Muslim countries would result in “white genocide,” a commonly stated fear among white nationalists that has even gained currency among some elected officials in recent years.
A far-right Australian senator released a statement Friday blaming the New Zealand mosque murders on “the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.” Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has repeatedly issued warnings about demographic change, tweeting in 2017 that, “Culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” During the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
As Simi, of Chapman University, said, “I think it’s a critical obligation for us to recognize where this came from, this violence. It wasn’t a random act by any stretch of the imagination.”
The manifesto is interspersed with poems and odd slogans framing the murders as an act of martyrdom. It also contains details that seem designed to draw attention but unserious on their face. Black far-right Turning Point USA figurehead Candace Owens is cited as the person who has most “radicalized” Tarrant, even though she is only a fringe conservative commentator and doesn’t advocate violence. The alleged mass murderer says of Owens: “The extreme actions she calls for are too much.” The document also quotes directly from 4chan memes.
The use of humor or irony to relieve responsibility for promoting hateful views is common in the racist alt-right and white nationalist communities.
As Andrew Anglin, founder of white supremacist website the Daily Stormer, put it in the site’s style guide: “The unindoctrinated should not be able to tell if we are joking or not.”
Simi said that members of white nationalist communities have long enjoyed “poking” at outside observers via in-jokes and opaque references.
“These groups, movements, individuals, they really do get a sick pleasure from this irony,” Simi said.
Tarrant transcended these blurry lines by going through with the attack. As he wrote in an 8chan post shortly before the shooting, “It’s time to stop shitposting and time to make a real life effort post.”
That post is still reverberating around those platforms, along with links to the manifesto and videos of the massacre, which Tarrant live-streamed and shared on social media platforms. Posts celebrating the shooting are proliferating, too.
Tarrant’s act of senseless violence is just a modern version of an ancient hatred: attacking those who you fear aren’t like you.