"I'll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I've been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Qaida, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. I am trained in guerrilla warfare, and I'm the top sniper in the entire U.S. armed forces. You are nothing to me but just another target…" These lines from the New Zealand terrorist's manifesto called "The Great Replacement" may not make sense for someone who is not familiar with certain websites and forums in the immense world of the internet. However, for those who have spent even a few hours on the political boards of 4chan or 8chan, this "copypasta" gives a lot of clues about the terrorist and the culture he fed from.
As it is called, the "alt-right" is a very specific ideology based on extremism and radicalization, organized through the dense network of the internet, creating its own terminology and subculture with intensive use of memes, images and videos. Although alt-right is mostly associated with American white-nationalists, the document posted shortly before the shooting and widely credited to the suspect indicates the author is steeped in the alt-right's toxic culture.
Brenton Tarrant, who killed 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand, as a representative of this movement, was only a sample of growing racism among Western societies. Although it was perceived as an individual act, it actually represents a well-organized global network that cannot be separated from social realities. As growing racism in Western societies and this kind of extremist and radical movements go hand in hand, they mutually feed each other.
The term alt-right was initially promoted by Richard B. Spencer, a white nationalist figure in the United States, in 2010 in reference to a movement centered on white nationalism; according to the Associated Press, he did so to disguise overt racism, white supremacism, neo-fascism and neo-Nazism. The term and wider movement drew considerable media attention and controversy during and after the 2016 United States presidential election due to their support for Donald Trump. Supporters of the movement saw Trump as a missionary carrying a historical mission to protect white people, who have been oppressed by multiculturalism, diversity, social equality and progressive values for years, against "white genocide" as they call it. Looking at Tarrant's manifesto, we see him as a racist, white supremacist and anti-Muslim character, just like other militants of the movement. In addition to these features, neo-Nazism, xenophobia, anti-multiculturalism and anti-feminism are other common characteristics of the movement.
Language has always been a key distinguishing factors of one community from "others" throughout history. The alt-right community is very aware of this function of language. They invented their own language in an attempt to create a pseudo-culture. What makes the alt-right distinctive from other far-right racist movements is its specific use of language and offensive humor based on meme culture spreading over image-based forums, primarily 4chan and 8chan, under the disguise of freedom of expression and thought.
/pol/ ("Politically Incorrect") is 4chan's political discussion board that is known for its users' support of Donald Trump during his 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Both Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., appeared to acknowledge the support by tweeting /pol/-associated memes. Upon his successful election, a /pol/ moderator embedded a pro-Trump video at the top of all of the board's pages.
8chan, where Tarrant announced his attack and linked to his white supremacist manifesto on this board, began as an alternative to 4chan for more extremist users after some restrictions were imposed by 4chan. If you visit the political boards of 8chan, it is very likely you'll see images and memes using "Hail Tarrant" slogans or remix versions of the video the terrorist broadcasted live during the attack to exhibit their celebrations and joy about the terrorist attack in New Zealand. According to their perception, one of them finally took a stand and acted.
A song called "Remove kebab" is playing in the background while Tarrant is in the car on his way to the mosque. "Remove kebab" originates in a propaganda video produced by three Bosnian Serb soldiers in tribute to Radovan Karadžić, who was convicted of war crimes against Bosnian Muslims. Then, "Remove kebab" inspired another copypasta in the anti-social world of alt-rightists, positively referring to killing or expelling Muslims. Also, Tarrant flashed an "OK" hand sign as he appeared in court, which was another reference to his alt-right origins.
In addition to these references associated with alt-rightists' internet world, Tarrant's relations with European white-nationalist groups have been revealed as it is reported that Tarrant made a donation to an Austrian blogger who supports Generation Identity, a far-right European movement that embraces the conspiracy theory of the "Great Replacement." According to this theory, Muslims replace white Europeans with mass migration and high birthrates as liberal politicians deliberately ignore Muslims' secret agenda. The "Great Replacement" is also the title of Tarrant's manifesto, which has very similar themes to the conspiracy theory.
The mass shooting also has parallels with that of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian far-right terrorist who killed 77 people in 2011. Breivik had also shared a manifesto claiming the existence of an ongoing genocide against white Europeans. Tarrant describes Breivik as his only true inspiration and states that he "had brief contact with Knight Justiciar Breivik, receiving a blessing for my mission after contacting his brother knights," in a reference to the Knights Templar.
It is no coincidence that the global alt-right movement network resembles a modern version of the Knights Templar in terms of organization. Although their actions are perceived as individual acts, it is a highly organized "brotherhood" representing extreme versions of racism with roots that can be found in society. Many have talked about the rising popularity of far-right politicians and political parties in Western countries in recent years. However, politics is only a reflection of society's sentiments. For someone who looks for the causes of and solutions for these extreme movements, society itself is the first phenomenon to analyze, not individual cases.
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