21st Century Wire – March 16, 2019
On Friday March 15, a suspected perpetrator of a massacre taking place at two mosques in Christchurch New Zealand is said to have killed 50 people in what is being regarded as one of the biggest mass shootings involving Muslim victims taking place in a western country. However, in the wake of New Zealand’s worst-ever domestic terror attack, a number of important unanswered questions still remain.
As of Saturday, some 39 people remain hospitalized, 11 of who are still in critical condition in intensive care. A four-year-old child is also said to be in a critical condition and was flown to the children’s Starship hospital in Auckland. According to Christchurch hospital’s chief of surgery, Dr Greg Robertson, many of the victims may require multiple surgeries afterwards.
The primary suspect in this anti-Muslim terrorist attack is said to 28 year old Brenton Harrison Tarrant (image, above), an Australian citizen from New South Wales.
Tarrant has since been charged with murder and remanded in custody to appear again on April 5. According to news reports – he did not enter a plea.
As of Saturday, Police have said they cannot confirm for certain that Tarrant was working alone, but they will likely have some definitive statement on this aspect of the case in the coming days.
Social Media Controversy
Brenton Tarrant is said to have authored a 74 page ‘Manifesto’ which seems to be mix of right-wing rhetoric, anti-immigrant polemics and some self-contradictory commentary about left vs right politics in the US, as well as an ode to various online ‘Alt-Right’ internet personalities like Candace Owens (he states, in his manifesto, that she had influenced him “above all”). Most western mainstream media outlets have already classifying his manifesto as a document for “white nationalism,” and “meant to troll” his political opposition.
The shooter has also triggered a potential crisis for Silicon Valley when he livestreamed his attack on Facebook (see some clips from his livestream in Nine News clip below), where he shot and killed dozens worshipers during Friday prayer at two mosques.
Predictably, this spectacle aspect of the event has prompted calls for increased regulations of video livestreaming on social media, and pressure on companies like Facebook to ‘do more to stop extremism’ and censor political content. On Friday, Facebook Inc shares plunged 5% to their lowest in nearly three months – at the very same time as a surprise departure by their Chief Product Officer Chris Cox.
Multiple Perpetrators, Accomplices?
The Washington Post reported that there was in fact a second and third man allegedly involved with the attack, 18-year-old Daniel John Burrough, who was scheduled to appear in court Saturday and charged with “inciting racial hostility or ill-will.” This same report also states that a third accomplice remained unidentified as of Friday evening, Eastern Time.
However, according to a report by The Guardian, PM Ardern has said the investigation was ongoing but authorities believed there was only “one primary perpetrator”.
CNN’s reporting on March 15 also clearly indicated there were multiple shooters:
“One of the shooters appears to have livestreamed the attack on Facebook (FB). The disturbing video, which has not been verified by CNN, ran for nearly 17 minutes and purportedly shows the gunman walking into a mosque and opening fire.”
Why did CNN report multiple shooters so early in the coverage of this event? If this was not the case, and there is only one shooter, then how could a news agency at large and well-resourced as CNN (or any other large outlet for that matter) misreport a detail so crucial to what is clearly the world’s biggest story?
Not just guns in the shooter’s car, but also IED’s as well, one of which was deactivated by police and which was said to be attached to the “suspects” (plural – according to Washington Post) vehicle.
“New Zealand police said they arrested three people in connection with the shootings. Authorities consider Brenton Harrison Tarrant, an Australian national, the primary suspect.”
UPDATE: According to Police, 2 other suspects arrested, one man and one woman, appear to not have been involved in the shooting. The female has been released, but the male suspect remains in custody and a possible unrelated charge for unlawful possessing of a firearm. A fourth armed suspected was arrested whilst helping school children to safety. Police do not believe that either of these additional 3 suspects were involved in the incident.
Watch the following report by Nine News Australia which shows some brief clips from the shooter’s infamous Facebook live stream of his rampage:
Political Outcome: More Gun Control
Multiple guns are said to have been used in this attack, including two semi-automatic weapons and two shotguns, totally some five different firearms altogether.
In her statement to the press, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated that the suspect was “the offender was in possession of a gun license. I can tell you one thing right now – our gun laws will change.”
Not long after, it was announced that New Zealand will ban semi-automatic weapons. See the full details of New Zealand’s new gun control proposal here.
Parkland Student Flown in from US to Help Agitate for Gun Control
As part of the political reaction to the Christchurch Attack,the gun control issue has been elevated again.
In July 2018, student activists from the US were deployed to New Zealand to help generate media coverage for gun control issue. Reports state that some 28 students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, USA, spent a week with New Zealand’s “Student Volunteer Army,” which was set up following the Christchurch earthquake in 2011. According to reports, Parkland survivors are coming “to share their experiences of living through a tragedy.” Student Volunteer Army president Josh Blackmore, told Morning Report that the high school students ‘were inspiring’ and that they were looking forward to welcoming them.
This part of a global effort: “More than 800 protests were planned throughout the United States and abroad, with solidarity events taking place in Edinburgh, London, Geneva, Sydney and Tokyo.”
Why was New Zealand chosen as a venue for the 2018 Parkland campaign?
The Parkland School Shooting took place approximately one year ago in February 2018, numerous students killed and injured. But the tragedy quickly descended into a media-driven political campaign with accusations of astroturfing with critics accusing Democratic Party operatives and media outlets like CNN and MSNBC of using the students to help register Democratic Party voters for the upcoming 2018 Midterm Elections in the US.
Links to Fascists in Ukraine?
In addition to the confusion about multiple arrests, there are also competing narratives in the media about which extremist camp which protagonist Tarrant belongs to. Most media outlets are framing Tarrant as a “White Supremacist” due to the symbolism which has appeared in a loose collection of extremist writings, internet ranting, free association comments, and images – in what the media are calling a “manifesto”.
Archive of now deleted twitter account of New Zealand "white genocide" mosque terrorist Brenton Tarrant: https://t.co/rYfPbYGmpX
Full manifesto: https://t.co/PoDdfnf68j
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 15, 2019
Predictably, CNN’s Don Lemon and Max Boot were pinning the blame on Donald Trump.
His weapon was scrawled with neo-Nazi symbols and the names of white right-wing extremists who had killed others because of their ethnicity or faith. A manifesto released online laid his motivations out to bare: to kill Muslim immigrants. Seven other people were killed at another mosque nearby, bringing the toll of the two attacks to 49 people, a brutal act of terrorism that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”
However, a closer look into the symbolism in his paraphernalia reveals a real possibility of connections to right-wing fascist militant groups based in Ukraine – part of the same NeoNazi and fascist movement which was given political and material backing by the Obama Administration and John McCain in order to help carry out Washington’s violent coup in Kiev in February 2014. In this scenario, it’s possible that Tarrant could have been radicalized overseas and also online.
Apparently, Tarrant also made the reference “For Rotherham” on his ammunition clips (pictured above), a nod to the UK town of which was the sight of the ‘Rotherham Asian Grooming‘ sex abuse scandal, one of the stories championed by infamous British right-wing political actor Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon). Other references to right-wing criminal folklore were also made.
Top ranked US talk radio host Rush Limbaugh has attempted to flip this theory, claiming that Tarrant is a leftist agitator trying to discredit the right:
“There’s an ongoing theory that the shooter himself may in fact be a leftist who writes the manifesto and then goes out and performs the deed purposely to smear his political enemies, knowing he’s going to get shot in the process.”
Shades of Breivik
More than any other single mass shooting or terrorist event in recent years, the Christchurch event closely resembles the 2011 Norway Massacre carried out by right-wing Mason, Templar and Christian Zionist, Anders Breivik (Note: Breivik was also linked to Tommy Robinson, see here and here) were he massacred 77 members of Norway’s Young Labour Party at a Workers’ Youth League (AUF) summer camp (Note that Young Labor were dedicated supporters of Palestinian at that time and opposed the Israeli occupation).
Just like Breivik’s 2012 Norway Attack, Tarrant’s Christchurch event also featured two separate venues on the same day.
In addition, both men are said to have prepared a manifesto before their operations. In Tarrant’s 74-page document posted online, he claims to want to create “an atmosphere of fear” which would incite Muslims and trigger a right-wing counter-reactions, but then turns to say “CONSERVATISM IS DEAD, THANK GOD.” This is just one of the many nonsensical twists and turns in this seemingly incoherent ‘manifesto.’ The document also pays homage to American Dylann Roof and other mass shooters, and seemed to infer that Tarrant himself had had received Breivik’s “blessing” for this latest mass shooting and terrorist attack in Christchurch.
As 21WIRE reported back in 2011, the Norway Massacre was a catalyst for extremist right-wing fascism and terrorism, and that future extremists like Tarrant would indeed be inspired by the bravado of Breivik.
It should be noted also that in the case of Breivik, his initial processing and police interview was held in secret and not recorded, and therefore no public record of what was said can be analyzed. Similarly with the Christchurch Shooting, hearings on the Saturday were held in closed session with Judge Paul Keller denying any open, public access, supposedly “in the interest of safety” — an unusual move for New Zealand courts.
Many of the high-profile mass shootings and terror attacks in recent years have featured a leading actor who was a “known wolf” – some one who was already ‘on the radar’ of the security services as a known extremist or informant, as opposed to a merely a lone wolf. This does not appear to be the case in Christchurch. According to reports, authorities in both Australia and New Zealand did not have Tarrant listed on any counter-terrorism watch list, despite the currently theory that he was planning the attack for several years.