And who might that symbol be? Read on …
New Zealand has a reputation—unmatched beauty, adventurous, filled with eclectic animals, people concerned about the environment, and lots of sheep—but despite its being on the far side of the world from the hotbeds of white nationalism, events on Friday morning showed that no nation is safe from the destructive power of murderous white radicals.
That’s how Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos Staff led off with his post in the Daily Kos, New Zealand shooter called Donald Trump ‘a symbol of white identity’ as he murdered 49 people.
At least 49 people have died in an attack on two mosques in the city of Christchurch. Dozens more were wounded or otherwise injured. And there’s absolutely no doubt about the cause of this sickening event. Because one of the killers livestreamed it to Facebook, while delivering a white-power manifesto about his hatred for “invaders.” This does not appear to be the act of a “lone gunman,” but a coordinated, planned slaughter staged to catch worshipers at their morning prayers. In addition to the alleged gunman, police have detained at least two others, and reports indicate that one of them was found with a number of explosive devices. Even the awful total so far may not have been close to what was intended in this racist attack.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has issued an official response, saying, “The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch.” And, of course, she provided New Zealanders with the same assistance that has so often been extended to American victims in similar mass-murders: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” What’s not in Sander’s statement is any hint about why this happened. Nothing about the hate for Muslims that she, her party, and especially her boss have carefully nurtured. Nothing about the global spread of white nationalism that has seen a rise of hate crimes across America and Europe.
This morning, Donald Trump finally followed up with a tweet providing “My warmest sympathy and best wishes,” because apparently someone told him not to say thoughts and prayers. But what was the tweet that Trump delivered just before that one? While the shooting was underway, Trump was tweeting out a link to the nationalist outlet Breitbart. Before that was a tweet about how he was looking forward to vetoing the repeal of his emergency declaration so he could stop “Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking” from flowing into the United States. In other words … keep out the invaders.
Which is no coincidence. As part of his rant, the livestreaming shooter called Donald Trump a “symbol of white identity and common purpose."
John Cassidy (New Yorker) calls for action: It’s Time to Confront the Threat of Right-Wing Terrorism. Here is some of his column.
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, the twenty-eight-year-old Australian who allegedly carried out a racially motivated gun massacre, in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, appeared in court on Saturday morning and was charged with one count of murder. According to a report from the New Zealand Herald, Tarrant “appeared in white prison clothing, with manacled hands, and barefoot. He smirked when media photographed him in the dock, flanked by two police officers.” He didn’t enter a plea and was remanded in custody. The court hearing, at the Christchurch district court, was closed to the public, but the judge allowed some members of the media to report on the proceedings.
As they were taking place, surgeons were still operating on some of the victims of the shootings, which occurred at two mosques, and the confirmed death toll rose to forty-nine. More horrifying eyewitness accounts emerged, and the whole of New Zealand, a remote island nation of about 4.9 million people that had only thirty-five murders in all of 2017, was in a state of deep shock. …
Somewhere along the line, Tarrant got radicalized and became a hateful racist who was consumed by alt-right conspiracy theories and historical nonsense. The manifesto he posted online showed that he was consumed with Australia’s European heritage …
So much for Donald Trump’s absurd response, on Friday, when he was asked whether he thought that white nationalism was a rising threat around the world. “I don’t really,” Trump said. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It’s certainly a terrible thing.” Of course, Trump had good reason to try to minimize the threat from the extreme right. In his manifesto, Tarrant praised Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” while also criticizing his leadership skills. “As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no,” Tarrant wrote.
What can we do about all this? In the face of all the hatred, the violence, and the enabling digital technology, it is easy to feel helpless. But some things can be done. To begin with, as Simon Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, argued in a recent analysis, politicians from all parties, the President included, need to openly acknowledge the scale of the threat represented by right-wing terrorism, and to commit to tackling it in a number of different ways. One obvious step is to beef up the law-enforcement resources devoted to tracking right-wing extremism and investigating possible plots to carry out threats. In addition, the Trump Administration “needs to understand how overheated rhetoric—including the president’s own words—can lead to violence,” Clark wrote.
In addition, the Republican Party must face up to the responsibility it bears for refusing to accept that lax gun laws are another enabling factor for domestic terrorists of all ideological stripes. When Australia tightened its gun laws some years ago, following a gun massacre, New Zealand chose not to follow suit. That was a terrible error. On Saturday, New Zealand’s Attorney General, David Parker, said that the government would now ban semi-automatic weapons of the type that were used in Friday’s attack.
Parker also pointed a finger at the U.S. technology giants, saying, “How can it be right for this atrocity to be filmed by the murderer using a go-pro and live-streamed across the world by social media companies? How can that be right? Who should be held accountable for that?” At the very least, the big tech enterprises—such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter—must redouble their efforts to monitor hate speech on their platforms, take it down rapidly, and ban the people and groups who are spreading it. But, at this stage, it is too dangerous to leave this task to the companies, which, ultimately, are motivated by the desire to maximize traffic on their platforms. It is time for some collective action, also.
All that would be a start.
In this blog I’ve lamented America’s diminished global influence. No longer. The New Zealand shooter’s embrace of President Trump as a symbol of white nationalism proves that words uttered at home have fatal effect abroad.