White Terror Equals Terrorism
It happened during Friday prayers when the mosques would be most crowded. A terrorist called Brenton Tarrant opened fire on innocent people inside two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, a country so peaceful it had a grand total of 35 reported homicides in 2017. With a camera mounted on his head, he broadcast the shooting live on Facebook. For eighteen minutes, people ran for cover before being gunned down, cowering and screaming against the walls in scenes so horrific, it was hard to believe they were real.
When he was done, 49 people were dead and many more were fighting for their lives in hospital.
In the nearly 80-page manifesto that Tarrant uploaded to the internet with several links to ensure not all could be taken down at once, he called himself an “ordinary white man.” At the very outset, the manifesto stated that Muslim invaders showed up in droves at the borders of European countries and with “higher fertility rates” represented a tremendous threat. His goal, he said, was to ensure the “invasion” was stopped. He counts Anders Breivik, the perpetrator of the Norway attacks who murdered 77 people, mostly children in 2011, as one of his inspirations.
To read Tarrant’s document is an exercise in disgust, and his video a play-by-play commentary on what terrorism looks like. And yet, some international reactions to the event reveal just how difficult it is for the Western world to unite around the idea of terrorists being non-Muslim. Least surprising of all however was U.S President Donald Trump’s statement and his refusal to acknowledge that white nationalism was on the rise at all.
On television and online, there has been a great deal of skirting around the issue of describing Tarrant as a “white terrorist” or even a terrorist at all. Some used “extremist,” while others stuck with “gunman,” and most everyone avoided the elephant in the room, which is that the killer called himself a white supremacist. The Daily Mail, one of the Britain’s biggest selling dailies, printed a picture of Tarrant as a little blond-haired three-year-old, suggesting that he was simply misguided and misunderstood.
Then there were the intelligence failures. The attack on the Christchurch and Linwood mosques were well-planned and executed with the assailants having amassed a huge arsenal of weapons, ammunition and even IEDs. Despite the fact that this collection of firepower was being hoarded in one of New Zealand’s largest cities and that New Zealand is part of the five nation intelligence sharing conglomerate known as Project Echelon, Tarrant was completely unknown to intelligence services.
He was able to plan his attack, all the while spewing hatred on various social media accounts. Nobody bothered or cared, not in New Zealand and not in Tarrant’s native Australia. And after the fact, nobody seriously considered it an intelligence failure in the same breath as the ones blamed on non-Western countries when they fail to prevent similar attacks on their soil.
There was also a failure of basic law enforcement that must be addressed. In an interview aired on New Zealand television, one survivor expressed complete shock at the fact that it had taken the police nearly twenty minutes before arriving at the scene in the middle of the city with little traffic. As a result, the gunman enjoyed unfettered access to carry out his plans.
The fact is, despite the increased frequency of attacks by right-wing extremists and white supremacists, the last at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, there does not seem to be much effort made to curb the ability of such groups organize, to amass weapons and attract support online. Compared to the billion-dollar terror industrial complex in place to carry out constant surveillance against Muslims, little or no resources are in place to address this rising threat. This is despite the fact that more people are killed by right-wing violence in the Unites States than by Muslim extremism, according to the Anti-defamation League.
World media, especially in the Middle East and South Asia must make the effort to call these terrorist attacks exactly what they are: examples of white supremacist terror carried out by white supremacist terrorists. All terrorism must be treated equally. No matter what right-wing voices in international media suggest, this was not another misguided or mentally ill white man who lost his way. Brenton Tarrant is a terrorist who carried out a well-planned slaughter in the middle of the day without mercy and without granting his victims a shred of dignity. He deserves none in the stories we tell of him.