Editor’s note: This article includes a December 28, 2020, addendum with key new details from the December 2020 report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch attacks.

Abstract: In the space of 36 minutes on March 15, 2019, it is alleged that Brenton Tarrant, an Australian far-right extremist, fatally shot 51 people in two mosques in Christchurch in the deadliest terrorist attack in New Zealand’s history. What was unique about Tarrant’s attack—at least insofar as extreme-right terrorism is concerned—is that he livestreamed his atrocity on Facebook and in doing so, highlighted the Achilles heel of such platforms when faced with the viral dissemination of extremely violent content.

On March 15, 2019, at approximately 1:40 PM local time, Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian gym trainer with no previous criminal history1 who was active on extreme-right internet forums, entered the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he allegedly shot dead 42 people. Exiting the mosque, he allegedly shot another person on the pavement before driving the short distance to Linwood mosque where he allegedly continued his killing spree. In the space of 36 minutes, Tarrant allegedly killed 49 people. Two more subsequently died of their wounds, bringing the death toll to 51.2 New Zealand, which until this point had experienced terrorism as a “latent” threat rather than a “lived reality,”3 suffered the single largest loss of life to terrorism in its history.

On June 13, 2019, Tarrant, who is currently facing 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder, and one charge of engaging in a terrorist act, pleaded not guilty to all charges in relation to the Christchurch mosque shootings. Thus, despite the attack being livestreamed on Facebook, the following details are considered allegations based on press reports, which, at the time of writing in June 2019, are yet to be proven in court. Tarrant’s trial, currently estimated to take six weeks, is scheduled to begin on May 4, 2020.4 In the interim, the New Zealand government has launched a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the attacks, headed by Sitting Supreme Court Justice Sir William Young, which will report on December 10, 2019. Its remit is to investigate the perpetrator, the accessibility of semi-automatic weapons, his use of social media and international connections, and any missed opportunities by the intelligence and security services to prevent the massacre.5

Potential intelligence failures are likely to be a key focus of the inquiry. Asked if he had confidence in New Zealand’s intelligence apparatus, Andrew Little, the government minister in charge of the intelligence agencies, stated that “until there’s a very microscopic look at what the agencies have been doing, and whether they’ve missed anything, I can’t say for certain.” Monitoring extreme-right activity does not appear to have been a priority, however. It is not mentioned in any of New Zealand’s Security and Intelligence Agency annual reports from 2001 onward, and Little conceded that the Agency had only begun conducting a “base line review” of extreme-right activity in mid-2018. “I don’t know how far they’d got,” he stated.6

While awaiting the conclusion of both the inquiry and Tarrant’s own trial, this article seeks to draw together some of the major threads of what is known so far.

The Christchurch Terrorist Attacks
Somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes before the first mosque was attacked, Tarrant, logged on to the /pol/section of 8chan, an image board popular with the extreme right. As an anonymous user, Tarrant announced himself with a post entitled “*ahem*.” It read: “Well lads, it’s time to stop shitposting and time to make a real life effort post. I will carry out and [sic] attack against the invaders, and will even live stream the attack via facebook.” He then allegedly posted the link to his account (Brenton.tarrant.9), which was subsequently removed. “By the time you read this I should be going live.” The post was also a farewell and indicated that he had been a frequent user of the platform. “I have provided links to my writings below, please do your part spreading my message, making memes and shitposting as you usually do. If I don’t survive the attack, goodbye, godbless and I will see you all in Valhalla!”7

The link to his ‘writings’—which directed users toward several file-sharing/storage sites—referred to his 74-page manifesto, “The Great Replacement,” in which he set out his ideology, rationale, and self-justification for the impending atrocity. Tarrant emailed a copy of the manifesto to the generic email account of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the opposition leader, the speaker of the parliament, and approximately 70 media outlets. The email informed them that its sender was about to commit a massacre, and though the authorities were immediately alerted, there was “nothing in the content or timing that would have been able to prevent the attack,” a spokesman for the Prime Minister asserted.8

Meanwhile, as he had promised his fellow 8chan users, Tarrant had begun filming himself using the Facebook Live application as he got into his car to drive to his first target. “Let’s get this party started,” he said, talking directly to the viewer.9 Arriving at the Al Noor mosque at 1:41 PM, Tarrant donned a helmet-mounted GoPro camera (originally designed for extreme athletes), entered the building, and went room-to-room, killing 42 worshippers, returning to his car midway through the massacre to retrieve a second weapon. Upon exiting the building, he shot and killed an injured woman on the pavement outside before driving away.10 At 1:50 PM, he was still driving, talking about what he had just done when his livestream cut out. Undeterred, Tarrant pulled up outside the Linwood mosque where he allegedly killed another seven people.11 Two more would later succumb to their wounds, bringing the death toll to 51.12 Tarrant appears to have planned a third attack—his manifesto mentions a “bonus objective”—at the Asburton mosque, a former church converted into a mosque in 2017, which he described as a “desecration.” He doubted, however, that he would reach this “target.”13 He did not. Police rammed his car and detained him 18 minutes after receiving the first 111 call.14 Within 36 minutes, Tarrant had committed the worst mass shooting in New Zealand in 30 years.a

Tarrant, originally from the northern New South Wales city of Grafton, described himself as coming from a “working class, low income” family, enjoying a regular childhood “without any great issues.”15 He had “little interest in education” and barely achieved a “passing grade.”16 Between 2009 and 2011, Tarrant worked at the Big River Squash and Fitness Centre in his hometown, having attended the facility as a high school student.17 He worked on its program offering free training to kids in the community. He was “very passionate about that,” remarked the gym’s owner.18 He then left to go traveling in Europe and Asia on a trip apparently funded by an investment in the cryptocurrency Bitconnect.19 Having returned to Australasia, Tarrant settled in New Zealand in 2017,20 though he continued to travel sporadically thereafter.21 “I only arrived to New Zealand to live temporarily whilst I planned and trained,” Tarrant subsequently claimed in his manifesto, “but I soon found out that New Zealand was as target rich of an environment as anywhere else in the west.”22

He joined the Bruce Rifle Club in South Otago, some 45 kilometers south of Dunedin on New Zealand’s South island where he had lived alone.23 At the time of his arrest, he owned five guns—including two semi-automatic weapons, two shotguns, and a lever-action firearm—four of which he purchased through a police-verified online mail order process,24 on which he had scrawled numerous historical and political references (discussed later). Tarrant had obtained the weapons legally and held a Category A firearms license, granted in November 2017, allowing him to obtain any number of sporting rifles and shotguns.25 He appears to have illegally modified at least one of the semi-automatic rifles into a military-style weapon (which requires a much harder to obtain Category E license) through the simple expediency of purchasing high-capacity magazines, which can hold up to 100 rounds, instead of the legal limit of seven rounds allowed for Category A licensed firearms.26 Tarrant also appears to have had some proficiency with explosives. As the police took him into custody, it was reported that the military had defused at least one improvised explosive device (IED) [see author’s note at the end of the article] found in his car.27

Digital technology was an integral and integrated component of Tarrant’s attack. His video was not so much a medium for his message insomuch as it was the message, even more so than his actual manifesto. As Jason Burke observed, the central point of his attack was not just to kill Muslims, “but to make a video of someone killing Muslims.”28 Tarrant visually choreographed his attack, filming the atrocity using a GoPro camera,29 which gave the footage the quality of a first-person ‘shoot ‘em up.’ ‘Terrorism as theater’ became terrorism as video game. Tarrant, who according to a relative had a “severe addiction” to video games,30 had peppered his manifesto with in-jokes about them: Spyro: Year of the Dragon “taught me ethnonationalism” while Fortnite “trained me to be a killer,” he mocked, “and to floss on the corpses of my enemies”—the ‘floss’ being a dance move sometimes performed by Fortnite characters. Prior to getting out of his car, Tarrant told those following his livestream, “Remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie”31—a reference to Felix Kjellberg, a highly popular online gaming personality from Sweden whose YouTube channel currently has nearly 97 million subscribers.

This gamification of mass murder was not new. Jihadis have used it extensively as part of what Burke has termed the “selfie jihad.”32 The Magnanville terrorist attack in France in June 2016, in which a jihadi murdered two police officers in their home, incorporated livestream into the aftermath of the attacks,33 while several other jihadi attackers, notably Mohamed Merah,34 Mehdi Nemmouche,35 and Amedy Coulibaly,36 also sought to film their crimes. The Islamic State itself, perhaps desirous of greater editorial control over its narrative, has been rather more reticent to embrace livestreaming.37

While Tarrant’s use of such livestreaming technology indicated a migration of such tactics from jihadism to the extreme right, its adoption had already been germinating for some time in retrospect. Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik—in the early stages of his attack planning—had originally intended to behead Norway’s former prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland on Utøya island in 2011. Breivik had desired to film the killing using an iPhone and upload the footage to YouTube, but his plan stalled when he was unable to purchase an iPhone, he later testified.b Breivik subsequently detonated a bomb in central Oslo, killing eight, before murdering a further 69 people at a Workers’ Youth League summer camp on Utøya on July 22, 2011.38

Similarly, Elliot Rodger, an incel (‘involuntary celibate’) who blamed women for his own sexual failure and social isolation, murdered six people and injured 14 more during a misogyny-fueled massacre in Isla Vista, California, in May 2014. Having just killed three men, Rogers paused to upload a video to YouTube entitled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution” in which he railed against women before driving to a nearby sorority house where he killed two and injured a third who were standing outside the building. Thereafter, he killed another man at random during a shooting spree before taking his own life.39

Extreme-right activists have regularly utilized livestream, albeit in other contexts. Militias on the U.S.-Mexico border have integrated it into their activities, transforming their confrontations with migrants and refugees into a form of “reality TV.”40 Tarrant’s atrocity was the first time, however, that an actual terrorist attack has been filmed via livestream.

In filming his rampage and posting it online, Tarrant grasped intuitively that digital technology could and would amplify his murderous message, ensuring its projection far beyond the cloistered confines of the 8chan sub-thread on which it originated. Under 200 people watched the ongoing carnage as it unfolded during Tarrant’s live broadcast. None of these individuals reported the video to Facebook, which received its first user report 29 minutes after the video started, and 12 minutes after the live broadcast ended. Including the views the live broadcast received, the video was viewed approximately 4,000 times before Facebook removed it from its site.41 The video quickly went viral, however. Indeed, as one commentator noted, “the New Zealand massacre was lives-treamed on Facebook, announced on 8chan, reposted on YouTube, commentated about on Reddit, and mirrored around the world before the tech companies could even react.”42

Following the Magnanville attacks, CTC Sentinel had highlighted concerns that an actual attack might one day be broadcast live on the internet, asking Brian Fishman, who manages Facebook’s global counterterrorism policy, in September 2017 as to the kind of mechanisms in place to prevent this. “It’s a scenario we certainly worry about,” Fishman stated:

“We have extensive procedures in place to make sure live broadcasts do not violate our terms of service, including specialized enforcement and review teams monitoring Facebook Live. Algorithms, again, play a role in identifying concerning video, but we also work to make sure our operations team has the appropriate tooling. All this allows us to keep tabs on Facebook Live and content that is going viral. None of it is perfect, so we will continue to work to improve.”43

Tarrant’s terrorist attack highlighted how easily such systems could be overwhelmed. Indeed, Facebook subsequently conceded that it could have prioritized Tarrant’s video for “accelerated review” if it had been reported by a user. Additionally, because the video was eventually reported but “for reasons other than suicide … it was handled according to different procedures,” thereby illuminating a fundamental flaw in its moderating systems.44 The video quickly spread around the world.45 In total, Facebook removed about 1.5 million videos of the attack globally within the first 24 hours, blocking 1.2 million of these attempts automatically at the point of upload and thereby preventing its viewing. The additional 300,000 copies were removed after they were posted.46

YouTube was also overwhelmed as users repackaged and re-cut footage of the killings in a bid to outsmart the platform’s detection systems. The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) hashedc more than 800 visually distinct versions of the video, for instance.47 YouTube struggled to cope with the scale of the traffic. Tens of thousands of such videos were uploaded to YouTube’s platform, at a rate of one per second, in the hours immediately after the shootings, according to its chief product officer, Neal Mohan.48 As well as terminating hundreds of accounts used to glorify the shooter, Washington Post journalists observed that the Google-owned company had taken the “unprecedented” step of temporarily disabling several search functions. This including the ability to sort or filter searches by upload date (which limited the ability to discover and view such content while its teams worked to remove it) and suspending its own human review system altogether to speed up the removal of videos flagged by its automated systems.49

The New Zealand authorities resorted to legislation to stem the videos’ dissemination. The government’s Chief Censor, David Shanks, officially classified the full-unexpurgated 17-minute video as “objectionable.”50 Under the terms of the Films, Videos & Publications Act (1993), possessing or disseminating Tarrant’s video became a criminal offense, publishable by a maximum $10,000 fine, if you were unaware it was prohibited, or up to 14 years in jail if you were aware it was “objectionable.” New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, also requested that Facebook notify the police of the names of users sharing such content, though Facebook demurred, stating that it only usually did so when there was “something like an imminent threat of violence.”51

Several individuals were subsequently arrested, notably New Zealand white supremacist Philip Nevile Arps, previously convicted for doing Hitler salutes while delivering a box of pigs’ heads and offal to the Al Noor mosque.52 Arps was jailed for 21 months in June 2019, after pleading guilty to sharing the footage on Facebook the day after the killings—sending it to one friend asking for a “kill count” to be added.53 A Christchurch teenager and a school-aged child are also separately facing prosecution for distributing “objectionable” material and, in the case of the teenager, other online messaging involving the incitement of extreme violence.54

Further afield, at least seven British men and women in the Greater Manchester area were arrested in the wake of the attacks on suspicion either of making criminally offensive comments on social media or racially aggravated public order offenses, referencing Christchurch.55 Likewise, two Canadian extreme-right activists are also currently under investigation in relation to Tarrant’s manifesto, one for having uploaded it, together with his own commentary, and another for allegedly listing “good targets” to attack in Canada.56 Others sought to perpetuate Tarrant’s message by alternative means, which in one instance included a popular far-right YouTube personality simply reading the manifesto to his 600,000 subscribers and thereby transforming it into an audiobook. It was available for two days and gained tens of thousands of views before YouTube took it down.57

One of Tarrant’s strategic goals, outlined in his manifesto, was “to incite violence, retaliation and further divide between the European people and the invaders currently occupying European soil.” There is certainly anecdotal evidence that his attacks contributed to a spike in violence and harassment of Muslims, albeit not on the scale he had hoped. In Britain, Tell Mama, a charity that tracks anti-Muslim hate crime, reported 95 incidents, both online and offline, between March 15 and March 21, 2019, of which 85 (89 percent) directly referenced the Christchurch attacks.58 Tarrant’s attacks also fueled a surge in anti-Muslim hatred online. It was reportedly “rampant” on forums like Reddit in the days and weeks afterwards. “If 8chan was the shooter’s firewood, Facebook the match, and YouTube the oxygen, Reddit is a place where the fire he set is still smouldering,” commented one journalist.59 More positively, Reddit did ban one of the main channels used to disseminate such footage—its notorious ‘r/watchpeopledie’ sub-forum in which users could watch graphic footage of death—after monitoring its users becoming “extremely active” in seeking out Tarrant’s video and sharing mirrored links to it via direct messaging.60

“The Great Replacement”
Tarrant’s manifesto, entitled “The Great Replacement,” opened with an interview with himself, narrating his journey from an “ordinary” everyday man to, as he termed it, a “kebab removalist”—an opaque reference to the “Remove Kebab” song, also known as “Serbia Strong,” that was popular with Bosnian Serb paramilitaries. Symbolically, the song was playing in the background as Tarrant drove to Christchurch.61 The remainder of the manifesto, laden with in-jokes and disinformation, he sub-divided into two parts, the first an “address to various groups” whom he belittled or threatened, while in the second he gave his “general thoughts and potential strategies.” Much of this section was standard extreme right-wing boilerplate revolving around his central theme of ethnic, cultural, and racial “replacement,” which he perceived to be resulting from immigration and demographic change.

Given the anti-Muslim nature of Tarrant’s terrorism, his manifesto has less to say about Islam than one might expect. While conceding his attack had an anti-Islamic motivation, Tarrant also highlighted its racist, xenophobic, and anti-immigration dimensions. Indeed, while undoubtedly eliding Muslims with immigrants and immigration, it was biology rather than faith that appears to have been an overarching concern. His manifesto contained numerous racialized references to “stock,” “blood,” and racial “science.”62 While Tarrant appropriated the language of the Identitarian movement63 to express his anger at cultural and demographic change, he also oscillated back and forth between this ‘cultural’ racism and more overt white supremacist variants. This was evident in his referencing of the white supremacist “14 words” slogan of David Lane, formerly a leading figure in The Order, a white supremacist terrorist group, both in his manifesto and on his firearm.

Tarrant framed the rationale for his massacre as defensive resistance (“a partisan action against an occupying force”64), a preemptive strike to trigger a much wider racial conflagration in order to prevent “white genocide”65 by accelerating ethnic and racial conflict while the odds were still perceived to be in favor of white majority populations. While Tarrant fantasized about extirpating the presence of immigrants from ‘white’ countries, his fixation on “white genocide,” observed the genocide scholar A. Dirk Moses, also spoke volumes, particularly from an Australian point of view, about the unravelling of masculine settler/colonial mythologies not to mention representing a violent reaction “to the end of white entitlement as the global norm.”66

Whether Tarrant was conscious of it or not, the title of his manifesto, “The Great Replacement,” which encapsulated his fears about white demographic decline, derived from French anti-immigration writer Renaud Camus, to whom the phrase is commonly attributed, though the basic idea has a far longer historical lineage.67 The overwhelming majority of Camus’ work is in French, however, including Le Grand Remplacement (2012).68 It is likely, therefore, that Tarrant encountered the concept mediated through online alt-right and identitarian sub-cultures where it has common currency.69 The phrase itself, like its cruder counterpart “white genocide,” provides a pithy, negative mantra for activists, encapsulating a sense of urgency and a call to arms against a racial and cultural enemy perceived as invader, occupier, and usurper—though the idea that Europe is being inundated by migrants is hardly fringe discourse.

Speaking to journalists in the aftermath of the massacre Camus denounced the attack, stating that “if he [Tarrant] wrote a pamphlet titled ‘The Great Replacement’ it’s blatant plagiarism … of a phrase that doesn’t belong to him and he doesn’t understand … At the centre of my work is the concept of innocence, which is to say, of non-aggravation, non-violence.”70 That said, on March 16, the day after the Christchurch attacks, Camus wrote on Twitter:

“Je m’inquiète beaucoup pour nos amis musulmans. Je pense que par sécurité ils devraient se regrouper dans une vaste forteresse, la “terre d’Islam” (cinquante-sept pays tout de même…), et y vivre en paix selon leurs goûts et selon leur foi, bien protégés contre les déséquilibrés.”71

(I worry a lot for our Muslim friends. I think that for security they should gather in a vast fortress, the “land of Islam” (fifty-seven countries anyway…), and live in peace according to their tastes and according to their faith, well protected against the imbalanced.)

“Why Don’t I Do Something?”
Tarrant presented a mock interview with himself in his manifesto as a means of controlling the media narrative, giving him a ‘voice’ he would be deprived of if either killed or apprehended during the commission of his attack. At the interview’s core was an autobiographical account of his political awakening and personal trajectory toward terrorism. Unlikely to be entirely truthful, many media outlets nonetheless uncritically regurgitated it as gospel. In the case of Daily Mail, the news outlet allowed readers to download the manifesto directly from its own website before removing the embed a short time later, claiming that publication of the manifesto was “an error and swiftly corrected.”72

As Tarrant told it, the path toward his impending atrocity began in April 2017 while he traveled through Western Europe, with a chain of events that convinced him “that a violent revolutionary solution” was “the only possible solution to our current crisis.” Inviting readers to consider their own experiences and motivations in light of his own, Tarrant wrote angrily about the murder of Ebba Åkkerlund, an 11-year-old Swedish girl killed in Stockholm on April 7, 2017, by Uzbek jihadi Rakhmat Akilov. Her killing “broke through my own jaded cynicism like a sledgehammer,” Tarrant claimed in his manifesto.73

Two years later, Tarrant painted her name on two of the rifles he used in his massacre. Posing as Åkkerlund’s avenging angel was riddled with contradictions not least of which was his own transformation into a child killer, his youngest victim being a three-year-old boy. While railing against child sexual exploitation in his manifesto, it was also striking Tarrant would choose to announce his impending attack on 8chan, a forum whose users have shared graphic images of children and links to child pornography.74

The second critical event he narrated was the defeat of Marine Le Pen’s Front National (FN) in the 2017 French presidential election, which took place between April 23 and May 7. Despite having a deleterious opinion of the FN (described as “milquetoast”), Tarrant appears to have believed that she would win. Her defeat was a shock, signaling to Tarrant that hopes for a nationalist political victory were over. “The truth of the political situation in Europe was suddenly impossible to accept. My despair set in. My belief in a democratic solution vanished.”75

The third and final vignette Tarrant presented was an account of his travels through eastern France where he claimed to have discovered a people that were a “minority” in their own land, their identity and culture diminished by immigration. Describing his emotions as swinging “between fuming rage and suffocating despair” as he pondered the supposed hopelessness of the situation, Tarrant related his visit to a military cemetery and its fields full of white crosses stretching “seemingly without end, into the horizon.” Juxtaposing their heroic sacrifice against the country’s conquest by an “invasion” of immigrants, Tarrant narrated the experience: “I broke into tears, sobbing alone in the car, staring at the crosses, at the forgotten dead.” This tableau was supposedly catalytic. “[M]y despair turned to shame, my shame to guilt, my guilt to anger and my anger to rage … The spell broke, why don’t I do something?”76

Ideological Inspirations?
Tarrant’s manifesto listed multiple ideological influences, some more serious than others. “For once, the person that will be called a fascist is an actual fascist,” Tarrant declared. He proclaimed that Sir Oswald Mosley (1896-1980), erstwhile leader of the British Union of Fascists “is the person from history closest to my beliefs,” though there was little in his manifesto to suggest any particular familiarity with Mosley’s ideas. Tarrant’s eye-catching claim to be an “eco-fascist” was similarly shallow, entailing little more than a simplistic repackaging of immigration as an environmental issue vis-à-vis overpopulation.77 There was scant engagement with the ecological philosophies of the contemporary or historical extreme right.78

Tarrant juxtaposed these claims against the statement that communist China (hardly a flagship for environmentalism) was the nation with “the closet political and social values to my own,” which, while probably tongue-in-check, was not wholly incongruous considering his subsequent comment that China was set to become the world’s dominant nation “while lacking diversity.” Other statements, however, such as Candace Owens, an African-American conservative commentator, being “the person who has influenced me above all” were seemingly mischievous attempts to mislead, mock, or sow discord.79

Though Tarrant acknowledged reading the ‘manifesto’ of Dylann Roof, who murdered nine African-American worshippers at a Charleston church in 2015, he was keen to claim that he “only really took true inspiration from Knight Justiciar [Anders] Breivik.” In another passage, he stated fancifully that he had contacted the “reborn” Knights Templar organization, which Breivik claimed to have founded, “for a blessing in support of the attack, which was given.”80 This was likely untrue. The Knights Templar organization was a figment of Breivik’s imagination, and given the prison authorities’ tight control of Breivik’s correspondence with the outside world, there was little chance Tarrant had interacted with his idol, though it is possible he wrote to him.

There were similarities and differences in the two attacks, suggesting that Tarrant had studied Breivik’s modus operandi and learned from it. While Breivik had spent years planning his attack and intended his manifesto as a training manual—indeed, he discusses at length how he prepared for his attacks—Tarrant was light on such detail, stating simply that he had planned his attack for roughly two years and had chosen Christchurch only three months beforehand. Despite claiming to have had the “resources” to conduct any number of different attacks, including a “TATP filled rental van,” Tarrant chose, or more likely was constrained to choose, firearms.81 He did so, he claimed, “for the affect [sic] it would have on social discourse” as well as the “extra media coverage they would provide,” though his claim that this would serve to polarize the gun control debate in the United States and detonate a wider conflict82 was either trolling or else delusional. More presciently, however, Tarrant understood his attack would have an immediate impact on gun ownership in New Zealand, claiming “their loss was inevitable. I just accelerated things a bit.”83 On April 10, 2019, less than a month after the tragedy, New Zealand’s parliament voted 119-1 in favor of a gun reform bill that banned military-style, semi-automatic weapons.84

There were also obvious differences in their targeting strategies. Breivik had wanted to make a grand ideological gesture by murdering those he saw as “traitors”85 responsible for Norway’s supposed prostration rather than immigrants themselves, though ultimately this entailed him murdering 33 teenagers on Utøya, two of whom were under 14 years of age. This severely curtailed the appeal of his actions within the broader extreme-right milieu.86 Tarrant, meanwhile, was less ‘revolutionary’ in his aims since he was not attacking state structures or those perceived to be future political leaders. Instead, he aimed to massacre Muslims, which, in contrast to Breivik, he believed would only enhance his status. “Attacking them receives the greatest level of support,” he predicted.87 While Breivik tried, unsuccessfully, to avoid the label of child killer, Tarrant made no apology for seeking to become one. Nonetheless, he framed his terrorism as an altruistic act, removing the burden of responsibility from the shoulders of future generations:

“Children of invaders do not stay children, they become adults and reproduce, creating more invaders to replace your people … Any invader you kill, of any age, is one less enemy your children will have to face. Would you rather do the killing or leave it to your children? Your grandchildren?”88

There were notable difference in their two manifestos, too. At 74-pages long, the comparative brevity of Tarrant’s manifesto made it far more manageable than Breivik’s sprawling 1,516-page compendium. He claimed to have distilled this from a much larger 240-page document, which he had deleted. The manifesto was of secondary importance, however. “I will let my actions speak for themselves,” Tarrant wrote.89 This cannot have been entirely true, however, since Tarrant still desired to communicate his views—even if “half finished”90—to a wider public, hence in further mimicry of Breivik, he had emailed a copy to several leading political figures, including the prime minister, and nearly 70 media outlets, before embarking upon his attack.91

A sign is seen on March 16, 2019, after the mosque attacks outside a community center near Masjid Al Noor in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Jorge Silva /Reuters)

Recycling the Past for the Present
If Tarrant’s manifesto was largely a narrative of victimhood, the words he scrawled on his arsenal signified vengeance. His weapons provided a visual litany of historical episodes in which Christendom and the Ottoman Empire ranged against one another. This might also be interpreted as Tarrant’s effort to situate his actions within this broader arc of historical struggle against an enemy that was once more ‘at the gates’—as they had been, from the perspective of Christian Europe, in Vienna in 1683, a date inevitably memorialized on one of his guns. These also contained references to figures like Ernst Rudiger Starhemberg, the military commander during the siege of Vienna, and Charles Martel, the Frankish military leader credited with turning the tide of Umayyad conquest at Tours in 732, a date also etched on one weapon. Numerous other dates of perceived significance received their due, denoting Tarrant’s belief that a racial war had been raging since time immemorial. These coexisted alongside contemporary references. “Here’s [your] Migration Compact!” read another slogan, referencing the United Nations’ Global Compact on Migration, signed in December 2018.92 Photos of his clothing, posted on Twitter, as well as the front cover of his manifesto prominently featured the Sonnenrad/Schwarz Sonne (Sun Wheel/Black Sun), as well as two dog tags, one depicting a Celtic Cross, the other a Slavic Kolovrat, all popular symbols within extreme-right counter cultures.93

When and where such historical events entered his consciousness is unknowable, but following the death of his father in 2010,94 Tarrant traveled a great deal to the Balkans. After visiting Greece and Turkey in 2016,95 he took a bus across Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina in late December of the same year. He visited Bulgaria in November 2017, reportedly visiting several historic battlegrounds involving conflict with the Ottoman army, as well as spending time in Hungary.96 He also reportedly visited the United Kingdom in 2017, too, though this remains unconfirmed.97

The Self-Referential Nature of Extreme-Right Terrorism
Tarrant’s weapons also paid homage to past perpetrators of extreme-right violence, providing visual testimony to the interconnectivity and self-referential nature of such terrorism. A New York Times study recently indicated that at least one-third of extreme-right terrorists since 2011 had been inspired by similar perpetrators, revered them, or studied their tactics and modus operandi.98

Tarrant exemplified this trend. On the grip of one gun, he painted the name Alexandre Bissonette,99 sentenced to 40 years in jail without parole in February 2019 for murdering six people in a Quebec mosque in 2017.100 On the weapon’s stock, he had written Anton Lundin-Pettersson,101 who killed three with a sword during a racist attack at a school in Trollhätten, Sweden, in 2015. Emblazoned on an ammunition clip, together with another reference to Bissonette, was Luca Traini,102 sentenced to 12 years in October 2018 for shooting six African migrants in the Italian city of Macerata in 2017.103 The same clip featured the slogan “For Rotherham”104—highlighting the importance of this high-profile child sexual exploitation scandal105 for the extreme right, which had also played a role in galvanizing another anti-Muslim terrorist, Darren Osbourne, to drive a van into worshippers outside London’s Finsbury Park mosque.106

Painted on the same ammunition clip was the name Josué Estébanez, a former Spanish soldier and extreme-right activist who had murdered a teenage anti-fascist, Carlos Palomino, on the Madrid subway in 2007. Largely unknown to the wider public, Estébanez is a cult figure within the extreme-right milieu, not least because CCTV footage of his killing circulates online. He was given a 26-year prison sentence.107

Tarrant denied membership to any organization or group, though he stated, “I have donated [money] to many nationalist groups” and “have interacted with many more.”108 Some of these transactions and interactions have since become more apparent. In the fall of 2017, Tarrant made four donations totaling €2,200 ($2,248) to Les Identitaires, formerly the Bloc Identitaire, in France.109 In a separate transaction in January 2018, Tarrant donated a further €1,500 ($1,690) to Martin Sellner, the chief ideologue of the Identitären Bewegung Österreich (IBÖ, Identitarian Movement Austria).110 Sellner, who exchanged emails with Tarrant,111 admitted directing him to his English-language YouTube videos, but denied any further involvement or inspiration for the attack, and there is no suggestion that he had advance knowledge of it. It subsequently emerged, however, that Sellner had not simply ‘passively’ received a donation from Tarrant (he originally claimed their communication was limited to a brief thank-you) but had corresponded with him until July 2018.112 Indeed, he thanked Tarrant effusively for his “incredible donation,” gave him his personal email address, and suggested to Tarrant that if he was ever in Austria, they should meet for a “coffee or a beer.”113 Tarrant responded, “The same is true for you, if you ever come to Australia or New Zealand. We have people in both countries who would like to welcome you to their home.”114

Tarrant did indeed visit Austria later that year, arriving from Hungary on November 27, 2018, before traveling onward to Estonia on December 4, 2018. He had booked his rental car and accommodations one day after his last email exchange with Sellner.115 So far, however, no evidence has publicly emerged to suggest he and Sellner met or that Tarrant had any “personal contacts to extremist persons or organizations” in Austria, according to the then Interior Minister Herbert Kickl.116 Following the revelation that Tarrant had donated monies to Sellner, Austria’s then chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, announced that his government would consider dissolving the IBÖ, though at the time of writing (June 2019) the group continues to operate.117

Sellner subsequently deleted his email exchange with Tarrant 41 minutes before the police raided his Vienna apartment on March 23, 2019, leading to speculation from Austria’s Social Democrats that Sellner had been forewarned about the impending swoop.118 This was a politically contentious accusation given links between the IBÖ and Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ, Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs), which was then part of the ruling coalition in Austria until a corruption scandal involving party leader and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache caused the government to collapse in May 2019.119

United Patriots Front
Tarrant wore many of his influences almost literally on his sleeve, and certainly on his weapons. He was, however, rather more circumspect when it came to discussing those closer to home, not least perhaps because they clashed with the account of his political awakening that he wished to present in his manifesto. Tarrant had been especially enthusiastic about two extreme-right Australian groups, the United Patriots Front (UFP) and the True Blue Crew (TBC), and in particular UFP leader Blair Cottrell who helped establish the group in May 2015 following a split within the larger anti-Muslim organization Reclaim Australia.120 Cottrell, who had convictions for property damage, aggravated burglary, arson, possessing a controlled weapon, failing to comply with court orders, and trafficking in testosterone,121 had not always been straightforwardly anti-Muslim in his political outlook. Under a photograph of Adolf Hitler on social media, he had once commented, “There should be a picture of this man in every classroom and every school, and his book should be issued to every student annually.”122 Tarrant donated money to the UPF, too, though Cottrell fervently denied knowing him. “And you won’t find any evidence to the contrary,” he told journalists.123

UFP social media was transnational in its inspiration, engaging in a “reflexive mimicry” of European and U.S. far-right politicians, which highlighted the group’s subjective positioning and interaction with a broader field of virulent anti-Muslim politicking, far-right ideas, and eschatological narratives, particularly those espoused by the Identitarians.124

Facebook deleted the UPF page in May 2017 at which point it had over 120,000 supporters.125 A subsequent investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in the aftermath of the Christchurch shootings retrieved the metadata, enabling it to reconstruct and verify the erased messages, thereby revealing Tarrant to have been an active user of the UFP and TBC pages. He made some 30 comments over a 10-month period from as early as April 2016. “Knocked it out the park tonight Blair,” Tarrant enthused after watching Cottrell on television. “Your retorts had me smiling, nodding, cheering and often laughing. Never believed we would have a true leader of the nationalist movement in Australia, and especially not so early in the game.” After viewing a live stream of Cottrell and a colleague celebrating the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency in November 2016, Tarrant gushed, “Simply one of the most important events in modern history. Globalists and Marxists on suicide watch, patriots and nationalists triumphant— looking forward to Emperor Blair Cottrell coming soon.”126 While clearly viewing Cottrell as the ‘great white hope,’ Tarrant’s posts were also supportive of UFP violence. “Communists will get what communists get, I would love to be there holding one end of the rope when you gets yours traitor,” he commented following a clash between the UFP and anti-fascists in Coburg, Melbourne, in 2016.127

Tarrant clearly identified with the UPF, posting a menacing Facebook message to a Melbourne man who had criticized the group in August 2016. “The UPF is the leading ethno-nationalist group within Australia … When you speak against the UPF you speak against my right to a home for my people and my culture. This marks you,” Tarrant told the man. He concluded by advising him to “chose your words carefully” and “think of who you insult” before stating, “If you are a nationalist I hope you one day see the light and if you are a Marxist I hope you one day meet the rope.” The recipient reported the threat to the police the following month but did not make a formal statement, telling ABC that police advised him simply to block the threat maker on social media.128

Tarrant last commented on the UFP page in January 2017, expressing support for Cottrell’s impending court appearance.129 Cottrell and two other former UFP members were at the time on trial after staging and filming a mock beheading video outside Bendigo’s council offices in October 2015 to protest the construction of a mosque, a sign of what they argued was the increasing “Islamization of Australia.”130 A judge subsequently found Cottrell and the two other UFP activists guilty of inciting hatred, contempt, and ridicule of Muslims.131 Cottrell is currently appealing his conviction.132 Tarrant was not the only violently inclined figure to have gravitated toward the UFP. In 2016, another activist, Phillip Galea, became the first far-right figure in Australia ever to be charged with a terrorism-related offense after police recovered a bomb-making manual, a proscribed chemical (361 grams of mercury), and a prohibited weapon as well as evidence that he had reconnoitred anarchist and left-wing properties, during a search of his house the previous year.133

Tarrant’s contacts with anti-Muslim groups in his native Australia did not end there. Lads Society president Tom Sewell, a former UFP activist, stated after the Christchurch attack that he had previously tried to recruit Tarrant online to join a project to create a “parallel society” for whites only. Within hours of the attack, Sewell had written on Facebook “this is not a false flag … take my word for it” and that Tarrant “had been in the scene for a while.” Although they had never met, Sewell said that he had approached Tarrant online about possible membership of his society, though Tarrant had declined citing his imminent relocation to New Zealand as the reason. Furthermore, Sewell claimed to have inferred from Tarrant’s comments contemporaneously that Tarrant “didn’t believe there was a peaceful solution to European people being genocided.”134

The ‘Dark Fandom’ of Extreme-Right Terror
Tarrant claimed in his manifesto that “people will forget my motivations quickly and only remember the attack itself.” Given the broader cultural fascination with mass murderers and serial killers, not to mention crime, violence, and death more generally, this was never likely. Indeed, some online communities celebrated and commemorated Tarrant’s politics and person as a form of “dark fandom.”135 Keyboard activists vociferously praised Tarrant as a “hero,” rejoiced in the killings, and took inspiration from them. “Wow. Just finished reading the manifesto,” wrote one Discord user, a chat application favored by video gamers that is also widely used by the far right. “Truly powerful … and I wholeheartedly agree. I will be starting my own contribution to the fight soon, in every way that i can. i will start a group, i will train. i will be part of this if it f[***]ing kills me.”136 To give a sense of the scale of the conversations, whether ‘real’ or mere “s[**]t posting” (i.e., trolling to enrage, misinform, or obfuscate), users of 12 Discord servers posted an estimated 38,932 messages in the first 24 hours following the attack. Administrators of these chat groups raced to delete copious comments glorifying the killings and to ban posts venerating the perpetrator for fear Discord would delete the chat groups for breaching its terms of service.137

Less regulated online communities like 8chan were even less squeamish about valorizing Tarrant’s attacks, users collectively creating and disseminating, as he had hoped that they would, hundreds of memes and other forms of ‘fan’ art exalting the killings and revering him as a cult, religious figure. Tarrant was well aware of the visual power of such memes and the role that their constant production and reproduction played in political acculturation since, as an 8chan user, he had witnessed it firsthand. “Memes have done more for the ethnonationalist movement than any manifesto,” he wrote.138 In some of these memes, internet users have beatified him, figuratively. In one instance, Tarrant’s face and those of five other far-right terrorists were transposed onto images of medieval saints under the slogan “Praise the Saints” and marketed as T-shirts, tote bags, and mugs using an online custom merchandise platform, before the retailer removed them.139 Another anonymous internet user added to this hagiographic iconography by uploading pictures of a fresco (likely Photoshopped), which other internet users dubbed a “Mural of St. Tarrant of Christchurch.”140

Inevitably, there were plenty of ‘real-life’ examples of Tarrant’s influence, too. In Poland photographs emerged of school pupils posing with Confederate flags and a machine gun adorned with anti-Muslim slogans like “Kebab Remover” as Tarrant’s weapons had been.141 Another equally disturbing act of homage was a ‘satirical’ online videogame, which, although launched before Tarrant’s attacks, was updated after the massacre to allow gamers to play as ‘Brent T.’142 Another ‘game,’ which was posted online (in this instance to Facebook)—though subsequently removed—spliced video game action with raw footage of Tarrant’s attacks.143

As Tarrant had taken inspiration from Breivik, so others quickly took inspiration from him, his actions sparking several copycats, as he undoubtedly intended. In Louisville, James Dylan Grimes was arrested on March 22, 2019, after allegedly threatening in a Facebook message that he had been inspired by Tarrant’s attacks to blow up a local school and kill “9,000 kiddies.”144 The following month, the FBI arrested another alleged white supremacist who allegedly had praised Tarrant and discussed his desire to commit violence in Facebook messages to his cousin, charging him with lying to FBI officials about his ownership of firearms.145

Others moved beyond threatening violence to committing it, however. Nine days after the Tarrant’s terrorist attacks, John Earnest, 19, allegedly set fire to the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido, California.146 In the parking lot, he allegedly scrawled graffiti reading “For Brenton Tarrant … ”147 Thereafter, on April 27, 2019, Earnest allegedly entered the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in Poway, California, and opened fire using a .223 AR semi-automatic rifle purchased the previous day, killing an elderly female worshipper and wounding three others.148 In a similar vein to Tarrant, Earnest had allegedly been “lurking for a year and a half” on the 8chan/pol/ board, where he had allegedly announced his impending action with a post thanking his fellow users for their “redpill threads” and stating “what I’ve learned here is priceless. It’s been an honor.” Following Tarrant’s template, Earnest allegedly provided a Livestream link and a seven-page “open letter” that copied the same mock interview format Tarrant had used, together with a music playlist to accompany his atrocity. Screenshots taken by Bellingcat journalists show that the first reply, posted four minutes later, read “get the high score.”149 8chan deleted the post within nine minutes, but blamed the “fake news media” for publicizing Earnest’s post rather than addressing the core issue of how, in little over a month, another of its users had utilized the platform to announce an act of racist terrorism, while being egged on by other users.150

While Earnest allegedly targeted a synagogue rather than a mosque (at least for his alleged deadly violence), his alleged preoccupation with “white genocide” was identical to Tarrant’s, albeit saturated with conspiratorial anti-Semitism rather than anti-Muslim reference points.151 Ideological nuance aside, it was Tarrant’s “propaganda of the deed” that appears to have provided the overarching inspiration. “Tarrant was a catalyst for me personally. He showed me that it could be done. And that it needed to be done,” stated a document bearing Earnest’s name that law enforcement subsequently discovered on his laptop (together with a copy of a web posting written by Tarrant).152 Highlighting the self-referential nature of such acts, he added “Brenton Tarrant inspired me. I hope to inspire many more.”153 Robert Bowers’ anti-Semitic attack on The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which left 11 dead on October 27, 2018, provided another reference point for Earnest’s alleged manifesto.154 Bowers, who was similarly obsessed by notions of “white genocide,” also utilized social media (in this case Gab) to announce his impending atrocity. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in,” read his final post.155

Fortunately, Earnest’s alleged attempt to reenact a carbon copy of these massacres faltered due to his lack of technical proficiency. The Livestream failed, and as a subsequent review of surveillance footage from the Synagogue revealed, he appears to have had problems reloading his firearm, undoubtedly limiting the lethality of his attack. He clearly anticipated inflicting greater carnage. According to court documents, Earnest was wearing an ammunition chest rig containing five additional magazines holding an additional 50 rounds.156 Thereafter, according to court documents, Earnest fled the scene before calling 911. “I just shot up a synagogue. I’m just trying to defend my nation from the Jewish people … They’re destroying our people,” he told the operator.157 Police apprehended him nearby. He currently awaits trial.158

The extreme right is not alone in seeking to derive capital from Tarrant’s attacks, however. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cynically manipulated the tragedy during his election campaign, using stills from the video to attack his political opponents.159 Supporters of both al-Qa`ida and the Islamic State have also referenced the attacks to fuel their own narratives, stoke anger, and encourage revenge, some activists circulating some of the video footage itself to support their contention.160 Islamic State spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir (kunya) emerged after nearly six months of silence to argue that Christchurch was “enough to wake the sleep” and to incite supporters against the “nations of the Cross and the apostate.”161 He also likened the attacks to the battle raging in Baghuz, the last village then under Islamic State control in Syria.162 Following the deadly Islamic State-claimed Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, which claimed the lives of more than 250 people, Ruwan Wijewardene, the state minister for defense, claimed the attack was “retaliation” for Christchurch, though offered no evidence to support his assertion.163 Researchers focusing on the Islamic State have since persuasively refuted these claims, however,164 and the Islamic State made no mention of the Christchurch attacks in its various statements claiming responsibility for the Sri Lanka attacks during the days that followed the attacks.

There is evidence, though, that the attacks had an impact on at least one alleged jihadi extremist. The day before Earnest’s attack on the Poway synagogue, police arrested Mark Domingo, a U.S. Army veteran and recent Muslim convert who had expressed support for the Islamic State.165 They charged him with planning to attack “various targets—including targeting Jews, churches and police officers” before deciding to detonate a bomb at a United Patriots Nationalist Front rally in Long Beach scheduled to be held on April 28, though as it transpired the group did not show up to its own event.166 Police arrested Domingo after he took delivery of what he believed was an IED from an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a bomb maker. According to the criminal complaint, Domingo posted online that he was motivated to plan his attacks, at least in part, as “retribution” for Christchurch.167 He too is currently awaiting trial.168

While more details will undoubtedly emerge when New Zealand’s Royal Commission of Inquiry reports in December 2019 and after the conclusion of Tarrant’s trial in 2020, it is already apparent that although Tarrant acted alone, he was sustained by, and interacted with, a broader sub-cultural online environment that was electrified by his atrocity, as he knew it would be. Tarrant’s online accounts were removed the moment his identity became known, meaning that little is known about his personal online activity, though those details that have emerged indicate that his murderous prejudices were nurtured by an online milieu that was simultaneously local and transnational in its scope. Given the deliberately self-referential nature of such actions, calculated to inspire further atrocities, many of these individual acts of violence are perhaps better understood not as isolated acts, but as part of a cumulative continuum of ‘collective’ extreme-right violence. Academic research into extreme-right terrorism is, surprisingly, still in its infancy. Only three percent of terrorism studies publications relate to the topic.169 There is a pressing need for further research.

Beyond the scale of the human tragedy, and the novelty of the atrocity being livestreamed by its perpetrator, which was perhaps always a grim inevitability, it was the scale and speed with which sympathetic internet users uploaded and disseminated Tarrant’s video that was one of its most salient and alarming features. The viral dissemination of real-time terror, which provided a cue for John Earnest to emulate, certainly represents a clear and present danger. That said, despite the majority of social media platforms, large and small, being initially overwhelmed by the volume of uploads, they generally succeeded in taking action to remove traces of the video from their platforms in the days after the attack, though it remains accessible in some instances. Facebook in particular has not only sought to explore the limits it can place upon who is eligible to use its livestream application, but has also strengthened its policies, banning praise, support, and representation of “white nationalism and separatism” on its platforms.170 How it implements this policy and its broader impact remains to be seen, however, though Facebook’s own external auditors recently stated that the company’s interpretation of its own policy was “too narrow,” hampering moderation, and enabling users to evade the ban with relative ease.171 It is clearly very much a work in progress. What the attack served to highlight was a fundamental flaw not just in moderating systems but, moreover, the reactive approach of individual platforms when what was required—and which will hopefully be developed for the future—was an integrated, cross-platform response to a problem that very quickly metastasized across the entire technological ecosystem.172     CTC

Author’s note, December 28, 2020: The December 2020 Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terrorist attacks revealed that incendiary devices rather than an explosive device were recovered. See the author’s update with new details from the Royal Commission Report below.

December 28, 2020 Update:
On December 8, 2020, the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch attacks published its findings in a report entitled “Ko tō tātou kāinga tēnei: Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain on 15 March 2019.” Established by the New Zealand government 10 days after the attacks, the Royal Commission was directed to inquire into what public sector agencies knew about Brenton Tarrant’s activities prior to the attacks; what (if anything) they did with that information; what they could have done to prevent the terrorist attacks; and what they should do to prevent such attacks in the future. Its 792-page report presents a wealth of previously unavailable information about the atrocity.

When Brenton Tarrant, having initially proclaimed his innocence, changed his plea to guilty in March 2020, it obviated the need for a trial. That being so, the report therefore represents the most detailed exploration of how the atrocity unfolded that is likely to be published. The commission also interviewed Tarrant, and while they recorded “distinct reservations” about some of his testimony, much of it they deemed “credible.” Though the scope of the report itself is wide-ranging, this short update focuses on the findings of Volume Four, Part Four that deal with “The terrorist” (pages 165-243) and what new information this reveals about Tarrant and his modus operandi. All quotes derive from this section.

Mobilization to Violence
The report presents a wealth of personal information regarding Tarrant’s early life, including evidence of his early racist attitudes and his social marginalization, which appears to have been acute. The commission judged the latter particularly significant since, combined with the fact he had not worked since 2012, there was “limited opportunity for the hard edges of his political thinking to be softened by regular and lasting connections with people with different views.” “Extreme right-wing material, which he found on the internet and in books,” filled the void.

While media reports focused on Tarrant’s use of 8chan to announce his attacks and Facebook to disseminate footage of his atrocity, the report highlights that prior to his terrorism, YouTube had been a “significant source of information and inspiration” for Tarrant. Although he had regularly used far-right forums, “the evidence we have seen is indicative of more substantial use of YouTube,” the report states. It outlines how Tarrant used YouTube tutorials to modify his weapons and a walk-through video of the Masjid an-Nur posted by a tourist on a public Facebook page to gain an insight into its layout without ever having to enter the building.

International Travel
The report also details Tarrant’s extensive travels. Between April 15, 2017, and December 28, 2018, he visited 56 countries, several multiple times. The commission found no evidence that Tarrant “received training or met with known right-wing extremists” while traveling—in all likelihood because he did not wish to attract the attention of intelligence agencies, they observed. The report judged that the “primary significance” of his globetrotting was that it provided the “setting” for, and not the “cause” of, his mobilization to violence. Tarrant traveled simply because he “had nothing better to do.”

The commission also rejected as “propaganda” Tarrant’s account of his mobilization to violence while traveling through France, which took place between April 1 and May 1, 2017. Traveling alone, however, they conceded that his ideological radicalization increased. Rather than broadening his mind, traveling appears to have made him “more racist,” according to Tarrant’s mother. She testified that by “early 2017,” his racism was “becoming more extreme,” giving her “concerns for his mental health.”

This observation coincided with Tarrant’s disbursement of monies to far-right causes, which was more extensive than previously known. During January 2017, he donated to Freedomian Radio (a podcast and YouTube channel created by Stefan Molyneux, a “prominent member of the far right”) and the National Policy Institute “a white supremacist think tank and lobby group” run by Richard Spencer, who would become notorious later that year as one of the leading figures in the “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia. (See the Southern Poverty Law Center’s entry on “Richard Bertrand Spencer” as well as David Smith, “Richard Spencer acted like gang boss, Charlottesville conspiracy trial hears,” Guardian, May 24, 2018.)

In total, Tarrant donated AU$6,305.78 to 14 different far-right organizations ranging from “Identitarian” groups to openly neo-Nazi websites like the Daily Stormer. He drew ideological sustenance from this digital milieu while simultaneously helping to finance its output in a circuitous reciprocal relationship.

Preparation for the Attacks
Tarrant’s attacks were entirely self-financed from the AU$457,000 he had inherited following his father’s suicide, a sum that augmented the AU$80,000 his father had given him prior to his death. The attacks themselves cost an estimated NZ$60,000, half of which Tarrant spent on acquiring firearms and related items. Notably, the report found that the timing of Tarrant’s attacks, originally projected for August 2019 (during Eid al-Adha), was “significantly driven” by his dwindling financial reserves, which forced him to bring forward the attacks before his money ran out.

Anders Breivik clearly inspired Tarrant. Though much of what Tarrant said concerning the Norwegian terrorist can be discounted as “trolling,” the report makes clear he gained “operational” inspiration from Breivik’s own 2011 manifesto. Following Breivik’s advice, Tarrant joined a gym, bulked up on steroids (which he overused); joined several gun clubs to gain expertise; minimized his digital footprint to avoid detection; and curated his own attacks through the release of his own manifesto.

According to the report, Tarrant began to prepare for his attacks as early as the spring of 2017, months before he settled in New Zealand. While traveling through Croatia in January 2017, he had emailed the Bruce Rifle Club inquiring about membership, telling them that he was looking to “move down that way sometime in August,” which the commission believed to be the first step in his attack planning.

Having arrived in New Zealand on August 17, 2017, Tarrant lived a Spartan existence. For the next 18 months, he remained “resolutely focussed” on preparing for his attacks, maintaining “operational security” with only “occasional lapses”—a process no doubt aided by his “limited” social contacts in Dunedin where he had settled. Indeed, Tarrant’s lack of “emotional need” for contact with others “largely eliminated the likelihood of ‘leakage’” that might have alerted others to his intentions.

Fifteen days after arriving in New Zealand, Tarrant obtained a firearms license, and four days after that, passed a Firearms Safety Course. He bought the first of his 10 guns (four of which he subsequently resold) on December 4, 2017. The remaining six he used in his attacks. Tarrant told the commission he was simply interested in firearms. “We do not accept his explanation,” the report asserts. “His only interest in firearms was to develop proficiency in their use to carry out a terrorist attack.”

With the benefit of hindsight, Tarrant’s behavior at the shooting ranges he frequented confirms this: he usually shot standing up and went through a large amount of ammunition. His “primary interest” was “firing at extremely fast rates and changing magazines quickly.” Still, he lacked proficiency. According to the report, Tarrant accidentally discharged one firearm while cleaning it in his front room, injuring himself to the extent that he required hospital treatment. The report notes that had police been aware, this incident might have called into question Tarrant’s suitability to hold a firearms permit. The report also corrects early media reports that police recovered at least one improvised explosive device from Tarrant’s car after his arrest. Actually, police recovered four “basic” incendiary devices (10-liter containers filled with petrol) that he had intended to use to set fire to one of his targets after the shooting, though for whatever reason he did not do so.

The report also details Tarrant’s attempts to obscure his plans, including using the “dark web” to make purchases and utilizing virtual private networks and anonymous web browsers to connect to the internet. He also made efforts to minimize his digital footprint as the date of his attacks neared, deleting emails, some of which the police recovered. Additionally, the report revealed that police also unearthed several files relating to his planning and preparation (including memos, budgets, and a “to-do” list) from the SD card of a drone Tarrant had used to conduct hostile reconnaissance on the Masjid an-Nur on January 8, 2019. He subsequently sent the drone still containing the SD card and an external hard drive to his sister, believing he had erased the data from both devices. Tarrant had more success removing the hard drive from his computer. This has never been located, according to the report.

The report also notes how Tarrant’s use of Facebook, described as “erratic” and “intermittent,” might have led to his detection. Several indiscreet posts made to the “Lads Society Season Two” Facebook page that implied a threat of violence could have led the authorities to him had they been aware of them. Whether or not this might have disrupted the attacks was “necessarily speculative,” however. Tarrant appears to have recognized this as a lapse in security. He left the group and deleted 134 “friends” made through the page in April 2018. When he returned to the platform six months later, his posts were “careful and measured in manner.”

While the wider report highlights some shortcomings among various public agencies—the most egregious of which was the police administration of the firearms licensing system, which might have prevented Tarrant from acquiring his firearms—it concludes, however, that there was no plausible way his plans could been detected “except by chance.”

Graham Macklin is an assistant professor and postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Research on Extremism (C-REX) at the University of Oslo, Norway. He has published extensively on extreme-right and anti-minority politics in Britain in both the inter-war and post-war periods, including Very Deeply Dyed in the Black: Sir Oswald Mosley and the Resurrection of British Fascism after 1945 (2007) and, with Nigel Copsey, British National Party: Contemporary Perspectives (2011). Routledge will publish his forthcoming monograph Failed Fuhrers: A History of the British Extreme Right later this year. He co-edits the Routledge Studies in Fascism and the Far Right book series as well as the journals Patterns of Prejudice and Fascism. Follow @macklin_gd

Substantive Notes
[a] In 1990, a gunman killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor in the small seaside town of Aramoana, northeast of Dunedin. “David Gray kills 13 At Aramoana, 13 November 1990,” nzhistory.govt.nz.

[b] Siril K. Herseth and Linn Kongsli Lundervold [“Planen var å halshugge Gro Harlem Brundtland,” Dagbladet, April 19, 2012] and Cato Hemmingby and Tore Bjørgo [The Dynamics of a Terrorist Targeting Process: Anders B. Breivik and the 22 July Attacks in Norway (London: Palgrave, 2016), p. 62] highlight that Breivik was less digitally proficient than Tarrant. In the event, he simply uploaded a video of his Knights Templar manifesto/movie to YouTube but failed in the task of sending his manifesto to all of the 8,109 email addresses he had collected. Technical problems with his computer meant that only 958 of these emails reached their intended recipients.

[c] The GIFCT ‘hash’ database creates ‘digital fingerprints’ of terrorist content and shares it with participating companies so that they can identify and remove such content—videos and images—from their own platforms or in some cases block it prior to it being uploaded.

[1] Michael Workman, Stephen Hutcheon, and Pat McGrath, “Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant was a personal trainer in Grafton,” ABC News (Australia), April 5, 2019.

[2] “Christchurch shootings: The people killed as they prayed,” BBC News, March 21, 2019.

[3] Andrew Geddis and Elana Geddis, “Addressing terrorism in New Zealand’s low threat environment” in Ian Cram ed., Extremism, Free Speech and Counter-Terrorism Law and Policy (Routledge: Abingdon, 2019), pp. 172-189.

[4] Daniel Nielsen, “Christchurch massacre: Brenton Tarrant pleads not guilty to all charges,” Guardian, June 13, 2019.

[5] “New Zealand’s inquiry into Christchurch mosque attack to report by December 10, Jacinda Ardern says,” ABC News (Australia), April 8, 2019.

[6] James Tarabay and Charlotte Graham-McLay, “Could the Christchurch Attacks Have Been Prevented?” New York Times, June 18, 2019.

[7] Robert Evans, “Shitposting, Inspirational Terrorism and the Christchurch Mosque Massacre,” Bellingcat, March 15, 2019.

[8] Harry Cockburn, “Mosque killer sent email to New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern minutes before beginning attack,” Independent, March 16, 2019.

[9] David Brown, “New Zealand mosque attack: ‘Let’s get this party started’ boasted Brenton Tarrant,” Times, March 16, 2019.

[10] Richard Pérez-Peña, “Two New Zealand Mosques, a Hate-Filled Massacre Designed for Its Time,” New York Times, March 15, 2019.

[11] “Mosque attacks timeline: 18 minutes from first call to arrest,” Radio New Zealand, April 17, 2019.

[12] “Christchurch mosque attacks: 51st victim dies after surgery,” New Zealand Herald, May 3, 2019.

[13] “The Great Replacement.”

[14] Joshua Berlinger and Hilary Whiteman, “New Zealand terror suspect planned third attack, police chief says,” CNN, March 20, 2019.

[15] “The Great Replacement.”

[16] Ibid.

[17] Sarah Keoghan and Laura Chung, “From local gym trainer to mosque shooting: Alleged Christchurch shooter’s upbringing in Grafton,” Sydney Morning Herald, March 15, 2019.

[18] Workman, Hutcheon, and McGrath.

[19] “The Great Replacement.”

[20] Shibani Mahtani, Wilma McKay and Kate Shuttleworth, “‘Hiding in plain sight’: In quiet New Zealand city, alleged gunman plotted carnage,” Washington Post, March 21, 2019.

[21] Candace Sutton, “Brenton Tarrant’s life in sleepy Dunedin, where he allegedly planned his massacre,” News.com.au, March 19, 2019.

[22] “The Great Replacement.”

[23] Candace Sutton, “Inside New Zealand mosque gunman’s secret haven,” ABC News (Australia), March 17, 2019.

[24] Hannah Ryan, “The Owner of New Zealand’s Gun City Says His Store Sold The Christchurch Shooting Suspect 4 Guns And Ammunition,” Buzzfeed, March 18, 2019.

[25] Helen Regan and Sandi Sidhu, “Brenton Tarrant: From gym trainer to murder suspect,” CNN, March 17, 2019.

[26] Jared Savage, “Christchurch mosque shootings: Briefing to Police Minister Stuart Nash shows gun law loophole also exploited by Northland siege killer Quinn Patterson,” New Zealand Herald, March 20, 2019.

[27] Harriet Alexander, Samantha Herbert, and Chris Graham, “New Zealand shooting: Brenton Tarrant charged after 50 killed in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch,” Daily Telegraph, March 16, 2019.

[28] Jason Burke, “Technology is terrorism’s most effective ally. It delivers a global audience,” Guardian, March 17, 2019.

[29] Will Sommer and Kelly Weill, “New Zealand Suspect Mixed Death and Disinformation,” Daily Beast, March 15, 2019.

[30] Nick Hansen and Ava Benny-Morrison, “Kid to killer: Insight into life of massacre accused Brenton Tarrant,” Sunday Telegraph, March 16, 2019.

[31] Anthony Cuthbertson, “‘Subscribe to Pewdiepie’: What Did the Christchurch Mosque Gunman Mean in Final Words Before Shooting?” Independent, March 15, 2019.

[32] Jason Burke, “The Age of Selfie Jihad: How Evolving Media Technology is Changing Terrorism,” CTC Sentinel 9:11 (2016).

[33] Ron Synovitz, “Paris Terrorists’ Video Underscores Live-Streaming Challenges for Social Media,” Radio Free Europe, June 18, 2016.

[34] “Al Jazeera receives video footage of Toulouse attacks,” France24, March 27, 2012.

[35] Charlotte Boitiaux, “Parallel lives: The Brussels suspect and the Toulouse shooter,” France24, June 3, 2016.

[36] “Paris Kosher Supermarket Attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, Was Wearing GoPro,” NBC News, January 31, 2015.

[37] Maura Conway and Joseph Dillon, “Future Trends: Live-Streaming Terrorist Attacks?” Voxpol.

[38] Åsne Seierstad, One of Us: The Story of a Massacre and its Aftermath (London: Virago, 2015).

[39] “California drive-by gunman kills six in Santa Barbara,” BBC, May 24, 2019.

[40] Will Sommer, “Border Militias Use Facebook Live to Turn Immigrant Confrontations Into ‘Reality TV,’” Daily Beast, April 24, 2019.

[41] Drew Harwell, “The New Zealand massacre was livestreamed on Facebook, announced on 8chan, reposted on YouTube, commentated about on Reddit, and mirrored around the world before the tech companies could even react,” Twitter, March 14, 2019.

[42] Chris Sonderby, “Update on New Zealand,” Facebook Newsroom, March 18, 2019.

[43] Paul Cruickshank, “A View from the CT Foxhole: An Interview with Brian Fishman, Counterterrorism Policy Manager, Facebook,” CTC Sentinel 10:8 (2017).

[44] Guy Rosen, “A Further Update on New Zealand Terrorist Attack,” Facebook Newsroom, March 20, 2019.

[45] Jane Wakefield, “Christchurch shootings: Social media races to stop attack footage,” BBC, March 16, 2019.

[46] “Update on New Zealand.”

[47] “Industry Cooperation to Combat Violent Extremism in All Its Forms,” GIFCT, March 18, 2019.

[48] Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg, “Christchurch mosque shootings: Inside YouTube’s struggles to shut down video – and the humans who outsmarted its systems,” Washington Post, March 19, 2019.

[49] Ibid.; YouTubeInsider, “Wanted to give an update on our actions since Friday’s horrific tragedy. We’ve removed tens of thousands of videos and terminated hundreds of accounts created to promote or glorify the shooter,” Twitter, March 18, 2019.

[50] Chris Keall, “Christchurch mosque attack: Up to 14 years’ jail for video sharers as Commissioner asks Facebook to give police names,” New Zealand Herald, March 19, 2019.

[51] Ibid.

[52] “Businessman Philip Neville Arps admits distributing mosque shooting footage,” New Zealand Herald, April 26, 2019.

[53] Mark Quinlivan, Patrick Gower, and Mel Logan, “Christchurch attack: Philip Arps jailed for mosque massacre livestream,” Newshub, June 18, 2019.

[54] Kurt Bayer, “Christchurch schoolboy denies distributing material from mosque terror attacks,” New Zealand Herald, April 9, 2019.

[55] “Seven arrested for hate crimes after New Zealand Mosque shootings,” BBC, March 19, 2019.

[56] Mack Lamoureux, “Two Canadian Neo-Nazis are under Investigation for Post-Christchurch Acts,” Vice, March 19, 2019.

[57] Joseph Cox, “A Popular YouTuber Read the Christchurch “Manifesto” to Half a Million Subscribers,” Vice Motherboard, May 13, 2019.

[58] Vikram Dodd, “Anti-Muslim hate crimes soar in UK after Christchurch shootings,” Guardian, March 22, 2019.

[59] Ali Breland, “Anti-Muslim Hate Has Been Rampant on Reddit Since The New Zealand Shooting,” Mother Jones, March 21, 2019.

[60] Taylor Hatmaker, “After Christchurch, Reddit bans communities infamous for sharing graphic videos of death,” Tech Crunch, March 15, 2019.

[61] Robert Coalson, “Christchurch Attacks: Suspect Took Inspiration from Former Yugoslavia’s Ethnically Fueled Wars,” Radio Free Europe, March 15, 2019.

[62] “The Great Replacement.”

[63] See José Pedro Zúquete, The Identitarians: The Movement against Globalism and Islam in Europe (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2018) for an overview.

[64] “The Great Replacement.”

[65] Ibid.

[66] A. Dirk Moses, “‘White Genocide’ and the Ethics of Public Analysis,” Journal of Genocide Research 21:2 (2019): pp. 201-213.

[67] Thomas Chatteron Williams, “The French origins of ‘You Will Not Replace Us’ – The European Thinkers behind the white-nationalist rallying cry,” New Yorker, December 4, 2017.

[68] Renaud Camus, You Will Not Replace Us! (Chez l’auteur: 2018) provides an English synthesis of his oeuvre.

[69] See Jacob Davey and Julia Ebner, “The Great Replacement”: The Violent Consequences of Mainstreamed Extremism (London: Institute for Strategic Dialogue, 2019) for a study of the diffusion of this narrative across social media platforms and its invocation by right-wing ‘populist’ politicians in Europe and North America.

[70] “French ‘Great Replacement’ writer denounces ‘appalling’ NZealand attack,” Agence France-Presse, March 15, 2019.

[71] Renaud Camus, “Je m’inquiète beaucoup pour nos amis musulmans. Je pense que par sécurité ils devraient …” Twitter, March 16, 2019.

[72] Mark Di Stefano, “The Daily Mail Let Readers Download The New Zealand Mosque Attacker’s Manifesto Directly From Its Website,” Buzzfeed, March 15, 2019.

[73] “The Great Replacement.”

[74] Patrick Howell O’Neill, “8chan, the central hive of Gamergate, is also an active pedophile network,” Daily Dot, November 17, 2014.

[75] “The Great Replacement.”

[76] Ibid.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier, Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience (Edinburgh: AK Press, 1995).

[79] “The Great Replacement.”

[80] Ibid.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Ibid.

[84] “Christchurch shootings: New Zealand MPs vote to change gun laws,” BBC, April 10, 2019.

[85] Andrew Berwick [pseudonym Anders Behring Breivik], 2083: A European Declaration of Independence (2011).

[86] Jacob Aasland Ravndal, “The Dark Web Enabled the Christchurch Killer,” Foreign Policy, March 16, 2019.

[87] “The Great Replacement.”

[88] Ibid.

[89] Ibid.

[90] Ibid.

[91] Cockburn.

[92] For a breakdown of the many historical allusions painted on Tarrant’s weapons, see “New Zealand mosque shooter names his ‘idols’ on weapons he used in massacre,” Daily Sabah, March 15, 2019, and Giorgi Lomsadze, “New Zealand mosque attacker appeared to take inspiration from Armenian, Georgian history,” Eurasianet, March 18, 2019.

[93] Ellyn Santiago, “The Sonnenrad: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy, March 15, 2019.

[94] Workman, Hutcheon, and McGrath.

[95] “Turkish intelligence reveals New Zealand terrorist Brenton Tarrant’s travels,” Daily Sabah, March 19, 2019.

[96] Jovana Gec, “New Zealand gunman entranced with Ottoman sites in Europe,” Associated Press, March 17, 2019.

[97] Deborah Haynes, “NZ terror suspect ‘must have been influenced by British far right,’” Sky News, March 17, 2019.

[98] Weiyi Cai and Simone Landon, “Attacks by White Supremacists are Growing. So Are Their Connections,” New York Times, April 3, 2019.

[99] Elizabeth Keith, “New Zealand Shooter ‘Inspired’ By Canadian Mosque Shooter Alexandre Bissonette In Today’s Attack,” NAR City, March 15, 2019.

[100] Dan Bilefsky, “Alexandre Bissonette Sentenced to 40 Years Without Parole for Quebec Mosque Killings,” New York Times, February 8, 2019.

[101] “Hyllade Anders Breivik och Anton Lundin Pettersson,” Expressen, March 15, 2019.

[102] “New Zealand terror suspect wrote Italan shooter’s name on his gun,” Local.It, March 15, 2019.

[103] “Italian extremist given 12-year sentence for gun attack on migrants,” Guardian, October 3, 2018.

[104] “New Zealand mosque massacre gunman linked actions to Rotherham child sex abuse scandal,” ITV News, March 15, 2019.

[105] For coverage, see “Rotherham child abuse scandal,” BBC, May 15, 2019.

[106] Graham Macklin, “The Evolution of Extreme-Right Terrorism and Efforts to Counter It in the United Kingdom,” CTC Sentinel 12:1 (2019).

[107] Juan Diego Quesada and Fernando Peinado, “How a Spanish neo-Nazi became and international ‘hero’ of the far right,” El País, March 26, 2019.

[108] “The Great Replacement.”

[109] “Le tueur de Christchurch a fait des dons à Génération identitaire,” Europe1, April 4, 2019.

[110] Katja Thorwarth, “Hausdurchsuchung bei Martin Sellner wegen Spende von Christchurch-Attentäter,” Frankfurter Rundschau, March 26, 2019.

[111] Joel McManus, “Austrian Far-Right leader invited Christchurch gunman to meet up,” NZ Stuff, May 16, 2019.

[112] Ibid.

[113] Ibid.

[114] Ibid.

[115] Ibid.

[116] Frank Jordans, “Austrian far-right activist says US nixed his travel permit,” Associated Press, March 28, 2019.

[117] “Austria may disband far-right group over link to NZ attack suspect,” BBC, March 28, 2019.

[118] Peter Pilz, “Sellner löschte Emails 41 Minuten vor Razzia,” Heute, May 15, 2019.

[119] Philip Oltermann, “Austrian government collapses after far right minister fired,” Guardian, May 20, 2019.

[120] Kristy Campion, “A ‘Lunatic Fringe’? The Persistence of Right Wing Extremism in Australia,” Perspectives on Terrorism 13:2 (2019): p. 12.

[121] Rachel Eddie and Jennifer Smith, “Anti-Islam leader Blair Cottrelll stalked his ex-girlfriend’s partner with tomahawks and set his garage on fire three years before he started far-right group United Patriots Front,” Daily Mail Australia, June 13, 2016; Geir O’Rourke and Angus Thompson, “United Patriots Front Leader Blair Cottrell Details Violent Criminal Past in Video,” Herald Sun, June 11, 2016.

[122] John Safran, Depends What You Mean By Extremist: Going Rogue with Australian Deplorables (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2017): p. 20.

[123] Alex Mann, Kevin Nguyen, and Katherine Gregory, “Christchurch shooting accused Brenton Tarrant supports Australian far-right figure Blair Cottrell,” ABC News (Australia), March 23, 2019.

[124] Imogen Richards, “A Dialectical Approach to Online Propaganda: Australia’s United Patriots Front, Right-Wing Politics, and Islamic State,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 42:1-2 (2019): pp. 43-69.

[125] Jacob Polychronis, “United Patriots Front leader accuses Facebook of ‘government censorship’ after far-right group BANNED and personal accounts removed,” Daily Mail Australia, May 11, 2017.

[126] Mann, Nguyen, and Gregory.

[127] Ibid.

[128] “Christchurch mosque shooting: Alleged gunman sent death threats two years before attack,” New Zealand Herald, April 10, 2019.

[129] Mann, Nguyen, and Gregory.

[130] Richards.

[131] James Oaten, “Far-right nationalists found guilty of inciting serious contempt for Muslims after mocking beheading video,” ABC News (Australia), September 5, 2017.

[132] Amber Wilson, “Far-right leader fails in High Court bid,” AAP, February 19, 2019.

[133] Joanna Crothers, “Melbourne’s Trades Hall targeted by man who planned to carry out terrorist attacks, court told,” ABC News (Australia), September 3, 2018.

[134] Patrick Begley, “Threats from white extremist group that ‘tried to recruit Tarrant,’” Sydney Morning Herald, May 2, 2019.

[135] Ryan Broll, “Dark Fandoms: An introduction and Case Study,” Deviant Behaviour, 2019.

[136] Chris Schiano, “Neo-Nazis Use Discord Chats to Promote New Zealand Copycat Shootings,” Unicorn Riot, May 10, 2019.

[137] Keegan Hankes, Caroline Sinders, and Unicorn Riot, “Extremists Purge Hateful Messages After Christchurch Massacre,” Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch, May 9, 2019.

[138] “The Great Replacement.”

[139] Michael Edison Hayden, “Venture capital-backed …” Twitter, May 29, 2019. Similar expressions of adulation were observable in relation to Dylann Roof. See Michael Edison Hayden, “Dylann Roof T-shirts and sweatshirts are being sold online by a Silicon Valley-backed company,” Newsweek, April 24, 2018.

[140] “Mural of St. Tarrant of Christchurch,” Voat, March 20, 2019.

[141] “Oburzajacy incydent w Tarnowie. Tak tlumaczyl sie uczen,” Fakt24, May 6, 2019.

[142] Jack Wright and Alan Selby, “Sick video game lets fans play as Christchurch mosque massacre gunman who killed 51,” Mirror, June 1, 2019.

[143] Chris Keall, “Christchurch massacre game, including shooting footage, found on Facebook,” New Zealand Herald, May 23, 2019.

[144] Lucas Aulbach, “Louisville man threatened to blow up ‘9,000 kiddies’ at a school, police say,” Louisville Courier Journal, March 22, 2019.

[145] Liam Stack, “Christchurch Messages on Facebook Lead to Charge of Lying to FBI,” New York Times, April 4, 2019.

[146] Andrew Johnson, “Suspect of Possible Arson Attack at Escondido Mosque Leaves Note Referencing New Zealand Attacks,” NBC San Diego, March 24, 2019.

[147] “John Earnest – An Open Letter.”

[148] Adam Racusin, “Questions about how the synagogue shooting suspect got the gun,” ABC News San Diego, April 29, 2019.

[149] Robert Evans, “Ignore the Poway Synagogue Shooter’s Manifesto: Pay Attention to 8chan’s/pol/Board,” Bellingcat, April 28, 2019.

[150] 8chan (8ch.net), Twitter, April 28, 2019.

[151] Mitchell D. Silber highlights the anti-Semitic rather than anti-Muslim motivations of many extreme right terrorists in the United States compared to Europe in “Terrorist Attacks Against Jewish Targets in the West (2012-2019): The Atlantic Divide Between European and American Attackers,” CTC Sentinel 12:5 (2019).

[152] “Criminal Complaint,” U.S. v. John Timothy Earnest, United States District Court Southern California, May 9, 2019.

[153] “John Earnest – An Open Letter.”

[154] Ibid.

[155] Jarret Renshaw, “Who is Robert Bowers, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect?” Reuters, October 27, 2018.

[156] “Criminal Complaint.”

[157] Ibid.

[158] Jason Hanna and Darran Simon, “The suspect in Poway synagogue shooting used an assault rifle and had extra magazines, prosecutors said,” CNN, May 1, 2019.

[159] Mark Lowen, “Christchurch shootings: Why Turkey’s Erdogan uses attack video,” BBC, March 20, 2019.

[160] Souad Mekhennet, “Militant groups are using Christchurch mosque shootings to spread a message of hate,” Washington Post, March 20, 2019.

[161] Ibid.

[162] Rukmini Callimachi, “ISIS Spokesman Ends Silence by Calling for Retaliation Over New Zealand Massacres,” New York Times, March 18, 2019.

[163] “Sri Lanka attack ‘retaliation’ for NZ massacre: minister,” Al Jazeera, April 23, 2019.

[164] Graeme Wood, “Why Sri Lanka Was Probably Not Retaliation for Christchurch,” Atlantic, April 24, 2019.

[165] “California Man Arrested in Terror Plot to Detonate Explosive Device Designed to Kill Innocents,” Department of Justice, April 29, 2019.

[166] Richard Winton and James Queally, “L.A. terror plot thwarted: Army vet planned ‘mass casualties,’ FBI says,” Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2019.

[167] “California Man Arrested in Terror Plot to Detonate Explosive Device Designed to Kill Innocents,” Department of Justice, April 29, 2019.

[168] Alexa Díaz, “Army veteran indicted in alleged terror bombing plot pleads not guilty in L.A.,” Los Angeles Times, May 31, 2019.

[169] Bart Schuurman, “Topics in terrorism research: reviewing trends and gaps, 2007-2016,” Critical Studies on Terrorism (2019).

[170] “Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s letter to New Zealand,” New Zealand Herald, March 30, 2019.

[171] “Facebook’s Civil Rights Audit – Progress Report,” Facebook Newsroom, June 30, 2019.

[172] “Analysis: The New Zealand Attack and the Terrorist Use of the Internet,” Tech Against Terrorism, March 26, 2019.

Stay Informed

Sign up to receive updates from CTC.

Sign up