This article looks at some of the wider contextual causes of the recent fascist atrocity in Christchurch, state reactions to the act and an Anarchist response to these.
Many have been shocked that a fascist walked into the two mosques in Christchurch, and gunned down 50 worshippers. In a world where terrorist attacks have become so common, they are losing the ability to shock, this one did. In part, it was because it happened in a place not noted for such attacks. In part, it was because it was live streamed on Facebook.
Since social media became very popular it is now possible to block out all contrary opinions and to surround yourself with people who not only reinforce your world view but who radicalise somebody in the process. In the media, the term most commonly used to describe this insulated world is “echo chamber”.
The greatest strength of the Internet is also its greatest weakness: the fact anyone can say and do almost anything they want on it. There are few checks or balances on the Internet. This has allowed every misanthropic element from radical Islamic terrorist groups to white power hate groups to flourish, along with conspiracy theories which range from the merely bizarre (e.g the Earth is flat) to the downright vile (e.g mass shootings are false flag operations aimed at taking away guns from the people).
Ideas and ideologies, both good and bad, have been able to spread around the world and all of us are just a click away from being subjected to a rant peddling pseudo-history or Islamophobia.
In recent years various internet search engines have been using what search terms we look up to target advertising at us and also to determine what search results appear when we search for particular things. This is one way both Facebook and Google have become multi-billion dollar companies.
Repulsive beliefs are also great clickbait and generate billions of dollars worth of advertising for Facebook and Alphabet (Google’s owners). There’s nothing like a headline like “Joe Bloggs MP, calls for ni****s to be deported back to Africa!” to guarantee thousands or millions of clicks – even if an MP of that name never said anything of the sort or that the MP concerned is only a figment of my imagination. Each click generates revenue for the hate site and for Silicon Valley shareholders and owners.
That is the key reason why technology giants have not cracked down on hate speech unless they have been forced to by outside pressure: hate sells.
Another aspect of the Christchurch terrorist attack that has been picked up more by the U.S media rather than the New Zealand media is that the election of Donald Trump has emboldened white nationalists in both the United States and across the world to take more extreme actions. According to the San Francisco Chronicle of November 14th, 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that in the first year of Trump’s Presidency federal hate crimes based on race and ethnicity went up from 522 in 2016 to 603 in 2017, religious hate crimes went up 21% and sexual orientation hate crimes went up 19%. Anti-Semitism went up 37%.
Indeed the fascist terrorist who carried out the Christchurch attack specifically named Trump as a person who inspired him as a white nationalist leader. This is one aspect of the attack that should make people aware that it took place in a wider context than that of a single country at the bottom of the world. Despite the fact such attacks are not common here, there is no value in the kind of smug national exceptionalism evident in media and government commentary that sees this country as fundamentally different to the rest of the planet.
Aotearoa has not been immune to Islamophobia. Many, if not most, Muslims have encountered discrimination or hostility at some point: a point raised by news sites in various articles(see for example Stuff, 3/22/19) in which Muslims spoke about being victims of discrimination. There have also been elements among the political parties that have spouted such views at times, for example Richard Prosser wrote while an MP for the populist NZ First Party “If you are a young male, aged between say about 19 and about 35, and you’re a Muslim, or you come from a Muslim country, then you are not welcome to travel on any of the West’s airlines” (NZ Herald, 12/2/13).
The aim of the terrorist was to provoke an over-reaction from Muslim immigrants so that whites would rise up and drive these so-called Muslim “invaders” out of the country. It didn’t happen.
Vigils have been held and more are scheduled for the following weeks. The government announced tighter gun control laws on non-state actors on March 22nd which resulted in a ban on semi-automatic and automatic rifles and parts that can convert other weapons into these sorts of weapons. While largely received positively, such bans will do nothing to deal with the racism that provided the motivation for the attacks.
From an anarchist perspective the gun ban, the role of the intelligence agencies and internet censorship are all problematic. Anarchists in this country are not out and about regularly doing arms practice. At this stage, the emphasis has quite rightly gone into propagating our message and quietly working on positive projects (such as bookshops, websites, community activism and so on) demonstrating our co-operative approach in practice. That does not mean the bulk of us are pacifists. We are aware of the need for the working class to come to its own defense should the need arise in the future. As such, we should be wary of any moves by the state to restrict the ability of our class to defend itself in the long term.
As for the intelligence agencies such as the GCSB, SIS, and Police, they indeed have failed to prevent the recent attack and no doubt they will receive some mainstream criticism for this. On our part, we stand completely against the actions of fascists. Our opposition is fundamental and begins wherever and whenever they organise and regardless of their numbers. This position does not mean we should aid or encourage the actions of the official agencies though.
It is highly likely that such state organisations have been monitoring and continue to watch our own groups. They exist to uphold the current ruling system and should the revolutionary movement here ever grow in strength, any legislative, financial or material increases the agencies receive now, would swiftly be turned against us.
Anybody who thinks that scenario is a paranoid fantasy should bear in mind that this state like all states is founded on violence. The one here is the successor of a brutal colonial regime that killed numerous Maori in pursuit of land. True, it has mostly subsequently altered the location of its violence to more distant geographical locations, as a junior partner in shifting imperialist arrangements. Sometimes this has involved actual use of troops and at other times the provision of intelligence for others to use.
This has included the war in South Africa (where concentration camps were used against women and children), World War One (with the invasion of Samoa and Turkey), World War Two (where anti-Japanese racism was a factor), to Korea, Vietnam (again, where a general racism pervaded and massacres of civilians happened), Iraq and Afghanistan (where the SAS has been active and drone strikes have been carried out against Muslim populations).
There have also been times such as the major strikes in 1913 and 1951, the treatment of conscientious objectors during the World Wars, the Anti-Apartheid struggle in 1981 and the invasion of the Tuhoe Nation in 2007 which included actions against Anarchists, in when the state has added draconian legislation to the books and/or used all sorts of force and dirty tricks to beat back progressive movements.
The implication of the above is that our class needs to undertake the very difficult one of re-doubling its own efforts locally to be eternally vigilant against the activities of fascists and other authoritarians. We need to do this in our own right as an independent social agent, rather than weaken our strength by supporting the government which has a differing agenda for dealing with the aftermath of the Christchurch attack. We also need to continue to develop links with others transnationally who are suffering from and trying to combat the same phenomena of racism, fascism, nationalism and economic exploitation. This will not be easy, but it is even more necessary now than ever before.