Brenton Tarrant: How the far right changed the face of terror

1 / 2
2 / 2
Suspected gunman Brenton Tarrant streamed the assault on a Christchurch mosque live on social media; public grief following the attacks, below. (Reuters)
Updated 15 April 2019

Brenton Tarrant: How the far right changed the face of terror

  • New Zealand mosque attacks highlight the growing threat of white supremacists
  • Like other shooters, he was inspired by anti-immigrant rhetoric and fueled by social media

DUBAI: Before the deadly mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, Brenton Tarrant posted a link to a hate-filled manifesto on numerous online platforms that provides an insight into the far-right ideology that influenced him.

The rambling document — filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric — is written in the form of a self-styled Q&A, in which he claims to represent “millions of European and other ethno-nationalist peoples that wish to live in peace among their own people.”

Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, is thought to have become consumed by anger after a string of terror attacks in Europe in 2016 and 2017, and his manifesto refers to the death of 11-year-old Ebba Akerlund, one of five victims killed in a 2017 terror attack in Stockholm.

Experts have warned the deadly mass shooting bears all the hallmarks of a growing number of attacks led by white supremacists drawn to the ideas of Europe’s anti-immigrant, ultra-right-wing extremists. 

Aurelien Mondon, a lecturer at the University of Bath in the UK and an expert on far-right extremism, said the Christchurch attack is a stark example of a growing movement emerging from a global network of white supremacy groups sharing their extreme views on the murky — and often uncensored —  web.

“I would describe him (Tarrant) as a white supremacist terrorist. The term ‘lone wolf’ is problematic as it suggests that the attack was a freak accident. It individualizes it, while, in fact, the ideology underpinning it has deep international roots.”

The attack was the “logical deadly conclusion of years of the normalization of Islamophobia and racism, and mainstreaming and hyping of the far right,” Mondon told Arab News “However, it is also part of a movement that has been allowed to spread thanks to the Internet and developed loose international connections more easily this way.”

A spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League told Arab News that this “latest white supremacist violence underscores the fact that white supremacy is a global threat whose ideology manifests around the world and results in acts of violence.”

It also highlighted extremists’ use of social media. “For modern violent extremists and terrorists, preparing social media seems to be as critical as preparing their guns. Tarrant’s attacks seem to be designed to leverage social media, to attract maximum attention to the massacre and his beliefs.”


The New Zealand attack on March 15 that claimed 50 lives appears to be the latest global terror incident in the past decade linked to white supremacists: In Norway, where Anders Breivik’s July 2011 attacks left 77 dead; in Canada, where Alexandre Bissonnette shot six people during prayers at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017; and in the UK, where Darren Osborne killed one and injured 12 others when he drove a van into worshippers outside a mosque in the London’s Finsbury Park in 2017.

In each instance, the shooter acted in isolation but was heavily influenced by social media and had communicated with other white supremacists or shared their ideology online. The massacre in New Zealand bore the same chilling pattern. 




In his 16,500-word manifesto, Tarrant praises Breivik, Osborne and Dylann Storm Roof, convicted for the deadly 2015 mass shooting in a Charleston church in the US. 

“The manifesto did not contain anything truly original, and instead the terrorist drew his ideas from a wide constellation of far-right thinkers, from the crudest racists to the more cultural racists,” said Mondon. “Some of his ideas remain marginal and widely denounced in most societies, but others, based on more subtle forms of racism, have gained ground in mainstream discourse over the past 20 years and are now fairly common in the mainstream media and politics.”

A notable detail of Tarrant’s manifesto is the title itself: “The Great Replacement,” a reference to the title of a 2012 book by right-wing French polemicist Renaud Camus, “Le Grand Remplacement,” in which the author shares his theory that Europe’s white majority is being systematically replaced with North African and sub-Saharan African migrants, many of whom are Muslim, through mass migration and demographic growth. 

It associates the presence of Muslims in France with potential danger and the destruction of French culture and civilization. In an epigraph to “Le Grand Remplacement,” Camus cites two modern-day figures as “prophets”: Enoch Powell, the anti-immigrant English politician, who in 1968 famously envisioned rivers of blood in Britain brought on by immigration; and the French author Jean Raspail, whose 1973 novel “The Camp of the Saints” became a beacon for far-right figures.

In Tarrant’s manifesto, the ideas of Camus figure prominently. Tarrant cites watching “invaders” at a shopping mall during a visit to an eastern French town as the moment when he realized he would resort to violence.

As Mondon points out: “This demonstrates that the Christchurch terrorist attack was not an isolated act, but rather the logical conclusion of the far-right ideology gaining ground across the West.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremism in the US, said last year that the number of hate groups is growing and now stands at 1,020, a 30 percent jump from 2014. Most espouse some form of white supremacist ideology, it said.

“They are a clear threat and have been for a long time, although this has been ignored by much of the mainstream press,” said Mondon. “However, it is important to look at the roots of the issue, rather than only at its most extreme expression. We need to stop giving credence to the free speech myth, which has become a very powerful weapon of the far right. 

“They are not defenders of free speech and, in fact, are very much against other views being expressed. Furthermore, they have had far more platforms to spew their hatred than their opponents. We need to stop platforming them and instead show them for what they are, the defenders of a racist, unequal and authoritarian ideology.

Katharine Gelber, professor of politics and public policy at the University of Queensland, said she would describe the New Zealand shooter as a “right-wing extremist.”

“I think it is important to note ‘right-wing’ because he makes it clear he targeted a marginalized and vulnerable group, which is subjected to disparagement in public discourse.”

Gelber said we live in an era of in global politics where right-wing ideas are in the ascendancy. “We are not yet at a stage where they are mainstream, but there has been a combination of governments and political leaders using refugees and asylum seekers, and Muslims, as scapegoats, and subjecting them to the kinds of discourse that marginalizes and excludes them, for well over a decade now. 

A man cries in front of the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 17, 2019 during a public vigil two days after a terrorist attack on two mosques, killing 50 and wounding dozens more. (Photo by Peter Adones/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

“Combined with this is the rise of political leaders who actively use this kind of discourse and this has emboldened the right wing to step up their campaign against the social gains of previous decades.”

Farhad Khosrokhavar, head of research at the Paris-based School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences, told Arab News that supremacists feed off the narrative of their enemies. “Jihadist attacks in Europe are grist to the mill of white supremacism, part of public opinion becoming convinced that governments are not able to fight efficiently jihadism in Europe.”

Supremacists and jihadists have much in common, said Khosrokhavar. “The supremacist hates the Muslim among others, while the jihadist hates the non-Muslim among others. The supremacist believes that violence is the main and almost exclusive way to deal with the ‘enemy,’ such as Muslims, whereas the jihadist believes that it is only through jihad (violent, holy war) that he can confront the ‘enemies.’”

For Gelber, there are numerous ways to prevent extremists such as Tarrant. First, online platforms have a responsibility to react quickly to material that represents a clear threat, she said. Governments also should prosecute extremists who break the law. 

But in the end an effective response relies largely on changed behavior. “People need to start taking responsibility for their words online, just as they do for their words offline,” she said. “But it is difficult to do that in a society that is promoting and enabling bullying and hate speech.”


If you’re happy and you know it, tidy up: Seoul guru explains the key to decluttering

Updated 15 August 2020

If you’re happy and you know it, tidy up: Seoul guru explains the key to decluttering

  • “My focus of tidying up is not throwing away but organizing for space,” said Jung
  • Jung enjoys a huge fan base on social media - one video on how to clean a dresser was watched 1.2 million times

SEOUL: Keep it if it makes you happy, South Korea’s tidying consultant Jung Hee-sook tells her clients as the first step for a less cluttered and more meaningful life.
“I feel most rewarded when my clients say they live happier lives after decluttering their houses,” Jung, 49, told Arab News.
It was not an easy journey to begin with she says, reminiscing about the start of her career in 2012.
“My job was often regarded as merely part of cleaning work. Tidying up is such a meaningful job that can help others in need and help people to live better,” she added.
Eight years on, she has decluttered 2,000 homes and counting, and says for that to happen it’s imperative to “read the client first.”
She cites the example of a woman who was determined to tidy up her home, not to give it a makeover but to “make life easier for her family.”
“When I visited her house, I noticed the lights dimming and curtains were still drawn. I got the sense that this family had some problems. During consulting, I learnt that the client was going blind. She wanted to tidy up her home before losing her sight to help her husband find items easily for their child,” Jung said, adding that it was one of her “most rewarding experiences.”
Often compared to Marie Kondo, the Japanese author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying” who enjoys a massive following across the world, Jung says her approach to tidying is different from the one propagated by Kondo, who places a priority on getting rid of anything that does not “spark joy.”
“My focus of tidying up is not throwing away but organizing for space,” said Jung, who has written two books on the topic, “Smart Tidying Ways” and “The Best Interior is in Organizing.” “You can keep your items if you don’t want to throw them away, but the bottom line is you have to organize them for use instead of leaving them unattended or stacked up in the corner.”

South Korea seems to be listening.
Jung enjoys a huge fan base on social media — one video from November last year on how to clean a dresser was watched 1.2 million times on YouTube — while her high-profile clients include CEOs and celebrities such as K-POP girl group Mamamoo’s Hwasa.
Experts point to the country’s unique concept of “jeong” to explain Jung’s popularity.
“It’s like an old grandmother piling plate upon plate of food in front of their grandchild to the point where they feel they might burst,” said Kwak Keum-joo, professor of psychology at the Seoul National University, explaining the national “attachment to objects.”
He said that the majority of people lay great emphasis on materialistic stuff as a benchmark of social status.
Jung agrees. “Korean people possess things to show off their wealth or social reputation. Most distinctively, they feel an attachment to objects,” she said.
Changes in consumer behavior, Kwak said, are also a key factor for the rising trends of house decluttering as well.
“In the past, most Koreans were brought up to save money and conserve things, but now they’re spending money if they have it, and they can purchase things fast and conveniently online at any time,” she said.
Jung says the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown helped to accelerate the decluttering process as well.
“People were staying home longer than before and paying more attention to tidying up their spaces at homes,” she said.
Jung’s top tip for starting is to take everything out and prioritize items based on their usage or emotional attachment.
“The thing is to sort out items and put them in separate spaces. People think it looks clean when you don’t see objects, but real organizing means sorting out the hidden things,” she said.
Next, Jung wants to take her teachings to the rest of the world.
“I hope to establish the right culture of decluttering to make people’s lives happier, not just in South Korea but in foreign countries as well. I am confident that the life of my clients has changed for the better after decluttering their houses.”