New Zealand Terrorist Attack

A report by Dr Andre Oboler, CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute.

On March 15 2019, 50 people were killed in a terrorist attack in New Zealand. They were shot by a lone gunman who targeted two mosques in Christchurch during Friday prayers.

The gunman, an Australian citizen living in New Zealand, has been named as Brenton Harrison Tarrant. Shortly before the attack he posted his manifesto and other writings online through the anonymous message board 8Chan, along with a link to his Facebook account saying he would be live streaming an attack “against the invaders”.

His Twitter account included pictures of his weapons covered in political messages. He thought there was a high chance he wouldn’t survive and was trying to make himself a martyr for his ideological cause. This was an attack by a far-right terrorist who self identifies as a white nationalist and a fascist and says his views were based on what he read online.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, the Muslim community and the people of New Zealand. The attack sought to disrupt life in New Zealand. It sought to ignite fear and tension between communities. It sought to fragment society. It will do none of those things. New Zealanders of all backgrounds and religions came together to help each other even as the attacks were still occurring. The unity in the face of attack will only strengthen as the country slowly recovers from this tragic event.


Table of Contents

  1. Background on the New Zealand Attack
  2. A Warning about Incitement
    1. A case in point: Senator Fraser Anning
    2. New Incitement to Hate
    3. The Danger of Incitement to Hate
  3. Analysis of the Attacker
    1. The message before the attack
      1. Introduction to 4Chan, 8Chan and /pol/
      2. The /pol/ Message
      3. Conclusions on the message
    2. The Manifesto
      1. No real significant in the country or timing
      2. Guns and Fascism
      3. White supremacy
      4. Rejection of Nazism and Antisemitism
      5. Islamophobia of the Counter Jihad Movement
      6. Environmentalism
      7. Other Narratives
      8. Using diversity for maximum coverage
    3. Weapons on Twitter
  4. Analysis of Online Responses
    1. Analysis of responses to Senator Anning
      1. Response Promoting Islamophobia
      2. Promoters of Conspiracy Theories
      3. Responses Promoting Antisemitism
      4. Responses about 9/11
      5. Promoting Extremism
      6. Patriotic / Nationalistic Support & Responses to it
      7. Opposition through Egg Memes
      8. Opposition with mistranslated messages
      9. Opposition involving incitement
    2. Revolving door for someone “ready to kill”
    3. The Okay symbol and the Alt-Right
  5. Media commentary by OHPI
  6. How to comment and support this work
  7. Reporting Islamophobia

2. A Warning about Incitement

Exactly a week prior to this attack our CEO, Dr Andre Oboler, told 10 Daily the far-right posed a significant risk and that police needed to do. In Australia it isn’t a matter of needing new laws, it’s a matter of using the ones we have. With the far right in Australia using the New Zealand attack as a rallying call that warning is increasingly urgent.

We’ve documented repeatedly how far right groups and high profile people create spaces that foster extremism and incitement to violence. The worst of it is often in the comments of their supporters. The leaders get the best of both words, a large following, a space people who raise their views want to visit, and immunity from consequences as the incitement isn’t written by them personally and there is no obligation those who can moderate and online forum (e.g. a Facebook page) to actually do so. To address this problem the Online Hate Prevention Institute has recommended to Facebook that the privilege of running a page should be linked to basic moderation responsibilities.

2. 1 A case in point: Senator Fraser Anning

In January Senator Fraser Anning made numerous posts attacking the African community in Australia. In response to one of these posts, a support of his posted a comment which called for the people he was inciting against to be shot.

We messaged him within hours of the post going up and reported it to Facebook. It remained online for over 2 weeks. After our CEO raising it live on national television a member of Anning’s staff go in touch asking for the details (again) and it was finally removed.

2.2 New Incitement to Hate

Following the attack in New Zealand Senator Anning has again been inciting hate. In a press release he blamed the attack by a white supremacist on the Muslim victims saying:

  • “The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”
  • “Let us be clear, while Muslims may have been the victims today, usually they are the perpetrators.”
  • He called Islam “the religious equivalent of fascism”, a “savage belief” and a “violent ideology”.
  • He blamed Muslims saying “just because… [Muslims] were not the killers in this instance, does not make them blameless.”

The full statement is below (click to enlarge).

2.3 The Danger of Incitement to Hate

Incitement to hate, like that of Senator Anning, stops short of incitement to violence, but when it is shared in social media it encourages a downwards spiral that results in incitement to violence. We’ve documented this in various other far-right spaces, for example here and here.

The resulting online incitement to violence can push those indoctrinated by extremist ideology towards real world terror attacks. The same sort of indoctrination occurs with both the far-right and radical Islamists. Both build a narrative around a clash of civilisations, frame others as a threat to their values, and encourage those they incite to become soldiers in this struggle.

The end result is what we saw in New Zealand yesterday.

3. Analysis of the Attacker

The attack on the mosques was carried out by Brenton Harrison Tarrant,
an Australian citizen living in New Zealand. He was motivated by a extremist ideology, that of white supremacy but strongly influenced by the Islamophobic elements of the Counter Jihad Movement. A manifesto he posted online prior to the attack gives an frequently asked questions guide to his beliefs, motivations and actions.

3.1 The message before the attack

To understand Tarrant we must start not with his manifesto, but with his message that released the manifesto and signalled the imminent terrorist attack. That message was posted to the /pol/ board on 8Chan. From the message we learn that he was a /pol/lacks, a regular on 8chan’s /pol/. He considered this his community. That alone says a lot about Tarrant. To understand what this means, a little background on 4Chan, 8Chan and /pol/ is needed.

3.1.1 Introduction to 4Chan, 8Chan and /pol/

4Chan is an anonymous image board founded in 2003. It allows visitors to post without registering an account and such posts are then listed as coming from “Anonymous”. 4Chan created the modern concept of a meme, LOLCats, and the Anonymous movement. It’s also responsible for some of the worst aspects of the internet, encouraging suicides, coordinating extreme harassment and the misogyny that led to Gamergate.

8Chan is essentially a copy of 4Chan but under different management. It promotes itself as a “free-speech-friendly 4chan alternative”. It was created by Fredrick Brennan in 2013 in response to increases in moderation on 4Chan to remove illegal content. It grew substantially when 4Chan’s administrator decided to shut down Gamegate discussion in September 2014 and users migrated to 8Chan. While run by Brennan, the site is now owned by Jim Watkins a military veteran in his 50s who bankrolls it. It takes a far more extreme view of free speech.

Version of the “politically incorrect” forum known for short as /pol/ can be found on both 4Chan and 8Chan. /Pol/ promotes racism, Nazism and is the original home of many on the Alt-Right, as well as the source of many Alt-Right tactics. /Pol/ is responsible for teaching Tay, Microsoft’s self-learning Twitter bot, to a Hitler loving racist. /Pol/ also manipulated the media into believing there was a boycott of Star Wars for have a cast that was too racially diverse and not white enough. They also spent years trolling cartoonist Ben Garrison, turning his political cartoons into pro-Nazi and antisemitic propaganda and were involved in the efforts to get an antisemitic image recognised as part of everyday internet culture (see our report). Slogans such as “race war now” advocate violence, but the its always hard to know what is serious and what is a result of
/pol/lacks trolling each other.

3.1.2 The /pol/ Message

The message to /pol/ warned an attack was imminent. It linked to the posters Facebook profile saying he would be live streaming the attack. It said good bye in case he didn’t make it.

Given the high level of anonymity that usually exists, that combination of a link to a social media account, a threat of attack and a goodbye, should have set to alarm bells for any law enforcement officer who saw it while monitoring the forums. Made shortly before the attack, acting swiftly enough on such intelligence would have been close to impossible.

The post also provided links to a number of articles by Tarrant including his manifesto explaining his attack and seeking to answer any questions in case he didn’t survive. The attack, envisaged as a possible suicide attack, was designed to make him a martyr. He wants his words to spread and become part of the cannon of far-right literature available online. The sort of literature that he himself read and became radicalised by.

3.1.3 Conclusions on the message

The choice of /pol/ on 8Chan is not just a political synergy or the use of a forum he is comfortable with, it is a deliberate effort to exploit the fundamental nature of the forum to achieve his objective.

On both 4Chan and 8Chan posts are ephemeral. They get pushed out of site and deleted. People are used to archiving and redistributing content. Their DNA is about ensuring content remains on the internet and cannot be censored by governments. 8Chan is even stronger on this than 4Chan.

The dramatic nature of the live feed video, the volume of pre-prepared written material, and choice of forum, is designed to push this content into the far-right canon.

2.2 The Manifesto

The manifesto itself needs to be read with a hint of caution. It includes both firmly held beliefs and an element of trolling, similar to most posts on /pol/. It’s possible some of the provided factual information in the manifesto is deliberately false in order to support a more ideal narrative or to add to the element of trolling.

His narrative is a confused fusion of white supremacy with its idea of racial purity and the clash of cultures idea found in some elements of the Counter Jihad Movement.

3.2.1 No real significant in the country or timing

The manifesto states that the preparations for the attack occurred over roughly two years but Christchurch was chosen as the target three months ago. The timing of the attack was not significant.

3.2.2 Guns and Fascism

The use of guns appears to be inspired by the school shootings in the United States. Specifically, the added media attention resulting from debate about gun control. Tarrant has a delusional idea that a shooting in New Zealand could have an affect on “the politics of United states and thereby the political situation of the world”. He sees gun control as a fracture point between the political left and the right in the United States which can lead to “dramatic polarization” leading to a “fracturing of the US along cultural and racial lines”.

This idea of fracturing society, destroying it, so it can be remade in a new image is fascist idea. It occurred repeatedly in different guises in the manifesto. This is perhaps unsurprising given that Tarrant states he is a fascist writing in the manifesto, “For once, the person that will be called a fascist, is an actual fascist.” This also suggests a rejection of others on the far right who are often in the media for not being real fascists.

3.2.3 White supremacy

In explaining what he wants he recited the most popular American white supremacy slogan: “We must ensure the existence of our people, and a future for white children”. Known as “the 14 words”, this slogan was created by white supremacist terrorist David Lane. Tarrant doesn’t seem too attached to the wording, repeating it twice more in the manifesto with his own variations. The slogan is something of a scared symbol among white supremacists and this tampering is almost sacrilegious. Tarrant treats it as nothing more than a tool to be echoed to establish his right wing credentials.

The manifesto also echos the white supremacists myth of “white genocide”. Tarrant introduces this in different ways. First he raises a demographic threat, arguing low fertility rates in the West will lead to “ethnic”, “cultural” and “racial” replacement in what he describes as “White nations”. He concludes: “This is WHITE GENOCIDE”. Late he states that “NGOs are directly involved in the genocide of the European people” and that, “in the face of ethnic genocide” all actions are permitted and “morality is ambiguous”.

3.2.4 Rejection of Nazism and Antisemitism

Despite adopting white supremacy ideology, Tarrant does so selectively, rejecting its fundamental tenants of Nazism and antisemitism. His actions signal an intent to use white supremacy, and whatever support he can get from white supremacists, for his own purposes. He does this with many other groups as well.

In the manifesto the only references to Jews is a statement where he says clearly that he is not an antisemite and that “A jew living in israel is no enemy of mine, so long as they do not seek to subvert or harm my people” [sic]. He also says he is not a Nazi and that “actual nazis do not exist”, nor does he belief he is a neo-Nazi. The use of the number “14” by white supremacists is almost always accompanied by the number “88” (short for Heil Hitler, H being the 8th letter of the alphabet). The absence of the 88 in his extensive use of symbolism is notable.

3.2.5 Islamophobia of the Counter Jihad Movement

Tarrant says he is unsure if he is a Christian. At the same time, he strongly buys into the Counter Jihad Movement’s narrative about a clash of civilisations.

He says his choice of target was inspire by the “desecration of the church that had been converted to a mosque in Ashburton”. This was to be his third target, a bonus if he could get that far. The two mosques he attacked were chosen because they were close by and looked more “foreign”.

He says he doesn’t mind Muslims that live in Muslim countries. He dislikes Muslims that “invade our lands”. What he really hates are converts to Islam who he says are “blood traitors to their own race”. This is language used by the white supremacists for “mixed race” marriages. Tarrant is seeking to reapply the concept to link disparate narratives of hate together.

The Counter Jihad narrative is stronger on his Twitter account where pictures of his weapons show them decorated with the names of historic figures who fought in clashes between the Christian and Muslim worlds. Further details are below.

3.2.6 Environmentalism

Some have called Tarrant an “Eco-Fascist” and highlighted fascist thoughts about the environment. The opening of his manifesto does raise concerns about population, but it isn’t absolute population and its impact on the planet he is concerned about. Instead it is the idea of demographic threat to the control by white people of western countries, including Australia and New Zealand which he says are extensions of Europe. This is a really a Islamophobic Counter Jihad narrative that doesn’t work in countries like Australia and New Zealand where the traditional owners of the land are very clearly present, and not European.

Tarrant says his values do not come from his family, friends or society. He laments that “typical Australians” only care about “animal rights, environmentalism and taxation”. A strong argument against environmentalism being a major part of his views.

He addresses a hypothetical question about why he doesn’t make climate change his top priority. His response is that white people are not increase population, something he laments elsewhere in the manifesto saying population growth among white people needs to rise, but that his plan to “kill the invaders” will “kill the overpopulation” and therefore as a side effect “save the environment”.

3.2.7 Other narratives

The manifest contain a section on “General Thoughts and Potential Strategies”. This is a collection of extremist narratives and slogans turned into thought bubbles. The ideas comes from a range of ideologies some of which are explored above.

The ideas presented include:

  • The need for “strong men”, a idea with reflections of the misogyny of Gamegate and their view on society.
  • The idea that diversity i.e. multiculturalism is a weakness and “racial nationalism is what provides strength”. This is a white supremacy ideology.
  • That “radicalization of young Western men is not just unavoidable, but inevitable” and a “rational response to degeneration”.
  • That assimilation of immigrants will not work because their culture is richer than western culture which he describes as a “culture of decay, self-hatred, childlessness, disorder and nihilism”. This is very much the attitude of /pol/ on 8Chan.
  • He argues for killing “Kill High Profile Enemies” as well as killing civilians referring to them as “unarmed invaders” that seek to “displace and replace our people” and “destroy our culture and nationhood”. This is an Islamophobic narrative from the Counter Jihad Movement. The “threat to our way of life” narrative is popular among anti-Muslim groups in Australia.
  • He says that “Green nationalism is the only true nationalism” and repeats his idea that “immigration into Europe is environmental warfare”. He mentions in passing that “never ending population growth” will harm the environment and decries the idea the political left have “co-opt the environmentalist movement”. He doesn’t offer any ideas beyond keeping immigrants out of Europe. The is a use of the environmental argument for other purposes, not a true commitment to environmentalism.
  • The idea immigrants are raping “European women” which he said should be solved by killing the perpetrators and hanging their families.

That last point needs some further explanation. This narrative was significantly promoted last year in Sweden for political purposes. The evidence from research into immigration and crime in the United States, Australia, the UK, Italy, as well as across Europe does not support immigration being linked to a rise in violent crime.

The research on Germany indicates a small rise in violent crime (up 7% from 2014 to 2016, then down 2.5% from 2016 to 2017) which is linked to a time of high immigration. Refugees and asylum seekers made up 11.9% of sexual offence suspects, but criminologist explained this was “because of the demographics” as young men accounting for a greater proportion of this population. As a criminologist explained, “Whether they’re asylum seekers or EU migrants… Young men commit more crimes in every society.”

3.2.8 Using diversity for maximum coverage

In his manifesto he praises other white supremacists. Darren Osbourne attacked a UK mosque in 2017. Anders Breivik killed 77 people in 2011 in Norway saying he was targeting multiculturalism. Dylan Roof killed 9 black worshippers in a US church in 2015. Anton Lundin Pettersson attacked students and a teacher in a Swedish school in 2015, targeting those with dark skin. Luca Traini targeted African immigrants in Italy in 2018.

Tarrant praises them all despite the significant differences in their ideologies – a mix of racially motivated attacks without regard for religion and attacks targeting people specifically because of their religion. The selections seems designed to touch as many raw nerves as possible, given local news around the world a connection to speak about.

3.3 Weapons on Twitter

As mentioned above, pictures of his weapons were posted to his Twitter account. The number 14 appears repeatedly, a reference to the white supremacist “14 words” slogan mentioned in his manifesto. They showed anti-immigration messages like “Here’s your Migration Compact”.

His weapons also contain the names of historic figures involves in clashed between the Christian and Muslim world centuries ago. These include:

  • Charles Martel, the ruler of the Frankish realm who defeated Muslim invaders at the Battle of Tours in the year 732 appears multiple times.
  • Constantine II Asen, the last last emperor of Bulgaria and leader of a revolt against the Ottomans in northwestern Bulgaria between 1408–1413 also appears on the weapons.
  • John Hunyadi a Hungarian general and Governor who defeated the Ottomans in 1441 and 1442.

A more detailed analysis of the weapons can be seen at the Daily Sabah with analysis of additional weapons at TRT Word. The additional weapons
featuring some of the same details of historic figures, but also some of the far right extremists mentioned in the manifesto and discussed above.

4. Analysis of Online Responses

In this section we look at a few online responses and the comments they attract. In order to keep their online audience, those on the far-right with a strong social media presence often walk right up to the line without crossing it. Instead they create spaces where others can incite hate and violence through the comments they post in response. The far-right “leaders” have the ability to moderate these comments, but no obligation to do so.

Platform providers can respond, but their track record in responding in an appropriate and timely manner is poor. It’s getting better in Europe where they are heavily investing in response teams as a result of EU and national government pressure. Less so here in Australia, as we demonstrated with Fraser Anning earlier this year. Terrorism does get more attention and a faster response, but that’s only after it moves well beyond the incitement to hate. We saw that with the rapid response by social media platform after the attack. We need more action earlier on to prevent it getting to that stage.

4.1 Analysis of responses to Senator Anning

In the days following the attack Senator Anning has been lamenting the focus on innocent Muslims being killed by a right wing extremist and would prefer to shift the attention to terrorist incidents by Muslims over the years. He’s also using this to encourage people to sign up to his newsletter.

The last name is Daniel Pearl. He was a journalist for the The Wall Street Journal. He was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2002, and because he was Jewish he was then beheaded. In his honour, his family setup a foundation in his name. The Daniel Pearl Foundation promotes mutual respect and understanding between people of different cultures. They run world music days focused on raising funds to combat racism. They support journalism, music and dialogue. It’s an absolute disgrace for Senator Anning to be using Daniel Pearl’s name to promote this agenda of hate. The families of many of the other victims would likely feel the same way.

What’s really sad is that this post has, in about 5 hours, received around 3,800 reactions and 1,390 shares. 4,747 of the reactions are likes, 295 love his comment and 622 of the responses are angry – though we can’t tell if that is angry at him or with him. It’s also received 1,700 comments, many of those are throwing virtual eggs at Anning after EggBoy’s intervention.

4.1.1 Response Promoting Islamophobia

Cartoons of Mohamed

  • User we’ll call M posted an image which depicted a cartoon of a man engaging in a sex act with a child and the words “The climax from the children’s Koran: the deflowering of 9 year old Aisha by the Prophet Mohamed”. The cartoon also included the words “Watch out! SATIRE” in the top left hand corner. Saying something is “satire” does not make extreme content magically acceptable.
  • A further 4 images along the same lines, some depicting graphic sex acts in cartoon form, were posted by M.
  • M also posted further pictures including a cartoon of Mohamed with a sex toy and message soliciting gay sex with explicit language. A second image with similar messages was also posted.
    • Asked who has done him more harm in his life, Muslims, the poor, the disabled, refugees or old white men in suits, M replied “that’s easy, Muslims! They are the ones calling Australian women whores, and the Muslim men gang raping them saying they deserved it, Muslims are the ones committing terrorist attacks in Australia, not the Chinese, not Japanese, not indian but Muslims. They are the ones wanting to change our way of life to suit their Islamic beliefs and it’s the politically correct politicians pandering to this bullshit, because Muslims are quick to throw the racist card if they don’t. So Muslims are your answer.”
  • Another supporter posted a meme with a cartoon picture of an old man and a child with a heart and the text “ISLAM legalising pedophilia since 622” and “Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam was 51 when he has sex with his wife Aisha, who was 9. And he is still the Muslims’ role model”.

Muslims as a Cultural and Criminal Threat

  • In response to various posts against Anning, another supporter we’ll call N, a member of a range of hate groups which OHPI monitors, wrote a serious of replies “rephrasing” people’s comments as: “something about wanting to live under Islamic law?”, “something about being racist towards white people and colonising our countries?”, “Sorry, something about being a left winged traitor and a mouth like a sewer?”, “Umm…I don’t know, something about raping white women and running down Australians in cars?” The same poster later writes “if your’e going to be racist in English please, and don’t forget to shower after having sex with the family goat”

Promoters of refocusing on attacks by Muslims

  • A person posted links about Christians being killed in Nigeria. One link was to the Tea Party (extreme right) and the other to the Christian Post (right wing).
  • A supporter writes, “The Muslim’s are the ones that declared holy war not us!”
  • Another support tells a Muslim poster “what about the church bombing in the Philippines..30 killed, or the 120 killed in Nigeria and churches burnt, or does that not matter because they were all christians..? Stop being so ignorant and one eyed, because this is by your people.” Another poster from the Philippines responds that the attack there was by Christian rebels.

Promoters of Muslims as Terrorists / Criminals

  • “Will Connolly [EggBoy] is a young uneducated fool. Islam is the culture and religion of terror and death.”
  • “there’s two types of muzzy , one who is extremist and the other supports the extremists, which one are you?”
  • N tells a Muslim commenting on the page to, “shut up coloniser. Go blow up a plane or something”, and tells another to “Shut up swine. Go hi-jack a plane or run over some white people in a truck, that’s what you Muslims love doing. By the way Aborigines hate Muslims, they bash them and steal from their shops over here.” Later he writes “I don’t understand racist talk…something about raping white women and killing and blowing up people? Is that what you meant?”
  • Another user posts the words “Cultural Enrichment”, a phrase usually used by anti-Muslim groups to describe terrorist attacks they attribute to Muslims.
  • A meme with the words “It’s not racist to want to end the rise of Islamic extremism before it kills you” is posted by a user from Sri Lanka.
  • In a response to criticism of Fraser Anning a supporter replies, “stop twisting the facts he never once said any of the kind , like 99 percent of aussies he doesnt want a barbaric ancient women oppressive violent culture such as islam to grow in australia, he condems violence”
  • “It’s like there is a veil over people’s eyes none of us want to see innocent people slaughtered but where is the empathy and sympathy and most of all the recognition for the atrocities rapes slaughter and murder on the European Western and other Cultures that has been carried out in the name of Allah”

Promoters of Islam as a cultural threat

  • “Talking crap. I for one don’t want my Country Run by Islamic Rule in the near Future because we are Bred out by Them. Western society will be No more …” These views are strikingly similar to the start of the manifesto. The posters profile has as their bio the phrase “Firstly! Australia for Australian’s.”
  • Another person writes, “Why are so many from other countries commenting. Are they wanting to make sure our politics suit them before they move here? #istandwithanning”

4.1.2 Promoters of Conspiracy Theories

  • Another person, this one from India, writes “Christchurch Attacker was Trained by TURKEY(ERDOGAN)&Pakistan to Attack mosque to gain sympathy for islam&to win TURKEY Local elections of 31 march by ERDOGAN” he posts links about Tarrant’s travels to Turkey and Pakistan (he travelled the world for a number of years) then continues saying “Is it CONSPIRACY to gain Sympathy for islam , spread it all over world,So that More islamic immigrants can’t be sent to UK, US, EUROPE,AUS,NZ,and many developed Countries to spread islam. Was it CONSPIRACY and game plan and attacks were conducted by islamic countries themselves? It’s biggest CONSPIRACY of islamic countries to spread all over world.??”
  • “we didn’t sign anything, they make decisions based on what their masters in the UN tell em to do ?”
  • “False flags all of them and if you don’t know, start researching. The rabbit hole is very deep.”

4.1.3 Responses Promoting Antisemitism

  • “you know why our religon hate jews . Because jews irresposible , snobish people they hate christian and other religon they thought they are great cn control the world”
  • A poster from Malaysia writes, “Senator why are you “white power” not asserting that it is a terrorist? Are you shy or embarrassed by that situation? a man with a brain will think but you of a dirty Jewish”
  • Multiple people from Malaysia added comments along the lines of this one: “Israel army /police everyday kill Muslim at Palestine…???” This highlights how for some everything must be about Israel, even here where the terrorist attack was carried out by an Australian attacking New Zealand Muslims – a situation on the other side of the world.

4.1.4 Responses about 9/11

  • A poster from Victoria writes, “Strong evidence saying Israel orchestrated 9/11!!”
  • Another from the Gold Coast writes “9/11 was an inside job”
  • From NSW comes a comment “don’t forget 9/11”
  • A Malaysian user posts multiple memes about 9/11 being an inside job, including one with flags of Israel on it promoting a 9/11 Rothschild conspiracy variant.
  • Another meme posted from Malaysia says “9/11 never forget Muslims didn’t do it”.

4.1.5 Promoting Extremism

A post with a picture from the video turned into a meme with the text “When playing fortnight doesn’t do it 4 you anymore” sends a /pol/ like message supporting the attack. A comment in reply says it has been reported to authorities.

Other examples include:

  • “That’s right Fraser it’s long over due for some payback. If you want to blame anybody for this shooting blame the media and our weak government”
  • “1 ‘revenge’ attack & suddenly the westerners are the terrorists???????”

4.1.6 Patriotic / Nationalistic Support & Responses to it

A’s True Blue Support

A post by A encouraging Anning to keep going received 692 interactions of support, followed by a response from Fraser Anning.

A received abuse in response. One comment said she had no soul. She replied to this, “i have soul. I lot of love actually, i don’t want to hate, but look at what’s happening, Australia has been wanting to stop immigration for so long and our governments keep building mosques, encouraging this way of life. No just no! Enough.”

Other abuse directed against A included a comments saying:

  • “Thousand of dogs are put down in shelters every year because of scum Dog Breeders like you. Go and get a real job”
  • your a racist pig ?”
  • “stay off the pipe you meth head”
  • “Don’t forget the thousand of aborigines murdered to be the nation of Australia. Blood on your hands and your forefathers.”

Her response was “So basically your all doing what you do best, ATTACKING US. Even on social media.”

B’s Crusader Support

Another supporter of Anning, who we’ll call B, posted a meme of him as a Christian Crusader Knight carrying an Australian flag. The message posted with it reads “Continue speaking the truth and never back down from the corrupt lying media. Keep fighting for what is right and fight against the insane left. But most importantly we stand with you in saving our nation.” It received 103 interactions.

4.1.7 Opposition through Egg Memes

Many people spoke out against Anning on his page. A significant volume of the counter speech came from Malaysia, some explicitly declared themselves part of the “bawang army” (the Onion Army). The actions of EggBoy were also posted repeatedly.

Here’s EggBoy in action:

Fraser Anning’s page received it’s own eggs

Deeper messages

The last image is not a comparison with the Holocaust, but rather a message about the power of standing up to fascism and not being a bystander.

4.1.8 Opposition with mistranslated messages

Replies in other languages, such as Malay, with provided translations which did not match the actual text flooded the page. Some could be translated fairly well by clicking the Facebook translate link, others could not.

Example 1:

Banyak bunyi la kau ni. Cuba diam sikit. Dah la kau suka delete comment. Apa lagi yg kau tak puas hati ni. Padan muka budak tu buat macam tu. Patut dia baling kulit durian kat kepala kau tu, biar berfungsi sikit otak kau. Translate : hope you will be selected to represent Australia, Senator

The actual translation of the first part (by Facebook’s translate feature) is: You’re a lot of noises. Try a little quiet. You’d like to delete the comments. What else are you not satisfied with. It’s fitting that kid’s face is doing that. Should he throw the durian skin on your head, let’s work a little bit of your brain.

Example 2:

Dear Pakcik Fraser Anning, mak hang hijau, bapak hang kuning, adik hang perpel, abang hang biru, hati hang hitam. famili hang teletubies. 
translate: May God bless you.

The actual translation of the first part (by Facebook’s translate feature) is: Dear Uncle Fraser Anning, Mom Hang Green, dad hang yellow, brother hang perpel, brother hang blue, your heart is black. My family is hanging out.

4.1.9 Opposition involving incitement

  • A New Zealand woman writes, “I’ll give everyone who throws an egg a dollar per egg ? it’s gotta hit him tho”
  • One post saying “senator fraser needs to be taken out”.
  • Another post threatening to kill Anning was removed (either by moderators or Facebook) with a number of poeple saying they has reported it to police
  • A reply to “A” said, “Im happy to smack ur bloodyshit head along with bloody senator.”
  • A number of posts suggest a brick should have replaced the egg

4.2 Revolving door for someone “ready to kill”

Almost every post on the Facebook profile of this person claiming to be an Army veteran is hate and incitement. Their profile picture (not shown) is of them holding a rifle. Their intro reads “An ex military man ready to kill the enemy of my country within my country that they let in.”

They share content from hate pages Facebook have not yet banned and from like minded individuals. Their hate is largely focused against Muslims and members of the African community.

Promoters of Muslims as Terrorists / Criminals

One post presents a common meme “not all Muslims are terrorists, but why all terrorists are Muslims?” The New Zealand terrorist attack, Tarrant’s manifesto and the names of far-right terrorists written on his weapons, all highlight just how absurd this meme is. Unfortunately, despite it’s lack of accuracy, such think has influenced much of the counter terrorism thinking by governments around the world – despite warnings from a large number of experts.

While a comparatively slightest suspicion about a Muslim would unlock resources to put them under tight surveillance and disruption, the same response was not available for far-right extremists who whose incitement was seen as more acceptable on “freedom of speech” grounds. Media gave them air time and some politicians, like Senator Anning, used them for publicity. The same is true of social media platforms where, despite a crackdown in recent years, the threshold for removing far-right extremist pages that incite hate against Muslims remains high.

Other content shared by this person included attacks on the New Zealand Prime Minister seeking to present her and the entire left of politics as supporter of Islamist extremism.

Another post promotes the idea that all Muslims are violent and advocates a “total ban” on Muslim immigration.

A post from the far-right group “True Blue Crew” in South Australia posted a picture of a child with a swollen stomach to suggest pregnant children was the norm with Muslims. The image is actually from 2016 and of 12 year old Sandy Brandão da Cruz from Brazil who was suffering from problems with her liver and spleen. It has nothing to do with Muslims or pregnant children, but started being used in this way in 2017 to spread hate against the Rohingya. Called out by its followers for spreading fake news, the True Blue Crew did not remove the post but double down posting other content on this theme of child abuse.

Promoting violence and intimidation

While the message in the items below could be considered ambiguous, in context of being posted to the profile of a person whose intro speaks of killing the enemy, this content must be seen in a different light.

Here again is the into:

The idea of “fight back” in this post is just ambiguous enough to be read as either a call for physical violence or a call for far-right political action. Should groups should be closed as their only purpose is to incite hate, and potentially violence.

While calling for an image of the Quran being burned to be circulated, this post (re-shared from a post by an individual) also promotes the idea of actually carrying out such an act. The imagery is that of violence which might not be limited to books. The meme uses language that challenges others to join in creating an environment of intimidation for Muslims.

Support for Fraser Anning

Senator Anning has been promoting himself as the representative of the far right in parliament. He is trying to gather a base like the racist Alt-Right core in Donald Trump’s base. The person we are examining here is one of those the rhetoric from Anning is successfully attracting. Anning is also using material, and this person is sharing it, based on extremist narratives from the Counter Jihad Movement.

Promotes Islam as a cultural threat

The campaigns to “ban the Burqa” are a staple part of anti-Muslim hate. It represents a rejection of Muslims as not “one of us” and argues Islam is incompatible with Australian values. This cultural rejection of Muslims as part of the Australian community is made even clearer in the image below.

This image rejects the idea of Muslims being Australian. It sends one message, saying “we reject your efforts to fit in” and then sends another saying “you better fit in, you can’t keep your religion or culture here”. The use of “free speech” in the name of the page promoting this is disingenuous. They want free speech for their hate, but reject the free speech of others.

Part of the cultural threat message has been targeting high profile Muslims. Dr Waleed Aly is best known as a media presenter and was the 2016 winner of the Gold Logie Award for Best Personality on Australian Television. He was for a time the host of ABC Radio National’s drive program, co-hosts Channel 10’s The Project, and co-presents ABC’s The Minefield.

Dr Aly is also a lawyer who worked with the Human Rights Law Centre and an academic in the Global Terrorism Research Centre at Monash University. He obtained his PhD in 2017 for a thesis on the topic, “Towards a structuration theory of global terrorism”. He monologue against ISIS after the Paris attack in 2015 received 13 millions views in a single day.

The attack in the image below is an effort to undermine one of the most well known and liked Muslims in the country. It has no basis in fact but is designed to undermine the idea of Muslims being a respected part of the Australian community.

The Resolving Door

The person who posted this content is no stranger to Facebook action. Their posts make it clear their account is regularly suspended, what they and many others described as being placed in “Facebook jail”. Clearly these temporary bans are doing nothing to discourage them.

Similar, one of the pages we looked at above states quite clearly that Facebook has already taken the decision to ban them. They won on appeal but were then banned again – permanently. Their response? They just recreated the page. Since it’s recreation in November 2018, that is in less than 5 months, they are back to 18,651 followers. It’s not the 147,000 they had in August 2018, or even the 97,000 they had earlier in the year, but it is far higher than should exist for a page that Facebook already banned. It states clearly that it is being run by the same administrators, so in the end all the ban has done is forced them to rebuild part of their audience. That’s clearly not enough of a deterrent.

Recommendations: Facebook and other social media companies need to start actively cooperating with governments on lower level incidents. There need to be real consequences when pages and accounts are closed for hate speech. Account suspensions need to lead to account closures when harmful behaviour isn’t changing.

At minimum police should be notified when accounts are closed due to hate speech and should be provided with the IP address and the Facebook ID numbers and access to view archived material that was previously public if they request it. Police should assess if banned people should be placed in their monitoring systems, and at minimum should check if the people are on any watch lists.

When a page is closed, the administrators should lose the right to be administrators of other pages for a period of no less than 12 months. A second page being banned should see the ability to administer pages permanently blocked. In time Facebook may wish to require page administrators to be verified based on government issued ID. This would help to prevent banned administrators opening additional accounts.

4.3 The Okay symbol and the Alt-Right

When Tarrant appeared in court he flashed the “Okay” sign. This hand gesture and the emoji of it ? have become a dog whistle for the Alt-Right.

The use of the okay sign by the far-right started in the white supremacy movement around 2015. In this context the three extended fingers form a “W” and circle becomes the top of a “P” that is completed with the other hand. This represents White Power, a catch cry of the white supremacist movement. It was picked up more broadly by the Alt-Right as a form of dog whistling.

The adoption of an everyday symbol is the physical gesture equivalence of the code words the alt-right was to later use when they started referring to Jews as Skypes and Muslims as Skittles. Its purpose is to fly under the radar, invisible to normal people. This is particularly when it is posted as an emoji. At the same time, it sends a message says, “There’s more of us than you know”, to empower and embolden the Alt-Right faithful. The okay hand sign, and the okay emoji, are just ordinary enough to make those calling it out jump at shadows, potentially calling out perfect innocent uses by mistake. As used by the Alt-Right, it is a symbol designed to troll and ultimate that’s what Tarrant is, a terrorist troll bred on /pol/.

Tarrant is primarily a product of an online culture of hate and trolling. He uses some core elements of the white supremacy ideology while rejecting others. His use of the okay hand sign in court was a further element of trolling, designed to empower the white supremacy movement and the Alt-Right even as he sought their acceptance.

The Online Hate Prevention Institute see very occasional use of the okay emoji in posts by people who identify with the Alt-Right. They visit our page for the purpose of trolling, or we see them when they identify themselves with the symbol while commenting on the pages of Australian far-right groups. This is Trump obsessed, conspiracy theory obsessed, online activist sub-culture is small and less relevant in Australia, our reports on the attacks on Bourke St and Flinders St did not record it. It isn’t, however, entirely absent, just very rare.

5. Media Commentary

Our report on the terrorist attack in New Zealand and the response online is bring published raw, updated as we add further data and analysis. A final version with additional chapters on technical, policy and legal considerations will be published in a few months time.

ABC 7.30 put together a powerful report on Monday looking at the aftermath of the attack. There is a segment of that program looking at how we deal with those who spread hate in which our CEO, Dr Oboler, is interviewed. In Australia the full episode is available online until March 24.

Dr Oboler’s interview with ABC News on Tuesday discussed monitoring online hate and extremism and what can and can’t be done. Artificial Intelligence can play a role but it won’t be a complete solution. The interview was picked up by MSN for global coverage.

Dr Nasya Bahfen, a journalist, lecturer and director of OHPI, wrote in the Asia Media Centre in New Zealand about the role sections of the media have played in allowing far-right hate and extremism to spread. She writes, “Even if a journalist did not explicitly attack Muslims or Islam, she or he was a willing actor in a latent process of normalising hate under, for example, the guise of free speech, or the ‘need’ to criticise and question Islam, or to silence practising Muslims (usually Muslim women) and speak on their behalf.” As a practising Muslim reflects personally and writes that,”Muslim groups have to put together tool-kits on coping with community trauma, teaching members of their communities how to explain the hatred directed towards them to their children.”

A week prior to the attack Dr Oboler told 10 Daily that the “alt-right” was a “much more recent movement” than traditional neo-Nazis and that “they tend to use digital channels to get more publicity”. He described them as “extreme nationalists who are also Islamophobic” and warned: “They need to be prosecuted and its up to police and the government to track these people down and hold them accountable. We have the laws, they just need to use them.”

Absolute freedom of speech online leads to places like 8Chan which played a significant role in radicalising Brenton Tarrant, in turn leading to the tragic events that unfolded in New Zealand. Ginger Gorman is a journalist, author and cyberhate expert who has both experienced and explored the world of predator trolling. OHPI’s Carly McClen interviews her about her new book “Troll hunting: Inside the World of Online Hate and its Human Fallout” following the New Zealand terrorist attack

The Australian Financial Review have looked at regulation of social media companies. The article includes an extensive interview with Dr Oboler and one key point he raised was that, “If we wait to deal with the problem until we’re dealing with that actual terrorist attack, we’ve left it far too late. We need to do more to address the hate speech earlier on, further down that food chain.”

We discussed the use of the OK sign by white supremacists with 10 Daily after it was flashed in court by Benton Tarrant. Dr Oboler explain, “It’s a message to empower and embolden the faithful while being just ordinary enough to make those calling it out jump at shadows.” The use of the symbol by the Alt-Right goes back to 2015. Those suggesting it came from 4Chan in 2017 and was simply a from of trolling, were taken in by a hoax.

6. How to comment and support this work

If you haven’t already done so, please help us share this article via social media. You can comment at this Facebook thread. Please note we have a No Platform Policy and will ban those seeking to spread hate on our page.

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The Online Hate Prevention Institute is a registered Australian Charity, we rely on public donations to support our work. Please see further details for supporting us if you wish to donate in another way or outside of a campaign.

7. Reporting Islamohpobia

You can now report Islamophobia on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter using the tool below. You can submit and item without registering, but to complete your report and classify the content you need to login to the tool via Facebook. Content is likely to fit multiple categories – pick the one that fits best. You can read more about our work on Islamophobia here.