30/03/2019
Rex Monday
Opinion
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The Honk Pill Troll Killer: Brenton Tarrant's Motives May Never Be Known – If We're Not Careful

Alternatively: Why "Subscribe to Pewdiepie" is the new "Allahu Ackbar".

It is perhaps apposite to begin by stating that I, amongst many of my right-wing friends, would not miss Brenton Tarrant at all were he to shuffle off his mortal coil sooner rather than later. It is to be hoped, however, that the introspection urged upon us by all and sundry in relation to the events of the 15th of March in Christchurch will include some reflection upon the motivations of spree killers in general, and Brenton Tarrant in particular. 

50 innocent people were killed by a crazed gunman that day. This is an unprecedented event in New Zealand history and indeed, one of the worst spree killings ever, worldwide. Martyn Bryant's crazed killing of "WASPs" in Port Arthur, 1996, was the worst spree killing in Australasia prior to the Christchurch atrocity.

Therefore, to understand the motives, the risk factors, and the background of the killer is essential for the prevention of further such episodes. But Brenton Tarrant has left behind a perplexing array of clues designed to obfuscate his true intentions, and these clues mainly take the form of references to internet memes which mainstream media have fallen for, like puppets on a string. Australia's Seven News network broadcast that Brenton Tarrant was "a navy seal with over 300 confirmed kills", demonstrating their very low level of understanding of copypasta and their very high level of willingness to believe anything he said, however ridiculous. He made signs with his hands formerly regarded as the "OK" sign but in recent times alleged to be a sign of white power, and then there were the references to crypto-currency (and related memes) reported by international commentators before being retracted in favour of the theory that he inherited his money from his father who died several years ago. His manifesto reportedly reads like a combination of white identitarianism and eco-fascism. He gives clues that his ideology has shifted over the years between various extremes, giving rise in this author's mind that we may yet see Brenton Tarrant convert to Islam. There, I said it – and there is plenty of precedent for people swapping one extreme ideology for another. You can bet Brenton Tarrant would only ever convert to the most virulent and strident form of Wahhabism or not at all. Unless he were trolling, of course.  

There's no doubt that his actions demonstrate a hatred of Muslims – or at least, Muslims in the wrong place. However, before this can be considered primary to his motivation thought needs to be given to other aspects of his behaviour, and commonalities with other spree killers. After all, Martyn Bryant's apparent dislike of white, Anglo-Saxon protestants may have been part of his motivation, but hardly explains him. It also doesn't seem to have been a deep and abiding hatred, as I suspect the shooter's dislike of Muslims may turn out to be. 

I fear that in fact the motivation may be far more banal, and in some ways far more chilling than that. He views himself as a VIP. He's flown around by air force Hercules with a specially selected guard like Hannibal Lecter. No lawyer can defend him better than he can defend himself. Has he... done it for the lols? We have the Prime Minister of New Zealand dressed up in a hijab. By the way, if somebody shot up a taco shack in the US, can you imagine Trump donning a sombrero for the week? It's not just the PM - we have men dressing up in hijabs. Totally haram by the way: these men are themselves trolls, and whilst I in no way wish to limit freedom of expression I personally find the joke quite tasteless. And where has the left's dislike of cultural appropriation gone?

Brenton Tarrant, at heart, may be a narcissist of the first water, but  without talent enough in any field to achieve the acclaim he requires to feel good. So he killed fifty people, and wrote a manifesto full of misdirection and memes.  The motives may be far more shallow than we are able to imagine, his ideology less solid than his actions suggest. And yet, this shallowness of motive itself is a common characteristic of spree killers. We can accept that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were willing to kill and die for a modicum of posthumous notoriety. Nobody seems to care what motivated Martin Bryant to kill his victims. Anders Behring Breivik's killings seem linked to his ideology by only the thinnest of threads. And Stephen Paddock? It's really anyone's guess. 

The government and other politicians and commentators have been falling over themselves to implement gun control, end free speech, and to be seen in photo opportunities with victims and their families. Perhaps there is nothing too unusual about that. What is unusual is the degree to which, if commentators such as Tim Pool can be believed, the government's actions reflect the shooter's stated goals: the acceleration of a culture war based on provoking government crackdowns on free speech. The many people contacted by the SIS after being reported by Facebook concern trolls, for instance, leaves many shaking their heads. That guy got a visit from the SIS? But apparently Brenton Tarrant never did. Are you serious? The fact that they are alienating every person in New Zealand who might be able to help them understand what's happening should be of grave concern.

To understand Brenton Tarrant, you have to step back and view him through various lenses. He shares something in common with other spree killers – for instance Martyn Bryant, who also inherited a lot of money in his 20's, and Stephen Paddock, a wealthy professional gambler. Tarrant is the idle rich. He travelled the world. There doesn't appear to be a shocked wife or girlfriend in the background. No specific group has claimed or even disavowed him. The parallels to Breivik are obvious – perhaps desperately obvious. 

If viewed as a right-wing ideologue, however, as his victim selection and writings almost beg us to do, he must be seen as a failure. His reverence for the government of China, eco-fascism, and identitarian ideology may well be camouflage, and by giving donations to Martin Sellner (an Austrian right-wing figure whose house was raided as a result of receiving money from Tarrant) he proves himself no friend of the mainstream right. Tarrant very clearly understands that such an action will bring scrutiny and quite possibly political violence upon the people he "supports". No, he wasn't radicalised by Candice Owens as he claims. In this way it becomes apparent that Tarrant is an equal opportunity troll. A history of rejection by right-wing groups, whether far right-wing (apparently, he couldn't find any Nazis to join, despite trying) or more mainstream, would not surprise this analyst one bit. Will we ever be allowed to know?

I've made a few predictions. Tarrant will want cameras in the Court Room and will appeal any decision that doesn't go his way. The judge—poor soul—will not be keen for Tarrant to defend himself, as this will turn the trial into a mockery. The government will continue to use this incident to harass their political opponents and in the process will reveal the extent of its authoritarianism to people who previously never suspected. Fans of the Chans, to name but a few. And Tarrant's smokescreen will persist for quite a while. 

His manifesto – deemed too persuasive to be read by the general populace, who would only get ideas – may well be objectionable in an objective sense. However, much of the output of Hollywood is objectionable these days. Suppressing it, on the other hand, denies victims, law enforcers, and the general public the opportunity to evaluate Tarrant's ideology and its connection to his crime for themselves. And yet, I have a feeling that this manifesto may well be a thin tissue of memes. One thing I know will not be included is Tarrant's personal history, which may be much more important in understanding him than his cobbled together ideology of the week. What abuse, neglect or trauma lurks in the background? What of his social and intellectual development? These things are key, his ideology almost incidental and seemingly casual. No, Brenton Tarrant didn't give himself away, but the size of the ink jet gives at least some kind of clue to the size of the problem Tarrant is misdirecting us away from. The more people buy into the idea of him being representative of the right in general, the further away from the truth they get.

The more the authorities react based on emotion, the more successful a puppet master Tarrant is.

This is his success. This, I fear, is the part he wanted the most. To hell with the rest of us.