As New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, yesterday’s shooting brought with it one of our darkest days. PAT PILCHER looks at the aftermath.
In mid-2018, twitter and other social media outlets had erupted into fiery debate as New Zealand learned that two alt-right activists and known white supremacists from Canada were going on a speaking tour in New Zealand. One side argued that freedom of speech was the issue and that they should be allowed to talk even if we don’t agree with what they have to say. Others argued that there is no place in New Zealand for divisive hate speech.
In the end, as is so often the case, debate fizzled out with the tour being cancelled as no one wanted to risk providing a venue for such a contentious event.
Online Debate around the contentious event continued for some afterwards and sadly, today the debate again blew up in the worst possible way after 40 people were slaughtered by right-wing white supremacists who went on shooting sprees in two Christchurch mosques.
One of the attackers posted a brief manifesto which primarily consisted of nutty conspiracy theories. In the toxic document, the attacker says he is a 28-year-old Australian who was born who was raised in New Zealand. Later, it also came to light online that the attacker was supposedly known to Australian police. If this is correct (and remembering that the information is unofficial), some difficult questions need to be asked about how he was able to obtain a firearm and how he was able to get an assault rifle, modify it so that it was fully automatic and had high capacity ammo magazines.
Let us be clear here, assault weapons are next to useless for hunting. They’re also not much use for target practice on a shooting range. They are only designed for one purpose; killing people. How on earth are they legal to sell to civilians in New Zealand?
While our intelligence agencies were busy looking at Muslims as potential security threats, the alleged perpetrators of possible terror attacks became victims. Some serious soul searching is also happening right now within New Zealand’s intelligence agencies.
This threw the ethics of numerous media organisations into sharp relief. One of the terrorists used a camera to live-stream the attack on Facebook. Several less scrupulous media outlets streamed/broadcast some of the footage and/or read out parts of the attacker’s manifesto. Doing so should be construed as being particularly irresponsible as it may give the attackers and anyone stupid enough to follow them a platform. The last thing anyone wants or needs are copycat crimes.
Racism and religious bigotry are particularly poisonous things, especially when combined with ignorance. They also do not spring up in a vacuum, but are fed by hate groups whose like-minded members can normalise racism and religious intolerance. Adding to this toxic mix are people who refuse to acknowledge that with freedom of speech comes great responsibility. That is the responsibility to be tolerant of others and to accept that not everyone can be the same. We also have an obligation not to tolerate religious or ethnic bigotry. Not ever.
Right now, there is a lot of soul-searching happening in New Zealand. Kiwis who have long been proud of our inclusive and tolerant society are in shock and looking for answers. Some have resorted to finger pointing and point scoring, but they are thankfully a minority.
Most encouraging of all, many are offering to help mosques and Muslims up and down New Zealand. I can only hope that sanity prevails, and New Zealand does not get sucked into a vicious cycle of reprisals and counterattacks, in which everyone loses while hatred spirals out of control. That is so not what New Zealand is about.
Now is not the time for attributing blame. It is a time for understanding and the strengthening of our resolve. We should never tolerate bigotry or racism in any form. Calling people out on it is vital if we are to ever prevent such heinous killings in the future.
We at Witchdoctor are sickened and saddened by these cowardly attacks. Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones and those who were injured. We fervently hope that love outshines hate as the sick ideologies that fuelled these attacks wither under the glare of public scrutiny.