From Buffalo to Christchurch, how online fascism causes real-world terror

The racist terror that targeted Black communities in Buffalo, New York, in what the Buffalo Mayor, Byron Brown said, intended to kill “as many Black lives as possible“, left 10 dead and three injured.

Amongst the dead include 77-year-old Pearl Young, 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield, Roberta Drury, 32, 68-year-old Heyward Patterson, Geraldine Talley, 62, 65-year-old Celeste Chaney, 52-year-old Margus Morrison, Andre Mackneil, 53, 72-year-old Katherine “Kat” Massey, and the retired police officer and the heroic store security guard, Aaron Salter, aged 53.

Police named the three individuals injured: Jennifer Warrington, Zaire Goodman, and Christopher Braden.

Of the thirteen people shot, 11 were Black.

The 18-year-old neo-Nazi, Payton Gendron, stands accused of attempting to murder as many Black people as possible in Buffalo, New York, took inspiration from other far-right and white supremacist terrorists in the United States, Norway, Christchurch, and the UK.

A 180-page screed (referred to as a “manifesto” in news outlets) uploaded online and attributed to Gendron clarifies their fascist, neo-Nazi views and an obsession with the racist “Great Replacement” conspiracy – which draws mainstream credence in the United States despite continued condemnation.

The Amazon-owned platform Twitch removed the live stream video in two minutes (of the attacks occurring) – but the video quickly appeared on Twitter and Facebook. In addition, the N-word and “14” – a reference to the infamous white supremacist “fourteen words” mantra appeared on the rifle. A private Discord server is also under investigation – as Unicorn Riot reported on the chat logs, as they sought advice about tactical armour and weapons.

According to the New York Times, the accused also made threats against their high school, resulting in his arrest and a psychiatric evaluation aged 17, but he was released days later. Nor was Gendron on the red-flag list – a New York law enacted in 2019 where a judge issues an “extreme risk protection order” that prevents the person from owning or buying a gun.

The screed details how their racist views grew in their teenage years before crystalising on the notorious /pol/ (politically incorrect) board of 4Chan to call for accelerationist racist terror and destabilisation tactics in communities to harm Muslims and other minoritised groups.

Like the white supremacist terrorist who murdered 51 Muslims in Christchurch, this screed adopts an eco-fascist slant, which echoes traditional fascist calls for the violent rebirth of a mythologised society. However, for the historian Robert Paxton, fascism functions primarily as a “political behaviour marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood”, where emotion drives the violent actions as a tool of recruitment and inspires others to such horrific acts of terror and violence.

It’s crucial that in the age of digital and cyberfascism, such violent appeals to this mythologised nation-state exist beyond traditional borders, much like the internet connections which draw such individuals and groups together. In their paper “Fascism at eye level“, Douglas Holmes argued that cyberfascism today functions as a “disperse” problem that echoes beyond traditional national contexts and geographies. Such emerging technologies present fascism with various faces and reconfigurations.

Before taking selective extracts from the screed, it is essential to consider how digital subcultures can help facilitate the dehumanisation and others of minoritised groups into street-level forms of violence and terrorism. For example, in Cathrine Thorleifsson’s study on cyberfascism on 4chan’s/pol/ board, they argue that the role of echo chambers, when fused with a lack of counternarratives, and the creative process of creating fascist and racist memes, provides a ‘significant’ sense of agency and as a lightning rod for radicalisation through the unquestioning acceptance of the racist conspiracism that underpins white supremacist ideology. Such affective politics of fear grounded in the dehumanisation of minoritised groups, othering them as an existential threat, can inspire such violence and terror offline, as the above also helps build community beyond traditional borders.

Moreover, as Thorleifsson noted, the “gendered reconfiguration of fascist content and promotion of the urgency of the need of a national or racial rebirth” through the creative process which also “reflects a core feature of the fascist phenomena: the perception of an endangered community that need to be reborn through violent means.”

As we return to the screed, Gendron described accessing /pol/ during the covid-19 lockdowns of 2020, where they chanced upon a GIF of the Christchurch live stream. Then, wanting to understand more and be enthralled by the terror, they describe watching the terror attacks, accessing their screed, and how they “mostly agreed with him”. Before sanctifying the racist terror carried out by white supremacists – including Patrick Crusius, Anders Breivik, Dylann Roof, and John T Earnest.

Amongst various links of anti-Black racist pseudo-science and abhorrent memes, the screed links to a Telegraph article published in 2010, in which Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, called “racist claptrap” as “Crime is one of those areas of public policy where it is still respectable to seek explanations for behaviour in the colour of a person’s skin.”

Other racist memes targeting Black and Jewish communities found in the screed first appeared on the neo-Nazi white supremacist hate site, White Aryan Resistance, under the moniker “A Wyatt Man” in 2004 – the identity of whom has been a subject of much curiosity and investigation.

More modern racist memes about Jewish communities in the screed reinforce the historic antisemitic canard of so-called disproportionate influence in public life, blamed for all perceived social problems, as they call for genocide.

Transphobia appears in the screed, writing “LGB (drop the t)” and describing “transgenderism as a mental illness”. In addition, a racist meme blames Jewish communities for trans identities, reinforcing the above point.

Buried amongst the dizzying volume of racist anti-Black and anti-Jewish memes is a meme that blames the latter for criminal acts of child sexual exploitation in the UK – including a crude collection of headlines that further racialise the crime, which is not reflective of reviews into the backgrounds of such criminals, including from the Home Office.

The racialisation of Islam appears in the screed, othered to justify dehumanisation and violence. Therefore, it is no surprise that the screed also praises the Finsbury Park terrorist Darren Osborne (who they misspelt as Osbourne), the Christchurch terrorist, and the neo-Nazi Norweigan terrorist Philip Manshaus. The latter attempted to murder Muslims at a mosque after murdering his stepsister Johanne Zhangjia Ihle-Hansen in a racist shooting.

Buried towards the end of the screed is the further glorification of Patrick Crusius, John Earnest, Robert Bowers, Anders Breivik (spelt correctly this time), and Dylann Roof. Other notable white supremacist terrorists cited in this paragraph include Anton Lundin Pettersson and Luca Traini – a further example of how the Christchurch manifesto, including the narcissistic and psychotic Q&A section, took inspiration from the tragic events in New Zealand in March 2019.

The screed calls for the murder of the Jewish philanthropist and Holocaust survivor George Soros, the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan. Following this, we alerted the Metropolitan Police and Khan’s office. When asked about this, Khan told the press, “It’s been on public record that I receive police protection. “It’s unfortunate but it’s a fact of me being the mayor. “I’ve been incredibly safe because I’m looked after by dedicated, decent, brave police officers.”

President Joe Biden urged unity to address the “hate that remains a stain on the soul of America” in a press conference yesterday.

Authorities are still considering domestic terrorism charges.







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Categories: Christchurch, Far Right groups, Fascism, Great Replacement, Neo-Nazi, News, terrorism