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  • Vlad Ivlev

Christchurch Shooter: The Post-Trump Outlaw

The Christchurch Shooter manifesto “The Great Replacement” is a lot of things, coherent isn’t one. Yet, there is a sneaking suspicion that there is more to it than meets the media’s eye. Surface level analysis undoubtedly points towards one possibility: this digital washrag is painfully cringey and lame, the infantile inner-workings of a demented high-school dropout with a serious messiah complex. The second possibility stems from merely how convenient this piece is for the media. That the shooter managed to saturate every possible media talking point for a reason. If the former is true, and the shooter was perfectly genuine in his inane ramblings, it does not devalue the piece as an uncompromised sample of pure undiluted reaction towards the state of the world, whether justified or not. If the latter is true, and the shooter had a hidden motive in giving the media everything they want, then the piece suddenly becomes a milestone in the development of contemporary ethno-nationalism, one that we should all look out for. Notwithstanding which is actually true, this article will serve as the base of operations for any kind of political analysis revolving around the two possibilities.

A disclaimer is of course mandated here. PAMU does not support ethno-nationalism in any form; and if any ideological justification is insufficient to convince you of that, let me be clear: protectionism and racial policies are bad for business. Just being honest. The immense loss of life during that incident cannot be sufficiently evaluated or expressed in digital form, so we shall refrain from mentioning it. Family members of the victims have been forced to be used as pawns in a disdainful political game, so we shall refrain from mentioning them any further. The shooter will be dehumanized, his name never mentioned. While the manifesto mentions other related mass shooters, I see no point in contextualizing them within this analysis, so they will not be mentioned. The purpose of the article is not to sensationalize, but to analyze in an effort to understand the zeitgeist well enough to hopefully be able to avoid any further incidents, or at least be prepared for them.

Many issues arise from the shooter’s personal history. What happened during his 7 years of travel? Why did the shooter support open borders in Pakistan, when he lived in a hotel associated with the same sect as the mosque he massacred? Why did he do it in New Zealand instead of Australia? Whether or not these questions contain substantive answers, the individual characteristics of the shooter are ultimately irrelevant, a red herring for the media, merely a distraction. No matter how much the shooter tries to assure you that he acted alone, he did not. His entire mindset is an amalgamation of specific internet cultures, that undoubtedly condone agitation, direct action and violence. The reason why he has to assure you that he is completely unaffiliated is either for the sake of his comrades’ anonymity or merely because he himself subconsciously knows that there is nothing novel about his thought, so a “lone gunman” label is indisputably preferable as a form of compensation. This of course depends on his position in the esoteric hierarchies he frequented in, which I have no interest investigating. Nevertheless, the point is that at the end it doesn’t really matter whether the manifesto was genuine or subversive, as either point towards a significant development to the worldview of contemporary ethno-nationalists. If it was genuine, then his positions are merely mimicking a pre-existing online attitude, an emergent behavior that will slowly and eventually consolidate into a political identity. If it was subversive, then the behavior itself will be mimicked; we find ourselves in the same position either way. A rising populism that can effectively play the media.

So how does one do that? If your goal is to create antagonism, then why should you look further than the media? After all, sensationalist antagonism is how the media endures having its ratings devoured by the internet. All that remains is constructing a narrative that is way too enticing for the media to ignore. Its worrying that the shooters manifesto can easily be used as a template for that. Mentioning video games as the cause of gun violence. Talking about his weapon of choice. Using copypastas to answer questions. Saying that the internet is the only domain where truth can be found. Antagonizing baby boomers. Fortnite. PewDiePie. White supremacist signifiers. Socialist undertones. Islamophobia. Antagonizing conservatives. Mentioning Jews. Admitting to being racist. Spelling errors. Rambling demeanor. Poetry? Jesus, it’s all there. A trojan horse disguised as a memetic treasure trove.

If the creator of Buzzfeed can teach us anything, its that the media feeds on a perpetual generation of marketable identities, the negation of difference. The bombardment of non-linear entropic information we receive on a daily basis sets the individual in a state of “schizophrenia”, grasping unto any identity one can find to fill the nihilistic void that they eventually leave us with, then start again. One can imagine how profitable that is, it is essentially the equivalent of Apple’s planned obsolescence strategy imposed unto the fragile psyche of the disgruntled consumer. When identities are antagonized, they consolidate even further, developing the equivalent of brand loyalty. This antagonism is the main function of the media, and ratings don’t lie. This is why Vice is still around despite being constantly ridiculed for the Victorian-esc moral paragon-istic clickbaity banalities they produce; you just can’t help but share out of rage. But what happens when this tendency is over-saturated? What happens when you consciously give the media everything they want? It’s like giving a supercomputer a paradox it can’t solve. The media is set aside to play its little game, generating the same exact antagonism you want them to, while you sit and wait, as the same events that turned you into an ideologically possessed mass murderer perform themselves on other easily susceptible angry teenagers, just like they did with you. Repeat exponentially until the world cracks open.

There are two points that could convince me of the subversive nature of the piece. One, is when he asks himself whether his actions will do more harm than good, to which he says: “As for how the public perceives us? Did they perceive us any differently after the attack than they did before?”. The other is the difference between the first and the second part of the manifesto. One seems rushed, filled with spelling mistakes, provocative, banal, ironic, cynical. The other is as coherent as any ethno-nationalist propaganda can be, yet still way more sincere and formal than the former. During the first part the shooter mentions an enormous book he has written, giving his thoughts on any relevant issue there is, that according to him was scrapped due to “self-criticism”. It is my suspicion that the mentioned book is in fact the second part of his manifesto, explained by the difference in style. That means that the second part was written before the first, so there is a chance that the beginning was designed having the media specifically in mind, to give them everything they need so they wouldn’t bother with the second part. The intention of that can be speculated, but the reality of the matter remains: the shooter intended the manifesto for two separate heterogenous audiences.

Another important milestone is the mention of Trump. The shooter identifies the US President as a symbol of renewed white identity but does not trust him as a “policy maker and leader”. The ethno-nationalist movement has entered a post-Trump stage, where the media’s axiomatic behavior can be exploited, but the furtherance of the movement does not depend on leaders effectively compromised by the democratic system, but rather the responsibility falls upon the individual. The Post-Trump Outlaw condition. Essentially, this is how they see themselves. Outlaws, not bandits, marauders, brigands or criminals. Outlaws united under a singular purpose. Whether you agree with that definition is irrelevant. If it makes you cringe as much as much as it makes me, don’t worry. Its only an indication that you are still sane. Not that sanity will get you anywhere in politics. But when does LARPing cross into genuine concern? It is my fear that this question will come up more and more frequently in the near future.

I do not intend to demean the victims of other mass shootings, but for us on the internet this specific one hits hard at home. When internet culture and the memes that bring us so much joy, stability, an escape, some semblance of a community in an individuated world, are used in acts of unthinkable terror, one can’t help but feel guilty by association, whether that sentiment is justified or not. This is not “just another mass shooting along racial lines” (even saying that hurts), its not “just another reason for the abolition of our rights”, this is a signpost in the middle of a great highway; there is no turning back, there is no point in turning back; but here is where we ask ourselves: why should we continue?