April 6th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The NSW election and our incredible shrinking farming sector

SOCIETY The pervasive and pernicious online porn epidemic

CANBERRA OBSERVED Coffers are full but Treasurer will take spending cautiously

OPINION Judge treats Cardinal Pell to a spot of 'open justice'

NATIONAL AFFAIRS NSW Liberals re-election gives a boost to Morrison

ECONOMICS The Great Dragon uncoils all around the globe

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS President Donald Trump: an unlikely promise keeper Part 2

REFLECTION On the conviction of Cardinal Pell

FICTION Orange Years: The Japie Greyling Story

TERRORISM Lessons from Christchurch

ASIAN AFFAIRS Xi's imperious play prompts U.S. to repair Asian friendships

YPAT Getting with the program: one young person's story

MUSIC To market, to market, to sell a good song

CINEMA The LEGO Movie 2: Building a world

BOOK REVIEW A template for living alongside the world

BOOK REVIEW Catholic Maryland and early tolerance



THE BUDGET Take your tax cuts and be merry, for tomorrow ... is another day

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Lessons from Christchurch

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, April 6, 2019

The sense of shock and revulsion felt by most people following the massacre of 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, by a person who grew up in Australia, raises questions about how a person with his background could have adopted such extreme views, and then put them into effect in this chilling act of terrorism.

It was particularly distressing that the attacks were in places of worship, clearly chosen by the attacker because those present were Muslims and where they were particularly vulnerable.

The murder of innocent men, women and children is a descent into depravity.

The nature of the attacks, the perpetrator’s accumulation of weapons over a period of at least a year, and the live images of his rampage, show that the attacks were planned in meticulous detail over a long period of time.

While the mass murder was clearly a “lone wolf” attack, there are disturbing reports that his ideas were formed during visits to Europe two years ago, where he reportedly attended meetings with extreme right-wing organisations (The Independent, March 15, 2019).

Among the countries he travelled through were Serbia, where ultra-natio­nalist and anti-Islam organisations have a base, as well as France and Scandinavia.

After his arrest, he gave a surreptitious white supremacist hand signal that was captured on television, an apparent signal to an underground brotherhood to which he professed allegiance.

Family background

Members of his family consider he had a normal upbringing, but was deeply affected by his father’s death from cancer.

After his father’s death nine years ago, Brenton Tarrant spent years travelling around the world and, by his own account, was most deeply influenced by Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer who perpetrated a chilling massacre of 77 people in 2011.

Breivik was also a lone-wolf terrorist, who issued a rambling manifesto blaming the ills of the world on Norway’s then-ruling Labour Party, as well as on immigration, feminism and Islam.

Tarrant also declared admiration for convicted white supremacist, Dylann Roof, who gunned down nine African-Americans at a Methodist Episcopalian church in Charleston in 2015.

Tarrant’s manifesto was filled with fierce attacks on immigrants, especially from Muslim countries, as well as denunciations of European culture and his native Australia. “What is an Australian but a drunk European?” he asked.

While his ideology was that of white supremacists, he expressed admiration for China, saying Communist China was the nation with “political and social values” closest to his.

One of the most striking features of his rampage was the video recording, played live on Facebook, as he entered the mosques and shot worshippers.

This copied scenes from violent video games such as Mortal Kombat, in which the players move through buildings and rooms, gunning down their “enemies”.

It was as if Tarrant was entering into his own video game, and was completely desensitised as he murdered his victims.

As he walked up the steps of the first mosque, he said: “Let’s get this party started.”

One of the most obvious issues that arises from the Christchurch rampage is that New Zealand law allows people such as Tarrant to get access to semi-automatic weapons far too easily.

It has been reported that a member of the gun club he joined was suspicious of him, and reported him to police, but nothing was done, despite his hate-filled online presence.

The New Zealand Government has announced a crackdown on ownership of such weapons, but no similar controls over the violent video games that clearly played a part in the massacre.

With Google announcing a new game streaming service, and Microsoft expected to follow later this year, it is vitally important that countries join together to ensure that online gaming does not become a training ground for killers.

Australia’s Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) has a clear role to play here but, in the past, has adopted a complacent attitude towards violent video games, arguing that they have no influence on gamers’ behaviour.

However, Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman, an American military expert on the psychology of killing, disagrees.

He said: “Every time a child plays a point-and-shoot video game, he is learning the exact same conditioned reflex skills as a soldier or police officer in training.”

Grossman explains how the military have succeeded in developing training techniques that lead to soldiers overcoming an inherent unwillingness to kill.

Grossman states that these military techniques are replicated in the more realistic of the “point-and-shoot” video games, which show graphically the carnage they are unleashing.

The behaviour of the student killers in the Columbine massacre bore a disturbing resemblance to what they had seen in some of the addictive computer games they were known to have played.

While there is much still to be discovered about Brenton Tarrant, it seems that a mix of extreme hatred of Muslim immigrants, violent video gaming, and easy access to assault weapons led to these terrible killings.

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm