When memes turn deadly, the dark side of social media is hard to miss. The gunman who took the lives of 49 people after raining terror on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, live-streamed part of his heinous act while making reference to a current internet meme known as Navy Seal Copypasta, a facetious message containing a series of ridiculous claims and grandiose threats that portray an internet tough-guy stereotype.
Facebook, YouTube and Twitter scrambled to take down the hate-filled content from their sites.
Authorities reportedly have a 28-year-old man from Australia named Brenton Tarrant in custody. He’s been identified as the one gunman and police are describing him as a “right-wing extremist terrorist,” according to Reuter News Service and the BBC.
Shortly before the acts of terrorism began, Tarrant took to social media and shared a link to an 87-page manifesto as well as a link to a 17-minute long video on his personal Facebook page that documented the attacks as they occurred at the Al Noor Mosque during Friday prayers. Around that same time another attack was underway at Masjid mosque in nearby Linwood, claiming the lives of seven people.
The man behind the Facebook live stream, who appeared to be Tarrant, was pushing a white nationalist agenda and propagating worldwide dissonance to breed violence and hatred among differing cultures, religions, races and political views. The manifesto, full of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments, was riddled with language similarly used by terrorist groups ISIS and al Qaeda. It largely focused on the ideology of individual cells as the next wave of leaderless terrorist acts, provoking retaliation in the effort to raise tension and conflict in countries with Muslim minorities. The author was also clear in their support for Donald Trump, calling him a “symbol of white supremacy” and pledged to start a race war in the United States.
“I will carry out and attack against the invaders, and will even live-stream the attack via Facebook,” the internet troll said, Reuters reported.
There’s been no confirmation that the social media tyrant is also the author of the lengthy manifesto or the killer responsible for taking the innocent lives of those in worship at either of the two mosques attacked, although police do believe there’s a direct tie-in.
Australian media reported the Facebook user was a personal trainer at a gym in the city of Grafton up until 2011 when he began traveling overseas. If he is also the writer of the manifesto, then he likely traveled throughout Europe in the spring of 2017, as the 87-page document stated. Still, it’s unclear where he was in 2011, after leaving Australia, up until the 2017 European excursion.
“He was normal and polite during his stay,” Syed Israr Hussain, owner of the Osho Thang hotel in the Gilgit-Baltistan administrative territory of Pakistan, said of the Facebook user, who supposedly visited in October 2018. “There was nothing out of the ordinary.”
The suspect will appear before a court on Saturday morning local New Zealand time.