Apologies are being issued today from the New Zealand government and its agencies by everyone from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern down over the Christchurch Mosque Shootings.
Established ten days after a lone individual conducted mass shooting events at two mosques during Friday prayer on 15 March 2019, the Christchurch Attack Royal Commission released its findings yesterday.
The Royal Commission identified government failures in hindsight — issues with firearms’ licensing, policing and reporting which led up to the attack that left 51 people dead and injured another 40.
The Royal Commission noted in its 792-page report that the individual responsible was radicalised online and his most significant influence was videos posted on YouTube.
He was named just once in the report’s Executive Summary. Thereafter he was referred to only as the “individual”.
The report is publicly available and is recommended reading for anyone wanting to understand the motivations of a terrorist mass murderer.
He was an Australian citizen born in Grafton 30 years ago, driven by right wing extremism, an ad hoc white supremacist ideology and was devoted to what is known as The Great Replacement, a toxic white nationalist far-right conspiracy theory that arose first in France; that so-called political elites were seeking to replace white Europeans with non-Europeans, especially Arab, Berber and sub-Saharan Muslim populations.
He also idealised the right wing extremist responsible for the two sequential domestic terrorist attacks in Norway in 2011 which left 77 dead (eight by bombing, 67 by gunfire, two indirectly) and injured 319 people.
Of New Zealand’s intelligence agencies, the commission found: “The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service had decided to concentrate its scarce counter-terrorism resources on the presenting threat of Islamist extremist terrorism. This was in part because it had a lack of capacity until mid-2018 both to deal with that threat and, at the same time, to baseline other threats.”
The Royal Commission found however, “that the concentration of resources on the threat of Islamist extremist terrorism is not why the individual’s planning and preparation for his terrorist attack was not detected.”
This is a terrible story of a lone wolf radicalised online. There are peculiarities about his personality type and his personal circumstances which in some considerable way created the means for his attack. He was unemployed but was financially independent having received a sum of around half a million dollars from his father’s estate. He was essentially a loner, with few acquaintances and fewer friends. He travelled the world extensively but did so almost always alone.
“He describes himself as an introvert,” the Commission reported. “He told us that he had suffered from social anxiety since childhood and found socialising with others stressful. Without a job, he had no need to associate with people in workplaces and his frequent and usually solitary travel meant he did not form enduring relationships with others. This meant that his self-described introversion was not mitigated by the usual daily interactions that most people experience in their regular lives. Accordingly, there was limited opportunity for the hard edges of his political thinking to be softened by regular and lasting connections with people with different views.
“ … His limited personal engagement with others left considerable scope for influence from extreme right-wing material, which he found on the internet and in books.”