New Zealand leader vows to deny notoriety to mosque gunman
By KRISTEN GELINEAU and JULIET WILLIAMS
Tuesday, March 19
CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — He took away New Zealand’s innocence, along with 50 precious lives. And in exchange, the country’s prime minister vowed to take away the one thing the gunman so clearly craves: fame.
In a passionate speech laced with steely resolve, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday urged her wounded nation to remember the victims slain in last week’s attacks on two mosques but to never speak the name of the white supremacist responsible.
“He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless,” Ardern said in an address to Parliament.
“He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing — not even his name.”
Ardern’s comments came after the Australian man accused of carrying out the attacks dismissed his lawyer, opting instead to represent himself. That has raised concerns he will use the trial as a platform for his racist views.
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Ardern said she would do everything possible to ensure that the gunman was denied any chance to lift his profile. But she demurred when asked whether she wanted the trial to occur behind closed doors, saying that was not her decision to make.
The shooter’s desire for attention was made clear in a manifesto sent to Ardern’s office and others minutes before Friday’s massacre and by his livestreamed footage of his attack on the Al Noor mosque.
The video prompted widespread revulsion and condemnation. Facebook said it removed 1.5 million versions of the video during the first 24 hours, but Ardern expressed frustration that the footage remained online, four days later.
“We have been in contact with Facebook; they have given us updates on their efforts to have it removed, but as I say, it’s our view that it cannot — should not — be distributed, available, able to be viewed,” she said. “It is horrendous and while they’ve given us those assurances, ultimately the responsibility does sit with them.”
Arden said she had received “some communication” from Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg on the issue. The prime minister has also spoken with British Prime Minister Theresa May about the importance of a global effort to clamp down on the distribution of such material.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also urged world leaders to crack down on social media companies that broadcast terrorist attacks. Morrison said he had written to G-20 chairman Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling for agreement on “clear consequences” for companies whose platforms are used to facilitate and normalize horrific acts.
Lawyer Richard Peters, who was assigned to represent Brenton Harrison Tarrant at his initial court appearance on Saturday, told the New Zealand Herald that Tarrant dismissed him that day.
A judge ordered Tarrant to return to New Zealand’s High Court on April 5 for his next hearing on one count of murder, though he is expected to face additional charges. The 28-year-old Australian is being held in isolation in a Christchurch jail.
“He seemed quite clear and lucid, whereas this may seem like very irrational behavior,” Peters told the newspaper. “He didn’t appear to me to be facing any challenges or mental impairment, other than holding fairly extreme views.”
Peters did not return a call from The Associated Press.
Peters told the paper that Tarrant didn’t tell him why he wanted to represent himself. He said a judge could order a lawyer to assist Tarrant at a trial, but that Tarrant would likely be unsuccessful in trying to use it as a platform to put forward any extremist views.
Under New Zealand law, a trial is “to determine innocence or guilt,” Peters said. “The court is not going to be very sympathetic to him if he wants to use the trial to express his own views.”
Relatives of the dead have been anxiously awaiting word on when they can bury their loved ones. On Tuesday, police said they had completed autopsies on all 50 victims and had formally identified 12 of them. Six of the bodies have been returned to their families.
Islamic tradition calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible. Ardern has said authorities hope to release all the bodies by Wednesday and police said authorities are working with pathologists and coroners to complete the task as soon as they can.
“While identification may seem straightforward, the reality is much more complex, particularly in a situation like this,” police said in a statement. “Our absolute priority is to get this right and ensure that no mistakes are made.”
Ardern previously has said her Cabinet had agreed in principle to tighten gun restrictions in New Zealand and those reforms would be announced next week. She also had announced an inquiry into the intelligence and security services’ failures to detect the risk from the attacker or his plans. There have been concerns intelligence agencies were overly focused on the Muslim community in detecting and preventing security risks.
New Zealand’s international spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau, confirmed it had not received any relevant information or intelligence before the shootings.
In Parliament, Ardern said there are justified questions and anger about how the attack could have occurred in a country that prides itself on being open, peaceful and diverse.
“There are many questions that need to be answered and the assurance that I give you is that they will be,” she said. “We will examine what we did know, could have known or should have known. We cannot allow this to happen again.”
Ardern also used her address to highlight the bravery of Naeem Rashid, originally from Pakistan, who died after rushing at the gunman and trying to disarm him. And she cited the heroism of Abdul Aziz, who ran toward the attacker screaming and threw a hand-held credit card machine at him, hoping to distract him. Aziz’s actions are believed to have saved many lives at the Linwood mosque, where seven of the 50 victims were killed.
Meanwhile, Christchurch was beginning to return to a semblance of normalcy Tuesday. Near the hospital where victims were treated, streets reopened to traffic after being closed for four days as relatives and friends of the victims continued to stream in from around the world.
Thirty people were still being treated at the hospital, nine of them in critical condition, said David Meates, CEO of the Canterbury District Health Board. A 4-year-old girl was transferred to a hospital in Auckland and is in critical condition. Her father is at the same hospital in stable condition.
Sheik Taj El-Din Hilaly, of Sydney, traveled to Christchurch to attend or lead some of the funerals. Through a translator, he said he felt compelled to support the grieving. A nationwide lockdown on mosques was imposed until Monday, which Hilaly said had upset Muslims whom he had visited in Auckland. Police continue to guard mosques across the country.
Residents of this close-knit city have created makeshift memorials near the two targeted mosques and at the botanical gardens, where a mountain of flowers has grown by the day.
Janna Ezat, whose son, Hussein Al-Umari, was killed in the Al Noor mosque, visited the memorial at the gardens and became overwhelmed by the outpouring of love. She knelt amid the flowers and wept, grabbing at daisies and lilies as though she might find her boy in them.
Ezat is comforted by reports that Hussein confronted the killer, charging at him after surviving the first spray of bullets.
“I’m very happy. I’m wearing white. We normally wear black,” she said. “But he is a hero and I am proud of him.”
Associated Press writers Stephen Wright and Steve McMorran contributed.
The politics of fear: How it manipulates us to tribalism
March 19, 2019
Author: Arash Javanbakht is a Friend of The Conversation. Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University
Disclosure statement: Arash Javanbakht does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Wayne State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
The cruel murder of 50 people in New Zealand was another tragic reminder of how humans are capable of heartlessly killing their own kind just based on what they believe, how they worship, and what race or nationality they belong to. There is a longstanding history of the fear of “the others” turning humans into illogical ruthless weapons, in service to an ideology.
Fear is arguably as old as life. It is deeply ingrained in the living organisms that have survived extinction through billions of years of evolution. Its roots are deep in our core psychological and biological being, and it is one of our most intimate feelings. Danger and war are as old as human history, and so are politics and religion.
Demagogues have always used fear for intimidation of the subordinates or enemies, and shepherding the tribe by the leaders. Fear is a very strong tool that can blur humans’ logic and change their behavior.
I am a psychiatrist and neuroscientist specializing in fear and trauma, and I have some evidence-based thoughts on how fear is abused in politics.
We learn fear from tribe mates
Like other animals, we humans can learn fear from experience, such as being attacked by a predator. We also learn from observation, such as witnessing a predator attacking another human. And, we learn by instructions, such as being told there is a predator nearby.
Learning from our conspecifics – members of the same species – is an evolutionary advantage that has prevented us from repeating dangerous experiences of other humans. We have a tendency to trust our tribe mates and authorities, especially when it comes to danger. It is adaptive: Parents and wise old men told us not to eat a special plant, or not to go to an area in the woods, or we would be hurt. By trusting them, we would not die like a great-grandfather who died eating that plant. This way we accumulated knowledge.
Tribalism has been an inherent part of the human history. There has always been competition between groups of humans in different ways and with different faces, from brutal wartime nationalism to a strong loyalty to a football team. Evidence from cultural neuroscience shows that our brains even respond differently at an unconscious level simply to the view of faces from other races or cultures.
At a tribal level, people are more emotional and consequently less logical: Fans of both teams pray for their team to win, hoping God will take sides in a game. On the other hand, we regress to tribalism when afraid. This is an evolutionary advantage that would lead to the group cohesion and help us fight the other tribes to survive.
Tribalism is the biological loophole that many politicians have banked on for a long time: tapping into our fears and tribal instincts. Some examples are Nazism, the Ku Klux Klan, religious wars and the Dark Ages. The typical pattern is to give the other humans a different label than us, and say they are going to harm us or our resources, and to turn the other group into a concept. It does not have to necessarily be race or nationality, which are used very often. It can be any real or imaginary difference: liberals, conservatives, Middle Easterners, white men, the right, the left, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs. The list goes on and on.
When building tribal boundaries between “us” and “them,” some politicians have managed very well to create virtual groups of people that do not communicate and hate without even knowing each other: This is the human animal in action!
Fear is uninformed
A soldier once told me: “It is much easier to kill someone you have never met, from distance. When you look through the scope, you just see a red dot, not a human.” The less you know about them, the easier to fear them, and to hate them.
This human tendency and ability of destruction of what is unknown and unfamiliar is meat to the politicians who want to exploit fear: If you grew up only around people who look like you, only listened to one media outlet and heard from the old uncle that those who look or think differently hate you and are dangerous, the inherent fear and hatred toward those unseen people is an understandable (but flawed) result.
To win us, politicians, sometimes with the media’s help, do their best to keep us separated, to keep the real or imaginary “others” just a “concept.” Because if we spend time with others, talk to them and eat with them, we will learn that they are like us: humans with all the strengths and weaknesses that we possess. Some are strong, some are weak, some are funny, some are dumb, some are nice and some not too nice.
Fear is illogical and often dumb
Very often my patients with phobias start with: “I know it is stupid, but I am afraid of spiders.” Or it may be dogs or cats, or something else. And I always reply: “It is not stupid, it is illogical.” We humans have different functions in the brain, and fear oftentimes bypasses logic. There are several reasons. One is that logic is slow; fear is fast. In situations of danger, we ought to be fast: First run or kill, then think.
Politicians and the media very often use fear to circumvent our logic. I always say the U.S. media are disaster pornographers – they work too much on triggering their audiences’ emotions. They are kind of political reality shows, surprising to many from outside the U.S.
When one person kills a few others in a city of millions, which is of course a tragedy, major networks’ coverage could lead one to perceive the whole city is under siege and unsafe. If one undocumented illegal immigrant murders a U.S. citizen, some politicians use fear with the hope that few will ask: “This is terrible, but how many people were murdered in this country by U.S. citizens just today?” Or: “I know several murders happen every week in this town, but why am I so scared now that this one is being showcased by the media?”
We do not ask these questions, because fear bypasses logic.
Fear can turn violent
There is a reason that the response to fear is called the “fight or flight” response. That response has helped us survive the predators and other tribes that have wanted to kill us. But again, it is another loophole in our biology to be abused to turn on our aggression toward “the others,” whether in the form of vandalizing their temples or harassing them on the social media.
When ideologies manage to get hold of our fear circuitry, we often regress to illogical, tribal and aggressive human animals, becoming weapons ourselves – weapons that politicians use for their own agenda.
This is updated version of an article originally published Jan. 11, 2019.
Greeley Miklashek, logged in via Google: For a bit of technical detail to this excellent article: the fight/flight center is a bundle of about 1,000 neurons in the Central Nucleus of the Amygdala, which is deep within the “emotional” lobe of our brains. When activated, the “survival brain” shuts down the inputs from the higher, thinking brain or “neocortex”, which another author has termed “amygdala hijack”. Another of these Amygdalar survival nuclei/emotions is devoted to social bonding and facial recognition, so shut down thinking and prioritize the survival group when threatened. We have mindlessly created a highly stressful environment and “stress” is another word for partial activation of the fight/flight response, so we are always vulnerable to full activation and “fight or flight” behavior. Stress R Us
Andrew Taylor, Naomi Klein: “Shock Doctrine” it’s all in there. Also look up Robert Sapolsky and the Whitehall Study. Basically, for high-ego types, literally the single only way to relieve their stress is to stress those below them in a hierarchy, and that’s why they create hierarchies in the first place. Society really needs to deal with Narcissism right now.
Christchurch attacks are a stark warning of toxic political environment that allows hate to flourish
March 16, 2019
Author: Greg Barton, Chair in Global Islamic Politics, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University
Disclosure statement: Greg Barton is engaged in a range of projects working to understand and counter violent extremism in Australia and in Southeast Asia that are funded by the Australian government.
Partners: Victoria State Government provides funding as a strategic partner of The Conversation AU. Deakin University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.
When lives are tragically cut short, it is generally easier to explain the “how” than the “why”. This dark reality is all the more felt when tragedy comes at the hands of murderous intent. Explaining how 50 people came to be killed, and almost as many badly injured, in Christchurch’s double massacre of Muslims at prayer is heartbreaking but relatively straightforward.
As with so many mass murders in recent years, the use of an assault rifle, the ubiquitous AR15, oxymoronically referred to as “the civilian M-16”, explains how one cowardly killer could be so lethal.
It was much the same in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando three years ago, when one gunman shot dead 49 people in a crowded space and, though the motive appears very different, the same sort of military instrument of death lies behind the 58 deaths in Las Vegas a year later. An AR15 was used to shoot dead 11 worshippers in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue last October and a similar weapon was used to kill six people in a Quebec City mosque in January 2017.
It is a credit to the peaceful nature of New Zealand society that, despite the open availability of weapons like the AR15, the last time there was a mass shooting was in 1997. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rightly identified reform of gun laws as one of the immediate outcomes required in response to this tragedy.
But lax gun laws are arguably the only area in which blame can be laid in New Zealand. Ardern, together with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, was also right to refer to this barbaric act of cold-blooded murder of people in prayer as right wing extremist terrorism driven by Islamophobic hatred.
State and federal police in Australia have long warned that, next to the immediate threat posed by Salafi jihadi terrorism, they are most concerned about the steady rise of right-wing extremism. There has been some comfort in the recognition that the most active right wing extremist groups, and there are many, are disorganised, poorly led, and attract but small crowds.
On the face of it, then, right wing extremism in Australia is nowhere near as serious as the neo-Nazi movements of Europe or the various permutations of white supremacy and toxic nationalism that bedevil American politics. In America, it is conservatively estimated that there were 50 deaths due to terrorist attacks in 2018, almost all linked to right-wing extremism.
In 2017, it is calculated that there were 950 attacks on Muslims and mosques in Germany alone. Many of last year’s attacks in America involved a common right wing extremist hatred of Islam, and a targeting of Muslims, joining a long-standing enmity towards Jews.
Almost all recent terrorist attacks have been lone-actor attacks. They are notoriously difficult to predict. Whether inspired by Salafi jihadi Islamist extremism or right wing extremism, lone-actor attacks commonly feature individuals fixated on the deluded dream of going from “zero to hero”.
One of the main reasons authorities struggle with identifying right wing extremist “nobodies” who post online, before they turn to violence, is that it’s difficult to pick up a clear signal in the noise of a national discourse increasingly dominated by exactly the same narrative elements of mistrust, anxiety, and a blaming of the other.
In Australia, as in Europe and America, mainstream politicians and mainstream media commentators have increasingly toyed with extremist ideas in the pursuit of popularity. Many have openly brandished outrageous ideas that in previous years would have been unsayable in mainstream political discourse or commentary.
Donald Trump can be deservedly singled out for making the unspeakable the new normal in mainstream right wing politics, but he is hardly alone in this. And sadly, for all of the relative civility and stability of Australian politics, we too have now come to normalise the toxic politics of fear.
No-one put it better than The Project host Waleed Aly in saying that Friday’s terrorist attacks, although profoundly disturbing, did not come as a shocking surprise. Anyone who has been paying attention and who really cares about the well-being and security of Australian society has observed the steady growth of right wing extremist and right supremacist ideas in general, and Islamophobia particular.
They have seen the numerous attacks on Muslims and Jews at prayer and worried about the day when the murderous violence that has plagued the northern hemisphere will visit the southern hemisphere. But more than that, they have worried about the singling-out of migrants, and in particular asylum seekers, African youth and Muslims as pawns to be played with in the cynical politics of fear.
Scott Morrison is right to say these problems have been with us for many years. But he would do better to point out that our downward trajectory sharply accelerated after John Howard’s “dark victory” of 2001. The unwinnable election was won on the back of the arrival of asylum seekers on the MV Tampa in August followed by the September 11 attacks, and at the price of John Howard and the Liberal party embracing the white supremacist extremist politics of Pauline Hanson.
Both major parties, it must be said, succumbed to the lure of giving focus groups and pollsters the tough language and inhumane policies the public appeared to demand and reward. We are now beginning to see the true price that we have paid with the demonising of those arriving by boat seeking asylum, or looking too dark-skinned, or appearing too religious.
The result has been such a cacophony of hateful rhetoric that it has been hard for those tasked with spotting the emergence of violent extremism to separate it from all the background noise of extremism.
There are, of course lessons to be learned. Authorities need to do better. We can begin with a national database of hate crimes, with standard definitions and robust data collection. Clearly, we need to pay attention to hateful extremism if we are to prevent violent extremism.
But ultimately, we need to address the permissive political environment that allows such hateful extremism to be promulgated so openly. The onus is on commentators and political leaders alike. They cannot change the past, but they will determine the future.