Friday, 22 March 2019

More Questions and Possible Answers

A Further Attempt to Understand The Ideology of Brenton Tarrant

What was the motivating ideology of the Christchurch mass murderer?  It's hard for folk living in NZ to work it out, since Brenton Tarrant's "manifesto" is now under wraps, as they say.  It remains an open question as to how much of Tarrant's ideology will become public through the trial process.  

At this point more information is available to folk overseas.  Robert J. Delahunty is a professor of law at the University of St Thomas in the United States and has taught Constitutional Law there for 15 years.  He rejects the concept "white nationalist" as applied to Tarrant.  Here is his attempt to understand Tarrant's ideology:

Was the New Zealand Shooter Motivated by Nationalism?

. . . With this framework in mind, we can address whether the New Zealand murderer was motivated by “nationalism.” It seems clear that he was not. A subtler and more searching explanation for his violence must be found.

To begin with, there is no indication at all, either from his actions or his writing, that he was an Australian nationalist. How would Australian nationalism be advanced by murdering Muslims?

More plausible is the thought that he was an Anglo-Australian (ethnic) nationalist. Certainly, he highlighted his British ancestry. Perhaps the Anglo-Australians might be considered to be a “people” or a large “tribe” within contemporary, pluralistic Australia. In the same way, the Dutch or English in the Union of South Africa might be characterized as distinct (minority) peoples or tribes in that setting.

Carrying this thought even further, one might argue that the (ethnic) English in the current United Kingdom were a distinct people or tribe within that country. One might even attempt to claim the same of “WASPs” in the United States.

But, again, the New Zealand shooter did not identify himself as an Anglo-Australian nationalist. Rather, he identified himself with the figure of the convicted Bosnian Serb war criminal, Radovan Karadzic. But Karadzic could hardly be described as an Anglo-Australian nationalist: he was an ethnic Serb. The New Zealand shooter based his personal identification with Karadzic on the most important thing he thought they had in common: a murderous hatred of Muslims, everywhere on the planet.

Now, it is open to question whether Karadzic would have harbored murderous feelings towards Muslims in Christchurch New Zealand, which is pretty far away from Bosnia. But let that pass. The more salient point is that the group of people who hold murderous or genocidal views of Muslims do not, in any way, constitute a “people” or a “tribe.” The latter are relationships rooted in kinship, not in attitudes or beliefs. So if this shooter centered his identity on hatred of Muslims, it is hard to see how that could be said to have made him a “nationalist.”

The obvious retort to this is that he describes himself as acting on behalf of the “white people” or the “white race.” But would that make him a nationalist?

True, in some situations it might be reasonable to describe particular groups of “white” people as a distinct “nation,” “people,” or even, in a loose sense, “tribe.” Anglo-Australians might conceivably answer to that description; so might white South Africans. But in what sense could the “white race” throughout the entire world be described as a single ethnic nation?

Granted, the Poles, the Jews, or the Irish can plausibly be considered to be ethnic nations. But can all these groups be considered to be the same ethnic nation? How many of the world’s 800-900 million persons of straight European descent would see themselves in that light? How many of them would wish to form a distinct nation state?

The New Zealand Murderer as a Globalist

We should be looking for some explanation for the New Zealander’s violence other than nationalism. I submit that his perspective was a globalist, not a nationalist, one. The resemblances between this shooter’s violence and that practiced by the Islamic State (ISIS) are striking. They may give us the right clues to understanding his real motivation.

Like ISIS, the New Zealand murderer selected soft targets: the victims of his atrocity were innocent Muslim men and women at prayer. Like ISIS, he exploited to the full the resources of modern social media in order to call attention to himself and his actions. Like ISIS, he aestheticized violence: in his hands, the mass murder of the innocent, live-streamed as it was happening, was designed to be a work of art.

Most importantly here, his violence, like ISIS’s, was addressed to a global audience in the service of a global cause: in their case, the renewal of a caliphate subsuming all Muslims spread across the planet, the umma. In his case, the “white race” throughout the world, faced (in his view) with demographic catastrophe and extinction. He was in effect calling on his intended audience to grasp the seriousness of its condition and to meet its global danger.

Whatever name we give to this kind of motivation, “nationalism” is not adequate. It is absurd to maintain that the white race throughout the entire planet forms a single, unitary “people” or “nation” in exactly the sense that particular white ethnicities do. Such a position is intelligible only from the globalist perspective that this mass shooter held, in which the differences between (say) Anglo-Australians and ethnic Serb Bosnians are entirely blotted out.

What I suspect the New Zealand killer was looking for was a kind of transnational or globalized community that defined itself in terms of “whiteness” and that adopted a violent and even genocidal attitude to the Muslim world as a whole. Yet, at the same time, that community, despite its global reach and teeming inner diversity, was to offer persons like himself the solace, intimacy, protection, and recognition characteristic of a tribe.

This is, perhaps, an ersatz and Christ-less form of Christendom. It may be a weird hybrid of globalism and tribalism. It is no recognizable form of nationalism.

Robert J. Delahunty is a professor of law at the University of St Thomas and has taught Constitutional Law there for 15 years.

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