I read the manifesto. I saw the live streams. But there was something far more terrifying beyond the sheer callous indifference from the gunman. It was that he wasn’t deranged, deluded or mentally ill.
While I have no plans to repeat anything said within the manifesto, it was abundantly clear that the Australian gunman knew entirely what he was doing, the effects it had and how he would be perceived.
Making jokes throughout the document, such as sarcastically attributing his motivations to Spyro the dragon, a children’s video-game character, it was clear this man had planned these events for a long time, and had become far removed from their consequences.
The intent of the gunman was to divide, and more specifically he wished to accelerate what he perceived as a burgeoning culture war. He carefully peppered names like conservative activist Candace Owens, president Donald Trump and famous Youtuber Pewdiepie in his documents, and not because they were a source of motivation for him as he had claimed.
These figures exist on the knife’s edge, with their supporters seeing them as benign or beneficial, and those who disagree with them perceiving them as dangerous.
The purpose? To enrage those who considered Candace Owens to be anti-black, despite her being black herself. To infuriate those who considered Pewdiepie a racist, and to further fuel the hatred poised towards Donald Trump.
Those that hate these figures will see them merely as a symptom of this larger issue of white supremacy, while those who like these figures will know that there isn’t anything they’ve said that can be construed into encouragement for mass murder.
Already news outlets are talking of the rise in white supremacy, while attributing the events to the aforementioned figures.
Already, the division is beginning.
The media cannot help reporting on such issues, as it is and has always been their purpose. But in this instance this is precisely what the shooter depends upon. The politicisation of this attack into left versus right, white versus non-white, and symptomatic of a larger issue than just the shooters involved.
But we must realise this is precisely what the terrorist wanted. He wants to mobilise those who feel disenfranchised, those who feel like they are marginal.
The most terrifying thing out of all of this, to me, is that his efforts might just work.
As long as we allow the media to tickle our tribal urges, and as long as we see these events as ‘Us versus them,’ those that exist on the far ends of this discussion will take continue to commit atrocities.
While I’m not sure anything can stop the media’s politicisation and balkanization of the events, on an individual level I urge anyone reading this to remember, our shared humanity is stronger than these ideological divides.