Ben Sixsmith

The dark extremism of the ‘extremely online’

The killing of 49 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, was a very modern massacre. Pacing through the Mosque, the terrorist live-streamed his killings in the style of Call of Duty, with a head-mounted camera that allowed his viewers to see the world from his deranged point of view.

The terrorist was the most loathsome kind of attention seeker, and to give him attention is thus to encourage other pathologically pretentious men to ape his crimes. Still, there are aspects of this attack that should be noted.

Whenever a shocking massacre happens, we see different yet similar responses from the left and right. When a jihadi is the perpetrator, lefties tend to brand them as exceptional, unrepresentative psychos, and even dwell on the ‘root causes’ of their murderousness, while conservatives blame their hostile ideology. When a fascist is the perpetrator conservatives tend to brand them as exceptional, unrepresentative psychos, and even dwell on the ‘root causes’ of their murderousness, while leftists blame their hostile ideology.

You can see this happening already, but one factor that often acknowledged thought little explored is how this murderer reflects the tendencies of dark internet subcultures. He was, to borrow a phrase, ‘extremely online’.

The killer announced his plans on 8chan, which is such a toxic place that it accomplishes the unusual feat of giving messageboards a bad name. Amid the stew of racial hate and dense in-jokes you find there, he popped up to say the time for ‘shitposting’ had ended. He was going to ‘attack against the invaders’. His fellow posters promptly react to his crimes with sadistic approval. ‘I’M DYIN’ OVER HERE!’ one or them posted as he watched the thigh-slapping antics of a soulless gunman.

‘Shitposting’ is the art of posting streams of messages with thick layers of irony and sincerity that amuse your allies and befuddled and upset your opponents.

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