I’m numb in a cafe as I write this, flickers of panic for the future and my own family’s experience at Aramoana nearly three decades ago (before my birth, to be clear) are still periodically firing. It will be nearly impossible to sum up all my thoughts and all that must be said after the horrorshow in Christchurch. But it will need to be enough for me to clarify my initial thinking with respect to how this attack will reverberate going forward. In the immediate future, I’ve been asked to contribute several pieces to publications both local and international on the history of NZs far right in which this act of savagery is rooted. As such, I have a few things that need saying that may or may not wind up in more formal future pieces I write on the matter.
As I’ve said elsewhere already, the now 50 people killed in Christchurch on Friday by what can unambiguously be called nothing other than fascist terror are not the first victims of fascist brutality in New Zealand. Though nothing compares to the nightmare visited upon Christchurch’s Muslim community, it needs to be remembered that at least three ideologically motivated murders can be attributed to the (now defunct) South Island white power gang Fourth Reich between 1997 and 2003. Members of the gang took the lives of Hemi Hutley in 1997, James Bamborough in 1999, and Jae Hyeon Kim in 2003. Since at least the 1960s there have been instances of firebombings through to moderate vandalism of maraes, synagogues, Asian owned restaurants, chapels, schools, Jewish graves, punk venues which turned away open neonazis, and the premises of left-wing & labour organisations. There have also been a great deal of instances of serious physical assaults, sometimes involving weapons or even siccing dogs on people, often targeted at individual targets or small isolated groups.
Along with grappling with New Zealand’s bloody history of massacres, I do hope the reality of a neonazi underground enters the discussions which will take place over the coming months. One thing of which I am certain is that last Friday will prove not just to be a turning point in a glib or patronising way, but as an actual moment of rupture which leads to the partial or total reconstruction of the national myth. It will be all but necessary for the maintenance of a liberal democratic consensus in New Zealand which does not succumb to an even more rapid erosion of public support than has occurred across a vast swathe of the advanced capitalist nations. How this pans out, and what rebuilt unifying national identity emerges is yet to be seen – but will likely require prolonged intervention by what remains of the internationalist left to prevent even more insidious & surreptitious elements of reactionary thought being embedded.
For the ‘actually existing’ reactionary base as it stands today, and its ecosystem of small organisations & largely online propaganda outlets (using the term in a neutral & descriptive sense), there have already been immediate repercussions. A number of reactionary Facebook pages have been pulled, as has the hosting service for the National Front’s website. The Dominion Movements announced its immediate dissolution, and have pulled their own website. Whether this means they have dissolved for good, dissolved for a period to return later, or gone essentially underground is anyone’s guess. Internationally the Christchurch killer is being hailed a hero by the terrorist leaning sections of the extreme right, while closer to home the many unaligned (but typically reactionary) conspiracy circles have begun peddling false flag ‘theories’. It should also be noted that the New Conservatives leader Elliot Ikilei, the NC being probably the most important link between mainstream bourgeois parliamentary politics and the hardline reactionary fringes, has responded by rolling out typical ‘fascism is left-wing’ conspiracies to direct away unwanted anger. Such attempts at distancing are seemingly the default positions for most of the other ‘respectable reactionaries’ – the people at Right Minds largely bemoaning the bad press the slayings will bring on them.
My predictions for the immediate effects going forward, which may well be wrong but are my best attempt to gauge the reactions, are that the organised far right will go to ground as the white identitarians of the Dominion Movement have. They will likely be on the back foot for some time and will struggle to regroup, but I imagine will slowly do so over the coming months to years. The intense focus on rooting out small businesses and business owners with fascist sympathies after the rage prompted by the discovery of a Christchurch insulation company openly using nazi imagery in their advertising may also seriously hamper activity by the organised far right. It is possible some said small businesses, of which there are a number, have or can act as recruitment vectors and funding sources for the far right and if a number of them go under there is a chance an active source of funding may inadvertently be shut off. This is, to be very clear, speculation on my part though.
More ‘respectable’ groups and outlets like the aforementioned New Conservatives and Right Minds will receive considerable blowback, I imagine the NC as the most accessible and well known face of this link between the fringes and mainstream right will bare the brunt of this, but it could be the case that they manage to duck scrutiny by dent of being smaller than the big parliamentary parties but less fringe than the neonazi scene. At the very least, mainstream conservative figures in the media (including bloggers like David Farrar of Kiwiblog and already disgraced Cameron Slater of Whale Oil) are already coming in for criticism for their boostering of anti-Muslim fears as well as in some cases migrant baiting over the UN Migrant Compact. In the political field the entire parliamentary wing should bare some blame as all five parties in parliament have engaged in migrant baiting and anti-Muslim rhetoric within the last two years. But with Ardern’s admittedly admirable leadership and likewise that of James Shaw, I imagine Labour and the Greens will come in for more sluggish critique than National, ACT, and NZ First.
The one area where this attack will likely immediately embolden reactionary forces is in the ecosystem of cranks and conspiracy theorists who’re inevitably linked to the far right or share ideas in common but operate in a world of their own. In this respect, I imagine there will be an immediate uptake of false flag conspiracies which will have a certain appeal to many struggling to answer why the attacks happened. There will likely be increased activity in conspiracy spheres as such, and false flag theories could gain ground in particularly crankish areas like the Ban1080 movement. Perversely, this could mean the attack has an immediate effect of channeling a small section of the outrage at it into areas which may bolster sectors of the far right. With a much greater eye on such susceptible areas to extreme reactionary ideas, this will hopefully not come to pass to any great extent – but I don’t want to discount the possibility until enough time has passed to tell whether that has been the case.
I’ll leave things there for now. As said I will be contributing to several pieces on the history of NZs far right, which will likely start appearing this week. I’ll also be working feverishly on the third part of the New Zealand’s Far Right series, so there will be a fairly sizable amount of material to help historically contextualize this horrendous attack and understand where it has come from in the near future.