I’ve spent a fair bit of time reading the manifesto of the terrorist. I am wary of taking it at face value as it is a propaganda document, and not necessarily what he believes.
The most striking part to me is his belief that those he killed were not innocents. He sees them as invaders. He even explains how he think children will grow up to be and are future enemies. It is stomach churning stuff.
The salient point is he doesn’t see those he targeted as human beings. He sees their group characteristics (migrant and/or Muslim) as defining them. They are not individuals, they are not humans. They are invaders.
This is the same rationale that the Nazis used to kill Jews in The Holocaust. My great grand parents were killed because their bloodline saw them defined as part of a group that were deemed enemies.
Seeing people solely as part of a group, rather than as individual human beings, is what dehumanises people. This is one reason that aspects of identity politics I find problematic.
But it is also why those who lump all Muslims in together, contribute to the problem. One should be able to debate immigration policy and issues of integration.
But the trap some people fall into is lumping 1.1 billion people together on the basis of one group characteristic. That is dehumanising. It is saying that one group characteristic outweighs everything else about that person. We must always treat people as individual human beings.
The same critique applies to those who believe apostates should receive the death penalty. That is also dehumanising. It is saying a human being who changes their religion is no longer a human being worth of living.
The other things that struck me in the manifesto was how the terrorist said that at various times he had been a communist, an anarchist and a fascist. They are all of course extremes. I’m not saying they’re all equal, just that this is a guy who seems attracted to extreme positions.
Extremism isn’t unique to the left or right. In the UK Jo Cox was murdered by a far right extremist. In the US then House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot by a far left extremist.
Extremism is the enemy.
We don’t yet know if the other two people arrested are New Zealanders and how they were involved in this act of terrorism. But it does suggest we need to take home grown extremists more seriously.
I recall back in 2006 I was placed on an enemies list of the local neo-nazis. They even photoshopped “Juden” on my forehead in blood colours. At the time I laughed them off as a bunch of big talking idiots who would never actually do anything. I often mocked them. With the benefit of hindsight that may have been the wrong approach, as we are in an era where those who talk hate sadly sometimes follow through.
Reject hate. Reject extremism. Reject dehumanising people by seeing them only as members of a group rather than as wonderfully precious individual human beings.