Rising impact of internet radicals

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23rd April 2019 marked the one-year anniversary of the Toronto van attack carried out by Alek Minassian which killed 10 innocent pedestrians less than 20 miles from the house I grew up in. On March 15th 2019, a white-supremacist terrorist killed 50 muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. On April 27th 2019, one person was killed by an anti-Semitic attack against Jewish worshippers in a synagogue in Poway, California. These three terrorists do not necessarily share the same ideology, but they have two things in common: they were all radicalised on the internet, and they treated their online presence as a performance.

Internet ‘terrorists’ do not necessarily share the same ideology

Before his attack, Minassian posted to his Facebook profile that he was a member of the ‘incel’ (involuntary-celibate) rebellion and praised Elliot Rodgers, the Isla Vista shooter 2014, as the ‘Supreme Gentleman.’ The Poway shooter attempted to livestream his attack and reportedly invoked the internet meme ‘Subscribe to PewDiePie’. Worst of all, the Christchurch shooter successfully livestreamed his violence on Facebook whilst telling viewers to ‘Subscribe to PewDiePie’ too.

They treat their actions as perverse jokes rather than violent acts

These three individuals are part of a worrying trent: bigoted violence being treated as perverse humour on internet sites.

In his manifesto, which seems to have been shaped by and designed for the internet, the shooter could not help himself but attempt to make jokes.

He claims that “Spyro the dragon 3 taught me ethno-nationalism and “Fortnite trained me to be a killer and to floss on the corpses of my enemies.” He continued this disposition into his court appearance by flashing the OK hand sign which the Southern Poverty Law Centre says is a symbol of white supremacy.

The very nature of a meme is that it is repeated and reimagined, so these men are likely to only be the beginning of a new kind of terrorism: internet-radicalised terrorists. They treat their actions as a partly comedic performance, and are not fully able to grasp the gravity of their actions. This is partly because of the fact that on certain internet sites these actions are treated as perverse jokes instead of the horrific violent acts that they really are.

Bigoted violence is being treated as perverse humour on sites.

Photo by 1DayReview via Flickr

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