Christchurch attack: The new face of white supremacy in New Zealand

Credit: Newshub.

Warning: This article contains content that may disturb some people.

White supremacy in New Zealand used to be easy to spot, with skinhead haircuts and Nazi symbols.

Not any more: now it has moved online.

Newshub has been leaked details of a closed Facebook group that has Kiwis chatting to each other about white supremacy.

Newshub has decided not to name them for legal reasons, but have published a snippet of their chat - and it is confronting content.

Newshub contacted the person being written about - Green MP Golriz Ghahraman - and she consented to the conversation being published in the interests of exposing it.

Warning: This content is distressing.

It starts with one user saying:

"Ask yourself: What have I done today for White well-being?"

The chat then turns to:

"Golriz."

"What a smart mouthed Hua."

"I know. It's just nice to put them in one basket. Plus I don't have a rayciss (sic) word for Iranians anyway lol."

Then they start joking about hanging her like a lynch mob:

"Get the rope lol."

"She'll make a fantastic chandelier."

"I need a new lamp."

It ends with:

"I can't wait to see her on the streets."

But white supremacy online goes way beyond Facebook chat.

It is a phenomenon - the web is full of online havens of hate, and there are plenty of New Zealanders in them.

8Chan hosts global, 24/7 chatrooms for subversive subcultures like "White Power".

Newshub saw content posted by an American user boasting about getting a visit from the FBI.

The reason for the visit: he posted to social media about the Christchurch attacks.

This is the online world where the alleged Christchurch gunman lived. This is where the manifesto was posted, along with an invite to the Facebook livestream for chatroom friends.

Now the users of 8Chan revere him as a hero and want to do him proud.

He has already inspired a copycat. The shooting of Jews at a synagogue in San Diego in April that left one dead was allegedly carried out by an 8Chan user, 19-year-old John Earnest.

In a letter on the website Earnest said:

"The alleged gunman's so-called 'sacrifice' made him think, 'If I won't defend my race, how can I expect others to do the same?' 

"[He] inspired me. I hope to inspire many more."

Earnest boasted of being radicalised on one of its chatroom boards, saying: "I've only been lurking here for a year and a half, but what I've learned is priceless."

Ben Elley is an expert on the far right online, he says many people find it exciting to be radicalised.

"It's an exciting world view to take on, it's a bit scary but it's heroic from their perspective," he told Newshub.

"They really like the idea of radicalising others as well, which unfortunately does make them quite effective at doing it."

Much of the messaging on 8Chan is based around memes or internet jokes with a sinister edge.

Newshub found New Zealand-based content that showed a fake 'tourist map' of the Christchurch shooting. It called the alleged gunman a "saint" and signed off as being from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It even had the "100% Pure" tourism logo.

Jim Watkins owns America-based NT Technologies, which owns 8Chan.

"Condolences to the victims of the New Zealand shooting," he posted after the March 15 attack.

But he's making no apology for the part his website played in the tragedy.

"This is not the fault of NT Technologies for providing the medium to announce the live stream… This is not the fault of Facebook for allowing his live-action footage to stream. These are just tools that millions of people use daily," Watkins posted.

In a statement provided to Newshub, Facebook said: "Creating a space where people feel safe to express themselves is absolutely critical to us. Our Community Standards make clear what is and is not allowed on Facebook and we will remove any violating content posted on News Feed, Groups, Pages or elsewhere when we become aware of it.

"Our commitment to safety is what drives our focus on these important issues and we continue to invest billions of dollars annually to protect the safety and security of people who use our services."

Elley says plenty of Kiwis indulge in hate speech online, and teenagers are particularly attracted to the far right.

But 8Chan users are difficult to trace and banning such sites won't work. Firstly, users are tech-savvy and will access them anyway.

But more importantly, we run the risk of making it a lot more exciting.  

"It's already a place where people go for transgressive humour, and by banning it we're only making it more appealing in a lot of ways," Elley says.

He has a warning for parents: if your kids are watching conspiracy theories and pseudo-science videos on YouTube, they can act as a precursor to 8Chan and the extremist far-right parts of the web.

"It's very easy to end up at more extreme beliefs once you've seen that stuff," Elley says. "You naturally want to go further and find out more, and that's when you end up in a far-right kind of space quite often."

Newshub.