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The Tops supermarket in Buffalo, upstate New York, where at least ten people were murdered. (Photo by John Normile/Getty Images)
The Tops supermarket in Buffalo, upstate New York, where at least ten people were murdered. (Photo by John Normile/Getty Images)

PoliticsMay 15, 2022

NZ censor bans Buffalo terrorist ‘manifesto’ that cites Christchurch attack as inspiration

The Tops supermarket in Buffalo, upstate New York, where at least ten people were murdered. (Photo by John Normile/Getty Images)
The Tops supermarket in Buffalo, upstate New York, where at least ten people were murdered. (Photo by John Normile/Getty Images)

The white supremacist document, believed to be that of the man who killed at least 10 people in the US this morning, has been banned by NZ’s censor.

A white supremacist “manifesto” believed to be written by the 18-year-old who stands accused of opening fire in a Buffalo supermarket, killing at least 10 people, has been banned by New Zealand’s censor. The publication, posted online two days ago, makes a number of references to the 2019 mass murders in Christchurch mosques and the terrorist convicted of perpetrating them.

“The killer says in his document that he was inspired by the March 15 Mosque killer. It has become a trend for terrorists, in particular white supremacist killers, to issue these kinds of publications to encourage others to follow their lead,” said the acting chief censor, Rupert Ablett-Hampson, in a statement. The Christchurch terrorist’s “manifesto”, entitled “The Great Replacement”, was banned by the New Zealand censor shortly after the March 2019 attack. 

The document, which runs to 180 pages and was posted online two days ago, espouses at length the falsehoods of the “great replacement” theory, a far-right set of beliefs premised on the baseless claim that groups are attempting to obliterate white people. The author also says he was a regular user of 4Chan, the site frequented by the Christchurch terrorist. Authorities told US media: “We are aware of the manifesto allegedly written by the suspect and we’re working to definitively confirm that he is the author.”

In the “manifesto”, which is replete with anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and racist slogans, the convicted Christchurch terrorist’s livestream of the mosque attacks and his manifesto are described as instrumental, while the individual is credited as the “particular person” that “radicalised” him. Like the Christchurch attack, the Buffalo attack was livestreamed. 

The manifesto uses the final slogan of the Christchurch terrorist’s manifesto in an image that fills the opening page of his own. Entire passages appear to have been cut and paste from one to the other. 

“There is widespread coverage of this mass shooting and the fact that the killer produced publications and we urge New Zealanders not to seek these out,” said Ablett-Hampson. “This decision means it is an offence to possess or distribute these publications. People who have downloaded this document, or printed it, should destroy any copies.”

He added: “We understand most people in Aotearoa reading such publications would not be supportive of these hateful messages but these kind of publications are not intended for most people. We have seen how they can impact individuals who are on the pathway to violence.”

The “terrible act” witnessed in upstate New York, and the document linking it to the Christchurch terrorist attack, “shows yet again why we as a society need to get in front of these issues”, said Aliya Danzeisen of the NZ Islamic Women’s Council. “Social media plays an extraordinary role in how people are navigating the challenges they are facing.”

The incident provided tragic confirmation of the importance of studying the online roots of such atrocities, she said, noting the decision by coroner to include these considerations in the scope of her inquiry into the New Zealand mosque killings. “If we don’t get around this, more and more lives will be lost. [The coroner’s] decision relating to scope and the inclusion of social media therein will allow New Zealand and possibly the world a step in the right direction, by allowing us to look into online aspects that may have influenced the Christchurch terrorist. In turn, this could help all of us learn how to be proactive and prevent future similar deaths,” she told The Spinoff.

The Christchurch attack has previously been cited as an inspiration for attacks on a mosque in Norway and a synagogue in California. In the latter case, the New Zealand mosque terrorist was described as “a catalyst for me personally” by the assailant. The false claims of the “Great Replacement” theory, which dates back to the 19th century but was popularised by French writer Renaud Camus in 2011, have been identified as motivational in a range of other attacks. 

Research published by the Washington-based Center for Countering Hate last month found social media platforms had failed to address 89% of posts identified in its study that promoted the Great Replacement theory. That was despite the major social media outlets declaring in a joint statement after the Christchurch mosque attacks that they would be “resolute in our commitment to ensure we are doing all we can to fight the hatred and extremism that lead to terrorist violence”.

The Buffalo attack was livestreamed on Twitch, a platform typically used by gamers. In a statement, a spokesperson for Twitch said it had removed the video. “Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against violence of any kind and works swiftly to respond to all incidents. The user has been indefinitely suspended from our service, and we are taking all appropriate action, including monitoring for any accounts rebroadcasting this content,” they said.

Amazon was among the signatories to the Christchurch Call who pledged to take measures “seeking to prevent the upload of terrorist and violent extremist content and to prevent its dissemination … including its immediate and permanent removal”. Other signatories included Facebook (now Meta), where the Christchurch mosque attack was livestreamed, as well as Twitter, Google and YouTube.

The New Zealand Royal Commission into the mosque attacks found that “by January 2017 the individual had a terrorist attack in mind”, and that “when the individual came to live in New Zealand on 17 August 2017, it was with a fully-developed terrorist ideology based on his adoption of the Great Replacement theory and his associated beliefs that immigration, particularly by Muslim migrants, into western countries is an existential threat to western society and that the appropriate response (at least for him) was violence.”

The publication had been called in by the Classifications Office and an interim decision reached this morning, said Ablett-Hampson. “A final classification decision will be made in due course, it’s important to make this interim decision so the public is aware that this material is objectionable under New Zealand law.”

An 18-year-old New York state man has been charged in Buffalo City Court on one count of murder in the first degree. He was remanded to custody without bail. 

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