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President Erdogan and KellyAnne Conway have both tried to use the Christchurch attacks to score political points (Getty Images)
President Erdogan and KellyAnne Conway have both tried to use the Christchurch attacks to score political points (Getty Images)

The BulletinMarch 20, 2019

The Bulletin: Christchurch attacks become political football overseas

President Erdogan and KellyAnne Conway have both tried to use the Christchurch attacks to score political points (Getty Images)
President Erdogan and KellyAnne Conway have both tried to use the Christchurch attacks to score political points (Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Christchurch attacks become political footballs overseas, major tech companies like Facebook under pressure, and concerns raised over continued spread of measles.

The Christchurch mosque attack has become a political football in the upcoming Turkish election campaign. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made inflammatory comments and played footage of the attack at a rally, saying that New Zealanders who harbour ill-will towards Muslims and travel to Turkey will be sent back home in coffins, reports Newshub. He also made references to the Gallipoli campaign, where Turkey beat back an ANZAC invasion, and said “enemies of Muslims” were testing them.

It led to foreign minister and deputy PM Winston Peters saying he will use his upcoming trip to Turkey to “set the record straight,” reports Stuff. Turkish officials have indicated that they think there was some sort of organisation backing the attacks, because of the resources available at the alleged terrorist’s disposal. He is also reported to have travelled through Turkey a few years ago.

Mr Peters says he’s concerned that President Erdoğan’s comments could endanger New Zealanders travelling through Muslim countries. President Erdoğan has long stoked both Islamism and Turkish nationalism for domestic political gain, and it remains to be seen if the Christchurch attacks will become inspirational to radical Islamist groups. That ideology has practically no currency whatsoever among New Zealand’s Muslim community, as this North and South feature shows. In fact, as the many articles collected here show, Muslim New Zealanders have far more to fear from racist attacks than many New Zealanders might have previously realised.

That may change, in the aftermath of the massive outpouring of support for Muslim New Zealanders over recent days. Given that we’ve all seen how in the case of other mass killings there can be retribution and revenge attacks, the conciliatory and communal tone around the country is remarkable. There have been a few isolated incidents of white nationalists showing support for what happened, and the condemnation in response has been swift and universal. Unlike terrorist attacks which have turned other societies against each other, it may well be that what has happened in Christchurch will cause all New Zealanders to be better to one another. It could also mark the start of a long reckoning for Pākehā New Zealand, to come to terms with how racism has shaped this country.

But overseas, people from all sorts of perspectives are being wildly misleading about what happened, and what the response has been. That includes senior figures of the Trump administration falsely describing the alleged killer as an “eco-terrorist”, and in the process encouraged people to go and read the garbage that is being described as a manifesto. That is considered by mass shooting experts to be highly irresponsible and inflammatory. In Australia, the events have thrown into sharp relief how that country has treated the Muslim community there. Other high profile commentators, who I won’t link to, are treating the events as if the only possible outcome can be more violence. So far, it would appear New Zealand is showing that doesn’t have to be the case.

As for how New Zealand is treating the man accused of carrying out the attack, countries overseas should feel in no doubt as to how comprehensively he has been shunned here. The PM addressed parliament yesterday on the Christchurch terrorist attack. We have republished her words. Jacinda Ardern had this to say about the alleged perpetrator:

“He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety. And that is why you will never hear me mention his name.

He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless.

And to others I implore you: speak the names of those who were lost, rather than name of the man who took them.”

Major technology and social media companies are under immense pressure following the attacks. After the attack was live-streamed on Facebook, a few major companies have pulled their advertising, and others are being asked to consider doing so, reports The Spinoff. In particular, people are calling for changes to how livestreaming itself works on the platform, because of the ease that it allows horrific images to be put in front of unsuspecting viewers. Facebook still have not offered any response. The video of the attack itself has now been classified as objectionable, so any possession or distribution of it is illegal.

As happens with every terrorist attack these days, there has been a lot of conspiracy minded misinformation flying around. The NZ Herald’s Matt Nippert has been doing responsible, debunking commentary on them, but also tracing how conspiracy theories can start. They’re obviously absurd, but can have a pernicious and damaging effect. This commentary piece by a Spinoff staff writer who preferred not to be named is also an excellent unpacking of where and how white supremacists congregate online.

Those planning on attending vigils who feel sick are urged to stay away, amid the ongoing spread of measles. Stuff reports that the ministry of health is looking to prioritise delivering vaccines to Canterbury, where this outbreak began. There are now 30 confirmed cases in that region, with another 20 confirmed in other parts of the country. A reminder – those that think they may have it are also asked to not go to medical centres, rather they should call their GP. The Pasifika Festival in Auckland has also unfortunately been cancelled, because police will not be able to put sufficient resources into protecting the event.

Paid teacher union meetings that were scheduled for this week have been postponed in the wake of the Christchurch attacks, reports Education Central. The NZEI say they have followed the lead of teachers in Christchurch, who said they wanted to fully focus on the needs of the kids in their care.

A loan the government was planning on giving to dairy company Westland Milk is on hold, after it emerged the company might be about to sell. A conditional offer has been accepted, reports Farmers Weekly, to sell the company to the Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group, a state owned Chinese company. The loan raised eyebrows at the time, as it came out of the provincial growth fund, and made the government look like a lender of last resort.

An ugly algae bloom is choking lakes around the Queenstown District, reports Mountain Scene. So far no solution has been found to what is being called ‘Lake Snow’. It’s having an effect on the tourism industry as well, with boat filters and fishing lines coming out of the water completely clogged up.

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The threat of a digital services tax would force the tech giants to invest more in moderating content. (Photo: Getty.)

Right now on The Spinoff: Terry Baucher argues that one way to get tech giants to clean up their act is to slap a big tax on them. Historian Scott Hamilton writes that even though the alleged killer was Australian, New Zealand has long been stained by white supremacy. And for those whose mental health is suffering as a result of the attacks, we urge you to take care of yourself and others, and have offered some suggestions as to how to do that.

Some media organisations have more to answer for than others, in terms of creating a climate of Islamophobia around the world. Sky News in Australia is frequently – and I don’t use this description lightly – a disgrace to the profession, in large part because of their night-time format switch away from news coverage, and towards rabid talk shows. One of the young journalists at the station decided, during the coverage of the Christchurch terrorist attacks, that she had had enough. Her name is Rashna Farrukh, and she took the brave decision to simply quit on the spot. Here is an excerpt from a piece she wrote about it for the ABC.

“Some nights I felt physically sick, others I even shed tears in my car on the way home.

Still, I continued to compromise my values. Not only my values as a member of a religious group who was continuously being blamed and alienated by the rhetoric on these shows, but also as an aspiring journalist.

This weekend, though, I realised that where we get our start matters too. Over the past few years, I was playing a role — no matter how small — in a network whose tone I knew would help legitimise radical views present in the fringes of our society.

Now, I am done being a part of something I do not stand for, and I urge other young journalists to do the same.”

Eden Park will be bailed out from financial woes by Auckland Council, reports Stuff. Overall $63 million will go towards the stadium, the majority of which will be used for paying down debt, and another $10 million on top for the essential maintenance that will be needed over the next few years. Mayor Phil Goff wanted the latter part of it to be in the form of a loan, so that if the Eden Park Trust Board sold the stadium the Council would get its money back, but that position was outvoted.

From our partners: Climate change has already affected how electricity gets delivered to customers, and it’s only going to get more challenging. Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha outlines what the lines company is doing to respond.

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