The recent terror attack at a pair of mosques in New Zealand left 50 people dead and horrified the world. The killer, an avowed white nationalist, released a manifesto and livestreamed the atrocity.
That terrorists of all stripes have come to use the internet to disseminate their ideas and actions is no surprise. The goal of terrorism, after all, is to induce terror.
But it is more than that. The new terrorism is not based on the top-down structures, like those common in the late 20th and 21st century. Instead, it is a kind of DIY extremism.
This type of violence is characterized by individuals or small groups taking an ideology, or crafting one, and committing horrific violence in its name, using social media to maximize their impact.
It’s difficult to stop these types of attacks. They may be dreamed up by a single person or a few people, and they don’t leave the kind of paper trail that their more organized counterparts do.
White nationalist violence is not uncommon; it has occurred in the U.S. with some frequency in the past few years. Now it is spreading to other countries via the internet. ‘
How do we stop this? Some have suggested greater regulation of social media. Websites such as YouTube and Facebook need to realize that radicalization is a problem, and alter their algorithms to prevent people from falling into echo chambers that foment extremism.
But I argue that this is insufficient. What is needed is a de-escalation of political rhetoric. The shooter echoed sentiments that have been expressed (and continue to be expressed) by politicians throughout the world. Those politicians should bear electoral responsibility for the violence that their rhetoric has led to.