Christchurch Hate Killings and the Hate Arising from the Digana Contretemps: Editorial Reflections

Editorial in the Sunday Observer of Sri Lanka, 17 March 2019, entitledChristchurch and our own national experience”

Blood is being spilt with the claim of protecting one’s own ‘flesh and blood.’ It happened last Friday in Christchurch, in usually quiet New Zealand; it has happened in this country in sustained internal conflict over decades; and, it has happened all over the world throughout human history.

The gloom instilled by this litany is, however, dispelled by the bright success of societies in overcoming violence between communities, in managing conflict and, channelling social energies toward civilisational attainment. Happy are the societies that are warmly inclusive, that bravely embrace differentiation and unfamiliarity. Happy are those who celebrate co-existence and avoid or resolve the disruptions between groups, between people.

New Zealand had long lived out substantive elements of this good life – with careful avoidance of social marginalisation, facilitation of inter-group dialogue and sharing and, the societal stability ensured by such social management.

Friday’s demonic explosion of violence in Christchurch was accompanied by a diabolical Internet online broadcasting of that violence. Such is the fury of cultural hatred, such is the frenzy of the emotions that they must express, that the mass slaughter had to be shown on video even as it happened.

A caring world community, so shaken by the ferocity of this exhibitionist massacre, now strives to erase and block the webcasts of terrifying imagery of carnage, of targeted racist hatred.

Even as New Zealand recovers, we, in this country, can only empathise in both the horror and the immense sadness. Our own experience of past decades, as well as the reality of continuing pulses of race hatred, must surely enable us to understand fully the trauma and tragedy that the people of Christchurch are living through. Did we encourage or, try to block, similar webcasts of ethnic paranoia and ethnic hatred during the Digana violence?

The fear-mongering of the Christchurch killer is, surely, a disturbing echo of that same fear-mongering, that same hate-incitement that we have long experienced in our own society. How many of our politicians, big and small, how many of our intelligentsia, have propagated the same paranoia of threatened ethnic community extinction; espoused ethnic retaliation to ostensibly fend off such imagined threats?

In New Zealand, it was a lone gunman who propagated this fear of ethnic extinction as the justification of mass slaughter of another targeted ethnic community. In our own country we have gone far beyond, with organisations wreaking violence, whole townships targeted. In New Zealand, the actions and preaching of a single individual has prompted such global distaste and horror.

In Sri Lanka, we have had the same on a mass scale. We have had whole organisations and cohorts of robed clerics propagating imagined threats to a community’s survival and inciting retaliatory violence and social repression against other communities. If July 1983 is now only a distant memory, we have had continuation of such pogroms even in the present. Aluthgama is still recovering. Digana still simmers.

Worse, these organisations that propagate ethnic paranoia and resultant hatred of others are sponsored by politicians and even politically powerful bureaucrats at the very heart of the Republic. Even as the country recovered from the long-drawn separatist insurgency, rather than working hard to ensure social peace all round, we had none other than the Secretary to the Defence Ministry giving his blessings to mushroom organisations propagating ethnic fear and hatred of other communities.

It was almost as if one convenient ‘enemy’ community, having been dispensed with, there was need for a new ‘enemy’ to keep the fires burning. Important political constituencies and vote banks had to be kept in a ferment of fear of extinction and reactive hatred. The chief Defence officer not only gave his sponsorship to such fear-mongering organisations but made sure that he was publicly seen to be patronising these organisations and their cleric leaders.

First we had a newly created issue of Halal. Then we had vanda pethi. If Aluthgama was followed by Digana, we can be sure that new political ambitions will soon see more fear-mongering and hate targeting. Already, this same ex-bureaucrat is touring the country with ideologues of hate and fear in tow.

The mass murderer of Christchurch preached ethnic supremacy. In Sri Lanka, we are long used to the preaching of ethnic supremacy and the rationalising of the defence of such supremacy by the elimination of other ethnic communities portrayed as ‘threats’. Sundry professors and doctors and lawyers are now following that politically ambitious ex-bureaucrat, ever ready to spew out spurious arguments and fake history to justify ethnic supremacy, instil fear of community extinction and, the political need for ‘war heroes’ to ‘win’ this new war to defend the threatened community. Ethnic dominance, political repression and a battle-hardened state is being preached as the future of our national politics.

If the world is disgusted with the violence and violent propaganda of a single individual in Christchurch, how must whole ‘movements’ doing exactly the same or, propagating similarly, be perceived? How is the world perceiving the on-going politics of this country; the continued attempts to push electoral mobilisation along the lines of ethnic supremacy, fear and hatred?

All the leaders of New Zealand are utterly rejecting the racist propaganda of the Christchurch killer. Are all our own politicians shunning such supremacist preaching and fear-mongering? Will we see election candidates on the same track as the Christchurch killer doing politics on our resplendent isle?

*** ***


A QUICK NOTE from Michael Roberts

The Sunday Observer Editor is making some important points and raising critical questions about the processes that aid the generation of hate against ethnic groups or particular categories of people;  But he has completely misread the REACH  and thus the IMPACT of Tarrant’s killings and his video broadcast of his work. That broadcast was directed at a small worldwide network of like-minded White racists and has therefore been referred to as a “meme”. Tarrant himself is an Australian with a history that indicates he was/is a loner. He seems to share the characteristics of the Norwegian killer Breveik(?). In any event the Editor of the Observer and others need to read Greg Sheridan’s article in the Weekend Australian of 23/24th March: “Gunman’s Dark World of Misfits and Voyeurs”

The video cast was immediately blocked by the authorities. Moreover, the reaction and responses in New Zealand were quite the opposite to the responses in some quarters in Sri Lanka after the Sinhala bus driver who was assaulted by some Muslim men in a road rage incident at DIGANA died in hospital and rumours were spread  (and podcasts too if the Observer editor’s note is reliable) by individuals as well as chauvinist organisations. 

In  Christchurch there was an outpouring of sympathy and oneness for the Muslim victims and thus the Muslim immigrants in the nation as a whole. Selected sites near the mosque have been swamped by flowers and bouquets. Mourning hakas have been performed –some quite spontaneously — at the plazas and green areas near the mosque. This act is a quintessentially Kiwi cultural and political act: originally Maori, the haka  is now cross-cultural and inclusive in its import and meaning: whether the haka  appropriate to rugby or the haka meant for mourning, this act says “we are all Kiwi –all New Zealanders”. The Muslim immigrants in New Zealand could not ask for a warmer embrace.




Filed under accountability, Australian culture, australian media, communal relations, cultural transmission, ethnicity, heritage, immigration, landscape wondrous, life stories, politIcal discourse, racist thinking, reconciliation, religiosity, riots and pogroms, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, trauma, unusual people, vengeance, violence of language, welfare & philanthophy, world events & processes

6 responses to “Christchurch Hate Killings and the Hate Arising from the Digana Contretemps: Editorial Reflections

  1. Jane Russell

    Tarrant is not such a lone wolf as some commentators have suggested. He, like other white supremacists in Europe and USA, has been inspired by Renee Camus’ ideas of “replacement ” of white culture by other non-white cultures. Just as the ku-klux-klan is related ideologically to fascism and nazism, so this resurgence of white racism/supremacism is related to those earlier, global movements. Tarrant is a 21st century representative of a movement which found expression in the 1950’s ‘whites only’ policy re immigration into Australia and South Africa….and perhaps covertly into New Zealand….

    The 2010’s seem bent on re-running the history of the 1930’s- a time when GG Ponnambalam could characterise SWRD Bandaranaike as ‘the’ pocket Hitler” and it could be regarded almost as a compliment….

    • Hai Jane
      Can you provide references etc for your note – “He, like other white supremacists in Europe and USA, has been inspired by Renee Camus’ ideas of “replacement ” of white culture by other non-white cultures.” One Oz news item says that “Tarrant was immersed in far-right online message boards, posting a manifesto on 8chan before he carried out the attacks, a website that describes itself as the “darkest reaches of the internet”….” AND Scott Morrison has said that Tarrant was on nobody’s radar. He has been in NZ for about 15 months (?) but also travelled abroad when there.
      So, it is important to know if he was in touch with white supremacists when traveling or via internet. This inquiry should extend to encompass the pre-history of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian who murdered 69 people at a summer camp in Norway on 12 July 2012. One psych-report indicated that he had a narcissistic personality disorder (!!@##). The Wikipedia account indicates that after his imprisonment he has identified himself as a fascist and a Nazi. This suggests that he may be using internet to access these strands of thinking at a time when migrants from Africa and the Arab lands has generated concern in Europe.
      The main point JANE is that we need good evidence that the picture of Tarrant as a LONER that has emerged thus far in the Antipodes is not valid and that he was in touch with white racists in USA and Europe via internet or more directly.

      • As a further ADDITION … JANEand others may ;ike to read an item intoday’s AUSTRALIAN 25 March 2019 entitled ” HOW AUSSIE SPIES WON PROPAGANDA WAR AGAINST ISIS” …. yes. That. It takes us into the deep dungeons of the cyber world.

  2. Renee Camus, the French philosopher/alt-right ideologue, was interviewed on BBC’s Radio 4 last week. He was delighted to be the centre of global attention after being quoted by the Christchurch terrorist. A tranche of Marie le Pen’s followers are under his influence.
    Camus claims he is not racist: he said he is simply stating the facts. His argument is that just as white people (men) from Europe colonised Africa, the Middle East, large parts of Asia and South America , so Europe itself is now being colonised in turn by persons from those erstwhile colonised regions.
    In France, it is the Arabic speaking people of North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia etc) plus black Africans from West Africa (Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire etc), many, if not most, of whom are Muslims who are now’ colonising’ the former colonisers’ land and culture. He claims that autochthonous French architecture, cuisine, dance, music, literature, art , lifestyle and even language are being “replaced” by a hybrid Islamist/Arab/Black African culture – to the detriment of the original, pure , superior French culture. He stated this is happening throughout Europe: for example, Britain, he claims, is also being ‘colonised’ by Black Africans, Afro-Caribbean peoples and South Asians, many of whom are Muslims. He described modern Paris and London as “slums” : according to him, the architecture, lifestyle and culture of these two historic cities have been disastrously undermined by an inferior, non-white, largely Muslim, culture of the ‘colonisers’.
    This is therefore the “great replacement” that the white racist alt-right supposedly fears, which the Christchurch killer referenced. A recent white supremacist march in the USA used the slogan “We will not be replaced” as its main message.
    It strikes me that this is a final backlash from a decaying white imperialist culture that is running out of steam. With the economic and political rise of China plus the economic power of Japan and the Asean nations, the politico-economic resurgence of India, the financial influence of oil-rich states in the middle East and the developing clout of some parts of Africa and south America, European culture is now just one of many competing cultures. While the USA was the sole hegemon, (from 1987-2004 approx, ie post-Iraq war), global white supremacism was still the norm. But now we live in a multi-polar world. Caucasians, who were top dogs from the 16th century onwards, are now just part of the pack.
    It is perhaps relevant that the earliest European explorers/imperialists/ colonisers were Genoese/Portuguese sailors and navigators in the pay of a Spanish crown that prided itself on having finally obliterated the highly sophisticated, artistic and scientific culture of Islamic Grenada and Al-Andalus. The Spanish/Portuguese (Iberian) Empire that was created from these maritime forays was at first just pay-back for an Islamic culture, “the Caliphate”, that had spread westwards from the Near East/Levant into Spain. Now a new ‘pay-back’ is occurring . Islam is on the rise. Cultural domination, like history, goes round in cycles.
    (In the case of Sri Lanka, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a young Sinhalese karava Buddhist doctor, a paediatrician, in 1973 in the Mount Lavinian home of my Ramanathan Hall, Peradeniya University ‘rooma’, Oliny Fernando. The young medic. had served part of his compulsory government service in a hospital in a majority Muslim area in the Eastern Province,. He told me with great earnestness that Sinhalese Buddhists were in grave danger of “being replaced” as a majority/dominant community by Muslims as Muslim families had 8 to 12 children whereas Buddhist Sinhalese had only 2 to 4 kids per family. He solemnly predicted that by the year 2020, Tamil speaking Muslims would outnumber Buddhist Sinhalese in Sri Lanka. “The Sinhalese Buddhists are sleepwalking into disaster,” he told me. I listened politely but was secretly horrified at this open display of xenophobia by an educated and supposedly compassionate young man. Not that I can claim any higher higher ethical standard here: being British, I was more stunned by the overt expression of his xenophobia than by the racism itself…….the British have learned to express their racism in silence, through a cold abruptness of manner that makes it clear they want nothing to do with you, a non-white/non-British person, so it was probably his different cultural approach to xenophobia which appalled me most).
    Although horrifying in many ways, these culture wars are very small beer compared to the toxicification of the planet. That is happening at such an alarming rate, if humankind cannot curb his/her appetite for throwaway consumption (ie modern capitalism), we shall very soon all be in the s..t, regardless of identity politics.
    Jane Russell 27/3/19

  3. A French friend informs me the French philosopher is Renaud Camus….

Leave a Reply