The gunman behind at least one of the mosque shootings in New Zealand that left 49 people dead on Friday tried to make a few things clear in the manifesto he left behind: He is a 28-year-old Australian white nationalist who hates immigrants. He was set off by attacks in Europe that were perpetrated by Muslims. He wanted revenge, and he wanted to create fear.
He also, quite clearly, wanted attention.
Though he claimed not to covet fame, the gunman – whose name was not immediately released by police – left behind a 74-page document posted on social media under the name Brenton Tarrant in which he said he hoped to survive the attack to better spread his ideas in the media.
And though he portrayed himself in his writings as quiet and introverted, he livestreamed to the world his assault on the worshippers at Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque.
That attack killed at least 41 people, while an assault on a second mosque in the city not long after killed several more. Police did not say whether the same person was responsible for both shootings.
While his manifesto and video were an obvious and contemptuous ploy for infamy, they do contain important clues for a public trying to understand why anyone would target dozens of innocent people who were simply spending an afternoon engaged in prayer.
There could be no more perplexing a setting for a mass slaughter than New Zealand, a nation so placid and so isolated from the mass shootings that plague the US that even police officers rarely carry guns.
Yet the gunman himself highlighted New Zealand’s remoteness as a reason he chose it. He wrote that an attack in New Zealand would show that no place on earth was safe and that even a country as far away as New Zealand is subject to mass immigration.