This is a good rule of thumb for media organizations in general, given that the entire point of a manifesto and a heinous act like mass murder is specifically designed to gain attention. By sharing these evil thoughts, media organizations effectively aid and abet the agenda of these fundamentally evil people. It’s important to share some context about the killer so as to give basic information about them, but breathlessly repeating their words is exactly what these mass murderers want, and the typical wall-to-wall TV media coverage that turns them into overnight celebrities is simply a bonus.
The whole point of terrorism is to terrorize. The heinous act of murdering at least 49 Muslim worshipers is of secondary importance to the killer as live-streaming it. The video of the act—not the act—is the primary goal. You see this dynamic in the shooters’ last post on the extremist site 8chan, where he wrote “it’s time to stop shitposting and make a real life effort post.” What he means is that the act of mass murder is a kind of content the way 8chan and 4chan’s perpetual calls for mass murder are too. This murderer is counting on our support to spread his message.
Which is why it is so important not to share this manifesto. It is layered with irony, and an immense amount of references to various far-right memes. It’s really hard to make sense of what is real and what is just for “lulz,” as demonstrated by this discussion between two folks very familiar with this broken online world.
Experts in online white supremacist extremism have a hard time figuring out exactly what this mass murderer was being serious about in his manifesto, so it is clear that the manifesto is designed to do one thing and one thing only: radicalize more people to the killer's cause. By including an immense amount of references to the content that radicalized the killer, this murderer is hoping that people will Google parts of his manifesto and get “red-pilled”—a term used by these far-right white supremacists to describe how they became radicalized.
Speaking of radicalization and Google, YouTube is one of the murderers' chief allies to accomplish his terrorist goals. That's where the killer is hoping their breadcrumbs will take unsuspecting news consumers, because YouTube's algorithm is set up to perpetuate this kind of extremism.
Terrorism is about optics. Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers’ plan was centered around this fact. It wasn’t primarily about murdering 3,000 people that fateful day, but doing so in a way that would spark a self-destructive reaction, as bin Laden said in 2004:
All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration. All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.
This is in addition to our having experience in using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers, as we, alongside the mujahidin, bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat.
Mass murder in the way bin Laden and the New Zealand shooter planned it out is specifically designed to be used to accomplish larger ideological goals. That’s terrorism. Spreading the words of the mass murderer in the wake of a horrific event like this in New Zealand is quite literally aiding terrorism. Media outlets do need to provide some insight into the shooters’ internet-poisoned mind, but spreading his message is exactly what he wanted to get out of this heinous crime. Don’t do it. Journalists can describe this murderer’s ideology without amplifying their hatred—just go to YouTube and let Google’s algorithm send you down the same rabbit hole they have sent countless other extremists down, and soon enough you’ll get a really good sense of why the popularity of Nazi ideology is on the rise.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.