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The Familiar Face of White Supremacy

| March 24, 2019

Brenton Tarrant

Brenton Tarrant.

We’re becoming trained in rituals following mass killings: brief saturation coverage, social media sympathies, blame theories, thoughts and prayers, new gun regulations (if abroad), looser gun rights (if in the United States), and now that new one: not naming the killer, not showing his face on screens or front pages. Fad more than ritual, it’s even weaker than thoughts and prayers, which at least express a sense that the spiritual could make a difference in the face of the senseless. But not naming somebody is an affectation, a pose, like veiling one’s Facebook profile in the national colors of the latest victims of a mass attack.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive If it were limited to Facebook it wouldn’t be so ridiculous. But network anchors like CNN’s Anderson Cooper and news editors have taken to doing it, giving ammunition to accusers of fake news, because you cannot call yourself a reporter by hiding one of the essential facts of the story you’re reporting. Now national leaders like Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, are putting on the pose, supposedly because speaking the killer’s name grants him the fame he was seeking. But hasn’t that ship sailed? You can’t undo atrocity by unimagining the man behind the trigger.

The negation of the name and the face end up itself being a strange honor, a perverse twist on the tomb of the unnamed soldier, which always ends up getting more attention than the named ones anyway, as will Brenton Tarrant–ah, yes, that’s the name of the killer in New Zealand, if I may. He did not have the benefit of getting shot and killed, of being the martyred soldier he thought he’d be, but even in life he’s granted the honor of being the unnamed one everyone is talking about.

The negation is self-defeating. You don’t profess to do everything possible to prevent a recurrence by blacking out the killer’s history and keeping his written words from circulating, the way Tarrant’s manifesto (“The Great Replacement”) is being restricted out of social media and search engines. It’s like the new dogma of silencing extremism on campus in hopes of diminishing it. It makes the silencers look tyrannical and blind to what they could be learning from.

The negation is deceptive. It’s is a way of denying the killer’s connection to the rest of us, the way we so eagerly try to find something, anything, that separates the killer’s psychology or identity from civilized society. It’s a way of exonerating us of our basest prejudices. We can rest easy in the certainty that none of us has a hand in these killings. But no mass killer acts in a vacuum, unaided by an ideology, an arsenal, a set of beliefs learned and reinforced by its own heredity. Tarrant after all is the begotten son of Robert Gregory Bowers, the Pittsburgh Synagogue killer who was begotten of Charlottesville, itself the begotten gang of Dylan Roof of the AME church massacre in South Carolina, to name a few home-grown right-wing terrorists as we look back to Timothy McVeigh, the Turner Diaries, the cross-burners and the rest of that heritage of supremacy.

Click On:

In those parts of the machinery that make a mass killer, we do have a hand, whether it’s in support of gun-crazed cultures that allow murderers to be platoons unto themselves or in support of ideologies that normalize hate and, in Brenton Tarrant’s case, white supremacy, an ideology abetted by our own president, among a few other apologists of supremacy gaining power at the helm of their countries or in its legislatures (Viktor Orban in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the Party of Freedom in the Netherlands, the National Front in France). They’re the unapologetic nationalists that allow others’ murderous acts to ferment. They’re the virus.

The negation is cowardly. We can choose not to speak a mass killer’s name all we want. It’s just another way to hide from ourselves the deeper sickness pervading our societies, that now perfect-storm combination of white self-pity and anti-immigration vigilantism that turn ordinary losers into weaponized ambassadors of xenophobia.

It’s not just faces and names that are being scrubbed but language, too. The words “white supremacist” are being sanitized to “white nationalist”—check your local paper—like a rebranding to make something toxic seem less so. “White supremacist” evokes burning crosses and lynchings, the mass killings that once stretched over weeks, months and years and that, thanks to assault weapons, have evolved into minutes-long YouTubable episodes. Substitute the word “nationalist” and you evoke instead 19th century nationalism or something retro that to its heil-raising fans is indistinguishable from culture-preserving patriotism. The distance from there to “MAGA” is closer than you think. Like the distance from Christchurch to any of its America-first massacres.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him @PierreTristam. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.

16 Responses for “The Familiar Face of White Supremacy”

  1. Sammy hagar says:

    By the way did you happen to notice the hundreds of Christians that were killed by Muslim extremist in Nigeria this past couple of weeks? Wasn’t white people

  2. Derrick Redder says:

    This is exactly what the liberal’s demanded and is exactly the way snowflakes and the PC folks wanted it.
    You being a member of at least one of the aforementioned have no right to complain.
    You seem to be the kinda person that if handed a $20 bill would bitch about not getting it by way of a 10 , a 5 and five singles.

  3. William Moya says:

    You nailed it. The negation is a desperate attempt by old fashioned republicans, centrists, Clinton/Pelosi dems,
    to save the status quo, institutionalists, who failed to see (refuse) to see the paradigm shift currently underway, historically, culturally, and economically; this, alas, was predictable.

    Should we not see this acceleration of history, we will suffer the similar consequences of climate change. It will take decades for us to change into a parliamentary democracy, get rid of Capitalism and implement a market system in service of society as a whole.

  4. thethethe says:

    speaking of racist on social media……go to twitter and search “i hate white people”

  5. Scott Ernest says:

    I’m a former white nationalist leader. I was a Stormfront mod and a co-leader in the offline Pioneer Little Europe group in Kalispell Montana. These days I work to fight my former friends and associates and get others out of the movement.

    Technically white nationalist and white supremacist are completely separate terms. Not every WN is a WS. But every WS is a WN.

    That said.. MOST WNs are WS. Also.. while there is a technical distinction. Functionally it isn’t a huge one.

  6. Marvin Clegg says:

    I’m afraid I would disagree with you on the issue of naming the murderers…at least to the degree the media has indulged them in the past, and I’m a former journalist myself. Finally some of the mass media is acknowledging the fact that giving publicity to many of these criminals, whether they are seeking a platform, or sick, or evil, is like throwing more fuel on the fire–the coward becomes larger than life and their name and message far overshadows any legacy that their victims left behind, in most cases. Publishing the drivel that some of these killers leave behind suggests that they deserve a soapbox or at the very least, it rewards bad behavior and sets a precedent for the next fanatic to get out their crayons. This is not to suggest that the murderer’s name should be censored or never made public. It IS to suggest that by repeatedly publicizing the culprit’s name and face and running stories on “who is this latest killer?” and speculating endlessly about why the killer did what they did (when chances are good that the killer couldn’t answer that question, themselves) we play the killer’s game. I agree with those who believe we should hear more about the victims’ names and lives, instead, and keep the killer coverage to the minimum necessary to identify any trend, underlying causes, matters to improve public safety, or similar. There is an important difference in the media voluntarily choosing not to add fuel to the fire, rather than some government telling the media it cannot cover the news. It’s about time we pull the soapbox out from under the murderers.

  7. Barton C. Fields says:

    Speaking of all those “killers” who hide their face and names, what about the whole damn middle east. They ALL hide their faces and their names. Its like their just waiting to pull a jihad on someone or some country.

  8. Man up says:

    Well I see it much differently , although I do not Condon racism. I think it’s getting a little out of control with many other races can be proud of there race.but if your white and proud your RACIST everyone should be judged on there actions as a person not race. How often do you actually hear white people going around saying the N word in your daily life ?now how often do you hear the same race of people using the same words they claim is so offensive in hip hop,rap,AT THE CONVENIENT STORE. , racism is kept alive by those who complain the most about it. And democrats use it to get votes. If you come across the border illegally and have a child you should be held accountable like the rest of us, if you do a crime with a codefendant and he kills someone your both liable for murder why cause someone died during the crime you were committing. Now if your here illegally and have a child neither of you have the right to be here cause you had the child while committing a crime. Cops kills black guy it racist. Do you think a black cop has never killed a white guy. Only we say he probably deserved getting shot. white people are not out there screaming its racist. Or tearing up there own neighborhood. Shouldn’t it be All Lives matter!!!would it be unfair to say it’s racist when you hear black lives matter. ALL LIVES MATTER! AND I KNOW THIS IS GOING TO UPSET PEOPLE MOST OF YOU ARE GOING TO BE ALL KINDS OF MAD .And why are they going to be mad. Cause I’m white and proud to be. Grow up! Do t care what you are or are not. No one does! Just be a productive member of society. That goes for all people ALL LIVES MATTER

  9. Kjell Skaht says:

    Wrong umpteen ways from Sunday again, Pierre. At least you’re consistent.

    Not naming him isn’t remotely comparable to concealing his stated reason(s) why he did what he did.

    There are a hell of a lot of problems in this country more pressing than white supremacists/nationalists, but the latter are a safe target for people like you so they’re the ones you’re on about.

  10. Richard says:

    A lot of words and various terms are being scrubbed not just the one YOU chose to expound upon. If you are going to write an opinion article in regards to this subject why not do it fairly and include ALL of the language and words that are being scrubbed and changed in TODAY’S world of sensationalized news.

  11. Fuggetaboutit says:

    Hey Pierre, we know that you want to push your narratives as long as possible, but honestly, everyone is growing quite tired of it. Why don’t you just knock it off and report real news.

  12. Agkistrodon says:

    Pierre, MANY of the people who have committed mass shootings in this country were CRAZED Democrats. What is their EXCUSE?

  13. mark101 says:

    I go back to Bill Clinton days and why he didn’t do more after the Oklahoma Fed Building bombing by Timothy McVeigh.

    Pierre as far as not naming the killer in New Zealand will across the pond the papers over there name him. Also an interesting article. FYI:

  14. Jon says:

    Pierre I find your article very racist. We have mentally ill people and to state that a person does something horrible because of their skin color is irresponsible and why most people trust used car salesman then the media

  15. Ritchie says:

    You nailed it, Pierre!

    The white man has been using other races for centuries.
    Remember that small island on the side of Europe that occupied a much larger India and milked that semi-continent until dry.

    Times have not changed much.

  16. Pogo says:


    I agree with you 100%.

    When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
    – Maya Angelou

    The comments from the usual suspects are typical of the history of this region of floriduh, and floriduh as a whole. All one need do to confirm what I’ve stated is Google:

    willis mccall

    florida lynchings by county…0.0..0.106.2393.27j1……0….1..gws-wiz…..0..0i67j0i131j0i131i67._Mf6as-q0rU

    florida mass shootings list…0.0..1.182.3006.28j6……0….1..gws-wiz…….0i71j0i131j0i3.0e5wM6AMCfE

    etcetera etcetera etcetera

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