July 11, 2022 | VICE

‘Self-initiated terrorists’ reference the ‘Great Replacement’ in far-right attacks

ISD’s Head of Communications and Editorial Tim Squirrell featured in the VICE documentary The Replacement Conspiracy Inspired Mass Shootings, discussing the role that the Great Replacement conspiracy theory has played in recent acts of right-wing terrorism.

Tim explained how the racist conspiracy theory gathered pace and moved from fringe internet spaces in the last decade. “If you look at the surge of popularity in Great Replacement Theory, it’s really in the 2010s, and it’s really important to localise that to fringe internet culture where these ideas can gather velocity and popularity, and spread from there to more mainstream spaces.”

In the last few years, since the Christchurch massacre of 2019, nearly all right-wing terrorism has been inspired by the methods and ideology of Brenton Tarrant. “Now, you can’t find a single person who’s done or attempted an act of right-wing inspired terrorism who doesn’t reference Tarrant. It’s all Christchurch copycats, all the time,” Tim told VICE.

Tim also highlighted the gamification of terrorism, explaining how online subcultures glorify mass shooters and challenge people to kill more people than Anders Breivik or Brenton Tarrant. “If you go on to one of the imageboards like 4chan or 8chan where neo-Nazis hang out, you’ll find them saying to would-be terrorists, ‘Get the high score,’ and in fact they’ll create little scoreboards of mass killers.’

The key takeaway, Tim told VICE, is that right-wing terrorists might engage in violence on their own, but there is a whole network of people inspiring and supporting them. “We can’t think of these people as lone wolves or lone actors. We have to think of them as self-initiated terrorists, someone who decided to go out and do something off the back of the ideology they’ve imbibed. They act as one node in a network, but you have to understand that there’s a huge number of people behind them, behind screens, who are supporting them, endorsing them, egging them on.”