SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Following the attacks in New Zealand, video footage of the shootings surfaced online and was shared over and over again.
In the hours of followed, social media sites and even some news outlets scrambled to get that footage taken down. Wondering why people would share something like that or even watch it to begin with, 2News set out to the University of Utah to get some answers. Director of Counseling, Lauren Weitzman, says sometimes people are just going online to get some answers, find any meaning they can, in a senseless tragedy like this.
Terrorism expert at the University of Utah, Amos N. Guiora also gave some insight on what kind of person carries out an attack like this and then takes things to another level by streaming it online. Guiora said,
The terrible attack in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand committed by Brenton Harrison Tarrant that resulted in 49 deaths and 48 injuries recalls the attacks in the Tree of Life synagogue (Pittsburgh) committed by Robert Bowers and the July 22, 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway committed by Anders Breivik, resulting in 85 deaths and over 200 wounded.
All three attacks were committed by lone-wolf, white supremacists, deliberately targeting their victims. Tarrant, like Breivik, had created a manifesto expressing their hate-filled viewpoints. Tarrant, like Bowers, used social media; Bowers to express his intention, Tarrant to record and post the attack.
The impact from the actors’ perspective is immediate, dramatic, and wide-reaching. This represents an important and profound shift from multiple perspectives: from the actors’ perspective, social media enables the attack to be reminiscent of “all the world’s a stage”; from the perspective of “fellow travelers”, it creates an online community that re-affirms their belief system in an immediate and dramatic manner, re-enforcing shared opinions that can serve to encourage others.
From the perspective of counter-terrorism and national security officials, it requires recognition that not only are lone-wolf actors committed to their cause but their willingness to effectively and dramatically use social media enables them to disseminate their message immediately, literally during the course of the attack. With respect to lone-wolf white supremacists, there is little doubt that the deliberate targeting of minority communities (Jewish in Pittsburgh, Muslim in Christchurch) requires paying particular heed to their online presence given the manner in which they communicate and interact with each other.
There is little doubt that this terrible attack—not only in the number of victims but also in the nefarious use of social media—represents a new challenge to the national security community that demands immediate attention.”