On Tuesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern continued to demonstrate a masterful understanding of how to respond to terrorism in the age of social media. Recognizing that the shooter craves infamy and wants his rampage to go viral, she is refusing to say the name of the suspect who allegedly killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday.
A parliamentary meeting on Tuesday began with a recitation of passages from the Koran in both Arabic and English. Ardern then opened the Parliament with the traditional Arabic greeting “As-salamu alaykum,” and detailed for lawmakers the steps she plans to take in response to the mass killing.
One aspect of the attack she addressed directly was the murderer’s decision to livestream the carnage, which she said showed that he sought not only to terrorize the Muslim community, but to achieve “notoriety.”
“That is why you will never hear me mention his name,” said Ardern. “He is a terrorist, he is a criminal, he is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless.”
“And to others, I implore you,” she continued, “speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them.”
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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern:
“He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless." pic.twitter.com/20tc53iJFJ
— Alexander Verbeek 🌍 (@Alex_Verbeek) March 19, 2019
The suspect, a 28-year-old Australian national, has been charged with a single count of murder. Authorities said they are waiting for forensic work to conclude before filing charges in the other 49 deaths.
The killer livestreamed his attack for 17 minutes on Facebook. Since then, his supporters have repeatedly uploaded his video onto various social media sites. Ardern said she has been in communication with Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg to shut down such efforts and ensure that the footage cannot be viewed on the platform.
The alleged murderer also published a 74-page manifesto in advance of the attack that appears custom-designed to spread online and through the media. It name-checks several media personalities with large followings, like conservative American pundit Candace Owens and YouTube star PewDiePie, presumably so they will publicly denounce him — thereby raising his profile even more.
Moreover, the suspect has fired his court-appointed lawyer so that he can represent himself, suggesting that he plans to use the trial as an opportunity to spout off about his extremist ideology.
“As people become savvier about how to seize attention through social media, the major platforms — Facebook, Twitter, and Google — will have to figure out how to stop the dissemination of these materials as well as the praise or support of terrorist attacks like this one,” wrote Elizabeth Lopatto on The Verge. “Otherwise, they risk inspiring more copycat killings.”
In the meantime, Ardern is doing her part to make sure the killer never becomes a household name.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.