This is a dark day. Fifty people have been confirmed dead and fifty more were injured after a gunman opened fire in two Christchurch, New Zealand mosques in the early afternoon of March 15th.
The shooting at Al Noor Mosque was live-streamed through Facebook, and the shooter, identified as a 28-year-old Australian man, can be heard saying “Remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie” before opening fire on hundreds of worshipers. Evidence has appeared that the shooter was steeped in internet culture, with the shooter posting a message on the 8chan forums before the stream:
Please do your part by spreading my message, making memes and shitposting as you usually do.– The shooter’s message on 8chan
Social media companies including Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube struggled to remove video snippets of the shooting live stream, which were re-uploaded across the internet as fast as they can be taken down, across multiple social media and video platforms. YouTube made a statement on Twitter that “our hearts are broken” and that they are “working vigilantly to remove any violent footage.” Reddit made the choice to ban certain subreddits where users kept uploading the video in violation of its policy against content which can be interpreted as glorifying or encouraging violence. Conversely, Daily Mail Online and Daily Mirror posted the murder video on their websites, and were roundly criticized by furious and heartbroken internet citizens, who claimed this was a new low in clickbait.
The shooter also posted a 74-page, 16,500-word manifesto called “The Great Replacement,” saying that he was inspired by Norway mass murderer Anders Breivik. I am not supposed to give my opinion, but the shooter probably he said what he did about PewDiePie in order to attract attention from PewDiePie’s massive global audience, to expose them to his extremist viewpoints and contribute to their radicalization, or, most likely, to spread his message as widely as possible.
The murderer identified himself politically as an “eco-fascist,” condemning conservatives and communists alike, stating that he blamed immigrants and capitalists both, and planned “to deal with both.” He also ranted about killing prominent politicians, spoke about the degeneracy and nihilism of celebrity culture, and wrote obsessively about low white birthrates, claiming that white populations were being replaced worldwide due to low birthrates (hence the name of the manifesto). Many news sources declined to post the manifesto at all, fearing the spread of extremist propaganda.
PewDiePie released a statement on Twitter: “Just heard news of the devastating reports from New Zealand Christchurch. I feel absolutely sickened having my name uttered by this person. My heart and thoughts go out to the victims, families and everyone affected by this tragedy.”
PewDiePie did not post on Twitter again or upload any YouTube videos for a duration following the massacre, likely because his normally lighthearted content resurfacing soon after a tragedy might seem disrespectful to victims and their families.
The PewDiePie subreddit was also closed indefinitely, with a tweet from its moderator reading that it would “remain closed until further notice.”
A link was also posted on the closed subreddit asking for support to be sent to the Christchurch Shooting Victims’ Fund:
At the time of update, this victims’ fund has reached an amount of more than eight million dollars of support from around the world.
You, too, can do your part for humanity in the wake of this tragedy, by sending your support to victims and their families. We must let it be known that such acts of reckless hate will never divide those who choose to love each other.Send your support to the victims and their families »