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Lone Actors in Digital Environments, October 2021

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Publication date
11 October 2021

Description

On 9 March 2019, a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist murdered 51 people during Friday prayers at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch. This was the deadliest mass shooting in the history of New Zealand and was carried out by a “lone actor”.

In the months that ensued the attack, four other young male white supremacists were all individually inspired by the Christchurch shooter, carrying out deadly attacks in the United States (Poway, California, on 27 April, and in El Paso, California, on 3 August), Norway (in Bærum, a suburb of Oslo, on 18 August) and in Germany (Halle, on 9 October). Such attacks continue to inspire future lone actors, e.g. a 16-year-old arrested in Singapore in 2021 who allegedly planned terrorist attacks inspired by the 2019 Christchurch massacre.

While there have been numerous right-wing lone actor terrorists over the years, this paper will look at these five cases of lone actors and their online posting behaviour prior to the attacks, to shed light on behaviours of lone actors in digital environments and the extent to which they were seemingly operating alone. These individuals were all embedded in white supremacist digital environments that potentially facilitate lone actor terrorism.

This paper aims to provide an overview of digital environments and draw insights from qualitative research and monitoring of RWE online subcultures that reveals a shift towards a post-organisational reality, whereby online structures and subcultural milieus could be equally important for inspiring violence as connections to groups in the physical world. 1 In order to understand this emerging trend, it is important to recognise the online communities that violent right-wing extremists (VRWE) use to produce a sense of belonging, spread dehumanising propaganda and promote acts of violence.

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Lone Actors in Digital Environments, October 2021
English
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