Why Is This Senator *Still* Spreading Debunked Conspiracies About The Christchurch Shooter?

Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has falsely accused the Christchurch terrorist of harbouring extreme left-wing views, marking an apparent dismissal of a New Zealand royal commission into the killings – and a fundamental misunderstanding of the Australian shooter’s manifesto.

In a Twitter exchange with Shadow Home Affairs Minister Kristina Keneally, who has called for a parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s handling of right-wing extremism, Fierravanti-Wells yesterday claimed the shooter’s manifesto contained “communist, anarchist, libertarian & ecofascist” view points.

She also re-shared a column penned in the days after the March 2019 attack, in which she said the terrorist was “immediately branded ‘right wing’”, despite his manifesto dabbling in left-wing ideas.

Despite Fierravanti-Well’s claims, the New Zealand royal commission’s report into the attack, which was publicly revealed on Tuesday, categorically found the Christchurch terrorist was radicalised by right-wing extremism.

His “political thinking was far right in nature and showed many of the signs of ethno-nationalism,” the report found, adding that “his limited personal engagement with others left considerable scope for influence from extreme right-wing material, which he found on the internet and in books.”

More specifically, the report found the Christchurch terrorist built “a fully-developed terrorist ideology” on far-right conspiracy theories.

He believed that “immigration, particularly by Muslim migrants, into Western countries is an existential threat to Western society and that the appropriate response (at least for him) was violence.”

Fierravanti-Wells is not the only Coalition politician to falsely equivocate home-grown far-right terrorism with left-wing ideologies – we can turn to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton for that – but her comments suggest a deeper misunderstanding of the terrorist’s manifesto.

Eliot Higgins, founder of investigative journalism outfit Bellingcat, last year posited that the document was steeped in irony and deliberately obtuse.

Bellingcat found the manifesto was “not a serious document, but written in a way that was heavily focused on in-jokes for the 8chan community,” Higgins said, referring to the 8chan image board which overflowed with racist and extremist content.

Effectively, tricking people into believing he subscribed to left-wing politics was a conspiracy the shooter set up himself.

“That would have been the mass-shooter’s final joke against society,” Higgins wrote.

“To trick all journalists into writing inaccurate and stupid copy and going after certain individuals who pretended to be influencing him, but were only building on memes from the 8chan community.”

(Possession or distribution of the manifesto was declared a criminal offence in New Zealand.)

The royal commission’s report addresses the irony inherent in modern far-right literature, pointing to a style guide for a neo-Nazi website which posited that the “unindoctrinated should not be able to tell if we are joking or not.”

Hopefully Australia’s elected officials, including Fierravanti-Wells, can pick up on the joke.