Cutting off the oxygen of publicity

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There would seem to be a strong possibility that the Turkish-born suspect in the shooting dead of three people on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht was motivated by the enormity of the mosque slayings in New Zealand’s Christchurch, which the killer filmed and live-streamed on social media site Facebook.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may also be linked. To the dismay of many countries, not least the New Zealand government, he rebroadcast part of the mass-murderer’s footage at rallies for Turkey’s forthcoming municipal elections. He explained he did this because the suspect in the Christchurch carnage had visited Turkey and in a rambling 70-page document found by police after his arrest ranted specifically about Turkish immigrants “invading” Europe.

Some unconfirmed reports have it that the Utrecht suspect is a hardened Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) terrorist who had trained in Chechnya. However, Dutch police have also speculated that the man may have been motivated by family troubles. Either way this latest mass killing once again underlines the madness of bigots, be they Islamophobes or Daesh killers. All civilized society must recoil in revulsion at these wicked, intrinsically senseless deeds.

This said, there is an evil sense to such mass slaughter. The idea behind such crimes is to provoke a counter-reaction among extremists holding no less nauseating opinions. The Christchurch attacker, like other white supremacist sickos, no doubt imagined he was revenging past enormities by Islamist terrorists. The ultimate aim of both sides in this virulent madness is to set ordinary, decent communities at each other’s throats, prompting a popular clampdown by the authorities. This, in their demented analysis, would lead to a race war between the Muslim and Christian worlds and the sort of nihilist bloodshed in which the blasphemous leaders of Daesh have gloried so disgustingly.

Yet out of the horror of the Christchurch mosque butchery has come an inspirational response from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Addressing her parliament this week on the terrible crime, she vowed that she would never say the name of the Australian gunman who was almost certainly responsible. Her reason, she said, was that such criminals sought notoriety. In their perverted outlook, to have their name and crimes broadcast to the world would be a personal triumph. Therefore Ardern was not prepared to give this evil man the oxygen of publicity.

Some politicians are already suggesting that not only the names but also the details of all terrorist actions should be suppressed. That, however, is surely a step too far. If news of bigoted outrages were withheld, the substantial danger of inaccurate rumor would be unleashed. People need to know of these terrible crimes, if only to be on the alert and to better guard against further enormities. Public vigilance worked well here in the Kingdom in contributing to the defeat of Al-Qaeda.

But in the end, each of these awful crimes comes about as a result of the decision by an individual to throw over the norms of civilized society. Ardern’s prompt decision to rob the Christchurch mass killer of his name ought to be copied around the world. These brainsick terrorists have abandoned their right to be judged as human beings. They are vicious beasts, guilty of revolting crimes, who do not deserve to be known by any name at all.


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