The attack has since become a rallying cry for other ethno-nationalists and was quoted by Brenton Tarrant, who in 2019 shot 51 people dead in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. He supports Gendron, the suspect in the Buffalo shooting as terrorists.
“This is a global network of inspiring events,” said Stanislav Vysotsky, a sociologist and criminologist at the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia. “The Christchurch shooter was inspired by shooters in the US, then he inspires shooters in the US and they inspire action elsewhere.”
The Buffalo shooting happened exactly three years after an agreement was signed by world governments and five major tech companies to limit what content violent extremists can post online. The US refused to sign the so-called Christchurch Call Agreement, which was initiated by New Zealand after the attack in Christchurch.
Despite such measures, activists and experts say the spread of racial hatred in disaffected communities will continue. As Bjørn Ihler, a Norwegian anti-terrorist activist who survived the attack on the island of Utøya in 2011, put it: “We are already too late.”
“The ideology is already there. It’s been there for centuries. …The cat is out of the bag on that one,” he told NBC News via video call from Sweden.
The “great replacement theory” — a paranoid conspiracy theory with anti-Semitic roots that falsely claims that ethnically white people are intentionally replaced by other ethnicities — has entered mainstream political discourse, Ihler noted. From its obscure origins in early 20th-century nationalism, and since it became popular in a 2011 essay by French author Renaud Camus, it has been mentioned many times in the news media, in parliaments, even by presidents before it was seemingly embraced by Gendron. .
The ultimate goal of those who carry out attacks based on such racist conspiracies is to “increase tensions and contradictions in society in such a way that there is greater polarization,” said Vysotsky, “what then — as white nationalists say – will lead to a race war that will eventually lead to the victory of whites, they believe this on an ideological or spiritual level.”
Authorities said Gendron managed to live stream the footage on the gaming platform Twitch until the stream was turned off. That video has been widely watched since Saturday, Ihler added — despite the stream being live for less than two minutes.
Gendron also appeared to be active in online gun communities, including on 4chan and Reddit, while a journal kept on the gaming chat service Discord by an account with the same handle as Gendron is widely available. These are sites used by millions of young people around the world to share Minecraft tips and memes.
Just as the white nationalist skinhead movements of the 1970s through the 1990s dominated radical spaces and attracted disaffected youth, the same is now happening with white nationalists in digital spaces.
“You see in online spaces now a kind of cultural domination — the hegemony of white nationalism and far-right ideas in cross-border spaces that are perceived as rebellious or edgy,” Vysotsky said. The apparent Discord journal “is really becoming something that is a major focus for people in these movements and the fanbase of white nationalist gunmen.”