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The Sentencing of Brenton Tarrant: Jailing the Man, not the Great Replacement

Brenton Tarrant was sentenced last week. The Australian national who butchered, with relish, 51 individuals in Christchurch at Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre, found himself facing something unique in New Zealand: jail for life without parole. He pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one of terrorism. He also faced a tsunami of victim impact statements – over 200 in all.

The High Court Justice Cameron Mander was not too willing to delve into the substance of Tarrant’s ideas that saw noxious fruition on March 15, 2019. They constituted merely a “warped and malignant ideology” with moorings “in religious and ethnic antipathy and intolerance.” What concerned him most was the method. “You slaughtered unarmed and defenceless people.” Tarrant “maimed and wounded and crippled many others, your victims included the young, and the old, men, women and children.”

It is true enough. Tarrant was unsparing, pitiless and relentless. He had hoped to kill more worshippers, intending to strike a note of fear among “non-Europeans.” He had also prepared for the slaughter well in advance, having undertaken a reconnaissance mission to Al Noor Mosque two months before, sending a drone to identify points of entry and exit. Such readiness went back as far as 2017, when the Australian had settled in New Zealand with nefarious purpose. “You came to this country to murder.”

The sentencing of Tarrant served a sequestering purpose. According to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, “he deserves to be a lifetime of complete and utter silence.” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison echoed the sentiment. “It is right that we will never see or hear from him ever again.” New Zealand authorities are not merely content on keeping him in permanent incarceration on home soil. They insist that he be returned to Australia.

No one got to receive a full airing of the mindset of Tarrant the ideologue, his own views about the inundation, expunging and racial deletion of white Christians at the hands of the followers of Allah. There has, in fact, been a concerted effort across social media platforms and publications to expurgate and limit discussion on Tarrant’s cock-eyed view of the world, scribbled out in the rambling manifesto The Great Replacement. The intention is to avoid the dissemination of hate and incitement; the consequence is its concealment, bowdlerising the views of a mass murderer and limiting its dangerously broader appeal.

The plagiarised title of Tarrant’s tract is itself loosely based on Renaud Camus’s self-published book of the same title from 2012, though Camus himself had little time for the methods of Tarrant, the efforts of “someone who had failed to understand my work.” But had he? Both Camus and Tarrant are, at first blush, striking juxtapositions: the former, an ardent, confessional homosexual aesthete and laureate of the Académie Française; the latter, a personal trainer from Grafton, New South Wales who had travelled to Europe on his father’s inheritance money to bear personal witness to immigrant “invasion.”

While not having the cast iron stomach for Tarrant’s bloodiness, Camus was delighted by the notoriety his ideas were getting. As to whether he resented “the fact that people take notice of ethnic substitution that is in progress in my country?” he posed rhetorically to James McAuley writing for The Washington Post, he was unequivocal. “No. To the contrary.”

Tarrant’s language, as expressed in the manifesto, clings to the raft of European identity. “The origins of my language is European, my culture is European, my political beliefs are European, my philosophical beliefs are European, my identity is European and, most importantly, my blood is European.” He sees himself, incoherently and ramblingly, as “an Ethno-nationalist Eco-fascist. Ethnic autonomy for all peoples with a focus on preservation of nature, and the natural order.” He sees enemies everywhere: German chancellor Angela Merkel as “mother of all things anti-white and anti-Germanic”; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as “the leader of one of the oldest enemies of our people, and the leader of the largest Islamic group within Europe.”

This streakily misguided, not to mention linguistically and culturally deluded reading, is something that finds voice across the White Supremacist family. It made an appearance in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 with chants of “Jews will not replace us.” Ditto in October, 2018 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, were 11 were slain by Robert Bowers claiming to be targeting those who “bring invaders in that kill our people.” But Tarrant’s preferred target of hatred was not some fabled international Jewish conspiracy but Islam.

These are not the isolated mutterings of a noisy fringe. They are also entertained by certain political leaders not averse to teasing out the race, culture and even religious card, if it advances a cause. In Europe, Geert Wilders of the Netherlands’ far-right Freedom Party rallies with the cry that, “Our population is being replaced. No more.”

The notion of a great replacement has found freight in the views of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. Orbán’s fear is demographic inundation by swarthy, non-Christian outsiders. Christianity, he explained last September at the Third Demographic Summit in Budapest, needed to “regain its strength in Europe.” Population decline was “a general European phenomenon” that arose from the First and Second World Wars, both of which he regards as “brutal civil wars.” To arrest such population decline by accepting non-Europeans would be “effectively … consenting to population replacement: to a process in which the European population is replaced.”

Such views are heartily shared by former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who wrote adoringly of Orbán last year as “the first European leader to cry ‘stop’ to the peaceful invasion of 2015 and is now trying to boost Hungary’s flagging birth rate.” At the centre, then, of this cultural and racial cosmos lie a set of ideas that share a threat with Tarrant’s own form of murderous retribution. They are all concerned with existential replacement.

The trial, however, left those watching it with a sense of simplicity: wickedness confined to the dock; victims seeking spiritual and emotional compensation through various forms of anger, sadness, forgiveness or lack of. It was procedural, formulaic and decidedly clear: Tarrant had butchered and must pay the bill. But there was little stomach for confronting his central contention, less than his method, which has found an audience not merely in the White Supremacist fold, but in public offices from Washington to Budapest.

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  1. Kathryn

    There is so much hatred and violence in an ever-increasingly right-wing world mismanaged by totally corrupt, self-serving, profit-obsessed sociopaths like Trump (USA), Morrison (Australia) and Johnson (UK) all of whom love to ramp-up hate speech, encourage turmoil and public disobedience (when it benefits them) and remain silent – even acquiescent – when their fascist police force start brutalising black people, or when minorities are victimised at the hands of right-wing white supremacists! This is the type of thing that happens – inevitably – following the rising amount of hate speech, intolerance, division and victimisation of vulnerable people and minorities under ultra conservative, right-wing extremism.

    Right-wing extremists are, truly, the most dangerous and hateful of all forms of political leaders. The fact that so many of them are bible-thumping hypocrites into the bargain make them even more offensive! It doesn’t take much before the worst of them quickly degenerate into power-obsessive fascism, pushing through terrifying policies that whittle away the democratic freedoms of others to protest, to voice their condemnation of the stone cold neoliberalism that thrives during their tyrannical mismanagement, the escalating nepotism, the increasing lies and staggering waste and misuse of taxpayer funds, the never-ending expenditure on war and weapons of war at the expense of the poor, the disadvantaged and their never-ending attacks and defundment of State education and health care. Hitler and Mussolini are examples of what can happen when right-wing extremism goes horribly wrong – doesn’t take much before it slides into fascism! Right now, we have this form of right-wing terrorism in Brazil under the fascist jackboot of Jair Bolsonaro. The fact that Trump has an increasingly similar style of megalomaniacal, narcissistic sociopathy cannot be ignored!

    The contemptuous arrogance, the despicable declarations of “fake news”, the stubborn REFUSAL to take any responsibility for their appalling recklessness, the increasing incidences of self-serving rorting of taxpayer funds and blatant corruption that goes on and on without consequence, their total lack of foresight and zero integrity, the absolute determination to rule at any cost no matter how low they have to stoop to maintain their power – all of this is the common thread that seems to bind right-wing extremists around the world.

    The ONLY thing useless, non-achieving right-wing parasites are adept at is playing the relentless Blame Game of anyone and everyone for their OWN catastrophic ineptitude. Trump goes on and on and on blaming Obama (who was the best President the USA ever had), the lying conniving LNP (in Australia) NEVER STOP blaming everyone but themselves – particularly the Labor government who have not been in government for over seven years; Boris Johnson and the smug Tories never seem to tire of pointing a finger at left-wing or environmentally-aware politicians in the UK (and around the world). The fact that these ruthless, ultra-conservative despots also have a tendency to take over and influence the media is a red flag warning as to their total disregard for our democracy and their contempt for our right to impartiality of the media! In Australia, we have the LNP forming a notorious – and totally undemocratic – Alliance with Rupert Murdoch and his IPA (the Institute of Public Affairs). The IPA are a group of self-serving, unelected, multi-millionaire corporate predators who have undue, enormous influence and control over conservative politicians in the LNP in order to promote and encourage policies that will enrich and empower themselves at the expense of ordinary Australians.

    The horrendous and unspeakable evil alliance the LNP have formed with the malevolent, non-Australian media Overlord, Rupert Murdoch, has done so much damage to our democracy, freedom of the press and factual, fair reporting of our media – it is an unfolding tragedy. Ever since the disreputable John Howard changed the rules that once prohibited a single entity owning a huge majority of our media, Murdoch’s influence – and, by association – the influence of the LNP/IPA Alliance, has infiltrated, influenced and manipulated more than 80% of Australia’s media making it one of the most biased and contaminated forms of media in the free world.
    Murdoch is now widely regarded throughout Australia as the totally biased Propaganda Minister to the LNP doing everything they can to character-assassinate, denigrate and ridicule any opposition to the evil LNP/Murdoch/IPA Alliance of mutually-benefiting multi-millionaire corporate predators. It is right-wing degeneracy at its worst!

    Tragically, the abovenamed “traits” are the Modus Operandi; what we now know to be the standard procedure of malevolent, self-obsessed, right-wing megalomaniacs who, once seizing power (through fair means and foul), hang on to it with bloodstained fingers, using their political power to openly favour their billionaire corporate donors over everyone else to ensure that they push through cruel, capitalistic policies that will vastly enhance their own personal wealth and power (and the wealth and power of their obscenely wealthy and powerful cronies).

  2. New England Cocky

    Firstly, I object to AIMN printing the name of the Christchurch murderer. Rather, we should follow the lead of NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and never mention, print or publish his name ever again.

    Secondly, the ideas of Toxic RAbbott will now only be heard from a thankful distance of his native England, which is even too close. It is the MSM that gives these mentally disturbed people a public platform to spread their hatred of anybody likely to exceed their meagre talents, which thankfully for an educated person, is not very difficult.

    Thirdly, the hateful xenophobia of today was also seen in post WWI Europe as the wealthy classes feared a Communist uprising that would strip them of their ill-gotten possessions, status and financial wealth. The present government policies of creating poverty to impose a ”New Feudalism” will support this situation today, just as the Roman Church exploited the Jewish communities by blaming them for killing Christ … a Jew … so that Innocent II could undertake his imperialist Crusades.

  3. Michael Taylor

    NEC, if we can’t use his name, how can we debate the issues?

    If we can’t mention him then how can we address the issues of raced-bait hate crimes?

    Dr Binoy has a point: more important that wiping us of his name is the wiping away of manifestos such as his.

  4. Michael Taylor

    Kathryn, that would make a great post.

  5. Kathryn

    Michael, you are welcome to use it at your discretion. Kind regards.

  6. Jack Cade


    The thing is, these appalling leaders clearly offer what the majority want. Although Trump was not a politician, the bulk of the population knew his character, knew what sort of creature he was, and still voted for him. While it is true that Clinton out-polled him, 3m votes was relatively insignificant.
    Johnson and Morrison’s characters were blindingly obvious for years, and still they were voted into power.
    Personally, I don’t give a toss what the Americans do to themselves; it’s what they inflict on the rest of the world that I find objectionable. Our problem is that under either major party in Australia, this country acts like a de facto colony of the USA, more so than ever we did of the British. The latter is now largely irrelevant to us, anyway, excepting as a potential market for the stuff the Chinese have told us to jam up our jacksies. Who the US elects dictates our futures, and I don’t like it. And it’s not just Scummo, it’s our politicians in general. Its unnecessary and counter-productive for us in world terms.

  7. Julie D'Bras

    I never want to see that Neanderthals face again, or the face of any terrorist.
    Please do not print his/their images.

  8. New England Cocky

    @Michael Taylor 3:49PM: Michael, NZ PM Jacinda Ardern manages to do it so I would expect it is within the abilities of AIMN journalists to be smart enough to work out suitable synonyms, like ”the Christchurch Mass Murderer”, or the CHCH Murderer, or CHCH Terrorist, NZ Terrorist, NZ Murderer. Other labels are requested.

    It would be unreasonable to refer to him as the Grafton Murderer because that would unfairly taint all the good citizens of Grafton (where my in-laws reside).

  9. Andrew J. Smith

    If one needs to wonder how the ‘great replacement’ theory becomes mainstreamed in society, not just by and for extremists, an excerpt from Crikey today including quote from NewsCorp ‘journalist’ Andrew Bolt:

    ”Of all the countries I’ve lived and travelled in, Australia is the least racist.’ The guy who literally wrote a News Corp op-ed decrying “a tidal wave of immigrants [sweeping] away what’s left of our national identity” is simply dumbfounded anyone would want to campaign against Australian racism.’

    Interestingly, when one has heard of ‘great replacement’ utterances they generally come from, surprise, surprise, middle class of WASP heritage, of whom some are recent UK immigrants…. same area of Melbourne Bolt is from… but worse is how Skys NAD belts out this stuff in regional Australia.

    Deep down it is about the pecking order and privilege….

  10. Keitha Granville

    I agree with New England Cocky. Let his name disappear from the pages of history, let him be an irrelevance. There has been a push for many years for the murderer of John Lennon to be forgotten, and I firmly believe the name of the murderer at Port Arthur should never be spoken or reported. To use their names in discussion about these unspeakable acts of murder, give these criminals any notoriety, is what they crave and what they want from history. To be remembered, either in fear or laughing, but also in reverence by others of their mindset. If we take away their airspace, take away that ‘fame’, we take away the mouthpiece of evil and bigotry. Every time the name is mentioned, in whatever context, continues the pain for the bereaved and they deserve better than that.

    We can refer to them all by their crimes, NOT by their names. Leave out terrorism, leave out fanaticism, leave out any of those fancy tags. They are murderers, plain and simple.

  11. Michael Taylor

    Over 180,000 U.S. citizens have died from COVID-19 under Trump’s watch. His negligence has resulted in more deaths than any mass murderer. Do we cease mentioning his name, too?

    Do we stop referring – by name – to Hitler, to Stalin, to Mao, to Pol Pot, to Idi Amin? No, we don’t.

    Whilst I have no argument to Jacinda Arden refusing to utter the name of the mass murderer, it is rather difficult to avoid using his name when reporting on it.

  12. leefe

    First, Kathryn, very well said.

    I tend to agree with NEC on the naming issue. The Christchurch terrorist wanted two things: to kill as many people as possible, followed by fame for himself and his views. Neither should have any airing. Let them decay into eternal obscurity.

  13. Carole

    Every person who fails to speak out on racism bears some responsibility for giving tacit permission for hate speech to move beyond speech to action. I hold particular contempt for so called Christians who turn a blind eye to what is reported daily on the media, because they don’t actually associate with white supremacists or believe that this is a social problem. They don’t realise or accept when it is pointed out that the standard you walk by is the standard you accept. The FBI is just now realising that white supremacists are joining the police forces in increasing numbers knowing that if they don’t actually get the opportunity to kill people they can at least abuse, intimidate or arrest innocent men and women.
    Sadly it is happening here in Australia with police investigating police misconduct and individual coppers exonerated of all wrong doing. Judges and prosecutors are not always the upholders of law and order either. We need a Federal ICAC and we need it now.

  14. Matters Not


    Over 180,000 U.S. citizens

    Not sure that the US is identifying citizen deaths statistically separate from total deaths. Further, there’s the difficulty of identifying those who died with the virus and those who died from the virus. And how do you determine that at the margins? All stats seem a bit messy at the moment – which is perfectly understandable.

  15. wam

    The trial will do little to change the belief that the people he killed were destroyers of the white christian way of life.
    The police are of necessity antisocial, very protective and quick to anger. They are powerfully indoctrinated to the conservative clp culture and have been, in my experience for over 60 years.
    There is not a police officer serving i=or retired in my extended family or friend or at clubs who thinks the BLM movement is anti-police who are just ding their job free from black looting and destroying.
    They and most Australians are not racist and if you ignore Aborigines there is some honesty .Remember The booing hundreds of thousands booing an Goodes because of his Aboriginality who are convinced they are not racist. The force is full of eddied ‘he’d make a good advert for king kpng and sam he is just a dickhead that why he was booed.
    The police have some lessening of african and asian but it is just under the surface and easily excited as in the china attacks on now.
    I can see no answer beyond a test for racist values to be administered to pollies. police and armed services and teacher.

  16. New England Cocky

    @Michael Taylor 7:47PM: Michael, you have taken an extreme position here. The historical political leaders you mentioned were more important that an upstart egomaniac from Australia and did considerably more damage. We may talk about the 1933-1945 German regime (without mentioning the colloquial name thus offending the Google censor), the USSR starvation policies of collectivisation, the PRC Cultural revolution and its consequences, the Killing Fields of Cambodia or the genocide in Uganda without mentioning the names of the perpetrators.

    As for Trumpery, the less said the better. Sadly, he appears to have at least an even chance of winning the 2020 Presidential election if the pro-American Australian Murdoch Media are believed. But then, thinking Australian voters do not believe Murdoch media for anything.

  17. Michael Taylor


    I was hammered by someone on Facebook yesterday who wasn’t happy the murderer’s name was used, so after trading blows with him for an hour I was somewhat emotionally exhausted by the time I came back here to the site. If I had taken a spell first, I might not have been so abrupt with you.

    Carol and I have a ‘policy’ that – unless offensive or litigious – our authors are (mostly) free to produce articles of their choice. We appreciate that not everybody (including Carol and I) will like what is published, or agree with it. But that’s what this site was set up for: people to have their work published without editorial interference (1). We pride ourselves on that.

    (1) Carol and I will only remove or edit a post if we deem it to be sexist, racist, litigious or offensive. Not liking, or disagreeing with the article is not an issue.

  18. Brozza

    Michael Taylor @ 7:47pm, and then there’s the 12 million people killed by the U.$.A. since WW2, but we still name all the presidents.

  19. New England Cocky

    @Michael Taylor 0100920: That is a fine policy for AIMN. There is no need for an apology. The NZ PM Jacinda Ardern requested that persons NOT use the name of the mass murderer, and I believe that is also an excellent policy. Editors always have the right to their own opinions and us mere mortals must survive their blue pencils …..

  20. Michael Taylor

    Brozza @ 7:47pm, so I missed some. Big deal.

    If I included everyone then I’d be typing for the next 40 days and 40 nights. Don’t be picky.

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