The mass murder in New Zealand was horrific for many reasons, including that the shooter live-streamed his massacre in a desperate bid for internet fame. (I will not name him, or link to his manifesto, because this massacre was designed to make him famous.) We cannot dismiss the danger of white supremacist terrorists. But on broader level, how do we deal with white supremacists? How do we recognize potential terrorists and prevent terrorist attacks here in the USA?
The mass murderer should be executed. It is a great tragedy that he will not be. You cannot find a crime more worthy of death than this one, though you will find plenty that are equally evil. This is the perfect example of someone who deserves to be executed. We should stop moving away from the death penalty, to make it clear that those who kill innocents will have justice poured out upon them.
Beyond that, there is not much we can do on a public policy level. The government can act on specific threats of violence, but only if they are reported to law enforcement. Government cannot legally shut down sites that disseminate racist propaganda, or prosecute people who are feces-posting. We can harden targets, increase patrols, or question people who seem unhinged, but the First Amendment protects this speech – as it should. Giving government the power to police speech is a recipe for tyranny.
The reality is that the solution is going to take a lot of work, by a lot of people. It is far broader than any government program. Much of the coverage of this man indicates a very deep immersion in online meme culture. If someone had pulled this man away from his computer and engaged him face to face, would he have gone off the deep end? If someone invited him to church, or out to lunch, would he have been as radicalized? If this man’s family had intervened years earlier, would he have had the real-world connections to lessen the impact of the online hate that poisoned his soul?
We have lost our social fabric. Too many people look to government to solve life’s problems, when we should be looking at the church or other mediating institutions that bind us on a deeper level. By the time the civil magistrate has to bear the sword it is too late. We need to believe in something bigger than ourselves. We need the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform this world. True repentance and saving faith represent the only hope we have to guard against extremism and the violence those extremists commit.