There’s no mystery behind the German synagogue shooter. In a recent report from The Washington Post, the 11-page manifesto written by the gunman, Stephan Balliet, is aptly summed up in his so-called “battle plan” section which ultimately resulted in the murder of two individuals, the assault against two others and many speared due to his major case of errors:
“1. Prove the viability of improvised weapons.
2. Increase the morale of other suppressed Whites by spreading the combat footage.
3. Kill as many anti-Whites as possible, Jews preferred.
Bonus: Don’t die.”
It reads like a Baby’s First Guide To Public Massacres written by a deranged gamer, which makes the terror attack being live-streamed on Twitch, the Amazon-owned streaming platform known for its video game culture, all the more ironic. On Wednesday, the heavily armed man with a head-mounted camera began an open-fire ramage in Halle, Germany against both a synagogue and in a kebab shop. The event only garnered 2,200 people views after 30 minutes of being on the air, entering history as another attack in the growing movement of White Power crime.
From the manifesto, we know this was the intention of the attack — seeking to rank alongside other far-right extremism used in cases such as Pittsburgh, Christchurch, Poway, El Paso and Bærum — all of which has resulted in the murder of 85 people over the course of a single year. Balliet’s attempt, however, showed the terrorist never got what he wanted. From The Post’s account of the footage, the attack was “repeatedly thwarted” by the increased security outside the synagogue, the homemade guns repeatedly jamming and failing to fire, the gunman’s flustering to keep the stream alive with both “meme music and references” while trying to conduct the attack and other pathetic blunders.
“I have certainly managed to prove how absurd improvised weapons are,” he says, trying to play off his failure as some intentional victory. It, of course, wasn’t. “Sorry guys… like the loser I am… one time loser, always a loser.” There is simply no better description for such an individual, perfectly fitting the benchmarks for a reactionary figure. The report notes the writing and footage contained elements of Holocaust denial, White Genocide, talking points from the anti-feminist and anti-immigrant movements and referring to himself as “anon”, a simple nod to his fellow users on 4Chan, 8Chan and other toxic forums. “We know feminism is the cause of declining birth rates in the West, which acts as a scapegoat for mass immigration, and the root of all these problems is the Jew,” he ranted from his car before the attack.
While the attack is a case of terrorism being mitigated by sheer incompetence, we can’t ignore the potential of homemade guns in the future. “People have been improvising weapons forever,” said Mark A. Tallman, a teacher at the Colorado State University at Pueblo’s Center for the Study of Homeland Security, speaking to the Post. “Making guns is relatively low technology. [While these] obscure gun nerd subculture and gun rights protest movements [exist]… only in the last few years, we’ve seen extremists gravitate toward it, appealing to criminals and extremists at the lower rungs of the ladder. But there are also certain risks, like that the gun won’t work if it’s not made well,” as was the case in this scenario.
The report notes one of the weapons was a Luty submachine gun, a mechanism designed by admitted gun fanatic Philip Luty otherwise known as the “Home Gunsmith,” who published instructions for making these improvised firearms from “easy-to-obtain materials” like lead bullets, sugar and chlorate power and innovations such as 3-D printing. The attacker appears to have uploaded similar sets of materials online, according to documents from the International Center for the Study of Radicalization.
This all begs the question of how gun control measures are going to adapt to this changing landscape (if they can at all). Germany is one of the world’s strictest gun control countries, where laws require buyers younger than 25 to pass a psychological test and owners be part of a federal gun registry, yet these means can slip through the cracks without the proper data and material solutions, assuming they can be justified by the law. Even still, the ICSR’s own extremism researcher, Blyth Crawford, indicates Balliet’s own footage “might deter people” from willing to copy his manufacturing instructions and the plan altogether, though caution is merited.
The spread of the video is a unique matter. “Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct, and any act of violence is taken extremely seriously,” said Brielle Villablanca, a spokeswoman for Twitch, issuing a written statement to the press. “We worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.” While the footage only gained 2,000 views on the platform itself, clips did manage to circulate around Telegram, 4chan, Streamable and other barely regulated websites, reaching an estimated 15,000 accounts according to an analysis provided to The New York Times.
This is a significantly better landscape from six months ago, where Facebook’s live-stream of the Christchurch shooting was only for 30 minutes and managed to reach over 500,000 views and 300,000 downloads, yet it speaks to the way smaller platforms, which preach the message of freedom of speech and expression, actually appear more to be the enablers of far-right material than actual ethical platforms. “Telegram exists as a forwarding network, that’s the main way the information flows,” notes Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University in North Carolina who conducted the analysis. “It’s a very efficient mechanism for them” to operate in “very severely racist, violent channels.”
Nevertheless, the Big Tech platforms have at least indicated to increasing their alliance in the face of these global terror movements. Through their forming of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, a non-profit organization with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube, and Amazon, the group has issued a statement to continue “actively removing perpetrator-created content related to the attack” in an attempt “to prevent its viral spread across our services,” though failed to give specific policy promises. “We haven’t always been consistent in our enforcement,” echoed Emmett Shear, the CEO of Twitch. “You have to remember we have to do this 24/7, in many different languages, in many different countries and time zones, but it’s one of the biggest challenges facing every social media service on the internet, and particularly facing Twitch.”
Thank you for reading. This article was published for TrigTent, a bipartisan media platform for political and social commentary. Bailey Steen is a journalist, editor, and designer from Australia. You can read their work on Medium and previous publications such as Janks Reviews and Newslogue.
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