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Fascism & the Christchurch Massacre:
Jeff Sparrow’s Fascists Among Us

[1]3,478 words

Jeff Sparrow
Fascists Among Us: Online Hate and the Christchurch Massacre
Brunswick, Victoria: Scribe Publications, 2019

This short book claims to be “[t]he first book since Christchurch to trace the massacre’s fascist roots and what it represents.”[1] [2] The author, Jeff Sparrow, links a specific ideology (viz. fascism) to the event and tries to account for this ideology’s evolution from its original form to the present day.

Jeff Sparrow is an Australian journalist who writes a regular column for The Guardian and is a frequent speaker at Marxist/Communist and Green-Left forums. In short, he is hostile toward the Right in Australia and politically committed to the Left. The significance and extent of this will be shown here.

On March 15, 2019, a 28-year-old expat Australian, Brenton Tarrant, carried out an attack on two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, killing fifty-one innocent people (Muslim worshippers). Tarrant livestreamed approximately sixteen minutes of these shocking attacks on Facebook, and the video was subsequently posted to online discussion boards.

Sparrow claims to want to “understand the alleged perpetrator’s ideas, however repellent they are.”[2] [3] This is the standard by which to judge the success of his book. He insists that he “[will] take [Brenton Tarrant’s] ideas seriously.”[3] [4] Sparrow does not live up to the standard which he himself sets, however, as will become apparent.

It would have been helpful for the reader if Sparrow had included as an appendix Brenton Tarrant’s own manifesto, The Great Replacement: Towards a New Society (henceforth GR), which he published online just before the attack. Many claims are made by Sparrow about the manifesto, but it is not readily available to the public. In fact, possession of the document was made illegal in New Zealand shortly after the shooting. Sparrow does not wish to challenge this outrage to democratic sensibilities. Indeed, he cannot even summon the courage to name the perpetrator in this book. He consistently masks Tarrant’s identity by calling him “Person X” throughout (in fact, despite all the virtue-signaling about this in the main body of the text – “I’ve chosen to refer to the accused killer as Person X”[4] [5] – he does name him in the endnotes). It is unlikely that Tarrant was motivated at all by the desire for notoriety, so this preemptive strike against him on this front is either otiose or has ulterior motives. This Orwellian practice of hiding the perpetrator began on the political front by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern herself, and was followed through by Chief Censor David Shank, who banned Tarrant’s manifesto. It is part of the strategy of not allowing the public to know Tarrant’s argument (some of which might ring true, despite the brutality of the shooting). This voluntary submission to political authority does not augur well for Sparrow’s stated commitment to understanding Tarrant’s ideas.

Sparrow’s book consists of six chapters, plus an introduction and conclusion. He slowly builds his case in successive chapters. He starts from a potted history of the term “fascist” in the first chapter. He compares anti-Semitism with the rise of Islamophobia after 9/11 in the second. He links it all up to Trump and brings in Charlottesville in the third. The fourth chapter is where an examination of Tarrant’s ideas is expected, but instead we only get Sparrow’s explication of Tarrant’s “strategy.” The fifth chapter provides some comic relief where Sparrow becomes particularly incensed that the Right, too, has an ecological message. The sixth chapter is where Sparrow surveys the contemporary Australian scene, looking for people and groups to smear with guilt by association with Tarrant.

Sparrow has a penchant for relying on others’ statistics – or more accurately, relying on the spin applied by others to those statistics. For example, Sparrow claims that “the Center for International and Strategic Studies reports that terror attacks from far-right perpetrators doubled between 2016 and 2017.”[5] [6] But if one bothers to go to the source material and examine the raw data (from the Global Terrorism Database [7]), one finds that readily-identifiable Right-wing groups were responsible for precisely zero fatalities in 2016 and for ten in 2017 (if you include a high school shooting in Aztec, New Mexico which claimed three lives). By contrast, Left-wing attacks during the same period caused sixty-eight fatalities in 2016 (mostly by the jihadi-inspired Orlando shooter, as categorized by the GTD) and ten in 2017. The number of injured tells the same story, with Right-wing violence issuing in 43 attacks and Left-wing violence issuing in 152 for the combined 2016-17 period. Thus, Left-wing attacks are more than twice as bad and frequent as Right-wing attacks.

This misuse of statistics is typical of Sparrow’s modus operandi, as he immediately cites another authority and commits the same “mistake”: “Between 2009 and 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League, extremists from the right caused 73 per cent of US domestic terror deaths, compared to 23 per cent of deaths attributed to Islamists and 3 per cent to left-wing terrorists.”[6] [8] This ADL report has being thoroughly debunked by Dan Feinreich, a blogger at the Times of Israel, as well as by VDARE [9], with Feinreich calling the ADL’s report “a complete fraud.”

It might go without saying that this book is unphilosophical. But an examination of the truth of Brenton Tarrant’s ideas requires reflection about truth, about politics, and about political action and how to establish it, especially since we are talking about a political ideology. Without the use of philosophy, we only have partisan political commitment, unsupported by reason.

For example, Sparrow asserts that Brenton Tarrant has an “evil ideology”[7] [10] – not that the massacre was an evil act (which is undisputed), but that the ideology is evil. Sparrow does not establish this contention from his examination of the manifesto. He blurs the distinction between what the manifesto presents as facts (some of which is the basis of the Dissident Right’s claims) and Tarrant’s actions (the killing of innocents). In fact, Tarrant commits the same logical fallacy as Sparrow (with direr consequences). If one reads Tarrant’s manifesto, one can easily discern the non sequitur logical fallacy committed. Tarrant’s manifesto begins with an Introduction (GR, pp. 3-4), which lays out the facts and makes claims about the facts (viz. European nations’ fertility rates, and ethnic and racial displacement in the host nations – both of which are indisputable and not challenged by Sparrow – and the necessary logical consequence of white genocide), but it only starts to advocate for violence on page 5. The call to violence does not logically follow from the presentation of the facts, nor does Tarrant establish a legitimate case for violence in his manifesto.

Another example of Sparrow’s lack of philosophic examination of first principles is his loose and slippery use of the pejorative epithet “racist.” Also, the terms “far Right,” “fascist,” “nazi,” “nationalist(-ic),” “alt-right” (which includes Milo Yiannopoulos and black conservatives, like Candace Owens), and “white nationalist” are all jumbled together incoherently and used as synonyms for one another.

But Sparrow’s fundamental flaw is to take Tarrant’s Great Replacement as a self-consistent and logical presentation of Dissident Right views. He presupposes that the summation of Tarrant’s argument in his manifesto is all there is to the Dissident Right and that nothing further need be said or examined about the topic. Naturally, this is a self-serving presupposition for Sparrow, but it is deadly for the task of understanding Tarrant’s ideas insofar as they attempt to explain dissident ideas of the Right generally (which Sparrow claims they do). Because Sparrow equates Tarrant’s manifesto with “fascism,” and “fascism” with Dissident Right thought generally, he thinks that by “refuting” the manifesto he refutes Dissident Right thought as such. Sparrow lumps us all into the “fascist movement”:

The massacre at the Christchurch mosques was an act of terror, consciously designed, in ways many commentators haven’t understood, to inspire further acts of terror. It represented a particular strategic choice for the fascist movement, a decision not to build public organisations but to encourage violence by previously unknown individuals acting in isolation.[8] [11]

This argument only has force if Tarrant’s peculiar and violent choice were to be taken up by the so-called “fascist movement.” On this point, it has been the likes of Jacinda Ardern, YouTube, and Twitter who have implemented Tarrant’s specific policy recommendations, not the “fascist movement.” Tarrant may have offered the “fascist movement” a new path to take, but it is one that has not been taken up and pursued by any predominant grouping of the Right, let alone affirmed and supported.

Sparrow writes, “The Person X phenomenon represents something else: a strategy for fascist terrorism, one that seeks to incite angry young men to conduct rage massacres, not to achieve any specific ends so much as to destabilise liberal democracies.”[9] [12] But how, precisely, are liberal democracies destabilized, and by what particular policies? “This plan will not bring fascism to power. It will, however, result in more deaths.”[10] [13] The plan will only do so if adopted. Those adopting Tarrant’s policy recommendations to polarize Western nations even further are people like Ardern and Sparrow himself. It is precisely Ardern who has legislated gun restrictions and advocated deplatforming; Sparrow supports these measures (GR pp. 19-20, and cf. p. 6). Liberal democracies are destabilizing themselves by instituting illiberal policies in reaction to Tarrant’s action, just as he had hoped and predicted in his manifesto. Although it has mostly been limited to New Zealand, Australia has increased pressure on free speech and free association [14], and even in the US, the Christchurch massacre strengthened the hand of those wishing to restrict gun ownership and freedom of speech [15].

The potted history of the term “fascism” follows in the first chapter. Sparrow’s analysis is a stock-standard Marxist class-based and materialistic critique. Strictly speaking, fascism applies only to Italian politics. One can use the term by analogy to other cases and scenarios, but this weakens the strength of the term. For example, Sparrow applies it to Hitler, yet downplays the real forces at work in Weimar Germany. There is no mention of the very real Communist threat to violently overthrow the Weimar Republic; rather, Sparrow attempts to soften the reader’s response by talking euphemistically about Communism. “Fascists” opposed “those who advocated or embodied social equality: the labour movement, socialists, social democrats, immigrants, and other ‘traitors’.”[11] [16] But one could equally say that our present Left-wing politics, which sees the state working hand-in-hand with big business and big tech, is fascistic, as it adheres to the corporatist model. Sparrow weakens it even further: “[like] the fascism of 1930s . . . today, the alt-right a new breed of celebrity, with racist and nationalistic demagogues [is] building profiles through social and conventional media.”[12] [17] Sparrow wants the government to crack down on these profiles he does not like, and for the tech companies to remove them from their platforms. Sparrow seems to agree with fascist praxis when it suits him.

In attacking “racism,” Sparrow makes a single attempt to define his terms, in two sentences: “Biological races do not exist. Or, more exactly, they do not exist other than as categories generated and enforced by racists.”[13] [18] This is the equivalent of asserting that only racists think races exist. Race, we are told, is an “essentialist category.”[14] [19] Needless to say, this is a tautological argument. Sparrow’s view is intellectually the same as Franz Boas’ outdated and refuted anthropology. It is clear that Sparrow has never read any of Cavalli-Sforza’s books, Frank Salter’s On Genetic Interests, or even Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, nor reflected on the fact that the relatedness of groups is scientifically demonstrable by examining DNA. Perhaps Sparrow is inadvertently making the lesser claim that there are no “pure” races (though even here, among other things, the absence of Neanderthal DNA in African populations lessens the strength of that claim). In any event, he is completely intellectually outclassed by race realists on this matter.

Because Muslims are not a race, Sparrow thinks that he can dispel Tarrant’s demographic concerns as outlined in the early pages of his manifesto by reducing them simply to Islamophobia. But Islam is a religion overwhelmingly held by non-whites. Tarrant is imprecise here, but Sparrow deliberately misses the point. Additionally, Sparrow fails to critique Tarrant on the real nature of the demographic threat, which varies from white country to white country. In Australia, the demographic threat is mostly from the mass importation of Asian, and particularly Chinese and Indian, populations; in the United States, it is from an insecure southern border with Mexico; in Europe, it is Islamic (Middle Eastern and African) populations. Tarrant seems strangely out of touch with the Australian situation, possibly due to his travels to European nations.

Sparrow contends that Islamophobia is the fascists’ new anti-Semitism (thereby maintaining a narrative continuity with the Third Reich). He blames the post-9/11 reaction for this situation. “The War on Terror changed [the status of Islamophobia as a minority phenomenon], normalising a discourse that replicated, almost exactly, the key tropes of pre-War anti-Semitism.”[15] [20] Then kosher, now halal; then yarmulke, now burqa. The analysis is no deeper than juxtaposition. According to Sparrow, it was not the horrendous murder and destruction that resulted in the deaths of 2,977 innocent victims (a terror attack live-broadcasted by all the mainstream news organizations to the public – falling bodies and all – and yet resulting in no outcry for censorship) which caused Islamophobia, but rather the subsequent War on Terror.

Sparrow relies on Matt Carr to reduce Islamophobia to a conspiracy theory (“Eurabia”) which holds that demographic transformation was a plot by the EU and Arab nations.[16] [21] This is another strawman argument, which makes its case easy by only considering whether the situation is the result of intentional government policy. (Sparrow compares it to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion).[17] [22] Even when Carr finally considers the facts of demographic transformation, he does not realize that he is merely arguing about the timeframe. “It is difficult to see how the Eurabian demographic nightmare can occur even by the end of the century.”[18] [23] That it is happening is not disputed; only the rate at which it is occurring is at issue.

When Sparrow tries to tie all this back into the American situation, he compares the Trump administration’s fulfilling of its election commitments to Hitler’s (yes) response to the Évian Conference of 1938. “If there was no demographic threat, why was the DHS such a huge agency, boasting more than 48,000 staff devoted exclusively to immigration enforcement?”[19] [24] Perhaps there is a threat.

So it is unsurprising that in third chapter, we find mention of the “first fascist president,”[20] [25] namely Trump (George W. Bush has gone down the Left’s memory hole). Trump “presented his racist policies as dependent upon his electoral victory,”[21] [26] based on “racist populism.”[22] [27] Trump’s early policy advisers are also tarnished as fascist: Steve Bannon gets castigated for reading and admiring Evola, and Sebastian Gorka for favorably mentioning the Hungarian Guard. But Sparrow’s real target here is the marginal fascists’ potential for mainstream success “With the normalisation of Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, fascists no longer needed supporters to seek out exotic destinations like Stormfront: the far right could present its content on platforms that their recruits were already using,” he writes.[23] [28]

Online support led to efforts to bring the movement into the real world. The result was the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The rally’s organizers seriously underestimated the extent to which the authorities would break the law and try to cause violence and death, inciting and protecting Left-wing mob violence. In the event, they succeeded in causing only one death, which must have been a terrible disappointment for them considering the magnitude of the authorities’ negligence on that day. Charlottesville’s aftermath resulted in what seemed like a dead end for real-life activism. Sparrow maintains that Tarrant tried to “bridg[e] the gulf between fascism’s online strength and its real world weakness.”[24] [29]

Sparrow contends that it is Tarrant’s strategy of terrorist murder which is this bridge, and this is the focus of Sparrow’s main analysis of Tarrant’s manifesto in the fourth chapter. Unfortunately, it is the least interesting part of Sparrow’s presentation; it also happens to be the most unsuccessful part of Tarrant’s manifesto, and has excited only the imaginations of security agencies and the media. Sparrow claims Tarrant “did not intend his manifesto for the public.”[25] [30] This is a very tenuous claim. Yes, Tarrant uses memes in parts of the manifesto, but they are not impenetrable, nor do they obscure his main arguments or positions to any serious extent. Preventing the public from having access to the manifesto has been entirely perpetrated by the political and media establishment. The deplatforming of Dissident Right-wing thought after Charlottesville is likewise part of the same exclusion.[26] [31] Interestingly, after the social media deplatforming of political speech, Brenton Tarrant “embraced, instead, terrorism.”[27] [32] The lesson to be learned here is that it is this exclusion which feeds and foments political violence; indeed, it tries to ensure that it is the only option available.

The final part of this chapter tries to link Tarrant to “autogenic massacres” such as the one carried out by the self-described “supreme gentleman,” Elliot Rodger. “[Tarrant] sought to transform future autogenic massacres into acts of fascist terror,” he writes.[28] [33] This “third alternative to the Optics War”[29] [34] shows no sign of being taken up.

In the fifth chapter, Sparrow tries to diminish Right-wing ecological positions to nothing more than the murder and bloodlust he thrusts onto them. We are told, “For progressives, environmentalism means slowing down or stopping climate change.”[30] [35] The Left’s own “climate change” conspiracy theory and the accompanying academic fraud that goes along with it is left unexamined. By contrast, in the Right’s case: “In theory, eco-fascism celebrates ‘forests, lakes, mountains, and meadows’; in practice, it demands the murder of leftists and ethnic minorities.”[31] [36] The best that Sparrow can claim here is that this holds true for Tarrant. He runs the risk of committing the logical fallacy of claiming that since Hitler was an environmentalist, then environmentalism is bad. Nor does he even attempt to make the case that the environment can flourish alongside overpopulation and mass immigration.

The final chapter surveys very selective parts of Australia’s Dissident Right groups, some of whom had fleeting contact with Brenton Tarrant before he went on his rampage. There is not much to say about this section as it mostly consists of guilt by association and tying very heavy weights onto very tenuous connections. The peaceful approach by the groups cited by Sparrow contrasts decisively with Tarrant’s rejection of that approach. Various calumnies are proffered, the most egregious being Sparrow’s support for the state’s intolerance of political theater by Blair Cottrell and others [37], and the spurious numerology used to slur the Dingoes using the date of someone’s birthday while lying about it “adorning their website.”[32] [38]

“The ideas of the far right remain, after all, deeply unpopular, particularly when they are presented openly,” Sparrow informs us.[33] [39] Unfortunately for him, reality belies this contention. In fact, it is precisely the contrary that is true. The metric for this is very easily determined by looking at YouTube and Twitter accounts which have been censored: They were censored precisely because they were popular and persuasive.

The phenomenon of YouTube “blood sports” serves as another case in point. These were open offers to the Left to argue their case in public debates, but without the authority or power to hide their beliefs or censor their opponents. The Left fared so badly and lost so decisively in these that there were two telling results: After a very short time, no one on the Left had the courage to appear before the bar of reason and account for their opinions, and the host platform, incensed at this situation, shut the whole thing down as a consequence of the Right’s total predominance in winning the arguments without the use of force.

Finally, we come to Sparrow’s praise of the “brave research and activism of Andy Fleming” in the acknowledgments – just like Sparrow masks Brenton Tarrant’s identity, he masks the person behind the Andy Fleming pseudonym. Nor does he bother to inform the casual reading public that this is the persona of an antifa anarchist.[34] [40] Just like in the US, the antifa here is the center for the coordination of political violence while being protected and guarded by the state’s agencies. Any credibility that an authentic regard for the victims of political violence underlies Sparrow’s concerns is totally exploded by this connection. Thus, this book is an exercise in hypocrisy of the highest order.


[1] [41] Jeff Sparrow, Fascists Among Us, cover blurb.

[2] [42] Ibid., p. 4.

[3] [43] Ibid., p. 6.

[4] [44] Ibid., p. 4.

[5] [45] Ibid., p. 3.

[6] [46] Ibid.

[7] [47] Sparrow, p. 5.

[8] [48] Ibid., pp. 4-5.

[9] [49] Ibid., p. 5.

[10] [50] Ibid.

[11] [51] Sparrow, p. 13.

[12] [52] Ibid., p. 5.

[13] [53] Ibid., p. 29.

[14] [54] Ibid.

[15] [55] Ibid., pp. 31-32.

[16] [56] Matt Carr, “You are now entering Eurabia,” Race & Class (2006), Institute of Race Relations, vol. 48(1): 1–22.

[17] [57] Sparrow, p. 38.

[18] [58] Ibid., p. 16.

[19] [59] Ibid., p. 39 & cf. p. 40.

[20] [60] Ibid., p. 45.

[21] [61] Ibid., p. 46.

[22] [62] Ibid., p. 48.

[23] [63] Ibid., p. 52.

[24] [64] Ibid., p. 59.

[25] [65] Ibid., p. 64.

[26] [66] Ibid., p. 62.

[27] [67] Ibid.

[28] [68] Ibid., p. 74.

[29] [69] Ibid., p. 62.

[30] [70] Ibid., p. 91.

[31] [71] Ibid., p. 90.

[32] [72] Sparrow, pp. 104, 100.

[33] [73] Ibid., p. 128.

[34] [74] Ibid., p. 133.