The news today and probably for the next few days will be filled with reports of the terrorist shootings in the Mosques of Christchurch, New Zealand and their aftermath. As with any other such event there is no doubt that many of the first reports will turn out to be flat out wrong and thus anything I write now may end up having to be changed.

First off, this is a terrorist tragedy and I utterly condemn the perpetrators and what I understand of their motivations. It isn’t a “senseless” crime, the perps had reasons and those reasons were (are) evil in exactly the same way that Da’esh and other Islamic terror groups have evil motivations (along with, of course, every totalitarian regime in the 20th century from the USSR to the Third Reich to the Khmers Rouges and North Korea). Having said that, it is possible (see second half of the post) that, just like the Islamofascist terror attacks, they may turn out to be partially successful. That’s not a good thing for anyone.

Surviving an attack

However before I get into the longer term political bits, let’s talk about the close and personal and what to do if you are in such a situation. I think we’ve now seen enough of these mass shooting the unarmed to draw some lessons for what to do and what not to do. In this case, in particular, the shooter live-streamed the entire thing which means it is possible to do a lot more than speculate based on unreliable evidence of external video cameras and traumatized survivors.

The first lesson is clearly don’t be there and if you have to be there be armed if possible. Note that it seems the second mosque attack appears to have come to a halt when one of the people there started shooting back.

A second shooting happened at a mosque in the Linwood area of the city.
One Friday prayer goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun.
Witnesses said they heard multiple gunshots around 1.45pm.
A well known Muslim local chased the shooters and fired two shots at them as they sped off.

If that isn’t possible – and, outside the US, armed is hard – then plan your escape route(s) every time you are at a public event or location (e.g. a shopping mall). If shooting starts do your best to run away as quickly as you can without stopping until you are a good 100 yards/metres away and behind cover (buildings, large trees, thick walls) rather than concealment (hedges, fences, cars). There are some reports that in this case a few victims ran away but stopped too soon and were shot at.

However assuming you are there and you can’t escape then we know that you cannot assume that anyone else is going to stop the terrorist in a timely fashion. Even though doctrine for an active shooter situation is go in ASAP, it will likely take time for armed LEOs to show up and there’s a good chance (see Parkland, Fl) that they’ll chicken out initially. So for the first 5 minutes at least, and could well be a lot longer – in Christchurch it took THIRTY SIX minutes from the time of the first emergency call until the perp was arrested, it’s up to you and the rest of the people in the place. That’s enough time that an attacker could shoot several hundred rounds if he’s trained, prepared and undisturbed. On the other hand, since practicing this kind of thing is hard for most terrorist sorts, the chances are extremely high that the shooter is going to be poorly trained /prepared and unwilling to take too many risks.

With regard to the risks. If you can close (and block) doors between you and the shooter that’s better than leaving them open because the shooter may not bother to risk going through. In particular if you can barricade doors that’s a good thing but you need to also think about what will happen if the barricade fails. Also recall that doors themselves are not even close to bulletproof (though the walls next to them may be). Use the time to figure out how to exit the location if possible and, if not, how to ambush the shooter when he comes in.

If you are in the same (openish) area as the shooter then hiding and/or pretending to be dead mostly doesn’t work, he’ll shoot you anyway and then if he has the time – which he likely will – he’ll make sure by shooting every body one more time. Attacking the shooter may not work either but you are no less likely to die than you are by cowering. More importantly if you and enough others attack at about the same time at least one of you will get through.

However – and I realize this is not going to be as easy to do in the moment as it is to write about in safety – there are definitely smarter ways to attack. Firstly throwing things at the shooter will help to distract him and the more people that do that the better. Hard compact objects are best (stones, cell phones, coins) but books, cushions and even coats or jackets will work if there’s nothing else. However you need to follow up the throw with an in person attack, ideally while he’s distracted with the object you threw.

Secondly you’ll do better if he’s not looking at you and do even better if he has to reload, but waiting too long for that moment is likely to be fatal. Thirdly if he’s facing away from you and if you are within about, say, 20 foot (6m) of the shooter you can almost certainly get to him before he can turn around, OTOH if he’s facing you and you jump from 10-15 ft you’ll probably hit him even if he shoots you while in mid air. Then finally if you get to him, you’ll probably do better hurting him than fighting for the weapon and by hurting I mean things like kicking him (or punching) in the balls, stomach, kidneys or gouging his eyes out as opposed to grappling with him. However you’ll likely save a lot of people if you can get him on the ground so think of a way to do that. If you’ve got him disabled I personally would recommend turning his own weapon on him and shooting him. Not only does that ensure he isn’t a threat, it also saves the nation a lot of money in terms of the courts and prisons.

The absolute key though is to have thought enough about it in advance that you are prepared (mentally and practically with something that can be a weapon) and committed.

Strategic Terror

OK so enough about surviving/fighting back, how about the question of whether the attack will achieve the intended goals of the attacker. Of course there is the question of whether the attacker had plausible goals, but let’s assume that he did and that his statements about “invaders” are indicative of his main goal – a reduction in the numbers of Muslims/Arabs/Asians in NZ and/or Australia.

It is possible that while he may not succeed in the reduction of numbers already present, his attack might end up reducing the flow of migrants and thus be partially successful. This will only work out if he ends up inspiring others. A single attack, even one as horrific as this one, is unlikely to do much. But if there are a series of attacks inspired by it then that might well result in a reduction of would-be migrants as these attacks will undoubtedly be in the news in the countries whence the migrants originate and some would-be migrants are likely to consider alternate destinations because they don’t like the idea of being shot.

Beyond that, his other goal appears to be to forment (more) polarization and discord in the US and the rest of the “West”. I suspect this goal is also going to succeed because (see twitter is evil) the Internet and social media specifically is going to ensure that dozens of competing but incompatible narratives are spread far and wide. The goal of this discord seems to be to reverse perceived the degeneracy of current society/culture and that probably isn’t going to be as successful. For sure his stated end-desires of a eco-friendly world governed by something like the Chinese communist party seem to be unlikely to come to pass – if nothing else because of their internal inconsistencies. However some of the subgoals – such as spreading distrust of the media, incumbent democratic governments and large enterprises in general seem entirely possible because that distrust is already there to a significant extent.

Problems and Solutions

It is worth reading Rod Dreher’s thoughts on the manifesto. I tend to agree with quite of lot of his commentary – in particular that the scumbag seems to have correctly identified a number of valid issues with the “West” and our civilization/culture/society. Then again many left-wing nutbag socialist “progressives” are also able to identify valid issues with our civilization – the overlap between the ones identified by the scumbag and those of the progressive left is not 100% but is fairly high. I have no doubt that this will discomfort some progressives. There’s some overlap between what I think is wrong and that of the scumbag as well, but I’m not going to let that bother me, just as I don’t care that the progressives can correctly identify issues.

The real problem is not in the identification of the problem so much as the proposed solutions and those are flat out nuts, as might be expected from someone who apparently loves the PRC and yet claims to be an “Eco-fascist”. Plus, as noted at the Atlantic, it is extremely unclear to what extent his manifesto and related comments are in fact his genuine views as opposed to deliberate attempts to troll and/or mislead.

One critical question is whether he will inspire more terror, and what the best way to stop that is. Note I don’t consider it to be material whether the terror is by people opposing his views of supporting them. At a practical level the simplest way to stop shooters is with other shooters and so by far the best way to stop this sort of attack from being repeated is for some worshipers (of all creeds) to be armed when attending a religious service. Not only does (see above) shooting the shooter in the first few seconds cut down on the number of victims, the threat of being shot will strongly dissuade copy-cats because a livestream of a terrorist being taken out in 10 seconds and then dying painfully sends a very different message to a livestream where the terrorist can act with impunity for minutes.

Outside the US, I suspect this ideal response of numerous armed members of the congregation is not going to happen. Undoubtedly the more common response to this attack will be for armed police to be stationed at religious locations during services. That’s going to work to a point, but it will require the armed guard to be 1) aware and 2) competent. I’m afraid the experience of Charlie Hebdo shows that this only works to stop a lone casual attacker because the obvious counter to this is to take out the armed guard first and that guard is going to be obvious. By contrast the armed congregation approach is a lot harder to counter because the attackers have no idea who is armed.

The better, longer term solution, of course is to create an environment where people don’t want to become terrorists. That’s an area where I’m about 99% sure the current political leadership is going to utterly fail. In fact I strongly expect that they will enact measures that end up inspiring more terrorism because their actions will show a problematic double standard where “right-wing” “white supremacist” terror is treated in a totally different way to islamic or “antifa” terror. That will inspire the islamicists and “antifa” crowd because they will think they can get away with it and it will foster grievances amongst those drawn to the “white supremacist” side of the house.

Bottom line: we can expect more events like this so pay attention to the first section and don’t be a passive victim.