AN ANALYSIS OF HANAU SHOOTINGS
On February 19th, two shootings took place in a German city named Hanau, near Frankfurt. The shootings occurred in separate shisha lounges, which are mostly attracting Germans with a foreign background. What strikes the most is the fact that the suspect, Tobias Rathjen, targeted people who are not of ethnic German background. At least nine people were shot and killed during his attacks, and the suspect was found dead at his apartment next to his dead mother (Al Jazeera, 2020).
Following close patterns with the Christchurch shootings in 2019, the suspect has also left a manifesto behind him. In his manifesto, it is clear to see that he has some sort of obsession with conspiracy theories that he claims to be a threat to the world.
In a world in which the extremist ideas are growing, it is, without a doubt, an important event to take into account. The far-right movement is growing and strengthening their connections around the world. Considering the different locations shootings like these have taken place, it can be suggested that there is an invisible network fueling hate non-stop. In this paper, I will try to analyze the event, the terrorist that conducted the shootings as well as dwelling into far-right extremism.
Who is the terrorist?
Tobias Rathjen, whose full name was not given to the press until his name has appeared in court, was born in 1977 in Hanau (The Local Germany, 2020a). Before earning a degree in business from the University of Bayreuth in 2007, he was trained to become a bank employee (The Local Germany, 2020b).
On the website he wrote on the wall of his apartment, he left his manifesto, which is highly influenced by his condition, and xenophobic ideas. The website had a wolf cover, and his documents were written in German. The website was taken offline after the attack; however, his 24-page long manifesto was available until then, as well as, his video which he uploaded on Youtube (Oltermann, 2020).
In his video, he said ‘’ There’s a need to destroy certain people whose expulsion from Germany can no longer be achieved.’’ And in his far-right extremist manifesto, he claims ‘’ People from the following countries must be completely destroyed: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the entire Saudi peninsula, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and the Philipines. I noted that not everyone who has a German passport today is purebred and valuable. I can imagine halving the population. I would eliminate all these people, even if we are talking about several billion here. ''
His ideologies are malicious, and he is even considering massive slaughter of half of Germany’s population to ‘’pure’’ the demographics. It should be noted that he is not the only far-right extremist, and he probably won't be the last lone-wolf.
The Local Germany reports that: ‘’ A 24-page "manifesto" seen by AFP documents R.'s belief from an early age that he was under surveillance by an unidentified "secret service", including simple computer illustrations depicting incidents from his life.
The author claims that real-life events ranging from the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan to former German national coach Jürgen Klinsmann's football management career, as well as plots of Hollywood movies, such as "Starship Troopers" and "Look Who's Talking", and TV series were based on his ideas.
"None of this can be a coincidence," he claims.’’
There are also indicators that he was mentally unstable. He goes further in his video, and he claims that America is under control of secret societies, he follows up by saying that they use such unknown evil methods like mind control, and they hold up a modern system of slavery. He talks about deep underground military bases in which ‘’they’’ praise devil. He says they abuse, torture, and kill little children.
His obsession with conspiracy theories, his paranoid discourses, and his abnormal conclusions on events support the idea. According to New Straits Times (2020), The document prompted King’s College London counter-terror expert Peter Neumann to label him an “incel” with far-right leanings and “what seems like a significant mental health issue.”
What do the shootings mean?
Germany has a dark history with racism and fascism, and to leave the dark days behind, Germany had made quite a bit effort, such as banning the swastika, the Nazi anthem or the nazi salute. Many rightist opinion holders argue that Germany is being invaded by immigrants, despite the ongoing projects on integration for a peaceful society. It is more than just the‘’ migration crisis or higher unemployment rates on the eastern side of Germany’’. There is global recruitment to the far-right has been taking place, and they don’t seem to care about the facts, but rather their interpretations of events, and their fixated ideology.
Prevention of lone-wolf terrorism has been getting harder and harder since the internet is playing a big role in the development of lone-actor terrorists. These people are a product of the hateful extremist ideologies and hateful speeches that thrive from it. There are countless ways people form their ideas; nevertheless, the prevention of hate speech is playing a bigger role here considering alternative right is using it as a weapon.
On the one hand, it is important to observe the hate that poisons the minds of people; on the other hand, it cannot be denied that lone wolfs should be identified as terrorists. These attacks encourage other people with the same views and create a domino effect. For instance, the following day of the Hanau attacks, an Imam got stabbed at the London Central Mosque (BBC, 2020).
In many news coverages both attacks were not identified with terrorism, which is begging the question: Would these media sources react the same way if the terrorist was of a Middle Eastern origin? At this point, questions about the media emerge, whether if the media is adequate when it comes to condemning of the alt-right terrorism or not.
These attacks can also give new hints about the targets of the alt-right movement. As mentioned above, the terrorist in Hanau shootings demonstrates strong mental health issues. Besides his mental health, his personality is also significant in his role. He mentions that he never had a girlfriend or a wife. This information is important in terms of being able to understand the profile of alt-right extremists.
One could suggest that people who have personal issues can be more suitable for extremism. People with struggling working lives, with mental issues, and even those with a lack of social skills can be the new target of alt-right movements, or they have already been.
The aftermath of the shootings
Loxton (2020), from The Local Germany reports that ‘’ Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to fight back against "all those who try to divide Germany". Speaking to reporters, Merkel brought up the murders carried out by the neo-Nazi "NSU" cell between 2000-07 as well as last June's killing of pro-migrant politician Walter Lübcke, and the deadly anti-Semitic attack in Halle in October as examples of the threat posed by the far right.’’
The biggest problem within the alternative right movement is that when there is a lone actor, it is challenging to trace possible terrorists. Individual perpetrators make it tough to spot; hence, increase the danger of possible attacks.
German police spotted at about 50 extremist followers who can carry out such violent attacks; furthermore, the poliçe had already arrested 12 men who were planning a similar attack to the Christchurch shootings in Germany before the shootings (Loxton 2020). The information was acquired from infiltrator (The Local Germany, 2020c)
There was also a social reaction to the terrorist's action. Thousands marched against the attacks on the same night, the gun laws were debated, and the question of migration flow was brought to the table (The Local Germany, 2020d). The far-right political party AfD was also criticized since the party is providing negative ideologies for extremists as well as anti-immigrant propaganda.
The attacks caused unrest in politics in Germany.‘’ The general secretary of the social democratic party SPD, coalition partner of the conservatives in Berlin, Lars Klingbeil, described the AfD as the "political arm" of the perpetrators of racist and anti-Semitic attacks. The left is demanding that the entire AfD be subject to surveillance by the Interior Intelligence Service, a treatment reserved in Germany for organisations representing a danger to the state (The Local Germany, 2020e).’’
The far-right extremism is a modern and sophisticated movement, and their number one tool is the internet. After the attacks, one thing is beyond clear: the online activities must be observed. The Hanau shootings’ terrorist uploaded his video on Youtube before he exercised his acts. There is a growing threat online, and investigators need to monitor the developments taking place in online platforms.
Far-right politicians are using alt-right communities to fuel the hate; moreover, gain more votes, and ‘’bring awareness’’ in their terms. Such political entities are crucial when it comes to forming the political branch of extreme far-right. The media’s role in reporting far-right sentiments is essential. Media channels have to bring facts against propaganda and use the right terms for the before-mentioned terrorist deeds.
It is now critical to watch the US 2020 Presidential Election closely. We have seen far-right recruitment, and protests both physically, and virtually during the 2015-2016 Presidential campaign of Trump. It is necessary to evaluate these gains. Hanau shooting is a part of a long chain reaction, and the chain doesn't have an end.
Al Jazeera. (2020). Germany shisha lounge shootings: All the latest updates. Retrieved 29 February 2020, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/deadly-attacks-german-shisha-lounges-latest-updates-200220073658913.html
The Local Germany. (2020a, 2020b). What we know about Hanau shooter Tobias R. Retrieved 28 February 2020, from https://www.thelocal.de/20200220/what-we-know-about-hanau-shooter-tobias-r
Oltermann, P. (2020). Hanau attack gunman railed against ethnic minorities online. Retrieved 28 February 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/20/hanau-gunman-tobias-rathjen-railed-against-ethnic-minorities-online
New Straits Times. (2020). The bizarre views of Germany shooter Tobias Rathjen. Retrieved 28 February 2020, from https://www.nst.com.my/world/world/2020/02/567892/bizarre-views-germany-shooter-tobias-rathjen
BBC. (2020). London Central Mosque stabbing: Man in court over attack. Retrieved 29 February 2020, from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-51594469
Loxton, R. (2020). After Hanau: How can Germany deal with extreme right-wing terror? Retrieved 29 February 2020, from https://www.thelocal.de/20200220/after-hanau-how-can-germany-deal-with-extreme-right-wing-terror
The Local Germany. (2020c). Update: German far-right group 'planned Christchurch-style mosque attacks'. Retrieved 29 February 2020, from https://www.thelocal.de/20200217/german-far-right-group-planned-christchurch-style-mosque-attacks-reports
The Local Germany. (2020d). Update: Germany increases police presence amid 'very high' security threat from far-right. Retrieved 29 February 2020, from https://www.thelocal.de/20200221/security-threat-from-far-right-very-high-in-germany-interior
The Local Germany. (2020e). What is Germany doing to combat the far right after Hanau attacks? Retrieved 29 February 2020, from https://www.thelocal.de/20200223/germanys-extreme-right-under-pressure-after-attacks
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