There are more questions than answers at the time of this writing after the horrific massacre of 49 people during Friday prayers at two New Zealand mosques, allegedly by a self-described “ethno-nationalist” who methodically planned the attacks, posted a 74-page manifesto online and then livestreamed himself as he mowed down the innocent.

At heart, it appears to be the work of a violent white supremacist who had acquired combat-style weapons and who was driven, according to his manifesto, to kill nonwhites in New Zealand to show that “there was no where left to go that was safe and free from mass immigration.” And he chose to use firearms “for the affect it would have on social discourse, the extra media coverage they would provide and the effect it could have on the politics of United States and thereby the political situation of the world.”

The sick irony is the alleged Australian-born anti-immigrant killer was an immigrant himself to New Zealand. He saw himself acting in defense of a shared European-derived culture that is not defined by a passport. He saw Muslim immigrants as an attack on that culture.

A lot will be made of the fact that the suspected 28-year-old gunman, who identified himself as Brenton Tarrant, cited President Trump in his manifesto “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” even though he goes on to say he opposes Trump “as a policy maker and leader.” More relevant is the manifesto’s nod to the Norwegian anti-immigrant extremist Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in a 2011 bombing and firearms attack.

What we’re seeing is yet another atrocity committed in the name of white supremacy. Of course, such racism is not new, as our own history attests. Hitler immolated most of Europe and North Africa in hopes of building an Aryan empire, and in the modern era, the U.S. suffers more terror attacks by home-grown white supremacists than from foreign actors. It is a scourge, and we pay it too little heed.

The support for the killings on fever swamps like Gab.com shows that even a racist murderer has an audience in the social media age. According to the manifesto, the point of the killings was to send a global message to Muslims “to directly reduce immigration rates to European lands by intimidating and physically removing the invaders themselves.” The first 17 minutes of the attacks were streamed, live, on Facebook.

The impulse behind the acts isn’t new, and the persistence of violent expressions of racism and religious intolerance in the 21st century undercuts any pretense that the world has advanced beyond such medieval notions. Few impulses are more primitive than wanting to kill other people just because they are different. Yes, Muslim extremists perpetrate horrific crimes. Christian extremists perpetrate horrific crimes. So do extremist Hindus and Buddhists.

The commonality among them all is that one word: extremism.

Los Angeles Times