A gunman took 50 lives, wounded dozens and shattered hearts in attacking our Muslim community in two mosques.

The alleged attacker also struck at our trauma-touched southern city, and at our belief that isolation, values and security protected us from the tragedies that occur elsewhere.

This time, we weren't looking on with concern from the outside at an attack beyond our borders. The world was looking on with concern at us: Offering sympathy by social media, dissecting a terror attack on Kiwi Muslims in our own backyard.


"Hello, brother," a man at the Al Noor Mosque door reportedly called before the gunman cut down men, women and children, some of whom had sought refuge here from countries of conflict.

The Christchurch massacre is both local and international, and interconnected. It smashed any complacency over our gun laws. Intelligence services will have to say why the suspect was not on a watch list and why his extensive social-media presence did not raise red flags.

The rise of white supremacy as a threat — as with Isis as a militant group — has been aided by tech giants. The internet incubates radicalism. The mosque gunman also weaponised platforms. As Washington Post tech writer Drew Harwell tweeted: "The New Zealand massacre was livestreamed on Facebook, announced on 8chan, reposted on YouTube, commentated about on Reddit, and mirrored around the world before the tech companies could even react."

Internationally, there is a far-right infrastructure of politicians, donors, commentators, media and internet groups pushing nationalism, racism and Islamophobia. Online, extremist ideas are given sustenance, and those on the fringe find like-minded supporters and confirmation in their alternate-reality cocoons.

As the security focus and resources have been on Islamic terrorism, white nationalism has seeped into the mainstream. It hasn't been taken seriously enough and attacks are usually classified as hate crimes rather than terrorism. Since 77 people were killed in the 2011 Norway attack, white supremacists have struck Sikh temples, synagogues, mosques and US black churches.

New York Times commentator Wajahat Ali tweeted: "We are dealing with angry, disaffected men, mostly White, who find purpose & community with these extremist groups who give them a hero's narrative through violent ideology of White supremacy. They are saving civilization by getting rid of the rest of us. It's like White ISIS."

New Zealand is buffeted by these offshore winds, but we also have our own problems with dark attitudes and threats just under the surface. That the suspect is an Australian is no comfort. It's easy to look for danger in outsiders when a homegrown menace is usually more likely.

What we can be proud of is how police and emergency services responded. And especially how fellow Kiwis aided victims, even as the massacre unfolded.

That was courage under fire.