*NB – this is a long post, but I urge you to persevere. You can skip the first two sections if you like, but I felt it was really important to run through what I was doing and why*
One of the surreal facets of the hyper-connected age we live in is that, when people achieve notoriety all of us can reach out and touch their digital presence and pore over that stream of bits that every one of us now leaves in their wake. Trying to make any sense from it all is a bit like reading tea leaves – about as futile as turning up at the jail and rattling their bars, as if staring at their face will somehow illuminate what they’ve done. But because they are out there, we were treated to pictures of Rebecca Leighton dressed up for a School Disco night on the Manchester Evening News cover the other day. The Mail, naturally was on the case, with coverage which just begged for a contempt of court’ charge. It should be noted that she has not been charged with murder, and the charges suggest fatal incompetence or malicious sabotage, rather than actual intent to kill.
It may have been slightly in bad taste, but last night on Facebook, I linked to the Norwegian gunman’s profile, noting his apparent liking of Vocal Trance. He’s no Eichmann, but musically speaking I felt there was a small flavour of Hannah Arendt in that detail. Anders Behring Breivik was also a fan of Orwell’s 1984 according to the page, and therefore would no doubt would have appreciated that this morning there is no sign on Facebook of my post actually having existed at all.
Rights and Wrongs
There are certainly questions about the ethics of following an unverified twitter link to a profile and drawing attention to it, especially if it was set up by someone guilty of an atrocity. His twitter account, still live at the time of writing with over 1,000 ruberneckers on board, was clearly set up with the intention of being found after his actions and contains a single tweet misquoting John Stuart Mill. It is pretty innocuous, as was the publicly visible part of the Facebook profile, but it isn’t hard to envisage that most people who commit atrocities of this sort in the future will produce self-justificatory manifestos online. I guess we’re all just going to have to deal with that.
I can see quite a lot of the arguments for and against publicising that kind of thing. Publicising it feeds the self image of the perpetrator(s) as being a lone voice in a neglected and noble cause. No doubt there will also be plenty of readers who agree with some of what is written. Copycat acts and the lionising of the perpetrator is probably more likely as a result. The counterfactual counter-argument that those who emulate or venerate the perpetrator ‘would have picked up on something else if it wasn’t here’ is impossible to substantiate, and rather weak.
However, I think these concerns are overridden by the moral imperative upon a society to try to understand what motivates someone who goes on a rampage like this, in order to try and prevent it happening again. It is a shiboleth of the reactionary right that it is impossible, even repugnant, to try and understand somebody who sets out to kill as many people as they can. There is something in that: most of us cannot know with any certainty what it feels like to walk towards a crowd of teenagers shooting randomly, or to know what goes through your mind as you set a bomb in the full knowledge that people will die as a result. Indeed, even imagining it is horrendous.
At the heart of it, I feel, is the fear of the lack of conscience we assume must lie at the core of such behaviour, because our own consciences are so powerfully moved when we contemplate it. While the nature of Breivik’s actions are very different from that of Eichmann’s, the purpose of Arendt’s book – to try an understand how an ostensibly normal person could come to commit such atrocities – is still valid. By definition nothing that happened to either man is outside the boundaries of human experience, and despite the enormity of their crimes, their actions should not lie beyond the bounds of human understanding.
The uncomfortable truth is that Breivik probably does have a conscience, just one that is horribly misdirected. While it is more palatable to merely condemn, and understanding should never replace condemnation, we should not cast aside our critical faculties at the fist sign of horror. Real understanding will reinforce condemnation, not dilute it. While reading the writings of someone like this are an archetypal example of the kind of freedom we wish to have ourselves, but do not trust all of our neighbours with, that isn’t a choice which can extend to a general rule.
Although we live in a society which is far from being adult enough to deal as well as it might with some of the issues raised (and believe me, we’re about to see how far), I don’t see how failing to air them at all will help. In any case trying to stop something being available on the internet is a fools errand, and best left to the likes of the RIAA and their flunkeys.
The Document.no postings
So, what all that noddling was leading up to was this link. It purports to be the collected postings of Breivik on a website called document.no between September 2009 and October 2010. I came to this via Borris Watch, and can’t vouch for it.
So there is a MASSIVE BIG DISCLAIMER THAT I AM DISCUSSING UNVERIFIED MATERIAL HERE. That said, there is too much material for it to have been written in the short time since his name was released, it fits in with information that is coming into the public domain as I write this, and therefore I am PRECEDING ON THE ASSUMPTION IT IS GENUINE. If it’s not, then I’ve wasted a few hours obsessing over this and you’ve wasted a few minutes reading it. If that’s not cool with you, then stop reading now.
Update – while I’ve been writing this, several excerpts have been published on Liberal Conspiracy. Apparently this is the comments in Norewegian, so I’m pretty content that these are genuine, presuming that the translation is reliable.
The terrifying thing about these comments is how familiar they are. The sentiment clearly originates from the anti-immigration populist right, but nothing that would be unfamiliar to anyone who has read the comments on the UK tabloid websites. In fact some of it could have been directly lifted from the comment pages of any of the right-wing newspapers in the UK:
Those who dare to criticize multiculturalism (and supporting cultural conservative views) are now branded as fascists / Nazis / racists. The problem is that the doctrines which form the basis of political correctness will not or can allow alternative ideas and are thus very intolerant.
Progress Party is a victim of this intolerance.
Breivik was a member of Progress Party, although he seems to have parted ways with it because of what he perceived as its capitulation to multiculturalism. His understanding of multiculturalism is quite interesting:
The main problem in Western Europe is that there is only one accepted alternative, namely PC (PC = cultural Marxism / multiculturalism).
There’s a clear obsession with Marxism here – classic sign of far-right thinking:
Frankfurt School (kulturmarxisme) is a very ambitious unofficial ideology (and quite unknown to most) and they have succeeded in most areas (except to smash capitalism, European Christianity and European identity, traditions, culture). Vienna school is more a defense against this where we often use the Marxist ‘own creations against them (sexual liberation, feminism, liberalism, anti-racism, anti-autoriære arguments).
I don’t know loads about it, but for those not familiar with it, the Frankfurt School is a high academic strand of Marxism which is very concerned with cultural criticism. I’m not sure whether he actually follows in their footsteps, but if UK readers think ‘Terry Eagleton’, you’re in the right ballpark. The Vienna school seems to be Breivik’s own counter to his imagined enemy:
To sums up the Vienna school of thought:
– Cultural Conservatism (anti-multiculturalism)
– Against Islamization
– Anti-authoritarian (resistance to all authoritarian ideologies of hate)
– Pro-Israel/forsvarer of non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries
– Defender of the cultural aspects of Christianity
– To reveal the Eurabia project and the Frankfurt School (ny-marxisme/kulturmarxisme/multikulturalisme)
– Is not an economic policy and can collect everything from socialists to capitalists
Again, this wouldn’t be out of place for the supposedly ‘acceptable’ right-wing in the UK. Notice the ‘anti-racism’ bit there. I bet there’s plenty of people in UKIP who would sign up to the points listed above. You’d need to explain Eurabia and the Frankfurt school to them, but I’m sure they would tell you that multi-culturalism was a hard-left plot without prompting. Eurabia, by the way, is a formulation of Mark Steyn, previously of the Telegraph and Spectator, meaning the domination of Europe by Muslims. I’m sure our friends in UKIP, once they were familiar with the terminology, would go along with this too:
It is very annoying however, that 90% of all kulturmarxister directly lying to the people by hiding / hide their agenda behind the “humanism and human rights”.
So, human rights are a left-wing plot. Where have I heard that before? Also, notice the ‘anti-racist’ point above. This is a guy who has totally internalised the line that “It’s not racist to talk about immigration“. He must be thinking what Michael Howard was thinking:
Ethnocentric movements that BNP, National Front is not successful and will never be able to get over 10% support (GDP 5%, the UN has 7%). One can not fight racism (multikulti) with racism. Ethnocentrism is therefore the complete opposite of what we want to achieve.
Wow, this really is the new acceptable face of right-wing racism which we all know and love. It can’t possibly be racist, because it’s about religion, which is totally different from race, and is in no way just a proxy for race or just using a single surface attribute to designate a whole group of people as alien so basically amounting to the same thing. I feel like I’ve just relived the entire British discourse on multiculturalism in the ravings of one man.
As you can see from the following, this familiarity is far from being a coincidence. Breivik is a man who is not just familiar with that discourse, but appears to be so involved with it he gives them tips:
I strongly doubt that your theory is correct. The whole conflict between BNP and EDL started with a change of leadership in the EDL for a few months ago. They threw out the racist and denounced the BNP. They chose instead SIOE’s ideological basis that is more or less mainstream view on the right side in Western Europe now (Vienna School of Thought).
Nick was very offended and began to demonize the EDL. Although they are now attacking each other as they compete not at all as these are two quite different fronts. 90% of all votes in the EDL continued BNP (Since this is the only alternative to multikulti in the UK) and 90% of BNP supports EDL regardless of what Nick had to think.
Second, Labour governs intelligence service. They had never in his life supported the EDL as these create a lot of positive attention for the cultural conservative movement in the UK
I have on some occasions discussed with SIOE and EDL and recommended them to use conscious strategies.
The tactics of the EDL is now out to “entice” an overreaction from Jihad Youth / Extreme-Marxists something they have succeeded several times already. Over The reaction has been repeatedly shown on the news which has booster EDLs ranks high. This has also benefited GDP. WinWin for both.
But I must say I am very impressed with how quickly they have grown but this has to do with smart tactical choice by management.
EDL is an example and a Norwegian version is the only way to prevent Flash / SOS to harass Norwegian cultural conservatives from other fronts. Creating a Norwegian EDL should be No. 3 on the agenda after we have started up a cultural conservative newspaper with national distribution.
The agenda of the Norwegian cultural conservative movement over the next 5 years are therefore
1. Newspaper with national distribution
2. Working for the control of several NGOs
3. Norwegian EDL
It’s not clear whether whether he had anything to do with setting it up, but there is now a Norwegian Defence League with links to the EDL. It’s also worth noting that Breivik’s analysis of the relationship between the BNP and the EDL is more accurate and incisive than anything you’ll find in the UK right-wing press, who are happy to wink and nudge at, and generate support for, the EDL while being very careful to denounce the BNP for the sake of propriety. Breivik would also like to emulate the Tea Party movement, who have also made overtures to the EDLin the past, and recommends the following websites:
Watch the pages gatesofvienna, brussels journal, Jihad Watch, religionofpeace etc
Some familiar names there. Craig Murray has also connected Breivik’s name with Atlas Shrugs, another usual suspect in the anti-muslim/anti-immigration/rabid-rightwing pantheon.
So, to kind of sum up Breivik’s worldview as it appears in the Document.no comments:
tell me one country where Muslims have lived peacefully with non-Muslims without the Jihad against Kafr (dhimmitude, systematic slaughter or demographic warfare)?
How many thousands of new Europeans must die, how many one hundred thousand European women should be raped, millions robbed and tractor discarded before you understand that multiculturalism + Islam does not work?
Of course, if you were to go out and start killing people over this kind of thing, you would need to believe that lives were at stake, that the situation was critical and there was an ongoing emergency happening now. Incidentally, the rape of ‘our’ European women by ‘the other’, that hoary old racist canard, crops up often in his comments. He doesn’t mention the UK in this context, but the BNP have long used this racist trope over here in their campaigning, and it is clearly visible in the background of the debate into issue of gangs grooming young girls. Jack Straw should get a special mention and BNP recruitment badge at this juncture for his deeply cack-handed approach to the subject.
There have now been a mass exodus of non-Muslims from Oslo East in 20 years, even if the media refuses to cover this trend. The reason is simple. People do not want to be oppressed, they do not want to live like other citizens rangs (dhimmitude). Parents observe but can not do much. There are of course very dependent on the situation. If it is 50% Muslims in school or only 2%. It is often easiest to move in instead of letting your child carry the “integration issue” on their shoulders.
I dare not even think of how many Norwegian children who have been suicide because of these experiences (assault, robbery, rape, psychological terror committed by Muslim youths). There are probably several hundred in the last 15 years.
It is important to note that Breivik doesn’t actually live in East Oslo, which he thinks ‘must be hell’, but in Oslo West. There are again huge parallels with the UK, where ethnically mixed areas are not usually the ones with the most virulent racism – this tends to manifest itself more in areas where the white population feels vulnerable (often justifiably so in terms of economic and social privilege) and projects that onto an immigrant population they have little direct experience of.
The UK Media
Let’s go back to a sentence in the previous excerpt: “even if the media refuses to cover this trend”. This is once again, horribly familiar to anyone with a passing familiarity to the rightwing discourse on immigration/islam in the UK – the repeated claim that this is an issue which is suppressed, which it is forbidden to discuss, and about which the ‘liberal elites’ are in denial. Of course, the strident and relentless coverage of this issue completely belies this claim, but that doesn’t stop it being repeated ad nauseum.
Despite being contradicted by it’s own prominence, this idea of a taboo is widely believed – Michael Howard’s disgusting 2005 ‘It’s not racist to put limits on immigration” dog whistle poster didn’t come out of nowhere – it will have been carefully honed by focus group. It spoke very clearly to a certain segment of the population who are concerned by immigration and feel that every time they try to talk about it they are told they are racist, and that there is a taboo on the subject. Now clearly some of them are racist, and some of them are not (and that’s a whole different blog post), but what I want to highlight is how politicians feed this narrative.
Although the views in question are clearly right-wing, both Labour and Tory politicians are guilty of this (step forward in particular John Reid, David Blunkett and Phil Woolas). By cynically purporting to feel the pain of a demographic of very attractive swing voters (mostly male, working or lower-middle class, and at the lower end of the skills & education spectrum), they repeat this mantra that they are breaking a taboo by discussing immigration. Unfortunately the irony of a this actually being a font bench politician parroting a line shared by the majority of the press on an issue that is nothing short of a national obsession, appears not to register. And so the consensus that this is a no-go issue is re-affirmed, ready for the next time someone wants to make some political capital of it.
This belief pervades the way that the right-wing press talk about immigration in this country, and Breivik has lapped it all up. He links to this BBC story, which he thinks is about ‘Muslim riots’ and says in the manner of one who is well versed in how these things work “I reckon this is going on Newsnight today! (NOT)”. However, the most prominent piece of UK press in his comments comes from this Telegraph story – ‘Labour wanted mass immigration to make UK more multicultural, says former adviser’, from which he posted the title, subtitle and another paragraph with a summary and analysis:
Labour threw open Britain’s borders two mass immigration two full socially engineer a “truly multi-cultural” country, a form[er] Government adviser ha[s] Revealed.
The shapes Labour adviser said the Government opened up the UK borders Mostly two humiliate Right-wing opponents of immigration.
This proves therefore that some of the motivation for mass immigration is not based on humanism (cloak) but more due. direct hatred of people with conservative values as us, the cultural conservatives. A large part of them hate all European and want to destroy it through multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is an anti-European hate ideology designed to destroy a European culture / traditions, identity, Christianity and the Nations sovereignty. The goal is a utopian Marxistist superstate. To accomplish this, the first all European annihilated. Of course there are genuine humanists (which is only suisidalt naive) but I suspect that a larger proportion of a previously thought are cultural Marxists (multiculturalists) direct hateful intentions.
Now this is quite an extreme response, but the first two sentences of that second paragraph are entirely in keeping with the slant of the piece. Reading between the lines in the article, the advisor (Andrew Neather) was probably trying to argue that Labour failed to make the case for immigration out of cowardice, but it has been written up as a conspiracy theory to increase immigration in order to antagonise conservatives i.e. those reading the article, which we now know included Breivik.
Now, I’m not saying that this Telegraph article made him go out and commit his crimes, or in any way lessens his culpability. But his ideas come from a certain milieu, and this article is part of it. It is quite clear that this was a man very well versed in the outlook of the anti-immigration/anti-muslim right-wing in the UK , was clearly influenced by and regularly citied the media narrative about immigration and Islam in this country. I’m not the only person to have said that the way that these interconnected issues are treated by the media here is driving racism, inter-community hostility and violence. What I am saying loud and clear is that everyone who is culpable in that forming that whole sorry media discourse bears some small responsibility for what happened.
It’s entirely facile to speculate that Breivik would not have committed his crimes if the picture he saw in the UK was characterised by a measured, non-hysterical debate about immigration. I wouldn’t try to claim that. These issues are on the rise across Europe; they are symptomatic of a dysfunctional response to the minor phenomenon of Islamist terrorism and the larger, but still unremarkable phenomenon of migration from the developing to the developed world. But what is clear that the way these issues have been handled in public discourse in the UK were fuel for the fire inside Breivik, and there is no getting away from that.
What to do
We urgently need to change how this issue is dealt with. Fuck it, we’ve needed to change it for a long time, but this ought to be a wake-up call. Anyone familiar with the plethora of blogs which spend time exposing the lies and distortion in the tabloid press knows that this issue is the subject of more misrepresentation and distortion than any other. The blatant untruths which then circulate as fact cannot then be denied without reinforcing the claim that there is some kind of conspiracy of silence or taboo.
The laughable Press Complaints Commission has endorsed this shameful behaviour by, for example, ruling that any factual claims within comment pieces do not need contain actual facts. Putting a system in place where newspapers can’t print huge lies and distortions with indemnity would actually kill off a significant number of immigration stories altogether. Making the press print visible and meaningful retractions (this post outlines what happens at the moment) would go a long way towards educating their readers. These measures even have an outside chance of being enacted, with the inquiries into the press of the hacking scandal. They would by no means be enough, but they would be a start.
Stopping politicians from cynically exploiting this issue is more difficult. Stripping Phil Woolas of his seat was a step in the right direction, and might provide a minor deterrent. As he engaged in race baiting somewhere there have been race riots in recent memory, he really deserves to be publicly flogged, but I can’t see that working in practice. Also, any action taken on this needs to be very careful not to feed into this idea that this issue is taboo or that people ‘speaking out’ are being silenced.
I guess the kind of work done against the BNP by Hope Not Hate in Barking and Daganham might be a model – electorally undermining and working to unseat any politician who plays the immigration card for political gain. Obviously it couldn’t be undertaken by HNH, because it is run by the unions at the moment, and the Labour Party harbours some of the worst offenders. Any such effort would need to be non-partisan, and ideally would involve co-operation between all the opposition in any seat where it took place.
The Really Difficult Part
The last, and most difficult step is to address the underlying social issues which drive anti-immigration sentiment: building affordable housing, reducing income inequality, reversing the negative trend in social mobility. These aren’t new ideas, but these issues have been totally neglected by politicians for decades, and we are now witnessing some of the ugly blowback. Sadly, the current trends are for them all to get worse.
I hate to say it, but Maurice Glasman has a point – increasing the labour pool through immigration benefits businesses but may also depress wages. Whether it’s true or not, there is a wide perception that this has happened. Only a gibbering idiot would decide the solution lies in slogans about Family, Faith and Flag and a name like ‘Blue Labour’, but this needs to be addressed somehow. Greater job security would also help.
The other half of this last task is to deflate the hysteria about Islamic Terrorism. It’s been nearly 10 years since 9/11, and countless lives have been wasted in a quixotic fight against something that never really represented a major threat in the first place. Although what it did do was terrible and hateful, even at it’s zenith al-Queda never had the means to threaten more than a small fraction of the population.
That may be a contentious statement, but even in terms of terrorist incidents in Europe, Islamist Terrorism isn’t the most significant threat. You would never think that from the response of the press yesterday to what happened in Norway – the Sun even put “‘Al-Queda’ Massacre” as its subheading this morning, on the basis of zero information. I’m not saying we should forget about the threat of Islamist Terrorism, but the prominence it is given is way out of all proportion to the risk. Yesterday one man on an anti-Muslim crusade killed nearly twice as many people as were killed on July 7th (though ironically, they probably killed more Muslims than him). However, the number of people who die on the roads each year in either country exceeds the total several times over. The emotive state of the debate helps no-one, and probably helped kill a lot of people yesterday.
And finally, let me anticipate an objection to all of this – ‘you can’t possibly know that any of this caused what happened yesterday’. Not for certain, no. But all of this is a reaction to comments written by the perpetrator, analysing his obsessions and beliefs. I think it is not only justified, but necessary, to look at them and try and work out what we can do to stop things like this happening again. It’s possible that these obsessions of his had no bearing on his actions yesterday, but given the way they dominate his online comments, I think it very unlikely.
Ideas and thoughts matter – being exposed to different ones changes what people do. That’s an obvious statement but it bears repeating because it’s just not correct to say that some people are ‘just crazy’ and will latch onto ideas which they then use to justify what they do. Ideas don’t cause people to do certain things, but some people wouldn’t do certain things without being introduced to certain ideas.
Anders Behring Breivik was exposed to certain ideas about the UK, about race relations and immigration here, and they made such an impression on him that he was repeating them on Norwegian online forums and wanting to replicate the EDL in his own country. Yesterday he killed nearly 100 people. Even if it didn’t stop another single person being killed by a lone maniac, we should still do something about this toxic debate, because of what it does here: racist attacks, street clashes with the BNP and EDL, and people on both sides feeling alienated and unwelcome in their own country.
The way our national discourse has been shaped hurts people and is destructive. One of the recurring points made by Breivik on the Document.no forums are a series of spurious sets of demographic figures showing Muslim populations displacing Christian populations in country after country. I checked the current ones for Lebbanon, and as well as being a gross oversimplification, they are incorrect. Doubtless these figures are doing the rounds on countless right-wing message boards and websites, being repeated by unscrupulous US shock jocks, little Englanders and neocons. Maybe someone out there even knows who made them in the first place, but there’s no way to stop them circulating.
Somewhere out there are a lot of people a bit like Breivik who will encounter them for the first time. For some of those people, the figures will chime with their prior beliefs and they will accept them as gospel. For others they might not fit with what they previously thought to be the truth and they may look elsewhere and find them to be bogus. That difference will largely depend on what they previously have been told. Polls show that British people, when asked, believe that the proportion of immigrants living here is three times the actual figure. While two thirds initially say that immigration is a problem, that figure drops to one third when they are told the actual figure. Readers of the the rightwing or popular press were more likely to say immigration was a problem than the average. This needs to end now, before anyone else gets hurt.
Update: Piece published in the Guardian referencing the same source while I was writing this.
Update #2: Daily Quail on twitter says that Breivik’s manifesto quotes Melanie Philips twice – on one occasion reproducing an entire article. I had actually mentioned her as being one of the worst offenders while I was writing this, but removed the reference during the final edit as she is not mentioned in the Document.no comments
Update #3: Some excellent examples of press misrepresentation in this 2008 report by Peter Oborne and James Jones ‘Muslims Under Seige’