Although fewer than one hundred hours have transpired since the world learned of the horrific terrorist attacks in Oslo and Utøya, we’re already starting to get a clearer portrait of the man who Norwegian authorities say was the mastermind behind the cold-blooded spate of killing and destruction.
Anders Behring Breivik, thirty-two, appears to be the worst kind of person there is: A bigoted eliminationist who underwent a dangerous, yet unnoticed, transformation from fanatic fundamentalist to terrorist.
He is among a cadre of frightening individuals who believe that slaughtering innocent people will bring about some sort of good in world.
Breivik purportedly authored a pair of manifestos — one is a document and one is a video. The Associated Press summarized the former as follows:
Breivik’s manifesto chronicled events that deepened his contempt for Muslims and “Marxists” he blamed for making Europe multicultural. He suggested his friends didn’t even know what he was up to, and comments from several people who had contact with the quiet blond man indicate he was right.
From September 2009 through October 2010, Breivik posted more than 70 times on Dokument.no, a Norwegian site with critical views on Islam and immigration. In one comment, he entertained the idea of a European Tea Party movement.
The AP quotes the editor of the aforementioned website as saying he had no idea of Breivik’s murderous plot. Evidently Breivik kept his plans to himself. If he had co-conspirators, there weren’t very many of them.
In the document Breivik styles himself as a Christian conservative, patriot and nationalist. He looks down on neo-Nazis as “underprivileged racist skinheads with a short temper.”
Part of Breivik’s manifesto was taken almost word for word from the first few pages of the anti-technology manifesto written by “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, who is in federal prison for mail bombs that killed three people and injured 23 others across the U.S. from the 1970s to the 1990s.
David Neiwert, a respected journalist and friend of NPI who has written extensively about right wing eliminationism and its triggers (he has even authored books on the subject), weighed in an hour ago with his thoughts at Crooks & Liars.
Breivik’s manifestoes remind me a great deal of the manifesto left behind by an American right-wing terrorist who tried to embark on a similar rampage targeting as many liberals as he could kill, but who was considerably less successful: Jim David Adkisson, the Knoxville church shooter, who exhorted his readers to “Go Kill Liberals”. His manifesto was functionally the logical absurdio ad reductum of the hatred spewed daily by the Fox News talking heads and radio pundits whose works filled his library — whose wording it rather closely reflected in the leadup to the exhortations to violence.
Likewise, Breivik’s work is largely a regurgitation of ideas and claims that have been circulating on the Right for a long time, including mainstream sources such as Fox News and Andrew Breitbart. There’s nothing original here — except that he, like Adkisson, simply takes the “logic” (as it were) of the cultural warriors he parrots and ratchets it up the next logical step into violent action.
We know that hate speech is a precursor to violence. Intolerance has a way of leading to more intolerance. It’s time that we, as a society, stopped permitting the right wing to spew so much filth over the public airwaves. There is no room in our discourse for hate speech. Contrary to what the right wing hate talkers may say, there is a connection between their rhetoric and the destructive actions of fanatics like Breivik. Their rhetoric is what influences the thinking of the Breiviks of the world, who go on to commit mass murder. So they are indirectly responsible.
When a tragedy like the terrorist attacks perpetrated by Breivik occurs, the inevitable question, How could someone do something like this? is always asked. The answer is that when a person’s mind becomes filled with fear and prejudice, he or she can become capable of doing some very evil things. If we want to stop future atrocities, then we have to stop the hate speech. Prolonged exposure to hate speech does terrible, awful things to a vulnerable mind.
Combating hate speech is difficult. That is because there are no easy remedies. For instance, even if the First Amendment permitted the banning of certain kinds of speech, a ban would be ineffective.
Perhaps the place to start is with our hapless media, which equates terrorism with Islamic fundamentalism. In truth, a terrorist is not an angry Muslim, but rather, any person who uses violence or the threat of violence to further some agenda. One troubled person can do a great deal of damage if he or she takes the trouble to.
If our media ownership wasn’t so concentrated (and we had more media diversity), perhaps hate speech wouldn’t be so prevalent. The reason the Glenn Becks of this country can get on air and find a following is because their shows make money for the media conglomerates that distribute or syndicate them.
If media ownership wasn’t so concentrated, there would be more nonprofit and locally-run media outlets broadcasting better programming.
Reversing the trend towards concentrated ownership could do wonders for our discourse in so many ways. We ought to make it a top priority.