Guilt by footnote association

The initial reports that attempted to paint terrorist Anders Behring Breivik as some type of Christian fundamentalist have fizzled out as reporters have gotten access to his actual manifesto explaining (such as he is able) his actions last week.

What is apparent to those of us who have read significant portions of the 1,500-page document is that the terrorist is obsessed with the idea that the political advance of Islam and the multiculturalism of the left have combined to make victims out of traditional European culture. It is from that overarching framework that many of the rest of his ideas can be understood. (For an interesting discussion of the “multiculturalist” roots of both the London and Oslo terrorist attacks, you can go here.)

The document itself quotes widely from a variety of sources including quite a few anti-Islamist essays and works. I’ve been alternately reading and skimming the entire document but have only skimmed “Book 3″ where I believe he attempts to justify his behavior. Books 1 and 2 deal with global history and Islamic movements. I read the document for much of the day on Sunday and found it fascinating and horrifying and it gave me a pretty big headache.

While a lot of it is lifted from other sources and some of it is outright plagiarized from guys such as Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski, other parts appear to have been written by the Norwegian terrorist. He is trying to make the case that Islam is a serious threat and that Europe’s system of culture and government is ill-equipped to handle it. So to make that case, he quotes from a wide variety of people who believe that Islamism is a serious threat. Of course, he also quotes from people such as Mahatma Gandhi and Mark Twain. But those are more like individual quotes whereas the anti-Islamist quotes are more extensive or just the lifting of entire essays.

I wrote yesterday that I believed a look into these writings would be more fruitful than the misguided “Christian fundamentalist” attempt we saw earlier. The New York Times did just that in a piece headlined “Killings in Norway Spotlight Anti-Muslim Thought in U.S.

It begins:

The man accused of the killing spree in Norway was deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers and writers who have warned for years about the threat from Islam, lacing his 1,500-page manifesto with quotations from them, as well as copying multiple passages from the tract of the Unabomber.

The suggestion is, of course, that these people are somewhat responsible for the bloodbath in Norway. Later on in the story, that suggestion is made explicit.

What I was hoping for was a better explanation of precisely how they were responsible, exactly. I mean, take this passage:

The Gates of Vienna, a blog that ordinarily keeps up a drumbeat of anti-Islamist news and commentary, closed its pages to comments Sunday “due to the unusual situation in which it has recently found itself.”

Its operator, who describes himself as a Virginia consultant and uses the pseudonym “Baron Bodissey,” wrote on the site Sunday that “at no time has any part of the Counterjihad advocated violence.”

The name of that Web site — a reference to the siege of Vienna in 1683 by Muslim fighters who, the blog says in its headnote, “seemed poised to overrun Christian Europe” — was echoed in the title Mr. Breivik chose for his manifesto: “2083: A European Declaration of Independence.” He chose that year, the 400th anniversary of the siege, as the target for the triumph of Christian forces in the European civil war he called for to drive out Islamic influence.

Marc Sageman, a former C.I.A. officer and a consultant on terrorism, said it would be unfair to attribute Mr. Breivik’s violence to the writers who helped shape his world view. But at the same time, he said the counterjihad writers do argue that the fundamentalist Salafi branch of Islam “is the infrastructure from which Al Qaeda emerged. Well, they and their writings are the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.”

“This rhetoric,” he added, “is not cost-free.”

OK, that went much too quickly for me. It’s not like we deny the historic fact of what happened in Vienna in 1683. And the Gates of Vienna blog clearly argues that the current war against Islamic terror is just the latest phase in a long war. I’ve got that. But we need much more here to put blood on the hands of this blogger.

To be honest, I don’t typically read that blog or any of that genre of blogs. But last night I quickly read the top few posts. They were actually interesting in that they were guest posts by one of the Norwegian anti-Islamist bloggers who was named in the manifesto repeatedly. There were so many of his writings lifted into the manifesto that I just lost count. In fact, the terrorist said that this Norwegian blogger “Fjordman” was his favorite writer. So Fjordman has some words about how disgusted he is by this and renounces the violence of Breivik.

The thing is that there is a difference between asserting something and arguing something. Certainly there exist anti-Muslim bigots who aren’t arguing so much as asserting that Islam is awful. But just as certainly there are anti-Islamist writers who argue that Salafism, for instance, is the infrastructure from which Al Qaeda emerged. But from what I’ve read, they do that by being very specific about those teachings or their interpretations of those teachings and how they justify and advocate violence.

I have no doubt that a journalistic argument can be made (or at least an attempt can be made) that anti-Islamist web sites and writings and activists are to blame for the horrific massacre. But it needs to be made, not just asserted.

Pointing out that Vienna triumphed over invading Muslims in 1683 is something anyone could do. The New York Times does it here in its permanent entry on bagels, of all things. (While the New York Times is also used as a source in the terrorist’s manifesto, it is not for this bagel entry.)

Now with the repetition of the caveat that much of this manifesto has been lifted or plagiarized and all that, it’s true that I have come across tons of footnotes to these anti-Islamist blogs. There are also many footnotes to plain old wikipedia entries or media outlets, but many upon many to various blogs of this movement. And I do think that’s worth exploring.

But considering the seriousness of the charge — that these bloggers were a source of the massacre — it needs to be handled well. Is the author of the piece suggesting that any criticism of modern Islamic terrorism or the historical aggression by Muslims is somehow related to this Oslo attack? I don’t think so. So what is he saying?

Earlier today the New York Times assistant managing editor tweeted a link to the above article with the note: “Fascinating & chilling piece on how #Norway suspect was influenced by anti-Muslim bloggers in US.”

It is chilling to suggest that writing about actual historical events or concerns over Islam is equivalent to killing innocents in a horrific terror attack. Perhaps there are more writings from each of these bloggers where they actually encourage people to kill teenagers, attack government officials in terrorist attacks or otherwise engage in violent acts. I don’t know. But they weren’t mentioned in the New York Times piece.

And why not? Is it because they don’t exist? If they exist, they absolutely should have been cited and mentioned. And if they don’t exist, than perhaps what’s chilling is the moral relativism embodied in this piece or the encouragement for readers to embrace a climate of fear against any criticism of Islam. So political efforts to oppose government policies promoting multiculturalism, to argue against them in the public square, now equals calls for bloodshed?

Mark Twain, Theodore Dalrymple, Melanie Phillips, John McWhorter, Thomas Jefferson, Mahatma Ghandi and hundreds of other people are quoted in this manifesto. What does that mean? What does it mean that Fjordman has so many of his articles lifted into the piece? Do we just immediately determine that these people are guilty by association? If they are guilty, that guilt needs to be argued and not just asserted.

What questions should be asked before we say that the “cost” of these folks’ rhetoric is this massive loss of life? I’d argue that we need to learn more about precisely what they said. Again, are there any calls to violence or justification of terror attacks? If so, lets learn more about them. What else would you like to know before we decide that U.S. bloggers have blood on their hands?

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  • Julia

    A writer for the Telegraph in the UK has written a defense of the Tea Party which is evidently being blamed in some European circles for inciting the Norwegian killer.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/timstanley/100098575/whatever-liberal-commentators-say-the-tea-party-does-not-bear-responsibility-for-anders-breivik/

  • Julia

    At minute 3:00 in this NBC dispatch from Norway, the reporter describes the growing concern about Muslim immigration that has been spreading across Europe. He interviews a Norwegian professor who says that he grew up in a lily-white Norway and now one out of every 4 inhabitants of Oslo is born to non-Western parents. He says that’s a lot of change in a short period of time.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/43878104#43873397

    Looks like the killer didn’t get his ideas from US bloggers, but put his own spin on what he read there. Americans didn’t invent or instigate concern over Muslim immigration.
    It’s already there and widespread in Europe.

  • Norman
  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Another journalistic hook: It appears that Breivik has actually rejected the mainstream opposition groups as too tame and, thus, gone out on his own. Thus, he somehow admires Catholicism, but says its current leadership is worthless (and not willing to use violence).

  • Jeff Sharlet

    It’s silly to say that any writer is responsible for the actions of others — Breivik pulled the trigger, not Robert Spence — but it’s an oddly relativist argument to suggest that we don’t ponder the ingredients Breivik used to make is his toxic stew. As the conservative saying goes, “ideas have consequences.”

    But not all to the same degree. Breivik quotes somebody else quoting Jefferson to the effect that Jefferson’s wall of separation was intended to protect the church, not government. That’s a popular Christian conservative talking point advanced by figures such as David Barton. It’s also not true. And it’s not a big deal in Breivik’s manifesto.

    Breivik quotes the Gates of Vienna blog’s Baron Boddissey riffing extensively on some poems of Ted Hughes, which he seems to interpret as a call for a Viking revival, a “12th Viking” to fight the “12th Imam.” It’d be absurd to interpret from that that Hughes was some kind of anti-Islam crusader. At the same time, it’s worth paying attention to how #Breivik and those he admires (and by “admires” I mean quotes VERY extensively, not just a few words from Mark Twain) use seemingly unrelated texts to support their arguments.

    Lastly, there are those he admires. William Lind, Robert Spencer, Ted Kaczynski, and Walid Shoebat, for instance, are all quoted very extensively. Kaczynski, of course, advocated and perpetrated violence against liberals (classically defined, which means he attacked conservatives, too); Shoebat has advocated violence against Islam, including in a paid appearance at the US Air Force Academy, according to faculty in attendance. As far as I know, Lind and Spencer haven’t. None of these men pulled the trigger; Breivik did. But it’s oddly defensive and beside the point to cry “guilt by association.” The question here is not one of guilt — that’s clear and established: Breivik — but of intellectual formation.

    Maybe the problem here is with our different understandings of the word “influence.” To suggest Breivik was influenced by Baron Bodissey is not to suggest that that blogger is responsible for Breivik’s crimes. It’s to suggest that Breivik was influenced by his thought — more so than by a single quote from Mark Twain.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    NORMAN:

    The NYTs has emphasized POLITICAL motivations from the start and only threw in “fundamentalist” etc. when the police official used the word.

    http://www.getreligion.org/2011/07/waiting-for-facts-in-norway-bloodshed/

  • Norman

    Oh, okay Terry. They lost me when they put up their paywall so I’m at the mercy of how others describe their coverage. Sorry for mischaracterizing their reporting. My bad.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jeff,

    Well, this weekend I argued that a trip through these documents and writings would be helpful for reporters. And I still hold that.

    And I’m even fine with someone making the case or attempting to make the case that these writings are a cause of the violence via “intellectual formation.”

    I’m just saying that the argument needs to be made, not just asserted via guilt by association.

    And I’d take it further, too. Is this terrorist a lone wolf? Is there any support for his terrorism among various groups?

    This man believed that his act would change the world. As a previous commenter noted:

    He believes himself through his enormity to have set off a chain of events that will eradicate entire currents of thought, reshape an entire continent, bend political structures to his will, and unite Christianity under a reformed Church subjugated to the whims of his (hopefully imaginary) Templar confreres. They will pick Popes and define doctrine! There is no limit to his ambitions. There is nothing that cannot be achieved. Everything is within his grasp, and the future of the entire world is contained within *his* head.

    I’d ask if there is anything to this. Is he delusional? Or is their a chance this could become a large movement like the one that supports and justifies Islamic terrorism? If the New York Times piece is correct in blaming these folks, I’d imagine we will be seeing quite a bit of counter-jihad terrorism and support for neo-crusading.

    Has anyone supported it thus far? Any religious or political groups? If so, let’s learn more about them. If not, why not?

  • Jeff Sharlet

    Terry: Breivik is indeed on his own, religiously speaking — or rather, institutionally speaking, since there may well be many who feel as he does — but he’s more ambivalent about Catholic Church leadership than you suggest. Here is on p. 680, quoting his hero Fjordman on Benedict: “Pope Benedict XVI, nicknamed “God’s rottweiler” as a cardinal, seems to embody
    elements of both the sensible and the silly Christian ways of dealing with the Islamic
    threat.”

    Fjordman’s verdict is ultimately mildly negative, but Fjordman is much less favorable to Christianity as a whole than #Breivik, citing National Review writer John Derbyshire to the effect that Christianity’s timidity has made it a threat to the anti-Muslim cause.

    Breivik disagrees, calling for a vigorous revival of Constantinian Christianity.

  • Jeff Sharlet

    Mollie and I are in agreement on one basic point: If you want to comment on the manifesto, read the damn thing. (I’m sure GR will let me get away with “damn” here; if ever there was a damned document…) I don’t believe the NYT reporters have, and I don’t believe conservatives rushing to distance Breivik from this or that have, either. It’s 1500 pages. And it’s filled with surprises. I’m about halfway through, reading very fast.

  • Julia

    Jeff:

    a vigorous revival of Constantinian Christianity

    What is Constantinian Christianity?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Jeff,

    I think you should write up an explanation of just that — the term “Constantinian Christianity” as it relates to this Oslo terrorist’s thinking.

  • Dave G.

    It’s not like we deny the historic fact of what happened in Vienna in 1683

    No, but it’s amazing how many people have never heard of that to deny it in the first place.

  • Julia

    Dave G:

    Most people have never heard of Lepanto, either.

  • Jeff Sharlet

    Constantinian Christianity is a term I borrow from the left Christian theologian Cornel West to describe the imperial turn institutional Christianity took when Byzantine emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, the first to do so. Many, if not most, scholars see that as at least in part a political decision. Constantine used Christianity as more of a unifying cultural identity than a faith. As does Breivik, obsessed with Christianity but not particularly concerned with faith.

    But it’s more than a likeness: Constantinian seems apt for a man who aspires to the “Red Cross of Constantine Breast Jewel” medal for “Justiciar Knights” (he says he’s one, along with representatives from several other W. Euro nations). (p. 1077)

    In describing the tombstone that should be awarded a martyr of the anti-Muslim resistance movement, he writes that it should be inscribed with: ”

    IHSV or IN HOC SIGNO VINCES means “under this sign,
    you will conquer” and was coined by the first Christian
    Roman emperor Constantine I in 312 AD.” p. 1098

    Then there’s this, two pages later:

    “Constantine I
    Caesar Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus[3] (27 February c. 272[2] – 22
    May 337), commonly known in English as Constantine I, Constantine the Great, was
    Roman emperor from 306, and the sole holder of that office from 324 until his death in
    337. He is best known for being the first Christian Roman emperor.
    The Byzantine liturgical calendar, observed by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern
    Catholic Churches of Byzantine rite, lists both Constantine and his mother Helena as
    saints. Although he is not included in the Latin Church’s list of saints, which does
    recognise several other Constantines as saints, he is revered under the title “The Great”
    for his contributions to Christianity.”

    And this (most of it copied from Wiki, I believe):

    Red Cross of Constantine
    The Red Cross of Constantine is one of the earliest Christian symbols of Knighthood and
    was introduced by the Roman emperor Constantine I in the year 312. It originates from
    the labarum[1] which was a vexillum (military standard) that displayed the “Chi-Rho”
    symbol, formed from the first two Greek letters of the word “Christ” – Chi (?) and Rho
    (?). Since the vexillum consisted of a flag suspended from the crossbar of a cross, it was
    ideally suited to symbolise crucifixion.
    “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard
    against him”
    Isaiah 59:19
    By tradition the Labarum was ordered to be carried before the legions of Constantine
    after he had a vision in the heavens of a “cross of light” and the Greek words EN TOUTO
    NIKA (conquer by this) and a subsequent nocturnal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ
    who told him to conquer under His sign. Constantine directed that a spear be covered in
    gold with a crosspiece representing a cross, and that the image of the chi-rho, the first
    two Greek initials in the name Christ, be placed above the crosspiece encircled by a
    crown/wreath. A banner hung from the crosspiece of imperial (Tyrian) purple and gold
    cloth. Constantine had this Labarum carried before his legions as he defeated a much
    larger pagan Roman force outside of Rome. He directed some of his men to place the chirho
    on their shields and he wore it on his helmet. Constantine selected 50 men, called
    the Praepositi Laberorum, to form a colour guard to protect the Labarum. Constantine
    later recognised these men and organised them into the Golden Chivalry – Torquati (so
    named for their gold collars) and Perfectissimi (Most Perfect Knights).
    IHSV – In Hoc Signo Vinces
    In hoc signo vinces is the rendition in Latin of the Greek phrase “?? ????? ????”, en tout?i
    nika, meaning “with this as your standard you shall have victory”.
    According to legend, Constantine I adopted this phrase, as a motto after his vision of a
    chi rho on the sky just before the Battle of Milvian Bridge against Maxentius in the year
    312. In later periods the christogram “IHS” both stood for the first three letters of
    “Jesus” in Latinised Greek (Latinised IHSOVS) and “in hoc signo” from the legend.
    The initials “IHSV” is thus taken from the Latin phrase “IN HOC SIGNO VINCES” (Under
    this Sign Conquer).

  • Julia

    I found an interesting site about Constantinianism from a theology class at Westmont, a Christian college in Santa Barbara.

    Some snippets that relate to the Norwegian’s writings:

    Living by the Sword: Constantinianism

    a formal alliance between Church and state

    The State Becomes a Church Sponsor (and then vice versa?)

    The Faith Becomes a Politically Unifying Force (and then vice versa?)

    After Constantinianism: Christians’ Various Reactions

    “Neo-constantinianism” looks for remnants of usefulness to the wider society
    “Paleo-constantinianism” seeks to reclaim past civil power and authority.

    Source: http://www.westmont.edu/~work/classes/theo353/constantinianism.html

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    What I find really odd is the blogger taking his pseudonym from an imaginary author of epigraphs in Jack Vance’s “Demon Princes” novels. Downright bizarre, as “Bodissey” is apparently supposed to have been a Rousellian back-to-nature nut.
    No doubt if someone reads this comment, Vance and his fans will be blamed for the massacre.

  • Jeff Sharlet

    GR edited a post above in which I said Fjordman had called on allies to arm themselves because Mollie said I didn’t give citation. … Not the one I was thinking of, in fact, but another, the opening lines of a Fjordman post titled “Suggestions for the Future” on p. 698 of Anders Breivik’s “2083″ manifesto:

    “How should we respond to the threats our civilisation is facing? First of all, ordinary
    citizens should arm themselves immediately since crime and violence is spreading fast
    throughout the Western world.”

    One may agree or disagree with Fjordman’s diagnosis and prescription, but there’s no disputing his call to arms. “But what does that have to do with Breivik’s attack?” In Breivik’s mind, his attack was a defensive maneuver. He quotes Fjordman and others extensively to make the point that what some may see as aggressive anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant activism is, in fact, purely defensive.

    Again: That doesn’t make Fjordman responsible for Breivik’s actions. Breivik pulled the trigger. But in considering Breivik’s intellectual formation, it’s not correct to say that his militant ideas are purely his own.

  • Elijah

    “And I’m even fine with someone making the case or attempting to make the case that these writings are a cause of the violence via “intellectual formation.”

    I’m just saying that the argument needs to be made, not just asserted via guilt by association.”

    I dunno about that. The question is: can such an argument ever be made? Was Marx ‘responsible’ for 50 million dead at the hands of Stalin alone? Was Julius Streicher really responsible for the worst excesses of the Nazis?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt
  • Dave G.

    Julie,

    How true. Though I don’t mind that people don’t know the nuts and bolts of history if they aren’t historians. My problem is, too many people don’t seem to realize there’s history outside of ‘Europeans invade Muslim Lands in Crusades’, and ‘Europeans conquer Muslim Lands during Age of Imperialism’.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: Constantine used Christianity as more of a unifying cultural identity than a faith.

    That’s something of a slur against Constantine- I see no reason to assume that he wasn’t a sincere believer. There were plenty of other religions he could have chosen if he simply wanted to unify the empire, like Manichaeanism or even the old roman paganism. He chose Christianity because he believed it was true (whether or not you believe the story about his dream and the cross in the sky).

    It is a fact, though, that ‘Constantinian Christianity’ is a term that a lot of pacifists, cultural liberals, and others like to use in order to slur the historical development of Christianity as it developed in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic confessions.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: My problem is, too many people don’t seem to realize there’s history outside of ‘Europeans invade Muslim Lands in Crusades’, and ‘Europeans conquer Muslim Lands during Age of Imperialism’.

    In particular, many people don’t seem to know much about the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and about the unspeakable barbarism (complete with rape, pillage, economic exploitation, enslavement of children, and sadistic mass murder) that the Turks proceeded to impose on southeastern Europe for the next four centuries. That is one story you’ll never read in the New York Times.

  • http://goodintentionsbook.com bob smietana

    Much of what Breivik says in his manifesto can be found on antijihad sites like Atlas Shrugs, Jihad Watch, Gates of Vienna, etc. Their two main enemies are Islam, which they say in incompatible with Western culture and liberals, who they see cooperating with a Islamic takeover of the West. They see themselves as foot soldiers in a battle between Islam and the West – and are willing to take to the streets in protest and to lobby for laws that restrict the practice of Islam. In the past, those sites have made common cause with groups like the English Defence League, but those ties have been strained as the EDL has become involved in street violence. Pamella Gellar denounced them back in June as becoming fascist

    None of these websites, has advocated armed violence, which Breivik said caused him to go off on his own.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    BOB:

    Surely you are not drawing direct links between political activism and protest and armed violence. You would want journalists drawing that connection on other causes? On Muslims in their activist efforts?

    In other words, these sites REJECTED violence — as you said — which sent Breivik out into truly radical work.

    Just trying to tell if you want journalists to note who is attacking liberalism. …

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Much of what Breivik says in his manifesto can be found on antijihad sites like Atlas Shrugs, Jihad Watch, Gates of Vienna, etc. Their two main enemies are Islam, which they say in incompatible with Western culture and liberals, who they see cooperating with a Islamic takeover of the West. They see themselves as foot soldiers in a battle between Islam and the West – and are willing to take to the streets in protest and to lobby for laws that restrict the practice of Islam. In the past, those sites have made common cause with groups like the English Defence League, but those ties have been strained as the EDL has become involved in street violence. Pamella Gellar denounced them back in June as becoming fascist

    None of these websites, has advocated armed violence, which Breivik said caused him to go off on his own.

    What does “common cause” mean here? I’d like that fleshed out a little bit more.

  • http://goodintentionsbook.com bob smietana

    Mollie:

    Pamela Geller talks about her relationship and falling out with the EDL here

  • http://goodintentionsbook.com bob smietana

    TMATT:

    Was pointing out that Breivik and anti-jihad websites share similar rhetoric about Islam and liberals – and vastly different methods.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    Thanks, Bob.

  • J.Jensen

    First of all, there is no such thing as guilt by association, and no one but Breivik is to blame for the horrible crimes he committed.

    When that is said, one must remember, that one should be known by the sort of company one keeps and attracts.

    For 10 years Denmark have had a right-wing minority government kept in power by an ultra national party called “The Danish Peoples Party” (The moniker says it all…).

    And for 10 years everything foreign, especially everything non-European and even more especially everything Muslim has been subject to government organized hate speech. It has become the standard, that one can say anything about Muslims and Islam, because it is good politics to consider Muslims and Islam to be inferior to the traditional Danish protestant belief.

    Breivik has voiced admiration for the politics of the Danish government and the role of former prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is currently the political leader of NATO.

    This does not mean, that the Danish Government or Anders Fogh Rasmussen are guilty of the horrible crimes in Norway, not even by association; but it does mean, that the Danish government, Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the entire Danish Right-Wing should take a loooong look in the mirror and realize, that when you spout hate against a group of people year after year, and do that in the capacity of being a legitimately elected government, then you do run the risk of inspiring nutters like Breivik. So no there is no guilt by association, but being passive enablers is bad enough.

    My thoughts and prayers are with the Norwegian people and the friends and families of the government workers and the young social-democratic children and teens who fell victim of manifest evil.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    FYI: The man who wrote the book I used to illustrate this post has an interesting essay in the Wall Street Journal about how the attack changes things.

  • http://goodintentionsbook.com bob smietana

    Mollie:

    You’re welcome. Thanks for hosting this conversation — it’s an important one.

    William Saletan has some interesting thoughts on the topic.

  • Julia

    Jeff:

    Thanks for the explanation. As a Papist I’m aware of Constantine and his protection of the Church and was aware that many Protestants think the Catholic Church went off the rails when Constantine came on the scene. But I didn’t realize there was a whole Constantinian Christianity thing.

    With all that entanglement with rulers wanting to run the church it’s not surprising the Popes fought for centuries to be free of any control by governments. Not a few Popes were kidnapped and even killed by political leaders – I only learned recently that Napoleon kidnapped and imprisoned a Pope who died in jail. The church owning its own patch of ground was somewhat of a guarantee of freedom to operate. A situation like the US where every church just does its own thing is a very modern happening.

    Interesting that IHS is associated with the Jesuits who were founded to lead the Counter-Reformation amongst the people.

  • Julia

    Another of the websites mentioned is the Brussels Journal. The guy who runs that site, I think it’s Paul Belien, has gotten into a lot of legal hot water over his lack of political correctness. The Belgian government seems to want to shut him down.

    The most recent posting says that the website is also getting blamed for inciting the Norwegian killer.

    http://www.brusselsjournal.com/

  • Ted Olsen

    Shorter Saletan: I claim the moral authority to blame Christians for the Oslo attack because some Christians blamed Islam for 9/11. Yes, I said such blaming Islam was wrong, but I (almost) can’t resist the schadenfreude.

  • dalea

    Bruce Bawer has, as noted above, an excellent article at the WSJ:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903999904576465801154130960.html

    For background, Bawer is an American who has lived in Oslo for years. He is also a well known gay author and one of the earliest advocates of same sex marriage. He is also one of the leading gay conservatives. In Europe, GL voters are supporting far right anti-immigrant parties due to issues with Muslims.

  • George Conger

    One might as well blame Liza Minelli for the actions of this madman as conservative commentators in the US. Anders Behring Breivik cites with approval the lyrics of the song “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” from the Broadway show Cabaret as being a tune to cheer one up in the face of Europe’s decline.

    A couple of points in the manifesto on the role of religion in all of this—-section 3 is the heart of the document, as the first two parts are overwhelmingly drawn from other sources ranging from bloggers to Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson (p 575).

    Anders Behring Breivik is not a Christian fundamentalist as is commonly understood by the word—in an American context his pro-Obama, pro-Vladimir Putin, pro-gay comments would make him an the odd man out in any gathering of fundamentalists I have known. On page 658 he laments the hijacking of a number of worthy causes by his enemies, the multi-culturalists. “They often recruit under false and deceptive idealistic banners we all have sympathy for (anti-racist,pro-minority, pro-gay, anti-war, pro-environment, pro-wildlife, helping Palestinian children and similar organisations).

    He is, from my reading, some sort of 21st century version of the völkisch movement—that has evolved from its nordic roots to encompass an anti-Islamic immigrant agenda.

    How else can one make sense, from a religious perspective, of his call to arms. From page 820 “As such, any
    European Christian conservative can act as a Justiciar Knight. This includes Christian agnostics and Christian atheists. Although the PCCTS, Knights Templar is a pan-European indigenous rights movement we give all Europeans, regardless of skin colour, the opportunity to become a Justiciar Knight as long as the individual is either a Christian, Christian agnostic or a Christian atheist.”

    ded that any and all Europeans
    have not just a right, but a duty to resist through political and
    military means; cultural Marxist/multiculturalist atrocities and crimes
    committed against the indigenous peoples of Europe. As such, any
    European Christian conservative can act as a Justiciar Knight. This
    includes Christian agnostics and Christian atheists. Although the
    PCCTS, Knights Templar is a pan-European indigenous rights movement we give all
    Europeans, regardless of skin colour, the opportunity to become a Justiciar Knight as long
    as the individual is either a Christian, Christian agnostic or a Christian atheist.

  • J Ho

    Christianity’s presence in the structures of power that mould the paradigm of culture and society. Christians must reclaim the commanding heights of media, parliaments, councils, business and governmental authority. They must storm the walls between church and state and remove all traces of Liberal Modernity. They must do so from an authentically Christian narrative and worldview.”

    “This ‘wall’, has become the means via which the state
    has secured power away from the church and is challenging the identity of Christians as well. Attacking OUR BELIEFS and values and presenting modern liberal alternatives in short all that makes us WHO WE ARE A CHRISTIANS by presenting alternatives with the assumption that these alternatives are better and the polemical engagement of the
    ‘enlightenment’ elite.”

    The word “Christian” appears 2247 times in the manifesto.

    yep, just a footnote.

  • Jerry

    What I was hoping for was a better explanation of precisely how they were responsible, exactly.

    You raise an important point that can be addressed in two ways. The most straight forward is the legal question: was there anything that incited violence? There has been so much written but, unless I missed it, there is no direct incitement in the “call to arms” sense.

    But the other question is a psychological one and I think deeply important. If I write convincingly that civilization is at risk and we might be thrown into a new dark ages unless we act and act decisively, that can raise a great deal of fear and convince people that drastic action was required to save civilization itself. I think a credible case can be made that these kinds of writings did influence Breivik or at least strongly reinforced his views.

    That would first reinforce his world view and secondly lower the barrier to action because he would feel ever more justified that violence was the only possible solution.

  • Dale

    Bob Smietana wrote:

    William Saletan has some interesting thoughts on the topic.

    Eh. Saletan is searching for some moral equivalency that makes this an attack motivated by Breivik’s Christianity, even when that explanation doesn’t fit the facts:

    [Pamela] Geller is outraged. “Attempts to link us to these murders on the basis of alleged postings by the murderer mentioning us are absurd and offensive,” she writes. Breivik “is responsible for his actions. He and only he.” She adds: “Watching CNN and BBC coverage about Norway, I found very disturbing to hear the number of times they use the word ‘Christian.’ They would never dare refer to religion when it is jihad, and this attack had nothing to do with Christianity.”

    Now you know how it feels, Ms. Geller. When the terrorist is a Christian—in his own words, a “Crusader” for “Christendom”—and when the preacher to whom he has been linked is you, you suddenly discover the injustice of group blame and guilt by association.

    A little problem with that: Geller is Jewish, and an enthusiastic Ayn Rand fan. So if this is a “Christian” terrorist, why is he inspired by a Jewish libertarian? Just askin’.

  • Julia

    If I write convincingly that
    civilization is at risk and we might be thrown into a new dark ages unless we act and act decisively, that can raise a great deal of fear and convince people that drastic action was required to save civilization itself.

    Is it fake convincingly or truly convincingly?

    Thomas Paine was pretty convincing. What if it’s true?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Sadly, horrendous events like this become a jumping off point for some to use as a way of trying to shut up people they disagree with.
    And I didn’t see any Christians or Christian clergy anywhere in the world cheering in the streets over what happened in Norway. On the other hand, after 9-11 there were copious reports and videos of cheering Islamic crowds, some led by their clergy.
    On the other hand Christian clergy, including the pope, were among the very first to condemn what this terrorist did in Norway.

  • Mark Baddeley

    J Ho #38:

    1. The post isn’t addressing whether or not he’s ‘Christian’, but how to report on the connection between his acts and the sources that he used to construct his views that led to his actions.

    2. It’s not enough to see that a word is in something (in this case ‘Christian’), you have to also look at what meaning is being given to that word. This man appears to see that his ‘Christianity’ is naturally allied with agnosticism and atheism and Odinism, is compatible with sexual immorality, doesn’t involve any kind of personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and that most current Christian leaders are fundamentally wrong because they don’t promote violence.

    Sure, he’s a ‘Christian’, for a given value of the term. But how much of that is anything like what most of us encounter when we meet a ‘Christian’?

    It’d be like someone claiming they were a secular progressive while seeking the establishment of a totalitarian theocracy. Sure that person is a “secular progressive” if they say so – there’s no objective way to say they aren’t. But they’re using terms in a fairly unusual way and that needs to be noted as well.

  • chris

    Mr. Douthat’s article (linked in #20) suggests some issues that came up after the Arizona and Ft. Hood shootings–the vague use of adjectives and nouns that have specific psychiatric meanings.
    Schizophrenia (which Jared Loughner appears to have) is a “psychosis”. Psychoses are diagnosed by the presence of “delusions” and “hallucinations”. Most people know that hallucinations are symptomatic of an illness–but I think delusions are problematic for many. Delusions are “false beliefs based on incorrect inference about external reality that persist despite the evidence to the contrary and…not ordinarily accepted by other members of the person’s culture or subculture.(http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/292991-overview).
    We ought to use our words carefully. When we say someone is a “psychotic” killer–do we mean he/she is a particularly cold-blooded and heartless killer (as seen in the behavior of members of Mexican drug cartels), or do we mean he/she has a potential mental illness?

  • Elijah

    @ Mark #43 – “if they say so – there’s no objective way to say they aren’t.”

    You may be right, but what prevents us (or journalists) from bringing up the artillery of language and word meaning to counter an assertion? Why can’t we say “He claims to be X, but there’s no evidence he actually is any such thing.”

    If you claim to be a secular progressive and yet advocate a totalitarian theocracy, I’m going to call you out as deceptive at best, insane at worst.

    At what point does a reporter have to start making those distinctions? Is it ever his responsibility when reporting news stories like this one?

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Ted Olsen, Dale – Saletan’s point – even the part quoted here makes it explicitly – regards “the injustice of group blame and guilt by association.”

    In other words, he’s very specifically not trying to “blame Christians for the Oslo attack” or “searching for some moral equivalency”. He’s saying that blaming all Muslims for Islamist terrorism is just as bad as blaming Geller and other ‘anti-jihadists’ for attacks like Breivik’s.

  • http://demographymatters.blogspot.com R.F. McDonald

    Dale:

    “A little problem with that: Geller is Jewish, and an enthusiastic Ayn Rand fan. So if this is a “Christian” terrorist, why is he inspired by a Jewish libertarian? Just askin’”

    Because this Jewish woman has explicitly made herself an opponent of Europe’s Islamization and related takeover by “cultural Marxists” who want to destroy the continent’ cultural heritage?

  • http://cubanexilequarter.blogspot.com/ John Suarez

    Mollie:

    Over the course of 1,500 pages Anders Behring Breivik repeats three times the same quote by Fidel Castro who he describes as a “Marxist terrorist and mass-murderer”:

    “I began the revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I would do it with 10 or 15 individuals with absolute faith. It does not matter how small you are if you have faith and a plan of action.”

    The adjectives this terrorist used in describing Castro condemn but the quote is part of what seems to have inspired this mass murderer into action. There are also a couple of mentions of Che Guevara – including one referring to bomb making and explosives.

  • http://demographymatters.blogspot.com R.F. McDonald

    John, he got the methodology from Castro, and Guevara, and al Qaeda even, yes. That was just the implementation: he picked up the ideology from the sources he cited, including the source pictured above.


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