THE BANALITY OF EVIL

I propose a new rule.

If you're going to resort to murdering people in order to draw attention to yourself and your belief system – which, incidentally, is not a good idea – the least you could do is write an interesting manifesto. Honestly, when the media reported that the Norway terrorist had written one I was legitimately curious to see it. I wanted to see what ideas could be so important that it would be worth killing 95 people (not to mention that he could reasonably have expected to die himself during the attack) just so that the world would hear them.

And then I saw it (No, I'm not linking it. You can find it.)

I haven't felt this let down since Matrix: Reloaded.

The message he wanted us to hear so badly, badly enough to kill and risk his own life, is a lukewarm rehash of the same thing that already fills websites and Conservative Book of the Month Club hardcovers by the dozen. Basically he took a Mark Stayn book, melded it with Pam "Atlas Jugs" Geller-style OMG MUSLIMS! histrionics, and then pasted it on a layer of sad David Horowitz talking points about the Liberal Ivory Tower of Academia. Seven years and 100 corpses, and this is what you wanted us to hear? We have already heard this. This set of ideas, contrary to the spirit of the persecution complex that holds many white conservatives in its thrall, disseminates freely. Look at World Net Daily. Look at Atlas Shrugs (the website). Look at Mark Steyn, David Horowitz, Ann Coulter, Mike Huckabee, Herman Cain, and dozens of other bobbleheads / authors / AM radio jockeys. Neither the idea of the white majority being afraid of change and the racial "other" nor the specific application of those concepts to Muslims are new.

All this terrorist did was to reheat established if semi-fringe arguments and then tack on some adolescent ideas about going around killing "traitors" to the White European Culture in order to reclaim Christendom, followed by detailed (and now instantly obsolete) instructions on acquiring weapons and armor. Many authors and commentators do the first part without diving into the "Let's start rounding up traitors and killing them" part. Certainly in the next few days we will hear people like Steyn, Coulter, Horowitz, and Cain point this out; they will truthfully note that they merely discussed the "problem" – the Islamification of Europe and eventually, of course, the USA – and never advocated violence.

So here's the compelling question: Where else can these arguments lead?

If, as many people and media personalities are, you are afraid that the brown horde of Others is invading your country and threatening to conquer it demographically and culturally, how can that Problem be solved short of: 1) Genocide, in which Muslims are rooted out and killed, or 2) a closed borders, Festung Europe style immigration policy and the xenophobia to support it, which would necessarily require "patriots" like this guy to eliminate anyone who fails to share his reactionary worldview?

When one accepts the premise, "The Muslims are comin', and We need to defend Our Way", rarely does anyone outside of the neo-Nazi / fascist subculture follow that with, "and that's why we need to start killing them and their allies." Maybe it is unstated because it's implied. Western societies, with their rights and political systems that all but preclude the idea of making a religion illegal, can only achieve the right-wing nationalist goal of eliminating the cultural influence of Islam through upheaval and violence. Apparently this guy felt compelled to go the extra mile and state explicitly what the people who consume this kind of reading already understand.

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32 Responses to “THE BANALITY OF EVIL”

  1. ladiesbane Says:

    Two things. First, fear and panic lead to extremism. Extremism is the simplistic (not simple, but simplistic) resolution to the rising waters of chaos. In its mild form, it's the conservative party line follower; the malignant version is the fanatic, who can't escape the constant, high-pitched drone in the ears. Mass murderers such as this man feel overwhelmed and turn to drastic measures to get the noise to stop. It's the Alexandrian solution to the Gordian knot.

    Second, the manifesto. That it's babble doesn't surprise me (were you expecting a really excellent reason to kill a lot of people?,) but think about it: matters of emotional significance are subjective. People are mainly impressed by the depth of others when they have something in common. Lifelong loves and friendships are formed over common resonances in books, music, movies, etc. But to anyone who didn't thrill to that note, it's "Really? You're joking, right?"

    It doesn't work to parse the logic of people whose philosophy is based on emotions. The only justification you'll get is that it has a beat they can dance to.

  2. wetcasements Says:

    This terrorist was an avid follower of Pam Gellar.

    Surprise, surprise.

  3. wetcasements Says:

    BTW, had to Google to find out Norway has no death penalty.

    A true shame in this case.

  4. J. Dryden Says:

    Certain forms of insanity have a veneer of logic to them–that is, they follow a flow-chart principle of cause-and-effect, though usually the causes don't actually lead to the claimed effects. (The most insidious kinds of such insanities intersperse the off-the-rails lunacy with the occasional salient point, which allows the willingly persuaded to say to themselves, "Well, *that's* true, so I guess the rest of it must be true as well!" Several of the causes Hitler ascribed to WWI and Germany's loss were reasonable arguments, making the "and therefore it's all the fault of Jews/International Communism" all the more plausible to people looking for someone to blame.)

    The Big Shift for the Coulters and the Steyns and the Gellers hasn't come yet. That is, so far, it's all about "killing them overseas." Where we don't have to *see* it happening, and where our experience of their deaths/suffering is nicely buffered by Folks On The Payroll, and spineless cowards like Judith "I Need A Shower Having Spoken Her Name Aloud" Miller.

    It's terribly easy, then, when monsters like Breivik do what they do, for these people to say, "Whoa! Whoa! Check the record, folks! We *never* encouraged violence against *anyone* here in the U.S." What they don't add is, "We've just repeatedly sent the message that These People aren't *really* citizens, and are therefore enemy combatants and Fifth Columnists, and are as deserving of death as those far-away Others we're perfectly cool with blowing into quivering gobbets." That they do this with (I assume) a clear conscience suggests that what they have is not so much a "conscience" as a empty socket in their brains where they assume a conscience to be, and which they never hear from, and so assume they must be doing all right.

    The question is: How soon will these people blame the victims? Not directly, of course. First, they'll pre-emptively complain about how they're being blamed for the massacre. (I will bet money that the entirety of Limbaugh tomorrow will be about how the liberal media is making this event all about how this is all the fault of the right wingers.) Then they'll point out that these were the children of the party that makes it easy for "radical" people like Breivik to commit atrocities, and that maybe if they had paid more attention to the *real* threats to the nation, well, maybe such things wouldn't happen.

    I do not equate Breivik with the bobbleheads. At the end of the day, those who use murderous violence are worse–much, much worse–than those who clandestinely preach it. If the worst that this world had to offer was the xenophobic Muslim-bashers spewing their filth on AM and the blogosphere, that would be a wonderful world, wouldn't it?

    But Ed nails it–if words have meaning–if they have consequences, actions, decisions that result from those words–then there is a lesser but detectable evil being practiced in plain sight. And, like internet trolls, such people feed on offense and outrage. So organized opprobrium won't work. What's the solution? Vigilantism has a ring of cheerful comeuppance, but let's not go there–Batman is fictional for a reason. Boycotts? Eh, maybe. But it feels like ignoring the problem, rather than addressing it. Plus it tends to make their supporters go into "persecuted, nothing-left-to-lose" bunker mode. Truly, I don't have an answer that doesn't sound like using a bazooka to kill roaches, or like putting a band-aid on a severed limb.

    Depressing? Sure. But after Utoya Island, that seems appropriate.

  5. RandyH Says:

    Well said. I wasted a day and a half wading through his confused and very boring 1500+ page "manifesto." I learned nothing new and was only shocked at how similar it sounded to Rush Limbaugh's daily dispatches, Ann Coulter's annual "traitor" books aimed at the Evil Liberal Menace and yes Mark Stein – what an ass. In fact I am sure I've read some of it before so he's probably just a plagiarist.

    But what do you expect from a dipshit blonde coward that spends 2 or 3 years of his life in the basement writing a secret Manifesto before going out and killing 90+ defenseless people (mostly kids) in cold blood. And all the 500+ pages of his "secret plan" with every boring detail of how he might go about it (down to the most trivial of details.)

    And I was hoping for a modern "Mein Kampf." Not anywhere as interesting a read. I guess I was looking to get some sense of the inner-workings of a madman's brain. No such luck. Not much different than listening to the ramblings of the average Fox News-watching American asshole coughing up the latest talking points frpom Hannity or Glenn Beck during happy hour at the local redneck bar. This guy is truly pathetic. And did you see his lame-ass video? Tacky. Like a bad RNC "Scary Mooslim campaign ad" but it went on and on for 13 minutes. Could anyone even sit still and watch the whole thing?

    What gets me is that the guy was obviously reasonably well educated and was reasonably successful in life before he fell into this black hole of craziness. I guess it could happen to any of our right-wing idiots as well. And it's a whole lot easier to get your hands on some guns and ammo here.

  6. RandyH Says:

    @Wetcasements -

    Not only don't they have a death penalty, (which I don't object to normally) but odds are that under Norwegian law, even if he's found guilty on all counts, he'll only spend like 21 years in prison. So he'll be out when he's about 53 years old. Still young enough to lead his other "Knights" in the "New European Civil War" that he thinks he's fighting… long before his predictions of taking over the place in the year 2083.

    I am sure the people of Norway will rethink the concept of life-sentences after this one.

    I hope he's ass-raped at least twice daily by the scary Muslims that he claims are clogging up the prison system of Norway – every single day. It's the least they could do for such a nice guy.

  7. RandyH Says:

    Hey Professor Ed:

    Any thoughts about this?

    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/conservative-christian-knight.html

    She brings up some good questions. I'd love to hear some answers because I remember what the right-wingers did to Ward Churchill. It was ugly.

  8. David Says:

    Europe is already overcrowded. Shutting off immigration would be good for other reasons. I do think if Europe should stop immigrating people with radically anti-democratic ideas. Most of Europe is only a couple of generations into democracy so it's not as stable as they'd like to believe. The last thing it needs is an influx of radical Muslims to fuel the flames of historic racism and xenophobia. Yes I do see Muslims as partially at fault here. There's been acts of violence on both sides (Theo van Gogh and Pim Fortuyn for example not to mention various bombings in London, Madrid and Germany over the years to name a few). If you're going to blame the right-wing media for inciting right-wing violence, you must also consider radical Muslim media/mosques as also inciting violence.

  9. oxus Says:

    David, you may want to look into the birth rates of the EU countries. Maybe then you will re-think your attitude on immigration into Europe.

  10. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    This wingnut repeatedly mentions his being influenced by specific websites administered by right-wing Christian/conservative types in the U.S. Their response is the predictable, 'We had nothing to do with this person's actions', shuck and jive. 'Just because we imply that it's time to raise the black flag and begin slitting throats does not mean that YOU SHOULD RAISE THE BLACK FLAG AND BEGIN SLITTING THROATS IMMEDIATELY WINK WINK.' These people display the same level of accountability as the 5-year old that pushes another kid into a mud puddle right in front of you, then stands there and denies it ever happened.

  11. c u n d gulag Says:

    David,
    If there's a problem with Muslim immigration into most European countries, it's that once there, they are not assimilated. Or at least not fast enough. They are always treated like outsiders.

    Say what you will about America, but until recently, no one really gave a shit if you were Muslim or not. I've been to Deerborn, Michigan, where generations of Muslims have been assimilated. To the point where, unless their women choose to cover their heads in public, there's no way to tell them apart from anyone else – you wouldn't know one from a Jew, a Catholic, a Protestant, or a follower of Zoroaster or Mithras, for that matter. I lived in NYC, and it's the same there. Hell, I knew a lot of Muslims in and around Raleigh, NC, and again, you wouldn't know it if they didn't tell you, or if the women didn't cover their heads.

    But then after 9/11, our xenophobic assholes here started to try to beat the xenophobic drum, and I guess Breivik picked up on some of that beat, since apparently he was a reader of the odious and insipid Pam Geller.
    And now, Herman Cain, one of the Republicans running for President said that communities have the right to deny Muslims the right of building a Mosque. And he says that's not prejudiced. And it's not anti 1st Amendment. He is, of course, a whack-a-doodle fucking knuckledragging moron.

    It seems that certain people here want to goad Muslims into reacting to intolerance, so that we can call THEM intolerant, and up our intolerance even higher. How's that going to end, Pammy?

    We have a lot of people in this country who'll look at Breivik as a hero in private, while denying any commonality in public.

    But we know what you're thinking, so STFU and spare us the bullshit, Pam. The difference between you and him is a matter of degree. And it ain't 180 dgrees, I can tell you that.

  12. Middle Seaman Says:

    Violence in the right winger case has to be redefined. Killing is only the extreme manifestation thereof. Of course, other bodily harms are usually included as well. Economic and political violence are not included by most, but should. Stealing your money, having a press that doesn't report on events that don't serve the goal of the Owners, not providing health care to the sick, leaving 20% of the population unemployed just because the Owners like it and not care for the old and the weak are all acts of violence that the Owners made legal and in many cases encouraged by large sections of the population.

    Norway doesn't suffer from economic and political violence; we have the whole spectrum. Aren't we number 1?

  13. The Moar You Know Says:

    "Apparently this guy felt compelled to go the extra mile and state explicitly what the people who consume this kind of reading already understand."

    It's the only good thing this guy did, and frankly, I appreciate it. Our culture is choking to death on plausible deniability.

  14. Monkey Business Says:

    I think my biggest gripe is that he wrote this big long manifesto, and plagarized a decent portion of it from the Unabomber.

    I mean seriously, if you're going to write this ridiculous manifesto, then kill a bunch of people, at least write it yourself. That's the difference between being a mass murdering revolutionary, and a mass murdering hack.

  15. drinking jim crow Says:

    I think the extreme Right's reaction to being tied to this tragedy is analogous to the extreme Right's reaction to accusations that their policies are chiefly responsible for the national debt/deficit "crisis". In other words, as perpetually aggrieved victims of the "lying left", they should never be held accountable for anything they do, regardless of the plain facts.

    To paraphrase someone much wiser than me: "arguing with a person who has lost all reason is about as useful as giving first-aid to a dead person."

  16. Justin Says:

    "even if he's found guilty on all counts, he'll only spend like 21 years in prison"

    Norway has a maximum statutory sentence of 21 years, but they also have a sentence called preventative detention where someoen judged to be a danger to society can be held indefinitely if they don't show signs of rehabilitation.

    So the good odds are that he'll never get out.

  17. Da Moose Says:

    I've not seen anybody discussing the fact yet that the following movie probably influenced the Norway dude's tactical plans.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1337057/

  18. Da Moose Says:

  19. David Says:

    oxus,

    I am aware much of Europe's low birth rates. That's a good thing. Eternal, sustainable growth isn't feasible on a finite globe. It's time we realize this reality and adjust our planning accordingly. Europe could do just fine with half or even a quarter of its current population.

  20. Tim Says:

    A lower population might be an ideal situation, but reaching that level (either by cataclysm or slow decline) is a process that has many adverse consequences on society. The end result may even be beneficial, but that doesn't mean the process is not destructive.

  21. Elle Says:

    Europe could do just fine with half or even a quarter of its current population.

    Not if they're all retired, it couldn't.

  22. David Says:

    I'm not advocating the destructive elimination of anyone. I was simply pointing out that an overpopulation continent doesn't need to be pushing immigration.

    @Elle – Unless a "Children of Men" event occurs that's a stupid point to bring up. A worst case scenario demographically is two working age for every retired citizen which granted is bad but 33% is much less than 100%.

  23. BillCinSD Says:

    Wait I thought the Quiverfull movement was how we were going to stop being taken over by the Muslims

  24. eau Says:

    @J.Dryden – RE: Victim blaming. Your answer – Two days. It took Glenn Beck two fucking days to start talking about The Hitler Youth. Not exactly victim blaming, but muddying the waters. What a waste of skin that man is.

    And @David – No. Terrorists are terrorists are terrorists. "The Muslims" have nothing to answer for. "The Muslim terrorists"? Sure. But "The Muslims", no.

  25. Edward Says:

    My favorite manifesto was the one from the discovery channel guy.

  26. Arslan Says:

    And of course it's the fault of all us "cultural Marxists" for driving this poor young man over the edge. If we didn't abuse them with our multiculturalism and political correctness, it never would have happened!! Wait for it, you'll hear arguments along those very lines.

  27. Robert Says:

    Good call, Ed. What it reminds me of are those Christianist evangelists who apparently believe that the only reason atheists don't believe in Jesus is because they haven't heard the Gospel message. That requires an impressive leap of faith in itself.

  28. Arslan Says:

    The alternative to that, Robert, is that we know the whole Bible is factually true, and that Jesus is the son of god, but we(along with followers of other religions) deny it out of spite because we're evil people.

  29. Elle Says:

    @Elle

  30. Elle Says:

    Elle – Unless a "Children of Men" event occurs that's a stupid point to bring up. A worst case scenario demographically is two working age for every retired citizen which granted is bad but 33% is much less than 100%.

    [Sorry, comment got eaten]

    I apologise for not being clearer. I assume my fellow readers of Gin + Tacos can identify exaggeration-as-shorthand at fifty paces, and aren't quite so literal.

    While there is debate between proponents of various models of the demography of future Europe, there is consensus that Europe's population is ageing. The reduction in production and consumption that this will yield is one of the drivers of EU, and member state lever, economic development policy. One of the key Europe 2020 targets is to have 75 pc of citizens aged between 20 and 64 in employment.

    In addition to economic policy, ageing Europe is also shaping healthcare reform, pension and welfare reform (which has brought European workers to the streets over spring and summer), and conceptions of the future of care.

    Ageing populations are a global concern, though, with the exception of a small number of countries. There are real questions about whether immigration offers any kind of sustainable solution to a global regional, or state level, decline in fertility. It's almost certain that migration doesn't offer a global solution.

    Interesting, at the sub-state level, there is a fair amount of debate about how immigration policy is set, with regions experiencing particular issues with de-population wanting to attract migrant workers, but lacking the policy or regulatory levers to effect this.