Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’
Among the blogs I read every day is My Right-Wing Dad, where appalled young American Democrats share emails they’ve received from relatives who have done the “FORWARD TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!!” thing. Among the icky racist cartoons and the odd genuinely funny bulletin-board-style gag are volumes of interminable implausible “research” about Bad People.
It’s the type of content that’s sometimes neither visible on the normal old web, nor hidden in the darknet: the stuff that pings in and out of inboxes, across forums and onto Yahoo! Groups. And if you’ve read that stuff too, Anders Behring Breivik’s “manifesto” must seem drearily familiar.
Why, you might otherwise wonder, would a Norwegian who claims an affinity with England write with the rhythms and cadences of amateur American net culture? And why is he so interested in the 1980s curriculum at Stanford University? The answer may be that Breivik didn’t so much “write” much of what he calls his “book” as copy, paste and twiddle. If you’re fascinated by plagiarism – I know I am – the twiddling will be familiar too – find/replacing terms throughout, the odd rejigging of sentences at the top of paragraphs to leave an apparently new document, still leaving inconsistency in tone, spelling and style.
Hulking chunks of the document come with attributions, and the latte wing of the UK twitterverse is currently sharing mentions of Jeremy Clarkson, Melanie Phillips and other apparent provocateurs; simultaneously scary and pathetic is the amount that should be attributed, but isn’t.
The lengthy “how the world is” section, for example, is a barely-finessed paste of a 2005 report called Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology by American think-tank the Free Congress Foundation; Life Site News hosts what appears to be the original. Breivik might have found it all together, or in the various forms it’s been scattered across the net.
Here’s an extract from Chapter 1, What is “Political Correctness”? by William S. Lind, apparently a military pundit and sometime senatorial aide:
And here’s Breivik, changing the location to Europe:
From Chapter 2, The Historical Roots of “Political Correctness” by Raymond V. Raehn, apparently a strategist:
Finally for now, here’s the end of Chapter 3, Political Correctness in Higher Education by T. Kenneth Cribb, Jr, apparently a Reagan aide:
And, again, with a transatlantic transplant:
If this really took Brievik nine years, someone should have told him about CRTL+C; CRTL+V. You don’t need to type it all back in again. “Nine years” is a great line to get attention, but not one to be repeated without a bit of scepticism.
There’s plenty more, of course: Unabomber borrowings; reading lists cribbed from university courses, inevitable Wikipedia scrapes, and a critique of mass media seemingly lifted from an old leftish site after the removal of an approving reference to a John Pilger programme about Palestine. If you’ve ever said to yourself, “what a world we live in!”, you’ll probably shudder as you find something you agree with: even the bonkers end of the net is right at least twice a day.
It looks at the moment as if Breivik is positioning his murders as a kind of “marketing” for these pages of bilge, hoping they’ll be translated and read across the globe. So here’s the thing.
We should bear in mind that Brievik hasn’t, as some reports have it, proved himself “articulate”, or “well-read”, or some kind of intellectual mastermind. There’s little in his manifesto that couldn’t be produced after an all-nighter on the net hopped up on meds. There are, let’s say, plenty of self-published first-time authors whose work deserves more serious attention.
The manifesto might contain technical clues of use to the police; it might contain political or philosophical clues as to why he did what he did. I’d be fascinated if it did, but I don’t know, and neither do you.
Perhaps Boris Johnson is right, and this is a story about “a narcissist and egomaniac who could not cope with being snubbed” by a girl “in favour of a man of Pakistani origin”; perhaps anti-conservative commentators are right that the amount of hate-text and fear-screeds already published are necessary or sufficient for acts of terrorism. It’s – obv – far too early to say.
But it’s not too early to say that Breivik is trying to build up his pontification in court today in the hope that international media will handle it like an evil genius’s plot-changing scene in a thriller rather than a mish-mash of other people’s wibble. That would seem to be missing the point and playing a loser’s game.
- Video from Newswipe about media treatment of mass killers – as relevant and must-watch now as it was then.
- Image of fascist sculpture in Cagliari, Sardinia.
- Related: a feature I wrote about online racist culture for the BBC, The poem that ends careers.