Hate Is Metastasizing

Asne’s Seierstad’s “One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway” is a devastating read.

When I heard the New Zealand killer posted a 17,000 word manifesto that cited European white supremacists as his inspiration, I knew Breivik had to have loomed large.

Today in the New York Times Seierstad confirms that hunch in her essay “The Anatomy of White Terror“.

She writes:

“Before he allegedly killed 50 Muslims praying at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday, Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, reportedly posted a 74-page manifesto titled “The Great Replacement” online. In his tract, Mr. Tarrant wrote that he had only one true inspiration: the Norwegian political terrorist, Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in 2011.”

With almost universal access to the internet, mental illness wrapped in hate is tragically metastasizing.

Seierstad again:

“Mr. Breivik wanted fame. He wanted his 1,500-page cut-and-paste manifesto to be read widely, and he wanted a stage — his trial in Oslo. He called the bomb he set off outside the prime minister’s office in Oslo, and the massacre he carried out on the island of Utoya, his “book launch.” He told the Norwegian court he had estimated how many people he needed to kill to be read. He had figured a dozen, but ended up killing 77.

Eight years after the massacre in Norway, the Norwegian political terrorist continues to be read by his desired audience: On far right forums on the internet the term “going Breivik” means a full commitment to the cause.”

On far right forums, Breivik is a household name. That is the worst possible legacy.

Seierstad adds:

“Christopher Hasson, a lieutenant in the United States Coast Guard and a self-described white nationalist who wanted to trigger a race war, was inspired by the Norwegian.”

Despite being imprisoned, Breivik, as co-conspirator of sorts, continues to kill. In large part, because his hate-filled ideology is so easily accessible.

Extremely violent white supremacists seek community. And they’re finding it online.

Is Seierstad making matters worse by bringing Breivik and the NZ killer added attention? She doesn’t think so:

“Are we complicit in spreading the ideas of these fascists by writing about them? The answer is no. Radicalization happens first and foremost on the internet, where violent extremists meet and incite each other, and where they should be tracked down and monitored.

We can’t allow ourselves to be ignorant. To fight terrorism, we need to research how individuals become terrorists. We need to analyze and expose fascist thoughts and violence.

People like Mr. Breivik and Mr. Tarrant spread myths and conspiracies dressed up as facts. They use guns to be read. Their thoughts thrive in the darkness, tailored to an underground community. We need to expose the ideas and the lives of these white supremacists. Only then can we dissect them properly.”

I agree in part. The NZ killer wants to represent himself in court to, it’s safe to assume, use it as a platform for his hate-filled ideology. New Zealand’s judicial system should make sure the media doesn’t play into his hands. I concur with Seierstad about exposing “myths and conspiracies dressed up as facts”, but I can’t think of any good coming from additional exposure.

We can’t undo the internet, but as Seierstad argues, we have to do a better job of monitoring and tracking down white supremacists hiding behind their keyboards. We also have to denounce “immigrant invasion” rhetoric at least as vociferously as Donald Trump promulgates it. And we can stand in solidarity with Muslim and Jewish acquaintances and friends in our communities in the ongoing battle against individuals who, emboldened by one another and overcome by illness and violence, continue to target them.