Googling for Madness

Anders Behring Breivik absorbed all of his murderous ideology from the internet.

It wasn’t Christian fanaticism or right-wing fanaticism or even anti-Muslim fanaticism that drove Anders Behring Breivik, the man who slaughtered about 90 people in Norway on last Friday, into madness. It was Google.

Hungry for explanations why the 32-year-old detonated a fertilizer bomb that left eight dead in the heart of Olso and then shot dead about 70 more at a youth camp run by the Norwegian Labour Party on a nearby island, the media have been trawling through a 1500-page document that Breivik posted to his Facebook friends before his killing spree. He titled it “2083 – A European Declaration of Independence”.

It was a clever publicity stunt. Now his bizarre theories about the dominance of cultural Marxism, the failure of multiculturalism and the invasion of Islam are flying around the internet. He even created an FAQ about his personal life and program, including questions about his favourite beer, films and eau de cologne…

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good. This calamity has been used to vindicate condemnations of right-wing politicians, opposition to Muslim migration and Christianity. But triumphantly plucking damning quotes from his 1500-page rubbish heap proves nothing.

Breivik was utterly inconsistent. He describes himself as a Christian, a Freemason and an Odinist (a revival of Scandinavian paganism). The two figures he most admires are Vladimir Putin and Benedict XVI. He budgets for an orgy with prostitutes to be arranged “just before or after I attend my final martyrs’ mass in Frogner Church.”

He speaks with the gravitas of both a theologian and a new atheist: “As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings. Europe has always been the cradle of science and it must always continue to be that way.” He rails against the destruction of family values and wants to implement a one-child policy in the developing world to save the environment.

The document has a hyperlinked table of contents with chapter headings and footnotes – all the paraphernalia of a scholarly article. But most of the material appears to have been copied and pasted from blogs and websites…

It has all been compiled with Wikipedia’s air of no-nonsense academic detachment, from its analysis of Muslim demography to description of how to purchase weapons for a mass murder.

In short, it is a 778,257-word demonstration that Google not only capable of  making us stupid, as Nicholas Carr argued in a famous article in Atlantic three years ago, but violent and full of hate…

Read the whole thing here. And from the conclusion:

… Surfing the internet gives you facts, not values to live by. You can only learn morality and self-knowledge through commitment and engagement with other people, not by googling. At a time when families are falling apart and many children are growing up without engagement with their parents, how many more Breiviks are out there?

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