From Norway To Hell
Published on: July 25, 2011
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  • Ari

    Overall this post on Norway was a good one. I would take issue though with your statement,

    “Breivik, like Al-Qaeda and like Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber, is the shadow of progress. When conditions are right, the lone psychopath becomes a cult leader; in a perfect storm when everything breaks his way, the psychopath becomes Fuehrer.”

    I hope you were not calling Bin Laden a “lone Psychopath”? Unlike the others mentioned, Bin Laden has organizational and Muslim support. In Oslo the West is unified in condemning the attacks while in the Muslim world many support them or claim conspiracy theories against the US or the Jews.

    The differences between the Oslo ‘loner’ attack and Islamic terror is made here by Barry Rubin,
    http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/2011/07/24/thinking-about-the-terrorist-murders-in-norway/

    Keep up the short blogs!
    Israel

  • Toni

    What an amazing essay. I know of no other author who can pull together and deal with so many modern strands simultaneously. And so soon after the event. Whatever 21st-c. challenges we face, I’m glad WRM is on the side of the forces of light.

    I have only one teeny-weeny little quibble: a certain amount of morality is necessary for sustained economic growth. If the godless Chinese and the Allah-obsessed Iranians welshed on their deals with the rest of the world, their growth would halt.

    One could argue that the right kind of morality foments democracy and stability…and maybe Dr. Mead just did.

  • Pete Dellas

    Prof. Mead, you have cleverly articulated that which Christian theologians have been saying for 2000 years. Man is born with a “fallen sin nature” that makes him prone to sin and needs to be redeemed from it. And let’s not forget that sin, besides carrying the meaning of alienation from God, is also defined by not “loving your neighbor as yourself.”

    Now, I believe that unwittingly society attempts to redeem us from that “sin nature” by the imposition of morals, laws, social norms, etc–which surely help to keep it at bay. But those social impositions alone do not solve the issue, as this tragic event shows. Surely, the cure is what Christianity has said over the years–what Jesus Himself taught–that man needs a new birth in order to enter the kingdom of God. And, lest anyone mistake that notion for some type of “pie in the sky, by and by,” it is quite clear from the New Testament teachings of Jesus that the Kingdom of God has an earthly manifestation, not only an eschatological future parousia.

    One more point, the early Christians viewed murder as an act of blasphemy because they believed that man was created in the very image and likeness of God. An evil deed such as this would never have its place in fundamental Christianity. What Anders Breivik believed and his subsequent actions have been called the works of a “Christian Fundamentalist.” Any discerning person knows that those actions were neither Christian nor Fundamentalism because there is not even remote suggestion in Jesus’s teachings that condones violence of any sort. What Breivik needs is what every person needs–a genuine encounter with his Redeemer.

    Thanks again for another thought-provoking essay.

  • Kenny

    You have to wonder how much Norway’s lack of freedom of speech and it’s political correctness regarding Muslims contributed to this crime.

    The ability to speak out, even unpopular ideas, lets people blow off steam.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      Seems highly unlikely that a few chances to chat would have fixed what was wrong with this guy. And many haters just work themselves in deeper — the more they talk, and the more people don’t tell them that their ugly ideas are way out of line, the more in love with their crazy notions they become.

  • Delmar Jackson

    Millions in the West feel the same as breivik, that they are having massive immigration,multiculturalism and diversity shoved down their throats by a ruling class that ignores the peoples wishes on immigration, but none of them turn into a mad man like Breivik.

    A fact overlooked in all the stories i see written, which all seem to be right versus left narratives, is the fact that Breivik took large doses of steroids and mood altering drugs.

    immigration is a racket, the only people in favor of massive immigration are those that pocket the profits and pass all the social,economic and environmemtal costs onto the communities.

    The immigrants proft, the rich people that hire the immigrants profit,the political parties that end up with future immigrant votes profit, and the rest of the native born peoples end up paying for their own displacement in their own native countries.

    Those that want massive immigration to gain electoral advantages or for cheap compliant labor need to know the public despises them and they are as much to blame for the hell brought to Norway as Breivik.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      No. Norway’s immigration policies may or may not be wise or sustainable, but the man who pulled the trigger is responsible. Norway is a democracy; nobody gets into parliament and votes on laws who doesn’t get voted in. The energy devoted into planning and executing terror attacks could have gone into legal protest and political organization to change the Norwegian debate. There is no political excuse for what he did.

  • elizabeth griffith

    A very beautiful essay that is both frightening yet somehow reassuring.

  • James

    Of course, human nature has not changed. Evolutionary biologists have said that it has changed little in 2 million years of human evolution.
    It is said the worst carnage in history was the 20th century. (It just ended!)
    Read Niall Ferguson’s War of the World where he shows that peace did not come to Europe until there had been much ethnic “reordering” during and after WW2 and political boundaries better reflected ethnic boundaries.
    Also one can read “A Terrible Fate” which tracks all the ethnic cleansing, genocide etc in past 2 centuries in eastern Europe and western Asia.
    We must keep in mind that the bad things in history are mostly repressed. I suppose this is a coping mechanism.
    But there is hatred everywhere, of course even from those who think themselves enlightened.

  • Kenny

    “Seems highly unlikely that a few chances to chat would have fixed what was wrong with this guy.”

    You missed the point, Mead, which is that freedom of speech and freedom of thought might have prevented ‘this guy’ from developing into the person he became.

    And like everything else, we are dealing with probabilities here, not certainties.

    Freedom of speech = good.
    Political correctness = bad.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      I didn’t miss your point. I disagreed with it. End of thread.

  • JDComments

    The problem is that we measure progress by material metrics- wealth, technology, McDonalds [though some would not count the last].

    None of those really improve human nature. In fact, many religions and philosophies espouse just the opposite- we gain the world but lose our souls.

    If we are nothing more than “chemical scum” as some scientists teach, than our fate is random and uncertainty and misery will probably be our eternal companions.

    We need God not to explain the World’s “shadows” to us, but rather to understand who or what we are,and can become. Then we may find that the world is not what we think it is, and the uncertainty and evil an illusion that need not concern us at all.

  • WigWag

    Professor Mead’s post puts me in mind of the old Chinese curse; “May you live in the most interesting of times.”

    I think Professor Mead gets two things wrong in his provocative essay and that these mistakes doom his thesis.

    First, Professor Mead seems to believe that because we currently live in an age when the most important vector of change is technological rather than spiritual, social or military that the modern age is fundamentally different from other epochs in human history. There is a patina of historicity to Mead’s argument, but the veneer is thin and Mead is wrong. The Professor says,

    “The Norwegian horror says less about any shortcomings in Norwegian life and culture than about modern life…Modernization is not just more golden arches and more bloggers. It is also about accelerating social change. Capitalism drives technological change and technological change feeds on itself the more of it we have, the more we get…But here’s a catch: that technological change also drives social change…This accelerating, unpredictable and destabilizing change can cause individuals and social groups to become unhinged: to lose their way in the confusion and mystery of modern life.”

    If the only constant in modern life is change, doesn’t this make modern life like almost all other periods in human history? Didn’t the Trojans experience rapid change when the great technology of the day, a large wooden horse, concealed Greek warriors?

    Was there a period of greater uncertainly in human history than the 100 years before and the 100 years after the birth of Jesus? During the life of Jesus wasn’t the ancient Middle East a seething cauldron of anger, rebellion, obsession with the end times and even violence? Like today, wasn’t it a period of religious fervor as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes and later the early Christians competed for adherents? How acutely did the inhabitants of the region experience change when the Romans sacked the Second Temple? The people of that time and place may have lacked technology, but did the nature of the change they experienced affect them any less profoundly?

    Professor Mead is absolutely right when he says, “human beings are stuck in a condition of radical uncertainty. Something big and earth shaking is going on around us, but the information we have does not allow us to predict where it all goes.” That statement is true today and it has been true throughout human history. The rate of technological change has absolutely nothing to do with it.

    Mead’s second mistake is encapsulated in this statement,

    “When the determinist progressives threw God under the bus, they threw away the possibility of an integrated world view that has room both for scientific and rational analysis on the one hand and an honest, unsparing appraisal of the radical uncertainty around us on the other.”

    I am not sure that an “integrated world view” is really something to aspire to; after all Marxism was an integrated world view and so was the Agoge system of the ancient Spartans. But Professor Mead is certainly right that one way to banish the notion of uncertainly from one’s life is to cleave to religious beliefs.

    Mead’s suggestion that belief in a transcendent and intelligent being can be an antidote to the hell experienced in Norway in recent days is an interesting one, but history provides an unequivocal answer; “it doesn’t work.”

    Certainly the belief in a transcendent G-d provided the ancient Israelites with no protection from a Diaspora enforced on them by pillaging hordes of Roman heathens nor did it protect them from the radical change imposed on them by Christian blood libels down through the centuries.

    Belief in a transcendent G-d did nothing to protect residents of Byzantium from the change wrought by pillaging Islamic Ottomans.

    What protection from radical change did a belief in the deity provide to French Hunuenots as they were being butchered in the streets of Paris by Roman Catholics? What protection did religious beliefs afford English Catholics and Protestants as they butchered each other? What protection did religious conviction offer to believers who fell victim to the perennial religious wars of Europe or to the Jewish, Islamic and Christian heretic (e.g. the Bogomils) victims of the Crusades?

    What protection from radical change is religious belief affording to Christians in Nigeria or Copts in Egypt today?

    If Professor Mead wants to argue that belief in a transcendent being is part of the remedy to the ills that afflict us now, shouldn’t he offer some evidence that on balance, during human history religious convictions have made things better rather than worse?

    It seems to me that regardless of whether the human heart was intelligently designed or an accident of nature, the ability to do evil is cooked into our genes. If anything, the lesson of history is that the manner in which the deity is worshipped exacerbates rather than diminishes the capacity for human evil.

    After all, man creates G-d in his own image. All of the great works of literature, including the Bible, prove it.

    In “Paradise Lost” Milton, who was a devout Protestant could not help himself when he turned Satan into the most fascinating and intriguing character in his book, while his G-d is universally acknowledged to have been portrayed as a limp dullard.

    William Blake’s aphorism about the genuinely devout Milton says it all,

    “The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote about the angels and about G-d, and at liberty when he wrote about the Devil and about Hell is that he was a true poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”

    Shelly noticed the same thing; Milton was a true believer, but even true believers can’t be true to their nature while elevating heaven over hell. “To have alleged no superiority of moral virtue in his G-d over his Devil…was the most decisive proof of Milton’s genius.”

    The great Yale literary critic, Harold Bloom, makes much the same point; man’s conception of G-d is nothing more than a vain conceit. Writing in his “Book of J” Bloom said,

    The Yahweh of the Old Testament “is human-all too human: he eats and drinks, frequently loses his temper, delights in his own mischief, is jealous and vindictive, proclaims his justness while constantly playing favorites, and develops a considerable case of neurotic anxiety when he allows himself to transfer his blessing from an elite to the entire Israelite host. By the time he leads that crazed and suffering rabblement through the Sinai wilderness, he has become so insane and dangerous to himself and others that the J writer deserves to be called the most blasphemous of all authors ever.”

    If Professor Mead thinks that modern day progressives have lost their bearings because they don’t see how religious belief offers a respite from the rapid change of modern day life that is his prerogative. But shouldn’t he at least offer some examples of how religion has made the world a more peaceful as opposed to more miserable place?

    Only a relatively small percentage of spectacular modern day terrorist attacks are perpetrated by nut-jobs like Anders Breivik. Most are perpetrated by those seeking refuge from rapid change by “following the orders” of their G-d. In the past the butchers were often Christians, today they are frequently Muslim.

    I suggest that Mead look not to religion but elsewhere if he wants to alleviate the ills that affect us in the 21st century. As for religion-been there; tried that.

    It didn’t work.

  • Michael

    Interesting piece, Dr Mead. I don’t disagree with your central point (to me) that the forces of modernization breed a backlash that manifest in different ways (Barber wrote of Jihad vs McWorld and Rosenau has written of globalization-localization, among others). However, you set up a couple of straw men in using democratic peace theory and the McDonalds peace “theory.” Neither of these (and the former is of course much more serious and researched than the latter) is primarily concerned with how people behave within democracies; they are assertions about relations between states. Very few political scientists would, I believe, argue that democratization in the world writ large eliminates or reduces violent acts of hatred by groups or individuals within them. I think you’re conflating different arguments here. Second, I also think your assertion that progressive, secular intellectuals have thrown God under the bus is true, but I would add that rationalistic, individualist consumerism has done the same, with its emphasis on the primacy of choice (whether social or economic) has undermined the thread of community bonds within modern society.

  • madawaskan

    Sorry but if you looked at this scientifically you could realize to draw almost any conclusion from this-would be ridiculous.

    Say in an experiment after 200 years you get one variant-you don’t skew the whole experiment because of that one anomaly that cropped out after 200 or 100 years.

    In other words you can’t discredit a compete theory because of one single “exception”-which is what you’ve done here.

    It would be like discrediting the complete American system of democracy because we have mass murderers like …..well you know the list.

    That’s the supposed “logical” road you are cruising down, except it’s actually worse because you only have one extremely rare “specimen”.

  • Sage

    “[I]t challenges some of our deepest beliefs about where the world is headed.”

    I do not mean this to sound as mean-spirited as it almost unavoidably will, but Mr. Mead should speak for himself. For many of us this event actually confirms our deepest beliefs about where the world is headed. People who do not believe in Progress-with-a-capital-P are not the least bit discomfited, at least intellectually speaking. For those of a different cast of mind, these things are always a shock.

  • Charlie

    You have built here, Mr Mead, an edifice of conclusions and even prognostications atop a foundation of a single erratic individual and his despicable one-off act. While I sympathize with what this allowed you to say, I can’t begin to treat seriously such a wind-egg soufflé. I had come to expect better craftsmanship from you.

  • Charles Oltorf

    Prof Mead, I read your blog at every opportunity and I usually agree with you, but not this time. Put me down as a believer in Whig history, if you will, but I think that the civilizing influences of economic growth are well substantiated. The arguments for this view are well made in Benjamin Friedman’s book, “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth.” As to the subject at hand, first of all you are over interpreting the significance of this act. One lunatic does not make Norway Iran. Secondly, even if Norway is having some difficulties with loonies, that might very well be explained by poor economic prospects. The Norwegian kroner is probably the most overvalued currency in the world. Usually when you read a list of the world’s most expensive cities, Oslo is at the top. It is very hard for countries with overvalued currencies to create jobs and exports. Norway is a civilized country. I am confident that it will remain civilized so long as it has an economy capable of maintaining a middle class standard of living for the Norwegian people.

  • “We have one foot in Norway and the other in Hell and nobody knows where we step next. One of the reasons to bother God in our century is the hope that in turn he will bother about us. Whatever is coming, we will face it more honestly and live it more richly with him.”

    I find this beautiful but contradictory. To say that nobody knows where we will step next is to say that the content of the faith we are summoning is both inscrutable and meaningless.

    It is a good point that no larger “we” committed the mass murders listed here: the murderers, alone or in groups, committed them. So long as blame is being attached to other people, justice is not being prioritized. The killer is controlling the narrative.

    The two things I have learned about violent criminals is that they are very self-pitying and eager to project blame for their actions onto others, and that they are liars and their words cannot be trusted.

  • In the end, we must look to God.

    I don’t attend any church, but I’m realizing my need for a belief in God as this author so eloquently states.

    My problem is that I want to belong to a faith based group, but I don’t want to buy into what they think I should believe.

    Thank you Mr Mead, for such a well written article.

  • MBC

    I’ve just returned from Norway, where I have been going for decades, visiting family.

    Several thoughts.

    This would not have happenned without the internet, and the ability to live in a fervid bubble of ideology. This guy needed to get a ‘real life’ as well as a cyber-life. But he could develop a rich alternative virtual life on line which he could then live out in real life. It was all a bit too much like a cyber game. Too removed from reality.

    He got involved in ‘counter-jihad’ websites, NONE of which advocate terrorism, just social criticism.

    All ideology is dangerous; religious or secular; left or right. Because it is always theoretical. But real life is far more dynamic, complex – and hopeful. Situations can rapidly change. Even the most hopeless ones, if something in human culture and interaction changes. Look at the Arab Spring. Who saw that coming? Interesting, isn’t it, that we have this sudden flourishing of hope in the most hopeless places (Sanaa) yet the appearance of nightmare in the most hopeful ones (Oslo).

    There is a failure of democracy in Norway. For nearly 30 years the country has embarked on a naive but well meaning social experiment of mass immigration. Frustrations build. The Progress Party (anti-immigration) has been formed in that time but has signally failed to make any headway in halting immigration or even getting any serious academic or public debate about its risks for social cohesion.

    I see various things in Norway. Firstly that immigrants do on the surface of things appear to be quite well integrated – the government holds Norwegian language and culture classes which they are obliged to attend, and on the street they speak Norwegian amongst themselves rather than their own language.

    Yet huge foreign enclaves are building and crime is rising. Most of east Oslo is non native Norwegian. 58 of 136 primary schools in Oslo have a majority of children from immigrant backgrounds; it is predicted (and nobody doubts this) that the majority of Oslo schoolchildren will be from immigrant backgrounds in ten years time. In some schools there are now 90% immigrants. Oslo is a city divided into east and west. The east is immigrant and the west is white. The population grows by 10,000 pa., most of them immigrants. The government says it can’t stop where people want to live. Precisely. You can’t control this social experiment you have started.Local leaders of the Labour Party in Oslo now fear that there can be no integration and multiculturalism without the presence of at least 25% of native Norwegians for the immigrants to integrate with. But that there are not enough native Norwgians for integration to take place in certain areas. Duh! Who’d have thought that!!!

    Incidences of rape of white girls in Oslo by non-white men have also shot up dramatically, making east Oslo a no-go area for white girls.

    Rapid mass immigration is destabilising but you can’t get any recognition of that from political leaders or frank discussion.

    It is a combination of all these factors that seems to have led to this atrocity.

  • Nate

    I agree with Mead and the other commenters that human nature has not changed, and that we are capable of great evil. However, I do not think that sheds any new light or insight on a terrible tragedy like the one in Norway.

    I think greater insight comes from the two paragraphs starting with “That would be bad enough, but there’s one more turn of the screw….” about the vulnerability of modern society and the fact that Breivik or Al Qaeda could not have accomplished what they have 100 or 200 years ago. One of the principle reasons they could not have propagated such terror on civilians (besides the obvious, like non-existence of planes or machine guns) is the lack of tightly, interconnected networks.

    Of course, networks do not cause an individual to commit such horrible acts. However, they do facilitate a deranged mind to accomplish his or her objectives much easier than 100 or 200 years ago. I am not talking about social networks or power grid networks, but the meta-network of all physical and social networks. These networks have provided unparalleled economic growth, allowed democratic ideals to spread, and yet contain inherent vulnerabilities to fringe actors still connected to the network.

    The greater interconnectedness of networks, the greater opportunity and capability of individuals or small groups at the fringe to wreak havoc on other nodes in the network: whether they are small impact nodes like kids and office workers, or central nodes like air traffic control, water reservoirs or communication hubs.

    Mead is right that “democracy and affluence won’t cure it.” It is the inherent outcome of interconnected networks with a fallen human nature.

  • Jay

    WRM, I largely agree but want to point out that Breivik used terrorism against Europeans because it works.

    For the past 40 years Islamists have been intimidating and killing Europeans and largely succeeding in having their political and social demands met. There are no-go areas where European police cannot operate that are havens for Islamists.
    Breivik admired their success and his ‘manifesto’ discusses working with Iran or al-Qaeda to attack the EU or US. See: http://pajamasmedia.com/richardfernandez/comment/167752/

    Your key point is a rich, developed society can still breed terrorism. I agree and add that a society is more likely to be a victim of homegrown terrorism when they allow others to successfully terrorize them. In a globalized world, power hungry maniacs are going to see very quickly what works for other fanatics and apply those methods locally.

  • Bill

    As usual, a perceptive analysis, but I am not sure I agree.

    The common thread of these lunatics appears to be a desire for media attention (fifteen minutes of fame in the mass media era).

    Studies have shown that media attention drives terrorism and vice versa.

    To me this is the link that must be broken (at minimum forcing or encouraging the media to focus on the victims not the perpetrators if not to black out certain types of coverage entirely)

  • adam

    Europe’s future will feature less freedom and more violence. Leftists in government and their Islamic allies versus an increasingly forceful nativist response.

    Certainly not the peaceful and harmonious social contract we’ve known over the past 6 or 7 decades. It’s going to be ugly, that’s for sure.

  • Roughcoat

    Mead seems to imply that psychopathology and evil are one and the same, or at least so closely related that there is no point in distinguishing one from the other. I don’t think this is correct. Of course not all psychopaths are evil; but, more’s to the point, not all evil people are psychopaths.

    Psychopathology is a disease of the mind; evil is a disease of the soul. I don’t think Hitler was a psychopath, for example; nor, perhaps, the Norway shooter. I don’t think most of the radically evil people in history are psychopaths. To label them as such is to excuse, to varying degrees, their evil and their evil deeds. For if psychopathology is a disease of the mind, how can we not excuse them, at least in part?

    I’m reminded of that great scene in the film “The Jagged Edge” in which Peter Coyote, in the role of the prosecuting district attorney, tell Glenn Close that the serial killer played by Jeff Bridges “is not a sociopath! He is an iceman. He is a monster!”

  • Bonfire Of The Idiocies

    Solzhenitsyn wrote “Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, not between classes, nor between political parties, but right through every human heart — and all human hearts.” Evil is not the product of too much wealth or too little, or reading too many comic books or video games, but of the choices each individual makes on a daily basis. It is God’s universe but we do have free will to make of ourselves as we will.

  • Tim

    a well written article with a strained effort to include a deity after the fact. We threw god under the bus because he never paid his fare, slapped around the kids and always asked for money.
    The Universe spins on without a god just as it most likely started without a god. Those that believe in god are just as capable, and sometimes more so, of committing atrocities that shake us to our core. Why should we burden ourselves and our children with this false narrative, of made up dogma, that with each passing generation is trusted as FACT, the writings of 2000 years ago are interesting however given the vast difference in culture, they are about as useful to me as Confucius telling me how to dispose of my extra daughters. A lot of people like to say that our morality is based on the bible and that’s completely ridiculous, the bible doesn’t have marriages based on love, the bible doesn’t have age of consent laws, the bible doesn’t even consider that women are equal citizens. Instead it is a mash up of a thousand years of warfare, genocide, and a petty god who strikes down it’s own creations because they aren’t his chosen people. If you go back and consider that the very god you claim to worship struck down his own subjects because they dared to aspire to be more, what kind of god do you want to offer yourself to? A petty tyrant that tests his subjects for amusement, that considers suffering to be a fair price to see him, and whose idea of good rulership is eternal damnation for problems that it created in the first place.
    This doesn’t even touch on the physical arguments that deny deism, or the philosophical arguments for free will and human determinism. But to take this tragedy and than say that it argues for the need for a god leaves me wondering, where was your god before the bomb, where was he before the children were gunned down, where was he was he when Rwanda was engulfed in death, or bosnia, or china, or russia, or cambodia? It seems to me that if you want to attribute all good to your invisible deity you have to attribute all evil to it as well.
    Better that we accept our own natures, accept the terror that we are capable of and hold ourselves to account, than to expect that some invisible force will bother to do it after death.

  • joe

    Professor Mead:
    this gifted psychopath is more like John Brown than anybody else. This was a European Harper’s Ferry with the political/media class standing in for the plantation owners (remember even Princess Mette-Marit lost a stepbrother in the massacre).

    This person was murdering to protect his idyllic, imaginary Norway from the depredations of the Labor party and their immigration policies (Labor has led a coalition gov’t for 24 of the last 38 years). He feels that these immigrants are unnecessary and a political ploy to increase Labour’s voting constituency and simultaneously assauge their irrational, liberal guilt. He murdered on the basis of political affliation, not on a religious or racial basis. This was an attempt to gin up a civil war.

    Mohammed Atta could be described as a victim of globalization. If the archtiect’s office where he worked in Hamburg had given him a job (which he was qualified for and performed adequately), the last ten years might have been more pleasant for everyone concerned. Atta’s choice was between religious martyrdom or a nervous existence as a member of the eternally insecure and underpaid Egyptian middle classes.

    By the way, Norway’s democracy is a closed-shop. What properly functioning democracy in the world taxes beer to the point where it costs 15 or 16 dollars per bottle at the pub?

  • Yahzooman

    “In my view, this is one of the reasons that belief in a transcendent power beyond the human mind is intellectually necessary to grapple successfully with the realities of our time.”

    One of the famous Marx brothers called that the opiate of the masses.

    Let’s not over complicate this tragedy.

    There is evil in the world. Sometimes good triumphs over evil; sometimes not.

    I’m rooting for good.

    Or as Richard Blaine and Victor Laszlo describe it:

    Rick: Don’t you sometimes wonder if it’s worth all this? I mean, what you’re fighting for.
    Laszlo: You might as well question why we breathe. If you stop breathing, we’ll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die.
    Rick: And what of it? It’ll be out of its misery.
    Laszlo: Do you know how you sound, Mr. Blaine? Like a man who’s trying to convince himself of something he doesn’t believe in his heart. Each of us has a destiny – for good or for evil.
    Rick: I get the point.
    Laszlo: I wonder if you do. I wonder if you know that you’re trying to escape from yourself, and that you’ll never succeed.
    Rick: You seem to know all about my destiny.

    (And later at the airport after Rick sticks his neck out for somebody and fights evil):

    Victor Laszlo: Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win.

    (Don’t you just love the simplicity of movies?)

  • Jerome

    “200 years ago a Breivik could not have done so much damage”.

    Well, that’s probably true. Firearms were not that easy to reload in 1811. But I think it is worth mentioning that the cop Breivik shot was unarmed. Ostriches do not actually hide their heads in the sand when threatened. But if they did, it would not be difficult to kill a large group of them.

  • Paul Mendez

    I must disagree with the assertion that immigrants moved to Norway, bringing their strange ideas, because of “technological change.”

    Immigrants moved to Norway because Europe’s Ruling Class Elites wanted them to.

  • Stu in SDGO

    This guy’s “ideology” was anti-Muslim. A delusional madman, he acted consistent with that ideology. As posted on a National Review Online blogsite, he targeted a conclave of pro-Palestinian youth:

    What does anyone make of this?
    There were pictures with this that do not show up here. These people were
    making mock rehearsals of flotillas to Israel. They were smiling broadly as
    they held their signs urging boycotts of all Israel goods.

    Utoya Island Meeting was an anti-Israel rally. Check out the “Boycott
    Israel” sign. The Norwegian government’s number one issue this week was
    supporting the recognition of Palestine and criticizing Israel for outlawing
    boycotts on the settlements. Norway supports settlement boycotts.

    Quote:
    Labour Youth League summer camp at Utøya got the Labour Party’s young
    hopefuls visit by Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store.

    The Palestinians “must have their own state, the occupation must end, the
    wall must be demolished and it must happen now,” said the Foreign Minister
    to cheers from the audience

    Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store at Utoya Island this week.

    The main activity at the Utoya Island Meeting were mock “Break the Israel
    blockade” games. One event was Palestinian aide boats would try to break the
    Israel blockage. Whoever gets through first wins. The sign says “defeat the
    blockade.”

  • bob sykes

    Breivik murders 76 people, mostly teens, in the name of Norwegian racism.

    The Utoya camp counselors were teaching the same teens antisemitism.

    Poor teens.

  • Stu in SDGO

    Furthermore, look who owns the island. The doer would be classified as an ultra-nationalist in earlier times. A horrible tragedy.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers%27_Youth_League_(Norway)

  • Seagull

    I’ve got a different take on this. I had a look at Breivik’s manifesto, and I’d say that the divorce of his parents when he was one year old was probably at the root of his narcissism and that it has very little to do with the political system in Norway. He seems to believe that the Norwegian socialist state took the place of the “husband”, handing out benefits where the man used to provide for his wife. Men were rendered redundant as the woman looked to the State to support her, to be her spouse. Perhaps, then Breivik’s infant damaged mind saw the State as a receptacle for all his narcissistic anger at the loss of his father, at the absence of a role model, of his feeling of being different from his peers. The State had displaced/replaced his father … he was unable to treat his absent father at the “bad object”, so the State became his focus. It’s likely that his mother invested in him too heavily emotionally (he was still living at home). In that he bears a strong resemblance, for example to Brian Blackwell. After all, if Norway (the political system) were to blame, there would be many more Breiviks instead of only one.

  • Staffan

    #32: Immigrants moved to Norway — were wanted there — because otherwise population would have decreased. After The Pill, and after free abortion, there were too few children. Every fifth child (21 %) is eliminated in Norway. Breivik saw that the Norwegians were dying out; he was not able to understand why.
    — To be godless has some problems, even in this world, you see.

  • M.T. Nolan

    The penultimate paragraph linking Hiroshima with the Holocaust is over the top. Are you not concerned that an implication of equivalence not only suggests an indictment of the American military, but also offers a sense of mitigation of the crimes of the Nazis? — Or for the matter the Nut Case in Norway. — What do you say to a genocidal maniac whose defense is: “I kill people. You kill people. I don’t judge you. Please don’t judge me.” ???

  • madawaskan

    Well I commend the author allowing the comments to continue.

    My understanding of “McDonalds Theory” is (like Michael stated above-) nation states relations with other nation states.

    The theory simply is that those states that allow that type of economic development are less likely to invade other nations states and are less likely to experience violent overthrows or changes in their own government.

    Secondly-I don’t understand how supposed conservatives and Libertarians are heaping criticism on Norway as a state via this action.

    Wouldn’t Conservatism and/or Libertarianism believe in individual determinism and responsibility?

    Or for that matter is it not a tenant of Conservatism that the “states” and locals know what is best for themselves?

    Why should we in America know what is wrong with Norway?

    Norway might have lenient sentencing but there are people in Norway protesting that right now.

    Norway did not go through the periods of violence that America has experienced-like the Wild Wild West or the period of Prohibition with the likes of Baby Face Nelson and Bonnie and Clyde.

    Last the “allusions” to Harpers Ferry and John Brown which was first postulated by Richard Fernandez are missing a key factor-this creep murdered children in Norway.

    How is Richard Fernandez and the commenter above spreading the comparison -oblivious to that ultimate crossing of the social norm?

    Disgusting. Even John Brown did not murder children and his cause of freeing the slaves would have been set back possibly decades had he done that.

    Let’s put this into perspective-even criminals in prison do not “tolerate” murderers of children.

    Ripley’s believe it or not there are also comparisons of the victims to Hitler Youth by Glenn Beck and commenters on the internet.

    Norway hasn’t invaded Poland, they have not disassembled the Bundestag-or anything comparable, it’s ridiculous.

    There’s also a big deal made about the island being “elitist”-which is also being suggested by a another commenter above and which I first saw forwarded by a “commenter” named Gloria at Belmont Club.

    Here is the comment-( this is the third blog I have seen it praised):

    54. Gloria
    The mass murder of the sons and daughters of political and social leaders–this facet is being ignored by the mainstream press. This Norwegian’s act was not at all a copy of the Oklahoma bombing or the Virginia shootings. This mass murder is a political act quite different from the acts it is being compared to because of its precise focus on members of the elite class and no others.

    Even the fact that the act took place on an island that nobody BUT the elite could access (not even the police) is significant. It shows that someone can attack the elite precisely in the places where common people cannot go and so common people will not be hurt. Such an approach to terrorism is less likely to alienate common people once they understand they won’t be hurt by it.

    With regard to the bombing, the same terrorist also took care and KNEW, because he was Norwegian, that ordinary workers would already be out of the buildings he bombed because his attack was after 3:00 p.m. and the workers left at 3:00 p.m.

    These facts indicate to a person who knows military strategy that the terrorist sees himself engaged in guerilla war, not terrorism.

    July 24, 2011 – 11:04 am

    *******

    Absolutely ridiculous there are plenty of island’s in Norway-to portray this killers actions as something “other” because they were “elites” is atrocious.

    Please there a plenty of islands in Norway .

    To elevate this killer’s actions because you think they were “elites” and to call it “guerrilla warfare” in order to elevate the action is to spread this “man’s poison.

  • Mick Reactionary

    @Dr Mead

    “Twenty years ago I spent several weeks driving through Norway and heard a lot of fear (and in some cases hatred) directed towards Muslim immigrants.”

    and

    @Dr Mead

    “I see various things in Norway. Firstly that immigrants do on the surface of things appear to be quite well integrated – the government holds Norwegian language and culture classes which they are obliged to attend, and on the street they speak Norwegian amongst themselves rather than their own language.”

    Do I understand that Dr Mead makes far-reaching assertions about MUSLIM immigrants in Norway based on couple of weeks of traveling 20 years ago?

    And since when one a week attendance of government classes is a sign of well developed integration?

    I have spent a few months as exchange student in Prague in early seventies. Most Czech students (granted, the elite of the nation) were not well integrated into Communist ways despite having government classes 6 hours a day, 5 days a week from age 6 on.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      I think you have attributed something one of the comments to me and then criticized me for views I didn’t express.

  • gaye harris

    Wonderful essay. Psychopaths are indeed nurtured and emboldened, but for the most part, they are born, and find their triggers in their social milieus.

    I would have liked to see Mr Mead address the following problem, which, in my view, acted as the “red flag” to the bull of Breivek’s psychopathology.

    Normative Islam is a proto-fascist intellectual framework: those who become apostates of Islam, or commit blasphemy against Islam, or even adultery, are all sentenced to death under the aegis of Islamic religious law.

    When a Norwegian female pilot is beheaded in Afghanistan because the locals are angered by a doddering pastor in Florida burning a Koran, you have the psychopathology engendered by the institution of Islam, on full view, for all the world to see.

    Likewise, when every assault rape in Oslo (defined as a stranger assaulting and raping a victim), in 2010, is committed by Muslim males, you have the psychopathology engendered by the institution of Islam, on full view, for all the world to see.

    In Islam, women are executed for being raped. Rape victims can rarely come up with the requisite four male witnesses willing to testify against the rapist. This four-male witnesses rule is a direct, clearly spelled-out Islamic law. The result is that rape victims are sentenced to death for fornication. The best example of societal psychopathology engendered by Islam is the stoning of a fourteen year old Somali rape victim in a sports stadium with thousands of onlookers last year.

    I would like Mr Mead to also comment on that psychopathology, since it has everything to do with this case.

    Furthermore, the youths were protesting against Israel. Protesting Israel, the one country in the Middle East where women are NOT second class citizens, where they are NOT subjected to relentless daily harassment and humiliation, and where gays are also free to exist peacefully. These youths were protesting Israel, while remaining silent about Saudi Arabia, where the female population is essentially enslaved, and homosexuals are routinely executed. The mind-boggling hypocrisy of such protest activities, which simultaneously project a veiled anti-Semitism with a blindness to the overarching injustice of Islamic religious law, has the definite potential to draw the eye and ire of a simmering intellectual psychopath like Breivik. A government party that encourages its youth to protest Israel, in light of the extreme hypocrisy inherent in such activity, is a participant in an unhinged societal dance, and the great intellectuals and philosophers should recognize this problem and debate it openly.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @gaye harris: thanks for the kind words but I don’t agree with your comments at all. If we diagnose a major world religion with well over a billion adherents as a form of psychopathology we’ve stretched the meaning of the word beyond any usefulness that I can see. Islam is much more complicated than you give it credit for being. A Muslim would not have to be a psychopath to find your approach offensive.

  • Sardondi

    Well of course an (pick one or more) enraged/depressed/insane Norwegian massacred almost 100 of his countrymen: he’s had it relentlessly hammered into his head since he was born that:
    1) the world is an accident;
    2) he’s nothing more than a fortuitous but random combination of amino acids;
    3) life is pointless and finite;
    4) and this is as good as it’s ever going to be before he begins a meaningless descent into pain and ultimate nothingness.

    The only wonder is why there aren’t more such violent spasms of rage from the atheist militant.

  • Staffan

    As a ‘native’ here, a Swede, I am nowadays practically always in the minority, when I leave my little terrace house. I cried over this in the 90’s, but now I am fascinated. This “refugee immigration” started in 1984, and it was necessary: much too few children were born. Ever since 1968 the number had been too low. At the same time, abortions had become a “right”. 2.6% of the children disappeared in 1960; 26.4% in 1979.
    – Mr Breivik saw the change, but refused to see the reasons. And I try to say that nativity has a role to play here, but no one listens, neither the “right” and the “left”. “The Pill is a necessity for all women, and abortion very much a right!”
    – It is a fascinating time we live in!

  • hacimo

    As I recall, after 9/11 there were a whole host of pundits who essentially blamed the USA (or west in general) for having “provoked” the Islamists to extreme violence by various and sundry unjust policies and actions. Essentially they blamed the attack on the victim according to some convoluted logic. Such views were particularly evident among the sanctimonious Euro-left. I can even remember being asked by a tenured professor of mathematics at a German university, if I, as an american, felt any guilt for what we had unleashed. Well… I think you can see where this is going.

  • gaye harris

    I said Islam is a framework that engenders psychopathology, through a barbarian set of laws, that to my knowledge, no Islamic leaders have as yet rejected in any meaningful way. if they change the framework, I would be the first to applaud.

    You deny that the Islamic legal framework encourages psychopathology to be acted out in the name of Islam, just because there are a billion “adherents” (who would be too frightened to say much, let alone break away openly).

    This sounds like a particularly interesting case of an argument based on “majority rules.”

    And with regard to offense, I would turn the argument around to say that when intellectuals do not openly support people who are being flagrantly oppressed by the Islamic legal framework, such intellectuals are offending basic human dignity, and derailing the ideal of philosophical debate.

  • Tom Kinney

    The shooter read John Stuart Mill (who famously said, “…most stupid people are conservative.”), George Orwell (a self-described Democratic Socialist) and dystopian existentialst Franz Kafka.
    Does that sound like a conservative?

    Only in the fever swamps of the far left.

    Witness today’s eager beaver columnizing by Peter Beinart on the lurid leftist Daily Beast. Beinart seems to palpably yearn for the outrage of another Oklahoma so as to save from expiration Obamageddon’s soon-to-be short-lived presidential career.

    What Breivik’s terrorism does sound similar to are the ravings of the Tucson shooter (who also read far and wide, including Marx) and the Manifesto-crazed (like Breivik) Unibomber (ostensibly a far left loon). But all three essentially lack a coherent political view, at least as seen from a safe distance. Having written extensively about prisons and prisoners, and having worked in an asylum, I have some sense about what constitutes an abnormal personality. These three men, in my opinion, defy political categorization, regardless of the labels slapped on them by pundits.

    The fact is that those typically termed far right and far left have a lot in common. And hatred of government, as seen through their respective lenses, seems the unifying factor. Conservatives don’t hate government, they hate intrusive, costly, big government. But a biased media is always ready to make the linkage anyway, hence this ever-repeated fallacy.

    What in his madness, Breivik did expose, is the forced-upon-the-public immigration policies of EU countries. They’ve allowed wanton Muslim immigrantion with the hairbrained notion that at some later point they’d self-acculturate. This without a thought from the host countries to facilitate, much less demand, their acculturation. Then the immigrants are ghettoed into mini-welfare states within each country, but largely remain separated, while over time they’re allowed to default into a parallel culture with none of the embedded values or cultural traits of their new home country.

    In France, Germany, and Italy, where it is very difficult to fire workers under any circumstances, too few Muslim immigrants can find work because prospective employers fear they can never be gotten rid of should there be a problem. (In Europe, this scenario is not unique to Muslims.) So they don’t get jobs–unemployment for teen Muslims is well over 40% in some countries–they don’t acculturate, and while they’re taken care of, they are not assimilated. All in the name of multiculturalism, a misbegotten policy that has been repeatedly excoriated by leaders of France, Germany, Britain and elsewhere. Multiculturalism as a general phenomenon is, however, a desirable thing, and is in fact unstoppable. It’s a force of human nature. But there is a notable difference between the numbers of unsettled Muslims in European countries, not to mention their proximity to Arab nations, than what we see in America. American liberals don’t get this disconnect, but demographics alone indicate a long lasting population surge of European Muslims just as native birth rates are declining precipitously.

    All of this is a recipe for disaster that while no fault of Muslims themselves, is nonetheless clearly driving individual Europeans crazy because they haven’t been counseled as to their say-so by their government for this mass immigration process. And yet they’ve had it shoved down their throats and are called racists or scoundrels if they dare question it. That’s the underlying problem and it’s clear from the defiant statements made by the Norwegian president that this lesson, shockingly and irresponsibly, has not yet been learned.

  • JEH

    From Cain and Abel, to Samson in the Temple, the Assyrians, the Spartans, the Romans (ask the Etruscans and Carthaginians), Attilla, Genghis Khan, the Ndebele and Zulus, the Aztecs and Incas, the Spanish Conquistadors, the Belgian Congo, the Nazia, the Khmer Rouge… the slaughter of the innocents has been with us forever.

  • Trying to explain the irrational is irrational itself.
    Tragedy? Certainly. Mourn and move on.
    That’s what we humans have been doing for 8,000 generations.
    In the meantime, do what you can for whom you can, and hope for the best.
    That will have to suffice until a less indifferent universe comes along.

  • Mick Reactionary

    “Walter Russell Mead says:
    July 26, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    I think you have attributed something one of the comments to me and then criticized me for views I didn’t express.”

    Complete mystery.

    May be I’m not savvy enough to decode the comment above.
    For us, comment technology ignoramuses, could you people identify text in article or comment to which you responding?

    Otherwise it is wasted electrons.

  • John Mainhart

    A thoughtful article Dr. Mead. Some of the comments were interesting, some seemed to missed the point of the article.
    It is difficult for a person of Faith to explain the importance of God in an individual’s life because to fully understand Him you must believe in Him. However there is the natural law and everyone should be able to see God’s value especially when you say it makes us think of a higher power and look for answers to problems that are not self centered. It is difficult for me to understand critics who mention tragedies of the past and present that were caused by religious people and assign religious motives for what occurred. Religious organizations who commit unspeakable atrocities hide behind their religions when in reality their real motive for killing lots of people is power or sometimes greed or both. Surely intellectuals should see behind the reasons people give for great carnage when they cite religious motives or do they think terrorists have a love for truth.

  • Kathy Kinsley

    Just a quick comment on your title – Hell is IN Norway. So you can’t go from Norway to Hell, only from Hell to other parts of Norway…

    The post, I think, is generally correct, in that more technology gives the evil ones/madmen (depending on your take) greater ability to do damage. But. I think the risks are worth the benefits. That technology has saved far more lives than it has cost.

  • Kris

    JEH: “Samson in the Temple”

    May I suggest you re-familiarize yourself with this story before you include it in your list?

  • –Nick/

    A fine essay in which you make a number of thought-provoking points.

    I would, however, suggest very strongly that neither Quisling nor Hamsun is so representative of the Norwegian character as to warrant the statement that “There has always been a nasty strain of hatred in Norway…”

    More accurately: ‘There always has been a nasty strain of hatred in some individuals of all nations.’

    Norway is not distinguished in this regard. Indeed, the actions of Hamsun, Quisling, the criminals in Jo Nesbø novels, and now Breivik are far out-weighed by the humanitarian acts of Norwegians, past and present, much too numerous to list here.

  • Andrew

    The real question is, how many other people in Norway have the same feelings about Islamic infiltration that Breviek does? Who have not acted out.

    I was in the NE in 2007, and all I heard from my hosts was about how the Moroccans have overwhelmed the country and have refused to integrate.

    Here in the US, a majority of the populace polled are against unfettered immigration. Yet our government continues to ignore our request that it be controlled.

    What is the percentage of the Norwegian population that is against unfettered immigration? Is it a majority? If so, are they being ignored? Why?

    Your answer lies there. When the government ignores the will of the people, havoc ensues. Like it will here in the US.

  • rpm

    With all due considerations to Monday morning QB’ing. Intepret that to mean that “what if” has no answer. We know for certain “what was”.

    In this country, mass murders of this sort ocur almost exclusively in known “gun free” places. Schools being Exhibit A.

    Now–the “what if”. I wonder how long this massacre would have lasted had it been a Junior NRA Youth Camp?

    The result may have been the same, but somehow I doubt it. I don’t know if there are even Junior NRA camps; or even if there still is a Junior NRA–although I hope so. I was a member, long ago, and far away. One of the memorable experiences of my yong life life.

  • don

    In sum, we’ll all learn to live together or we’ll all die together, and dying inexorably comes with the territory, but in the meantime crime marches on and there’s no rest for the wicked or the saintly, and the universe doesn’t give a rat’s [back end]. I’m not sure what’s delusional anymore, the Oslo peace process for palestinians, the Cairo Declaration, an Oscar for “An Inconvenient Truth,” or a President getting a Nobel Peace Prize for doing nothing.

  • RTN

    In response to WigWag’s response.

    “As for religion-been there; tried that. It didn’t work.”

    I don’t think religion is the culprit. When you look at the atrocities we humans have committed on each other, the common denominator isn’t worship of a god, it is worship of the state.

    It is true that many of the states have been “god” sponsored, but many have been decidedly atheistic, such as communism, fascism, whatever ism the French revolution was known as, and modern liberalism or progressivism (whatever you call it).

    We don’t need to give up worshiping God, we need to give up worshipping the state.

  • Georgiaboy61

    Professor Reed, re: “…I spent several weeks driving through Norway and heard a lot of fear (and in some cases hatred) directed towards Muslim immigrants.” Norwegians have every right to be concerned about the Muslims being imported into their country, often over their own objections, by their elite political class. Norwegians apparently style themselves tolerant even unto death and being conquered by a resurgent Islam. Bruce Bawer, the author of “While Europe Slept,” and “Surrender,” himself gay, spent a number of years in Holland and then Norway, recounts in the latter book that Norwegians have learned to deny the nature of the world around them, despite the evidence. You think that the occupation of their homeland by the Nazis during WWII would have disabused them of the notion that evil doesn’t exist and/or doesn’t live in Norway, but perhaps not. Islam will sooner or later have enough people spread across Europe to begin open jihad, and when that happens, the blinders will be ripped from their eyes. Norway is a beautiful nation… here’s hoping that it is not Islamic in 20 or 30 years.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Georgiaboy61: You were addressing Professor “Mead”, perhaps? No Professor Reed at the site.

  • Georgiaboy61

    Delmar Jackson, re: “Millions in the West feel…that they are having massive immigration,multiculturalism and diversity shoved down their throats by a ruling class that ignores the peoples wishes on immigration…immigration is a racket, the only people in favor of massive immigration are those that pocket the profits and pass all the social,economic and environmemtal costs onto the communities.The immigrants proft, the rich people that hire the immigrants profit,the political parties that end up with future immigrant votes profit, and the rest of the native born peoples end up paying for their own displacement in their own native countries.”

    Brilliant summation of the problem, Delmar – thanks for writing it. The rub of the problem, though, is what are we going to do about it?

  • James

    I am afraid that the civil war in Europe has escalated and will grow. I have studied Europe most of my life and have lived there, including in Scandinavia. I think I know something of the Europeans’ minds. They are deeply tribal in a way that Americans do not suspect or understand.

    No matter God, religion, high idealism, political correctness, multiculturalism, human rights…All that was around in some form or other in the early 20th century when the continuing wars and civil wars broke out that enveloped that century. It seems that deeper strains of the human being will prevail. Tribalism now prevails. Civilization is a thin veneer. It won’t be pretty but policies that fly in the face of reality aren’t pretty either, and the idiots who dream up this stuff…the so-called enlightened elite..They think so.

    (Note that Merkel of Germany condemns the Norwegian horror, but also says that multiculturalism does not work.)

  • Georgiaboy61

    Joe, re: “By the way, Norway’s democracy is a closed-shop. What properly functioning democracy in the world taxes beer to the point where it costs 15 or 16 dollars per bottle at the pub?” The kind of democracy that does these things (i.e., steep taxes on things like beer) is the same kind that allows would-be Norwegian “immigrants” from the Muslim world to declare refugee status – while still on the plane flying to Norway from the Middle East, mind you – thereby qualifying to go on the govt. dole the moment they land. Norway is thereby subsidizing those who wish its destruction, by paying the way for these soldiers of Allah (which is exactly what many of them are; also known as jihadists).

  • Georgiaboy61

    Staffan,re: ““The Pill is a necessity for all women, and abortion very much a right!”
    – It is a fascinating time we live in!”
    Staffan, have you by chance read Mark Steyn’s “America Alone” or perhaps Pat Buchanan’s “The Death of the West,” or Bruce Bawer’s “While Europe Slept”? All are worthy of your time, and all reach more or less the same conclusion – demographics is destiny, or as Steyn likes to say, “the future belongs to those who show up.” My mother is a Dane, and that nation has some (but not all) of the same problems as Norway and Sweden concerning Muslims.

  • The same technological progress that helps create violent alienation and rage also empowers individuals and groups.

    I disagree. We are able to keep better tabs on people with technology. The opportunities for terror are fewer but more shocking in the 21st century. Our steel and glass skyscrapers do not burn, which is why horror and shock fill us when they do.

  • Staffan

    #64: I have Steyn’s book. But this must never be talked about here! I try to say (very very carefully) that every fourth little child is ‘taken away’ since 1979, and is met with silence — or aggression; called a fanatic. Stopped from commenting. Those comments are literally taken away sometimes.
    – Net reproduction rate is over 6 or 7 in some countries in Africa. It has to be over 1, for a constant population. It went below 1 in 1968 here, and has remained under. (Yes: it was 1.01 in 1991-1992). It had a low in 1983. And in 1984, “refugee immigration” began. I am speaking of Sweden, my country.
    – And now I am literally in the minority here. People from the Balkans, from Latin America, and other non-Europeans, dominate, in town.
    – But the reasons for this must never be mentioned! You are the first ever who has given a serious comment. Those from the far right hate ‘foreigners’; the left sees them as future allies; but no-one will see the reasons for this fundamental change.

  • John D

    In a nutshell: Technology has advanced, human nature has not.

    We are still much the same as the ancients. We just have better technology and improved methods of fooling ourselves into believing that we’re not.

  • teapartydoc

    All bad ideas come out of a kind of gnosticism wherein the bearer(s) of the idea, out of a religious impulse (I mean this in a secular, and not necessarily theological way) decide that the idea is so overwhelmingly paramount and good that it must come to fruition regardless of whatever reasoned and reasonable resistance it meets. This ends in intellectual and political bullying, which in turn generates its own reaction, and possibly new gnosticisms. I think we all probably harbor one or two of these ideas and take them more or less seriously. We’re all basically a bunch of drunks at a bar pontificating on how we would change the world, only we take ourselves seriously because we happen to think we’re sober.

  • Anthony

    “Of the systems above us , angelic and seraphic, we know little; but we see one law, simple, efficent, and comprehensive as that of gravitation – the law of life – extending its sway over the whole of God’s dominions, living where he lives, embracing every moral movement in its universal authority, and producing the same harmony, where it is obeyed as we observe in the movements of nature,”

    WRM, terrible tragedy in Oslo speaks to pathos which always trails such terror, evoking the kinds of emotions (pity, sorrow, terror, fear, anger, etc.) sentient to us all; yet fails to bewilder its reoccurence.

    I take from your fine exposition that greatest threat to humanity is not concurrent science and technology progress which provides greater killing power but man’s age old struggle with himself. Your exposition utilizes Oslo killings as instrument to force consideration among readers toward forces (God, science, technology, and accelerating social change) ineluctable to social living. If the emotions of terror and dread are often reinforced by an appeal to supernatural element, then man prompted by his anxieties has used technology to mute inherent anxieties; yet remains bedeviled by inability to comprehend that for which technology/science has not answered. Therein, for me, is gist of WRM’s request “to face it more honestly and live more richly….”

    “He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his peace.”

  • Jim.

    @RTN-

    You’re absolutely right. Nationalism — ABB’s cause de guerre — is the most lethal force in human history. (Governmental incompetence, particularly in China, comes in a close second.) Even at its worst, religion comes in a distant third (if that) with a casualty count at least two orders of magnitude below the other two.

    I like to remember Wernher von Braun’s take on the matter — “We knew that we had created a new means of warfare, and the question as to what nation, to what victorious nation we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision more than anything else. We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through, and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured.”

    Von Braun saw firsthand the damage that could be done by embracing a scientific, atheistic worldview. As Churchill said, “If we fail, the whole world will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister and perhaps more prolonged by the lights of a perverted science.” Science and technology are pure danger without the morality of the Gospels.

    Instead of embracing atheist teleology, von Braun trusted a nation whose war leader went on to very deliberately express that the United States was “one nation, UNDER GOD.”

    We must never forget that.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    A brilliant analysis of Breivik mind and motives, a Unified Theory of Breivik by Philip M. from England:

    “Why the confusion? Breivik was clearly a neo-Nazi, pro-Zionist, Christian-fundamentalist, pro-homosexual, Darwinian-Atheist, pan-European-Nordicist, radical conservative Freemason, and a lone wolf working as part of a shadowy cell of right-wing extremists who have been primed as part of a false-flag operation to discredit the Tea Party movement, the EDL, and the gun lobby.

    He was Norway’s answer to Baruch Goldstein, Timothy McVeigh, Seung Hui Cho, and the Unabomber. Coming generations will view him as a hero and a traitor whose intelligence is matched only by his stupidity.

    The correct response of those on the right, whom he in no way represents anyway, is to say that we utterly condemn him and totally understand him, pray that this never happens again, and arm for the coming civil war.

    In the long term we may well find that his actions discredit the right forever whilst forcing its ideas into the mainstream.”

    He probably went over the edge when he saw Sarah Palin shoot that caribou.

    All clear now?

  • Eric

    I agree with your assessment of the state of the world, but think this article unnecessarily confuses correlation with causation. As with viruses that propagate more easily in our smaller world, so psychopathic behavior is more easily effective today than say 50 years ago. Are you suggesting there are more psychopaths because of the nature of modernization…or that psychopaths simply can do more damage because of modernization? The result may be the same, but it is important to distinguish the real cause to determine an appropriate response/cure?

  • Paul Jones

    Actually, I believe that Mr. Mead’s analysis fails to penetrate to the heart of the matter, though it certainly tries hard to give the appearance of having done so.

    Breivik explicitly stated that his terrorist mass murder was motivated by a desire to prevent the replacement of post-Christian European culture with Muslim (largely Arab) culture. Despite this, he chose to attack not Muslim religious buildings in Norway, not centers of immigrant population, but members of a particularly Norwegian politico-cultural grouping.

    Surely it is no coincidence that it is this and similar groupings, as well as their analogues in other European countries, that have ruled Breivik’s “desire to prevent the replacement of… European culture with Muslim… culture” outside the bounds of permissible political discourse. Of course, democratic political institutions were still available to Breivik, whether or not he felt that he would be successful in using them, so this is no exculpation for him. Nonetheless, we should not be surprised when a party to a matter of dispute which we refuse to negotiate resorts to force.

    That said, the terrorist Breivik’s cause is already lost. But is this a comfort?

    • Walter Russell Mead

      One can also add that choosing to murder children who in no way were responsible for the problems he claims to care about placed his actions beyond any possible exculpation or even rational explanation. It’s a mistake to view him as a political actor even in a depraved way.

  • Paul Jones

    Sir, I appreciate your response. But are we to take it as self-evident that the morally depraved are neither rational nor political actors? This is more Whiggish than I would have expected. Without seeking to be overly dramatic, I will say that I have seen the victims of Sadrist terror, for one, with my own eyes, and heard their cries and futile pleading. This does not preclude an attempt to understand the Sadrist on his own terms, repugnant though they may be.

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