Anders Breivik: terrorists and the internet
Jon Snow has blogged about Anders Breivik: Norway’s terrorist: a lone wolf?
But Anders Breivik, did not act alone. He swept the extremist sites of the free world for material to stoke his hatred. He was nicely rewarded by entirely legal entities both in Britain and abroad.
The web is a feeding ground for deranged individuals who seek justification for their anger and resentment. The wonder is that we have to go back to Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber to find the closest parallel. And that was sixteen years ago – 168 dead, over 600 injured. He was judicially killed in 2001.
Norway’s terrorist: a lone wolf?
It’s a worrying comment. Clearly it’s true. But the first implication – not the statement, but a clear implication – is that we need to do something about it. And that’s what I find worrying.
Years ago the UK government was trying to establish a Key Escrow system so that nobody could use encryption to conceal their actions from law enforcement agencies. All of the liberty-leaning mailing lists were aghast. On one of the more reasonable but vociferous lists, the Home Office had its own advocate, always trying to put the Government point of view. All of this was before 9/11.
In the end, liberty won for now. But one of the last comments from the advocate was effectively, “you wait, it will take only one terrorist outrage for the people to be crying out for more restrictions.”
And then we had 9/11 and the Patriot Act and the anti-terror laws and the illegal invasion of Iraq and everything else. It takes just one terrorist outrage for governments to justify what they want to do anyway: increase their control by limiting our liberty.
Then we must consider the second implication in Jon Snow’s comments: “The wonder is that we have to go back to Timothy McVeigh… to find the closest parallel.” The implication here is just as clear: the internet doesn’t create terrorists. It is used by terrorists and criminals and racists – but it does not create them. Society does that. And repressive laws. And illegal wars.
So as free citizens we should offer our sympathy to Norway and Norwegians and we should grieve with them. But we must never let outrages be used by our governments to take away any more of our liberty.