No tragedy goes long without exploitation, and the atrocities in Norway are no exception to that rule. The media is hard at work accusing researchers who monitor and warn about Islamic radicalism and terrorism of being responsible for the actions of an extremist and a terrorist.
Is silencing researchers who have put years of effort into exposing networks of radicals the right response to a terrorist attack? No reasonable person would think so. But that is exactly what media outlets like the New York Times and the Atlantic are trying to do.
Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic goes so far as to call a prominent researcher into Islamic terrorism, Robert Spencer, a jihadist. The Washington Post admits that Spencer and other researchers are not responsible for the shootings, but sneers nonetheless. And the New York Times and a number of other outlets have picked and touted the “64 times” that Spencer was quoted in the shooter’s manifesto.
Breivik’s manifesto of over 1,500 pages pasted in countless articles, essays and documents. It takes in everything from historical overviews to his gaming habits – particularly one game, Dragon Age, which features a Knights Templar character – a role that Breivik tried to take on. No one is suggesting that the game’s publishers should be held accountable for Breivik’s decision to impersonate a modern-day Templar Knight, and neither should any of the researchers he quoted while studying up on that role.
The “64 times” cited by the Times and its imitators reflects lazy research since the majority of those quotes actually come from a single document, where Spencer is quoted side by side with Tony Blair and Condoleezza Rice.
Many of the other Spencer quotes are actually secondhand from essays written by Fjordman that also incorporate selections of quotes on Islam and its historical background. Rather than Breivik quoting Spencer, he is actually quoting Fjordman who is quoting Spencer.
Quite often, Robert Spencer is quoted providing historical background on Islam and quotes from the Koran and the Hadith. So, it’s actually Fjordman quoting Spencer quoting the Koran. If the media insists that Fjordman is an extremist and Spencer is an extremist – then isn’t the Koran also extremist?
And if the Koran isn’t extremist, then how could quoting it be extremist?
The New York Times would have you believe that secondhand quotes like these from Spencer turned Breivik into a raging madman.
It’s very important to understand that the Koran is not arranged chronologically; it’s arranged on the basis of the longest chapter to the shortest.
Breivik was using sources to build a picture of Islam. And it’s unsurprising that he would have cited one of the most prominent authorities on the topic. But it is often clear that he did not understand what he was citing.
For example, Breivik incorporated some of Spencer’s attempts to demystify the history of the Crusades, without understanding Spencer’s initial warning about the danger of false ideas about the Crusades being used to spread violence today.
As Robert Spencer commented, “What exactly is ‘hate speech’ about quoting Qur’an verses and then showing Muslim preachers using those verses to exhort people to commit acts of violence, as well as violent acts committed by Muslims inspired by those verses and others?”
Tellingly, this citation is absent from the New York Times piece and other articles. While Spencer and other researchers have painstakingly shown the connection between incitement to violence and violence – no similar effort has been made by those attacking him.
The complete absence of quotes in which Robert Spencer calls for anyone to commit acts of terrorism reveals just how empty the media’s case against him is. Instead, the New York Times props up its argument by citing the infamous “64 quotes,” many of them from the same document, others quoted secondhand and none of them calling for violence against Muslims.
And even this is irrelevant because Breivik did not carry out violence against Muslims. Instead, like the Columbine shooters, his main target was a facility with children.
If Breivik was motivated by Islamophobia, then why did he not attempt to kill Muslims? Why did he not open fire inside a mosque?
Breivik was driven by fantasies of seizing power, combined with steroid abuse and escapism. He used quotes from researchers into terrorism to pad out his schizophrenic worldview, combined with fantasies of multiple terrorist cells and an eventual rise to power.
This is not so different from lunatics who picked up a copy of “Catcher in the Rye” and then set off to kill a celebrity. A not uncommon event, for which J.D. Salinger bears no responsibility whatsoever.
Not only did Breivik not target Muslims, but he considered collaborating with Muslim terrorists.
“An alliance with the Jihadists might prove beneficial to both parties,” Breivik wrote. “We both share one common goal.”
Breivik dreamed of obtaining WMDs from jihadi terrorist groups for use against European targets. And emphasized that, “Knights Templar do not intend to persecute devout Muslims or enslave them under puppet leaders in their own Islamic countries like today’s EU/US leaders are doing.”
Rather than being driven by Islamophobia, Breivik was fantasizing about collaborating in mass murder with the same Salafi terrorist groups that researchers like Robert Spencer have worked so hard to expose.
Had Breivik succeeded in contacting jihadist groups and arranging for a transfer of WMDs, then the very people that the media is now damning might have proved vital in exposing the threat.
This is why the attacks on Spencer and other jihad researchers are so shortsighted and dangerously counterproductive. As Breivik understood, terrorists have more in common with each other than with those who seek to stop them. And silencing researchers of terrorism is a victory for terrorists.