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The Age

Jul 27, 2011

You don’t know what a troubled mind will get caught on

A question. I don't have the answer - to be honest I'm torn on it. It's just what conclusions should we take from the news that the Oslo killer was somewhat enthusiastic about, and c

A question. I don’t have the answer – to be honest I’m torn on it.

It’s just what conclusions should we take from the news that the Oslo killer was somewhat enthusiastic about, and cited the actions and words of, Australian conservatives like John Howard, Peter Costello and George Pell. And whether it’s fair to run headlines (and link pictures) like this, from The Age yesterday:

Nobody is suggesting that Howard, Costello or Pell want to round up young Labor party activists and shoot them like the Oslo killer did. Nobody is suggesting that they want someone else to do it for them, or that they would be anything but utterly appalled by the bloodshed. I have no doubt whatsoever that they were as sickened by the murder as the rest of us.

But it appears to be the case that their words, their actions, their preferred target, their rhetoric of destruction were apparently part of the inspiration for this psychopath’s actions.

So just what conclusions is it fair to draw from this? You can’t have a free and open debate without the possibility of some killer taking inspiration from part of it and going off on an insane tangent. Of course you can express doubts about immigration policy or religious extremism or anything else without being blamed for what the people on the fringe might do. But then again if you have a relentless and hysterical campaign by the shameless to convince the paranoid that the government or the muslims or someone else really IS coming to get them, and surely you increase the risk that someone at the fringe who really could go over the edge might believe it and do something terrible.

Is it fair to blame Muslims in general when a Muslim with a deranged spin on their religion goes and kills people? No. Is it fair to ascribe some blame to those Imams who preach war and hatred and destruction? Well, yes. Likewise, is it fair to blame conservatives when a gun-nut fundamentalist Christian with a paranoid fantasy about multiculturalism and muslims destroying the West goes and murders a camp full of young left-wing people? No. Is it fair to ascribe some blame to the polemicists who spend so much time painting paranoid fantasies of multiculturalism and muslims destroying the West who appear to have influenced the killer?

I don’t have the answer. There are many Norwegians with guns who don’t go round massacring almost a hundred young people – but then again, without a gun, if they’d had gun laws like Australia’s, then the Oslo killer’s rampage would surely have been much less destructive. There are many right-wingers paranoid about Islam who would never resort to violence – but without the relentless screams of impending doom, would the Oslo killer have been so determined to carry on with his plot?

As Jon Stewart noted earlier this year about the Arizona gunman:

You know, you cannot outsmart crazy. You don’t know what a troubled mind will get caught on. Crazy always seems to find a way, it always has…

I do think it’s important for us to watch our rhetoric. I do think it’s a worthwhile goal not to conflate our political opponents with enemies – if for no other reason than to draw a better distinction between the manifestos of paranoid madmen, and what passes for acceptable political and pundit speak. You know, it would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn’t in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV. Let’s at least make troubled individuals easier to spot.

Perhaps if our polemicists could take note of what’s going on in their comments; perhaps if our political leaders could take note of what’s going on at their rallies – and consider just what they’re inciting, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.

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87 comments

87 thoughts on “You don’t know what a troubled mind will get caught on

  1. O’Neill: if you don’t like Murdoch dominance of Australian media, you could always inherit your own newspaper | Pure Poison

    […] on that argument we and many others have been having, in the light of the Oslo massacre, on the subject of just what, if anything, should be done about […]

  2. Matthew of Canberra

    SHV @77

    Oh, sure. But apart from that 😉

  3. peter de mambla

    [I think they are legit – they sell stuff made from minerals from the Dead Sea and operate via franchise.]

    Well, yeah. To be a plausible front they have to be plausible. Though I have to say, I’ve never quite understood this methodology as an information-gathering exercise. It seems a silly and strange way to go about doing it, unlikely to garner much useful information. Presumably as they sell cosmetics to a whole range of people, they give themselves the opportunity to come across people who may offer interesting information.

    [And what about the Israeli found with multiple passports underneath the rubble of the Christchurch earthquake? His friends disappeared quick smart no questions asked after John Key received a few phone calls from Netanyahu.]

    The New Zealanders seem to stand up to them quite happily. Though maybe John Keys’ Jewish background helped these ones out on this occasion, I dunno.

    [(Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh was first drugged, then electrocuted before finally being smothered to death by Israeli agents in his hotel room in Dubai)]

    I honestly can’t figure out how they managed to put the door lock on from the outside, so that it would appear as if Al-Mabhouh had put it on himself.

    Anyway, that’s the limit of how far I’m willing to go on such topics, so that’s enough from me.

  4. jules

    Every state has spies and they all do dodgy things if the need arises.

    One thing about Israel tho – IIFC their spook murders are actually “judicially sanctioned” or at least reviewed and rubber stamped by parliament or a court. I dunno if thats the case for other groups like the CIA, or even ASIO. Not much of a fan of Israel myself, especially with the right wing psychos running amok over there. Ever since they (the Israeli far right) killed Rabin Israel has turned its back on any sort of peace.

    One thing they did tho was try to warn the US on multiple occasions before sept 11 2001 about a cell of Al Quada terrorists who were planning to hijack planes and possibly fly them into buildings. Even the guys who were busted on that bridge were probably just recording the event so they could say “See we warned you repeatedly and even followed them that morning.”

    Anyway the Israeli govt and the far right there really do suck. But they no worse Bush or the Obomber, and by extension us – given our support for Bush and the Obomber.

  5. Duncan

    “I wouldn’t hold it against them if they were – heck, I’ve even heard rumours that Australia spies on other countries itself :-)”

    Spying is one thing.

    Murder, facilitated by fraud and the theft of Aussie passports is another.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_Mahmoud_Al-Mabhouh

    (Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh was first drugged, then electrocuted before finally being smothered to death by Israeli agents in his hotel room in Dubai)

    Personally, i’d be quite pleased to see us cut this “friendly democracy” loose. Our support for this murderous, thieving apartheid state is a bloody disgrace.

  6. Angra

    Nice to know that our guys keep such a discrete profile when spying in the South Pacific. Admittedly it is a bit hard blending into the background being a 6 foot 2 Aussie in Moresby.

    The Julian Moti thing seems to have gone very quiet. Still awaiting various appeals I believe. Guess how the SI RAMSI police knew when his plane was about to touch down in a remote part of Munda, and had a team all ready to arrest him after he secretly left PNG in the dead of night without even lights on the plane?

    I think this is down to good radar surveillance rather than spooks.

  7. Duncan

    “but I would be very horrified if Australians decided as a whole to cut a friendly democracy loose like that”

    A friendly democracy, fair enough. But what about Israel? 😉

  8. Angra

    MoC – Aussie spooks are thick on the floor in Moresby. It’s fun learning to spot them in the corners of bars and hotels. I went over to speak to one once and he just got up and left without a word. The friend who I was with worked for the PNG Government (fairly senior) and said “don’t worry, he’s an Australian spy. We all know about him. He tails the Ministers.”

  9. Angra

    On the other hand (nudge, wink) Vanunu was dobbed in to Mossad by some of the Australian Jewish community. And what about the Israeli found with multiple passports underneath the rubble of the Christchurch earthquake? His friends disappeared quick smart no questions asked after John Key received a few phone calls from Netanyahu.

  10. Angra

    peter de m – I’ve seen the Seacrets cosmetic stalls in shopping centers as far apart as Sydney and Darwin. I think they are legit – they sell stuff made from minerals from the Dead Sea and operate via franchise. Mind you, Dead Sea isn’t a great marketing label for cosmetics!

    Dead Set might be better for Oz.

  11. SHV

    Sorry, on reflection that may seem a bit obscure.

    I question “friendly” because, e.g., stealing Oz passports to murder people.

    and, “democracy”, well let’s just say our democracy looks good next to theirs!

    Internationally recognised illegality of currently occupied land and disregard for international rulings on borders, etc….

  12. SHV

    MoC, I’ve noticed you heart Israel, but seriously….?

    [friendly democracy]

  13. Matthew of Canberra

    I’m not normally a person given to conspiracy theories …

    I’m not X, but … 😉

    and I know this particular one has thousands of kilometers of BS

    Ooh, yeah. I’ve heard this one too.

    In 2002 I was intrigued by some conspiracy sites dealing with 9/11 and net-surfed quite a lot over dubious territory. When one day lo and behold, I got a knock on the door at my home on the central coast of NSW from – an Israeli art student!

    A friend in canberra (the leafy suburb of deakin) was also visited by a israeli girl selling artworks. Apparently they were actually quite good, and she even bought one piece. I’m sorry I missed – apparently the art-selling-girl was quite attractive … 🙂

    One of my doctors/friends is jewish. He lives fairly nearby the aforementioned and he got a visit from (presumably) the same girl (or similar). And she had the good planning to turn up “on the sabbath” as they were sitting down for dinner (not sure if means friday night or saturday night), so they basically dragged her inside (they’re nice folks with teenage kids) and made her join in the sabbathy-type-goings on. They also bought a bunch of her stuff and hung some of it up around the waiting room – it’s quite good, too. More “poster art” than paintings. I told him about the conspiracy theory and let’s say he didn’t think there was much in it 🙂 His observation on the event was on the universality of jewish customs – the first thing she did on crossing the threshold was to touch the “mezzuzah” (which I had to google).

    He was friendly and chatty and got quite a bit of info out of me I suppose – mostly deliberately pro-Israel (snigger). I watched him as he left and noticed he didn’t visit any other houses.

    It’s possible. I mean, let’s face it – we’re not an insignificant part of world politics (i.e. we back the US’ military policies, which is very important to israel), and we’re a country that COULD swing away from israel (although frankly I would be extremely surprised if it ever happened – it’s one thing to have a bit of a whinge, but I would be very horrified if australians decided as a whole to cut a friendly democracy loose like that – I just don’t see it happening, and I don’t see our leaders allowing it to affect policy if it did). We’re also a fairly open society, so just asking around would be not a bad way to gather general impressions about public opinion. I wouldn’t hold it against them if they were – heck, I’ve even heard rumors that australia spies on other countries itself 🙂

    Just as long as they send lots of pretty art students to visit me … guys? *tap* *tap* this thing on?

  14. dam buster of Preston

    Peter @ 55
    I nearly threw up when i saw Bolt on Channel Ten news talking about threatening comments. He was saying it was bad and shouldn’t happen.. WTF?

  15. peter de mambla

    LOL, that’s funny, Angra! I wasn’t there at the time, but I was told that it was a friendly girl that visited. All the way in Mooroolbark! The painting had been up for quite some time, hanging there from around late 2007, and then late towards 2008 I learnt that this “Israeli art student” had sold it to someone else in the household!!! Yes, I doubt that any other household in Mooroolbark was visited! LOL

    I guess I’d started to read some sites that went over the top, I suppose, in their anti-Israel position. I became open-minded since late 2007 and started considering other viewpoints that I’d previously never have considered after I learnt that MK-ULTRA was all perfectly true (as per Church Committee findings of 1975). I draw the line at considering anything to do with aliens, but while I’m not anti-Israel, I’m now anti-Likud, who I think are a bloody dangerous lot!

    So maybe I stumbled on some sites that may have made me an object of interest to the Israelis.

    I’ve heard that the Mossad also use those skin-care stalls as fronts in shopping centres, such as Seacret Spa skincare range (one in Doncaster Shopping Centre) and, until recently, one in Melbourne Central (opposite Politix and just after where Borders was) with a name I can’t recall that begins with J and is the name of a famous place in Israel/Bible.

    I was walking through Melbourne Central late last year when a guy from this stall started doing an aggressive sell on me. I wondered why they would get a Lebanese guy with English that was difficult to understand when I realised he was Israeli. I declined his offer to buy the skincare with difficulty (he was insistent), and ever since entertained the thought of asking one of my friends who works for the government to “accidentally” forget to remove their government sash and observe how keenly and aggressively these “salesmen” accost him and try and be his best friend forever, etc.

    Anyway, that stall’s since gone, so maybe they didn’t “collect” enough information or something. The ones in Doncaster Shopping Centre, when I’ve walked past, don’t seem aggressive and just seem to stand there bored.

  16. Angra

    Jules – yes that may be so. That’s the intriguing thing about conspiracies – they might be genuine, they might not! It plays upon our fears and suspicions.

    But this bloke really did know seem to know about Israel. He said he came from the north – around Netanya. And he wished me a blessed Sabbath, and he spoke convincingly of Jewish celebrations and feasts etc. and said he spent some time in the Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed.

    He could have learned this from a book I suppose.

    Anyway, Shabbat Shalom!

  17. jules

    Ha, I’m just messing with ya angra…

    http://antiwar.com/israeli-files.php

    There’s also this which might have a more mundane take on the whole thing:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_student_scam

  18. Angra

    I did make the mistake of saying I remembered driving past Dimona (quite true). It’s just off to the left on the main road to the Negev heading south.

  19. Angra

    I’m not normally a person given to conspiracy theories, and I know this particular one has thousands of kilometers of BS, but I am telling the complete truth here.

    In 2002 I was intrigued by some conspiracy sites dealing with 9/11 and net-surfed quite a lot over dubious territory. When one day lo and behold, I got a knock on the door at my home on the central coast of NSW from – an Israeli art student!

    His paintings were not all that brilliant. He showed me an ID from an Art School in Sydney which I hadn’t heard of and we had a quite a long chat about Israel, as he seemed to be homesick and I had been there on holiday for a few weeks some years back. We had a coffee. He was particularly interested in my visit to the art community at Safed. (worth a visit I might add).

    He was friendly and chatty and got quite a bit of info out of me I suppose – mostly deliberately pro-Israel (snigger). I watched him as he left and noticed he didn’t visit any other houses.

    Weird or what?

  20. Angra

    peter de m – yes, in some cases an individual IP can be traced from ISP logs and email headers, but there are many way’s around this (you can spoof an IP or use a proxy). And also it is remarkably unreliable if you are on a network that uses address translation, or a router which gets a new IP every time you switch it on.

    Some cases of alleged downloading of child porno have failed because there was no reliable way of tying the IP art the time of the offence to an individual person. Also there is “hacking’ of course whereby a clever person can hijack your IP or WiFi to do naughty things, then disappear in a puff of Linux.

  21. Angra

    I’m inclined to agree with mondo. The issue is not whether we should take legal action against those who are spouting right-wing agitprop, which I believe in the context of Australian culture is bound to fail, or just be bait for those claiming “Freedom!”.

    Maybe ACMA and the Press Council are not doing their jobs – but that can be fixed with existing standards and regulations, libel laws, holding people to account for breaching their own codes of conduct etc.

    The real issue is with monopoly ownership of media outlets which diminishes diversity and allow the bullies to get away with their hectoring. How this came about is another sorry story, with Labor as much to blame as the Coalition.

  22. mondo rock

    Would you support legislative changes to destroy their virtual monopoly on our news media and open it up to real competition?

    Of course I would – as I have repeatedly stated here. Why would someone who has consistently argued for media freedom reject rules aimed at opening up the media marketplace to a greater diversity of voices?

    I can’t even conceive of a rational argument against greater media diversity.

  23. monkeywrench

    Outstanding piece by Seumas Milne in The Guardian, about the context and repercussions of Breivik’s actions. We seem to be devolving toward a generalised dystopian conservatism, where phantom menaces plague the thinking of ordinary people who would otherwise have no contact with the characters they fear. It is enough to drive you to despair.

  24. Will S

    Sounds like even the Australian Federal Police have become part of the vast socialist conspiracy to silence our freedom of speech…

  25. SHV

    [Nope – I’m afraid that our friends from News must be given free reign to lie, misrepresent, cheat, contradict and deceive to their little heart’s content. That’s the price of our continued freedom.]

    Fair enough.

    Would you support legislative changes to destroy their virtual monopoly on our news media and open it up to real competition?

  26. peter de mambla

    @ Itmon

    Thank you.

    Yours non-technically,
    Peter

  27. ltmon

    @Peter

    You would generally need an administrator to give you the IP from their logs. It will then only usually resolve to an ISP, who would need to give over the actual customer details for that IP address upon request (or if/when they are forced to).

  28. mondo rock

    Besides, is he asserting a right to his own opinions or his own facts?

    You’re fairly naive if you don’t recognise that most ‘facts’ are heavily influenced by opinion.

    That’s why the creation of rules aimed at censuring or censoring someone who publishes claims that are deemed non-factual is so dangerous. Such a system would very quickly be abused as an ideological weapon.

    Nope – I’m afraid that our friends from News must be given free reign to lie, misrepresent, cheat, contradict and deceive to their little heart’s content. That’s the price of our continued freedom.

  29. peter de mambla

    [They’ve monitored blogs like his for some time. If a commenter fits the “profile”, he gets a knock on his door.]

    Can the AFP tell someone’s IP just from a comment, or does that capability only rest with the administrator? I know this blog is awash with techies, so pardon my ignorance if it’s a “silly” question.

    [I got a visit from the fearless AFP some years ago. They came to chide me for swearing at Vanstone. When I told them why I swore at Vanstone they said “send her 1,000 emails a day, but don’t swear”.]

    Swearing at her in person, or swearing at her online? How did they track you down — first ask you for your information. I dunno, I’m just curious. An “Israeli art student” once visited my household …

  30. shepherdmarilyn

    I got a visit from the fearless AFP some years ago. They came to chide me for swearing at Vanstone. When I told them why I swore at Vanstone they said “send her 1,000 emails a day, but don’t swear”.

    Talk about incitement to harass.

  31. Matthew of Canberra

    “No! He is not insane. An insane person could not have made this plan or pulled it off. An insane person does not have a Plan B (he did).”

    Agreed. Words have actual meanings, and the meaning of “insane” doesn’t fit somebody who can plan and execute something large-scale over a period of time like this. Even hitler wasn’t actually insane (and no, I don’t believe that’s a godwin). A sociopath? Possibly. Extremely nasty? Absolutely. But probably not actually insane.

    I notice that the hammering of the word “terrorism” has been far less obvious this time around, too. Back on the weekend, there was a fair bit of noise about whether this was a “terrorist act”. Teh Lefts tends to be a bit better at comprehending the nuance of the word, so that makes sense. And teh rights seems to have newly discovered “nuance” since it turned out the perp isn’t a muzzie. It won’t last, though.

  32. lykurgus

    Martin Bryant? Why not Robespierres diary? Be closer to the mark than that blob of nothing.

    matter
    The AFP is looking into the comment that called for the assassination of Gillard. Interesting if anything comes out of that.

    They’ve monitored blogs like his for some time. If a commenter fits the “profile”, he gets a knock on his door.

    SHV
    Mondo, not sure where you get this idea that anyone is calling for further bans or limits on free speech.

    Allow me to show you… (pulls out a flashlight)
    Besides, is he asserting a right to his own opinions or his own facts?

    jules
    Just cos we think this guy has odious politics, that doesn’t mean he is automatically some sort of crazy or troubled person.

    Jack
    Those are the words by which Breivik, presumably insane,

    No! He is not insane. An insane person could not have made this plan or pulled it off. An insane person does not have a Plan B (he did).

    This was a “hit”. A hit on a political party, for tolerating an amorphous Other. We know this, because he explained it. In an uncomfortable amount of detail.

  33. peter de mambla

    [The AFP is looking into the comment that called for the assassination of Gillard. Interesting if anything comes out of that.]

    The AFP has a history of not following up such infractions committed by people acting under the umbrella of News Ltd.

  34. liliwyt

    Reports have come out this morning of a video of the aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre being posted on YouTube (it’s since been taken down).

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-07-28/port-arthur-youtube-video/2813556

    A reminder, or a warning?

  35. matter

    The AFP is looking into the comment that called for the assassination of Gillard. Interesting if anything comes out of that.

    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/police-assess-calls-for-violence-as-tax-debate-gets-nasty-20110727-1i04w.html

  36. peter de mambla

    [The incitement to violence law is a good example of speech that causes someone to commit violence, rather than simply speech that influences someone to be violent. I don’t have a problem with that limit on speech.]

    That’s a funny distinction, a game of semantics. How does speech cause someone to do something? By putting them in an armlock and forcing them to do it? Whereas speech that influences someone simply … influences them, with, like, influence and stuff — not like that armlock type of causative speech?

    If I shout “fire” in a crowded theatre, am I causing people to run for the exits? Or am I merely influencing them to run to the exits, harmlessly practicing my free-speech right to do and say whatever comes to my mind, and thus cannot be held liable for any injury that results from said speech?

    Semantics shmemantics.

  37. AR

    The Rabid Right would not be proclaiming, night & day, the bile & hatred they do were it not that they think that it will have an effect on people, aka the electorate.
    It may be hard to prove provocation to be causative but, like dog-whistling, it works best below the surface whence it can’t be called out.
    The previous UK tory election slogan “are you thinking what we are thinking?” failed to elect them on that occasion (mainly due to FPtP) but laid the basis for the EDL/BNP and similar lowlife to be considered within the Pale.
    The foaming & raving on 2GB/UE at the moment approaches the clinical, if not yet forensically, deranged but that is the nature of free speech and the paradox of demcracy, tolerance must allow the intolerant, freedom must allow its enemies to rant, rave and fulminate. When they resort to armed violence however…. mal sehen.