July 28, 2011, 8:30 pm
A Madman and His Manifesto
By TIMOTHY EGAN
It passed with only scant notice, as with so many of the rude extremes of American life in a kinetic media age. The bodies of those Norwegian children slaughtered by a terrorist had yet to be fully recovered, let alone buried, when Glenn Beck compared the victims to Nazis.
The summer camp where children of the Norwegian Labor Party went for soccer, swimming, political debates and lectures “sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler Youth,” Beck said in his national radio broadcast.
No, Beck wasn’t justifying the killing of 68 people on Utoya Island. He was merely muddying the humanity of those young people executed by Anders Behring Breivik, the self-professed “Christian Knight” who has confessed to the attacks. But Beck’s Web site, The Blaze, was full of justifications for the mass murder of innocents, and provided a sampling of the troubled audience he caters to in this country.
On Tuesday, after the site posted the story of the lawyer’s description of Breivik as “insane,” the first comment to follow was this: “I really feel for the guy. He loves his country so much that to see his own culture eroded away by multicultures that the govt is letting in, drove him to this heinous act.”
There were many, many more, of a similar vein. “You gotta like the guy,” another person wrote. “He speaks the truth” and has the mettle “to prove it.”
In response, Glenn Beck apologized profusely for defaming dead children, and said he was also alarmed by the hateful rhetoric coming from his fans. Oh, wait. Actually, no he didn't. No, in fact he doubled down and insisted HE was the victim and we hurt his widdle fee fees, and he was going to "unplug" and go all John Galt on us-after he set fire to the New York Times. Or something.
Whatever. Anyways, back to the editorial
You might recognize one of those quotes as being from this diary I wrote late Tuesday night. Coincidence? Maybe. But as I noted in my edit, it made the rounds in the mainstream blogosphere, probably due to it's salacious nature and the fact that those comments were truly horrifying. Before I accidentally reset the counters, it was up to almost 2,000 shares. So it's possible that it caught his attention. It is also possible that a NYT writer would visit Kos, with so many amazing diarists here to draw inspiration from. Regardless, when I wrote this it was my hope that it would start a dialogue about the consequences of hate speech, and no matter the origins, I'm glad that this conversation is now taking place-although in my opinion this Op-Ed did not go far enough:
As with Buchanan and the followers of Glenn Beck, these people did not go so far as to cheer the killings. But they portrayed the terrorist attack in Norway as an act of frustration, brought on by liberal policies to dilute an ever-shrinking native European population
No point in watering it down. There most certainly were followers of Glenn Beck cheering the killings, and very few of them were that circumspect. However, he hits the nail on the head right here:
We should not try to ban or overlook this kind of speech, whether it comes out the sewage end of Glenn Beck’s Web site, or from a member of the European Parliament. It needs examination, in the same way that sane people have to understand why a reading of the Koran could lead someone to strap on a suicide bomb.
I agree, and that was always my point- not to censor speech, but to look at the consequences that words can have, especially on a troubled mind.
But just as members of our media have horrified the world by turning Norway's tragedy into yet another excuse to say despicable, untrue things and then portray themselves as victims (and Beck was far from the only one) on the other side of the world today, this tiny European country that is still reeling from the worst act of violence in it's history, quietly laid it's first victim to rest. 18 year old Bano Rashid, a Kurdish refugee, was buried in a ceremony that- in a first for Norway and possibly in the world- combined both Christian and Muslim beliefs. One mourner said this of his friend: "She was Norwegian, she was a Kurd. Two nations, two cultures and two religions and they all meet today. This will go down as a sign of hope for our future.”
As we look upon Norway, we have to ask ourselves- what kind of country have we become? And what kind of country do we want to be? Do we want to be a country that is defined by the screaming heads, who greet each tragedy as just another opportunity to foment hatred? Or do we want to be a country that handles adversity with the quiet grace that little Norway has shown? Perhaps I am being overly optimistic, but I do feel the consensus slowly shifting, as people grow increasingly weary of the 24/7 hate/crisis paradigm. And just as the Prime Minister of Norway has called for “more democracy”, we must push for more dialogue. In the end, this is the only way you can silence the Glenn Becks of the world- not through censorship, but through conversation. By drawing a sharp contrast between their rhetoric and reality, and exposing them for the charlatans they are, every single day, until people decide for themselves that they no longer feel like listening.