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Blog: Anders Breivik and Open-Source Warfare



Hours after the devastating Oslo attack and the tragic Utøya massacre, of which Anders Behring Breivik still appears to be the sole architect, the press started posting screenshots of a Twitter account with the Christian fundamentalist’s name. It already had 1,164 followers and only one tweet, published on July 17: “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.” After the tragedy the account was made inaccessible by the NORIA hacker group, but now it’s back on. The followers are up to 3,970 and the tweet has been replaced by a link to an “updated” version of Breivik’s now-infamous 1500-page manifesto: 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence. The .docx file contains the original cover, sporting a crusader cross, followed by an array of LOLcatz pictures. The replacement of the terrorist’s document is part of a strategy of the Norwegian Anonymous to not only ridicule the mass-murderer, but also destroy his legacy.

The Anarchist’s Cookbook

Regardless of Breivik’s mental health as an individual, it is a fact that his values and political agenda are not merely the vision of an isolated nutcase. Apart from the other mysterious extremist cells he mentioned during the interrogations, some far-right parties – initially condemning his solitary and violent endeavor – have been trying to blame liberal immigration politics for the man’s actions, while ultra-conservative politicians such as the Italian Lega Nord militant Mario Borghezio have gone as far as saying some of his ideas are good and sharable. Journalists have also compared the bloody events to others related to Christian fundamentalism, like the Oklahoma City bombing. The issue of the terrorist’s possible heritage, as tackled by Anonymous, is thus particularly crucial.

Despite the hackers’ efforts, though, 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence is still available online. If you leaf through it, among many other things, you’ll find pages and pages of pseudo-academic reports about Muslim propaganda in Europe and demographic strategies to counter the immigrant invasion. The manifesto, written in a good English, features bullet lists, logos, and quotes from conferences and articles. It’s easy to wonder what could happen if the wrong people read it.

Like Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, the Unabomber Manifesto, or William Powell’s The Anarchist Cookbook, the book is a perfect example of controversy that will survive its author, or at least its author’s intentions. Hitler’s memoir is still generally available to the public, even if it cannot be legally sold in several countries, including the Netherlands. In the case of Powell’s Cookbook, instead, the creature remains in print because of its profitability. Its rights are still owned by the publisher, Lyle Stuart, and despite the author’s emphatic attempts to take it all back from the bookstores its content is still out there.

Belittlement-by-diffusion technique

With 2083, the diffusion issue is medium-specific. Breivik’s is an example of “open-source” warfare – a concept which John Robb has been theorizing for a few years – and he proved himself a web2.0-savvy terrorist by spreading his mottos on popular social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. And, like it happens with the latest Madonna or Kanye West album leak, it’s very hard to utterly eradicate something off the Internet. Will Anonymous’ Internet-specific belittlement-by-diffusion technique be effective on the long run, eventually dwarfing the real document in a clutter of LOLcatz? Or will the manic Norwegian crusader’s ideas carve their own niche of online and offline extremism, in case they haven’t already?

Every week, you can read our blog about ‘The Right to Know’, with Nicola Bozzi and Lieke Kessels.