[Trigger warning for violence, terrorism, eliminationism, misogyny, racism, Islamophobia.]
We all know that Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed dozens of people in attacks last Friday, was motivated by a toxic mélange of far-right ideology largely revolving around his intense hatred of Islam. The 1500-page "manifesto" he posted to the internet – a grab-bag of his own writing and material cut and pasted from assorted right-wing sites and even the Unabomber's manifesto – crackles with denunciations of Muslims, "Marxists" and the assorted other bogeymen that haunt right-wing dreams.
But what has yet to be fully appreciated is the degree to which he was also motivated by a deep hatred of women.
I've spent much of the past year seeking out and exposing (and often simply mocking) online misogyny for my blog Man Boobz. I find much of it in what some have taken to calling the "manosphere" – a loose collection of interlinked sites devoted to Men's Rights Activism, pickup artistry, and a strange separatist movement of sorts called Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW). The overwhelming majority of these sites – the most popular of which include The Spearhead, A Voice for Men, In Mala Fide and MGTOWforums.com (to which I won't be providing direct links, but they're easy enough to find, if you're so inclined)– are steeped in misogyny (and in some cases racism). I've become very familiar with their standard misogynist "arguments" and rhetorical tropes.
After a blog reader alerted me to the misogyny in Breivik's manifesto, I read through those sections of the sprawling work that dealt specifically with feminism. I was struck again and again by how utterly familiar it all sounded. Much of it could have been taken word-for-word from the manosphere blogs I read every day. (Not to mention from some of the misogynist trolls who regularly comment on my site.) The ideology is the same, the language is the same, even the specific obsessions are the same – from no-fault divorce to the evils of "Sex and the City."
Here's one typical passage, which appears to have been written by Breivik himself:
It's the destructive and suicidal "Sex and the City" lifestyle (modern feminism, sexual revolution) which we are taught to revere as the truth. In that setting, men are not men anymore, but metro sexual and emotional beings that are there to serve the purpose as a never-criticising soul mate to the new age feminist woman goddess. The perfect matriarchy has now been fulfilled …Breivik goes on to rant about STDs and no-fault divorce, before moving on to another favorite obsession of manosphere misogynists, the supposed sexual "capital" of manipulative women:
Isolated, "sex and the city lifestyle" is relatively harmless, but if you glorify it and ram it down the throat of mainstream society like we see today it becomes a lethal and destructive societal force as we are witnessing which eventually leads to a complete breakdown of moral/ethics, the nuclear family model and a sustainable fertility rate which again is leading us to the extinction of Europeans.
Females have a significantly higher proportion of erotic capital than males due to biological differences (men have significantly more prevalent sexual urges than females and are thus easily manipulated). The female manipulation of males has been institutionalised during the last decades and is a partial cause of the feminisation of men in Europe. This highly underestimated factor has contributed to the creation and rise of the matriarchal systems which are now dominating Western European countries.Obsessed with the purported danger that Islam will outbreed the West, Breivik offers an assortment of creepy solutions to increase the fertility of Western whites. (It's not altogether clear to me if these are all his own views, but they certainly are consistent with what he says elsewhere in the manifesto.) After suggesting limiting contraception and banning abortion, Breivik offers this idea:
Discourage women in general to strive for full time careers. This will involve certain sexist and discriminating policies but should increase the fertility rate by up to 0,1-0,2 points.That last "side effect" does not seem to be much of a problem for Breivik.
Women should not be encouraged by society/media to take anything above a bachelor's degree but should not be prevented from taking a master or PhD. Males on the other hand should obviously continue to be encouraged to take higher education – bachelor, master and PhD. …
Womens "new role" should be actively illustrated and glorified through series, movies and commercials. …
The end result for implementing the above reforms would be an increase in the fertility rate up from 1,5 to approximately 2,1-2,4 which would be sustainable.
However, this will also involve significant restrictions in women's rights and media rights.
Large chunks of the manifesto consist of cut-and-pasted blog posts from an anonymous far-right Norwegian blogger known as Fjordman. (See my post here for an extensive number of quotes from Fjordman that Breivik included in his manifesto.) Like Breivik's own writings, many of Fjordman's writings could be lifted virtually word for word from "manosphere" blogs.
One internet prankster conducted a little experiment that proved pretty clearly just how unexceptional this sort of rhetoric is in the manosphere, posting an assortment of misogynist quotes from Breivik's manifesto (all of them taken originally from Fjordman) to Reddit's Men's Rights forum – without identifying them as being from Breivik.
Despite – or perhaps because of – the blatant misogyny, the post initially received numerous upvotes and some positive comments ("Nice post man") from the regulars. Once it was revealed that the quotes had come from Breivik's manifesto, the downvotes and critical comments began to stack up. (I wrote about the incident here.)
But Reddit's Men's Rights subreddit is actually one of the most moderate and least misogynistic Men's Rights hangout online. Others in the manosphere have stepped up to defend Breivik's manifesto (if not his actions) plainly and explicitly, in full knowledge of just whose ideas they are endorsing.
On In Mala Fide, blogger Ferdinand Bardamu praises Breivik's "lucidity," and blames his murderous actions on the evils of a too-liberal society:
[A]nother madman with a sensible manifesto. Another completely rational, intelligent man driven to murderous insanity. And once again, society has zero introspection in regards to its profound ability to turn thoughtful men into lunatic butchers.He's not being sarcastic here. He continues:
That makes HOW many rage killers in the past five years alone? And not just transparent headcases like Jared Loughner or George Sodini, but ordinary men like Pekka-Eric Auvinen or Joe Stack who simply weren't going to take it anymore. No one bothers to ask WHY all these men suddenly decide to pick up a gun and start shooting people – they're all written off as crazies. Or the rage killings are blamed on overly permissive gun laws …That final reference to "ethnic self-hatred" seems to be Bardamu's euphemistic way of complaining that not enough white people are white supremacists.
Here's an idea – sick societies produce sick individuals who do sick things. Anders Breivin [sic] murdered nearly a hundred teens (not children, TEENS – they were at a summer camp for young adults) and must pay the price, but the blood of those teens is ultimately on the hands of the society that spat him forth. He is the bastard son of a masochistic, degenerate, rootless world that pisses on its traditions and heritage to elevate perversity, mindless consumerism and ethnic self-hatred to the highest of virtues.
Meanwhile, Chuck of Gucci Little Piggy offers what appears to be a somewhat more restrained, if ultimately more puzzling, defense of Breivik's manifesto – or at least that portion of the manifesto that Breivik borrowed from the writings of far-right blogger Fjordman.
After first complaining, incorrectly, that feminists are "try[ing] to blame Breivik on MRAs" (he cites me and Hugo Schwyzer as examples), Chuck goes on to endorse Breivik's (and Fjordman's) notion that feminism "grease[s]the wheels to allow Islam into his country," as Chuck summarizes the argument. The rest of Chuck's post elaborates on, and endorses, Breivik's/Fjordman's theories, arguing that feminism's "emasculation of Western men has taken the organic policing mechanism out of the hands of men in society" and thus rendered Western society helpless before the Islamic cultural invaders. (More on Bardamu and Gucci Little Piggy's arguments here.)
But the strangest response I've seen so far to the massacre in Norway comes from Sofiastry, an antifeminist blog that seems to be broadly sympathetic to the "alt" (that is, the "intellectually" racist) right. Apparently taking her cue from Bardamu, Sofia offers an appreciation of sorts for Breivik's repellant manifesto:
[A]lthough his actions were cruel beyond belief, and committed by a delusional, psychopath driven by his delusions of political grandeur, there is lucidity and sense in much of what he writes. He never seemed to explicitly advocated [sic] for a genocide of Muslims within Europe, but superficially claimed that he just wanted to sustain European culture.So, let's weigh Breivik's pros and cons here. CON: He murdered dozens of people in cold blood, motivated by a hateful ideology. PRO: He didn't explicitly call for actual genocide?
And then it just gets, well, weird:
I feel that Breivik is being tried for more than his cruelty within the feminist community. The fact that he belongs to the privileged group of the white male makes him hate-worthy along with every other privileged white male who might sympathize with his ideology, even if they don't happen to be psychotic. Breivik exemplifies White Men, even though Osama Bin Laden to the very same liberal ideologues did not represent Every Muslim.Yep, that's right. She thinks we hate Breivik … because he's a white dude.
It's another symptom of our culture that feels it is OK to hold white men to higher standards of political correctness, self-flagellation and martyrdom whilst simultaneously relentlessly berating and mocking them on a cultural level.
I can't speak for every feminist, but for me, it's more the murdering, and the misogyny, and the racism. But mostly the murdering. (For more on Sofia, see here.)
Despite the many undeniable similarities between Breivik's repellent misogyny and misogynist beliefs that are widespread in the "manosphere," some MRAs profess to be shocked –shocked! – that anyone would connect the dots. MRA bloviator Bernard Chapin, for example, responded to my first piece on Breivik with an angry, incoherent ten minute YouTube diatribe expressing his outrage that I would possibly suggest any connection between MRA thought and a "psychopath" like Breivik. It's a classic case of someone protesting too much. The connections are clear to anyone willing to see them.
No, Breivik is not an MRA. No, he didn't take his marching orders from The Spearhead or In Mala Fide. But he is steeped in the same kind of hatred that is prevalent on those sites, and many of his repugnant beliefs about feminism and women in general are virtually identical to beliefs widespread in the misogynistic manosphere – a fact that a few in the manosphere are already willing to acknowledge out loud, as we saw above.
No, not every misogynist is going to pick up a gun. But ideas do have consequences. Vile, hateful ideas have vile, hateful consequences.
PS: For more on Breivik's misogyny, see Michelle Goldberg's Norway Killer's Hatred of Women in TheDailyBeast.