Over the past week the world has born stunned witness to the testimony of Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. Methodically and by all accounts devoid of emotion he walked the court through the planning and execution of a terrorist attack and mass murder unrivalled in history. Much has been said and will be said about these days of recounted terror. What I want to focus on instead is the rationale behind Breivik’s actions and how Breivik in many ways represents a growing trend in western society: One of reality dysfunction. Let me explain:
If we look at the argumentation presented by Breivik divorced from circumstance, context, and other information, it can seem sound and rational.
In the first days of testimony Breivik presented his reasoning for planning and executing the attacks. He laid out historical background, statistics, research results, and drew conclusions from them. And the court, the attendees, the world, winced in horror. As we should. His conclusions are as bizarre as they are incorrect, and his resulting actions are incomprehensible. However, if we look at the argumentation presented by Breivik divorced from circumstance, context, and other information, it can seem sound and rational. And therein lies the real danger: When we start picking and choosing what information to use as our foundation for hypotheses, analysis, and conclusions, we do not get a scientific result but rather the result we are looking for. In science this is called “theory dependence”. In the real world it is a recipe for disaster. And Breivik is the perfect example.
Breivik’s version of history and the resulting argument is fairly simple to break down: After World War II all nationalist and “culture conservative” (his terminology) sentiments were quashed, disallowed and ridiculed because of their obvious ties to Nazism. In it their place socialists, feminists, and “cultural marxisits” with a “multinationalist agenda” (again his terminology) stepped in. These cultural marxists took over educational institutions, government and the media. Then they started a campaign of thinning out the “authentic” genes of indigenous populations such as “ethnic Norwegians” by bringing in people from other cultures like the middle east, Africa and Asia. They also started a campaign to either introduce or at least help bring in Islamic rule in Europe. Nationalists and cultural conservatives were deliberately shut out of the debate because all media outlets were run by these cultural marxists, and as a result no real debate was had and the wool was pulled over the eyes of the masses. Because of this, Breivik and people like him – the nationalists and cultural conservatives – were left watching the destruction of their culture and race from the sidelines. Until they had had enough and took to arms. As Breivik explains it, his attacks on July 22, 2011 were acts of self defense on behalf of all Norwegians. He sees his attacks as similar to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings at the hands of the USA: Preliminary strikes sacrificing civilians now to save millions later.
To the majority of us this line of reasoning is proposterous. However, if you had no background information and you were willing to believe there really was a conspiracy by so-called “cultural marxists” and that there was an “islamic invasion” and a “multiculturalist agenda”, both the reasoning and the conclusion is logically sound.
We love information that builds up under our own beliefs and hate information that contradicts them.
To put it into perspective, this is the same type of reality dysfunction you see when a large percentage of American citizens still believe either that their President Barack Obama is either a) not a US citizen, b) a secret muslim or c) both. In spite of irrefutable evidence to the contrary, they believe in these fictions so intensely they launch nation wide protests, publish books, and even attempt to take the issues to Supreme Court. Another example is the large group of people who insist the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were an inside job and that the World Trade Center was taken down in a controlled implosion.
What links all these cases together is that seen in a vacuum, and ignoring all other evidence to the contrary, the reasoning is (maybe surprisingly) rational and even logical. The problem of course is that to make sound, scientific and truly rational arguments , you have to take all facts into account. And people don’t like doing that.
What we see in Breivik and in these other examples is a basic trait in the human condition: We love information that builds up under our own beliefs and hate information that contradicts them. And if we can argue that all the information that contradicts our beliefs is being put out by conspiracies that deliberately hide the truth, then we can rest safely in our own cocoon and pretend that the world is what we want it to be.
So where does this leave us? In a very bad place. Because millions of other people use the same kind of reality dysfunction Breivik does to allow themselves to believe in their own misinformed (and mostly destructive) ideas about the world.
Though few are willing to say what Breivik did was right, justified, or in any way acceptable, there are thousands of people out there who believe strongly in the same argumentation he used to justify his actions. If you want to see for yourself, look no further than blogs like Gates of Vienna and Atlas Shrugged (I am not dignifying these outlets with a link, but you can find them easy enough). What you will see in these sites and many like them and also in hundreds of publications in print, in audio and in video, is argumentation that the western world is in the midst of a cultural war forced upon us by our leaders who are all joined together in a conspiracy to force Islam on us and cleanse the world of the white race. And if you are willing to accept these ridiculous assumptions as fact, the rest of the reasoning will put you on the same track as Breivik almost immediately.
The human mind is a master of self delusion. And thus begins the reality dysfunction. Logical reasoning and rationality only works when you include all variables and all data, even when that results in your theory being disproven or forces you to change your understanding of the world. Whether it be “cultural marxists”, the “liberal media bias” or the “Islamic terrorism” it is always easier to blame the problems of the world on imagined conspiracies and foes than accepting that your own view of the world may be too simplistic, too ignorant, too self serving. The alternative reality dysfunction may be the easy way out, but it will lead you down a dark hole you may never get out of again.