Watching the international media on the web and TV change gears Friday, as information started to fasten to the fact that the worst terrorist act in Scandinavia since the 3rd Reich was perpetrated by a right-wing Christian zealot, was fascinating. This, rather than what people like Pam Geller, Daniel Pipes, Dennis Prager, David Horowitz, CNN, Fox News and many others were touting for hours as most likely an act of Muslim Jihad in a country that is way, way too liberal.
I was keyed into paying attention to how this meme might have to morph fairly early in the afternoon, by an item carried by Michael Rivero at What Really Happened, about the major event at the youth camp the day before the massacre:
During the second day of Labour Youth League summer camp at Utøya got the Labour Party’s young hopefuls visit by Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store.
Together with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation correspondent Sidsel Wold and Norwegian People’s Aid Kirsten Belck-Olsen, discussed the Foreign Minister of the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
As foreign minister arrived Utøya he was met with a demand from the AUF that Norway must recognize a Palestinian state.
- The Palestinians must have their own state, the occupation must end, the wall must be demolished and it must happen now, said the Foreign Minister to cheers from the audience. [automatically translated from Norwegian by Google translate]
That was an event held Thursday at the summer camp for the children of Norwegian liberals.
As the story developed Friday, almost every news outlet was quick to provide experts on Muslim terrorism and how that might have a growing negative impact on Norway and Europe. On Anderson Cooper, Friday afternoon, as he had his experts on Jihadism on camera, he was being told by another person – a CNN reporter – that the shooter, possibly the bomber, was a blond Norwegian. Cooper seemed to be taken aback, turning back to his Jihad experts, who were dismissive of the new information.
The bombing-shootings took up enormous bandwidth in our media machine until it came out that the alleged perpetrator has more in common with Sarah Palin and Alan Dershowitz than with Rachel Corrie or Furkan Doğan, both of whom have been labelled terrorists by Dershowitz.
As the end-of-the-week-in-midsummer stupor overtakes the media on a hot Friday evening in the USA, will they get around to trying to find out what set Anders Behring off?
The bombing had to be pre-planned, probably for some time. Was the pro-Palestinian event Thursday at the camp where over 70 were killed published on the web, facebook, twitter or somewhere else? Most likely. That may be what pushed this guy’s last button.
And just who created the group that fictitiously took credit for the massacres early Friday?
The ‘Helpers of Global Jihad’ group, of which al-Nasser is a member, made the claims in an email circular issued to various sources. The group does not appear to have any past history.
It is thought that the bombings are a belated response to Norwegian newspapers and magazines republishing cartoons of Mohammed originally published by Jyllands-Posten of Denmark.
I’m not about to go all conspiracy theory on this story. I am bothered, though, that the media was extremely rapid to ramp up the radical Islam run amok meme, yet so unready to deal with what is increasingly appearing to be possible – that the Christian gunman was impelled to kill liberals he may have felt were too sympathetic to Palestinians.
Update – Saturday, 12:30 p.m. PDT:
This diary questions what pushed Breivik over the edge. Phoenix Woman’s diary this morning, He’s Not a Terrorist – He’s a Freedom Fighter! touches upon some of the more pathetic errors in the media on Friday, as accurate information on the shooter-bomber became available. David Dayen’s front page fdl diary, takes this subject further - Norway Terror Reveals Disturbing Assumptions About Muslims.
Glenn Greenwald devoted his Saturday column to yesterday’s pathetic media coverage. His second update links to an Electronic Intifada article that shows how the false meme developed soon after the bomb went off in downtown Oslo. Essentially, it appears one dubious “expert” pushed the global media “over the edge”:
The source is Will McCants, adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University. On his website he describes himself as formerly “Senior Adviser for Countering Violent Extremism at the U.S. Department of State, program manager of the Minerva Initiative at the Department of Defense, and fellow at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.” This morning, he posted “Alleged Claim for Oslo Attacks” on his blog Jihadica:
This was posted by Abu Sulayman al-Nasir to the Arabic jihadi forum, Shmukh, around 10:30am EST (thread 118187). Shmukh is the main forum for Arabic-speaking jihadis who support al-Qaeda. Since the thread is now inaccessible (either locked or taken down), I am posting it here. I don’t have time at the moment to translate the whole thing but I translated the most important bits on twitter.
The Shmukh web site is not accessible to just anyone, so he is the primary source for this claim. McCants stated from the beginning that the claim had been removed or hidden, and on Twitter he even cast doubt on whether it was a claim of responsibility at all.
snip - EI posted screenshots of several tweets by McCants, then this:
McCants later reported that the claim of responsibility was retracted by the author “Abu Sulayman al-Nasir.” Furthermore, according to McCants, the moderator of this forum declared that speculation about the attack would be prohibited because the contents of the forum were appearing in mainstream media. It does seem more than a little bit odd that genuine “jihadis” would post on a closed forum that a former US official and “counterterrorism expert” openly writes about infiltrating.
EI is highly critical about how easily McCants’ dubious information was spread:
The media also failed. They reported on the claims McCants disseminated because his position and perceived expertise gave these claims credibility. Would The New York Times have required multiple sources and independent confirmation of the existence of the posting and its contents if it had not come from someone with McCants’ supposedly solid credentials?
For hours after McCants posted the update that the claim of responsibility was retracted, BBC, the New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post were still promoting information originally sourced from him. The news was carried around the world and became the main story line in much of the initial coverage.
The threshold for a terrorism expert must be very low. This whole rush to disseminate a false, unverifiable and flimsily sourced claim strikes me as a case of an elite fanboy wanting to be the first to pass on leaked gadget specs.
Update – 4:30 pm PDT: Here is what is being purported as his farewell video, posted before the downtown bomb went off:
Note: This diary originally named “self-styled terror expert” Steven Emerson as having been a person who falsely asserted on Friday that the Oslo events were linked or possibly linked to jihadists. He claims to have not discussed Oslo on Friday. My apology.