Monthly Archives: July 2011

Did I have a flame war with Behring Breivik in 2005? (Probably not)

(Update: I was probably wrong. See comment.)

I think I may have had a flame war with Anders Behring Breivik in May 2005. A Norwegian reader called “AB” didn’t like one of my articlesat all.

“When in hell did this blog become a dull, quasi-intelligent, “hurray, let’s get islamized left wing”-blog?”

“I am hereby calling for a boycott of Bjørn Stærk. Why the hell are we here discussing his thoughts when there are so many truly great sites on the web? Ask yourself: Does this retarded bulwark of islamofascism and Eurabia deserve me as a reader?”

If they’re the same person, then, on the positive side, the greatest mass murderer in the history of Norway despises me.  But the scary thing is, the greatest mass murderer in the history of Norway despises me.

I stand by what I wrote to him in that thread. I wish he had listened. But I also wish I could unsay this:

 ”AB, leaving your anger management issues aside for a moment, (entertaining though they are),”

Regardless of whether “AB” is him, it’s plausible that Behring Breivik encountered my blog in the years after September 11.  There weren’t many other Norwegian blogs that were critical of Islam around back then, and until I started confronting my islamophobe readers in 2004-5, I had quite a few of them.

Feeling sick, now.

New essay: On Bruce Bawer and Islam criticism after 22/7

I appreciate if discussing Islam criticism isn’t a priority right now, but after some of the shameful responses to the terror attacks by Bruce Bawer and others, I had to write this:

But reality has shifted sufficiently that you cannot mindlessly apply the same old models to the new situation.  And, this time, the pundits who reveal themselves to be most out of touch may well be precisely those right-wing critics of immigration and Islam who took the lead after 9/11.

Read the rest here: On Bruce Bawer and Islam criticism after 22/7.

Update: And here’s a shorter, Norwegian version in VG.

After the attack

It says something about how irrelevant blogs have become, that in the continous media (social and regular) frenzy that has lasted since the horrific terror attacks in Norway on Friday 22/7, I have not once thought to post anything here.

I’ve mostly been active on Twitter and Google+.  I’ve also written an article for Aftenposten about the ideology of the terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik, based on the manifesto he published online and on my own encounters with the counterjihad ideology he shares.  Here’s an English translation.

I’ve been in Dublin all this time, which makes this extra surreal.  Luckily, nobody I know has been killed, as far as I know, but it has felt uncomfortably close for another reason: The terrorist’s many connections to Norway’s online community, particularly the blogger Fjordman, his idol, who I’ve had many discussions with over the years.

I still find myself shaking, from time to time.  And I desperately want my old world back.  But there’s no turning back.  As happened nearly 10 years now, a terrorist attack has irrevocably changed the world I live in.  We have to face it, as best we can.

1950s movies marathon – part 52

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954, USA)

Submarine captain Osama bin Laden’s fanatic quest for vengeance against the so-called “civilized” world may not be as politely executed as the faint of heart might wish, but it makes sense within the context of his unusual worldview.   The scientist he kidnaps, locks up, brainwashes, and reminds daily of his power over life and death, eventually learns to respect this point of view.  Watched it all, mostly for the visuals.  The best parts of steampunk, the way it looks and makes you want to dress like a Victorian gentleman and go build outrageous machines, were pioneered in this movie.  Thanks, Walt Disney Corporation!

Killers From Space (1954, USA)

The evil, horrible, gruesome beings the title hints at at do not appear until halfway into the movie, and when they do they’re just some guys in stupid suits.  It was always thus.  Watched 4 minutes.

Animal Farm (1954, UK)

It is hard to watch this without shuddering, because of all the stories told in the 20th century, this was one of the truest and most tragic.  It remains so today, wherever popular revolutions are hijacked by two-legged pigs.  Watched it all, not because it’s good, (they gave it a happy ending?!), but because, by the strokes of the animator’s brush, millions die, and die, and die.  And did anyone even ask for forgiveness?

Book roundup: Christopher Caldwell, Adeline Yen Mah, Mattias Svensson

Christopher Caldwell - Reflections on the Revolution in Europe

Christopher Caldwell – Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West (2009)

Immigration poses two challenges to Europe: The formation of a separate, oppositional identity among muslims, who make demands European social models are unprepared for, and the inability of the native cultures to deal honestly with the challenges this causes.

Recommended: Yes, even obligatory. Hardly anything written about European immigration is both relevant and sane, but this is an outstanding exception. My own view at the moment is close to Caldwell’s, but even if yours isn’t, this book is where the debate must continue, or remain irrelevant, a mere exercise in misdirection.

Adeline Yen Mah – Falling Leaves (1997)

Growing up in Shanghai and Hong Kong, the author has a Harry Potter childhood, but there’s no magic, and no rescue.

Recommended: Yes.  I’m skeptical of anyone who shares their family feuds with the world, but it is an impressive revenge for an unloved daughter to turn writer late in life, and, in front of a million readers, elevate her stepmother to the ranks of China’s evil old dragon ladies.

Mattias Svensson - Glädjedödarna

Mattias Svensson – Glädjedödarna, En bok om förmynderi (2011)

A survey of failed and misguided moral crusades, from alcohol and comic books to prostitution and drugs.

Recommended: Yes.  And isn’t it interesting how many of these principled rebuttals of social democratic overreach come out of Sweden these days?

1950s movies marathon – part 51

On the Waterfront (1954, USA, Kazan)

Marlon Brando could have been somebody, if it wasn’t for the union mobsters.  All he has left is being a man, and he doesn’t even have that.  Watched it all before, but didn’t appreciate how perfect it is, a meeting of the old gangster thumbscrew and new acting.  What has changed since last time I saw it?  Does fast-forwarding through thousands of mediocre movies allow the great ones to stand out in a way watching the occasional preselected classic doesn’t?

The Men of Sherwood Forest (1954, UK)

Well, I’ve seen worse Robin Hoods, but that’s because the worse ones had bigger budgets, which allowed their awful plots to bloom into full potential.  I sometimes wonder what it is about the Robin Hood myth that is so compelling when I can’t think of a single book or movie that has told it well.  Watched: 11 minutes.  The one interesting thing about this movie is that it was made by Hammer, which got famous later for gorier reasons.

Night People (1954, USA)

Of all the post-war movies about Communist scheming and kidnapping in the European occupation zones, this is my favorite so far. It reminds me of The Sandbaggers.   No action, no fancy schmancy noir shadows and zither music, just dull, tough men making hard choices and dirty deals.  Watched it all.  Berlin comes off well too: For once as a beautiful city, not just ruins.

1950s movies marathon – part 50

Apache (1954, USA, Aldrich)

It’s amazing how well westerns can be used to make sociological statements, even silly ones.  Here, the last Apache warrior and his woman are radical revolutionaries whose eyes burn in anger at the limits “civilized” society place on their untamed way of life.  Watched it all.  The happy ending was forced, and it shows – none of the actors believe a word they’re saying.  In its honest first half, the message is: Go underground, terrorize the Man, and die young and proud, you glorious rebel you!

The High and the Mighty (1954, USA, Wellmann)

A bunch of people are stuck together on a failing airplane, and Character Drama ensues.  Watched: 15 minutes.  Wasn’t this concept used in a poorly received Norwegian movie recently?  They should have recycled Wellmann’s other movie from that year instead:

Track of the Cat (1954, USA, Wellmann)

When you watch movies chronologically like this, what happens is that one day you start up yet another movie and discover that someone has just invented a whole new way of making movies.  Just the colors here take my breath away – an entire movie made with the palette of a blood-splattered cow.  It’s like they took one of those dense, dark movies that felt like stage plays and added color and sound along the same lines, and got something so intense that it’s frightening to watch.  Watched it all.  And yes, I guess it’s a failure, but – what an experience.

Book roundup: Clive James, Charles Perrow, Nassim Taleb

Clive James - Cultural Amnesia

Clive James – Cultural Amnesia (2007)

I put away this collection of essays on half-forgotten artists and intellectuals four years ago, because it put more books on my to-read list than I knew what to do with.  Now I try again, better than I was before at dealing with the pressure of unread books.  My plan was to continue where I left off, halfway, but I got sucked in and read it all over again.  This is a fantastic survey of cultural pillars, the informal kind that one moment evokes the lost café culture of pre-Anschluss Vienna, and the next distracts itself with the implausibility of Richard Burton’s hairdo in Where Eagles Dare.

Recommended: Hell yes.

Charles Perrow – Normal Accidents (1984/1999)

Perrow’s warnings about the dangers of nuclear power haven’t held up too well, but his overall point has: That complex systems suffer complex failures, where parts interact in unpredictable ways.  A sufficiently complex system can never be safe.  Nassim Taleb has taken this idea further by encouraging systems and behavioral patterns that are designed so that unexpected events benefit us instead of harm us.

Read: 200 pages.

Recommended: No.  The subject is interesting, but the treatment dry.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb – The Bed of Procrustes (2010)

The tweet-length maxims collected in this book are made from four parts wisdom, one part self-aggrandizement.  I forgive this from the author of perhaps the most important book of the previous decade, but I also forgive the reader who wonders why they should be made to watch.

Recommended: Weakly, for the less self-obsessed moments.


Jeg har en bokomtale av I trygghnetsnarkomanernas land av David Eberhard hos Minerva:

Historien har spilt oss et puss: Vi lever tryggere enn noensinne, men er stadig reddere for de farene som er igjen.  Tidligere var vi redde fordi vi hadde noe å være redde for: Tuberkulose, lungebetennelse, underernæring.  I dag er vi redde fordi redselen vår mater seg selv.  Den livnærer seg ikke på ekte farer, men på selve muligheten for at noe kan gå galt.

Les resten her.

1950s movies marathon – part 49

Garden of Evil (1954, USA, Hathaway)

Heading out into mythical Mexico to rescue a trapped miner, Gary Cooper personifies the old-fashioned macho Stoic ideal of someone who is ready to unleash emotions or violence when appropriate, but always remains in control, unlike his too-greedy, too-angry, too-cynical friends, who are the unbalanced fragments of Cooper’s balanced whole.  Susan Hayward inspires his chivalric devotion not because he doesn’t suspect he’s being played, but because that’s beside the point, when after all it is the right thing to do.  Watched it all.

Salt of the Earth (1954, USA)

“The International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers present .. ” is among the top things you don’t want to see at the beginning of a film.  Commie-fighters at the time thought so too, and launched a campaign against it, thus securing it eternal fame as a Blacklisted Movie.  Watched: 7 minutes, right up to “I tell you, this installment plan, it’s a curse on the working man!”

Sign of the Pagan (1954, USA)

Attila the Hun looks like he has walked out of a Sword & Sorcery fantasy, and there are some great scenes where the power of Paganism and Christianity collide.  But also a lot of dull, wholesome Romans.  Watched: 12 minutes.