The strange case of the Faked Facebook Page.
Now I first looked at Breiviks Facebook page at 11.30 pm GMT on the 22nd June 2011. Shortly after I heard his name for the first time on BBC News, I was busy at the time and only had a quick look I will grant you, but I know Christian and Conservative were there, because I suspected they would be and was looking for them, it was essentially why I had gone looking for the page in the first place. I was not surprised to find them there. It was clear at that point that the page was a ‘one off’ created on the 17th July 2011 with a single purpose. I confess that It did not register with me at the time that the page was in English, sadly it doesn’t often to English speakers, but then again, if you want the world to read something, it is best to write it in English.
I had no time to work on a post at the time and when I did have time, tried to access the page, this was about 1.30 am GMT on the 23rd June 2011, it was no longer available, so knowing someone would have copied and preserved the page I found an appropriate mirror here:
Which looked exactly the same as the page I had seen earlier. I used this to inform the post I then wrote and published at 3.32 GMT 23-7-11. My post cited the above page and was the first track back to appear on that page.
Now as the story developed, with Breivik’s Manifesto emerging, it became very clear that Breiviks politics and the emphasis he placed on his religious identity, raised important questions for the anti-Islamists to address. This became even more apparent with the appearance of his montage ‘video’ which was littered with Christian Crusader imagery.
By Sunday morning my various web searches had begun to encounter posts about a ‘fake’ facebook page. The first I encountered was on Jihadwatch:
Naturally their interpretation of the course of the event was the reverse of my own, the page omitting Christian and Conservative was in their view the earlier one. (Although I found this Jihadwatch page on Sunday 24th, it had been published 11.35am Saturday 23rd, I assume GMT)
Now this creates a conundrum, as there are clearly two sets of screenshots circulating, and all possibility of conclusively asserting which is the genuine one has now gone. It might be possible to contact Facebook and get information direct from them, we might pore over different timings and debate the validity of different sources.
None of which would help one jot, because now fakery is involved, no matter what one side of the argument could show as far as the documentation is concerned, the other side will claim it is faked.
There is however a better approach, which doesn’t need us to decipher the intricacies of the HTML coding of Facebook pages. We simply have to ask which interpretation is consistent with the other information available about and by Breivik.
As regards Conservative/Rightist:
Breivik had been a member of the Progress Party, which despite the focus some have put on it’s name, is regarded as somewhat conservative in Norway. Breivik also claims to be a member of the Norwegian Nationalist party. As well as his citations of, Wilders, Spencer and others Breivik claims a connection with the English Defence League, the founder and leader of which, Steven Lennon, was once a member of the British National Party, which itself grew out of the National Front, which was a rebranding of Mosley’s Fascists, and incidentally Lennon has convictions for violence. So Breivik is certainly painting himself as conservative in his ‘manifesto’ and has a history of adopting right wing ideas and moving further to the right over time.
Breivik claimed to be a Christian in various forums, but most clearly in the 1,500-page ‘manifesto’ posted on the Internet an hour before the bomb detonated in Oslo “At the age of 15 I chose to be baptised and confirmed in the Norwegian State Church, I consider myself to be 100 percent Christian.”
And elsewhere in the document
“If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christians.”
When considered in the light of his montage video and it’s Crusader imagery, there is a clear picture of someone portraying himself as both Conservative and Christian. In this light I am forced to conclude that in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary that the Facebook page I first encountered is the genuine one, and the one which omits conservative and Christian is the fake.
Which gives rise to the question who faked this page with the omissions, and why?
One scenario might be that once the media were reporting that the suspect was a blond haired Norwegian, that right wing prejudices kicked in, and someone with sympathies in that direction put two and two together to get four, for once. As soon as there was a name they tracked down the Facebook page just as I did, and a fake was produced. (If anonymous can hack the FBI I am certain there is a hacker with right wing sympathies somewhere who would be able to accomplish this.)
Another scenario might be that a right wing anti-Islamist organisation or significant individual realised that the rapidly emerging picture of a right wing anti-Islamist suspect would be hugely damaging for their agenda, and a deliberate fraud was perpetrated not so much to ‘prove’ a conspiracy to discredit them, but more to muddy the waters, create doubt and uncertainty.
A prime candidate as a central character in this drama at present would be Pamela Geller http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2011/07/who-added-christian-and-conservative-to-norway-shooters-facebook-page-yesterday.html who seems to have been the first to mention the possibility that there was a fake Facebook page, though I would revise this if confronted with compelling evidence.
It is interesting to me that Ms Geller’s page and Jihadwatch, appear to have ‘clean’ page shots of the page with the omissions, whilst other pages citing this anomaly, have somewhat uncertain formatting.
There is a third scenario, or rather two related sub-scenarios: the very fact Breivik posted a Facebook Page at all, created a twitter profile, and e-mailed his 1500 page polemic to all and sundry, suggests he was very aware of the power of the internet, as a tool to propagate information. It surely cannot have escaped him that information is most effectively communicated through argument and dissent rather than agreement. If I agree with someone, I might say so, I might nod in agreement. If I disagree however I might argue for hours, I might seek allies, I might argue with others who dispute my position. All in all disagreement will likely distribute the basic points in dispute far more effectively than agreement.
That the points in dispute are Conservative and Christian, sets up a debate about what Conservative and Christian mean, and what they mean to Breivik. Is it a coincidence that these are then central themes of Breivik’s 1500 page plagiarised treatise?
The two sub-scenarios of this possibility, are that Breivik acted alone, and created a Norwegian Facebook page without Conservative and Christian, and a second English Page with Conservative and Christian. Or the possibility is that Breivik does have one or more accomplices who altered the page for him.
There are other scenarios, we could construct, however I think these three are the most likely. Partly intuitively, but also based on the thought that Breivik seems somewhat narcisistic and prone to imagining he thinks in convoluted and inscrutible ways, I tend to plump for Breivik creating the anomaly himself, alone.
Even so it is all very odd