Print Friendly and PDF
only search openDemocracy.net

In search of the spider in Anders Behring Breivik's web

For months we searched for the Norwegian terrorist’s most prominent supporter. Our hunt ended in a suburb in South Carolina, USA.

Anders Behring Breivik in court during the ninth week of his trial. Anders Behring Breivik in court during the ninth week of his trial. Alexander Widding/Demotix. All rights reserved.He arrived home by bike at 6.30 in the evening, walked the dogs in the garden and disappeared inside. We went up to the door and knocked. He took his time answering. Eventually, a pale 36-year-old appeared, in a t-shirt and crocs.

- Angus?

- Who are you looking for?

He spoke softly, hesitated.

- You’re Angus, aren’t you? 

"Angus Thermopylae"
Amongst those who pay any attention to Anders Behring Breivik's supporters on the web, the blogger "Angus Thermopylae" has been a mystery for some considerable time. Some have believed he is Norwegian. Investigative reporters, researchers, even the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) have tried to track him down, in vain.

The anonymous blogger has had Breivik's texts translated into 14 languages. He runs eleven Breivik websites, one youtube channel and a twitter account. He gives Breivik's prison address to supporters and urges them to write him. Breivik himself refers to the blog.

Jacob Aasland Ravndal who researches extreme right wing terrorism at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), describes this blogger as "very central".

“Angus' blog in the early days was the most authoritative on Breivik's situation in prison. He was often the first to bring news. He stands out as he writes well, is knowledgeable and argues convincingly,” Ravndal says.

He adds that Angus has "created a platform where supporters of Breivik can meet up". While many of Breivik's female admirers are romantically inclined and pay tribute to the person, Angus focuses on the politics.

“He is an ideologue and promotes building a community,” says Lars Erik Berntzen at the European University Institute in Florence.

Berntzen researches counter-jihadism, and calls Angus, "the most prominent leader figure" amongst Breivik’s supporters.

“He is systematic and extremely dedicated. He translates, proliferates and elaborates on Breivik's message. He works in a calculated way to build this into something bigger,” says Berntzen.

Morgenbladet Dec 5th 2014, the police mugshot of the 36-year-old in the background.


The terrorist's plan that the massacre at Utøya would inspire others to fight, has not come to fruition. A source with inside knowledge reports that "Breivik is struggling, both mentally and with achieving what he has set out to do. The number of letters seem formidable and he has been very active, but the question is, does it lead to anything?" 

Breivik is isolated and unable to reach out. Angus is one of the few taking up his cudgels. In anticipation of more "acts of resistance", as he sees them, Angus inducts Breivik supporters in the ideology, and teaches them how to remain anonymous on the internet. His expertise in computer security makes him difficult to trace.

- We don't know who this person is or what he could be capable of in terms of inducing others to act, says Martin Bernsen, spokesman at the PST.

A source who supports Breivik, says:

- Angus is the spider in the web. 

Unique archive
We first made contact with Angus in the summer of 2013, while working on a story about Breivik’s letters from prison. In the shadows, this unknown blogger had created a unique archive of Breivik's letters and texts. From his anonymous email address, Angus told us that he wanted to distribute news that was being hushed up. He wrote that he was inspired by "Breivik's sacrifice".

- Who are you?

- I don’t provide information about my identity.

- I take it that you are American, am I right?

- No comment.

- What is your view on what Behring Breivik did on Utøya, do you approve of his action?

- In my opinion the political elites are committing high treason against the European peoples…

***

Over the preceding months, our correspondence had developed into an email interview. In this, and in the blog texts, he told us that before the attacks on July 22, 2011 he had been similar to Breivik "intellectually and ideologically." When he learned that the perpetrator was a white Norwegian, he had wondered if "a fellow radical had finally decided to pick up arms". And to his way of thinking, that had turned out to be the case. On top of that, here was "an intellectual with a plan".

As Angus interpreted it, Breivik had given up his own life to "turn the tide in Europe" and it was this “act of self-sacrifice" that had inspired him to become an online activist.

He writes, "ideologically I agree with about 80-85% of National Socialism". The future of Europe was at stake, and he wanted "peaceful deportation of most immigrants".

As FFI researcher Ravndal interprets this, Angus has "less in common with the counter-jihad movement than with white supremacism", but the blogger was at the same time critical of racist forums like stormfront.org. He wanted to build something new, based on Breivik's ideas.

***

"Dear fellow revolutionaries" he opened one blog post, "we are all part of this cause for the liberation of our countries from the yoke of Cultural Marxism". In the beginning he covered the Breivik case as an ordinary blogger, but soon he was acting more proactively as a leader of a political group or a sect.

In the summer of 2013, Angus said that he had been able to "establish contact with several intelligent and hard working Breivik supporters". He launched a plan of action, with recruitment measures, further ideological tuition, translation and peaceful activism.

The ‘supporters’ prepared a “Manual for Doomsday Prepping”, with recipes for weapons made from flashlights, umbrellas and beer crates.

Breivik's birthday was celebrated on the blog. Most of the readers were women, and one year Angus encouraged them to make more of an effort,"dress up nicely, put on some make-up, head out the door, get into conversation with a random white male, and attempt to radicalize him".

Before the election in 2013, some in Angus' network put up posters with the slogans "listen to Breivik" and "Vote for the Norwegian Fascist Party" in Oslo and other cities. "It was an act of civil disobedience", Angus wrote to Morgenbladet. "The posters were removed quickly so it was a futile effort..."

He proposed more campaigns. A hunger strike against immigration in 2016 or 2017? "We’ll need at least 24 people of good moral character."

He liked to shock. He published "jokes about Cultural Marxism" in which Utøya victims were ridiculed, and posted a video which depicted a manipulated Breivik figure "water skiing" around Utøya.

"What kind of man are you?" he was once asked. His answer, "I’m a rational person above anything else" and "somewhat of a loner".

“Would you also be willing to break the law for the ideas you believe in?” we asked in an email.

“I've broken speech laws, though I view this as an act of civil disobedience”.

“Some people say they support Breivik’s thoughts, but have reservations against what he did on Utøya. What is your opinion?”

“I view the executions on Utøya as an act of desperation that is rationally justifiable under the assumption that Multiculturalism constitutes an act of genocide.”

Angus thought democracy had "failed", and that people were "brainwashed".

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

***

He never explicitly encouraged violence, but as FFI researcher Ravndal remarked, he was "very conscious of what he communicated to the outside world".

In his introduction to computer security, written for the supporters, he pointed out which web sites had a "violence clause", such that one could safely encourage violence. On the blog he had a counter with the days and hours until Breivik's "ultimatum" would run out.

"Obviously there is no democratic or peaceful solution” he once wrote, and again, "As per his own criteria Breivik needs a follow up attack by July 22, 2013 in order for his mission to be a success." 

“I see no reason why people shouldn't be allowed to resist genocide or totalitarianism by violent means”, he wrote in an email. “I support the right of self-defense, and when genocide is taking place it's inevitable that someone will take up arms.”

This was in the spring of 2014. It was the 23rd email we had exchanged. Soon thereafter we wrote to him that we now had some idea of who he was, and wanted to meet him.

He then broke off contact. 

A curious faultline
The name came to us through a source in the community. It was claimed that Angus was a 36-year-old in South Carolina, USA. What made this piece of information interesting, was that it had the potential to explain a curious faultline in Angus' otherwise tightly controlled self-portrayal.

On October 11, 2013 the self-declared atheist Angus published a post with religious statements, such as, "for Jesus commanded his disciples to arm themselves with the best weapons they could buy, and he warned them about the end of times".

Later the same day Angus wrote another text, where he apologised for everything he had written until now. "No further bloodshed is needed, Breivik accomplished his goal," he wrote. He claimed that "the goal of 7/22 was to identify the Soldiers of Christ, and to identify the Soldiers of the Beast". This was now achieved, and Angus encouraged the supporters to go their separate ways. "I hereby swear off all violence and I only wish to preach my truth and enlighten the people," he wrote. "I am a kind person, a moral person, and I know right from wrong."

He was never going to blog again, he insisted. Now, he would travel the world and search for like-minded people to "start a new church of Christ". He had had a tough childhood, he wrote, but now was the time for healing.

Readers were confused: they were faithful fans of Breivik, and some felt fooled and betrayed. 

After two weeks without any signs of life, Angus apologized for the incident, deleted the text and promised, “we got some cool Breivik stuff” coming up soon.

What really caught our interest, however, was that the 36-year-old the source had identified as Angus, had been arrested in a small town close to his home only a few hours after the curious text was posted.

He had left home the same evening, October 11 2013. Around two in the morning he was stopped by the local sheriff. According to the police report he was driving in the wrong direction without the lights turned on. He had then tried to escape from the sheriff and came close to crashing into a house. He was arrested and locked up.

While in jail he tried to destroy the sprinkler, flooding his cell. The prison officers reported that he resisted by biting and punching officers.

One of the officers reported that he was punched in the face and bloodied; another was attacked and spat on.

Another told Morgenbladet that the 36-year-old was muttering religious dictums:

- He claimed that he was God. He was going to strike us all down.

The guard says that the prisoner babbled as if speaking in tongues, hollering out his love for an unknown woman: "Gloria, I love you!"

He was released after twelve days. Two days later Angus was back on the blog.

The mug shot shows the 36-year-old with a wry, defiant smile. 

Gothic gloom
Further research revealed that the 36-year-old who is allegedly Angus had been writing on the web under different names for years.

He was born in the Netherlands in 1978. As a child he felt smarter than his classmates and thought the lessons were boring, he would later write. He began hanging out with “the dumbos”, those who shared his interest for "breaking the rules". He became an "outsider". "Books became my opium".

From the thousands of posts he has left on the web for more than a decade, we get the impression of a nerd. He reads a lot, and he learns computer programming.

From 1996 he participated in early web communities where you could play games and discuss.

From 1999 to 2003 he was registered as a student at college in a city in the Netherlands.

He became a science fiction fan, consuming futuristic fables and depictions of a post-apocalyptic world, attracted to the gloomy, the bizarre, the frightening. He once posted the Kraftwerk song "Radioactivity".

He participated in text-based role-playing games on the web, so called MUDs. From 2004 he ran one of these himself.

In this period he also wrote poetry. On his website he posted a collection; they were gothic and gloomy, with dark humour and, sometimes, political content.

***

From the web sites where he debated, we can indeed trace some political development. In 2004 he wrote to a friend that he would be “amazed” to know how many refugees there was in Holland.

Angry with his compatriots and other Europeans, he described them as "politically correct sheep". European leaders was a bunch of “socialistic communists” who oppressed their citizens, and didn’t even allow them to own guns, while rape rates “skyrocketed”.

In 2006 he wrote that he voted for the anti-Islam candidate Geert Wilders. He thought the election result of 6 per cent was "a shock” for many people. 

The same year he discussed how our time would be remembered. He thought it would be looked back on as a post modern era, when enlightenment was ended and the West “committed suicide”. He felt that people were kept “happy and spoiled” by exhausting natural resources while media kept them ignorant, conceited, confused.

***

At times other debaters reacted against his writings. He provoked, hurt and ridiculed, and was accused of "trolling". He once posted a collection of "nigger jokes".

Some debaters thought his political views would be more fitted at websites like the extreme right-wing "stormfront". "You will make a good White Separatist”, one claimed. He answered that he didn't feel at home there, and compared the stormfront community with Islamic culture that he found “brutal” and “close minded”.

He was asked if he was a holocaust denier. He answered that he kept an “open mind” about the issue: what he had read suggested that "at least 2 million" Jews were killed.

One day he wrote that democracy was defective, another that the “scientific racism” of the early 20th century was in general “correct". He worried about a civil war in Europe won by muslims and told that he had seen his nation go from “a 95% white birth rate” to a less that half, which he felt destroyed Dutch culture.

***

He found his girlfriend via the web. In 2008 he married an American woman and settled in the conservative, southern state of South Carolina. Soon he was living in his in-laws' villa, with a dog and a garden and American citizenship. At some point he worked as a programmer, tried to generate income through the MUD he ran. At other points he stated that he was working as a shoemaker or was unemployed.

He kept writing. Many recognized his name and refused to let themselves be provoked. Others supported him.

He claimed that there would be a civil war in Europe in 30 to 50 years time, and that the muslims would win, since they would become a majority of the population. He advised others to "get out of Europe” if they lived there, stock up food for two years, plant nut trees in the garden for food safety and go to church to find people to trust.

***

One day he wrote about political correctness. Research funds went to scientists who didn't protest, he thought. Political correctness silenced the opposition. Was this a conspiracy? No, it was not so much a conspiracy as “a collapse of the truth” and, he added, “the occasional radical Norwegian” under the weight of political correctness.

Which "radical Norwegian" was he referring to?

The post was written July 23 2011 – the day following the Utøya and Oslo attacks.

A few weeks later he edited the Wikipedia article on Utøya.

By 2012 he was writing jokingly to other gamers about raising a statue of Anders Behring Breivik to “scare off Cultural Marxists" in their online gaming community.

***

The 36-year-old's online writings suggest that he shared many of Angus' views and points of reference. But were they really one and the same person?

We tried to make an exhaustive comparison. Both thought that society had become totalitarian. Both were atheists. Both were, despite having ideas in common with them, critical of both the white power community and so called counter-jihad movement.

Both spoke of themselves as "hereditarians", meaning by that that they thought humans were shaped by their genetic origins. Both were interested in eugenics. Both referred to books like Richard Lynn’s IQ and the Wealth of Nations and "The Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study".

Angus wanted to erect a statue of Anders Behring Breivik: the 36-year-old joked about the same.

The 36-year-old was Dutch: Angus referred to Dutch web pages and articles, and had Breivik's texts translated into Dutch quicker than other non-English languages.

Angus had a list of 145 books he had read on goodreads.com. They were written by 54 authors. 17 of these had also been mentioned by the 36-year-old elsewhere on the web. Some overlapped, like J. K. Rowling, Cormac McCarthy, Douglas Adams and J. R. R. Tolkien, but Angus also shared an interest for lesser-known writers such as Jack Vance, Roger Zelazny, Asher Neal, Peter F. Hamilton, Philip K. Dick, Orson Scott Card, Larry Niven and John Scalzi.

The 36-year-old had read, but disliked, Anne Rice's books: Angus gave them two out of six stars. Angus was a fan of Robert Heinlein: the 36 year old considered creating a MUD with the theme from Heinlein's book Starship Troopers.

***

On the other hand: the 36-year-old cited Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-5 as "brilliant", but Angus only gave it two stars.

Was Angus and the 36-year-old really the same man, or just two different persons that via a long chain of coincidences shared a taste in literature and political views, had a nervous breakdown and babbled on about Christianity at the same time?

Angus’ computer skills made electronic tracking impossible. He weighed every word he wrote.

To try and confirm the connection, we wanted to track him down and question him ourselves.

One day in June we found ourselves on a plane bound for the USA. 

Who’s who?
We waited nearby for him to arrive home by bike at six thirty in the evening. It was a well-kept residential area with middle class villas, SUV's and leafy gardens. You could hear birds singing. When we knocked at the door, the dogs barked. We stood there for a long while. Knocked again.

After ten minutes he finally appeared, a pale, skinny man with a sweaty forehead in the humid heat.

- Angus?

- Who are you looking for?

He spoke with a low voice, hesitatingly, and with a Dutch accent.

- You’re Angus, aren’t you?

He denied it. His forced smile revealed that our visit made him uncomfortable.

- Who is Angus? he said. He asked who we were and why we had come.

We had sent a message to Angus to let him know we were on our way, but he showed no sign of acknowledging this. At the same time he didn't seem much surprised to suddenly have a Norwegian journalist and a photographer appear on his doorstep.

He wanted to terminate the conversation: "Id like to call this off ", he said, "you make me feel uncomfortable."

***

Two worn down garden chairs stood on the lawn. He finally agreed to sit down for a few minutes.

He wanted to know who had pointed him out.

We asked if he had any enemies. Had someone tried to take some kind of revenge on him? He said that he wrote things that were politically incorrect, and that furthermore, he had "an ability to get under peoples’ skin". Maybe that's why someone had singled him out.

We asked what had happened the day he was arrested. He said he had "been a little bit out of it" that day, had a panic attack because of wrong medication.

- Did you write anything prior to the panic attack?

- I might have copy pasted something.

- Copy pasted?

- Yeah, I was reading stuff online and I had a pretty bad reaction. Medication induced paranoia is something to watch out for.

- Where did you post it?

He said he had posted it on a certain forum.

We never found any such discussion on the named forum.

- [You wrote] about what?

- Christianity or something. Pretty erratic stuff.

- Erratic?

- I was in an erratic state.

He spoke testily, didn't complete his sentences, asked us to leave.

- What is your opinion about Anders Behring Breivik?

He gave it a long thought.

- Eh… Behring Breivik… it’s difficult. I followed the news and all that, I think he is a little like Osama bin Laden, an ideological person… I share some of his sentiments, like on immigration. It is part of the reason why I left Europe.

Then he excused himself and left.

The day after, we got an email from Angus' address: " Once again, not playing any guessing games as to my whereabouts. Your digging around (…) has made several people very uncomfortable. Doesn't help that some people have received death threats. So that's the end of the line." Was the 36-year-old playing a game with us, or was Angus really another person?

The next day we prepared a long series of questions designed to clinch the matter once and for all. We returned to his neighbourhood and waited. Like last time he arrived by bike, a little after six, walked the dogs in the garden and went inside. We knocked, the dogs barked, and we waited even longer than last time.

Fifteen minutes later his wife came out. "Can I help you?" The dinner was waiting, she said, and the 36-year-old didn't have any time to talk. She demanded an explanation. We had been "fooled" by our sources, she said. "I know he read a lot about [Breivik] when everything first came out, but he doesn’t write a blog or any of that crap." We pleaded with her to speak with her husband.

Finally he came out, in shorts. He mumbled some pleasantries, "still enjoying the weather here, or is it too hot for you?" before we proceeded to our list of questions. 

- Did you read a lot about [Breivik]?

- I have followed the news. It was pretty big.

- Did you read his manifesto?

- I have downloaded it and looked through it, yeah. It is kind of long, so…

- I’m impressed if you read the whole thing.

- I don’t think he wrote it all himself, just ...

- But did you read it?

- Not all of it.

In our previous meeting, we reminded him, he had mentioned that he left Europe due to problems of immigration.

- That had a lot to do with it, he said, - I lived kind of in an immigrant rich neighborhood.  Then you kind of see the future. Shooting on public transport and stuff like that. I got attacked a couple of times. 

- Attacked?

- Yeah.

His wife was loud and repeatedly tried to interrupt our attempt at interviewing. "Don't answer!" she yelled, "you have already answered that question".

We asked him about Breivik’s ideology. “What do you agree with?”

The wife shouted that he shouldn't answer.

The 36-year-old replied that he thought "the truth is somewhere in the middle".

- I think Europe is, a bit worse, he said, - there is not a good situation in Europe, you got muslims doing crazy shit, jihads, and you got kind of like Breivik, going crazy.

- Have you ever written anything about Breivik’s attack on Utøya?

- I might have mentioned his name a couple of times in discussion, I am not too sure.

- Do you remember what you wrote?

- I think it was more like a humorous comment […]. Nothing really insightful.

- Nothing (as on Angus' blog) called "Breivik report?"

- I know very little about that..

- You indicated to me last time that you had read the Breivik report online?

- I think I have come across it, yeah.

- What did you think of it?

- Eh. That is kind of boring, I guess.

He smiled.

- Boring? Why?

- It seems to be kind of rehearsing the news stories. So it’s just basically… you might as well read the news story.

- How did you get to know about [the blog]?

- I think it showed up in a Google search.

- You searched for…?

- I think I was looking at a news story and…
 
The wife asked us to finish up quickly. We had several pages of questions left.

- Do you support Anders Behring Breivik?

- Not really. I mean, he is an interesting guy, so it is… its kind of difficult to put that into words, I guess. […] It seems hard to support killing of children, so …

- How do you know the Breivik report?

- I don’t really know, but I think I have come across it a couple of times.. 

- So you read it?

- It was a thing in the news about a Dutch translation of the [Breivik manifesto] and it was in the Dutch news and I think, thinking back on it that I - it might have been the Breivik report, I assume it is, or

- It was the Breivik report that did the Dutch translation?

- Probably?

The wife interrupted. "I think we’re done.”

***

We still had many unanswered questions that could have shed light on whether he was Angus or not. The 36-year-old refused to answer them. He neither wanted to give us his IP-address nor say anything about the day that the curious religious texts were posted and he was arrested. We expressed a wish to clear up potential misunderstandings, but he replied that it was enough for now, and that he did not want further contact by phone or email.

"This has gone far enough!" the wife yelled at us, "this is just insane!”

If we didn't leave the property immediately, she'd call the police.

The 36-year-old said we were very intrusive and manipulative.

As he went inside, we shouted after him that the Norwegian police were looking for Angus. For a short moment he stopped in the door, turned towards us, and stared.

***

Morgenbladet have since repeatedly tried to get further comments from the 36-year-old. We have asked him to help us find information than can help prove that he is not Angus. We have offered to print a statement from him to accompany this article. He has not taken us up on these offers. He has not answered our emails or phone calls.

In October, Angus answered an email from the paper: "I presume you believe that [the 36-year-old] is me? Take careful consideration that if you publish identifying information about this guy (the antifa will take care of publishing his address for you) and some nutjob executes him the blood will be on YOUR hands, not mine."

The 36-year-old awaits trial for attacking prison staff. He risks serving several years in prison.

Because the 36-year-old denies being Angus, and because we don't have indisputable, technical evidence, we have chosen not to reveal his identity in this article.

Since our meeting with the 36-year-old in June, Angus’ activity on the blog has fallen dramatically. The blog "The Commander Breivik Report" has only been updated once since. The discussion forum "The European Underground" at vk.com has over the last five months been updated six times.

*** Update ***

Since this article was first published in Norway, a new source has spoken to Morgenbladet: a Canadian woman, who used to pass on letters between Breivik and Angus as an intermediary. The woman explained that she was quite close to Angus, but that he never revealed his name. However, she says that “Angus is Dutch and in America, 'cos he told me”.

If you have any information about Angus, please contact the author.

This article was originally published in the Norwegian weekly Morgenbladet on 5 December 2014, republished here with kind permission. Translation by Eirik Nome.

About the author

Simen Sætre is a journalist at the Norwegian weekly Morgenbladet, and the author of four books of literary non-fiction; An Ugly Little Chocolate Book (2004), Hugo (2006), Petromania (2009) and Fjordman (2013). Educated at the City College of New York, Cardiff University and New York University.

More On

The following entities do most likely have information about Angus' true identity:

The US-based company Spotflux, used by Angus, offer their customers full anonymity. In order for them to give out information, a court order may be necessary.  

  • The companies Automattic (that runs the blog platform Wordpress) and Google will most likely have information about Angus' blog activity.

  • The Russian company VK is used by Angus and his followers, and will most likely have information about them.

  • Do you have information that could advance this story further? Please contact the author.

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the
oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.