We're Not the Thought Police
That being said, what are you thinking?
To read Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch website regularly is to get an unsettling daily dose of real-life Islam-related horrors. But on April 4, Robert posted a half-hour audio that was even more disturbing than the bulk of his usual offerings. The audio records the visit by a couple of British police officers to the home of a British subject who had apparently been reported to the authorities for posting anti-Islam comments on social media. The householder in question greeted the cops with surprising – perhaps nervous? – cheeriness, and for a half hour he earnestly, willingly, and good-humoredly answered their indefensibly intrusive and insulting questions about his opinions. Among them: What were his political beliefs? What did he think of Islam? Did he hate Muslims? Was he a racist? Was he a Nazi?
It quickly became clear that this man – whose name we never learn, unless I missed something – is anything but a racist or Nazi or hater of any kind. On the contrary, he is a thoughtful citizen who, after considerable study, has come to some sensible conclusions about Islam. He made it clear that, unlike his visitors, he had read the Koran, had acquainted himself with the major specifics of the life of Muhammed, and knew the basics of Islamic theology. He was, it emerged, a strong opponent of Islam for precisely the right reasons, including (as he mentioned) the fact that it commands believers to do harm to infidels, Jews, and gays.
Yet even as he spelled out these indisputable truths about Islam, the police officers responded as if he was imagining it all. They suggested that he might want to sit down for a conversation with an Islamic scholar, who could clear up what they seemed determined to view as his misunderstandings. They insisted, moreover, that they were not the Thought Police – even though there is no other word for police officers who show up at the home of an innocent citizen to interrogate him about his personal opinions.
A couple of reader comments on the Jihad Watch audio suggested it was fake, on the grounds that police officers in a free country would surely never do such a thing. Wrong. For me, the audio brought back vivid memories – for I’ve had my own very similar encounter with European policemen. My experience was slightly different in that instead of being visited at home, I was summoned to a local police station in Norway, where I live. But the encounter itself, which took place in January 2014, was strikingly similar to the one recorded on the Jihad Watch audio. My interrogators even assured me, as their British colleagues assured the fellow in the audio, that they were not the Thought Police. When I heard that statement on the audio, I couldn’t help wondering: are cops around Europe, even in different countries, working off of the same script?
Immediately after returning home from my visit to the police station back in January 2014, I sat down and typed up everything I could remember about the exchange I’d had with my new uniformed friends. The conversation had been in Norwegian, and I wrote it out in Norwegian. I sent copies to a few friends of mine, including Hans Rustad, editor of the vitally important Norwegian website document.no, who, in response, told me that he had heard similar, and equally disturbing, accounts from other people living in Norway. He actually took a copy of my testimony with him to a meeting at the Norwegian Ministry of Justice, where he confronted officials with this example of thoroughly inappropriate police conduct.
My Norwegian-language account of my exchange with the police officers later appeared in print (but not online) in a document.no publication, but has never appeared in English. After hearing the audio at Jihad Watch, however, I decided that it might be worthwhile to translate my account into English so that any doubters might understand that, yes indeed, this how at least some police officers in Europe conduct themselves in this era of Islamization.
So here it is, without further ado, but with newly added comments and explanatory information in brackets:
On January 9, I received a phone call from a policeman in Skien [the county seat of Telemark, where I live]. He said he wanted to meet me because he thought my knowledge of Islam could help the police in the fight against Islamic terrorism. He explained that someone at PST [the Norwegian Police Security Service, Norway’s equivalent of the NSA or MI5] had recommended that he speak with me. I said I would be glad to be of help. We agreed to speak again a few days later to agree on a time and place.
During the days that followed I spent a good deal of time preparing for what I imagined would be a crash course in Islam. When we spoke by telephone for the second time, I thought I detected a subtle change in his tone and immediately suspected that his objective was, in fact, not to draw on my expertise but to interrogate me. This suspicion was reinforced when he said, at the end of the conversation, that he himself was a PST officer.
This was precisely the same thing that had happened to me during the [mass murderer Anders Behring] Breivik trial [in 2012], when Geir Lippestad [Breivik’s lawyer] summoned me as an “expert witness.” His real intention at that time was not to make use of my “expertise” but rather to expose me to scorn and derision as one of several writers who had supposedly “influenced” the killer and who thus shared in the blame for his crimes.
On January 15, I met the PST officer and a colleague of his, also from PST, at a police station near my home. Indeed, it turned out that they had no interest in learning anything about Islam from me. They wanted to know about other things. How, for example, had I come to be so critical of Islam? Which other members of the anti-Islam community was I acquainted with? Which far-right websites was I in the habit of reading? Had I experienced discomfort in encounters with Muslims? Did I know Hans Rustad, editor of document.no, which publishes critical aticles about Islam and European immigration policy? Had I ever posted comments on his website?
At first I played along – too much. I told them about the time my partner had been assaulted by a Muslim with a knife at a bus stop at St. Hanshaugen in Oslo, and about the time a Muslim yelled “faggot” at him and kicked him on the tram. I mentioned the doctor I knew who had been killed at his office by a Muslim asylum seeker. As for Hans Rustad, I said, “Yes, I know him. He’s a terrific guy and he has a terrific website. But no, I’ve never commented on articles there.”
They asked about Fjordman [counterjihadist writer Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen]. Had I ever met him? Yes, we had gotten together for beers 3-4 times in Oslo several years ago. We had also both attended a conference in The Hague sometime around 2006. Oh yes? Which conference? The Pim Fortuyn Memorial Conference. Who arranged that? I don’t know. Who else took part? Robert Spencer, Bat Ye’or, several others. They seemed to be interested in these details. They asked me what I thought about Fjordman. I answered the question rather exhaustively.
Then they came to Breivik. How had I felt when I learned that Breivik had read some of my books and articles? They emphasized that they were fully aware of the dangers of Islamic terrorism, but they were also worried that a writer like me could help “create a new Breivik” or several of them. It was at about this point that I began to fire back a bit. I said that Breivik was a maniac, and that if he hadn’t happened to get hooked on Islam as an object of hate, he would have gotten hooked on something else to hate. They didn’t seem to be willing to accept the possibility that Breivik was just a crazy man, an isolated case. I got the impression that they were working from the premise that Breivik was a cold-blooded counterjihadist who had been created by other counterjihadists.
In a slightly irritated tone, one of the two men reminded me that during the first hours after the government buildings in Oslo were bombed, that is before Breivik was identified and before his motives were known, many people in Oslo had assumed that the city was under attack by Muslim terrorists, and that this had resulted in people assaulting Muslims in the streets. [Note: I have never seen any documentation of this claim.] One of PST’s concerns, he said, was that if a Norwegian Muslim committed a murder like the horrible killing of Lee Rigby in London, there would be a violent anti-Muslim reaction. [They always worry more about the anti-Muslim “backlash” that virtually never happens than about the actual Islam-motivated atrocity.]
My interlocutors had read Breivik’s “manifesto.” They talked about his patchwork of plagiarized historical essays and information about weapons in a way that suggested that, in their eyes, it was a key document for the understanding of the counterjihad movement.
“Have you read the Koran?” I asked.
“No,” both of them said. They were not at all embarrassed about it.
“Well, you should,” I said. “If you want to understand the mentality that underlies Islamic terrorism, you’ll find its origin there.“
One of them answered quickly. “We know that radical Muslims have misinterpreted the Koran.“
“It’s not a question of interpretation,” I replied. “The passages in question are very clear.” I emphasized that while none of the writers they were trying to link to Breivik had called for killing, the Koran calls for killing infidels again and again.
They paid no heed to this. In fact they seemed to find it distasteful to talk about the Koran in this way.
They wanted to know what I thought about the “Eurabia conspiracy theory.”
“What do you mean by that term?” I asked.
“Haven’t you heard it before?”
“Of course, but I hope you understand that this is an expression one almost never hears outside of Norway. It’s a concept that has been invented by the Norwegian left. What does it mean to you?“
“It’s about Muslims wanting to take over Europe.”
“That’s not a conspiracy theory. Jihad is a reality, it’s a core Islamic idea. Do you know how Islam divides the world?”
They shook their heads.
“The world consists of the House of Islam, where Islamic law prevails, and the House of War, which is the part of the world where Islamic law does not yet prevail. According to the Koran, there will not be peace in the world until the House of War is totally conquered by Islam.”
They weren’t interested in hearing about this, either. One of them explained what they meant by the “Eurabia conspiracy theory”: “What we’re referring to is the idea that, for example, Stoltenberg [Jens Stoltenberg, Labor Party politician and Prime Minister from 2000-1 and 2005-13] is secretly conspiring with Muslims with the goal of transforming Norway into an Islamic state.“
What struck me about this was that they talked about Stoltenberg as if he were still Prime Minister. [Just as America’s Deep State is Democratic, Norway’s is Labor.]
At one point, they asked a question that led me to say something very critical about the attempt, after July 22 [the date, in 2011, of Breivik’s atrocities], to limit freedom of expression in Norway. One of them asked me, do you think that there is greater freedom of expression in the U.S. than in Norway? I replied that there’s much more freedom of expression in the U.S. than in all of Western Europe. I mentioned Lars Hedegaard, Geert Wilders, and others who had been put on trial in various Western European countries because of things they had said or written about Islam.
“Where is the limit, then?” asked one of the PST guys, his tone rather sharp.
“There shouldn’t be any limit, unless you call for violence,” I said. They seemed to react to this. I had the impression that they felt I had crossed a line.
During the conversation they reassured me at least three times that this was not an interrogation – but that’s exactly what it was. A couple of times they said that they had no plans to arrest me – which, of course, served as a reminder that they had the power to do so. They also insisted a couple of times that they were not “Thought Police” [tankepoliti]. At one point, one of them mentioned that they can’t do everything the NSA can do, because the law doesn’t allow it, but that they do absolutely everything they can within the framework of Norwegian law.
The entire conversation lasted about an hour and a half. It was intense. They fired questions at me almost without a break. Several times they returned to questions I had already answered. When the whole thing was over, they informed me that they might be contacting me again.
Afterwards, I regretted that I hadn’t just stood up and walked out when I realized that I had been summoned there under false premises. In these times, when certain critical voices and opinions are considered illegal, I would never knowingly have put myself in such a situation with the police. But this was a trap, and they were clearly betting that I would stay there and answer their questions because it would have seemed both uncomfortable and rude to do anything else.
They were right: I stayed there because I didn’t want to make a scene. But while I’m sorry I answered some of their questions so dutifully, I’m glad I took advantage of the opportunity to put up at least something of a challenge. In any event, what emerges from the audio at Jihad Watch is that those bobbies in Britain (apparently Lancashire), like my PST buddies in Norway, have been trained to view Islam as essentially benign and criticism of Islam as a danger. Both sets of cops manifestly consider it part of their job to hunt down critics of Islam and try to intimidate them into silence. And none of them have the slightest regard whatsoever for freedom of speech. They don’t even seem to grasp the concept.
They’ve also apparently been taught – and this is the creepiest part – to emphasize that they’re not Thought Police. This is obviously a result of training, because it would never occur independently to such people – who have plainly never read a word of Orwell – to make such a declaration in the first place. This, then, is what we are up against in today’s western Europe: police departments that are producing Thought Police – and, as part of that production process, are instructing them to reassure the proles that, no, of course they’re not Thought Police.
Sure. And war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.