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Natural Selector 89 vs. The Amazing Atheist

John on November 13, 2007 at 11:49 am

Thanks to commenter David who pointed me to the You Tube page of Pekka-Eric Auvinen’s former girlfriend. Tanascheel, as she calls herself, seems to share most of Eric’s views on humanity and has now dedicated her page to defending him.

Perusing her videos gives one a sense of who tanascheel is. Politically, she’s a Ron Paul supporter. She also seems to have been a member of the Rational Response Squad. Needless to say, she is an atheist with a distaste for American Christians. Here’s a sample video where she expressed her view of humanity:

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Would you call it anarcho-primitivism? Seems to have some similar elements at least. Clearly it’s in sympathy with Pekka-Eric’s stated views of humanity.

Here’s where the story gets more interesting. A 22 year old American who goes by the You Tube handle “The Amazing Atheist” called out Pekka-Eric prior to the shooting. He suggests that some people (he had links at the time which have now been removed) might need to be investigated.

This article in the London Times makes the Amazing Atheist into a kind of prescient hero. He not only predicted the violence, it suggests, he tried to draw attention to the danger before it was too late. The Amazing Atheist seems to agree with the Times. He put up a video the day of the shootings which begins “Today, I have been vindicated.”

But I’m not convinced the Times has the complete picture of what happened here. If you watch the actual clip (here) you’ll see that Amazing Atheist is a lot more tentative than the Times article makes it sound. Yes he did point out that some individuals seemed to be taking Eric Harris worship too far. On the other hand, he also compliments Harris for his understanding of philosophical concepts and, toward the end of the 13 minute ramble, seems to be struggling to articulate what’s wrong with idolizing him. As he admits, he himself has felt like going on a rampage at times.

In any case, Amazing Atheist wasn’t willing to report anyone himself (because he’s not that kind of person). He merely suggests that if someone else wants to that’s fine, though even here he’s uncertain. Is it the right move? He wants to discuss it with viewers. Again, it’s all very tentative and confused. Babe’s called shot this is not.

There’s a problem with his diagnosis too. The Amazing Atheist seems to believe that the problem with Harris and people like him is that they aren’t smart enough (and know it). In other words, they’re inferior. If they’d only been smarter and better informed, they wouldn’t have done what they did. He never gets around to explaining why. Why, from the existentialist point of view both Harris and Auvinen shared, were their actions wrong or even illogical. And how exactly was more intelligence going to help them be less contemptuous of those around them? Thirteen minutes later we haven’t really gotten into that. Instead we’re talking about social freedoms and whether it’s right to turn in people who make threats.

The most troubling part of Amazing Atheist’s videos is it’s possible contribution to Pekka-Eric’s instability. AA posted his attack on Pekka-Eric in June. Again, he deserves credit for pointing out a danger (however vaguely). But somehow I doubt that calling a troubled boy a “sub-par human”, as Amazing Atheist did in this You Tube video, really helped the situation. In fact, I suspect it only made things worse. There is some circumstantial evidence to support this claim.

If you watch AA’s attack on Natural Selector 89 [Pekka-Eric] you’ll see that he also mentions tanascheel by name. He isn’t attacking her. On the contrary, he recommends that other users join tanascheel’s You Tube group. Here’s what AA says abou them:

She’s friends with the guy [Pekka-Eric] for some reason. She claims that he is very intelligent. I don’t see it personally but I respect her appraisal of things because she is very intelligent…

So at the same time AA is calling Pekka-Eric an unintelligent loser, he’s saying the opposite about tanascheel, Pekka-Eric then girlfriend. I’m sure this made for some interesting conversations. Is it a coincidence that Tanascheel subsequently broke up with Eric? Perhaps.

Whatever the case, it can’t be coincidence that for the two weeks prior to the rampage Pekka-Eric was posting on You Tube almost daily. It was where he posted his final manifesto. Nor is it coincidence that, according to the Amazing Atheist himself, one of the last things Pekka-Eric did just hours before going on his shooting spree was to send an e-mail apologizing for their past disagreements. Of all the people he wanted to make amends with, the Amazing Atheist was apparently near the top of his list. Their verbal sparring match was clearly on his mind at the end, though five months had passed.

Pekka-Eric was a troubled kid. Like everyone else he wanted the support and respect of those he considered his peers. In his case, that was like minded people on YouTube and My Space. But instead of getting respect, he was singled out and berated publicly while his girlfriend at the time, who seemingly shared most of his views, was lionized.

To be perfectly clear, I don’t blame Amazing Atheist for Pekka-Eric’s crimes. I don’t even blame him for calling calling attention to him. I do question the way he went about it. Public humiliation is definitely not the way one should deal with a person who appears to be unbalanced and possibly even violent. The Amazing Atheist, who clearly prides himself on his intelligence, should have been smart enough to figure that out.

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