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I hope to post on Lammas, but recent events have intruded. I still hope to do a Lammas post, but right now this is on my mind.
We are all aware of the horrible murders committed against so many Norwegians, but how should we understand them? When I first heard about them I thought one of two groups were responsible, militant Muslims or militant right wingers. In this I had the edge over the American media and all conservatives who only thought of the former. In Anders Behring-Breivik’s words:
“We, the European Revolutionary Conservatives know very well that it will take many years, even decades before we successfully manage to consolidate to a degree where we can seize political and military power in the first Western European country. In the US, the Tea party movement is one of the first physical, political manifestations which indicate that there is a great storm coming. The creation of similar conservative organizations, even the creation of revolutionary conservative movements … is about to materialize. The cultural Marxists are losing their momentum to our advantage.”
Now that the truth is out right wing Americans and the corporate hacks pretending to be journalists describe this sociopath as a nut case, a lone killer, and the like, seeking to transfer our efforts to understand what happened to focusing on individual pathology alone. Many on the right are doing all they can to blame anyone but the right for these crimes. Bill O’Reilly, so quick to blame Muslims when a fanatic kills in the name of his religion denies Breivik is a Christian despite all evidence to the contrary. John Stewart does the best job of skewering this hypocrite, but that is far from my main point.
Breivik should not be considered a lone nut. Yes, Breivik is a sociopathic killer. No, that is not all he is. Probably he did what he did alone. Even so, he is no Norwegian equivalent of Ted Bundy who also killed brutally and without remorse.
What the right wingers other than Pat Buchanan try to deny is that the killings were for a cause, and were planed in those terms. Buchanan said his arguments for why he killed might be accurate even though (of course) Buchanan could not endorse murder. Buchanan can not bring as much sympathy to American liberals, whom he said good Americans should oppose as resolutely as they opposed the Soviet Union. As Buchanan put it:
“…if God is king, men have a duty to try, as best they can, to conform their lives to his will and shape society in accordance with his law. Defection and indifferentism are not options open to us. We are commanded to fight.” With his Knights Templar fantasies Breivik obviously agrees.
We can see how inadequate the most common interpretation is by examining who the victims were. On the surface Breivik’s choice of victims seems strange: government and a summer camp. A closer look reveals a different image. The summer camp was run by the dominant political party in Norway, and that particular session focused on kids who wanted to become active in politics and public service. In other words it was a training ground for the next generation of Norwegian political leaders. That next generation is a lot smaller now.
It is too little appreciated that most victims of Muslim fanatics are fellow Muslims who are regarded as not pure enough. This is the language of religious extremism when it crosses the line into violence.
Beivik attempted to exterminate the currently favored leaders of the political party favored by the Norwegian people and also their next generation. In a country as small as Norway the attempt was partly successful. The man attacked not only individuals and government, he attacked a nation and he attacked the principles of democracy. In doing so he killed mostly kids and young people, demonstrating the soulless brutality that lurks at the heart of rightwing resentment and hatred towards those different from themselves..
What we saw in Norway is what many would like to see here if they cannot win by other means. After all, along with Lenin and Mao Newt Gingrich has explicitly said politics is war by other means. As I explained on Patheos, the spiritual counselors of many right wing Senators and representatives have suggested their followers be willing to emulate Mao, Pol Pot, and Hitler if necessary for their cause.
I remember reading campus interviews with Young Republicans when Ann Coulter spoke. Coulter was the first sociopath to make death threats and fantasies of killing others part of her standard spiel. Some Young Republicans told the press she said what they all think but are afraid to say. Today similar views are said openly from national political figures and media “personalities” down to local gatherings. But by little bit they are energizing the powers of war and murder, making them familiar and making it easy for the worst of them to cross the line into action. We should ponder the meaning of their words, for in retrospect the leaders of totalitarian movements left and right alike have always telegraphed what they would do once they had enough power, only to not be believed.
I now believe there are a lot of ‘Americans’ who deeply desire civil war in this country. The reaction of many of the American rightwing to the Norwegian atrocity has often been insane a mix of projection, the deepest dishonesty, and viciousness. A few might have been given cause to pause in their headlong degeneration to barbarism, but they have been quiet. Perhaps they are thinking in a balanced way for once. But the others have redoubled their attempts to keep the rhetoric that inspired Breivik while denying their rhetoric has any impact.
Meanwhile Glenn Beck calls the murdered kids the equivalent of the Hitler Youth. Many right wingers are attacking the Norwegian summer camp as something ominous. Glenn Beck compared them to the “Hitler youth.” Slime the victims, even if they are kids, the better to turn everyone’s attention away from the evil that dominates today’s right wing. The fetid cess pool of Glenn Beck’s heart has opened for all to see.
What cannot be denied because Breivik emphasized the point is that the writings of the American right inspired him in his actions. Another discussion of this issue is here. There is a made in America quality to much of his writings, including many pages cribbed from right wing environmentalist, the Unabomber, where he replaces Ted Kaczynski’s word “leftism” with “multiculturalism” and “cultural Marxist.”
Slow build up
A society does not suddenly degenerate into violence. That is preceded by a period of softening up as disagreement shifts from the details of issues to the other positions being wrong, then malignant, and those holding them becoming not just people with whom we disagree but enemies.
The right wing has been gradually escalating the violence of its rhetoric and the viciousness of its attacks over several decades. What was once the preserve of a small group of nuts in the John Birch Society is now heard all the time. Words have power, and the power of these words is for death and destruction.