Monday, 25 July 2011

The right's responsibility

I wasn't going to make any comment on the politics of the Norwegian massacres, because the idea of dignifying the atrocity with association with political discourse is repugnant. But the picture being revealed around these events; the reaction of the right to the atrocities and the revelation of the killer's identity; and the undeniable links between Anders Behring Breivik and the further right of mainstream politics justifies some comment.

My initial reaction on hearing the identity of the pepetrator (I have the advantage of having been asleep at the time of the initial expllosion and shootings, so don't have to worry about awkward questions along the lines of "Who did you think it was at first?") was that it is a pitiful symptom of How Things Are that they have to clarify the perpetrator wasn't Muslims. That suggests Al Queada's project is coming along nicely.

I imagined there would be a shameless volte face, people moving swiftly from "Islamic terrorists waging JIHAD" (1) to "Unchecked immigration provoking resentment and acts of barbarity in the indigenous population" (2) would be in the offing. While some did manage that about-turn, there were plenty of people refusing to give up the idea that this just had to be a Muslim, that it couldn't actually be a Christianised European behind this. It had to be a convert to Islam. Or even the whole thing was a hoax, an attempt to besmirch the far wright by associating it with psychopaths.

Of course, the kneejerk bigots who were so bloody quick to accuse Muslims and so bloody slow to let the idea go tried to justify their assumption, claiming that it was a reasonable enough mistake in these times, when so much terrorism can be attributed to Muslims. A claim that was only valid if you erase the Western propensity towards terroristic violence from your memory and convinced yourself that only Muslims are likely to be terrorists. Recall:
IRA / Real IRA terror campaigns
UVF campaigns
Red Army Faction / baader-Meinhoff / Revolutionary Cells Movement
Oklahoma City Bombing
David Copeland, the London Nail Bomber
Robert Cottage and David Jackson, the would be BNP bombers
Greece's Revolutionary Nuclei
Animal Liberation Brigade
That's just off the top of my head. these groups and individuals were all active with in the last 10 to 20 years. Only a long time if you live in some weird world that effectively started on the 11th of September, 2001. Loads more out there. It could have been carried out by Islamists, but it isn't accurate to say it was very likely to be. It would be wrong to rush to attribute an unprecedented act like this to anyone without evidence pointing that way.

The point was there is a strong tendency of terrorist violence in Europe and the US, even before we started importing the Muslims. I'm not suggesting Baader Meinhoff were holding a Scandinavian reunion tour.

It would have been reasonable to say that it might have been an Islamist attack; even that it is was likely to be one. But the automatic assumption that this was an act of jihad and who rushed to accuse Muslims, and who still try to cling to that belief, didn't make an honest mistake because they inaccurately weighed possibilities. To make your presumption reasonable, you have to ignore the whole history of politically motivated violence in Europe. The killer - though he'd reject the comparison - has a lot in common with the Baader Meinhoff mentality. The kneejerk bigots jumped to the wrong conclusion because they're obsessed, fixated bigots. Reasonable people deal in possibilities and likelihoods, and don't immediately spew their bigotry when huge gaps remain.

People abandoned sense and intemperately banged their drums and screamed about J-I-H-A-D before the facts were in. There was no suggestion of 'likelihood' or 'possibility' then, just the immediate, automatic assumption this had to be an Islamist act of terror. Which illuminated their mindset perfectly.

If people are going to go about spouting divisive, bigoted, hatefilled rhetoric (from any ideological standpoint), there are going to be violently inclined idiots who will use it as an excuse for, and an incitement to, violence. The killer cited bloggers like Fjordman and Pamela Geller, who occupy a pretty sinister intellectual space. When they, Geert Wilders, and others of that ilk fulminate about treachery, Eurabia, J-I-H-A-D and the like, it may be irresponsible. Like shouting "Fire" in a crowded theatre, to borrow Wendell Holmes's old analogy.

As Bill Clinton said, when Gabrielle Giffords was shot - "Anything any of us says falls on the unhinged and the hinged alike."
1 - "Terror Attack In Norway, Huge Explosion Rips Through Oslo," posted by ZIP on Weasel Zippers blog, 22nd of July, 2011. The point of interest in this case being the comments following the post. (
2 - "Extremism strikes in Norway," by 657. Posted on the EDL website, 23rd of July, 2011. (

No comments:

Corbyn meets with Jewish representatives

So, the Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies of British Jews met with Jeremy Corbyn to discuss the issue of anti-Semitism in Labo...