Tuesday, July 26, 2011

(Norway) The Ideology of Mass Murder

Political violence isn't limited to the left or right.
WSJ Editorial, July 26, 2011

Anders Behring Breivik appears to be Norway's version of Timothy McVeigh—a 32-year-old loner who twisted his right-wing political beliefs into a justification to commit mass murder. His case is a reminder that political violence isn't limited to the left or right and must be fought in all its guises.

Breivik's manifesto rails against immigrants, Muslims, multiculturalism and Marxism. It also includes a section lifted from Theodore Kaczynski, the American "Unabomber" who fancied himself a neo-Luddite anarchist. Whatever his label or grievances, Breivik is one in a long line of fanatics who have used convictions as an excuse for bloodshed.

Some of history's worst killers have justified their acts in the name of ethnic purity or cultural solidarity, causes associated with the political right. Breivik's ideology reminds us that conservatives are obliged to police their own ranks and condemn those on the right who condone extremist rhetoric or political violence.

None of this justifies the attempts in some circles to claim that Breivik is somehow the logical product of a larger anti-Islamic movement or commentary. The BBC put one Lars Gule on the radio to warn that Breivik's views were "mainstream" in Norwegian society. Mr. Gule says he debated Breivik about his views online and did not get the sense that he was planning a violent attack. Mr. Gule himself was arrested in Lebanon in 1977 for possessing explosives intended for use against Israel on behalf of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

In a story linking American bloggers to Breivik yesterday, the New York Times produced a former Obama Administration antiterrorism official to opine that "Breivik emerged" from the "infrastructure" of the anti-Islamist American right.

Yet the notable but little remarked reality of post-9/11 America is how few acts of anti-Muslim violence there have been. President George W. Bush always distinguished between mainstream Islam and its radical perversion. The early speculations Friday—including our own—that the Oslo bomber may have had jihadist roots were understandable given the recent history of Islamist violence and reports that one jihadist group had claimed responsibility.

At a hearing Monday, Breivik claimed to have knowledge of like-minded cells in Europe, and the claim deserves investigation. But on the available evidence, Breivik is not a leader of any movement. If he can be said to have an intellectual heritage, it is that of the "anarchists of the deed" of a century ago—political terrorists who claimed that only acts of sufficient depravity could shock the masses into realizing the injustices of the modern world.

Norway's murders shouldn't be an excuse to shut down debate over multiculturalism and the failure of many Muslims to assimilate to Europe's cultural norms. British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have broken taboos by speaking sensibly on the subject. Democracies need to address their anxieties openly, rather than push the political debate underground where the likes of an Anders Breivik can let them stew into a rationale for violence.

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