How the right fueled Breivik’s hate

August 4, 2011

AS NORWAY recovers from the murderous rampage of anti-Muslim zealot Anders Breivik, a sordid community of right-wing bloggers, activists and pundits have taken pains to distance themselves from Breivik's crimes.

Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian man, orchestrated two simultaneous attacks targeting a Norway's Labour Party, leaving 76 people dead. In his now-infamous 1,500 page manifesto, Breivik made clear that he saw himself as a lone martyr who believed his deeds were to spark an ensuing war against "multi-culturalism."

Breivik however was not alone in his antipathy for a society based on cross-cultural tolerance and understanding.

In this same manifesto, Breivik ensconces himself with a growing, predominately Internet-based movement of anti-Muslim bigots. This "blogosphere" fueled Breivik's vision of mutual intolerance, that he saw impeded by the "multicultural" perspective of Norway's ruling Labour Party.

With particular attention paid to the Jihad Watch website, Brevik couched his murderous world view in the noxious vitriol of websites such as the Middle East Forum, the Atlas Shrugs blog and the Center for Security Policy.

All have taken pains to distance themselves from any responsibility for Breivik's murders.

According to Atlas Shrugs author Pamela Geller, no one in the right-wing blogosphere shares any blame for Breivik's actions. "It's like equating Charles Manson, who heard in the lyrics of 'Helter Skelter' a calling for the Manson murders," she wrote on her blog. "It's like blaming the Beatles. It's patently ridiculous."

Geller needs reminding that the lyrics to the Beatles Song "Helter Skelter" refer to an amusement slide at an interactive art exhibit in 1960's London; lyrics that at no point make any allusion to a call for race war and murder, as Manson interpreted them. Geller's own blog, however is replete with Islamophobic invective and is all but a clear call to action against Muslim communities that she views generally as a threat to Western culture.

Right-wing pundit Daniel Greenfield provided a defense for his colleagues at Jihad Watch on the far-right website Greenfield defended Jihad Watch as a essentially a research exercise dedicated to understanding the dangers of violent Islamic fundamentalism. Furthermore he states the question: If Breivik was inspired by anti-Muslim sentiment, "[w]hy then, did he not attack any Muslims?"

Greenfield manipulates the irrationality of a Breivik's violence to provide his allies with an ideological cover. Like most racists, Anders Brevik did not see himself as such, but as a defender of his culture who thought that Muslim immigrants should stick to their own corner of the world.

Indeed, as Greenfield points out, Breivik entertained ideas of working with Muslim extremists toward this end. However, Breivik's bête noir was multiculturalism, which he identified with the Labour Party as undermining his conception of Nordic culture. Hence the attacks.

Daniel Greenfield attempts to confuse his reader by concluding that Islamophobia and anti-multiculturalism are not one in the same, a ruse that works up unto the point when one realizes that the anti-multiculturalists are the most rabid of Islamophobes.

STILL OTHERS not so implicitly identified in Brevik's writings have used the atrocities as an opportunity to make political hay of their opponents. Take for example Glenn Beck.

Beck, recently ejected from the Fox News repertoire, glibly remarked that the Labour Party teenagers killed in Brievik's shooting spree on Uteoya island were contemporary versions of the Hitler Youth. Ann Coulter has likewise feebly inferred in her post "New York Times Reader Kills Dozens in Norway" that the real culprits are the editors of the New York Times. While that publication is by no means blameless in its efforts to scare-up anti-Muslim sentiments, Coulter's claim is that they aren't Islamophobic enough.

Others still in the international right saw it more fitting to mangle themselves on Anders Breivik's spear. Italian member of the European Parliament and member of the far-right Northern League Mario Borghezio went as far as saying in a radio address that "Some [of Breivik's] ideas are good, some of them are great." The Northern League, partners in right-wing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government, censured Borghezio for his comments.

Even more repugnant are the comments of a member of France's fascist National Front party member Jacques Coutela, who identified Breivik as a modern day Charles Martel, a Frankish King who defeated a Muslim army at the battle of Tours in 732. The National Front suspended Coutela for his comments.

Nor is right-wing inspired violence alien to the United States. The recent attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona also took place in an atmosphere of violent anti-government rhetoric coming from the right. At that time, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin came under scrutiny for placing an image of a gun site over Giffords' congressional district on her website.

Recently in McKinney, Texas, a Planned Parenthood clinic was fire-bombed--at a time when women's rights to health services are under severe attack from Tea Party-allied budget slashers in Washington. Likewise, American Muslims have come under a variety of violent attacks from right-wing inspired bigots, including violent assaults and the gassing of mosques.

As much as Geller, Greenfield and their cohorts hate to admit it, the reality is that their words matter, and the right-wing violence we are experiencing is intimately related to them. In a global political climate rife with wars and economic crisis, political rhetoric can assume a power well beyond the scope and intent of its source.

More to the point: such right-wing bigots play on the fears of their supporters by scapegoating vulnerable members of society--in this case Muslim immigrants, but also Latino immigrants, racial minorities and members of LGBT communities, etc., to achieve their political goals. So long as public fears are manipulated for political gain, someone will pursue that logic to a violent end.

Millions more, however share a revulsion at both Brevik's murderous acts and the contemptuous ideology of which he saw himself expressing. What is needed now is an active culture of solidarity to combat the intolerant verbal sludge coming from the right.

This active culture of solidarity can be seen in the recent burgeoning movements centered around old fights, now with new radicalizing faces. It's not enough to blog back at the vapid and insidious writings of the far right. What we need is to shore up more support for grassroots organizing, and to reach out and make the interconnectedness of struggle apparent in our direct actions.

We need to build a fight back that won't stop making these arguments until a day we no longer see these attacks on multiculturalism. We need to show the far right that their violent, divisive and racist rhetoric is not welcome here or anywhere.
Matthew Camp, Chicago

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