Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Are American conservatives to blame for the Oslo massacre?

I haven't yet commented on the Oslo massacre, mainly because I think it's pretty clear what it was all about -- why it happened -- once you strip away the despicable knee-jerk efforts of conservatives to pin the blame on Islamic jihadism (placing it squarely in their anti-Muslim narrative).

Events like this don't happen in a vacuum. This was not some random outburst but rather an act of right-wing Christian terrorism directed at "the left" and based largely on anti-Muslim bigotry and hate generally. And we must turn our attention not just to the accused but to that which created him. As Scott Shane writes at The New York Times:

The man accused of the killing spree in Norway was deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers and writers who have warned for years about the threat from Islam, lacing his 1,500-page manifesto with quotations from them, as well as copying multiple passages from the tract of the Unabomber.

In the document he posted online, Anders Behring Breivik, who is accused of bombing government buildings and killing scores of young people at a Labor Party camp, showed that he had closely followed the acrimonious American debate over Islam.

His manifesto, which denounced Norwegian politicians as failing to defend the country from Islamic influence, quoted Robert Spencer, who operates the Jihad Watch Web site, 64 times, and cited other Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture.

More broadly, the mass killings in Norway, with their echo of the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by an antigovernment militant, have focused new attention around the world on the subculture of anti-Muslim bloggers and right-wing activists and renewed a debate over the focus of counterterrorism efforts.

In the United States, critics have asserted that the intense spotlight on the threat from Islamic militants has unfairly vilified Muslim Americans while dangerously playing down the threat of attacks from other domestic radicals. 

Yes, we need to turn our attention to anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States as a major contributor to the "culture" that created this killer. But we're not just talking about a "subculture" of "bloggers" and "activists," we're talking about elected officials and major media figures, specifically about the Republican Party and the conservatism that sustains it.

The subculture is there, yes, but it's not really that "sub." It's pretty much in the mainstream these days. Expressions of anti-Muslim bigotry can be heard all over Fox News and right-wing talk radio. They can be heard from the likes of Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Peter King, and Allen West, among many others. Muslims, including Muslim-Americans are being treated as the new Other, as a threat to the very fabric of American life. Fearmongering in full swing, they are being vilified and scapegoated, lumped together as fundamentally anti-American. We are told that they wish to impose Sharia law on America, that their mosques and community centers are training grounds for terrorism, that they want to take our freedom away, that if we're not vigilant, that if we don't fight back, our whole way of life is doomed.

Is it really any wonder there is violence? Is it any wonder the Oslo massacre happened?

Yes, it takes someone unhinged to do such a thing, but that's exactly the problem. No one expects, say, Newt Gingrich to go on a shooting spree, to act out his anti-Muslim bigotry in violent ways. But what happens when someone unhinged gets hold of what Gingrich says, of what others say, when their message gets through? And when the "culture" basically tells this person that violence not just okay but, given the threat, even makes sense and may even be the only way to preserve our freedom?

All it takes is one Anders Behring Breivik.

So are American conservatives to blame? Not entirely, of course, but yes. Many of them, those who feed the culture of hate, those who target Muslims. And it's not always with explicit rhetoric either. You don't have to say you hate Muslims, or that Muslims are evil, just that they shouldn't be able to worship in your community, that they're "foreign" and not like you, that they're "different" and "alien," that they're trying to take over. That's the sort of thing that is all-too-common among American conservatives these days, including from high-profile figures in the media and the Republican Party.

Oh, they'll try to deflect attention and say they deserve no blame, lashing out at their critics, just as they did with the Oklahoma City bombing and more recently with the Tucson shooting and just as they do whenever there's an act of right-wing terrorism, which is more frequent than you might think from the way it's not at all covered in the media.

We just mustn't let them get away with it.

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  • .

    "Are American conservatives to blame for the Oslo massacre?"

    In a word, no.

    As messed up as hate speech is and the people who peddle hate speech for dollars are, in the end, the Nut-cake from Norway is solely responsible for his actions.

    In an open society hate, hate speech, and the professional hate speechers cannot make a person behave in an irresponsible manner.

    Ema Nymton

    By Blogger Ema Nymton, at 4:54 PM  

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