Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thoughts On The Tragedy In Norway

As more details emerge about Anders Behring Breivik, the alleged perpetrator of Friday’s vicious terrorist attacks in Norway, I can’t help but notice how eerily similar some of his rhetoric is to some of the ideas floating around on the American Right, and not just the underground far-right. The wild claims that President Obama was somehow leading or abetting a Marxist/Islamist alliance to destroy Christian America were not just found on extremist neo-Nazi websites, but could be seen on Tea Party signs and heard on right-wing talk radio. 

Of course, none of this means that Tea Party members or avid listeners of right-wing radio host Michael Savage are going to go out and kill people. However, ideas have consequences, and it is important to be wary of certain ideas that threaten to dehumanize people. Before left-wingers start to gloat, it is also important to remember that the Left has also had its share of violent terrorists as well, and that the language of class war, taken too far, can also lead to violence. 

Politics has always involved strong language, and I would not want to see a “speech police” developed to quiet firebrands, including those who develop the conspiracy theories that often fuel (even if unintentionally) extremist violence. But the fact that so many people believe tales about a Marxist plot to take over the world, when Marxism as an organized, active ideology is perhaps at its weakest point in over a century, is just one example of how conspiracy theories can take one’s mind off of understanding the world from the standpoint of reality. Once we understand the world as it is, then hopefully we can change it for the better. As Pope Leo XIII advised: “There is nothing more useful than to look at the world as it really is — and at the same time look elsewhere for a remedy to its troubles.”


  1. Hello!

    I don't believe we've met, but Neil Clark suggested I read your post, in response to some comments I've made on his Anders Breivik post.

    I bitterly dispute any connection between the American Tea Party movement and Anders Breivik. I defy you to prove any connection. And no, it's not good enough to say "Well, Breivik quoted so-and-so x number of times." He quoted a large number of people, both living and dead. I insist that you show the contexts of the quotations. If you do that, you'll be doing better than the New York Times article did.

    The Tea Party events in America have been remarkably free of violence, except from their opponents.

    I live in Minnesota in the US. I consider this incident to be similar to the shootings in which Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was wounded in January of 2011. A great effort was made to link the shooter, Jared Loughner, to conservative politicians such as Sarah Palin. The effort failed because no genuine connection existed.

    In my opinion, the Tea Party is about a smaller, less expensive, less invasive Federal government. While there are some activists who have concerns with violent, radical Islam, and some activists who consider American immigration policy as a problem, nobody in my world writes "The Tea Party is an anti-Islamic movement," or "The Tea Party is an anti-immigrant movement." It's just not the main emphasis.

  2. Hello Douglas,

    Thank you for the comment! I actually agree with you to a certain extent. My point was not to blame the Tea Party for the Norway attacks, although I can see how my post might across as doing just that. I also agree that the attacks on Sarah Palin and others over the Giffords shooting were also uncalled for.

    However, I think that the Right is guilty of overblowing the threat from Islamism. Take for instance the fear that sharia law will become part of America’s legal fabric. Outside of some individual cases where conflict of law principles may bring up the issue of enforcing foreign sharia law by U.S. courts, I don’t see sharia law as much of a problem in the United States.

    Also, I agree that the Norway attacks should not be used to shut down healthy debates over immigration policy and multiculturalism. My problem is with the exaggeration of the problems to cosmic dimensions that are unrealistic. It is similar to the fears held by some that Mexico will retake the American Southwest due to the movement of Mexicans into the area, when Mexico can barely govern its own territory, much less annex land from a powerful nation-state like the U.S.