Apologies to music fans for this political ranting. There will be a review of High Voltage along shortly, a superb weekend, but for me the whole thing took place under the shadow of the terrible events in Norway on Friday.
While on the surface this seems a random and inexplicable event, it’s something many have warned was coming for a long time. The only surprise for me is that it happened in Europe rather than in North America.
Some commentators are still insisting that Anders Brevik was some kind of lone nut who wasn’t part of any wider political movement. They seem to ignore the fact that his rambling “manifesto” isn’t his own words, but is almost entirely cut-and-pasted from a slew of right-wing writers ranging from a number of notorious far-right bloggers to The Daily Mail’s racist columnist Melanie Phillips. This post on the once-infamous Little Green Footballs gives a lot background, and makes it clear why so many people thought Anders Brevik and the anonymous white supremacist blogger “Fjordman” were the same person. Charles Johnson of LGF used to run with that crowd until he realised where it was all heading – so he knows what he’s talking about here.
Since 9/11 we’ve seen a cross-Atlantic alliance of right-libertarians, extreme Christian fundamentalists and white nationalists with an ugly kind of Islamophobia as the ideological glue holding them together. They have become what looks an awful lot like an exact mirror image of Al-Queda, the same abhorrence of the mixing of cultures, and the same violent intolerance to anybody who isn’t exactly like them. And now they have perpetrated something of a 9/11 of their own.
Brevik may be “mad” or “evil”, but his madness has been marinaded for years in a toxic stew of far-right ideas, and at least some of the people whose writings have inspired him now have blood on their hands. Freedom of speech is an essential principle, a cornerstone of a functioning democracy. But those who use their freedom of speech to spread hatred and incite violence need to take responsibility for the consequences when others take their words at face value.
People talk about tolerance, but it has to a two-way street. The vast majority of sects and subcultures are benign and harmless, and deserve tolerance. A small minority are not, and any right to tolerance should instantly stop the moment the bodies start to pile up.
Edit: I had thought of titling this post “The 9/11 of the right”, but thought it too provocative. But I see Charlie Stross has done precisely that:
I’m just horrified by the scale of the event.
This is in Norway, a country of 5 million souls.
92 dead in Norway is … well, multiply by 60 for the equivalent proportion of Americans and you get over 5000 dead. Playing the numbers game with such a horror is distasteful, but it suggests to me that the political impact on Scandinavian and European anti-terror politics in general is going to be non-trivial to say the least.
This is the neo-Nazi 9/11. Breivik had links to the English Defense League and other racist right-wing groups. The folks who police and intel groups all over the west have been treating with kid gloves, compared to the islamicists, due to the explosive and barely-acknowledged fact that there’s wide-scale support for anti-immigrant views all over the west, especially anti-muslim views, and semi-respectable politicians playing these prejudices for personal careerist gain.
It’s a poisoned chalice. And I have no idea what this bodes for the future, other than: nothing good.
And I really can’t disagree with any of that.