First the mea culpa. As news began to emerge of yesterday’s bombing and mass shooting in Norway, like many people I assumed there was an al-Qaeda or other Islamist connection. From London to Mumbai, simultaneous attacks have been a hallmark of Islamists, and there were several reasons why they might have wanted to target Norway.
I wrote a post for The Tatler on how the BBC listed those potential Islamist motives — the Satanic Verses link; the deployment of Norwegian troops to Afghanistan, although the country wasn’t named; and “cartoons of the prophet” — without mentioning Muslims, Islam or Mohammed. It was ridiculous yesterday and it’s still ridiculous today. The BBC clearly also thought an Islamist connection was likely — they just couldn’t bring themselves to say it.
But I got so caught up in mocking the BBC’s reporting that I failed to consider that it might have been anyone other than Islamists; I could have left open that possibility while still making my point, and not doing so was a mistake.
However, in one sense yesterday’s attacks are the exception that proves the “BBC rule.” If the gunman (who is also thought to be responsible for the bombing) had been of Middle Eastern appearance, and had shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he mowed down his victims, today many in the media would still be speculating about a possible motive, and the authorities would be urging us not to jump to conclusions, as was the case with Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan. But Norwegian police and media were reporting the “right-wing” connection within hours of the attacks, and by first thing this morning officials were describing the perpetrator, Anders Behring Breivik, as “a right-wing fundamentalist Christian.”
The rush to get Breivik’s profile out their suggests an eagerness to exonerate Muslims by the authorities, and the regularity with which the “right-wing” connection is being repeated by the media suggests both relief and relish: not only do we not have to report bad things about Muslims, we get open season on right-wingers.
Right-wing fundamentalist Christian. It’s a slam-dunk for the liberal-left; the ultimate caricature of conservative extremism; the bogeyman that had until now existed largely in their imaginations made real.
As I argued in this piece for Pajamas, two years ago almost to the day, the very term ‘far-right’ is an invention of the liberal-left, employed to discredit the opinions of anyone holding conservative views – just now I actually heard a BBC newsreader describe Breivik as ‘right-wing’ and ‘conservative’ in the same breath.
Think about it: when was the last time you heard or saw a reference in the mainstream media to the ‘far-left’?