Without getting into the whole left/right argument again, as I wrote back then, while the far-left espouse views that can fairly be described as extreme versions of more ‘moderate’ left-wing views, those who are labelled as ‘far-right’ (I’m not talking about apolitical anti-government types, but the ‘far-right’ as applied to Aryan Nation in the US, the BNP in Britain and similar organizations in Europe) don’t tend to be extremist proponents of, for example, lower taxes and small government.
As we learn more about Breivik (some scraps of biography are emerging), people on both the left and right will scrutinize his ideology as they did Jared Loughner’s after the Tucson, Arizona shootings. But there’s very little to scrutinize. Breivik and others who think like him are racists, pure and simple, and racism isn’t an ideology; it’s an irrational attitude that manifests itself as anything from unease to hatred, and one that isn’t exclusive to the left or the right.
After yesterday I’m a little wary of making predictions, but I’d be surprised if in the coming weeks the likes of Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann don’t try to draw parallels between the Oslo shooter and the Tea Party; the fun has already started at HuffPo and elsewhere in the lefty blogosphere.
You only have to look to the left’s reaction to the Tucson shootings to know what to expect. While yesterday’s tragedy unfolded in a small, faraway country, the profile of the shooter is such a perfect fit for the left that it’s going to hard to resist the temptation to make merry. And it’s not unthinkable that an increasingly desperate Obama might decide to emulate Bill Clinton’s ‘Oklahoma City’ strategy.
Meanwhile, in Europe, Anders Behring Breivik’s ‘anti-immigrant’ and ‘anti-Muslim’ beliefs are being trumpeted, the better to demonize anyone who expresses alarm over uncontrolled mass immigration.
Yesterday’s attack will also be seized on by the Christiane Amanpours of the liberal-left who have long been telling us that ‘all religions are the same’ in terms of violent extremism. But while the evil on display yesterday was the equal of anything displayed by al-Qaeda or the Taliban, there’s no comparison in terms of the scale of threat.
The circumstances of yesterday’s shooting rampage – the victims were trapped on an island for more than an hour – meant the death toll was unprecedented for such an attack, but so-called right-wing terrorism remains rare, and ‘fundamentalist Christian’ terrorism even rarer, the preserve of lone fanatics or small groups with minimal support. Meanwhile tens of thousands of Islamists remain committed to violence, and hundreds of thousands more, perhaps millions, sympathize with them.
Still, we’re rightly enjoined not to hold all Muslims accountable for the actions of a minority – albeit a rather sizable minority – of extremists. I fear that in the coming months the same courtesy won’t be extended to people holding right-of-center political views.