After Norway Massacre, the Debate Will Go On

My friend Salim Mansur, a Muslim and a stringent critic of the travesty of multiculturalism in its current form, has been cited by the Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, in his 1500-plus page manifesto. This is, Mansur jokes, his Warhol moment (personal correspondence), but he is obviously distressed by the implications of his Breivikian moment. Breivik detested multiculturalism; Mansur is profoundly skeptical of the same thing. Case closed. Mansur is not the only one who is perturbed. Islamic scholar Robert Spencer feels that, as a result of the New York Times' defamatory article which gave wide circulation to his appearance in Breivik’s screed, he may need to start worrying about a possible attempt on his life.

But the common fear among Breivik’s literary victims, including others on the right of the political spectrum who did not figure in his almanac, is that the debate in which they are engaged may be shut down as they will be tarred by what is nothing more than accidental association. True, the left is doing its utmost to revive its own deviant version of the old Nazi practice of Sippenhaft (collective punishment, kin liability) in which (to quote Wikipedia), “relatives of persons accused of crimes against the state were held to share responsibility for their crimes and subject to arrest and sometimes execution.” The difference, of course, is that there is no sympathetic relation whatsoever between Breivik and the conservative authors he alludes to. They may have certain ideas in common — there is nothing strange or unprecedented about that — but differ categorically in the means they adopt, the use of reason, and the kind of society they envision. This indisputable fact is scanted by the left.

The practice of Sippenhaft is a mainstay of tyrannical regimes, a variation on the infamous reprisal strategy where an entire village might be liquidated for the actions of one or a few of its inhabitants — even if, in this instance, there was no agreement or intimate tie between the people involved. But whether as Sippenhaft or reprisal, the left is merely reproducing, in a displaced, perverted, and selective fashion, an approximate form of the means of deterrence. It is really a technique of discreditation, as, for example, was used to blame the right for the insanity of Jared Loughner, the Arizona killer. The device is selective because those whom the left favor are always given a bye. Thus, in the Loughner case, Sarah Palin’s “crosshairs” image was dredged up as having inspired the madman’s shooting spree, but the earlier bull’s eye map published by the Democratic Leadership Council was passed over as if it had never existed. Similarly, Barack Obama also popped up in Breivik’s turgid lucubrations but the president’s Zelig-like apparition was duly airbrushed out of the commentary since it would have clearly ruined the intended deprecatory effect.