Leave it to the New York Times to run a front-page story about the murders perpetrated by crazed right-wing fanatic Anders Behring Breivik that is more accurately described as a not-so veiled editorial. Written by Scott Shane, the article begins by proclaiming that Breivik “was deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers and writers who have warned for years about the threat from Islam, lacing his 1,500-page manifesto with quotations from them, as well as copying multiple passages from the tract of the Unabomber.”
The implication that he develops is that Breivik’s actions can be attributed to those who for years have been trying to educate the public in the West about the threat posted to our values and way of life by the forces of radical Islam. Shane singles out — by virtue of Breivik having cited his writing 64 times in his manifesto — the writings of Robert Spencer at the website Jihad Watch, part of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, as well the work of “other Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture.”
That sentence says it all: Unassimilated Muslim immigrants in Europe, people who do not accept the laws and standards of the nations to which they have immigrated and who consider themselves proponents of both jihad and sharia law, are not a danger. Instead, the danger comes from those who point out the uncomfortable truths that many dare not face.
So, Shane continues, authorities and others now “have focused new attention around the world on the subculture of anti-Muslim bloggers and right-wing activists and renewed a debate over the focus of counterterrorism efforts.” We should be looking not at radical Islam, as Rep. Peter King vows to continue to do with his congressional hearings, but at its opponents, all “right-wing activists” who, as we all know, are the only real enemies out there.
And of course Shane points out that “critics have asserted that the intense spotlight on the threat from Islamic militants has unfairly vilified Muslim Americans while dangerously playing down the threat of attacks from other domestic radicals.” In fact, Muslim Americans have never been vilified. What those critics have actually said — the responsible ones and not those like the crazed publicity-seeking pastor in Florida — is that there are real dangers of jihad from some advocates of radical Islam.
Does Shane not remember that had not a street vendor noticed a truck parked in the Times Square area, an American jihadist would have caused a catastrophe as deadly as the one in Norway? Does he not know of the acclaimed Muslim businessman who owned a TV station in upstate New York who beheaded his wife for offending him according to Sharia law? This man was interviewed as an example of a moderate American Muslim and an example of how Muslims in America have acculturated and played a positive role in our society. And what about the radical Sami Al-Arian, who pleaded guilty to support of terrorism, and whom many American academics defended as a victim of a witch-hunt when he was removed from his teaching job in Florida?
Shane’ s report also implies that the 2009 Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism was unfairly withdrawn, “after criticism from conservatives repeated on Sunday [by former CIA officer Marc Sageman’s] claim that the department had tilted too heavily toward the threat from Islamic militants.” Shane also quotes former Homeland Security official Daryl Johnson, who argued that an equal threat came from the right-wing extremists and criticized Homeland Security for its actions and for having more analysts work on Islamic extremism than on the domestic right wing. Johnson cited the Hutaree as proof of his contention, arguing that they had a larger domestic arsenal than any Muslim extremists. As the article notes, however, the FBI had successfully infiltrated this domestic group of self-proclaimed Christian extremists, and thereby prevented any terrorist action from taking place.
As PJMedia writer Bruce Bawer points out on this website and in the Wall Street Journal, Norway stands out as a nation singularly afraid of confronting any of the real dangers posed by Islamic radicalism. That lack of action is the kind of thing that obviously helps fuel the anger of someone like the crazed fanatic, who seems to believe that killing children whose parents are members of Norway’s governing political party is a fight against Islamic fascism. As Bawer writes, “Norwegian television journalists who in the first hours of the crisis were palpably uncomfortable about the prospect of having to talk about Islamic terrorism are now eagerly discussing the dangers of ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘conservative ideology’ and are drawing connections between the madness and fanaticism of Breivik and the platform of the Progress Party. “
As Bawer puts in in his Journal piece, it was “the failure of mainstream political leaders to responsibly address the attendant challenges” that resulted in “the emergence of” an extremist such as Breivik. The killer, who evidently believes that he can “wake up the masses” by using terror against regular citizens, is not only mad, but more in tune with anarchist ideas than those of critics of Islamofascism.
Here is what is now failing to be addressed. Bawer writes:
Norway, like the rest of Europe, is in serious trouble. Millions of European Muslims live in rigidly patriarchal families in rapidly growing enclaves where women are second-class citizens, and where non-Muslims dare not venture. Surveys show that an unsettling percentage of Muslims in Europe reject Western values, despise the countries they live in, support the execution of homosexuals, and want to replace democracy with Shariah law. (According to a poll conducted by the Telegraph, 40% of British Muslims want Shariah implemented in predominantly Muslim parts of the United Kingdom.)
Are we now not supposed to point these things out, because one madman who claims he acts out of valid concerns takes the kind of action that makes him as evil as those he supposedly wants to politically fight? If Breivik was indeed really concerned with these developments, what he has done has harmed his own avowed cause, and allowed radical Islam to grow even deeper roots in the West, since leaders will now view any concern as an example of irrational Islamophobia.
What the Left is seeking to do, therefore, as Bawer puts it, is make Anders Breivik a “poster boy” for those who criticize radical Islam. This is similar to the days of Joe McCarthy, when more people began to see the would-be victims of McCarthyism as all innocent, even though by adopting that pose, many actual spies managed to get away without anything being done to them, out of our fear that they might have had their rights taken away unjustly. It became more of a slander to call someone a McCarthyite than to call a Red a Red, which resulted only in charges that one was unfairly Red-baiting.
Finally, does anyone remember the 1978 massacre by the self-proclaimed Marxist leader of the People’s Temple, Rev. Jim Jones, in Guyana? An astounding 918 people, many women and young children, were forced to commit “revolutionary suicide” by the maniacal Marxist, whose project was building a socialist utopia in Guyana and whose Temple in San Francisco had been praised by Rosalynn Carter, Jerry Brown, Walter Mondale, and scores of leftists who were active in the SF area.
Jones’ Temple led to the mayoralty victory of George Moscone, who then made Jones head of SF’s housing authority. Jones regularly read to his members from the works of North Korea’s Kim Il Jong, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, and, of course, the Soviet Union’s totalitarian leader, Joseph Stalin. A self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist, Jones freely borrowed his ideology from those folks and from the later West Coast New Left, including the Black Panther Party.
I do not seem to recall any American leftists at the time acknowledging that his actions and beliefs stemmed from their ideas and beliefs, although it obviously had. None made the kind of public statement John Podhoretz of Commentary magazine made yesterday, that we had to acknowledge Breivik “is exactly the kind of psychotic ideologue of the Right so many in this country instantly assumed Jared Loughner, the schizophrenic who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was — and this fact seems to have inspired a bizarre score-settling glee.”
That he does take his views from the Right does not, therefore, mean that those views are all wrong — since those writers he had studied have condemned his actions in their entirety. Why should these murders give the left-wing activists such pleasure, Podhoretz righgtfully asks? And in a masterful New York Times op-ed today, columnist Ross Douthat writes that “The darkest aspects of his ideology belong strictly to the neo-fascist fringe. But many of his beliefs and arguments echo the rhetoric of mainstream cultural conservatives, in Europe and America alike.” It is fair, however, he notes, to call “Breivik a right-winger.” We must not be afraid to acknowledge that, and to be candid in letting people know from where he got some of his ideas.
But people like Robert Spencer or Bruce Bawer are no more responsible for Brevik’s actions than the Beatles were for the grisly murders carried out by Charles Manson, who said he had been inspired by their music. Douthat points out:
His compendium quotes repeatedly from conservative writers on both sides of the Atlantic, and it’s filled with attacks on familiar right-wing targets:
Secularism and political correctness; the European Union and the sexual revolution; radical Islam and the academic left.
Indeed, stripped of their context, some of his critiques of multiculturalism and immigration resemble arguments that have been advanced, not just by Europe’s far-right parties, but by mainstream conservative leaders such as David Cameron in Britain, Angela Merkel in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy in France.
How should European conservatives react? Not with the pretense that there’s somehow no connection whatsoever between Breivik’s extremism and the broader continental right. While his crimes should be denounced and disowned, their ideological pedigree has to be admitted.
But this doesn’t mean that conservatives need to surrender their convictions. The horror in Norway no more discredits Merkel’s views on Muslim assimilation than Ted Kaczynski’s bombs discredited Al Gore’s views on the dark side of industrialization.
Al Gore’s ideas can be discredited on their own, as many have done. It cannot be accomplished, as some tried at the time, by trying to discredit Gore because the Unabomber used his words for his own purposes. As wrong as Gore might be, it is not because a madman said he agreed with him and took the kind of terrorist action that Gore never supported.
The point is that the conservatives, as Douthat says, are right in their warnings. The tragedy of the madman’s murders in Norway, as horrible as they are, must not allow us to ignore the big picture. If we do, he has indeed won more than he intended. So I hereby second Douthat’s argument:
Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have an obligation to acknowledge that Anders Behring Breivik is a distinctively right-wing kind of monster. But they also have an obligation to the realities that this monster’s terrible atrocity threatens to obscure.