July 27, 2011

Right-wing extremists aren't "lone wolves"

Muslim “Terrorists,” White “Lone Wolves,” and the Lessons of Oslo

By Michelle ChenAs the facts of Breivik’s ideology slowly broke through, mainstream news showed momentary compunction. But that emotion was quickly overtaken by a second and equally familiar theme in coverage of political violence: the often-deceptive “lone wolf” trope that threads through debates about domestic white supremacist movements.

On one hand, the lone-wolf theory is refreshing in that it recognizes individuals can commit acts of terror even without the direction of an established group. But it also affords mainstream Americans a mental safe zone that detaches “the crazies” from more acceptable right-wing and racist currents in the public discourse. The failure to grasp the continuum of extremism creates self-enforcing ignorance, as seen in Homeland Security’s attempts to downplay the threat of militant right-wing groups amid pressure from conservatives.

True, extreme ideologies can’t be solely to blame for extreme violence. But curiously, that principle just doesn’t seem to apply to Muslim community leaders, constantly pressured to formally denounce every act that carries any suspicion of Islamic radicalism. The “lone wolf” concept doesn’t buffer European and American Muslims against the collective guilt that so many right-wingers gleefully impose on their religious identity.

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald dissected the media’s conflation of religion, politics and terror in the coverage of Norway on corporate outlets:
[This] is what we’ve seen repeatedly: that Terrorism has no objective meaning and, at least in American political discourse, has come functionally to mean: violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes, no matter the cause or the target. Indeed, in many (though not all) media circles, discussion of the Oslo attack quickly morphed from this is Terrorism (when it was believed Muslims did it) to no, this isn’t Terrorism, just extremism (once it became likely that Muslims didn’t).The assumption is that Western Christian liberalism is incompatible with fundamentalist violence. But Frank Schaeffer points out the flip-side of those vaunted Western values:
There is a growing movement in America that equates godliness with hatred of our government in fact hatred of our country as fallen and evil because we allow women choice, gays to marry, have a social safety net, and allow immigration from other cultures and non-white races.So how many more “lone wolves” will it take to force people to recognize a collective threat?
Glenn Greenwald:  Why Do We Harass Muslims But Not White, Nordic Males?

The response to the Norway attacks shows that the world "terrorism" has no meaning--aside from when it's used to bash Muslims.

By Amy Goodman
GOODMAN:  Glenn, on Wednesday, House Homeland Security Committee chair Peter King, the New York Republican Congress member, will hold his third hearing on Muslim radicalization, focusing on radicalization within the Muslim-American community and the threat to the homeland.

GLENN GREENWALD:  Well, that’s one of the interesting things, is you would think that—you would think that in response to this attack, we would end up doing things like, for example, profiling Nordic males or tall, blond Americans, tall, blond, Nordic-looking people at airports, or would start to, for example, engage in surveillance on the communications of people who belong to right-wing groups in Europe, or you look at the people who inspire these attacks, people like Robert Spencer or Pamela Geller, people who engage in this sort of strident anti-Muslim commentary who inspired this individual. You know, we look at Islamic radicals who we allege inspire violence, such as Anwar al-Awlaki, and we target them for assassination—due-process-free killing—even though they’re American citizens. Of course, none of these measures are going to be invoked against right-wing ideologues who are anti-Muslim in nature. And you would expect that Peter King’s hearings, if he were really interested in the threat of violence or terrorism, would be expanded to include what we now know is a very real threat, and yet it isn’t, which simply underscores that those hearings, like so many of these measures done in the name of terrorism, is really just a vehicle for demonizing Muslims, restricting their rights, subjecting them to increased scrutiny. It’s about Islamophobia and not about terrorism.

GOODMAN:  Finally, the lack of coverage over the weekend in the United States was stunning, from Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, this story where so many young people were killed, massive terror attack, hugest terror attack in Norway in its history. Yet in this country, when you go to the networks, cable networks, known for covering a story for many hours at a time, this one almost fell from all the networks except the occasional headline.

GLENN GREENWALD:  Well, that was completely predictable. I mean, on Friday, when the attack actually took place, there was quite substantial and intense interest in what had taken place. Everybody was talking about it. There were complaints that—on Friday, that CNN wasn’t running continuous coverage. But in general, there was a lot of media interest, because at the time people thought, based on what the New York Timesand other media outlets had said, based on nothing, that this was the work of an Islamic—a radical Islamic group. And at the time, I wrote, when I wrote about the unfolding story, that if it turns out to be something other than an Islamic group that was responsible, especially if it turns out to be a right-wing nationalist who’s anti-Muslim in his views, that interest in this story was going to evaporate to virtual non-existence.

And what’s really amazing is, you know, every time there’s an act of violence undertaken by someone who’s Muslim, the commentary across the spectrum links his Muslim religion or political beliefs to the violence and tries to draw meaning from it, broader meaning. And yet, the minute that it turned out that the perpetrator wasn’t Muslim, but instead was this right-wing figure, the exact opposite view arose, which is, "Oh, his views and associations aren’t relevant. It’s not fair to attribute or to blame people who share his views or who inspired him with these acts." And it got depicted as being this sort of individual crazy person with no broader political meaning, and media interest disappeared. It’s exactly the opposite of how it’s treated when violence is undertaken by someone who’s Muslim.
Comment:  For more on Breivik the Norwegian killer, see:

What Christian jihadists want
Norwegian killer hates women
Norwegian killer hates multiculturalism

For more on terrorism in general, see:

Indigenous resistance = "terrorism"?
Indians, terrorists = US enemies
How people get labeled "terrorists"

Below:  Some of our own Konservative Kristian Killers.


Shadow Wolf said...

While media tends to label individuals and groups/organizations and or institutionalized mainstream relgions, whenever an atrocious acts occurs by its members. It then becomes a public normalcy to accept the general media's terms of such labels:

Terrorists=Muslims and Islamists

Extremists=White Nationalists, anti-Government Miltias, Fundamental Christians

I believed it was by previous known virulent White Supremacists that first adopted the "Lone Wolf" concept before it became a mainstream term now associated with Extreminism and Terrorism.

dmarks said...

I'm not sure if there is any general rule there, Shadow. For example, the "Islamists" in Hamas and the Taliban seen to be more often called the mild "militants" instead of "terrorists".

And you can't get more mainstream media than CNN, which routinely refers to Tim McVeigh as a terrorist.

Shadow Wolf said...

Dmarks when the mainstream media discusses the McVeighs in this country, they are generally referred to as "Domestic Terrorists". Maybe not Fox Network, but that phrase is often times closely associated with McVeigh and the WNs with similiar idealogy.

The mentally after the 9/11 attacks, changed the course of the entire concept behind the word Terrorist, hence becoming synonymous with radical Islamists, sometimes--Muslims.

Anonymous said...

A Montana court acquitted a white supremacist TWICE for shooting a hispanic first and then threatening a native recently. Looks like white supremacy is a protected movement.

If we recall our history, every movement from Cesar Chavez's activism, the American Indian Movement and the Black Panthers, the US government took VIOLENT efforts to disband, kill off or stop these movements from progressing.

How much clearer does one need to see that America harbors and protects white supremacist? Some even make it to Congress.

dmarks said...

I quickly found references to McVeigh being called a domestic terrorist on Fox News, but I'm not sure what that proves either way.

Anonymous said...

It's really hard to tell terrorists from extremists, since once you're radical enough, you'll use any means to achieve your ends.

I will say that terrorism is more about inciting fear to achieve a political goal. That definition goes back to the 18th century, when it referred to the French tendency to execute any royalist they found.

Of course, it generally goes terrorist > extremist > militant. The last easily includes groups like the American Indian Movement, which even embraced the militant label, but the first two do not.

dmarks said...

The term "extremist" seems to lose meaning in political discussions, with Democrats calling mainstream "teabaggers" extremist, and Republicans doing the same of our mainstream President.

Any more, extremist means "someone who does not share my exact political views".

Anonymous said...

No, no, that's Nazi, as per Godwin's law.