September 16, 2012

The logical conclusion of extremism

In August, a Norwegian court ruled that mass-murder suspect Anders Breivik was sane. Here are some thoughts on that decision:

Norway's sane killer

By Nathan LeanThe court's decision was the right one. It comes at a time when heightened anxiety over the presence of Muslims in Europe and the United States has ignited a string of attacks on the faith community. The extreme right-wing ideology from which Breivik emerged has fueled McCarthy-esque witch hunts, mosque burnings and vandalism, and temple shootings. While wildly out of touch with responsible human discourse and seemingly pathological, this climate of hate is hardly the stuff of lunatics. It is a dangerous political reality with destructive consequences.

Statistics show that nearly two decades after the Oklahoma City bombing, right-wing extremism--not Muslim-led terrorism--is a growing threat. According to the Center for American Progress, which consolidated data from multiple sources, since 1995 extremists on the far right have perpetrated 56% of domestic terrorism attacks in the United States. That's compared with 12% carried out by radical Muslims. The likes of Breivik, Timothy McVeigh and Wade Michael Page have been responsible for the majority of terrorist incidents in 13 of the 17 years since the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building crumbled. In that same period, the Southern Policy Law Center has tracked a startling 26% increase in the number of American hate groups. It is their rhetoric that frightens anxious citizens about the alleged menace of minority groups and can push those fears to oft-deadly conclusions.

The Islamophobia that led Breivik to his ruinous binge, for example, came from his digestion of the writings of several anti-Muslim activists, including bloggers Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, who head the group Stop the Islamization of America. Breivik mentioned them in his 1,500-page manifesto, posted online. The pair has agitated some of the country's nastiest displays of prejudice. Their bus advertisements equating the Palestinian cause with jihad created a stir in New York and San Francisco, and they fanned the flames of the uproar over the Park51 Islamic Community Center in 2010.

Damningly, they see their mission as Breivik saw his: They call themselves "freedom fighters" on a valorous journey to save the world from Muslims. But when it was publicized that the Norway killer mentioned Spencer and Geller in his writings, they cried foul. "Clearly this individual is insane," Spencer wrote on his blog. After Breivik's initial psychological evaluation Geller expressed relief, writing, that Breivik was "declared certifiably insane, which was evident by his actions and his ten-years-in-the-making manifesto."

The magnitude of Breivik's butchery was apparently sufficient evidence of his psychosis. No normal person, in Geller and Spencer's view, would ever do such a thing. But only if that person is not a Muslim. When Muslims engage in violence, they are represented by Islamophobes as ordinary believers acting in a way that aligns with tenets of their faith, not fringe lunatics whose delusional religious interpretations lead them to a monstrous end. Though Spencer and Geller denounced Breivik's violence, they never rejected his anti-Muslim ideas. And that is a problem.

The Norwegian court's verdict, which means that Breivik will spend at least 21 years behind bars (and probably much more), underscores the need for society to address those who promote hatred and jabber about the evils of multiculturalism and the looming clash of civilizations. It proves that amplified racism, which carves society into fragments and pits them against one another, has real consequences and reaches the minds of rational thinkers who absorb such narratives and take them to their logical conclusions.
Comment:  The logical conclusion is that if Muslims, blacks, women, Latinos, gays, Indians, et al. threaten you, you take away their rights, imprison them, or kill them until they're no longer a threat. It's what we did to the Indians and what Hitler did to the Jews. It's what right-wing Christian fanatics would like to do to anyone who challenges them.

Again, we see the predominantly conservative American mindset and how it applies to Native history. It goes something like this:

Americans killed Indians because they stood in the way of progress. Because they wouldn't share their land and resources. And other pseudo-rational reasons. But Indians killed Americans because they were savages, beast-men, demons...not because they were taking rational steps to protect their existence.

In other words, everything we do is good because we're good by definition. But if you're not a white male Euro-Christian, everything you do is bad because you're bad by definition. You just don't share the values of civilized people, according to right-wingers. In short, you're as savage and inhuman as an Indian.

For more on the subject, see Geller Justifies Breivik's Attack and Right-Wing Extremists Aren't "Lone Wolves."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Basically once someone you consider a trusted authority tells you to do something, you're more inclined to do it.

The difference between an average individual and a Nazi, a Maoist, or a Khmer Rouge is that those political factions had someone telling them what to do. No more.