Honestly, I don’t know what is worse — the Norway massacre, or various right-wing pundits’ bizarre response.
I’m overstating my case deliberately, of course. There can be no doubt Anders Breivik’s mass-murder was a horrific crime, one that has shaken Norway and the world. It left nearly 80 dead, most of them young people — and some of them as young as 14.
To target and murder children, as Breivik did, was sick, inhuman and — clearly — profoundly evil. Of that, there can be no doubt.
But some right-wing commentators have sounded profoundly indifferent to evil in the days following the Norway massacre too. Variously, these commentators actually seemed to suggest the victims deserved to die, or the killer wasn’t entirely bad, or Breivik — who had views about Muslims and immigrants eerily similar to their own — wasn’t in fact motivated by those views. Here is sampling:
- Glenn Beck, the famous U.S. conservative, said the young people at the Utoya Island camp targeted by Breivik were “like Hitler youth,” quote unquote.
- Former G.O.P. presidential candidate and conservative gadfly Pat Buchanan took a different tack and approvingly noted Breivik’s writings “reveal a knowledge of the history, culture and politics of Europe.” Buchanan went on to make approving noises about Breivik’s opposition to multiculturalism.
- Canadian broadcaster Michael Coren, in a posting titled “Leftist syndrome” on his blog, pointed out some of the youngsters at the Utoya Island camp had been critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians — and, therefore, their murders were “ironic.” The posting even seemed to suggest the Norwegian youth had it coming, since they had “showed no empathy at all for Jewish suffering.”
- U.S.-based columnist Mark Steyn — who has achieved fame for his anti-Muslim screeds and who was referred to approvingly in Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto — scrambled to minimize clear evidence Breivik hated Muslims, hastily pointing out because Breivik and his victims were “blonde-haired, blue-eyed Aryan,” he could not have been in any way motivated by anti-Muslim hate.
These statements are deplorable and irresponsible. They also do not reflect the true facts about Breivik.
The facts about Breivik, as reported by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the like, are quite different. The Times has reported Breivik is “a right-wing fundamentalist Christian, a gun-loving Norwegian obsessed with what he saw as the threat of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration to the cultural and patriotic values of his country.”
The Journal, not noted as a hotbed of leftist sentiment, also quoted Norwegian police authorities, stating as fact Breivik was “a Norwegian gun enthusiast with a history of voicing nationalist, anti-immigration views,” adding: “(Breivik) frequently agitated online against European policies too accommodating of multiculturalism and what he saw as the growing threat of radical Islam.”
Even Fox News reported Breivik was “a right-winger with anti-Muslim views.”
Those are the facts. Why then did Beck, Buchanan, Steyn and (most disappointingly for me because I like and respect Michael) Coren, feel compelled to offer up such willful mischaracterizations of the facts?
Because Breivik represents a threat to the message certain right-wing commentators desperately want to communicate. He will surely rank as one of history’s more notorious mass-murderers.
From the perspective of Beck et al., therefore, it is crucial they muddy the waters about the crimes Breivik has committed.
When one is always seeking to demonize Islam, non-white immigration and multiculturalism, lunatics like Anders Breivik raise unhelpful questions.
It happens whenever there is a notorious crime involving ideology, too — ideologues frantically seek to disassociate themselves from the crime by discrediting the gun-toting ideologue, or the victims. To be fair, the left is as guilty of this sort of ugly moral lapse as the right. Both sides do it.
In this single case, however, the right-wingers’ frantic spinning cannot obscure the reality.
Namely, Anders Breivik believed in the same things you do.
And he acted on it.