[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
Just as they always do, right-wingers are working furiously to whitewash out the bloodstains left by the latest act of right-wing extremist terrorism -- the horrifying attacks perpetrated by Anders Breivik in Norway. And it looks like Bill O'Reilly is going to be leading the charge.
O'Reilly has been in complete denial about right-wing domestic terrorism and its significance for some time. But then, we all remember how he heatedly attacked liberals who pointed out his own culpability in the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a clear act of domestic terrorism.
He went on the warpath last night, and it looks like he's going to do more of the same tonight:
Now, on Sunday, the "New York Times" headlined "As Horrors Emerged, Norway Charges Christian extremist". A number of other news organizations like the "LA Times" and Reuters also played up the Christian angle. But Breivik is not a Christian. That's impossible. No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder. The man might have called himself a Christian on the net, but he is certainly not of that faith.Other, of course, than that he regularly described himself as a Christian in his writings. Hm. Guess that doesn't count.
Also Breivik is not attached to any church, and in fact has criticized the Protestant belief system in general. The Christian angle came from a Norwegian policeman not from any fact finding. Once again, we can find no evidence, none, that this killer practiced Christianity in any way.
Anyway, we're able to find all kinds of examples of supposed Christians committing acts of mass murder: Rev. Jim Jones. Eric Rudolph. The Remembrance Day Bombers. The Ku Klux Klan. And while it wasn't an act of mass murder, who could forget another guy who , who claimed to act on behalf of his Christian beliefs: Scott Roeder, the killer of George Tiller? Other than O'Reilly, that is.
Instead, O'Reilly gets psychic on us and starts divining media motivations:
So why is the angle being played up? Two reasons: First, the liberal media wants to make an equivalency between the actions of Breivik and the Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh and al Qaeda. The left wants you to believe that fundamentalists Christians are a threat just like crazy jihadists are.Those two words perfectly describe not just what preceded them, but what followed as well:
In fact, in the "New York Times" today an analysis piece says that some believe we have overreacted to the Muslim threat in the world. Of course, that's absurd. Jihadists have killed tens of thousands of people all over the world. The Taliban, Iran and elements in Pakistan use governmental power to support terrorism by Muslims. But the left-wing press wants to compare nuts like Breivik and McVeigh to state-sponsored terrorism and worldwide jihad.
Again, dishonest and insane.
The second reason the liberal media is pushing the Christian angle is they don't like Christians very much because we are too judgmental. Many Christians oppose abortion. Gay marriage and legalized narcotics, secular left causes. The media understands the opposition is often based on religion. So they want to diminish Christianity and highlighting so-called Christian-based terror is a way to do that.O'Reilly, of course, does not produce any evidence that this is the case. There are no pundits he quotes saying these things, not politicians uttering such sentiments. Because they don't exist.
O'Reilly's indulging classic strawman tactics, one of his faves.
The primary threat to this world comes from Islamic terrorism. Iran is a major problem. If the country gets nuclear weapons and it's desperately trying to, does anyone doubt those weapons could be used? A Muslim in Pakistan exported nuclear technology to North Korea. And Muslim suicide bombers blow innocent people up almost every day.That's right, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it again: He's crazy, so it doesn't mean anything.
Yet, once again the liberal media wants you to fear Christian terrorists. And going forward when jihad is mentioned, you know Breivik and McVeigh will enter the conversation.
Sometimes I think the world is going mad. This Breivik guy is a loon, a mass murderer who apparently acted out of rank hatred. No government supported him. No self-proclaimed terror group like al Qaeda paid his bills. Breivik is just another loser who caused tremendous horror by murdering innocent people. There is no equivalency to jihad. No worldwide Breivik movement. Just another violent pathetic legacy stemming back to Cain.
Except, of course, that it's a lie: Anders Breivik is not insane. There is no indication of mental illness in this case whatsoever, as there was in the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, which was eagerly dismissed by the Right on those grounds, shaky as they were.
A fellow named Gurdur over at Heathen Hut actually summed it up rather well:
Let's get that out of the way again: there is simply no evidence at all at this time whatsoever to show any mental illness on the part of Anders Behring Breivik. He showed long-term planning, his behaviour was not apparent in extremeness or oddness to onlookers till he started shooting. He does not show much delusions of grandeur in the medical sense, or display much of seeing himself as the target of conspiratorial persecution. Therefore it is simply not classical clinical paranioa on his part (one of the very few mental illnesses in which the sufferer can appear rational and make long-term plans based on his illness). It is tempting and easy to see his preoccupation with Muslims as an idée fixe, but that only begs the question of how many saw and still see all real and alleged problems with Muslims in Western society as being a pressing and central concern. Just how is Breivik different from them? In no way, except that Breivik carried out actions, and made his targets those whom he saw as responsible or potentially so, rather than Muslims themselves. Moreover, Breivik was not monomanic; he not only saw Muslims as a problem, but also liberalism, multiculturalism, liberal religion, and so on - and he tentatively targeted what he saw as liberal media for his deeds as well.As I explained yesterday:
So why did Breivik end up murdering teenagers? For much the same reasons as the Islamist Al Qaeda 9/11 terrorists targeted innocents in the Twin Towers, for much the same reasons as the Christian Timothy James McVeigh did not care that 19 children under the age of 6 were killed by his bombing in Oklahoma City. The victims were narcissistically seen as mere objects in the carrying out of what was a symbolic as well as a real attack; the victims were dehumanised as mere props to the narcissistic agenda.
What is the difference between Breivik and Martin Bryant, the man who carried out the speciously similar Tasmanian shootings in the Port Arthur massacre of 1996? Bryant showed deep psychological problems almost all his life, a very low IQ, and constant actual potential for violence for decades, and many self-harm episodes. There is so far no evidence at all for Breivik being similar. Bryant also left no real manifesto, and his complaint was centered around people not payng him the attention he desired, while Breivik centered his complaint around what the Labour Party was doing to Norwegian society - a very complex, abstract and non-personal complaint. Breivik is simply not in any way mentally ill in the way Bryant was.
And yet many will try claiming Breivik to be insane, despite no evidence for that at all. This is mere name-calling, non-medical and unscientific; it is also a very dangerous path to go down - the mistaken pseudo-medicalization of ethical problems.
Right-wing movements attract people who are likely to act out violently because they indulge so overtly and, in recent years, remorselessly in the politics of fear and loathing: indulging in eliminationist rhetoric, depicting their opposition as less than human, and aggressively attacking efforts to blunt the toxic effects of their politics as "political correctness" -- or, in the case of both Anders Breivik and Andrew Breitbart, "Cultural Marxism".I think Conor Friedersdorf actually has it about right:
... Because we believe in freedom of speech and freedom of thought, there will probably always be haters like Richard Poplawski among us. Inevitably they will be driven by fear: the fear of difference. Because to them, difference of any kind is a threat.
And what we know from experience about volatile, unstable actors like them is that they can be readily induced into violent action by hateful rhetoric that demonizes and dehumanizes other people. And thanks to human nature and those same freedoms, we will certainly always have fearmongering demagogues among us. But the purveyors of such profoundly irresponsible rhetoric need to be called on it -- especially when they hold the nation's media megaphones.
How many people can assert such things before small numbers of the disaffected take them literally? If all that were true, wouldn't a lot of people respond violently?The problem for most of these folks is that such a burden is far too great.
Overheated, hyperbolic rhetoric must come naturally once you've immersed yourself in the hard core anti-jihadist blogosphere. Regulars there lose the conviction that words have precise meanings, and the belief that arguing with integrity requires staying within their bounds. Shortcuts are so much easier, hence the frequent descents into ad hominem, the constant reliance on hyperbole, and the crutch of playing on the civilizational anxieties of the audience, in an effort to shake them into awareness.
Jeffrey Goldberg offers sound counsel. "Free speech means free speech," he says of [Pam] Geller. "But she should be aware now that violent people look to her for guidance, and she should write with that in mind."
That doesn't mean that she or anyone else is at fault for the killings in Norway, or that she or anyone else should stop writing about the threat posed by radical Islam. It merely means doing so more responsibly, as any number of other writers manage to do, as a sensible precaution -- one that is onerous only insofar as it demands going no farther than the unexaggerated truth.