Friday 29 July 2011

Something Else

Right-wing Terrorist: Before the world learned that the Oslo bomb had been detonated by Anders Behring Breivik the global news media correctly described the event as a terrorist attack. But, once it became clear the perpetrator was a Norwegian national, his carefully planned military mission suddenly became something else. Breivik himself became "the gunman", while his Labour Youth targets became the "teenage" victims of a "shooting spree" or "deadly rampage". Why does the Western media find it so hard to call Breivik's actions by their proper name: terrorism?

HOW EASILY WE ACCEPT the peculiar moral alchemy of our masters. Their effortless, almost magical power to transmute the Norwegian tragedy into something else; something quite distinct from a terrible and despicable act of political terrorism.

Anders Behring Breivik is indisputably a political terrorist, and the Norwegian authorities have treated him as such. He is being tried for terrorism.

So, why have governments and newspaper editors around the world shied away from using the words “terrorism” and “terrorist” to describe the murderous acts of this 32-year-old ultra-nationalist, anti-socialist, cultural exclusionist?

Over and over again we hear and read about Breivik as “the gunman” who went on a shooting “rampage” or “spree”.

Breivik’s victims have been similarly misrepresented. These young people weren’t gunned down for being “teenagers”, and Utoya Island wasn’t chosen simply because it was a “summer camp”. Breivik’s target was the annual gathering of the youth wing of the Norwegian Labour Party – the dominant partner in Norway’s left-wing coalition government.

In court, Breivik calmly explained that he had targeted the Utoya Island gathering quite deliberately. Partly to punish the Labour-led government for its promotion of multiculturalism. Partly to wipe out the next generation of Labour Party leaders and impede the recruitment of replacements.

And yet, all over the English-speaking world, these decisive facts of Breivik’s terrorism are blurred, smudged – even erased. Politicians and journalists ask us instead to focus on “the gunman’s” singularity. They speculate about his mental state, emphasise the extreme or “fantastic” character of his beliefs, and do everything within their power to distance Breivik from what they consider to be “normal” political activity.

HOW DIFFERENT things were in that confused hour before the terrorist’s Norwegian ethnicity was confirmed.

Prior to this crucial confirmation, all the talk had been about “Islamist terrorism”. Experts from far away countries effortlessly detected Al Qaida’s “signature” among the Oslo rubble. In the fog of war, well before all the facts were known, nobody seemed in any doubt that they were looking at an act of terrorism.

So, why did the language and the ontological perspective change when the world discovered that Norway wasn’t Al Qaida’s latest victim after all, but that it was, in fact, dealing with an act of home-grown terrorism?

Why do the Western World’s opinion-shapers feel so uncomfortable applying the word “terrorism” to anything other than the deadly acts of Islamist extremists?

THE MOST OBVIOUS ANSWER is that it is difficult to wage a “Global War on Terror” (GWOT) if the terroristic “them” have not been clearly, unequivocally, culturally and religiously distinguished from the innocent “us”.

Terrorists are supposed to come from hot desert countries, have brown skins and shout “Allahu Akbar!” They are not supposed to be blond-haired, blue-eyed, and, like the medieval Knights Templar, make war in the absolute certainty that “God wills it!”

Our masters become distinctly uncomfortable when they realise that Anders Breivik clearly considers himself a co-belligerent in GWOT. While Norway’s soldiers fight the Taliban alongside their American, British and New Zealand comrades in Afghanistan, Breivik’s new Knights Templar are pledged to unleash death and destruction on Islam’s treacherous fifth-columnists back home.

In the eyes of this uncompromising nationalist, Norway’s Labour prime-minister, Jens Stoltenberg, is indistinguishable from Vidkun Quisling – the infamous fifth-columnist who headed-up the Norwegian puppet-government imposed by the Nazis in 1940.

We are repelled by his moral insouciance, but wouldn’t our own special forces personnel, after a night of carnage in the streets and alleyways of Kabul, wearily concede that their actions had been, to use Breivik’s own words, “atrocious – but necessary”.

THE NEED to label Breivik’s home-grown terrorism “something else” is explained by the painful fact that about the only thing that distinguishes his massacre from the West’s is authority and geography.

Like the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Breivik set out on a military mission to achieve a number of clear political objectives. The horror he unleashed on Utoya Island appalled the world. So, why is the world not equally appalled when an American drone obliterates a Pakistani compound? Or a Nato gunship cuts down 68 Afghan wedding guests in Helmand province?

Significantly, Breivik asked his police captors if he could wear a uniform to his arraignment. It’s as if he was challenging us to admit that, when shielded by the emblems of authority, terrorism is always “something else”.

This essay was originally published in The Timaru Herald, The Taranaki Daily News, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 29 July 2011.


Anonymous said...

Ah, you should see the debate in America on the Huffington Post perhaps. That comedian who does News, whose name escapes me at the moment, has ripped into Fox News for not mentioning the fact that he was Christian, while of course emphasising the various homegrown I might add, Moslem acts of terrorism. There is quite a nice you Tube video thingy.

jh said...

I would have thought that terrorism implies you are part of a group even though it may be a small cell? It isn't just the individual act that is the terror but the threat of more which like twitch travels underground and can pop up anywhere?

Anonymous said...

A terrorist doesn't have to be part of a group. He or she just has to employ deliberate violence to intimidate other people. The original essay is fair comment, Gordon Campbell makes similar points.

Madison said...

Sorry JH, but terrorism doesn't imply any personal association with groups, as far as I know it only applies to the acts carried out and the reasoning behind them. Just as many other white terrorists have been revisioned as something else so has this psycho. I easily remember Timothy Mcveigh's act of terrorism in Oklahoma City and how quickly he was changed from a terrorist to "the oklahoma city bomber" as if that changed what had happened and why. Breivik is a sick disturbed terrorist and needs to be recognized as such.

Dave Brown said...

You are right of course, Breivik is part of the homeguard to take out the opponents of imperialisms terrorist rule over the lands it invades and occupies, recently all Muslim. Since 'radical Islam' has become the main enemy of US and NATO (ironically the reduction of popular national resistance to an irrational ideology) then support for Islam in the form of 'multiculturalism' at home is also the enemy.
There is only one word for such reactionary defence of the 'civilised' nation from the 'barbaric' hordes abroad and at home (always the organised working class as the defender of bourgeois national and civil rights)and that is fascism.

Brendan McNeill said...


The 'war on terror' was a euphemism generated by a Western elite, terrified of having to identify and articulate the supremacist ideology that motivated the 9/11 atrocities in the USA, the 7/7 subway bombings in the UK, etc, etc.

Columnist Mark Steyn suggested ironically at the time, "Islam has become the new gay". In other words, a new protected minority group residing in the West who must be protected, and ultimately rebranded as the 'Religion of Peace'.

Hence, we have 'the war on terror' or acts of 'terrorism' that happen in an ideological vacuum and have no links to the religious motivations of those who perpetrate them.

How often have we heard from Paris about 'youths' who commit acts of violence, burn cars, etc, or perhaps 'Asian youths' in the Netherlands who attack homosexuals waiting at bus stops etc etc.

Again, no ideological context, no background as to who these 'youths' really are or what motivates them.

Furthermore, populations in the West, particularly in Europe are actively discouraged from publicly dissenting from the immigration policy or the multiculturalist ideology embraced by these States.

See recent events in the Netherlands where politician Geert Wilders who leads a party with 20% of the popular vote, was dragged before the courts for 'hate speech' against Islam. He was ultimately acquitted, but the process is the punishment, not the verdict.

This is the context and the environment that fostered the inexcusable and disgusting actions of the Norwegen murderer Anders Behring Breivik. It matters little if you call him a terrorist or not.

Moving forward, what matters, is whether he or people like him are allowed to voice their opinions, be they reprehensible or not, regarding the religion of peace or any other matter of public interest in a free and democratic society, or if they continue to be marginalized by a political elite who 'know what's best' for their citizens.

Adze said...

It was certainly an act of terrorism. He is a terrorist. But perhaps the reticence of the western press to use those terms comes from the fact he attacked his own people, in his own country. Certainly the outage tends to be greater if a member of one group attacks an innocent member of an outgroup.

jh said...

I see NZ First support is down to 2% and almost all its supporters are over 60. NZ First supporters have been assumed to be thick or racist. It has been deemed to be so obviously correct that more immigration from the most populous countries in the world is a good thing that no one need be consulted. Could it be however that many of the old people remember a quieter New Zealand before Queenstown (for instance) came to be described by the Boston Globe travel writer as "serving only as a warning to the perils of over development". The ""Greens"" missed the point completely; Keith Locke is proud of the fact that their policies are "the opposite of Winston Peters" and "we don't assume that our culture is superior" (even though it may score points with regard to (say) animal rights in China). Time has proved those with concern over mass immigration right (if you trust the Savings Working Group, who have pointed out that immigration pushes up house prices and hasn't increased incomes for NZrs as we have to keep providing infrastructure - all in all as a strategy it has failed.

jh said...

the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
by definition 2. he fails as he was a one man band.

Michael said...

To equate the actions of the NZ ISAF in Afghanistan with anti-Islamic terrorism in Europe is crude. The ISAF fight alongside muslims as well as against muslims. I suspect most NZ soldiers consider that they are fighting for values of liberty (i.e. multi-racial, multi-religous, gender-equal liberty) which apparently Breivik was not. I agree that Breivik should be labelled a terrorist as his attacks were ideologically and politically based. He believed, wrongly, that some ends justify any means. I think it is true this same mistake is commonly made in war, and has been made by western powers in Afganistan and Iraq. Not all ideology is equal; some is better than others. Holding the best ideas we can, they still do not justify terrorism or any other immoral act. People matter even more than ideas.

jh said...

How many decades (or what sort of dire circumstance) will it take until the left faces the fact that outsiders can be competition for scarce resources or that some members of an incoming population may bring a bad culture with them (such as Chinese business ethics)?

jh said...

""Racism has no place in the selection of migrants. Unlike Mr Peters, we don't start with an assumption that 'Kiwi values' are somehow superior to those of new migrants."

If you read this piece by Alice Poon you'll see that while they aren't all the same some do have the sort of Confusion values that would "fit in" with non racist NZ First supporters and may even add to a base of a party aimed at protecting our lifestyle.

Victor said...

I think jh is half right over the nature of terrorism.

True, an act of terrorism only becomes such through the explicit or implied threat of "more of the same to come".

However, to threaten in this way does not necessarily involve being part of an organised group, with plans already developed for a follow-up.

The perpetrator is also a terrorist if he or she believes that there are others of like mind who will be prepared to commit similar acts.

Even without formal plans or linkages, the lone gunman or bomb-woman then becomes a conscious harbinger and messenger of what's in store if the powers that be don't cave in.

And, of course, a secondary objective of much terrorism is "propaganda by deed", to actively encourage emulation. You certainly don't need to be a member of a group to achieve this.

So, whichever way you look at it, Breivik would seem to be a terrorist.

Anonymous said...

Chris - please supply links to Breivik's quotes where he supposedly said:
1) "God wills it!" about his terrorist attacks
2) that he was a Knight Templar (or anything of the sort)

Otherwise, please stop your unpleasant dog whistling to the anti-Christian bigots. It is obnoxious, and distracts from an otherwise interesting post.

You can hardly complain about the (sad and dishonest) western media reporting/framing of Islam as 'terrorism' if you are doing the same to another religion.

@ jh - you are correct that a debate on immigration levels and cultural values would be valuable, but - like Chris, you undermine this by your questionable claims about 'Chinese business ethics'. Did you mean hard work? Please don't smear an entire ethnicity.

Mad Marxist.

jh said...

@ jh - you are correct that a debate on immigration levels and cultural values would be valuable, but - like Chris, you undermine this by your questionable claims about 'Chinese business ethics'. Did you mean hard work? Please don't smear an entire ethnicity.

For a nation whose cultural values were more or less destroyed by the Cultural Revolution, greed and corruption have become the name of the game in China. Manipulation of others to achieve one’s goals is not viewed as morally unacceptable, nor does morality have a place in the nation’s scramble for economic success.

Look no farther for proof of this than the Chinese leaders’ relentless, yet unsuccessful, efforts to stamp out government corruption. Society’s obsession with money, luxury brands, idols and celebrities reflects the spiritual and moral desert the society has become.

US presidential candidate Barack Obama has tried to warn the American people of a general “empathy deficit.” Strangely enough, his guiding principle in politics, symbolized by his famous line, “How would that make you feel?” curiously resonates with a Confucian core value: “Do not do unto others what you do not want done unto yourself”.

In China, the empathy deficit is not only at a worrying level but seems to be further compounded by what intellectuals call a “values vacuum.” In one of his blog posts, Financial Times Chinese web columnist Xu Zhi-yuan said, “The ideals of the past are no longer effective. Yet worship of money can only be a temporary substitute. We cannot possibly transplant Christianity onto Chinese soil, nor can we simply revive our ancients’ values.”

It may not be mere coincidence that there has been recent talk of the revival of Confucianism and even Taoism in China. Beijing has just endorsed Hong Kong’s decision to make Confucius’s birthday a public holiday. Yu Dan, a Beijing Normal University media professor, recently published a book called “Thoughts on the Analects of Confucius” that has sold 2 million copies.

Moral values as depicted by Confucius had always been an integral part of Chinese culture. With “harmonious society” the present slogan of the Chinese leaders, it dovetails nicely with what Confucius thought was an important social value; the revival of Confucian values may at least be convenient politically.

I'm questioning the idea that we should welcome people with open arms until we know what sort of people they are.

Victor said...

Mad Marxist

I agree with you about the absolute need to forswear the demonisation of Christianity or any other mainstream religion.

It's interesting and worrying, though, that Europe's hard right increasingly poses as a champion of the continent's Christian heritage.

The hard right's stock in trade, particulalrly in Northern Europe, used to be Pseudo-Nietzschean denunciations of Christianity as a slave religion, tacky Wagnerian neo-paganism and a kind of faux Darwinism.

After 1945, none of the above was likely to appeal to huge numbers. But, alas, huge numbers are now convinced that their Christian heritage is under threat from Islam, thus swelling the market for a re-Christianised facism.