TRAGEDY IN NORWAY: THE DEBUNKING OF “GOLDEN ARCH” THEORY

It is nearly two days since Norway was hit by the worst atrocity it has seen since the Second World War. On Utoeya, and in Oslo.

It seems like an eternity.

These have been hours, days and nights filled with shock, despair, anger and weeping. Today is a day for mourning. Today, we will allow ourselves to pause. Remember the dead.… 92 lives have been lost.… Every single death is a tragedy. Together they add up to a national tragedy.…

Amidst all this tragedy, I am proud to live in a country that has managed to hold its head up high at a critical time. I have been impressed by the dignity, compassion and resolve I have met. We are a small country, but a proud people.…

I would like to say to the families all over the country who have lost one of their loved ones: You have my and the whole of Norway’s deepest sympathy for your loss. Not only that. The whole world shares your sorrow.…”—Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, consoling the people of his country following the horrific terrorist attack that took the lives of at least 92 people. (Office of the Prime Minister of Norway, July 24.)

FROM NORWAY TO HELL
Walter Russell Mead
American Interest, July 25, 2011

 

The ghastly, shocking news from Norway has stunned the whole world. Empathy for the young victims and their families, horror at the cold blooded and deliberate evil behind this act, and fearful wonder at the depths of madness it reveals are all joined together.… To respond to events of this kind is a challenge. The tragedy is so great that anything but silence seems to cheapen the suffering, but it also demand some kind of response.

There are some trying to draw some political conclusion about left and right from the massacre; I would like to go deeper. This tragedy doesn’t just speak to the state of cultural politics in our time, or remind us (as it surely does) that evil has a home in every human culture and human heart; it challenges some of our deepest beliefs about where the world is headed.

The tragedy in Norway is among many other things an important reminder that much of we want to believe about history is plain wrong. In particular, it reminds us that the most cherished American illusion, the form of historically determinist optimism often called “whig history,” is a delusion and a snare.

There is no principle so deeply engrained in American social science as the idea that moral and economic progress go hand in hand. “Democratic peace theory”, the species of quackery that posits that democracies don’t go to war with each other, is one form of this. So is the idea that the achievement of a certain level of affluence constitutes a “democratic threshold” and that once societies pass this point they quickly evolve into stable and peaceful societies. “McDonald’s peace theory”, the (factually wrong) claim that two countries with golden arches won’t fight is based on the synthesis of these two ideas: if you are rich enough to support hamburger joints you are so rich that democracy is certain. And with democracy comes, inevitably, peace.…

Both the existence of Anders Breivik and the amount of havoc he was able to wreak strongly indicate that all this is a crock. Norway has had McDonald’s for a long time. It is one of the most peaceful, most affluent and most democratic places on earth. It has reindeer; it has the midnight sun. It has fjords. It has oil and gas. It is so rich it can afford to stay out of the European Union.

Yet even in Norway the dark old hatreds and fears are at work. Even in Norway the culture of hatred can throw up mass murder. Even in Norway the fruits of affluence and democracy (which I like very much) do not exorcise the demonic forces that are present in the human heart. And even in Norway, modern technology endows a single individual…with unprecedented power to destroy.

Details are still coming out, but it appears that Breivik acted alone. Certainly there is no mass political party that shares his views. There has always been a nasty strain of hatred in Norway; not only does the name ‘quisling’ come from the enthusiastic puppet ruler of Norway during the German occupation, but Norway’s Nobel prize-winning novelist Knut Hamsun was a pig of a Nazi as well. (After Hitler’s death a grief-stricken Hamsun eulogized him as “a prophet of the gospel of justice for all nations.”) Twenty years ago I spent several weeks driving through Norway and heard a lot of fear (and in some cases hatred) directed towards Muslim immigrants. Nevertheless, there is no substantial neo-Nazi party in Norway and by and large it remains one of the world’s more tolerant and outward looking countries. Breivik doesn’t herald an era of fascism in Norway, but he demonstrates the persistence of the dark forces that modernization (democracy plus affluence) was supposed to cure.…

Modernization is not just more golden arches and more bloggers. It is also about accelerating social change. Capitalism drives technological change and technological change feeds on itself the more of it we have, the more we get.… But here’s a catch: that technological change also drives social change. Factories move to China. Immigrants move to Norway bringing strange ideas. The social welfare states of western Europe creak under the strain.

This accelerating, unpredictable and destabilizing change can cause individuals and social groups to become unhinged: to lose their way in the confusion and mystery of modern life. Blue collar factory workers lose their jobs by the millions; some adapt, some endure, a few go postal. The upper middle class feels the earth shake beneath its feet as old certainties are challenged and old ways of making a living cease to work. Most go about their business; some, like Ted Kaczynski, flip out to the Dark Side.

When a whole society is stressed by more change than it knows what to do with, the Dark Side gets crowded. People flip out in sects and groups rather than one by one. We see that in many Muslim countries today where the appeal of terrorists is strengthened by a pervasive sense of social frustration. Sometimes whole countries and whole nationalities flip. We saw it in the Bolshevik madness in Russia, the Fascist epidemic that swept Europe in the 1920s and 1930s; we saw it in Iran in 1979. The Serbs and the Hutus went over the edge in the 1990s.…

The inescapable reality is that the very forces creating our affluent, modern and democratic world also generate violent antagonism. Breivik, like Al-Qaeda and like Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber, is the shadow of progress. When conditions are right, the lone psychopath becomes a cult leader; in a perfect storm when everything breaks his way, the psychopath becomes Fuehrer.

That would be bad enough, but there’s one more turn of the screw. The same technological progress that helps create violent alienation and rage also empowers individuals and groups. 200 years ago a Breivik could not have done so much damage. 100 years ago Al-Qaeda could not have hijacked a plane. Modern society is more vulnerable than ever before to acts of terror, and developments in weaponry place ever greater power in the hands of ever smaller numbers of people.…

We can be reasonably confident that an increasingly chaotic and stressful 21st century will generate more bitter nutjobs and place more destructive power in their hands. Democracy and affluence won’t cure it; the same forces that raise those golden arches build bombs to knock them down.

To say all this is not to buy into the case for gloom. Armageddon is no more inevitable in the next century than utopia at least as far as human beings can discern. The extraordinary scientific and technological flowering of the last few hundred years could lead us to either destination, to neither, or to some kind of intermediate zone marked by elements of both.… The only conclusion that makes sense is that human beings are stuck in a condition of radical uncertainty. Something big and earth shaking is going on around us, but the information we have does not allow us to predict where it all goes.…

 

INSIDE THE MIND OF THE OSLO MURDERER
Bruce Bawer

Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2011

 

When bombs exploded [last] Friday in a compound of government office buildings in the heart of Oslo, I assumed, as did pretty much everyone, that the perpetrators were Islamic terrorists. But over the course of the day—as the bombings were overshadowed by the gunning down of dozens of young people at a Labor Party youth camp on a nearby island, Utoeya—it emerged that these atrocities were not the work of an international jihadist organization. Instead, the perpetrator was a 32-year-old Oslo native named Anders Behring Breivik. He was motivated by a hostility to multicultural policies that, in his view, are leading his country down the path to Islamization. His response was a murderous rampage that has taken the lives of at least 92 people.

It came as stunning news that Norway had been attacked by a blond, blue-eyed, anti-Islamic terrorist. It should not have been: Several of us who have written about the rise of Islam in Europe have warned that the failure of mainstream political leaders to responsibly address the attendant challenges would result in the emergence of extremists like Breivik.…

On Saturday came news of a 1,500-page manifesto, entitled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” that Breivik had recently written and posted online. The first half, in which he indicts the European cultural elite for permitting Islam to take root in Europe, makes it clear that he is both highly intelligent and very well read in European history and the history of modern ideas. In the second half he describes himself as having revived the Knights Templar. He also outlines in extreme detail how he and his fellow anti-jihadists can acquire weapons, ammunition and body armor and thereupon proceed to use “terror as a method for waking up the masses” to the danger posed by Islam. This makes it clear he is completely insane.…

During the hours when I thought that Oslo had been attacked by jihadists, I wept for the city that has been my home for many years. And I hoped Norwegian leaders would respond to this act of violence by taking a more responsible approach to the problems they face in connection with Islam. When it emerged that these acts of terror were the work of a native Norwegian who thought he was striking a blow against jihadism and its enablers, it was immediately clear to me that his violence will deal a heavy blow to an urgent cause.

Norway, like the rest of Europe, is in serious trouble. Millions of European Muslims live in rigidly patriarchal families in rapidly growing enclaves where women are second-class citizens, and where non-Muslims dare not venture. Surveys show that an unsettling percentage of Muslims in Europe reject Western values, despise the countries they live in, support the execution of homosexuals, and want to replace democracy with Shariah law. (According to a poll conducted by the Telegraph, 40% of British Muslims want Shariah implemented in predominantly Muslim parts of the United Kingdom.)

Muslim gay-bashing is driving gays out of Amsterdam. Muslim Jew-bashing is driving Jews out of Gothenburg, Sweden. And let’s not forget about the shameful trials of politician Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and historian Lars Hedegaard in Denmark, which demonstrate how the fear of Muslim wrath is squelching the freedom of speech of those who dare to criticize Islam.

There is reason to be deeply concerned about all these things, and to want to see them addressed forcefully by government leaders who care about the preservation of individual liberty and human rights. But this cause has been seriously damaged by Anders Behring Breivik.

In Norway, to speak negatively about any aspect of the Muslim faith has always been a touchy matter, inviting charges of “Islamophobia” and racism. It will, I fear, be a great deal more difficult to broach these issues now that this murderous madman has become the poster boy for the criticism of Islam.

 

UNDERSTANDING THE NORWAY MASSACRE
John R. Guardiano

American Spectator, July 25, 2011

 

Is 32-year-old Norwegian murder suspect Aders Behring Breivik a “Christian extremist”? The New York Times thinks so. “As Horrors Emerge, Norway Charges Christian Extremist,” declared the Times in its Sunday print edition. The online version of the Times, likewise, asserted (on Saturday), “Christian Extremist Is Charged in Norway.”

The Times has since changed its online headline to read: “Right-Wing Extremist Is Charged in Norway.” That’s better, but still not quite right. The problem is this: There is no “Christian extremist” movement in the way that there is an Islamist or “Islamic extremist” movement. There are bad Christians, to be sure; but they have no modern-day intellectual and political movement that supports and sustains them—modern-day Islamists, or Islamic extremists, do.

Osama bin Laden, after all, founded al-Qaeda for the express purpose of waging war against the West—and not only the West: As we learned in Iraq, al-Qaeda militants also target and kill other Muslims who dare to dissent from its extreme and intolerant views. Hamas and Hezbollah perform a similar role in Gaza and Lebanon, respectively. And a deep-seated hostility toward Christians and Jews is inculcated in many Islamic Madrasahs worldwide.

There is today no Christian counterpart to al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. Despite whatever historical failings you might attribute to Christianity, there is no active “Christian extremist” movement that preaches violence against non-Christians.… Moreover, there is no reason to think that Breivik acted out of religious conviction or deep theological belief. What church did he belong to? Insofar as I can tell, we don’t even know if he belonged to a church, let alone that he attended church.

“A Facebook page and Twitter account,” reports the Times, “were set up under his name days before the rampage, suggesting a conscious effort to construct a public persona and leave a legacy for others. The Facebook page cites philosophers like Machiavelli, Kant and John Stuart Mill. His lone Twitter post, while not calling for violence, paraphrased Mill and suggested what he saw as his will to act: ‘One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.’”

Given the apparent influence of Mill, the Times could just as easily have written—and with far more justification, it seems to me—since Breivik specifically referenced Mill—“Classical Liberal Extremist is Charged in Norway.” But of course that would be ludicrous and nonsensical. Breivik’s murder spree did not result from classical liberal influences any more than it resulted from Christian influences: It resulted from his own evil and twisted mind.

In fact, it would be wrong…to impugn any religion and any political ideology because of Breivik’s crimes.… Although Breivik describes himself as the “Justiciar Knight Commander for [the] Knights Templar Europe,” he has no apparent ties to the “Stop Islamisation of Europe (SIOE)” movement. “He has never been in contact with us and he has never given us any advice,” SIOE founder Anders Gravers told Reuters.… Breivik, [also] references numerous nationalist, anti-immigration parties as potential allies in his struggle to “defeat Islamisation [and] halt/reverse the Islamic colonization of Western Europe.” But all of these parties seem to him to be insufficiently bold and courageous.…

So while Breivik clearly believes himself to be at the vanguard of a worldwide Christian (and Jewish) movement to stop Islamic “demographic warfare (indirect genocide),” he is, in truth, a politically isolated sociopath. There is no religious, intellectual and political movement that supports and sustains him.

The same thing cannot be said, unfortunately, of modern-day Islamists, who, in clear contradistinction to “Christian” and “right-wing” extremists, do have an extensive network of radical Imams, Madrasahs and extremist teachings to guide and inspire them.… Yes, Breivik harbors extreme anti-Islam political views; but none of his apparent political and philosophical influences—and certainly not Machiavelli, Kant and John Stuart Mill (!)—provide him with a justification or rationalization to commit mass murder.…

If only we could say the same about al Qaeda and other Islamists: The world, then, would be a much better, safer and far more peaceful place.

 

HEALING NORWAY
Daniel Greenfield

Daniel Greenfield Blog, July 23, 2011

 

The tragic events in Norway should be a wake up call to the authorities, not to the dangers of so-called “Right-Wing Extremism”, but to the very real dangers of marginalizing a political opposition and a point of view to the extent that they have nowhere to go but underground.

The response to the attacks by the Norwegian press and the incitement against the right of center dooms the repetition of this same cycle of violence in which views are driven underground, where they simmer into real extremism and then explode. The easy and simple way to diffuse this cycle…is to reach out and create safe spaces for freedom of speech even for the most disagreeable views.

European liberals often boast of keeping a tighter lid on extremism than America, with tighter curbs on free speech, but the current tragedy is yet another reminder that this lid is counterproductive. Suppressing a legitimate opposition only leads to the rise of an illegitimate opposition. Shutting down ideas you don’t like brings back those same ideas, only heavily armed.

Democracy only works as a stabilizer when it is actually democratic. But the European left often uses the word to distinguish legitimate views from illegitimate ones. This is a misuse and perversion of what a democratic society is. It is not a place where only your views are freely represented, but where all views are represented. An open society is a safety valve. It keeps people from turning to violence because they have peaceful alternatives.…

The outbursts of political violence in Norway and Sweden—countries which have become notorious for suppressing right of center free speech—should be a sign that change is necessary. The authorities may be tempted to once again reach for the club, but they might consider trying the bullhorn of free speech instead. Police powers are tempting when you have them at your disposal, but when it comes to dealing with political dissent, they only exacerbate the problem. And if the opposition ever comes to power, it leaves the club in their hands.

The American, European and Israeli left all tend to respond to political violence with verbal violence, campaigns of hate and incitement that blanket everyone to the right of them as extremists. And there is no surer way to create a self-fulfilling prophecy than to broadcast over and over again the message that anyone who disagrees with you is liable to turn to violence. Especially when such a hate campaign is aimed at silencing that opposition.…

The very act of suppressing ideas is extremist. And it leads to oppositional extremism.… If the Norwegian authorities really wish to work for a safer society, they will reach out to create an environment where political activism and speech is protected. But unfortunately all signs are that they remain committed to the same disastrous state of affairs. And the tragedy that occurred can be laid at the feet of this obstinate clinging to the tools of power, while avoiding the means of engagement.…

The best memorial for a tragedy is to understand why it happened and how to prevent it in the future. Domestic political unrest arises not from external factors, as is the case with Islamic terrorism, but from internal ones. Healing a country begins with healing its fractures. And the only way to begin the healing is to open a dialogue on freedom of speech.