By Dominic MacIver
Firstly a confession. When I read the initial reports, I believed this terrorist attack in Norway was a jihadi-Islamist atrocity. I began talking with my Egyptian friends that night about problems of integration in Scandinavia, where tightly regulated labour markets create widescale unemployment and benefit dependency in immigrant communities.
As it turned out, the very same kneejerk Islamophobia that discoloured initial news reports inspired this unspeakable crime itself. It is a peculiarity of the times we live in that the so-called defence experts that fill our TV screens and newspapers and research houses must outnumber core Al Qaeda members by at least one hundred to one. And now, the man that used to be a “terrorist” becomes a “lone gunman” or a “right-wing extremist” or a “madman”.
So my own prejudices were wrong. But they were still relevant. Belief in “these foreigners coming over here, stealing our benefits”, is always at the root of white anger. But it is directed less at the immigrants and more at the liberal political elite for their perceived betrayal.
This anger, coupled with the practical-minded rationality of monomaniac obsession and narcissistic self-image of a freedom fighter, and the familiar tragedy has returned – the sight of crying children, smoking ruins and a brief minute in the spotlight for the narcissist monster, whose name and picture will be mentioned again and again and again, giving him and his pathetic ego all the attention it craves.
Reading his ‘manifesto’, a disturbing 1,500 page treatise against the “Marxist/multiculturalist” agenda to enable the Islamisation of Europe, is in fact a nice reminder of the veracity of my liberal, pacifist worldview, which, needless to say, is firmly in favour of multiculturalism and against killing children.
He deludes himself into thinking that his conservatism is a lack of ideology – common sense, even. But of course, deconstructing his worldview (a concept that he would despise) shows the influence of a contemporary discourse of anti-liberal and far-right cultural supremacism. It is a confused form of pan-European neo-nationalism, a “Resistance Movement” against “the EUSSR of Political Correctness” he writes. Interestingly, or, well, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Daily Mail hasn’t mentioned this to their faithful readers, presumably afraid they may agree with the terrorist.
He describes the 1950s as a glorious time of white prosperity and demure morality. But, according to him, the European world has fallen back from these bygone days. To quote him, the “story would be of a nation that had decayed and degenerated at a fantastic pace, moving in less than half a century from the greatest countries on earth to Third World nations, overrun by crime, noise, drugs and dirt. The fall of Rome was graceful by comparison.”
It is worrying perhaps, looking to the future, that this articulator of the paranoiac Islamophobia of the far-right writes in near-perfect English, with relatively strong historical erudition (ironically, in vastly superior English to that of our own English Defence League) and was, according to him, able to spend 300,000 Euros on the project. He ties together a narrative of Marx’s stranglehold on modern thought via Critical Theory and Political Correctness. As he puts it, “many a college campus is a small, ivy-covered North Korea.”
Bizarrely, surely he must have recognised the postmodern irony of his terrorism. To use the language of the security experts, his attacks bore all the hallmarks of Al Qaeda: simultaneous attacks against multiple targets, with the intention of spectacular blood and death reaching the world’s eyes in time for the evening news. He even talks about “embracing martyrdom” (which, naturally, the Daily Mail puts in its headline).
Why is his atrocity not labelled terrorism? The Sun describes “Horror Attacks”, rather than terrorism. Of course, if the attacker had a beard and brown skin, the language would be different. But to admit that the pan-European current of conservative anti-multiculturalism has contributed to these acts would be a step too far.
We can easily compare his views with other odious members of the Islamophobic far-right, of both secular and fundamentalist Christian currents. Dutch demagogue Geert Wilders, when talking about the Nazis, describes them not as German nationalists but as socialists. This current of thought is addicted to the syringe of self-righteous anger. But they are not the exclusive peddlers of this inchoate rage against the modern world. Many of them are addict-dealers, no doubt. But many also push this agenda in order to sell newspapers, gather votes and/or fatten profits.
Similarly in Norway as elsewhere, the Progress Party, of which the murderer was once a member, pushes anti-Islamic rhetoric in order to win votes. Rather than conceiving of this man exclusively as a perverted lunatic, we must recognise the fact that he is a product of the time that we live in, our time, in this brave new world that has such people in it.
Dominic MacIver graduated in 2010 from SOAS with an MA in Near and Middle East Studies. His writing focuses on the Middle East and wider international affairs.
Artwork by Rukia Begum
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