At least 91 dead, mostly young….
By now, we know the perpetrator of yesterday’s shocking terror attacks on Norway and his ostensible motives. Anders Behring Breivik is named as the perpetrator, and he is associated with a militant variety of Christian fundamentalism and the politics of the reactionary right. He is, apparently, Norway’s version of Timothy McVeigh. In fact, when I first learned of the Oslo bombing (and the later shootings), and began to read the reports, comparisons with McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing were the first thing that presented themselves to my mind. Islamist terrorism I believed to be a remote second possibility. And not even the reported online admission of a shady group with the unlikely and dubious name of “Helpers of the Global Jihad” swayed me to conclude otherwise.
That “admission” now seems to have been (strangely) a ruse and a red herring.
It is to the great shame of a good many conservatively-inclined scribblers in the mainstream media that they rushed to judgement about this matter before all the facts were in, demonstrating a distressing ideologically-conditioned myopia, with a skewed and selective perception. It was almost gleefully knee-jerk in its conclusions that it must be Islamist Jihadis wot dun it, seemingly oblivious to other possibilities and precedents set in Oklahoma City and Arizona. Could that be owing to the fact that the ideological commitments of the perpetrators in these other cases hove too uncomfortably close to their own, and cut too close to the bone, to be honestly acknowledged, recognised, and repudiated?
An editorial by the editorial collective of The National Post is illustrative. If “Canadians Should Stand With Norway” didn’t explicitly claim that this was a case of international or Islamist terrorism (unlike some other much too imprudent editorials elsewhere), it certainly implied and insinuated it by immediately drawing parallels with Islamist terror attacks on Madrid, Spain or Bali, Indonesia (but left Oklahoma City and Arizona unmentioned). Some online readers and commentors to the editorial made pointed reference to that omission and to the editorial collective’s apparent rush to judgement about the perpetrators of the Oslo bombing and subsequent horrendous massacre of Labour Party youths. Some of those comments were quite scathing in their rebuke of these scribblers’ lack of professionalism and demonstrable perceptual bias.
(Interestingly, for whatever reason the whole comment section to the editorial has since been excised and removed from the piece as of this morning).
If the “new” conservatism doesn’t itself arise from the pathologically reactionary politics of right-wing ressentiment, pandering to this constituency and wooing it for support in terms of votes and donations is a grave political error and exemplary of very poor judgement. Generally, the conservative press and politicians have not made notable efforts to distance and distinguish themselves from the reactionary right, which has emboldened that constituency (some have even named it “Christo-fascist”), as some observors have claimed was the case, for example, of Sarah Palin’s aggressively inflammatory rhetoric becoming reflected in the actions of the Arizona assassin, Jared Loughner.
Chris Hedges, amongst others (earlier, Bertram Gross), has long warned, however, that this constituency is presently gaining too much power and influence in domestic politics. And while the mainstream media and the government are busy in search of external enemies, hunting up Islamist boogey-men and dangerous “illegal aliens”, the rot and withering from within goes on unrecognised, unaddressed, and unscrutinised.
This neglect of self-examination is evidence of a certain decadence, and of a mentality headed for a fall, if it is not already itself hypocritically sympathetic towards reactionary violence. It is this failure of the so-called “new conservatism” to honesty and decisively confront its own dark side arising from radical ressentiment and reactionary politics that leads me to believe that the “new” conservatism is already too beholden to it, and is too much now infected and compromised by it.
Breivik is reported to have been a former member of the so-called “Progressive Party” in Norway, but which is really ultra conservative and possibly quite reactionary. The name of the party is a ruse, just as the neo-Nazis in Germany call themselves “The National Democratic Party,” while Russian fascists call themselves “The Liberal Party”. These names are cosmetic and untransparent. Like that of the proverbial Whore of Babylon, the cosmetic gesture serves to mask the ugly reality beneath and behind. Unfortunately, these diverting and obfuscating ruses and gestures often work all to well on those who easily succumb to the spell of word-magic (another aspect of human narcissism called “logocentrism”). Even Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels could call fascism “ideal democracy”, just as Stalin and Mao could equally speak of “people’s republics,” when the reality was quite otherwise than the named one. It all depends on how you interpret and understand the meaning of the “demos“.
This latest incident of reactionary violence demands that the “new” conservatism honestly address its own dark-side, without dissembling hypocrisy, rhetorical equivocation, or cunning prevarication. Otherwise, we must conclude that it has already been fully compromised, as Dr. Jekyll was by his Mr. Hyde.
The politics of reactionary ressentiment must be decisively confronted and dealt with. It’s a question of hygiene. And until this “new” conservatism discovers its courage and backbone for honest self-scrutiny, and a sense of spiritual hygiene, I will despise it as unworthy of respect or trust, and will loathe and disdain the name “conservative” as being only the description of a disease.
Still trying to garner more information about the Oslo bomber and shooter. Meanwhile, a few good articles have drawn connections between the irresponsible inflammatory rhetoric of the New Right and reactionary violence.
From Nicholas Kulish at The New York Times: “Norway Attacks Put Spotlight on Rise of Right Wing Sentiment in Europe.” (But why Kulish restricts this “rise of right wing sentiment” to Europe is obviously erroneous).
From Reuters, an analysis of a possible international network of neo-fascist militants coordinated through the internet: “Questions over far-right link in Norwegian attacks”.
We had best come up with a good strategy for dealing with this excrescence of reactionary politics…. and damned quick, too.
Some intriguing new articles (and photos) have been published on Mr. Breivik’s views and motives.
Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy managed to get his hands on Breivik’s 1500 page “manifesto”, which Hounshell briefly summarised in “What did the Oslo killer want?”. I would love to get my hands on that manifesto, as I’m pretty sure it provides a standard psychological profile of the deranged reactionary.
Breivik apparently loved to take photos of himself in action poses and grandiose regalia (with fascist insignia), indicative of a total über-narcissist (and, as you can see from the Hounshell article, even quite reminiscent of Palin’s own posing. It’s indicative of a frustrated and insecure egoist given to self-aggrandising over-compensation together with delusions of grandeur, as we see in his “Templar” uniform photo posted by CBSNews). This guy’s a piece of work.
To the question, therefore, “why did he do it?”, well… I’m surprised anybody who knows anything about fascist violence doesn’t know that. Breivik wants a pulpit from which to spew his poison and vitriol, and he’s going to get it when he appears in court on Monday. He needed an act of violence so spectacular and apparently insane in order to attract the maximum attention unto himself. Unfortunately, he’s going to get it.
Is Breivik a psychopath then? It’s an easy out and facile answer for the reactionary right. The charge of “mad”, “insane” allows them to distance themselves from his murderous acts while retaining for themselves the same ideology that motivated those acts.
Is he a psychopath? Yes. But in the “normal” sense. It’s a psychopathy shared by most human beings to one degree or another, rooted in narcissism. But there is method and cunning in Breivik’s psychopathy.
And I’m afraid that much of the world isn’t prepared to handle this kind of demonic madness.