Playing Politics With the Norway Massacre
By common consensus last week's horrific bomb attack and mass shooting in Oslo were not "Norway's 9/11". They were more like its Port Arthur, its Dunblane, Columbine-on-steroids, where one possibly deranged Norwegian man lashed out with extreme violence against his fellow citizens.
Yet that hasn't stopped sections of the cultural elite from trying to turn this into another 9/11.
In both Europe and Australia, observers of a left-leaning persuasion are looking to make moral mileage out of this massacre just as shamelessly as the Bush administration did with the attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001.
There are moves afoot to make this into a 9/11 for liberals, an act of violence which might add a sense of urgency to liberal fear-mongering about the threat of the far Right, in the same way 9/11 gave oomph to George W. Bush's claim to represent Right against Wrong.
Over the past 10 years the well-educated, erudite sections of society in Europe and Australia continually criticised uncouth Bush and other right-wingers for politically exploiting 9/11. They accused the Right of exaggerating the threat of terrorism and using it to spin prejudices about the backward Muslim masses.
Yet now those very same liberal critics are playing a startlingly similar game in relation to Norway's terrible misfortune.
There was a palpable sense of relief amongst the chattering classes when it was revealed the alleged killer in Norway is a white man with far-Right tendencies.
This allowed them to air their prejudice that it is not Muslims who pose a threat to Western societies but rather the moronic masses at home, whose apparent dearth of cosmopolitanism can easily translate into murderous rage. A writer for The Guardian almost gleefully said the violence in Norway shows the threat to civilisation isn't from foreigners, rather, "the heart of darkness lies buried deep within ourselves", even within the "white Nordic male".
If anyone was in any doubt as to what this "heart of darkness" consists of, an article in The Age spelt it out. The massacre in Norway was a product of that country's "racist demons", it said.
Apparently, "many Norwegians don't want their idyll spoiled, by either joining the European Union or by turning multicultural, and it is this nativist side of the country that has now turned horrifyingly murderous".
In short, Anders Behring Breivik is not an aberration; he's the logical product of Norway's warped national traits. He is what happens when a section of the European people dares to oppose the EU or criticise multiculturalism.
Where some on the Right claim that occasional acts of Islamist violence speak to the rotten nature of Islam, some liberals claim a rare act of far-Right fury springs from the "heart of darkness" of Europe's backward-thinking people.
In both instances, a bloody act of violence leads to the expression of grotesque prejudice about the throng.
The extent to which liberals are unwittingly aping their bete noire Bush is extraordinary. So where Bush and his supporters deployed the politics of fear to exaggerate the threat of Islamist violence, now left-leaning observers do the same in relation to right-wing terror, claiming Norway shows "the rage with which Islamophobia is spreading through Europe" and the "rise of right-wing fanaticism".
Where in the wake of 9/11 Bush and others demonised radical Muslim preachers, claiming their words fostered violence, now liberal commentators heap similar hatred on right-wing authors who criticise Europe's immigration policies.
They claim people such as Mark Steyn, whom Breivik quoted in his "manifesto", are the real warpers of brain cells, whose words turn men into murderers.
American journalist Max Blumenthal says "the rhetoric of the characters who inspired Breivik was so eliminationist in its nature that it was perhaps only a matter of time before someone put words into action". Such sentiments eerily echo the Right's demonisation of hot-headed imams, and express the implicitly censorious belief that allegedly wicked words lead directly to murder.
And where Bush and his followers convinced themselves, often without evidence, that al-Qa'ida was a vast network with tentacles everywhere, so the cultural elite now claims the far Right has become the dark underbelly of society.
Echoing Donald Rumsfeld's weird comment about "unknown unknowns", one Norwegian writer says hundreds of thousands of right-wing extremists lurk within "the darker waters of the blogosphere", in a "vibrant cyberscene characterised by unmitigated hatred of the new Europe". Where Bush saw American values threatened by faceless fundamentalists, Europe's multicultural elite fantasise that its PC way of life might be killed off by internet-bred lunatics.
The liberal exploiters of Norway have even adopted Bush's civilising mission.
Some on the Right imagined that the Muslim masses might be pacified by giving them the Christian Bible to pore over; now some on the left want to subject Europe's xenophobic hordes to its version of the Bible: the broadsheet newspaper.
As a writer for The Guardian put it: "Had [Breivik] been forced to receive his information through a broadsheet newspaper, where not all the stories dealt with Europe's loss of confidence and the rise of militant Islam, it is conceivable that his world would have looked slightly different."
Yes, that's right. If we "force" the European masses to consume responsible reporting, maybe they'll become more civilised and less prone to barbarism.
This liberal aping of the Bush approach to terror is very revealing. It suggests that much of the chattering-class critique of the Right's politics of fear was not driven by political principle, but rather by alternative prejudices, by a belief that the Right was demonising and censuring the wrong people.
It shouldn't have declared war on a foreign civilisation, but rather on the inhabitants of our own civilisations, those ill-educated, badly bred, non-broadsheet reading masses, who apparently are just one blog posting away from committing mass murder.