Sinister Leftists and Anders Breivik have more in common than either may think
You are either committed to Enlightenment values or you are not. Breivik hated those values just as much as the cultural Marxists and their apologists who now try to use him for their neo-totalitarian aims
We have been here before. Barely had the horrific massacre perpetrated by Anders Breivik in Norway taken place last year than a bevy of excitable Left-wing pundits had sought to exploit the tragedy for their own ideological aims arguing, in essence, that significant sections of the mainstream Right must take a share of responsibility for his actions.
After Breivik's sentencing at the end of last week the ideological attack dogs were at it again. Before this tendentious, and dangerous (see below), nonsense acquires the character of a received wisdom it needs to be exposed for what it is.
So, what is it?
The charge from the Left:
Anders Breivik is a monster, but he is not mad.This is not simply because of the calculated manner in which he murdered 77 people. More importantly, it is because he went to great pains to justify his actions in terms of political opinions that are widely shared, and not just on the fringes. Therefore, those people, especially those in mainstream media outlets and policy institutions who shared in some of Breivik’s concerns, form part of the validation mechanism which Breivik used as justification for his heinous crimes.That means that in order to prevent future such massacres it is not enough merely to imprison Breivik, we must also close down the people who hold views of which he would approve.
As the logicians of this world will tell you, it is tortured stuff. But, before unpacking it, it is necessary – for those interested in evidence-based discussion -- to show that this is exactly the charge that is being made, with all the implications that that could have for free speech and serious discussion.
Here is an extract from a Guardian editorial which ran last Friday night.
“... all the parties of the far right agree on the perceived risk of multiculturalism and view Muslim demographic change in Europe as a challenge. Racism based on biology may be being replaced by one based on culture. It is unlikely that another Breivik in the making is conditioning himself in another isolated house somewhere else in Europe, but it is not impossible. The ideas which created Breivik have yet to be confronted. That is as much a European as it is a Norwegian problem“.
Even more to the point was an op-ed which ran in the Guardian the same evening from Tad Tietze, co-editor of a book called “On Utøya: Anders Breivik, Right Terror, Racism and Europe“. Tietze says:
“Once it was realised a white, middle-class Norwegian man was the culprit and that he'd left a sickening but coherent 1,500-page manifesto for all to read, the race was on for some on the right to depoliticise Breivik's acts. The problem was that his politics were not just similar to their own, but often drawn directly from their statements, cut and pasted into his tract. In many cases the only difference was that he took their language of a war of civilisations to its logical conclusion in violence.
“It wasn't just harder rightwingers such as Melanie Phillips, Mark Steyn and Pamela Geller who tried to deny the connection, but many more moderate writers and politicians.This should not be surprising, as Breivik's opposition to Muslims, multiculturalism and a "cultural Marxist" fifth column was never far from the surface in the mainstream discourse of the war on terror. Norway, for all its famed tolerance, continues to be an active part of the Nato occupation of Afghanistan.“
Finishing his diatribe in ominous tones, the author concluded:
“Friday's verdict thus not only delivers justice, it also clarifies the connection between his crimes and how dangerous rightwing ideologies have infiltrated an apparently "sane" mainstream discourse. It is a problem that cannot be expunged simply by labelling it as mad, but must be tackled directly as the political threat to freedom and democracy it is.“
In an irony that Tietze would not appreciate, an even more extreme version of his views on Breivik was published the same day by the Socialist Workers Party, one of Britain’s best known groupings of the totalitarian Left.
Now, down to business.
First, I also believe that Breivik was in control of his faculties. Although it is plainly abnormal for someone to kill dozens of people, mainly children, this does not necessarily imply insanity. Breivik knew what he was doing, and he was able to construct an elaborate justification for his actions: he thought they were right; he perceived no wrong in them. That makes him psychopathic. It does not make him mad in the sense that he cannot be held responsible for what he did.
Second, it is also reasonable to say that some of Breivik’s concerns are shared by mainstream writers on the political Right. But, crucially, that does not mean there is a core similarity between such writers and Breivik. What is central to a person’s political identity is not so much what they oppose, as what they are for. Many on the liberal-democratic Right, including myself, are deeply concerned about cultural Marxism, multiculturalist ideology and items such as Sharia law which risk being imported into parts of Western Europe due to Muslim immigration and a rising demographic driven by relatively higher birth rates.
But we worry about such matters because of what we are most passionately committed to: the sustenance and revivification of the liberal-democratic principles of the Enlightenment. Our core ideas are a commitment to reason, liberty, democracy, private property, and the peaceful settling of accounts between competing individuals and groups under the rule of law. We will have no truck with anyone or any ideology that stands in the way of such principles, most especially those that espouse and use violence, whether they be totalitarian Leftists, racists and fascists or, in this case, murderers such as Anders Breivik.
Third, ironically, by his actions, Breivik demonstrated that he is as much at variance with the Enlightenment values just described as many of those on the political Left now attempting to use him as a vehicle for their authoritarian and totalitarian ambitions. Indeed, it is for precisely this reason that fundamental similarities between fascists, communists, cultural Marxists and the like have been so frequently identified.
Fourth, if the editorial team at the Guardian and the likes of Tad Tietze had made the effort seriously to engage with the thinking of Steyn and Phillips et al they would know that they have long predicted the kind of outrages that Breivik perpetrated.
It is precisely because parties of centre-Right and centre-Left have abdicated responsibility from discussion of some of the key civilisational challenges of our time – multicultural ideology, cultural Marxism, the interface between liberal-democratic society and immigrant communities hailing from cultural starting points that may not automatically accept liberal-democratic precepts, the precipitous decline in free speech caused by politically correct absolutism – that people like Breivik, the English Defence League and so on, have found a space in which to operate.
One among many reasons why it is so necessary for mainstream writers, thinkers, and politicians to address such topics is to prevent activists of the “far-Right“ from making them their own, and using them for their own twisted purposes.
Which brings us to the core issue. While public attention in Europe is understandably overwhelmed these days by the economic crisis, this does not mean that the afore mentioned civilisational issues have simply gone away.
There is an important, though sadly small, section of the European Left that is on board with this thinking. There are many on the Right who are oblivious to it, and some at the extremes who oppose it anyway.
What matters is that, from whichever section of the spectrum one might hail, those who refuse to give up on the open society (to appropriate Karl Popper) do not give in to the kind of tempting yet shallow prejudices exemplified in this article by the Guardian and Tad Tietze.
Breivik is indeed a monster, and a threat to our Enlightenment values. But he is not the only one. Those on the Left who seek to exploit him reveal more about themselves than they may care to acknowledge, or are even capable of imagining.
Robin Shepherd is the owner/publisher of The Commentator. Follow him on Twitter @RobinShepherd1
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