Monday, July 25, 2011

Eliminating the opposition: lessons from Norway

Anders Behring Breivik, described as a right-wing Christian extremist with strong anti-Muslim views, has now confessed to the terrorist attack in Norway. Breivik was outraged by immigration and Muslims in particular.

He's not alone. In the US, there have been hearings about Islam and protests against the building of mosques. There have been general, shameful protests against the Muslim community simply for existing. To his disgrace, Herman Cain, Republican presidential candidate, is running on an anti-Muslim platform.
[He] started a few months ago by telling a reporter that he would not be comfortable with a Muslim in his cabinet. During a televised debate last month, he said his discomfort was due to the intention of some Muslims “to kill us.”

He quickly moved from that offensive and absurd generalization to advocating an overt violation of the Constitution. He traveled to Murfreesboro, Tenn., this month to make common cause with residents who are protesting the construction of an Islamic center there.
Can you imagine the voices of outrage if Herman Cain advocated against Jewish synagogues, or Catholic cathedrals?

But Breivik wasn't simply an anti-Muslim xenophobe; if so, he'd have shot a mosque.  His motivation wasn't religious;  he defined himself as a "cultural Christian" rather than a believer.  No, his distaste for Islam was merely part of a larger, far-right wing theory. The Guardian describes his
idea that the elite have sold out to "Marxism", which controls the universities, the mainstream media, and almost all the political parties, and is bent on the destruction of western civilisation. "Europe lost the cold war as early as 1950, at the moment when we allowed Marxists/anti-nationalists to operate freely, without keeping them out of jobs where they could seize power and influence, especially teaching in schools and universities," [Breivik] wrote.

These two grand conspiracies are linked by the "Eurabia" conspiracy theory, which holds that EU bureaucrats have struck a secret deal to hand over Europe to Islam in exchange for oil.
In his manifesto against liberal "multiculturalism" he
calls for a "conservative revolution" and "preemptive declaration of war," including "armed resistance against the cultural Marxists/multiculturalist regimes of Western Europe."

It describes "attack strategies," including assassinating professors and carrying out coordinated assaults on multiple targets at the same time.
It is no accident that Breivik attacked the meeting on the island of Utøya. It is there that the Norwegian left had a youth camp of up-and-comers in their teens and 20s, along with current politicians and advisors. Breivik wanted to wipe out the leadership and the future of the political center left in Norway.  

Journalist David Neiwert calls this "eliminationism",
a particular trend that has manifested itself with increasing intensity in the past decade: the positing of elimination as the solution to political disagreement. Rather than engaging in a dialogue over political and cultural issues, one side simply dehumanizes its opponents and suggests, and at times demands, their excision.
It's the root of the attacks used against President Obama, attempting to delegitimize him, cast him as a Muslim, an African, a non-American who stole the white house, is inevitable. It started with shouts to "kill him" at Republican rallies, before he was even elected--shouts that went largely unrebuked.   That's eliminationism.

Pure crazy can hit either side of the political spectrum, but In the last two years it has particularly hit the right. The language of eliminationism is a staple of right wing radio.  And people act on it.
  • July 2010: Byron WIlliams initiates a shootout with police he was angry at Congress passing all those "left-wing agenda items".
  • March 2010 John Patrick Bedell, who harbored anti-government views, traveled from CA to shoot up the Pentagon
  • Feb 2010 Joe Stack flew an airplane into a government office leaving an anti-government manifesto behind
  • March 2010 Jerry Kane Jr and the right wing Christian Hutaree Militia planned a wave of attacks on government
  • June 2009: James von Brunnfired at the Holocaust memorial museum and murdered a guard
  • April 2009 Richard Poplawski killed three officers because he feared liberal gun control.
  • July 2008 Jim David Adkisson shot up a Unitarian church in Tennessee because it was full of liberals
And much as we'd like to leave this across the Atlantic,eliminationtist rhetoric, with the language of violence in place of political discourse, is very much alive here.  Casting the opposition as the "other" is a political staple, even amongst so called "Christians".  When Sarah Palin puts gunsights over democratic congressional districts....  When Maggie Gallagher promised a "bloody mess" in New York over marriage equaltiy...  they are using the language of violence for political disagreement.

Anders Breivik is not a Norwegian aberration. What he represents is not unique to Norway. It's very present amongst us. We ignore it at our peril.


IT said...

Frank Schaeffer has similar concerns

JCF said...

There's another name for "eliminationism": "The Final Solution."

Joan Slepian said...

Thanks, IT, for writing this, making these critical connections, and also for sharing the Frank Schaeffer piece. It's curious that so few have spoken of the real target of the Norwegian -- the direct elimination of the next generation of Norwegian left leaders. Yes, JCF, we must never forget...and we must be ever vigilant of that which lives among us.

Counterlight said...

Fine post. Well researched as always.

None of this is new. These views have been around since the John Birch Society was founded and even before. What's different is that these views have become "mainstream" and that there is no effective real opposition out there. The far right now sets all the terms of the debate which "centrists" and "liberals' now unthinkingly and meekly accept.

IT said...

Another reflection on the Christian component, When Christianity turns lethal.