Monday, 25 July 2011

Why we shouldn't dismiss Anders Breivik as a "lone wolf"

Right-wing pundits are now very keen to tell us that the Norwegian terror attacks were not caused by right-wing anti-multicultural ideology.

The fact that Anders Breivik quoted Daily Mail articles in his manifesto and forged links with the same anti-immigration groups lauded by our tabloid press is apparently neither here nor there. 

He was just a lone nutter okay? And besides, if it wasn't for multiculturalism, then there wouldn't have been a problem there in the first place.

Boris Johnson takes a similar tack today, telling his Telegraph readers that:

"It wasn’t about immigration, or Eurabia, or the hadith, or the Eurocrats’ plot against the people. It wasn’t really about ideology or religion. It was all about him... There is an important lesson in the case of Anders Breivik. He killed in the name of Christianity – and yet of course we don’t blame Christians or “Christendom”. Nor, by the same token, should we blame “Islam” for all acts of terror committed by young Muslim males."

We shouldn't blame right-wing politics for right-wing terrorism, says Boris, just as we shouldn't blame Islam for Islamic terrorism.

Right-wing politics isn't the problem. Islam isn't the problem.

Except that Boris used to say that Islam very much *was* the problem.

Here he is in The Spectator shortly after the 7/7 bombings:

"That means disposing of the first taboo, and accepting that the problem is Islam. Islam is the problem. To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia — fear of Islam — seems a natural reaction, and, indeed, exactly what that text is intended to provoke. Judged purely on its scripture — to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques — it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers... What is going on in these mosques and madrasas? When is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s mediaeval ass?"

Back then Islam definitely was the problem for Boris, just as he thinks that the right-wing fear-mongering pushed by the likes of his colleagues and friends definitely isn't the problem now.

The difference between the two cases is not one of principle but of politics.

Boris did not feel implicated by those who blamed Islam for the 7/7 attacks but he does feel implicated by those blaming right-wing politics for the Breivik attacks.

When Islam was in the dock, Boris wanted it detained without charge, but now that right-wing ideology is in the dock, he wants it released, no questions asked.

It's a sly trick, but it's one that he shouldn't be allowed to get away with. 

Islamic ideology had questions to answer after 7/7 and the hard-right ideology pushed by certain pundits in the press has questions to answer now.

The Anders Breivik of this world do not emerge from nowhere, just as the English Defence Leagues of this world do not emerge from nowhere. 

They are fostered by an ideology legitimised by screaming tabloid headlines and the fear-mongering of politicians who really should know better.

And unfortunately whilst Breivik's actions were the actions of a nutter, he is not the only nutter out there.

Three years ago 54 explosive devices and 12 firearms were found at the home of BNP member Terence Gavan.

Like Breivik, Gavan saw himself as defending his country from Muslim immigration, and like Breivik he was dismissed as a "lone wolf" whose ideology we didn't need to worry about.

And yet from lone wolves, larger packs are formed.

So whilst we shouldn't entirely blame right-wing ideologues for helping form those packs, we shouldn't entirely absolve them from their responsibilities either.


Anonymous said...

I'm slightly confused by this.

Aren't those on the right the ones who have, as you said "rightly" questioned Islam, yet now they cannot be absolved of blame for Breivik?

Seems a little damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Anonymous said...

Aren't those on the right the ones who have, as you said, "rightly" criticised Islam?

So it seems you have condemned them for doing something you have said you approve of.


AdamB said...

I'm slightly confused about where you confusion lies to be honest. I thought I made the point fairly clear.

Anonymous said...

And with that above I'm outta here

john b said...

I don't completely disagree - and his print reaction to 7/7 is one of the reasons why I thought he was unfit to be mayor when he stood in 2008.

But I do think that it's also fair to say that Boris's reaction to events may have changed over the last six years.

In 2005, he was a pundit with no responsibilities; in 2011, he's the mayor of one of the world's most important cities.

It's possible that being mayor has changed him genuinely as a person to understand that Actually Things Are More Complicated; it's also possible that he hasn't changed, but understands that his position as mayor means he has to be a voice for moderation.

Either way, I'd be *very* surprised if his reaction as mayor to an Islamist terrorist attack (on London or elsewhere) were the same as his reaction in 2005 - or very different from his reaction to the attack in Norway.

Definitely interesting to chase him on the 2005 piece and say if he retracts his position, though.

AdamB said...

There's always the possibility that he just doesn't have any firm beliefs full stop, and that he just writes whatever he thinks will please the audience he's in front of at the time. There's certainly plenty of examples on other topics that would suggest that to be the case.

It's definitely true to say that he appears to have shifted to the centre on many issues since becoming Mayor, but how much either his former or current positions are genuine is very difficult to judge.

Anonymous said...

Hi Adam, I agree with much of what you write, but think there is a bit of a question mark here over what your conclusion is...
i.e. are you suggesting that, in fact, the right wing do have to accept some responsibility here, and by correlation to the argument, muslims should accept some responsibility for terror attacks committed under the name of their religion?
i don't think you do mean that (having some understanding of your politics), but it does seem to be a logical conclusion to draw from the post.

AdamB said...

Not Muslims no, but the far right-wing Islamist ideologues certainly.

Similarly, there's a huge difference between being critical of multiculturalism and engaging in the kind of fear-mongering illustrated here:

Anonymous said...

Should we or is it right to blame soft right-wing ideologues for fostering right wing attitudes that spawn extremists?

Anonymous said...

A lone wolf or lone-wolf fighter is someone who commits violent acts in support of some group, movement, or ideology, but does so alone, outside of any command structure. Source: wikipedia.

Using the term "lone wolf" is not saying that there isn't a group, it is simply saying he acted on his own.