The New York Times has repeated the lie that Anders Behring Breivik, the butcher of Oslo and is a fundamentalist Christian. He is not.
The New York Times‘ thesis is that he is somehow a mirror image of Al Qaeda, a disaffected Christian turning the tables on Islamic fundamentalism. He is not.
He is the vivid, brutal, expression of a bubbling right-wing political movement of the post 9/11 era, emerging not from fascism or neo-fascism or from “revolutionary nationalism”, but from the unholy marriage of Austrian School economics and paleo-conservative cultural identity Romanticism – think Goethe, Scifi/Fantasy novels, and von Mises spawn a child.
Those of us who follow the right, the real right, the ideological right, not the administrative right or the hooligan right, not a single word of what Breivik wrote in his manifesto or his video comes as a surprise. It is part an parcel of this world-wide scene of pan-nationalists, who decry “hate ideologies” like Nazism, Islam, and Marxism, while speaking of a common, mildly anti-racist, pro-Zionist, politically incorrect world of “European tolerance in isolation” – yet harboring violent fantasies of retribution and domination. Fantasies Breivik has merely acted upon, but are not unique to himself.
A well known, and not by coincidence Norwegian, blogger by the pseudonym of Fjordman has been giving expression to these ideas since the early part of the last decade. He was widely read in those circles, and even quoted by “respectable” figures of the right. His preocupations were the same as Breivik (multiculturalism, imperialism, islam), and a chilling fact emerges: Breivik’s manifesto’s title is “2083 A European Declaration of Independence“, while a widely circulated islamophobic article by Fjordman from 2007 is titled “A European Declaration of Independence“. I know the connection is hard to make, but give it some thought…
Glenn Beck, in the United States, has used formulations from this scene, in particular when he decries “progressives of both parties” and talks of “political correct multiculturalism” and “cultural marxism” and adopts the liberal-left’s mis-guided ideas on totalitarian equivalencies of Fascism and “Communism” to use them against neo-liberal globalisation, “cultural suicide” and multi-cultural nanny states.
The difference between the populist libertarianism of Beck and the ideology which Breivik represents is that in the United States, this movement is indeed fundamentalist Christian, populated by sects of millions that would seem strange to an Europeanist of the sort Breivik is. Those people are the actual mirror image of Al Qaeda, or more correctly the Taliban, and they don’t need to go around putting car bombs and driving planes into buildings because they have the US Armed Forces do that for them.
They do find themselves allied against the common enemy of Islam and share economic values to an extent, but are very much different ideologically.
(When going incognito on the right-wing IRC channels and message boards a few years ago, a regular told me that he loved European anti-islamic sites because “they were liberal[meaning left-sounding] but not pussies against the hajjis” and so “they made for great stuff to go for Christian moderates”, when I commented they had nothing against gays, I got a smug “nobody is perfect”.)
This is what the New York Times misses, even if it has it right in their face: Breivik self-describes as a moderate Christian.
In this temrinology, what this mean is that while he is a believer, he is not a theocrat. The concept would be familiar to Catholics world-wide, because it is the tradition of being a sinner knowing full well that your sins will be forgiven. It is was what allowed Central American death squads to murder a Bishop and then go to mass the next Sunday, for example.
This is a clear break with fundamentalist Christians, steeped in Calvinistic theocratic values as they are. Breivik preoccupation with Christianity is as a force against Islam, who he sees as the main enemy. His Christianity is contingent to its ability to deliver Europeans (and he widely construes the European identity, including Jews and Browns – unthinkable in most neo-fascist circles) from the new horde of Eurabia.
In his video and manifesto, he clearly identifies with the figures of the Crusades, in particular the early figures that actually fought a Muslim invasion of Europe. That is why even being a Protestant, he calls for Catholicism, not out of religious fervor, but because last time the Church of the Pope stopped Islam in its tracks (unlike, say, the Orthodox patriarchs).
He doesn’t use fascist imagery, nor does he use any source commonly identified with the far-right. His sources are pedestrian conservative and small business capitalist. He even used the infamous The Economist “Eurabia” cover.
This is him telling us: I am not a facist. I am normal. I am you. I have brown friends. I have gay friends. I defended them from bullies. But I am mad as hell, and I can’t take it anymore.
He is the crisis of the neo-liberal State, and its imperialist project, in its reactionary terrorist expression. He is the voice of the white male who finds himself a minority, and losing not just the percieved privileges of gender and race, but the very real privileges of being in the center of an imperial world.
The New York Times‘ declaration exposes the failure of social-liberal thought to explain the contradictions of the world. When we need to describe someone as something he is telling us he is not, it usually means that there is not space for that identity in our carefully constructed worldview. The New York Times needs to tells us he is a “christian fundamentalist” to avoid the real questions his action raises.
Questions such as the emergence of a new reactionary wave in Western countries, the effects of the moving of the centers of economic growth and development from the West to the East and the North to the South, the peril of the White supremacist empires of the 20th century… more importantly, the boogie-man Islam, that sedative that the international bourgeoise feeds as placebo to its formerly well-fed and pacified working classes so that they don’t realize that capital has pulled the rug from under their feet, and all these mythologies about patriotism and common struggle against foreign perils were all lies – the bosses are quitely shipping their capital to what we are told are our mortal enemies. When a lie cracks open, you can either see it and respond against it knowing it a lie, or we can zealously embrace it against all evidence. Breivik embraced the lie: clearly a smart person, he willfully ignored any other explanation for the ills of the world than Islam and its “Cultural Marxist” enablers, and he embelished this lie with a mythology of knighthood, literally quixotic, and more tragically into a justification for his murder.
And the lie he believes in is no different than the lie many of his generation have killed, maimed, and been killed and been maimed for in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even the embelishments are not unique.
Breivik is figthing for the clash of civilization ideas that same system he attacked fed him. The New York Times is, not surprisingly, unwilling to accept its responsibility in that system – in their view only a “fundamentalist” could do such an atrocity in the name of politics – it seeks to continue framing the debate in a modified version of the clash of civilization, one were us moderates have to fight “fundamentalists” of both religions. Yet, Breivik’s heinious crime is no different than what the New York Times asked that American soldiers do in Iraq when it beat the loudest drums of war in its history. He is not the chicken coming home to roost. He is the chicken who never left home.
We are yet to see if this iceberg means something world-changing, or if it will remain in the sub-surface only to give us a murderous jolt. After all, I am sure Geert Wilders abhors this crime as much as the next person. What is clear is that the same problems that affect and preocupy the radical left in the Western world are being felt by the ideological right, and that their response will not always come packaged in the usual packages of State collusion, fringe parties and street hooliganism, but might take forms such as Breiviks, and perhaps even other forms of violence. It is too early to tell if this action will have a cooling effect in this particular ideological space – similar to what McVeigh unwittingly did to the then exploding militia scene – or if it will be a spark that lights a prairie fire. What is clear is that we have to sit down and think long and hard about how to respond to these movements, now that they have shown their teeth…