Al Queda has been the go-to boogieman when acts of violence are perpetrated in western countries. The media, fed by right wing pundits and bloggers, does the full knee-jerk reaction, wondering aloud which brown-skinned, Islamic organization is responsible. Despite reports from both the UK and the US that right wing extremists were as much of a threat to conduct violence on home soil as al Queda, the media has largely ignored these studies, preferring to fear monger the easy card – al Queda.
Two years ago, anti-terrorism officers in Britain warned of a growing threat from rightwing “lone wolves”. At the same time, the US department of homeland security warned of the way in which the wider economic climate and election of the first African-American president could result in confrontations between rightwing extremists and government authorities “similar to those in the past”. These past events included the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma that killed 168 people.
The events over the weekend directly challenged the idea that rightwing extremism is only a minor security threat. According to Norwegian police, the perpetrator – 32 year-old Anders Behring Breivik – has confirmed that he worked alone on planning and carrying out the two attacks.
The sources of his ideological influences have started to become clear. He was far from what we might term a traditional rightwing extremist. While he was profoundly concerned about the effects of immigration, multiculturalism, Islam and the growth of settled Muslim communities, he was also dismissive of crude racial supremacist and neo-Nazi ideas and parties that espoused these ideas, naming for example the British National Party (BNP).
As the Guardian notes, it is time to accept that right wing extremists are just as likely to strike as members of al Queda. Fanned by the rhetoric of the likes of Pam Geller and Daniel Pipes, wingers from the far right have become increasingly violent in both their words and actions. It doesn’t matter who is found to be the culprit, the spotlight remains on the historical choice for blame. Elaborate excuses are made for home-grown tea party violence, with straw men the play of the day. Case in point – the Washington Post still has up an error-filled screed blaming al Queda for Breivik’s insane actions from far-right blogger Jennifer Rubin. It is still far more important for the media to take revenge for 9/11 than do their jobs in reporting the truth about today’s realities. (At least some conservatives – few indeed – are taking note and reassessing what the left has been voicing for quite some time about homegrown right wing terrorism to deaf ears.)
With the revelation that the terrorist in Norway was blonde and white, Christian and conservative, suddenly the ‘terrorism’ shouted by newspapers is ‘the act of a lone mad man’. So hard do the right-wing pundits work to make this not about their rhetoric and actions but still want to blame al Queda – and the victims, all to mask their own culpibility in the madness of the likes of Timothy McVeigh or Anders Breivik. But the reality is that the enemy is here and it is white like us and religiously extremist ike them.
I recently reviewed an academic book that ended with the prediction that the next wave of terrorism in Europe will come not from al-Quaida-inspired groups, but rather rightwing groups that want to respond to this threat and reassert the position of their wider group. It is far too early to tell whether Breivik’s actions will inspire copycat attacks, but one thing remains clear: the threat from rightwing extremist groups and ideas deserves far greater attention.
Here in Canada, we are not immune to hate speech when it comes to violent actions commited by right wingers. The Shaidles were in full Islamophobia mode when word of the atrocities in Norway first emerged. In one of the most vile posts ever committed to the internet, Michael Coren blamed the victims for not being pro-Israeli enough. With the constant hate speech spewed by Sun Media, Postmedia, Blogging Tories, it is only a matter of time before a deranged right wing extremist takes the words of a Shaidle, Levant or Coren to heart and act on them.
UPDATE: Dr. Dawg provides a view of the radicalization of the right in Europe over the last few years.
The neo-Nazi Christian conservative who slaughtered scores of young progressives in a shooting spree is no more a “loner” than a Hamas suicide bomber.
UPDATE II: In the comments, Mound of Sound suggested a must read study linking fundamentalism of any religion with terrorism.
Cross posted at Let Freedom Rain.