The Trail of Evil Can Europe's Populists Be Blamed for Anders Breivik's Crusade?
Part 7: How Do Right-Wing Bloggers Defend Themselves Against Accusations that They Bear Part of the Blame?
One of the most influential Islam-critical blogs is called Jihadwatch.org. It is run by the American author Robert Spencer and maintains close ties to the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a conservative foundation. In his articles, Spencer warns almost daily against violent Islam, which denies non-Muslims equality, human rights and honor.
Spencer, who Breivik quoted 64 times, bridles against the notion that he has laid the groundwork for the actions of evil perpetrators, and he insists that he has never advocated violence. "If I was indeed an inspiration for his work, I feel the way the Beatles must have felt when they learned that Charles Manson had committed murder after being inspired by messages he thought he heard in their song lyrics," he writes.
There is an obvious difference between Spencer and Breivik: The American writer believes that only radical Muslims are dangerous and that Islamic doctrine can be reformed, making peaceful coexistence with other religions possible. Spencer asserts that "Islam is not a monolith," whereas Breivik emphatically draws no distinction between radical and moderate Muslims. For him, all Muslims are dangerous jihadists.
American terrorism experts, like former CIA officer Marc Sageman, feel that the bloggers absolutely bear part of the intellectual blame for Breivik's deed. Just as Salafism helped the Al-Qaida terror network by serving as its "intellectual infrastructure," Sageman argues, Breivik availed himself of the ideas he found on blogs critical of Islam.
'I Can Hardly Defend Myself'
Meanwhile, Europe's agitators are wallowing in self-pity. "I very much regret that this psychopathic killer believed he had to make reference to my beliefs in his 1,500-page manifesto," writes Austrian blogger Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff. "I can hardly defend myself against such wrongful exploitation," she continues, arguing that "if well-founded criticism is blamed for those attacks, aren't the critics of (former Swedish Prime Minister) Olof Palme to blame for his murder?"
More conciliatory language is certainly not to be expected from Sabaditsch-Wolff, a political activist with ties to the FPÖ whose writings are characterized by language like: "Islam is hostile. The Koran is evil. Muslims hate us and are in a permanent war against us." A criminal complaint has been filed against Sabaditsch-Wolff in her native Austria for the "vilification of religious teachings." In addition to being one of the central figures in the world of anti-Islamic bloggers, Sabaditsch-Wolff, like Dutch right-wing populist Wilders, is a key thinker in the world of European right-wing populist parties.
The fear of Islam is merely the vehicle that drives the latter-day crusaders. They want to purge their Christian, Western and free world of all those who oppose their ideas of the right way to live. It is not a crusade against Islam, but against the modern world, a world that is globalized, multicultural and tolerant of non-Christians. This revolution, of which Breivik perceived himself a pioneer, is a conservative revolution. It is not directed against a forward post of Islam, but against those the killer perceived as being friendly to Islam. Breivik's revolution is directed against the enlightened, secular and liberal society of Norway and its politicians.
The German neo-Nazi blog "Störtebeker-Netz" recognized this. On the day after the Oslo killings, its "editorial staff" wrote that although Breivik is a "bad apple," he could be "given credit for an act committed in the heat of passion, which is understandable in light of the social democratic policies in Norway and Europe."
For people who think this way, it is also "understandable" that the despair over the moral decline of pansies, leftists and do-gooders in today's world could lead to a monstrous act of violence. The trail of evil leads to the conservative romantics, with their vision of a nationally organized world characterized by law and order and faith in God -- not unlike the early days of the United States, which the ultra-right US Tea Party movement now seeks to invoke.
The Power of Words
How can deluded people like Breivik be prevented from taking violent action based on yesterday's mindset? The notion that right-wing bloggers can be monitored and tracked, as German domestic policy experts suggested immediately after the Norway killing spree, is like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Officials at the Interior Ministry in Berlin also warn against knee-jerk reactions. "Whether we should take action here in Germany after the horrific events in Oslo is something we can only decide after soberly reviewing the facts," says German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU). "Anyone who calls for action such as banning the NPD shortly after the events in Norway is exploiting and even abusing the tragic incident for his own political purposes."
The trail of evil could go on and on. If all the ideas that could possibly end up in Breivik's head were used to compile a blacklist, it would have to include authors and journalists who sometimes employ harsh language to warn against the dangers of Islamist terror.
The taint of intellectual complicity also adheres to journalists and populist politicians. Sigmar Gabriel, the chairman of German's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), already seized the opportunity to place fellow party member Thilo Sarrazin, an outspoken critic of Islam, and his readers on the list of agitators. "In a society in which anti-Islamism and discrimination against others is becoming acceptable, one in which the middle class applauds Mr. Sarrazin," Gabriel says, "lunatics" like Breivik feel encouraged to take action and even "legitimized."
Ideas and words will always have consequences. But there is no way to prevent that in an open society -- except with other ideas and words.
- Part 1: Can Europe's Populists Be Blamed for Anders Breivik's Crusade?
- Part 2: How Does an Average Citizen Turn into a Mass-Murderer?
- Part 3: Is Breivik a Psychopath?
- Part 4: How Does the Perpetrator Justify His Crimes?
- Part 5: Where Did Breivik Derive His Ideas From?
- Part 6: Who Are the People Who Influenced Breivik Intellectually?
- Part 7: How Do Right-Wing Bloggers Defend Themselves Against Accusations that They Bear Part of the Blame?
- Part 8: Is Breivik Different from Other Terrorists Such as Islamists and Anarchists?
- Part 9: Why Didn't Anyone Notice What Breivik Was Planning?