Yesterday I wrote about how the media’s response to the attack in Norway changed dramatically after it was revealed that the perpetrator was a White, right-wing Islamophobe who was an avid reader of American right wing blogs. What was initially described as an obvious terrorist attack soon became the work of a “lone wolf” motivated by evil.
Obviously, reasonable people can disagree about what the exact definition of terrorism is or should be. However, one would hope that the definition would be applied consistently depending on the facts of each case and not be solely dependent upon the politics/ideology or religion of the perpetrator. However, that was clearly the case here.
I won’t re-hash all the incredibly irresponsible media coverage of the attack but I did come across a great commentary by Glenn Greenwald, who has become something of a thorn in the mainstream media’s side because he doesn’t let them get away with anything. We need more people like Glenn. Here’s an excerpt:
But now it turns out that the alleged perpetrator wasn’t from an international Muslim extremist group at all, but was rather a right-wing Norwegian nationalist with a history of anti-Muslim commentary and an affection for Muslim-hating blogs such as Pam Geller’s Atlas Shrugged, Daniel Pipes, and Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch. Despite that, The New York Times is still working hard to pin some form of blame, even ultimate blame, on Muslim radicals (h/t sysprog):
Terrorism specialists said that even if the authorities ultimately ruled out Islamic terrorism as the cause of Friday’s assaults, other kinds of groups or individuals were mimicking Al Qaeda’s brutality and multiple attacks.
“If it does turn out to be someone with more political motivations, it shows these groups are learning from what they see from Al Qaeda,” said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism researcher at the New America Foundation in Washington.
Al Qaeda is always to blame, even when it isn’t, even when it’s allegedly the work of a Nordic, Muslim-hating, right-wing European nationalist. Of course, before Al Qaeda, nobody ever thought to detonate bombs in government buildings or go on indiscriminate, politically motivated shooting rampages. The NYT speculates that amonium nitrate fertilizer may have been used to make the bomb because the suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, owned a farming-related business and thus could have access to that material; of course nobody would have ever thought of using that substance to make a massive bomb had it not been for Al Qaeda. So all this proves once again what a menacing threat radical Islam is.
That Terrorism means nothing more than violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes has been proven repeatedly. When an airplane was flown into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, it was immediately proclaimed to be Terrorism, until it was revealed that the attacker was a white, non-Muslim, American anti-tax advocate with a series of domestic political grievances. The U.S. and its allies can, by definition, never commit Terrorism even when it is beyond question that the purpose of their violence is to terrorize civilian populations into submission. Conversely, Muslims who attack purely military targets — even if the target is an invading army in their own countries — are, by definition, Terrorists. That is why, as NYU’s Remi Brulin has extensively documented, Terrorism is the most meaningless, and therefore the most manipulated, word in the English language. Yesterday provided yet another sterling example.
One last question: if, as preliminary evidence suggests, it turns out that Breivik was “inspired” by the extremist hatemongering rantings of Geller, Pipes and friends, will their groups be deemed Terrorist organizations such that any involvement with them could constitute the criminal offense of material support to Terrorism? [emphasis added]
That’s a great question he asks there at the end. After all, the U.S. government is actively going after non-violent pro-Palestinian activists in the United States- no, I”m not talking about Secretary Clinton’s threat to prosecute the Flotilla activists for material support of terrorism- I’m talking about people who engage in nonviolent political activity here in the United States. So, will the State Dept. warn these right wing hatemongers that the groups they have founded are providing support for terrorism? Also note that Breivik was inspired by people who are defined by their blind allegiance to Israel and rabid Islamaphobia. Perhaps now would be a good time for the Israel Right or Wrong crowd, which includes not just conservatives but also liberals, to do some soul-searching and ask themselves what, exactly, they are really supporting.
One more thing- many of the righties are justifying their continued obsession with Muslim extremism by claiming that more Muslims perpetrate terror attacks than any other group.In his post, Glenn Greenwald helpfully points out that that is in fact completely false. In addition, given how our society defines terrorism in such a biased way, it is very possible that some statistics could in fact show that Islamic extremists in the West perpetrate terrorist attacks in large numbers.
If we are going to define terrorism as “acts of violence by Muslims” then we are ensuring that the statistics will be skewed. Israel does this all the time- almost any attack on a Jewish Israeli by someone who is Arab, is officially deemed to be a terrorist attack, even if only one person died and even if they have to lie about the facts to make it sound more like terrorism (see this story about a Palestinian security officer who killed an Israeli as they ran through a roadblock in the West Bank. Although he was a security officer for the PA the Israeli public decided to claim that he was a terrorist dressed as a security officer, which was false). On the other hand, when Palestinians are killed by Jewish Israelis, the terrorist label is not applied. In this manner, Israel is able to continue to claim that it is disproportionately affected by terrorism when in fact, the number of terrorist attacks against Israel are actually quite low.
UPDATE: Will the media start calling Anders Breivik a terrorist now that he admitted in court today that he has been working with at least two “terror cells?”
UPDATE II: Given that Breivik made clear that many of his views were based on the writings of prominent right wing American bloggers, you would think that there would be some scrutiny of these blogger’s writings? If you thought that you would be wrong. In fact, the NYT merely refers to “American bloggers.” Maybe they are afraid if they shine a light on these anti-Islam, extremist Zionists it will move the conversation in a direction that makes them uncomfortable because of the questions it raises? Questions like how have these hateful views become mainstream? Or what is the media’s role in perpetuating and normalizing Islamophobia? What is the link, if any, between Zionism and the right wing extremists views articulated by Breivik. Or maybe the media is concerned that some might question whether they have adequately questioned mainstream American politicians who use anti-Muslim sentiment as a political wedge issue? Or maybe the media is concerned because if they go digging into the writings of Daniel Pipes, Pam Geller etc. they’ll find that some U.S. politicians are associated with these people? Or maybe they are worried because some of these right wing American bloggers are quite influential in American politics and foreign policy (Daniel Pipes).
These are questions that should be asked in a free society that values accountability and speaking truth to power. But sadly, they won’t be.
UPDATE III:It seems that some Israelis think that Norway had it coming, in part because of their support for Palestinians. The other line of thinking is similar to how Israel reacted after 9/11- Netanyahu said it was “good for Israel” in that Americans would finally know what Israel has to put up with. These responses are incredibly inhumane and selfish. As I said in a post yesterday, Israel is being consumed from the inside out by it’s own racism and far-right nationalism. It’s truly a tragedy because I remember when I was in my 20’s, Israel seemed to be a bit more interested in promoting certain liberal, democratic values, the Occupation notwithstanding.
UPDATE IV: If you don’t have the stomach to read Breivik’s “Manifesto” here are some of the American right wingers/groups he cites with approval: Pam Geller, Frank Gaffney, David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson, Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch, Bat Ye’or, Middle East Forum, Center for Security Policy. And here’s a nice chart: