Monday, July 25, 2011

"On the streets, aside from tourists, one will see far less non-European faces than in the average European city."

After witnessing some minor but still surprising daylight street violence in Flanders (involving at least one Walloon and a very dramatically removed leather jacket - almost as though the fight had been conceived by a former "West Side Story" director - and one less-dramatically torn-apart red t-shirt), I've been following the tragic news of more serious violence in Norway. Mostly I'm just - like everyone else - upset and unnerved. What happened on the island especially is incomprehensible, and not even in a how-could-this-happen-in-such-a-peaceful-country kind of way. I'm trying to make some sense of, if not the senseless, some tangentially-related concerns.

The coverage has portrayed the killer as far-right, which is also how he himself seems to identify, but I'm confused about what that means in Europe these days. Like no doubt many other readers, I clicked on the link (NYT's in this case) to the now-notorious articulate-crazy-person manifesto, and while I did not read the whole thing (there being enough sane-person monographs in a similar layout my work requires me to go through), I saw more of a general insanity than the neo-Nazi stance I'd been told to expect. The insanity was to some extent more from the choice of genre (manifesto rather than angry online-newspaper comments) than the content, some of which is, as Ross Douthat correctly points out, fairly mainstream, and is at any rate gauged primarily by the tragedy that followed its production.

So. I searched the document for stuff about Jews, expecting the worst. Yet this racist white-supremacist murderer is apparently not even a little bit anti-Jewish. Maybe even... pro-, especially when he's holding forth on the plight of Jews from Arab lands. (With friends like these...) And he was a Freemason? As a student of 19th C French history, this confused me especially - aren't right-wing Euro nutjobs supposed to hate Freemasons, or is that so two centuries ago?

His more extreme views are as abhorrent as one would imagine, but they're not quite what I imagined they'd be when the coverage first broke and made so much of the guy being A Blond. Not just a white guy - this much might be pointed out to silence the must-have-been-al-Qaeda speculation - but blond, as though that had some great relevance to what was going on, and wasn't just a likely-enough detail given that the massacres occurred in Norway. Blond and crusading for a Christian Western Europe. I mean, when I see white-supremacist (neo-Nazi?) sorts in Heidelberg - and they do seem to be out and about, especially by the river, with special t-shirts and everything - I do tend to get this visceral sense of fear, not just on behalf of humanity or in solidarity with the city's Muslim population, but kind of like, damn, I'd better start walking faster.

Anyway, apparently racists of a different bent are making a thing of the murderer being a Zionist (whatever that means in this context), because clearly when a blond Norwegian who's racist against brown Norwegians goes and kills a bunch of other Norwegians, this is the fault of the Jews. (Google his name plus "Zionist" - not going to link to those websites.) If we're to give this situation that isn't really about Jews at all a Jewish slant (something I wish non-Jews wouldn't feel the need to do, but now that they have...), it's presumably that Jews can rest assured that at least some segment of the Euro-extreme-right isn't out to get us, which cuts against all we would expect, while we instead now have to contend with this as a presumed ally.

So I take it "opposition to multiculturalism" is now something along the lines of "criticism of Israel," insofar as some who take that stance have genuine concerns, while others use it as coded language to express bigotry, the former against Muslims, the latter Jews. For the obvious personal reasons, I've given more thought to bigotry coming from the European left, but there's no doubt more mobilization these days from the right against Muslims than from the left against Jews. There is also the unavoidable fact that there's violence in the name of Islam committed against the West in a way that there never was in the name of Judaism, but that does not of course prevent the vast peaceful majority of European Muslims from being unjustly marginalized. Pardon the banalities, but it can't hurt to point this out.

Finally, another issue this brings up is the extent to which there's a fantasy of Europe - shared by some Europeans as well as far too many Americans, sometimes dressed up as anti-Zionism, if more often these days as anti-Islamism, sometimes hiding behind legitimate criticisms of "made in China," but often just spoken outright - as a place where authenticity and terroir and all that fun stuff is not just in the food, drink, and crafts produced, but in the "purity" of the populations. In mainstream travel writing aimed at Americans, Americans who no doubt "celebrate diversity" at home, it's not especially taboo to state that a place is worth visiting because it hasn't be tainted by foreigners. Not "foreigners" as in "tourists," but as in people whose skin tone or kebab-production marks them as not being a direct descendent of Franks or Gauls. Americans go to Paris to see Catherine Deneuve clones in perfectly-tied scarves, not 19-year-old guys of Algerian descent whose dress evokes inner-city-America. Scandinavia especially, I think, gets the 'go because it's so clean' treatment. Meanwhile, at the very same time, the very same Americans who are likely to be reading travel articles about Europe in the first place will tell you that Europe's just so much more tolerant than the States. Point being, there's a level to all of this that isn't as complicated as the nuances of burqa debates and Danish cartoons might suggest.

Anyway, if you're not of a the-world-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket political bent, I suggest you follow up the post above with slideshows of gay marriage in NY, as a reminder that the news is, on occasion, uplifting.

34 comments:

Britta said...

I am definitely currently of the "world is going to hell in a hand basket" type, which is maybe why I'm still awake at 3:30 am and commenting on a blog post about intolerance in Europe. I've been so shaken by what's happened in Norway, for so many reasons (which I'm too tired to totally elaborate now), but I've had this emotional, visceral gut reaction of horror and anger and sadness that I don't find rational. I don't live in Norway, I do have family there, but they were in no way impacted, and yet I haven't been able to eat or sleep really since it has happened. It's like a pall has been cast over everything, and every once in awhile I just get hit with the force of what happens and totally break down. I want to thank you for writing another thoughtful piece about this which I will probably read later more carefully. I've been processing event this over and over, my thoughts changing a bit each time as more about this guy comes out. (I wouldn't go so far as to say he's NOT a neo-Nazi, but he certainly is far far more complicated, in a way that I'm still trying to wrap my head around what the implications are. Although this happened in tiny, peripheral Norway, and the death toll is, in the scheme of terrorist attacks, not super high, I feel like this event is going to have world changing repercussions, of what type I don't know. I feel like something is shifting in Europe and North America, something is becoming unmoored in a certain way, and it's hard to know if this is the wake up call we need, or just the first in a long start of the world as we know it slowly disintegrating.)

This is something I've been trying to formulate to myself for awhile, and I think this is kind of what I've been thinking, so I'll ramble longwindedly about it on your blog: Growing up my grandmother used to talk about "The War" so often that it became a joke among me and my sister, (e.g. "we didn't have vegetables growing up because of the Nazi occupation, so stop complaining and eat your vegetables") And, it's true many of my grandmother's comments were kind of melodramatic or alarmist or revisionist, but I think one thing that my grandmother was desperately trying to make us understand in a clunky way that I'm only now beginning to really understand was that she entered adulthood in a time when the world was falling apart, and there was no knowledge that good would triumph over evil. For my grandmother, her 20s was spent staring into a looming abyss with no reason to think that Fascism wouldn't take over the world, and that was fundamentally scary in a way those born in a time of peace and prosperity couldn't understand. What I'm now realizing is that my grandmother also knew that maintaining peace, democracy, tolerance for others in a liberal state doesn't just happen on autopilot, but takes concerted effort and vigilance, and complacency and apathy must constantly be fought off. I've been thinking about this a lot recently, with the Tea Party, and the rise of Right wing parties in Europe. History doesn't always repeat itself (I certainly wouldn't call this a farce), and I don't think traditional Fascism is going to come back in that particular recognizable form, but I do feel like the time for sitting by and waiting for things to get "reasonable" is passing. I vacillate between feeling like I'm being alarmist, feeling like I'm in denial, and just feeling totally helpless as I watch the roller coaster fall off the tracks. I realize this is an extremely dark view of the world, and it's possible next morning I'll be totally embarrassed and feel better about things...but I'm not really in an optimistic mood right now.

Micha said...

Harry's Place had this post:

http://hurryupharry.org/2011/07/25/anders-breivik-and-the-jews/

Apparently he was not a fan of Jews either. He just didn't fear them as much as he feared Muslims and, I guess, liberals.

I guess the right doesn't find Jews scary anymore, while the left does.

Anyway, there are cases where the (usually not violent but extreme) right does become pro-Israeli partially because of their dislike of Muslims, Although this is not the case here. In these cases my view has always been that many people hate Israel and love Israel for wrong reasons. I prefer to be loved and criticized for the right reasons, but it's better to be loved than hated, even for the wrong reasons. But Israel should be judicious about its friends.

In any case, the problem is that Israel and Jews (and Palestinians) seem be performing a role in other people's stories. Sometimes heroes, sometimes villains. Our role in the murderer's story seems to have been minor, but people are quickly fixing that oversight.

Miss Self-Important said...

I think anti-Masonry is so two centuries ago, when it was suggested that the French Revolution was a Masonic conspiracy. But I suspect no one reads Barruel anymore.

Also, I think articulate crazy-person manifestos are more common than we would imagine--last year a guy shot himself in Harvard Yard after emailing a similarly extensive and coherent manifesto about how philosophy tells us we ought to die to a bunch of university professors.

Phoebe said...

Britta,

I'm glad you've responded, and that your family is OK. And more response, if/when you're up for it, is welcome.

"I've been thinking about this a lot recently, with the Tea Party, and the rise of Right wing parties in Europe."

I'm not sure how much of this is left-right, and how much is populism/purism versus liberalism/thinking anyone can be a good citizen. There's a kind of resentment-xenophobia that can and does cross over. What's confusing here, though, is that this particular murderer appears to hold a mix of wacko views and fairly mainstream right-wing ones. It would be much simpler if his views were as extreme as his actions, but it seems like there was quite a big disparity.

Micha,

Thanks for that link, it does clear things up. I'm thinking my search of the manifesto was screwed up in some technological way - I didn't find nearly as many hits for "Jews" or any of the stuff about mixed-race kids...

"In any case, the problem is that Israel and Jews (and Palestinians) seem be performing a role in other people's stories. Sometimes heroes, sometimes villains. Our role in the murderer's story seems to have been minor, but people are quickly fixing that oversight."

100x this. The fundamental issue when it comes to Jews here isn't so much whether this murderer was pro-, anti-, or (as it seems) some kind of warped combination, but rather that considering how little interest either way he appears to have in The Jews, this angle's getting a lot of press.

I'm always torn when these things come up, whether to bring in the Jewish angle (after others have done so) or not. On the one hand, like you, I'm strongly against using "the Jews" as symbols in arguments that have near-zilch to do with Jews, such as one Norwegian nutjob's beef with Islam. Indeed, this seems like just the kind of thing that could not be less of a story about Jews. Why should Jews have any special obligation to disassociate ourselves from these massacres? Furthermore, this is quite clearly a story about racism against non-white European Muslims, and to a lesser extent about how the place of Islam in Western countries can be discussed in such a way as to promote tolerance all around, and I did not want to usurp it.

On the other, then, once this has entered the conversation, those of us who are Jews, or who wish to defend Jews, are put in a position of wanting to set the record straight, Jews wishing, especially, to speak for ourselves rather than to be spoken for, as if we exist only as abstract ideologies, not as human beings. Also, speaking just for myself, I happen to be studying European Jewish history, and to be a Jew currently living in Europe. So if there ever is a Europe-and-Jews angle to a story, even if that's not the most important one, I assume readers of WWPD get there general news elsewhere and come here for what I might have a particular take on.

Anyway, since forever, certainly since well before Israel was founded, conflicts between Christians and Muslims have brought in Jews as convenient intermediaries-turned-scapegoats. This is only one of the many varieties of conflict that have, historically, proven simpler to comprehend if all angles are replaced with one: must be the fault of The Jews.

Phoebe said...

MSI,

Is that when anti-Masonry began? It was alive and well during the Dreyfus Affair - not sure how much longer than that, but I'd have assumed 1930s European anti-Semites wouldn't have been pro-Mason? And... Wikipedia confirms.

The coherent crazy-person manifesto phenomenon just goes to show that sometimes there isn't an ideology off the political (or any other) spectrum behind every act that goes way too far. The problem is that we always want to look to radical ideologies as the root cause of horrible acts, when it could well be that this guy was a few nutty remarks away from many center-right thinkers.

Gil said...

I disagree that he doesn't express anti-Jewish feelings in his 'manifesto'.

I have also read the document and he clearly writes that the UK and France (I think he also said the US) have a 'problem' with the Jews living there. It's true that he doesn't elaborate on these 'problems'.

Britta said...

So, reading the link, he's as initially neo-Nazi as I suspected and more neo-Nazi than others seem to make him out to be. I'm really frustrated with the US media's total tip-toeing around the N-word (not that one, the other N-word). Like, I mean, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck...

The Nazis weren't initially annihilationist in their attitudes towards Jews, but rather the initial focus was eliminating in some matter the Jews from Germany (and then Eastern Europe, future Aryan homeland). There were discussions of deporting Jews to Palestine or even France before a more radical and extreme attitude set in, in which complete existential annihilation was the only "solution." Also, after a certain point when the Germans realized the war was no longer winnable, they switched almost 100% of their energy from trying to take over Russia to killing Jews, so that a "Jew-free" Europe would be their lasting legacy.
If we think of Nazi ideology outside of the focus on anti-Semitism (i.e. to create a Germanic homeland filled with blond farmers and blonde women popping out blonde babies every year) and more inwardly focused rather than expansionist, Breivilk's views seem pretty much in line with "orthodox" Nazism. If Breivik's point is that Hitler did a pretty decent job in achieving his goal, so today's Fascists can move on to the new threat, then that's actually a chillingly rational logical conclusion and a very rational extension of Nazism. There are 800 Jews in Norway, about half the pre-war number. There are almost 100,000 Muslims. Which ethnic minority are you going to target as a "threat to your way of life"? (I don't know, but I'm going to guess the number of Muslims in Norway in the 1930s was 0.) I haven't read all or even much of his manifest (it makes me sick to my stomach), but his actions and the beliefs I hear he holds are *extremely* rational and logically fit together in a coherent (if repugnant) worldview. Just because he is totally evil doesn't mean he's crazy in the delusional sense, though I agree we can question the sanity of someone who can have such open disregard for his fellow humans. Moreover, his actions, rather than being "the word of the madmen" totally follow rationally from his ideology. If you want to install maximum fear and affect maximal change, then it's more "effective" to eliminate the traitors who are allowing multiculturalism to happen rather of targeting Muslims themselves (who after all are disaffected and have very little power in Norway). Moreover, if you want to permanently cripple/destroy your moderate enemies, you take out the young and upcoming Social-Democratic leaders, as he did. In the mind of the racist and the Fascist, worse than the Other (who can't help being the other) are those who choose to support the Other, and they are the initial threat that needed to be dealt with. Martin Niemoller didn't right "First they came for the Socialists" for nothing. The Nazis didn't gain power in Germany by immediately publicizing the extent and extremity with which they hated Jews, since that would have turned off a vast majority of Germans, they did it by demonizing communism and smearing the social-democrats as wimpy and spineless, betraying German values, and incapable of defending Germany from her Bolshevik enemy. That sort of stuff had wide appeal, especially among garden variety conservatives who would not be out of place in the Republican party today.

Britta said...

In terms of the similarities to "mainstream" rightwing stuff, that's because there's a hell of a lot of quasi-Fascism that exists in "mainstream" rightwing stuff, it's just we refuse to acknowledge it. People who write books about how a dearth of blue eyed babies is an existential threat to our culture, on how Muslims are fundamentally incompatible with our culture, all of that draws from and feeds into the extreme right. Sure, very few people are willing to fully examine the consequences of their views, and most people would actively recoil. That doesn't mean that it doesn't exist though.

Britta said...

Oops...I kind of left out my point in the first couple of paragraphs I wrote, which is that a certain twisted support of Israel *is* compatible with at least certain early strains or types of Nazi thinking, one which allows that the main focus is elimination of Jews from Europe, not elimination of Jews from the planet.

rshams said...

Agree with you and Britta on the main points. The only thing I'd add is that there are so many factors, random and not-so-random, that can lead one to cross the blurry line between mainstream views and violent extremism - whether is be general paranoia, personal issues, the perception that one's point of view is being marginalized by powerful forces and that "time is running out." The Norwegian terrorist, Tim McVeigh, extremist left-wing groups of the 1960s and 1970s, and the Unabomber all had views that would be shared by their counterparts in the center of the political spectrum. The really terrifying thing is how hard it is to decipher most warning signs.

Withywindle said...

For my grandmother, her 20s was spent staring into a looming abyss with no reason to think that Fascism wouldn't take over the world, and that was fundamentally scary in a way those born in a time of peace and prosperity couldn't understand. What I'm now realizing is that my grandmother also knew that maintaining peace, democracy, tolerance for others in a liberal state doesn't just happen on autopilot, but takes concerted effort and vigilance, and complacency and apathy must constantly be fought off.

Yes, our killer thought much the same, just with different villains in mind.

Britta said...

Not to hog your blog comments, but this is also something that I've been trying to articulate, and to understand why this has made me physically sick and a helpless wreck in a way even 9/11 couldn't, and might also explain a bit more about Norwegian psychology. I think to do so, I'll have to write from a completely Norwegian-centric perspective to make sense of this, so this might look a bit myopic. It's super long, so I have to break it up, apologies for the length, I don't know how to say this in a shorter way:

Britta said...

I think one thing that's so upsetting about this, at least to me and I imagine to many other Norwegians, is that the biggest threat to Norwegians, the ideology that has caused the most number of deaths to Norwegians, which has personally assaulted Norwegians as individuals and as a people or culture, is Nazism. I know in comparison to Jews, Gypsies, Eastern Europeans, Norwegians were not targets of Nazi violence with any similar order of magnitude. However, in comparison to other groups of people who have murdered/invaded/occupied the Norwegians, the Nazis easily take the number one spot, at least in the past 500 years and perhaps longer back then that. Over 10,000 Norwegian civilians died in WW2, 9,000 of them in concentration camps (of those 9,000, 750 were Jewish). The Nazis liquidated entire Norwegian villages, shooting all the adults and forcing all the children into Hitler Youth Camp. Except for the small Norwegian Nazi party, Norwegians (at least in retrospect) considered themselves all to be members of the Norwegian resistance, and engaged in a nationwide policy of passive total resistance. In part, this took the form of a refusal to acknowledge the Germans as fellow humans. This meant not looking at Germans, not speaking to them. When they marched down the street, Norwegians turned and faced the wall to avoid seeing them. This was done as a profound insult, as an attempt to deny the humanity to German soldiers, and the German soliders retaliated accordingly, treating Norwegian rudeness as an offense to themselves personally as well as their larger project of occupation. As a result, the war took a really personal character in Norway in a way I'm not sure it did elsewhere.

Britta said...

Part of that is the particularities of the situation of Norway re. Germany. Hitler wanted Norwegians to respect, acknowledge, and validate Germans as fellow Nordic peoples and also accept German superiority, both officially and on an interpersonal level. When this was withheld, the Norwegians were to be punished with acts of cruelty in a way to force the Norwegians to cave. Old people were rounded up and shot in town squares, children were tortured, etc, all in an attempt to break the Norwegians. In a sense, one could say the Germans tried to collectively torture Norway in the hopes that as a nation she would cave. The longer the Norwegians held out, the angrier the Germans became, and the angrier the Germans became, the more resolved the Norwegians were not to break. The personal character of the war was compounded by the sheer number of soldiers in Norway, the most heavily occupied nation. There was 1 soldier for every 8 Norwegians. Because the Germans viewed all Norwegians not openly collaborating as resistance members, they sent enough personnel basically personally monitor the entire population (I mean, literally, every house could have been assigned their own soldier). How the Norwegians were treated by the Germans isn't something that the Norwegians forget or forgive lightly, particularly because they alone of the Scandinavian countries (for multiple reasons) received this special treatment. Again, these atrocities are nothing in comparison to how Jews or countries on the Eastern front fared, but from an entirely Norwegian perspective, WW2 was the closest Norway has come to being wiped out, to it's people, culture, and way of life being wiped out by a hateful and cruel enemy, even in comparison with 400 years of occupation by Danes and Swedes. From an entirely Norwegian perspective, Nazis have come the closest to committing genocide against the Norwegians. Of course, there's some revisionist heroism going on here (not *all* Norwegians were heros of the resistance), but in terms of psychological effects, this is how Norwegians see themselves and their nation, and it has profound psychological effects even today. It also means most Norwegians see Nazism as an existential threat to Norway, even as they might hold pro-Nordic chauvinist, nationalist, and xenophobic attitudes which actually have a lot in common with Nazism.

Britta said...

I think in part this is what makes what Breivik's actions so horrific. First, for a Norwegian to slaughter his fellow Norwegians for any reason feels like a profound betrayal of Norway's open society, but to do so in a way which echoes the actions of the Nazis just strikes a really raw nerve with Norway and Norwegians. This guy just betrayed something so fundamental to Norwegianness that in a way that feels unspeakably evil, and and did so in a way which so fundamentally threatens Norway. In this way, it's almost a sort of act of genocide against the Norwegians, but conducted by one of their own.

This is really difficult to explain clearly in words, so this might not make sense, or might seem strange or over the top. I also apologize for it being sooo very long, I think there's this backstory that needs to be explained because the WW2 link is really a key critical piece to knowing why this is so psychologically damaging in a way that greatly outstrips the actual violence caused.

CW said...

Search the manifesto for the word "nordic," and the links to Nazi ideology become clear.

Britta said...

I took CW's suggestion and....wow. It's hard to know how to respond. I guess I would say he's not so much a neo-Nazi so much as--an updated Nazi? An alternative Nazi? The path Nazism would have taken if Hitler had chosen to be more obsessed with blond hair and less obsessed with killing Jews? Nazism if it had been formulated by a Norwegian and not an Austrian? (I guess that is what it is.)

You can see a Scandinavian twist in his obsession in particular Nordic supremacy over central and southern Europe (aka the "Alpine" and "Mediterranean" races.) Nazism had a bit of a problem considering many German speaking areas, particularly ones like Austria, were not particularly known for being blonde, and indeed, the inhabitants of southern Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are considered "Alpine" rather than the superior "Nordic" in bogus racial theory. That meant Hitler could only go on so much about being blonde or Nordic without having to switch to a more encompassing "Germanic" or the more ambiguous "Aryan," which included whoever the Nazis wanted it to. It also meant that, for the focus on hair and eye color charts, Nazis weren't actually that in to closely scrutinizing features. It's actually not uncommon to hear Scandinavians criticize Nazism for this reason, that is, that it is an ideology of central Europeans pretending to be Northern Europeans, and by committing acts of genocide and general barbarism, Hitler managed to drag the reputation of Northern Europe down with him through the mud. (Sort of a "real blondes don't commit genocide" type attitude) I think most Scandinavians who say this do so out of a frustration feeling guilty or ashamed about the war in a way other Europeans aren't and also being tarred with "guilt by association" as somehow automatically being more Nazistic simply for having phenotypes resembling those posted on Hitler Youth posters. Now...this is a very extreme, racist version of that, which most Scandinavians would find highly repugnant, but it's definitely drawing on a widespread social disdain for Nazism which is rooted in a disdain for central Europeans, i.e. intra-European racial discrimination.

Phoebe said...

Britta,

Will read, respond.

Gil, CW,

Yes, I see that now, thanks to Micha's link. I think when I searched the manifesto, I somehow had only downloaded part of it, and thus missed the especially Nazi-ish bits. But now I'm convinced!

Phoebe said...

rshams,

"the blurry line between mainstream views and violent extremism"

The issue, though, is that sometimes extreme action is done in the name of mainstream views. To give a much smaller-scale example, if a man kills his wife because she cheated on him, we don't say that it was extremist of him to be upset about a spouse's infidelity - most would be - but that his reaction was vastly disproportionate and unjust. It seems that despite some forays into "Nordic superiority," this murderer mostly just hates the left, which his choice of targets confirms. It's not at all unusual for someone on the political right to hate the left - the unusual bit is committing mass murder in the name of that cause. Whereas if his principle goal had been white-supremacy, and if he'd rounded up a bunch of non-white Norwegians, we'd see a neater fit between the magnitude of the crime and the ideology behind it.

Withywindle,

You don't see how, if what someone hates about Islam is the violence to civilians done in its name, how going and killing even more (Western!) civilians - aside from being evil, something you do seem to skip over in your own post on this - defeats the purpose? Look, obviously much of what's in that manifesto - I'm thinking especially of the complaints about academia being too left-wing - is mainstream, which is awkward for those who share the views and are not psychopaths. The issue is that if you're most sympathetic complaint about new immigrants to the West is stuff like 9/11, going and killing a bunch of Western civilians does not help your case.

Phoebe said...

Britta,

What you write re: WWII does clarify why this would be especially disturbing to Norwegians, above and beyond the number killed, and I've responded a bit more as well in response to your latest comment to the post below.

This, however, I'm not sure what to do with:

"It also means most Norwegians see Nazism as an existential threat to Norway, even as they might hold pro-Nordic chauvinist, nationalist, and xenophobic attitudes which actually have a lot in common with Nazism."

If, as I read I'm now forgetting where, the murderer flirted with but ultimately distanced himself from neo-Nazism, how does one decide if it makes more sense to classify him in the former group than the latter? Part of what's so difficult to grapple with here is that, as Christopher Hitchens points out, the overall gist of the murderer's ideology is closer to Europe's mainstream-ish right than to anything more out-there: "The true 'neo-Nazi' gangs in Europe have violent anti-Semitism in common with their ostensibly deadliest Islamist foes, whereas anti-immigrant populists of the Geert Wilders stripe in Holland seek respectability by standing up for Israel, very often against criticism from the multi-culti left."

So, while it's comforting, in a perverse way, especially for Norwegians wrt Nazis, Jews wrt white-supremacy, to see that this guy wasn't acting entirely in the name of mainstream-right politics, my initial sense (and no, I have not read all 1500 pages!) is that Blond Babies may have been more in the back of his mind, anti-left views more in the front. This is what I'm finding toughest to wrap my head around. It's also why it's worth reading what folks like Hitchens - that is, non/anti-racists engaged in the fight against radicalized Islam, folks the murderer kinda-sorta claims as allies - have to say about this.

Withywindle said...

Phoebe: I decided not to address the practical effects of the murders. Obviously they have short-term negative effects (!) on public opinion and policy; none of us knows the long-term effect yet. But to put it on the realm of the practical is to go a long way toward justifying his actions. What if he does succeed, in the long run, in moving Norway's politics toward immigration restriction? Would that change how you view his actions? Should it? So I would refrain from entering that aspect to begin with.

But I meant to address a somewhat different point in my comment; that the dread and fragility Britta attributes to her grandmother is not entirely dissimilar to what the killer felt. Which, without ascribing moral equivalence, I think is still an intellectual point worth making.

Phoebe said...

Withywindle,

I suppose the issue is that I'm not interested in ends justifying means here. Even if, in Norway, it turns out (and would anyone be shocked?) that the killer tapped into some kind of ambient xenophobia, and - whether due to his actions or coincidentally - anti-immigration laws ensue, we're still left with the more general question of what makes it OK to be 'concerned about Islamism' if you're totally OK with killing a bunch of civilians in the West for your own cause. Meanwhile, if it turns out that 'concern about Islamism' is just code for 'let's get all the non-blonds out of Europe' - which is what you're left with, once the concern is no longer that violence against civilians, including in the West, is committed in the name of Islam - that's bad news all around, and suggests we really need not be concerned with whether Europe's pro-multiculturalism left is or is not pro-Israel.

Britta said...

Withywindle:
Are you really claiming that, in 1939, being concerned and depressed about the rise of Fascism in Europe is JUST LIKE murdering children because you hate Muslims and Marxists? Wow. I suppose that, if you were alive in Europe then, the imminent approach of WW2 would fill you with joy and optimism?

Shorter point: opposition and fear of Nazism is equivalent to mass murder.

Phoebe. Your comments are very interesting, I'll respond when I have more time and after doing a bit more thinking.

Britta said...

Phoebe,
I responded to your question in the post above, but if it's not clear, what makes it Nazism is the support for military dictatorship and the ruthless elimination of all one's ideological enemies, whether Marxist or Muslim. Like Nazism (and I just had to read Carl Schmitt, so this is on my mind), there is no middle ground. With garden variety xenophobes, ethnic Norwegians who go about their daily business and don't hate Muslims are not The Enemy, Muslims are. With Nazism, there is no option but total and utter submission. One can't be neutral in Breivik's (or Hitler's) mind, one is either on the side of Good or The Enemy. Relatedly, the way in which this echoes actual Nazism as experienced by Norwegian is the whole, "I'm going to kill everyone on this island until you submit to my desires of a dictatorship of blonds" is pretty reminiscent of stuff that actually did happen (e.g. villages razed and their inhabitants shot) for "insubordination." So, even if the beliefs don't 100% match up, the methods appear to do.

Withywindle said...

Phoebe: I can't tell if we are actually disagreeing about anything.

Britta: Is the attitude you're referring to something that was felt universally in Norway in 1939, rather than after the 1940 invasion?

I put it to you that "not entirely dissimilar" is not identical with "JUST LIKE". I continue to think that the sort of ethno-consciousness you mention, the emphasis on the horror of killing one's "fellow Norwegians", bears distinct and non-trivial affinities to our killer's ethno-conscious frame of mind.

How do you judge the frustrated desire of the ferociously anti-Nazi Churchill to invade Norway pre-emptively in the spring of 1940? Do Norwegians nowadays wish that he had succeeded?

Britta said...

Uh yeah. Norwegians were pretty fucking sure Hitler was going to invade by 1939, and unlike the British with their heads in the sand, were pretty alarmed by it. Of course, if you don't know any Norwegians, then maybe you shouldn't talk out of your ass about what the Norwegians thought at the time. Also, are you *really* fucking claiming that my grandmother, who, you know, read this widely available book (we might call it a "manifesto") called Mein Kampf and was totally horrified, couldn't be disgusted on behalf of Hitler's gross antisemitism and his otherwise repugnant views? That somehow, Norwegians couldn't find Fascism gross simply because the Brits were into appeasement? That somehow, before 1940, NO ONE IN THE WORLD COULD SEE THAT NAZISM SUCKED? REALLY?

You know what else about the Norwegians? They were ALSO pretty fucking pissed off when they asked for military aid from the Brits in 1939 to fend off the Nazis and were rebuffed. They were ALSO even MORE pretty fucking pissed off that the British assumed, based on nothing other than ethnic background, that the Norwegians would support the Germans, even though Norway and the Norwegians were highly vocal critics of Nazism from 1933. What really takes the cake in terms of Norwegians hating the Brits is that, after the British did offer some paltry support, they withdrew MID BATTLE to go off and provide some lackluster defense to the French. After the Brits withdrew, the battle collapsed and the Nazis occupied Norway. Norwegians, especially of my grandmother's generation, really dislike the British because of this. They don't see them as heroes in WW2, but rather as assholes who ignored the rise of Hitler and were willing to sacrifice Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic countries, Belgium and the Nordic states to keep on ignoring it.

Look, I am not going to be civil, because after the equivalent of Norway's 9/11, when I write that my grandmother remembers how horrible it felt on the eve of WW2, YOU QUESTION WHETHER OR NOT SHE AND OTHER NORWEGIANS WERE ACTUALLY NAZIS AND COMPARE HER BELIEFS TO A MASS MURDERER.

I'm done with this conversation.

rshams said...

Phoebe,

"It's not at all unusual for someone on the political right to hate the left - the unusual bit is committing mass murder in the name of that cause. Whereas if his principle goal had been white-supremacy, and if he'd rounded up a bunch of non-white Norwegians, we'd see a neater fit between the magnitude of the crime and the ideology behind it."

But it seems that he hated the left because he viewed its pro-multiculturalism policies as hastening the "Islamicization of Europe" and whatnot. What I was trying to get at is that it requires a great deal of outside factors (paranoia, fear, possibly something personal setting him off) to lead one from having relatively mainstream views to committing mass murder in the name of an extreme version of those views.

Withywindle said...

Britta: Only partly a conversation, since you are not always listening. But we need not continue this.

Phoebe said...

rshams,

As Britta and I discuss in the thread above, it's precisely the banality (eek, loaded word in this context!) of the killer's overall political slant that makes it so that if he is part of something larger, that entity could become more violent and dangerous still. Or he's just a center-right guy who went off the deep end. Who knows.

Withywindle,

Do you know about Norwegian history? I don't. Let's respect Britta's authority on that. As for the parallel between fearing Fascism in 1939 and fearing Islamism in 2011, whatever analogy there is is kind of lost when "fearing Islamism" manifests itself as going and committing an act - against Westerners, even - more atrocious than most Islamists could think of. I won't speak for Britta, but I think that's part of what she was reacting to.

Britta,

If at all possible, to get something positive out of this interaction (and WWPD's been so positive lately!) you could try to think of Withywindle's reaction to the manifesto behind these massacres as further evidence that sane, mainstream conservatives do see their own views mirrored somewhat in the document. Given that to me, coming from (I suppose, and with many nuances) the center-left, the much of content I read looked not unlike things I've seen in reasonable places, it was edifying to see that this is really the case, that the document was not (exclusively) the rantings of someone off any mainstream spectrum. Edifying, but not (as per the discussion after the post above) reassuring.

Withywindle said...

Phoebe: I am not a mainstream conservative and I make no particular claims to sanity. But aside from that ... seriously, I do think that there are affiliations between conservative thought and our Norwegian, but some strands are much closer than others. I think I am closer than a large majority of American conservatives.

Phoebe II: I blither about a remarkable amount of world history with overweening confidence. I think I could critique the account Britta Mimirsdottir presents, but this apparently is not the time.

Britta said...

Ok, I'm going to bed so this will be quick. Phoebe, I apologize for the expletive filled rant I left on your blog, I generally try to not do things like that on the internet, but I haven't been able to sleep since Friday and my nerves are, to put it mildly, kind of frayed. I get Withywindle likes to poke at things, but I guess this wasn't something that I needed poking.

Withywindle, there is a certain type of conservative who feels it very important that the Scandinavians be crypto-Nazis. I have met the type before, you are indeed not the first person to insist that Scandinavians were/are all Nazis, despite any evidence to the contrary. I have engaged in this sort of conversation (usually at a less emotionally fraught time), and I guess, rather than merely argue, I will ask you, why is it so important that the Norwegians be Nazis? Why, given your admitted ignorance of Norewgian particulars, does this become a point of insistence? I am actually genuinely curious. Perhaps more curiously, I wonder why you seem so certain that my particular grandmother (farmor) couldn't have been afraid or despairing over Nazism without some sort of unsavory ulterior motive. I guess, considering I spent 24 years with her and you've never met her, you'd think you could take my word for it, however, again, this is a point of insistence. The first time you brought it up, I ignored it because it seemed so out of left field, but you then kept bringing it up. Again, I ask you out of genuine curiosity, what's at stake in insisting my grandmother, who actually burned a copy of Mein Kampf in 1937 as an act of protest, could have no ideological opposition to Nazism?

Phoebe said...

Britta,

Between the 1500-pager and all the other required readings, I may have missed the essence of what's going on in this very thread, but I *think* Withywindle was initially arguing that your grandmother's opposition to Fascism was similar to the killer's opposition to radical Islam, not that she herself represents Nazism, on account of being Scandinavian or for any other reason. Withywindle, yes or no?

Withywindle,

No conservative perfectly embodies the movement at a given time. By "mainstream" I just meant not a neo-Nazi (this I hope you accept?) and reasonably confident in choosing a Republican over Obama in the next election.

Anyway, I think I get which strand of conservative (or composition of which ones) you're coming from, and how you're seeing some of your views mirrored in this case. I mean, the manifesto is largely a cut-and-paste from publications of that slant. What I think you're missing is that once someone has outdone even most "Islamists" in violence against Western civilians, you have to wonder whether their "beef with multiculturalism" has much to do with yours. You, I assume, are concerned a) about terrorist violence, and b) about Western civilization. The killer, meanwhile, is perhaps, on a more fundamental level, concerned with the blondness rate of Europe.

Withywindle said...

Phoebe I: Yes, that was what I said.

Phoebe II: I also think that civilizations/cultures depend on ethnic continuity for essential cement. Too much immigration, lose the ethnic core that sustains the civilization and provides assimilatory pressure on immigrants, and the civilization disappears. Too much Muslim immigration and Europe disappears. Too much immigration to America and America ceases to be on any level an ersatz England--and America disappears.

Withywindle said...

Phoebe III: I'll take that definition of mainstream conservative.