Conservatives feel heat from Norway
Whatever the political, religious or cultural motivations behind the Oslo bombing and shootings by Anders Behring Breivik, his actions have put American conservatives who he cited as inspirations on the spot. Folks like Pamela Geller, of the “Ground Zero” mosque infamy, and Jihad Watch author Robert Spencer, who Breivik cited numerous times in his 1,500-page manifesto, are facing the same questions that for years they have put to Muslims about Islam, and they are not too happy about the karmic blowback, as I write in my latest RNS story:
“Attempts to link us to these murders on the basis of alleged postings by the murderer mentioning us are absurd and offensive,” Geller wrote at her website, Atlas Shrugs. Breivik “is responsible for his actions. He and only he.”
Spencer also rejected suggestions that Breivik “has anything remotely to do with anything we have ever advocated.” In a later blog posting, he grew even more defiant: “The Breivik murders are being used to discredit all resistance to the global jihad and Islamic supremacism. But we’re stealing it back.”
Other conservatives deployed calmer arguments to put distance between Breivik and conservatism and Christianity, much as Muslims try to distinguish between “genuine” Islam and the actions of extremists.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat argued that Breivik bore much the same relationship to conservatism as the notorious anti-technology Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, did to Al Gore’s environmentalism—which is to say, hardly any.
Douthat instead advised his fellow conservatives to push back against such analogies—and what he saw as liberal efforts to exploit the tragedy for political gain—by acknowledging Breivik as a “right-winger” but at the same time reasserting the truth of their own convictions about Islam and the wider cultural peril facing the West. If Breivik shared some of those convictions, Douthat argued, his actions don’t automatically invalidate them.
Bruce Bawer, who lives in Oslo and is author of “Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom,” made a similar argument in The Wall Street Journal, writing that Breivik had hurt his cause.
“In Norway, to speak negatively about any aspect of the Muslim faith has always been a touchy matter, inviting charges of `Islamophobia’ and racism,” Bawer wrote. “It will, I fear, be a great deal more difficult to broach these issues now that this murderous madman has become the poster boy for the criticism of Islam.”
I’m not sensing a trend toward repentance among these conservatives, so I don’t expect the taste of their own medicine to change much. But I do end the piece with what think is the most thoughtful quote on the episode that I’ve seen:
“If Islamic people do something bad, you think, `Oh, it’s Muslims,’” Sigrid Skeie Tjensvoll told The Washington Post. “But if a white Protestant does something bad, you just think he’s mad. That’s something we need to think about.
PS: Time’s Massimo Calabresi has a great post on how the WSJ editorial page blamed Muslims on Saturday then tried to stuff their error down the Memory Hole. Not cool. Others tried to do much the same.
UPDATE Part Two: David Goldman of First Things, aka “Spengler” of the Asia Times, does some maneuvers worthy of the Cirque de Soleil in trying to cordon Breivik off from conservatives while arguing that Islamists are the real problem. His opening line would be hilarious if it weren’t so spooky:
There are moments when we should suppress the impulse to make sense of things.
Of course, he can resist anything except that temptation. Alas.