A self-proclaimed conservative Christian who rants and raves obsessively about immigration, Islam and Marxism goes on a murderous rampage at a summer camp where young social democrats gather to sing, dance and talk about building a more just, sustainable and peaceful world.
So what does Glenn Beck find “disturbing”?
Well, we all know where this is headed.
After describing the shooting spree by Norwegian right-winger Anders Behring Breivik, which killed at least sixty-eight people at a socialist youth camp near Oslo, the radio host said the camp “sounds a little like the Hitler Youth. I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing.”
Actually, it’s Beck’s statement that is disturbing—and completely wrong.
The young people who gathered at the camp on the Norwegian island of Utoya were the opposite of Hitler Youth. In fact, they were the direct descendants, individually and ideologically, of the courageous young socialists who played such a vital role in the Norwegian resistance to the Nazis.
The campers who were attacked were members of the Norway’s Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking (AUF), the Workers’ Youth League that is the youth wing of the country’s social democratic Labour Party. In the aftermath of World War II, the Oslo Trade Union Confederation purchased the island and given as a gift to the AUF in recognition of the sacrifices that young socialists had made in the struggle against fascism.
When Hitler’s Nazi armies invaded and occupied Norway in 1940, they banned the AUF and imprisoned its leader, Gunnar Sand. His successor as head of the AUF, Trygve Bratteli, led the Labour Party’s crisis committee following the Nazi invasion of Norway before his arrest by the Germans in 1942. Imprisoned in a series of concentration camps, he was liberated in April, 1945, Bratteli returned to Norway as a hero who led the AUF in the postwar years and eventually became Norway’s prime minister.
So Beck has got things exactly wrong with his reference to “Hitler Youth.”
But what he really got wrong was the notion that there is something wrong, something “disturbing,” something foreign, about young socialists gathering to listen to music, to dance, to swim and play sports and to imagine a better world.
This is an international tradition. And it is an American tradition.
America’s Socialist Party—which once elected members of Congress, big-city mayors and state legislators, while mounting presidential campaigns that regularly secured close to a million votes—was organizing youth camps a century ago. Indeed, the Milwaukee Socialists organized year-round programs where young people learned theater, dance and song, discussed the books of active Socialist authors such as Carl Sandburg and Jack London and talked politics. The Communist Party would develop similar cultural programs and camps, featuring the likes of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, in the 1930s and 1940s